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2 poems by Robert Sheppard

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

After Image

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.


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