‘Bust of Marcus Aurelius as a Boy’


Who is this modernist?
His beardless face
His curls too artfully trimmed
By Sassoon on via Veneto?

I hardly recognise myself   –
He seems the kind of youth
Impelled to pretty writing
One who can’t abstain from poetry

Appearances are wonderful
Misleaders of sound reason
All modernists knew this   –
The girl-boys on Lambrettas
Their boy-girls lolling stylishly at pillion

Their stories fade
Then turn to myth
And though you break your heart
The world runs as before

This boy might seem too slight a soul
To lug about two corpses
One of course his own
The other his dead father

Transformed to ghostly mentor
Father drives him on
To seek The Truth as Shakespeare’s Danish prince
Who found court life contemptible

Then perusing his late jester’s jaw
Upturned from its grave
He contemplated this   –

Death smiles at us all   –
All you may do is smile back




Vincenzo though your secret’s safe with me
I believe you are a man of many wigs
Why is this so?

“To have one’s ‘hair’ appear
Completely natural

Requires artistic rotation   so you see
‘Freshly barbered   –   ‘growth’   –   ‘hirsute’   –   ‘abandon’
When‘re-styled’ the cycle starts again

You only must remember this   –
To make the game substantial

Be observed to carry a black comb
Containing a slight smattering of dandruff

Such is easily acquired   –
And though I enjoy our conversation 
It is the only reason now

I patronise this barber’s”    


Bernard Saint
Illustration: Claire Palmer



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