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from crossing the line

Written by: Rg Gregory | Biography
 (1) a great man

there was a great man
so great he couldn't be criticised in the light
who died
and for a whole week people turned up their collars over their ears
and wept with great gossiping

houses wore their roofs at a mournful angle
and television announcers carried their eyes around in long drooping bags
there was a hush upon the voice of the land
as soft as the shine on velvet

the whole nation stretched up into the dusty attic for its medals and black ties
 and prayers
and seriously polished its black uncomfortable shoes
and no one dared creak in the wrong places

anybody who thought he was everybody
except those who were nearly dying themselves
wanted to come to the funeral
and in its mourning the nation rejoiced to think
that once again it had cut into the world's time
with its own sick longing for the past

the great man and the great nation
had the same bulldog vision of each other's face
and neither of them had barked convincingly for a very long time

so the nation turned out on a cold bleak day
and attended its own funeral with uncanny reverence
and the other nations put tears over their laughing eyes
v-signs and rude gestures spoke with the same fingers


(2) aden

tourists dream of bombs 
that will not kill them

into the rock
the sand-claws
the winking eye
and harsh shell
of aden

waiting for the pinch

jagged sun
lumps of heat
bumping on the stunned ship
knuckledustered rock
clenched over steamer point

waiting for the sun to stagger
loaded down the hill
before we bunch ashore

calm
eyes within their windows
we walk
(a town must live
must have its acre of normality
let hate sport
its bright shirt in the shadows)
we shop
collect our duty-murdered goods
compare bargains
laugh grieve
at benefit or loss
aden dead-pan
leans against our words
which hand invisible
knows how to print a bomb
ejaculate a knife
does tourist greed embroil us in
or shelter us from guilt

backstreet
a sailor drunk
gyrates within a wall of adenese
collapses spews
they roll about him
in a dark pool

the sun moves off
as we do

streets squashed with shops
criss-cross of customers
a rush of people nightwards
a white woman
striding like a cliff
dirt - goats in the gutter
crunched beggars
a small to breed a fungus
cafes with open mouths
men like broken teeth
or way back in the dark
like tonsils

an air of shapeless threat
fluffs in our pulse
a boundary crossed
the rules are not the same
brushed by eyes
the touch is silent
silence breeds
we feel the breath of fury
(soon to roar)
retreat within our skins
return to broader streets

bazaars glower
almost at candlelight
we clutch our goods
a dim delusion of festivity
a christ neurotic
dying to explode

how much of this is aden
how much our masterpiece
all atmospheres are inbuilt

an armoured car looms by

the ship like mother
brooding in the sea
receives us with a sigh
aden winks and ogles in the dark
the sport of hate released

slowly away at midnight
rumours of bombs and riots
in the long wake
a disappointed sleep

nothing to write home about
except the heat


(3) crossing the line (xii)

  give me not england
in its glory dead nightmared with rotting seed
palmerston's perverted gunboat up the
yangtse's arse - lloyd george and winston churchill
rubbing men like salt into surly wounds
(we won those wars and neatly fucked ourselves)
eden at suez a jacked-up piece of wool
macmillan sprinkling cliches where the black
blood boils (the ashes of his kind) - home
as wan as godot (shagged by birth) wilson
for whom the wind blew sharply once or twice
sailing eastwards in the giant's stetson hat
saving jims from the red long john
   give me
not england but the world with england in it
with people as promiscuous as planes (the colours
shuffled)
 don't ask for wars to end or men
to have their deaths wrapped up as christmas gifts
expect myself to die a coward - proclaim no lives
as kisses - offer no roses to the blind
no sanctions to the damned - will not shake hands 
with him who rapes my wife or chokes my daughter
only when drunk or mad will think myself
the master of my purse - will lust for ease
seek to assuage my griefs in others' tears
will make more chaos than i put to rights

but in my fracture i shall strive to stand
a ruined arch whose limbs stretch half
towards a point that drew me upwards - that
ungot intercourse in space that prickless star
is what i ache for (what i want in man
and thus i give him)
  the image of that cross
is grit within him - the arch reflects in
microscopic waves through fleshly aeons
beaming messages to nerves and typing fingers

both ends of me are broken - in frantic storms
hanging over cliffs i fight to mend them
the job cannot be done - i die though
if i stop
 how cynical i may be (how apt
with metaphor or joke to thrust my fate
grotesquely into print) the fact is that
i live until i stop - i can't sit down then
crying let me die or death is good
(the freedom from myself my bones are seeking)

i must go on - tread every road that comes
risk every plague because i must believe
the end is bright (however filled with vomit
every brook) - if not for me then for
those who clamber on my bones
   my hope
is what i owe them - they owe their life to me



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