The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants

By Paul Muldoon b. 1951 Paul Muldoon
At four in the morning he wakes   
to the yawn of brakes,
the snore of a diesel engine.   
Gone. All she left
is a froth of bra and panties.   
The scum of the Seine
and the Farset.
Gallogly squats in his own pelt.   
A sodium street light
his brought a new dimension   
to their black taxi.
By the time they force an entry   
he’ll have skedaddled
among hen runs and pigeon lofts.

The charter flight from Florida   
touched down at Aldergrove   
minutes earlier,
at 3.54 a.m.
Its excess baggage takes the form
of Mangas Jones, Esquire,   
who is, as it turns out, Apache.   
He carries only hand luggage.   
‘Anything to declare?’
He opens the powder-blue attaché-
case. ‘A pebble of quartz.’   
‘You’re an Apache?’ ‘Mescalero.’
He follows the corridor’s   
arroyo till the signs read Hertz.

He is going to put his foot down   
on a patch of waste ground
along the Stranmillis embankment   
when he gets wind
of their impromptu fire.
The air above the once-sweet stream   
is aquarium-
drained.
And six, maybe seven, skinheads   
have formed a quorum
round a burnt-out heavy-duty tyre.   
So intent on sniffing glue
they may not notice Gallogly,
or, if they do, are so far gone.

Three miles west as the crow flies
an all-night carry-out   
provides the cover
for an illegal drinking club.
While the bar man unpacks a crate
of Coca-Cola,
one cool customer
takes on all comers in a video game.
He grasps what his two acolytes
have failed to seize.
Don’t they know what kind of take-away   
this is, the glipes?
Vietmanese. Viet-ma-friggin’-knees.
He drops his payload of napalm.

Gallogly is wearing a candy-stripe   
king-size sheet,
a little something he picked up   
off a clothes line.
He is driving a milk van
he borrowed from the Belfast Co-op   
while the milkman’s back
was turned.
He had given the milkman a playful   
rabbit punch.
When he stepped on the gas
he flooded the street
with broken glass.
He is trying to keep a low profile.

The unmarked police car draws level   
with his last address.
A sergeant and eight constables   
pile out of a tender
and hammer up the stairs.
The street bristles with static.
Their sniffer dog, a Labrador bitch,   
bursts into the attic
like David Balfour in Kidnapped.
A constable on his first dawn swoop   
leans on a shovel.
He has turned over a
new leaf in her ladyship’s herb patch.   
They’ll take it back for analysis.

All a bit much after the night shift   
to meet a milkman
who’s double-parked his van
closing your front door after him.
He’s sporting your
Donegal tweed suit and your
Sunday shoes and politely raises your   
hat as he goes by.
You stand there with your mouth open   
as he climbs into the still-warm
driving seat of your Cortina
and screeches off towards the motorway,   
leaving you uncertain
of your still-warm wife’s damp tuft.

Someone on their way to early Mass   
will find her hog-tied
to the chapel gates—
O Child of Prague-
big-eyed, anorexic.
The lesson for today
is pinned to her bomber jacket.
It seems to read Keep off the Grass.
Her lovely head has been chopped   
and changed.
For Beatrice, whose fathers
knew Louis Quinze,
to have come to this, her perruque   
of tar and feathers.

He is pushing the maroon Cortina   
through the sedge
on the banks of the Callan.
It took him a mere forty minutes   
to skite up the Ml.
He followed the exit sign
for Loughgall and hared
among the top-heavy apple orchards.
This stretch of the Armagh/Tyrone   
border was planted by Warwickshiremen   
who planted in turn
their familiar quick-set damson hedges.   
The Cortina goes to the bottom.
Gallogly swallows a plummy-plum-plum.

