As I walked out…

I often wonder how many folk songs begin with the line ‘As I walked out one May morning’. Never an April or a June morning; always May (unless ‘midsummer’ or ‘spring’). Perhaps it is just for the sake of the alliteration.

This is called ‘Folk Song‘, or possibly ‘Folke-stone Song

As I walked down Old High Street

One evening in July

I watched the art shops closing

And I heard the seabirds cry.

In the fountains at the harbour

A few last children played;

Their mothers told them “Home-time:

Come on! There’ll be other days.”

So the day came to its ending

And the evening began;

Couples sat down in restaurants

But I wandered with no plan.

Usually in the kind of song

That begins As I Walked Out

I come across a weeping maid

Lamenting for some lout;

For a lover who has betrayed her

Or has died in a foreign war

Or else has gone for a sailor

Left her standing on the shore.

She has found that she is with child

A child that can never be

So she comes to Folkestone Harbour

To drown herself in the sea.

There was no sign of such a maid

That evening in July

So I shed a few tears of my own

As the seagulls cried.

 

 

 

After the Tumult

I don’t remember what I was reading that gave me the ideas for this.

Sleep is the picture of death

And we die in the night

When the world too has died for a time.

And what do we learn while we are dead?

Our lovers cannot reach us there-

They must let us go.

            (Although from time to time the gods allow

            A living mortal into the underworld,

            The mortals find that they can bring no-one back.)

And then, when the sun rises

And the world is born again

And we too awake and are born again

The dreams that enchanted those last moments of death

Fly from our opened eyelids and are lost:

No wonder we cry the moment we leave the womb.

No wonder my dream poems slip through my fingers.

           And through all the day, when we are not dead

           And do not think that we are dead,

           We appeal for answers to our questions-

           We do not have to search for the questions;

           They are on our lips the moment our dreams abandon us:

Who am I? What are we here for? Where are we going?

          We look everywhere-

          In the prayers that we make for the sick and for ourselves

          In churches

          In the pages of newspapers

          In lottery tickets

          In health food shops and in bars

          In coffee-shops and in tea-leaves

          On hilltops and in bluebell woods

          In arts centres and in bank statements.

          We flick page after page-

          Surely we can find one answer to one question

          Before night-time.

Cats with their nine and lucky lives

Do not have to think of all this;

But we wait and calculate,

Wait for signs of the new religion

(The new creation myth);

Launch ourselves abruptly

And find that we were never taught to fly.

We do something reckless,

Land in prison

And discover that this prison-

The one with the rotten food and the stench,

The darkness, the solitude, the brutality

Gives us a freedom we could not find in the old, familiar one,

The open prison of our daydreams.

          Father, mother, we complain,

          Why did you not teach us this?

          We lied to you, stole from you,

          Rebelled against the dogma

          You told us mattered more than anything;

          Swallowed as hard as we could to keep down

          The food you baked in guilt.

          We murdered your hopes;

          And now we nurse you in your dotage…

My lover says that we should build an extension to our house;

Then they could always be near us.

          This is what living without what we want turns us into…

Maggot Nightmare in Chip-Shop Bins

This was the headline on the front page of the local paper a couple of weeks ago. I felt sorry for the maggot…

Once upon a midnight dreary, coming home both tired and beery,

Stopping at the fish and chip shop, ritual end to drunk debauch;

As I filled my mouth with haddock, suddenly I heard an ad hoc

Screeching – quiet, yes, but screeching – coming from the chip-shop porch;

Where they keep the stinking rubbish, underneath the chip-shop porch;

Only this and nothing more.

 

And the haunted sounds unhappy seemed to come from dirty wrappings

Bulging from the waste bins’ mouths: bits of fish and chip, of course;

Vinegar-soaked paper tatters; bones and bits of pie, and batter;

Sachets squeezed of tartar sauce; something red that smelled of horse –

In a sausage shape, I grant you, but bright red and smelled of horse;

Still but this and nothing more.

 

‘Til, unto my ears uncanny, from the waste bin’s deepest cranny,

Not just screeching but some words, words that through my mind did rip:

“Help me!” cried a tiny creature (which as yet I saw no feature);

“Save me from this dreadful nightmare, buried ‘neath the cod and chips.

What have I done to deserve this: helpless ‘neath the cod and chips?

I’d rather die than be here more”.

 

Sobered up before I knew it, chip-shop waste I ‘gan to strew it;

Searching for the unseen voice that sounded of acute despair.

Greasy fingers, smelly fingers: fishy smell that ever lingers;

Tearing through the tattered papers, my eyes met two eyes that stared;

Lying in a Pukka Pie dish, two red eyes that at me stared;

Eyes that will sleep nevermore.

 

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondrous fearing

What poor creature suffered under-neath the fish-and-chip remains.

Then the voice said “Curse you, mankind! Why are you so foul and unkind?

Tossing all this garbage on me; you have only shit for brains.

I, a maggot, poorest creature, suffer from your shit for brains.

I shall curse you evermore”.

 

I staggered home, now drunk and smelly; tore my clothes off, watched the telly,

Trying to drown out the maggot’s screeching and his curse of man;

But the curse still rang in my ear; only cure to drink much more beer;

So I stayed up all the night long, drinking ’til the clock rang ten;

Haunted by the maggot’s nightmare, ’til the morning clock rang ten;

Swearing I would drink no more.