Sid Smith front page

 

 

 

 

         AGE

 

            I

 

Once upon a time my cock

Was happy as a cuckoo clock,

But cogs of time that once renewed it

Caught my wedding gear and chewed it.

     Now my dick’s

Forever stopped at half past six.

 

Once a resolute erection

Gave my aimless days direction.

Now the prick that pointed at

Tomorrow night’s conjectured twat

     Leads the way

Down toward the fatal clay.

 

Once it brimmed with optimism,

Spouting gouts of joy and jism,

Self-delighting, self-annointing;

Now this fountain’s downward pointing –

     Just a hose

Ensuring urine clears my toes.

 

Once I chanted thrilling bits

From handbooks for Ikea kits,

Extracts from the Highway Code,

The shops along the Old Kent Road,

The causes of the Civil War,

Requirements for a leg-before,

The workings of the off-side rule,

And half-forgotten junk from school

     To stop me coming.

Now women’s bits are only plumbing.

 

How I shouted, ‘Praise the Lord!’

How I came a spinal cord,

Bumping down from Heaven’s gate,

Pumping out my body weight,

     To hit the floor –

And here I’ll crawl for ever more.

 

 

            II

 

Ignore St Paul’s, forget Big Ben,

The Vatican’s a rabbit pen,

The Kremlin and the Hermitage

Compared to this a hamster cage.

     No sultan’s palace

Matters like a happy phallus.

 

Yet crabwise, crouching, clutching books

To hide our pride from nasty looks,

We hunch and bunch and keep well hidden

What public transport raised unbidden.

     Enough! Unbowed

Let’s meet the people duly proud.

 

Oh see each glad commuter stands

Announcing loudly, ‘Look, no hands,’

While eager maidens crowding by

To keep his tackle hard and high

     (A feather duster

Ensuring that he passes muster)

     Are reassured

England’s future’s thus secured.

 

 

            III

 

Where my wristwatch lost its mind
Where my compass needle spins
Where the squatting milestone’s blind  
Where the camel’s carcass grins,
    I turn each rock                                       
Hunting for my vanished cock.                

Where, across some stony slope              
Roads erode and tracks unravel,
Lost and lonely pushing rope,

Herding water, knitting gravel,
    I strain to sniff one

Whiff of my absconded stiff one.

Oh missing prick I’m praying that

Strong, insistent, firm, unflagging,                      

Happy in a bath of twat,      

Splashing in a swamp of shagging,          

     Time can’t soften

Your aptitude for hard and often,

     Age undo

Your sempiternal urge to screw,

    Years impede your

Pork projectile, pink torpedo.       

   

And may no backward-looking

Sympathy for what I’m stuck in

    Stop you fucking.

 

 

            IV

Only another lovely woman

Of which this town has a thousand dozen.

 

Only a million London beauties,

Honeyed cuties,

Eye-popping, traffic-stopping,

Languid at their window-shopping,

 

That for me are

Only lovely as a car.

 

 

            V

A rumble as of thunderstorms

And London’s cunts were shut as stones.

 

‘Oh for someone young to do me,’

Women cry. And look straight through me.

‘Oh for someone strong and nasty,’

Women cry. And walk straight past me.

‘Oh for something harder, bigger,’

Women sigh. And I don’t figure.

       

But I’ll endure these brief years.

I’ll pull my hat down over my ears.

 

 

 

 

LETTER TO DEVON

Written on a Christmas card

  

Here’s hoping, Clive, they’ve stopped your dope and dole,

And beer’s what there’s an awful lack of, Annie.

If not, I’m sending from this northern hole

To the land of clotted cream and black Afghani,

     Of jam and acid tabs and skinny dips,

     GREETINGS AT CHRISTMASTIME begrudged through twisted lips.

  

‘Sid,’ you say, ‘so tell us, how’s the weather?

Raw we suppose, all icicles and sleet,

And the snow, down here a swan’s shed feather,

Is ready-blackened when it meets the street.

     Cold cracks the cobbles and the sunrise stalls,

     And dogs with lifted legs are stuck to workhouse walls.’

  

True. And clearer means colder. Rivers freeze,

Running in a tunnel under dull glass

Round bicycle bones. We’ve teeth on the eaves

And spiky like a bed of nails the grass.

     A low sun in a corner of the day,

     As weak as watercolour yellow, turns away.

  

Today I nipped outside to grab a nice

Shovelful of coke and nutty slack.    

Instead, with contact lenses formed of ice

And stalactites of snot, I staggered back

     To hug the empty hearth and curse in vain

     (Through windows double-glazed with panes of frozen rain)

  

The tribes of fearsome folk who crowd the town,

Who toil upstream against the level gales,                                                                          

Coughing creatures with a barbed wire frown

And faces like places where April fails,

     Who spring and summer through will still complain

     For the lead necklace of December days again.

  

Tonight I risked my life and had a jar.

The landlord’s wife was cheering on a fight.

Her husband hadn’t time to tend the bar

With helping someone set a cat alight.

     It was a girl trying to get it lit:

     One of the posher sort, the type that doesn’t spit.

  

I blushed: she laughed. I shook: she bit my ear.