‘I’ll warrant them’s the very pair
o’ boys I seen abroad
in McParland’s bottom, though where
in under God—
for thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate—
where they come from God only knows.’   
‘They were mad for a bite o’ mate,
I s’pose.’
‘I doubt so. I come across a brave dale
o’ half-chawed damsels. Wanst wun disappeared   
I follied the wun as yelly as Indy male.’
‘Ye weren’t afeared?’
‘I follied him.’ ‘God save us.’
‘An’ he driv away in a van belongin’ t’Avis.

The grass sprightly as Astroturf   
in the September frost
and a mist
here where the ground is low
He seizes his own wrist
as if, as if
Blind Pew again seized Jim
at the sign of the ‘Admiral Benbow’.   
As if Jim Hawkins led Blind Pew   
to Billy Bones
and they were all one and the same,   
he stares in disbelief
at an aspirin-white spot he pressed   
into his own palm.

Gallogly’s thorn-proof tweed jacket
is now several sizes too big.   
He has flopped
down in a hay shed
to ram a wad of hay into the toe   
of each of his ill-fitting   
brogues, when he gets the drift   
of ham and eggs.
Now he’s led by his own wet nose   
to the hacienda-style
farmhouse, a baggy-kneed animated
bear drawn out of the woods   
by an apple pie
left to cool on a windowsill.

She was standing at the picture window   
with a glass of water
and a Valium
when she caught your man   
in the reflection of her face.   
He came
shaping past the milking parlour   
as if he owned the place.
Such is the integrity
of their quarrel
that she immediately took down   
the legally held shotgun
and let him have both barrels.
She had wanted only to clear the air.

Half a mile away across the valley   
her husband’s U.D.R. patrol
is mounting a check-point.
He pricks up his ears
at the crack
of her prematurely arthritic hip-
joint,
and commandeers one of the jeeps.
There now, only a powder burn   
as if her mascara had run.
The bloody puddle
in the yard, and the shilly-shally   
of blood like a command wire   
petering out behind a milk churn.

A hole in the heart, an ovarian   
cyst.
Coming up the Bann
in a bubble.
Disappearing up his own bum.   
Or, running on the spot
with all the minor aplomb   
of a trick-cyclist.
So thin, side-on, you could spit   
through him.
His six foot of pump water   
bent double
in agony or laughter.
Keeping down-wind of everything.

White Annetts. Gillyflowers. Angel Bites.
When he names the forgotten names   
of apples
he has them all off pat.
His eye like the eye of a travelling rat   
lights on the studied negligence
of these scraws of turf.
A tarpaulin. A waterlogged pit.
He will take stock of the Kalashnikov’s   
filed-down serial number,
seven sticks of unstable
commercial gelignite
that have already begun to weep.
Red Strokes. Sugar Sweet. Widows Whelps.

Buy him a drink and he’ll regale you   
with how he came in for a cure   
one morning after the night before
to the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret.   
He was crossing the bar’s
eternity of parquet floor
when his eagle eye
saw something move on the horizon.   
If it wasn’t an Indian.
A Sioux. An ugly Sioux.
He means, of course, an Oglala   
Sioux busily tracing the family tree   
of an Ulsterman who had some hand   
in the massacre at Wounded Knee.

He will answer the hedge-sparrow’s   
Littlebitofbreadandnocheese
with a whole bunch
of freshly picked watercress,   
a bulb of garlic,
sorrel,
with many-faceted blackberries.   
Gallogly is out to lunch.
When his cock rattles its sabre   
he takes it in his dab
hand, plants one chaste kiss   
on its forelock,
and then, with a birl and a skirl,   
tosses it off like a caber.

The U.D.R. corporal had come off duty   
to be with his wife
while the others set about
a follow-up search.
When he tramped out just before twelve   
to exercise the greyhound
he was hit by a single high-velocity   
shot.
You could, if you like, put your fist   
in the exit wound
in his chest.
He slumps
in the spume of his own arterial blood   
like an overturned paraffin lamp.

