THE  MODIFIED GENE

 

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

 

‘The past is
a junkyard.
We go there
to look for parts.’
Avenue, Michael O’Brien

 

.
1. THE LANGUAGE WE’VE LOST

Folk customs of Old England
often mimic and parody
the representation of desire,

surrender and fulfilment.
Beribboned and beside herself
with success, the upper-class world

takes place in the free zone
with grazing rights for six goats
and a small flock of sheep,

chivalric romance, the prospect
of satisfaction and a nice cup of tea
in the Women’s Institute tent.

Notes for a language we’ve lost:
‘You’re the queen of the village green.’
Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.

2. ANOTHER LANGUAGE

This other language you speak,
is it something we can learn?
Or just glossolalia and nonsense?

Paul said it wasn’t the loss of stories
or customs we should worry about,
but the likes of Cameron and Trump,

weasel-word magicians who say
the opposite of what they mean.
Should we stay or should we go?

Makes no difference in the end,
we will always speak another language,
xenophobia and racism

are part of a modified gene
that haunts the English.
Get off your high hobby horse

and gift the boggart under the stairs,
make peace with the past.
Your lawn is full of weeds,

the future of uncertainties and lies.
Summertime in England does not occur;
if it does is mercifully short.

3. MAKESHIFT SHANTIES

Adrian’s makeshift shanties
and the primary school choir
reversioning some ancient tale
of revenge and lust gave us all
an excuse for cream teas, and wine
earlier than we should. Summer
has come. Yay! And midsummer
six days later. Just as the evenings
get lighter we turn back the clocks.
On the rock in the orchard, a carved throne;
in a cage beside the pub, a bird of prey.
In times gone by this was miles away,
now we drive in for the summer fete
and applaud the embarassed youngster
whose amateur coronation is today.
It is apparently just harmless fun,
just like the wheezebox performances
in blackface on the esplanade
when the folk festival comes to town.
We have always sung for our supper,
songs of love and loss. Tunes echo
from the cliff, drowned out by the tide.
We must learn to forget what is meant
by the past, swim away from the shore.

4. OTHER VERSIONS

In some versions King Arthur
lives under the hill and will ride again
to sort just about everything out.

Elsewhere, there’s a hunt that charges
across the sky, ghosts half-immersed
in water that’s risen since they were alive,

and groans and howls and whispers
in the echo chamber of communal dreams.
England is dying but will be kept alive

as a museum for international visitors
intrigued by a nation who rejected
the future and fled into the past,

numbing themselves with dreams
and out-of-date fairy tales,
other versions of the same lies.

5. UNSPEAKABLE

It is unspeakable,
what has been said.

It as though we are locked
into a default position

which requires us to lie
and pretend that we’re alright.

Something in the past
convinces us we are strong,

are different from the rest.
It is hard to know

what to say, to figure out
what makes us English,

especially when one does
not want to be English

with all the explicit links
between martyrdom

and ill-defined
rewards in heaven.

What are we to do?
It is clear that wrong

is right and right is wrong
nearly all the time.

 

.
© Rupert M Loydell


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