The rich brown-umber hue the oaks unfold: an overdub of John Clare
Pink clouds lift a late dawn
as they thicken across the sky.
Sun comes up to outshine the
Christmas star left on all night.
So far, so good. Beyond words
of power that Bo crafts for TV,
the English strain mutates
where we live and breathe.
Not so good. One way to represent
this ‘Covid Christmas and Brexit New
Year’: a thousand nose-to-arse trucks
stuck in Kent’s tainted woodlands.
The borders are sealed against us. (No
more jokes about national dogging sites.
No luscious nymph squeezes an old
chap dry against a tree in this paradise!)
Flat Matt Pancake’s manslaughtery
eye unthreads the governing artifice:
the unrepresentable future
is represented by his blank fear,
the scope of his ‘It’s out of control!’
Bo scratches his wiry bonce, wishes
he was a backbench Fabricant, rich,
outrageous, and mostly fictional.
The year’s hard dusk falls beyond
the falling rain: colour drains
from the day’s sketch pad
and the mind alone is alone.
22nd December 2020
Improvisation upon Idealism by Arthur Symons
We now know that Bo has no
conscience (we always knew),
sad dog-eyes lowered over his mask
(at last) as he ‘apologises’ to Queen
(and country) for not breaking rules,
police at his door, redactions behind. He
was the master of our viral flesh
and of secret lockdown fleshpots.
His wit we admired, faultless
music without fact. ‘Not a details
man,’ we used to say, as, pissed, he
sprinkled state papers around the flat.
We now know he cannot tell the truth:
of kitsch wallpaper, crime statistics,
Brexit and Covid (his twins!),
children (more twins?) and parties,
ambushing labour with divinest wine
from his fridge, thirsting afresh! As we
vainly implore his overthrow,
Bo throws the party opposite over
with memes of Jimmy Savile (in truth, his
twin, blonde residue on our perfect body).
Tyrannous, he craves the power
he once had (over us), his mind
a mumble of deceit, the grumbling party
a tight-lipped instrument that he
can no longer finger
to scratch his extempore ditties.
9th February 2022
Robert Sheppard’s first two volumes of ‘The English Strain’ are published as The English Strain and Bad Idea. He lives in Liverpool, preparing yet another book, Doubly Stolen Fire, out late 2023.