I had a friend who used to send me writing-prompts. They took me out of my comfort zone- and I was usually pleased with the result. One time she suggested Shostakovitch. What do I know about Shostakovitch? I don't even like his work. But I mustered what little I did I know and the result is this- something I'd never have written off my own bat.
Things you cannot say or write
You can ask a string quartet to play,
Or, if the theme is catchy enough,
Get even government spies to hum
Unwittingly. There isn’t a face
In the gallery of the great composers
More like a stone. I think of him
Walking the shingle beach at Snape,
As the cagey guest of Ben and Peter,
Looking east, and I sense his enemy
Staring back- as though they were heads
In roundels of laurel, facing each other
Across the folds of one of those street-wide
Banners the People march beneath.
Another prompt brought this. We were both cat lovers, but I'd never have written about cats if she hadn't challenged me to.
THE CAT TAKES A REST
The cat stretches out on the wall in the sunshine,
Taking this lifetime easy.
He says to the butterflies, “Listen my pretties
I’ll tear you apart- but later.
My last three lives were pretty exhausting;
I’ve earned this bit of a rest now.
I left piles of skulls on the plains of Ukraine,
I massacred peasants in Jerez
And drove in a Panzer through Alsace Lorraine
Till someone I wasn’t aware of
Dropped a lit bottle of flammable stuff
Through the hatch, What a bummer, but next time,
I’m gonna make sure I’ve got stars on my collar
And weapons-grade uranium.
I’ll sit in a bunker and feel the world tremble,
But just for this lifetime I’m resting.”