Gallogly lies down in the sheugh   
to munch
through a Beauty of
Bath. He repeats himself, Bath,
under his garlic-breath.
Sheugh, he says. Sheugh.
He is finding that first ‘sh’
increasingly difficult to manage.   
Sh-leeps. A milkmaid sinks   
her bare foot
to the ankle
in a simmering dung hill
and fills the slot
with beastlings for him to drink.

In Ovid’s conspicuously tongue-in-cheek   
account of an eyeball
to eyeball
between the goddess Leto
and a shower of Lycian reed cutters   
who refuse her a cup of cloudy
water
from their churned-up lake,
Live then forever in that lake of yours,   
she cries, and has them
bubble
and squeak
and plonk themselves down as bullfrogs   
In their icy jissom.

A country man kneels on his cap
beside his neighbour’s fresh
grave-mud
as Gallogly kneels to lap   
the primrose-yellow   
custard.
The knees of his hand-me-down duds
are gingerish.
A pernickety seven-
year-old girl-child
parades in her mother’s trousseau
and mumbles a primrose   
Kleenex tissue
to make sure her lipstick’s even.

Gallogly has only to part the veil   
of its stomach wall
to get right under the skin,
the spluttering heart
and collapsed lung,
of the horse in Guernica.
He flees the Museum of Modern Art   
with its bit between his teeth.
When he began to cough
blood, Hamsun rode the Minneapolis/   
New York night train
on top of the dining-car.
One long, inward howl.
A porter-drinker without a thrapple.

A weekend trip to the mountains
north of Boston   
with Alice, Alice A.   
and her paprika hair,
the ignition key
to her family’s Winnebago camper,
her quim
biting the leg off her.
In the oyster bar
of Grand Central Station
she gobbles a dozen Chesapeakes—
‘Oh, I’m not particular as to size’—
and, with a flourish of Tabasco,   
turns to gobble him.

A brewery lorry on a routine delivery   
is taking a slow,
dangerous bend.
The driver’s blethering
his code name
over the Citizens Band
when someone ambles
in front of him. Go, Johnny, go, go, go.   
He’s been dry-gulched
by a sixteen-year-old numb
with Mogadon,
whose face is masked by the seamless   
black stocking filched
from his mum.

When who should walk in but Beatrice,   
large as life, or larger,
sipping her one glass of lager   
and singing her one song.
If he had it to do all over again   
he would let her shave his head   
in memory of ’98
and her own, the French, Revolution.   
The son of the King of the Moy   
met this child on the Roxborough   
estate. Noblesse, she said. Noblesse
oblige. And her tiny nipples   
were bruise-bluish, wild raspberries.
The song she sang was ‘The Croppy Boy’.

Her grand’mère was once asked to tea   
by Gertrude Stein,
and her grand’mère and Gertrude   
and Alice B., chère Alice B.
with her hook-nose,
the three of them sat in the nude   
round the petits fours
and repeated Eros is Eros is Eros.
If he had it to do all over again   
he would still be taken in
by her Alice B. Toklas
Nameless Cookies
and those new words she had him learn:   
hash, hashish, lo perfido assassin.

Once the local councillor straps   
himself into the safety belt
of his Citroën
and skids up the ramp
from the municipal car park
he upsets the delicate balance   
of a mercury-tilt
boobytrap.
Once they collect his smithereens   
he doesn’t quite add up.
They’re shy of a foot, and a calf   
which stems
from his left shoe like a severely   
pruned-back shrub.

Ten years before. The smooth-as-a
front-lawn at Queen’s
where she squats
before a psilocybin god.
The indomitable gentle-bush
that had Lanyon or Lynn
revise their elegant ground plan   
for the university quad.
With calmness, with care,
with breast milk, with dew.
There’s no cure now.
There’s nothing left to do.
The mushrooms speak through her.   
Hush-hush.

