Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two poems from JAMES McKAY


The icy river tightens round your balls
in a Grantchester dawn
and ain't England lovely?

There is always tea.
There is always honey.

Daft bitch rolls her shoulders in the lawn
and her tits in the sun
and ain't England lovely?

Daft bitch in question died recently,
not the brightest of animals but she
certainly knew what she liked.

Old drunk friends watch the seagulls
and the sunset over the harbour.
In rooms above newsagents, young lovers
cook meals and are too in love to eat them.
Making haste to leave the forest,
you see the moon through trees,
you think it's the curry house
and ain't England lovely?

Even the rain.

Soft rain of the west, sharp rain of the north,
big fat rain of London BIG FAT FUCKING RAIN
the Superman's heart breaks over Russell Square,
my missing clothes, phone numbers, hair
all grieved for as the street pisses itself
down into the many mouths of the old brick
god of the drains
and ain't England lovely?

Orchard, viaduct, factory, caravan park and lay-by:
it's not all beer and strawberries, you know,
but there's mostly enough of it about.


(from the Latin of Aelius Lampridius)

When entertaining, he gave prizes
written on the spoons: one would say
ten camels or ten flies, another ten pounds of gold
or lead, ten ostriches, ten eggs: a true tombola.
Maximum vulnerability to fate.

Hosting games he showed the same invention:
ten bears for one, ten dormice for another,
ten lettuces, ten pounds of gold;

The fashion for randomness set by him
we still see today.

But he really called performers to the draw, offering
dead dogs for fees, a pound of beef, or a hundred pieces
of gold, a thousand of silver, a hundred of copper;
you get the general idea.

Which things pleased the people so much
they afterwards congratulated themselves
on having such an emperor.

JAMES McKAY started reading poetry out loud 10 years ago in living rooms, pubs and warehouses in Newcastle upon Tyne. Now inhabiting the outer reaches of east London, he performs his own material at poetry nights and festivals across the UK, and also does good business with large scale readings of classic texts (most recently the book of Job) to literary groups and rather different kinds of festivals. FOLLOW ON, the album he released in 2007 with art-rock band The Morris Quinlan Experience continues to make friends and influence people, notably Radio 2's Bob Harris.


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