‘The past is
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.
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
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