‘Oh, I’m not particular as to size,’
Alice hastily replied
and broke off a bit of the edge   
with each hand
and set to work very carefully,   
nibbling
first at one
and then the other.
On the Staten Island ferry   
two men are dickering   
over the price
of a shipment of Armalites,
as Henry Thoreau was wont to quibble   
with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

That last night in the Algonquin   
he met with a flurry
of sprites,
the assorted shades
of Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy,   
a sanguine
Michael Cusack
brandishing his blackthorn.   
Then Thomas Meagher   
darts up from the Missouri   
on a ray
of the morning star
to fiercely ask
what has become of Irish hurling.

Everyone has heard the story of
a strong and beautiful bug
which came out of the dry leaf
of an old table of apple-tree wood
that stood
in a farmer’s kitchen in Massachusetts   
and which was heard gnawing out
for several weeks—
When the phone trills
he is careful not to lose his page—
Who knows what beautiful and winged life   
whose egg
has been buried for ages
may unexpectedly come forth? ‘Tell-tale.’

Gallogly carries a hunting bow   
equipped
with a bow sight
and a quiver
of hunting arrows
belonging to her brother.   
Alice has gone a little way off   
to do her job.
A timber wolf,
a caribou,
or merely a trick of the light?   
As, listlessly,
he lobs
an arrow into the undergrowth.

Had you followed the river Callan’s
Pelorus Jack
through the worst drought   
in living memory
to the rains of early Autumn   
when it scrubs its swollen,   
scab-encrusted back
under a bridge, the bridge you look down from,
you would be unlikely to pay much heed   
to yet another old banger
no one could be bothered to tax,
or a beat-up fridge
well-stocked with gelignite,
or some five hundred yards of Cortex.

He lopes after the dribs of blood
through the pine forest
till they stop dead
in the ruins of a longhouse
or hogan.
Somehow, he finds his way
back to their tent.
Not so much as a whiff of her musk.
The girl behind the Aer Lingus
check-in desk
at Logan
is wearing the same scent
and an embroidered capital letter A
on her breast.

Was she Aurora, or the goddess Flora,   
Artemidora, or Venus bright,
or Helen fair beyond compare
that Priam stole from the Grecian sight?   
Quite modestly she answered me
and she gave her head one fetch up
and she said I am gathering musheroons   
to make my mammy ketchup.
The dunt and dunder
of a culvert-bomb
wakes him
as it might have woke Leander.
And she said I am gathering musheroons   
to make my mammy ketchup O.

Predictable as the gift of the gab   
or a drop of the craythur
he noses round the six foot deep   
crater.
Oblivious to their Landrover’s   
olive-drab
and the Burgundy berets
of a snatch-squad of Paratroopers.   
Gallogly, or Gollogly,
otherwise known as Golightly,   
otherwise known as Ingoldsby,   
otherwise known as English,   
gives forth one low cry of anguish   
and agrees to come quietly.

They have bundled him into the cell   
for a strip-
search.
He perches
on the balls of his toes, my my,
with his legs spread
till both his instep arches
fall.
He holds himself at arm’s
length from the brilliantly Snowcem-ed   
wall, a game bird
hung by its pinion tips
till it drops, in the fullness of time,   
from the mast its colours are nailed to.

They have left him to cool his heels
after the obligatory
bath,
the mug shots, fingerprints
et cetera.
He plumps the thin bolster
and hints
at the slop bucket.
Six o’clock.
From the A Wing of Armagh jail   
he can make out
the Angelus bell
of St Patrick’s cathedral
and a chorus of ‘For God and Ulster’.

The brewery lorry’s stood at a list
by the Las Vegas
throughout the afternoon,
its off-side rear tyres down.
As yet, no one has looked agog
at the smuts and rusts
of a girlie mag
in disarray on the passenger seat.
An almost invisible, taut
fishing line
runs from the Playmate’s navel
to a pivotal   
beer keg.
As yet, no one has risen to the bait.

