You say the old masters never got it wrong,
But when Goya painted the death of the imagination
It was a lost dog against a usurious yellow sky
And the dog, a hapless creature who had drawn itself
Ten miles on two legs, stared in amazement
To see the man who once fed him from his plate
Reduced to this.
So I felt this week, the vile soil and everything upon it—
The beggar guest kicked from the table
Before his own dog, and even the honest unpicking
Of art performed nightly and in seclusion.
Like any Penelope my armor is resignation
Although I thought I would lift the bow myself
By the morning he is gone
And what to make of this?
The prostitutes hang from a beam like mice
The suitors are piled unburied in the yard.
And some say that it is now much better
And others, that it is worse.
So order was restored
I stared in amazement
Perhaps Akhmatova was right
When she wrote who knows what shit
What tip, what pile of waste
Brings forth the tender verse
Like hogweed, like the fat hen under the fence
Like the unbearable present tense
Who knows what ill, what strife
What crude shack of a life
And how it twists sweetly about the broken sill:
Pressingness, another word for honeysuckle
But housewives? Has poetry
Ever deepened in the pail
Was it ever found in the sink, under the table
Did it rise in the oven, quietly able
To outhowl the hoover?
Does it press more than the children’s supper
The sudden sleepless wail?
Did it ever?
It lives. It takes seed
Like the most unforgiving weed
Grows wilder as the child grows older
And spits on dreams, did I say
How it thrives in the ashen family nest
Or how iambs are measured best
Where it hurts:
With the heel of an iron
On the reluctant breast
Of a shirt?
There was a hush, then Michael Blann
Stepped out onto the stage. Michael
Blann, with his pipe and his jukebox head
Oh, he’s your man.
He has a song for all weathers, a pipe
And a voice, and he sings and he roams
He sings to the wind and a dog of how
The trees are all bare and Jack’s come home.
He’s a thin voice, like a spider thread
On days when the sun is late and fine
Live and let live, sings Michael Blann
The wind yields not, but the hills is mine.
He’s no call for fate passing over
His sheep are all angels, the stars are his Lords
He’ll play any part the clouds should fancy
To humble tunes and hand-me-down words
The acts are written in briar strands
And the Pharisees are leaves in the air
I likes a drop pipes Michael Blann
Sing follow hark forward the innocent hare.
He wore to his end a clutch of sheep’s wool
To show the gods that Michael Blann
Went alone, alone for most of his years
But crossed the hills a singing man.