Barry Tebb |
( I )
for ‘JC’ of the TLS
Nightmare of metropolitan amalgam
Grand Hotel and myself as a guest there
Lost with my room rifled, my belongings scattered,
Purse, diary and vital list of numbers gone –
Vague sad memories of mam n’dad
Leeds 1942 back-to-back with shared outside lav.
Hosannas of sweet May mornings
Whitsun glory of lilac blooming
Sixty years on I run and run
From death, from loss, from everyone.
Which are the paths I never ventured down,
Or would they, too, be vain?
O for the secret anima of Leeds girlhood
A thousand times better than snide attacks in the TLS
**** you, Jock, you should be ashamed,
Attacking Brenda Williams, who had a background
Worse than yours, an alcoholic schizophrenic father
And an Irish immigrant mother who died when Brenda was fifteen
But still she managed to read Proust on her day off
As a library girl, turned down by David Jenkins,
‘As rising star of the left’ for a place at Leeds
To read theology started her as a protest poet
Sitting out on the English lawn, mistaken for a snow sculpture
In the depths of winter.
Her sit-in protest lasted seven months,
Months, eight hours a day, her libellous verse scorching
The academic groves of Leeds in sheets by the thousand,
Mailed through the university's internal post.
The VC 'a mouse from the mountain'; Bishop of Durham to-be
David Jenkins a wimp and worse and all in colourful verse
And 'Guntrip's Ghost' went to every VC in England in a
When she sat on the English lawn Park Honan
Flew paper aeroplanes with messages down and
And when she was in Classics they took away her chair
So she sat on the floor reading Virgil and the Chairman of the
Department sent her an official Christmas card
'For six weeks on the university lawn, learning the
And that was just the beginning: in Oxford Magdalen College
School turned our son away for the Leeds protest so she
Started again, in Magdalen Quad, sitting through Oxford's
Worst ever winter and finally they arrested her on the
Eve of the May Ball so she wrote 'Oxford from a Prison
Cell' her most famous poem and her protest letter went in
A single day to every MP and House of Lords Member and
It was remembered years after and when nobody nominated
Her for the Oxford Chair she took her own and sat there
In the cold for almost a year, well-wishers pinning messages
To the tree she sat under - "Tityre, tu patulae recubans
Sub tegmine fagi" and twelve hundred and forty dons had
"The Pain Clinic" in a single day and she was fourteen
Times in the national press, a column in "The Guardian"
And a whole page with a picture in the 'Times Higher' -
"A Well Versed Protester"
JC, if you call Myslexia’s editor a ‘kick-**** virago’
You’ve got to expect a few kicks back.
All this is but the dust
We must shake from our feet
Purple heather still with blossom
In Haworth and I shall gather armfuls
To toss them skywards and you,
Madonna mia, I shall bed you there
In blazing summer by High Wythens,
Artist unbroken from the highest peak
I raise my hands to heaven.
( II )
Sweet Anna, I do not know you from Eve
But your zany zine in the post
Is the best I’ve ever seen, inspiring this rant
Against the cant of stuck-up cunts currying favour
I name no name but if the Dutch cap fits
Then wear it and share it.
Who thought at sixty one
I’d have owned a watch
Like this one, chased silver cased
Quartz reflex Japanese movement
And all for a fiver at the back of Leeds Market
Where I wander in search of oil pastels
Irish folk and cheap socks.
The TLS mocks our magazine
With its sixties Cadillac pink
Psychedelic cover and every page crimson
Orange or mauve, revolutionary sonnets
By Brenda Williams from her epic ‘Pain Clinic’
And my lacerating attacks on boring Bloodaxe
Neil Ghastly and Anvil’s preciosity and all the
Stuck-up ****-holes in their cubby-holes sending out
Rejection slip by rote – LPW
Barry Tebb |
(To Paul Sykes, author of 'Sweet Agony')
He demolished five doors at a sitting
And topped it off with an outsize window
One Christmas afternoon, when drunk;
Sober he smiled like an angel, bowed,
Kissed ladies’ hands and courtesy
Was his middle name.
She tried to pass for thirty at fifty-six,
Called him "My Sweet piglet" and laid out
Dainty doylies for his teatime treats; always
She wore black from toe to top and especially
Underneath, her hair dyed black, stuck up in a
Bun, her lipstick caked and smeared, drawling
From the corner of her mouth like a
Thirties gangsters’ moll, her true ambition.
"Kill him, kill him, the bastard!" she’d scream
As all Wakefield watched, "It’s Grotty,
Grotty’s at it again!" as pubs and clubs
Banned them, singly or together and they
Moved lodgings yet again, landlords and
Landladies left reeling behind broken doors.
Blood-smeared walls covered with a shiny
Patina of carefully applied deceits! "It was
The cat, the kids, them druggies, lads from
Football", anyone, anywhere but him and her.
Once I heard them fight, "Barry, Barry, get
The police," she thumped my door, double
Five-lever mortice locked against them,
"Call t’ police ‘e’s murderin’ me!" I went
And calmed her down, pathetic in black
Underwear and he, suddenly sober, sorry,
Muttering, "Elaine, Elaine, it were only fun,
Give me a kiss, just one.
Was this her fourth or fifth husband, I’d
Lost count and so had she, each one she said
Was worse than the last, they’d all pulled her
Down, one put her through a Dorothy Perkins
Plate-glass window in Wakefield’s midnight,
Leaving her strewn amongst the furs and
Bridal gowns, blood everywhere, such perfection
Of evidence they nearly let her bleed to death
Getting all the photographs.
Rumour flew and grew around her, finally
They said it was all in a book one ‘husband’
Wrote in prison, how she’d had a great house,
Been a brothel madame, had servants even.