I saw no mountains, no enormous spaces,   
no magical growth and metamorphosis   
of buildings, nothing remotely like
a drama or a parable
in which he dons these lime-green dungarees,
green Wellingtons,
a green helmet of aspect terrible.
The other world to which mescalin   
admitted me was not the world of visions;   
it existed out there, in what I could see   
with my eyes open.
He straps a chemical pack on his back   
and goes in search of some Gawain.

Gallogly pads along the block
to raise his visor
at the first peep-hole.
He shamelessly
takes in her lean piglet’s
back, the back   
and boyish hams   
of a girl at stool.
At last. A tiny goat’s-pill.
A stub of crayon
with which she has squiggled
a shamrock, yes,
but a shamrock after the school
of Pollock, Jackson Pollock.

I stopped and stared at her face to face   
and on the spot a name came to me,   
a name with a smooth, nervous sound:   
Ylayali.
When she was very close
I drew myself up straight
and said in an impressive voice,
‘Miss, you are losing your book.’
And Beatrice, for it is she, she squints   
through the spy-hole
to pass him an orange,
an Outspan orange some visitor has spiked   
with a syringe-ful
of vodka.

The more a man has the more a man wants,   
the same I don’t think true.
For I never met a man with one black eye   
who ever wanted two.
In the Las Vegas Lounge and Cabaret   
the resident group—
pot bellies, Aran knits—
have you eating out of their hands.
Never throw a brick at a drowning man   
when you’re near to a grocer’s store.   
Just throw him a cake of Sunlight soap,   
let him wash himself ashore.
You will act the galoot, and gallivant,   
and call for another encore.

Gallogly, Gallogly, O Gallogly   
juggles
his name like an orange
between his outsize baseball glove   
paws,
and ogles
a moon that’s just out of range   
beyond the perimeter wall.
He works a gobbet of Brylcreem   
into his quiff
and delves
through sand and gravel,
shrugging it off
his velveteen shoulders and arms.

Just
throw   
him
a
cake
of
Sunlight
soap,
let
him
wash
him-
self
ashore.

Into a picture by Edward Hopper   
of a gas station
in the Midwest
where Hopper takes as his theme   
light, the spooky
glow of an illuminated sign
reading Esso or Mobil
or what-have-you—
into such a desolate oval
ride two youths on a motorbike.   
A hand gun. Balaclavas.
The pump attendant’s grown so used   
to hold-ups he calls after them:   
Beannacht Dé ar an obair.

The pump attendant’s not to know   
he’s being watched by a gallowglass   
hot-foot from a woodcut
by Derricke,
who skips across the forecourt   
and kicks the black
plastic bucket
they left as a memento.
Nor is the gallowglass any the wiser.   
The bucket’s packed with fertilizer   
and a heady brew
of sugar and Paraquat’s
relentlessly gnawing its way through   
the floppy knot of a Durex.

It was this self-same pump attendant   
who dragged the head and torso   
clear
and mouthed an Act of Contrition   
in the frazzled ear
and overheard
those already-famous last words   
Moose ... Indian.
‘Next of all wus the han’.’ ‘Be Japers.’   
‘The sodgers cordonned-off the area   
wi’ what-ye-may-call-it tape.’
‘Lunimous.’ ‘They foun’ this hairy
han’ wi’ a drowneded man’s grip
on a lunimous stone no bigger than a ...’

‘Huh.’

Paul Muldoon, “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants” from Poems 1968-1998. Copyright © 2001 by Paul Muldoon. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Poems 1968-1998 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Paul Muldoon b. 1951

POET’S REGION Ireland

Subjects Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Paul  Muldoon

Biography

Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland's leading contemporary poets. He was born in Portadown, County Armagh and raised near The Moy, in Northern Ireland. Muldoon’s work is full of paradox: playful but serious, elusive but direct, innovative but traditional. He uses traditional verse forms such as the sonnet, ballad, and dramatic monologue, but alters their length and basic structure, and uses rhyme and meter in new ways. His work is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Ireland

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.