Sunday, April 02, 2006

jo shapcott

hasn't entered my head for about eight years, until this morning.
she wrote (writes?), amongst other things, a series of 'mad cow' poems. she rocks. i'm getting as many of her books as i can at the end of this month :)
here's a couple - enjoy x

The Mad Cow Talks Back

I'm not mad. It just seems that way
because I stagger and get a bit irritable.
There are wonderful holes in my brain
through which ideas from outside can travel
at top speed and through which voices,
sometimes whole people, speak to me
about the universe. Most brains are too
compressed. You need this spongy
generosity to let the others in.

I love the staggers. Suddenly the surface
of the world is ice and I'm a magnificent
skater turning and spinning across whole hard
Pacifics and Atlantics. It's risky when
you're good, so of course the legs go before,
behind, and to the side of the body from time to time,
and then there's the general embarrassing
collapse, but when that happens it's glorious
because it's always when you're travelling
most furiously in your mind. My brain's like
the hive: constant little murmurs from its cells
saying this is the way, this is the way to go

The Mad Cow In Love

I want to be an angel and really think
I’m getting there with this mind of mine,
shrinking every day toward the cleanness,
the size of a baby animal’s brain.
Trouble is, I want you to be an angel too─
and want that more if anything. It’s one
of those demands I can’t raise just like that,
evenings, when we’re reading our different newspapers
you scanning your pages and me mine for an item
to start speech, make mouths smile, knees touch─something
in all that murder and mayhem to launch love.

You tell me you’re looking for news of the self.
Do you want to be an angel? I know
the answer already and it’s rough medicine.
But think of all the kinds there are, as many
as the different degrees of reaching
for the good. You might get away without
searching for the soul at all those places,
today at least, you’d rather not get to know.
And angels do a variety of jobs:
the post of perpetual adoration might suit,
or divine messenger but I fancy for you
the government of the stars and all the elements.
I know you well enough to choose, after all this time
as foreign correspondent on the track of who you are,
looking for leads: your last screw, the food
you threw away, your strategic approaches
for living through the next hour.
I don’t mean it,
though, any of it. I want you earthly,
including all the global terrors and harms
which might come when we fall backwards
into the world of horn and hoof.

The Mad Cow Tries To Write The Good Poem

The police came when I was doing my death dance
to the amazing circular music which had entered a gap
near my cortex and acted as powerfully
as a screwdriver on my soul.
I wove in and out of the green trees.
I used my hooves as gentle weapons in the air.
A bit of newspaper fame came my way that day, but shit,
it was a performance ephemeral, and certainly not the good poem.

Lasting. How can I last when I live in a shed
and even the postman doesn't know where to find me?
It's dark in here. Light would echo the
gaps in my brain coils and set off a fizzing reaction,
not so much pounding, more an explosion
followed by a flowing moment when the taboo people arrive.
They're dressed in red and stand formally around my
skull as though staged for an opera. And when they sing
- sometimes as many as seven at once -
then, friend, please, the good poem is sounding all round this hut,
my head, the world,
I hear it written in the streaky emulsion on the walls,
in my own messing on the floor,
in the nation's smeary dailies,
in lovely people's ears, their breath, your breath:
it's new every time, always wanted and easy to spot
because I know what it looks like with my eyes closed.


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