For years I chased that book, "Lynch," they
Told me, "It’s by Paul Lynch" but it wasn’t,
Then finally, "I remember, Sykes, they allus
Called him Sykesy" and so it was, Sweet Agony,
Written in prison by one Paul Sykes, her most
Famous inamorato, amateur boxing champion
Of all England, twenty years inside, fly-pitcher
Supreme, king of spielers; how she hated you
For beating her, getting it all down on paper,
Even making money for doing it, "That bastard
Cheated me, writing lying filth about me and
I never saw a penny!" she’d mutter, side-mouthed,
To her pals.
But that book, that bloody book, was no pub myth,
It even won an Arthur Koestler Literary Award
And is compulsive reading; hardly, as a poet,
My cup of tea but I couldn’t put it down.
Paul Sykes, I salute you, immortaliser of Elaine,
Your book became and is my sweetest pain.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
What! you don't like him; well, maybe -- we all have our fancies, of course:
Brumby to look at, you reckon? Well, no; he's a thoroughbred horse;
Sired by a son of old Panic -- look at his ears and his head --
Lop-eared and Roman-nosed, ain't he? -- well, that's how the Panics are bred.
Gluttonous, ugly and lazy, rough as a tipcart to ride,
Yet if you offered a sovereign apiece for the hairs on his hide
That wouldn't buy him, nor twice that; while I've a pound to the good,
This here old stager stays by me and lives like a thoroughbred should;
Hunt him away from his bedding, and sit yourself down by the wall,
Till you hear how the old fellow saved me from Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall.
Gilbert and Hall and O'Meally, back in the bushranging days,
Made themselves kings of the district -- ruled it in old-fashioned ways --
Robbing the coach and the escort, stealing our horses at night,
Calling sometimes at the homesteads and giving the women a fright:
Came to the station one morning (and why they did this no one knows)
Took a brood mare from the paddock--wanting some fun, I suppose --
Fastened a bucket beneath her, hung by a strap around her flank,
Then turned her loose in the timber back of the seven-mile tank.
Go? She went mad! She went tearing and screaming with fear through the trees,
While the curst bucket beneath her was banging her flanks and her knees.
Bucking and racing and screaming she ran to the back of the run,
Killed herself there in a gully; by God, but they paid for their fun!
Paid for it dear, for the black-boys found tracks, and the bucket, and all,
And I swore that I'd live to get even with Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall.
Day after day then I chased them -- 'course they had friends on the sly,
Friends who were willing to sell them to those who were willing to buy.
Early one morning we found them in camp at the Cockatoo Farm;
One of us shot at O'Meally and wounded him under the arm:
Ran them for miles in the ranges, till Hall, with his horse fairly beat,
Took to the rocks and we lost him -- the others made good their retreat.
It was war to the knife then, I tell you, and once, on the door of my shed,
They nailed up a notice that offered a hundred reward for my head!
Then we heard they were gone from the district; they stuck up a coach in the West,
And I rode by myself in the paddocks, just taking a bit of a rest,
Riding this colt as a youngster -- awkward, half-broken and shy,
He wheeled round one day on a sudden; I looked, but I couldn't see why --
But I soon found out why, for before me the hillside rose up like a wall,
And there on the top with their rifles were Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall!
'Twas a good three-mile run to the homestead -- bad going, with plenty of trees --
So I gathered the youngster together, and gripped at his ribs with my knees.
'Twas a mighty poor chance to escape them! It puts a man's nerve to the test
On a half-broken colt to be hunted by the best mounted men in the West.
But the half-broken colt was a racehorse! He lay down to work with a will.
Flashed through the scrub like a clean-skin-by heavens, we flew down the hill!
Over a twenty-foot gully he swept with the spring of a deer,
And they fired as we jumped, but they missed me -- a bullet sang close to my ear --
And the jump gained us ground, for they shirked it: but I saw as we raced through the gap
That the rails at the homestead were fastened -- I was caught like a rat in a trap.
Fenced with barbed wire was the paddock -- barbed wire that would cut like a knife --
How was a youngster to clear it that never had jumped in his life?
Bang went a rifle behind me -- the colt gave a spring, he was hit;
Straight at the sliprails I rode him -- I felt him take hold of the bit;
Never a foot to the right or the left did he swerve in his stride,
Awkward and frightened, but honest, the sort it's a pleasure to ride!
Straight at the rails, where they'd fastened barbed wire on the top of the post,
Rose like a stag and went over, with hardly a scratch at the most;
Into the homestead I darted, and snatched down my gun from the wall,
And I tell you I made them step lively, Gilbert, O'Meally and Hail.
Yes! There's the mark of the bullet -- he's got it inside of him yet,
Mixed up somehow with his victuals; but, bless you, he don't seem to fret!
Gluttonous, ugly, and lazy -- eats anything he can bite;
Now, let us shut up the stable, and bid the old fellow good night.
Ah! we can't breed 'em, the son that were bred when we old uns were young.
Yes, as I said, these bushrangers, none of 'em lived to be hung.
Gilbert was shot by the troopers, Hall was betrayed by his friend,
Campbell disposed of O'Meally, bringing the lot to an end.
But you can talk about riding -- I've ridden a lot in the past --
Wait till there's rifles behind you, you'll know what it means to go fast!
I've steeplechased, raced, and "run horses", but I think the most dashing of all
Was the ride when that old fellow saved me from Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall!
Carl Sandburg |
THE BRASS medallion profile of your face I keep always.
It is not jingling with loose change in my pockets.
It is not stuck up in a show place on the office wall.
I carry it in a special secret pocket in the day
And it is under my pillow at night.
The brass came from a long ways off: it was up against hell and high water, fire and flood, before the face was put on it.
It is the side of a head; a woman wishes; a woman waits; a woman swears behind silent lips that the sea will bring home what is gone.