I kept a verse diary for the build up and first few weeks of the invasion of Iraq. Here it is- four years on.
That was a pretty sorry winter.
Our bestest friend (now what was her name?)
Accused us of doing something atrocious
And broke off relations- Snap- like that.
And Ailz and I went looking for solace
What I bought was women-
28 millimetres high-
In halter tops with great big enormous
Axes and swords- (you see, where they come from
No-one gets cold) and I’ll paint em up
And they’ll be my army.
Maybe I’ll get them
Some skeleton soldiers to smack around.
Crack those marrowbones
Knock those blocks off
Stamp on their nasty twiggy toes.
Today is February the twelfth.
And the cold air meeting the warm ground
Or the warm air meeting the cold ground-
Whichever- has turned the street to mist
As in my foggy
Winter’s over at last I think
And I pick out the sodden rocket-stick
That’s been in the hedge since November the Fifth
And swish it around like a sword till it breaks.
I’ve written about a third of novel.
I don’t want to play with those people today.
Their love affairs are human too human.
I’ll take a break on the rocky hills.
I’ll drink from those streams.
And bought some paint and was gathered in.
“Are you a painter?” the young man asked.
I said that I was and his eyes went happy.
How I do love thee, meek simplicity.
My brave companions are bonded in friendship
Long-striding women and men. They wear
Bright coats of mithril. They carry axes.
We sleep in a sheepfold. The pinewoods thrash.
The plague cart travels the moonlit road.
The knobby old bones of its driver knock.
His cargo bounces.
From up in the sky,
From a gondola on the London Eye,
The city looks like a Canaletto.
The buildings are white, the river is silver.
Time like an ever rolling stream.
Had never happened.
The greasy fog
The mud accruing at compound interest,
From Dickens day to the nineteen fifties.
Liquid shite on the street outside Harrods
And under a big, black, city umbrella,
Packed among all those forgettable people
(The year is 1958)
An Indian woman.
Treading the shite
In open sandals.
The people below me
Hundreds, thousands, are nothing but beetles.
The politicians who send out the bombers-
They have this view. So what if a beetle
Should stop? (That’s Orson as Harry Lime)
Or in the case we’re considering now,
Thousands of beetles?
I’m writing this
On the eve of our government’s war with
A lot of beetles a long way off
That one is the blind-fold juggler.
And there’s the guy with the mop on his head
Who makes like a statue.
The river is silver
It jazzes the windows of County Hall.
All I’ve got left of that woman I saw
Is an idea of beauty. Of beauty as fragile.
I couldn’t actually swear to the sandals
Or tell you what colour her sari was.
But if I was going to fake it I’d say
It was blue and silver- the colour the world is.
We fly forgotten.
The next thing’s war.