With football forwards’ thighs she pressed my knee

Till I ejaculated thus: My dear,

Your weight is wealth, it’s like gold, like rich fee,

     And heavy as treasure your precious head.

     ‘Are you trying to say I’m fucking fat?’ she said.

  

I said, Oh tell me how to serve you best,

What track to take till Time’s tread shall tire;

What foe to fight, what golden fleece to fetch;

Tell me, tell me, I’d win you your desire

     Though bought with crimson coins my dead head bled.

     ‘All right. I’ll have a pint of bitter then,’ she said.

  

I said, Oh party of my life and soul

Remove the ticking apple of my heart

And bite. We are one of a kind, a whole,

A part of a heart that is never apart.

     ‘The only thing we have in common,

     Is you’re a man and I’m a woman.’

  

So I left, wheezing through the freezing night

Where winds will whittle you to the white bone;

Where the streams and the smiles are locked up tight

And cold enchants whole bus queues into stone.

     A skull-like moon leaned over with a grin

     On suffering Sid, alone at the cold world’s rim.

  

But stop: through all this summer only hides,

Waiting where May-blooms clutch their roots and hold

And keep the secret – Life – that still abides

Though mean mid-winter grips, vice-cold.

     I too will clutch my root and hold and stay

     And be daft with the daffodils, dreaming of May.

  

It’s a dream of how Eden begins:

Bursting the doors of dawn on the first day,

His whiskers filled with lightning-bolts and grins

On green scene, flower bower, hoe-high hay,

     The lord of Devonshire mornings has come

     Where I lie, smiling at last, asleep in the sun.

 

 

 

 

ON A BIRTHDAY

 

I

Now like a classic Chinese sage

I’ll turn to verses to console old age,  

Scorning the raw disordered city

For the true poet’s envy, spite, self-pity.

 

And this is fitting for a sad old fart

Since art itself’s a dying art

And soon the maker’s role will be

Killed by the Singularity –

When supermarket checkout tills

Outdo Rubens on our baked bean bills,

And any bar-room stool ad libs

Dirty jokes to crack your ribs;

The lonely hotel guest’s beguiled

By wardrobes wittier than Oscar Wilde,

While every lift’s a soloist

With better melodies than Brahms and Listz.

 

Yet let our younger art creators

Lose their jobs to elevators;

I’ll enjoy these final days

Of history’s temporary literary phase

In which inflamed imagination

Strong from pre-Web masturbation

Served a readership who’d never seen

Pixels flit across a screen.

 

For nowadays who feels at home

Hugging alone some droning tome

All in immobile monochrome?

Given the choice,

Who but losers toil through Joyce?

What wilderness of empty days

Drives a man to Auden’s plays?

No one good at outdoor games

Endures the gruesome Henry James.

Only folk that love forgets

Wrestle the dreadful Four Quartets.

Of those who groan through Wordsworth’s Prelude

High proportions look like hell nude.

 

Therefore see the world forsake

Verse like a turbid ox-bow lake    

Where we, with self-inflicted futile duty,

Fish the infected pit for truth and beauty.

 

And this is why: beauty and truth

One day slapped us through the gloom of youth;

Amid our dolor, dead men’s verses

Eased our adolescent ache like curses;

Leaving grief we’d briefly dwell

In walls of words where all is well,

Where lust and fear and the world’s wrongs

Are vented safely into songs,

And secret teenage dreams and doubt

On legs of lines can stride about.

 

So come with me, you sorry crew

Bereft of better things to do,

Your lives and loves so much amiss

You’re sitting here and reading this.

 

Unkillable, the need to speak

Drives our tireless treks that seek

Through sumps of dullness undeterred  

Borrowed ways of being heard –

Poetry, the perfect word.

 

 

II

I’ve rhymed for lust, for praise, for gain

But scribble nowadays to test my brain,

Penning each sonnet, song or saga

For reassurance that I’m not yet gaga.

 

I might unknowingly conclude a line

With some deluded not-quite rhyme,

Or reach for rhymes I can’t quite hold

Like William McGonagall pursuing his hat in a strong breeze that is also cold,

Or like McGonagall in a Dundee tavern groping drunkenly for an exit,

Or like some would-be humorous versifier who pictures McGonagall drowning in

    the silvery Tay and splashing blindly for the lights of a far-off shore and

    thereby hopelessly over-eggs it.

 

For though extruding through our charmless youth

Clammy voidings we confuse with truth

(The notions trite, the rhyming hackneyed)

Comforts us for being acnied;

 

And though through deserts of our middle years

We pump our output into Beauty’s ears

(Our hair departs, our bellies sag,

But handsome stanzas might secure a shag);

 

Yet how much more old age

Demands a recompense across the page:

Here where a whip of wit confines

Our desperation in a cage of lines;

The rabble multitudes of rage and woe

Kicked into regimented row on row;

Compressed, condensed, our grief so terse is

Crystallised at last to verses.

 

So let the fact I’m balder, sadder, fatter             

Tame itself to subject matter,                     

Until my life – so ill-begun,                      

Bungled, fearful, left undone –

In this false light appears

Worthy, almost, of these sixty years.  

 

 

 

 

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