literature

Read My Lips

I don’t need a lover
who’s a looker,
just someone who knows
the shortlist
for this year’s Booker,

with an insightful view on
Doris Lessing or Ian McEwan,
being satanically well-versed
in Salman Rushdie,
and would find it cushty
to share pillow talk
about the work of A.S. Byatt.

Yes, that would be a riot.

I could never judge a lover
by her cover,
be swayed by make-up
or a fancy hair do;
I’d much rather her be intimate
with À la recherche du temps perdu.

To be clear, I’m not talking
Fifty Shades of Grey here,
but finding someone
who knows their way around
the complete works of Shakespeare.

I would rip out my heart
and write her name upon it
if she can recite to me
his eighteenth sonnet.

So don’t give me eyes
to get lost in;
I’d rather have a heated debate
about Jane Austen.

I don’t care if she talks
in a Donald Duck voice,
if, together, we can thumb
through the stories of Joyce,

nor will we ever feel
an unbridgeable gulf
if neither of us are afraid
of Virginia Woolf.

You see, one thing I’ve learnt
as I’ve got older
is that literature
lights up love
and makes it smoulder

and that beauty
is in the eye
of the book holder.

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The Love Song Of Brian H. Bilston

La belle Una Stubbio, flicki-kicki subbuteo,
Lei è well beautio, charade di muteo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When I have finished this quorn and mushroom pie,
And cleared away the table;
Let us go, through sterile shopping malls,
Consumer cathedrals
Of bargain baskets in poundshop aisles
And cut-price calendars of Harry Styles:
To lead you to an underwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What are you on about?”
Let us go and work it out.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Barry Manilow.

And indeed there will be time
For selfies in fastfood restaurant toilets,
Or dirtied department store changing rooms;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare your face for Instagram;
There will be time for Facebook and for Twitter,
And time for all your life’s minutae
To be spread like butter across the sky;
Time for blackjack in the new casino,
Before the taking of a frappuccino.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Paolo di Canio.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I care?” and, “Do I care?”
Time to turn back and listen to Cher,
With my newly grown facial hair —
(They will say: “Throw his pipe into a bin!”)
My frayed tank top, wearing thin,
The quadrupling of my double chin —
(They will see the fade of tattoos upon my skin).

I should have been a piece of unsuspected lego
Embedding myself into the soles of yellowed feet.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall subscribe to UK Comedy Gold.
Shall I become thin and frail? Do I dare to eat some kale?
Regardless, I will always hate the Daily Mail.
I have heard the boy bands singing on the radio.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them dancing on Saturday night talent shows
Prowling the stage with their hair blown back
When the wind machine whirls and their jaws go slack.
We have suffered the agony of the buffering page,
Lapsed into a sleeping silence, the uncomprehending frown,
Till Katie Hopkins wakes us, and we drown.

Whither the Linnet in the Birch Tree Yonder?

Whither the linnet
in the birch tree yonder?

For the linnet, I am fonder
than my mum was of her Honda
Civic
(which, incidentally, I also thought terrific).

Some cry
BRING BACK THE BIRCH!
but I’m glad to say
this one has never gone away
unlike the linnet
which used to live in it.

Perhaps he’ll be back in a minute.

O mighty birch
grown from the humble acorn,
rarely the cause of arboreal scorn!
One should never besmirch
the magnificent birch!

O beautiful linnet
with mouth of beak
and wings of feather!
Was your name Dennis or Sarah
or Susan or Trevor?

Threep Cheep Thhhreeep.
Threep Cheep Thhhreeep Pyyonng.
No more will I hear your beautiful song.

But hark who is it that now comes along?
Why, the linnet is back
with flaps sure and strong!

Hang on, what’s that?
I’ve got this all wrong?
It seems my knowledge of trees
remains somewhat poor
and that’s not a proud birch
but a stupid sycamore.
And apparently
that’s not even a linnet.
It’s a chaffinch, you say,
innit?

Book Group

The last Thursday of every month was Book Group,
When the books would gather together
To discuss Graham.

“He has barely touched me I am sure I am
Only here so he can show off to his friends,”
Complained Ulysses, in a stream of self-consciousness.

“Consider yourself lucky,” cried Fifty Shades of Grey.
“He’s always got his dirty hands all over me. Look at my cracked
spine and turned down corners!”

“At least he’s prepared to put you two on display,” sobbed
Coping with Erectile Dysfunction, limply, from behind
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

“The problem isn’t him, it’s you,” declared the Oxford English Dictionary, with meaning.
“You get too involved. With me, it’s just a quick in and out.
We have an understanding.”

“That’s all very well for you to say, pronounce, utter, articulate,”
muttered Roget’s Thesaurus, who always had some words
To add to the conversation.

Graham entered the room, carrying a box.
Dipping into it, he pulled out a slim, shiny metal object.
He stared at it all night, his interest kindled.

The books sat silently on the shelf.

We Are Books

I am a book.

But one of those books
With an aspiration beyond its station,
A pale imitation of Nabakovian narration.
Characterisation never the strongest,
I’m forever on the longlist,
Always the prize-maid, but never the prize
(And do mind that plot-hole).

You are a book.

The Turko-Polish Technical Dictionary
Of Hydraulic Engineering, to be precise.
You are far from concise
And run into three volumes
With online supplementary material,
(Including downloadable PowerPoint slides).
I have very little idea how to read you
Or whether I should even try.

But still we sit side-by-side,
On the shelf,
Our companionable silence
Speaking volumes.

Holiday Reading

Leila lying at the lido,
Lapping up some Don DeLillo.

Bob basking on the bietzsche,
With his daily dose of Nietzsche.

Paul poised by the pool,
Pouring over VS Naipaul.

Tania wrapped in beach towels,
Explores the works of John Fowles.

Cilla instilled inside her villa,
Still engrossed in Friedrich Schiller.

Deborah delays before she dips in,
Immersed entirely in Solzhenitsyn.

But I’m hiding under my duvet,
Reading a biography of Michael Bublé.