NOT A POEM FOR ARMISTICE DAY 1966
Twenty-one years, several wars, since
what was positively not
my war. I didn’t have one of the good wars,
liberated nothing but an expense
of spirit (mine) and some shame (theirs,
I’d like to think). They made me go.
Thereafter, watched me when I went
until the Japanese were bent,
if not by me. Worst inveterate No-
sayer of the drab nay-saying Stores
Branch of any force, cog of an immense
organized incompetence –
in retrospect, a sort of comedy
although it cost a shocking lot
to stage – I said emphatic No to glory,
honour and valour. A comedian
among unconscious comics, shot
off my mouth stooging along for three
years to avoid the unearned promotion
which no one, almost certainly,
considered that I might deserve.
Notice, please, how minimal doubt
remains – I say it quite without
prejudice to any – that though their strung nerve
was touched when they found stocks of poetry
gone bad among the rations, devotion
to an idealist passion
upheld them. Wholly they were not convinced
humankind could resist their plot
when many virtuous conformists evidenced
it was successful, would help men succeed
6. 7. 66
in being manly. Somehow I got
by, unmanned; yet there is still the doubt, see?
That I was tempted to be like? Agreed.
They, tempted also, saw in me
one ripe for conversion. They took
for efficiency such poor guise
of busyness laid on my ways,
potential more than realised? Do not look
long at motives. Common history
made stuff of motives
years back. Now, we need;
we act, do not act; we bleed
by proxy blood without salt without stain
without shame. Comfortably, rot
at the TV. Plenty of stoush, no pain.
No obligation, no commitment. Switch
on. Switch off. Summon the foul blot
of conscience? Wipe it out.
Leave that to the young.
Don’t let it lie on our hands. We can bitch
up anything. Having been stung
when we were young, we became shy,
however will not let things be,
not entirely. Dreams recur as nightmare, ply
to just violence that sense of wrong
unrequited. Something went wrong. You twitch
a bit, and stutter; I itch
unspeakably. Change your programme.
the schedule fast. Admit: you’re not
an Avenger, I’m not a Danger Man.