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Poetry Magnum Opus

Tribal


dedalus
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Sentimental sacramentals

leave me feeling awfully glum,

chum. Don’t even know

who the hell you are. Who

the fuck are you anyway?

A copper, a lawyer, an ex-boyfriend?

OK. You can go away now, or else

I’ll break that camera over your head.

 

Here at this funeral …..

 

Jimmy, Uncle Joe, call Billy and George

and we’ll go into the back room.

There is always a back room somewhere,

doesn’t really matter where you are.

 

It’s a question of status, who you are,

as in, Omar, come to my private tent.

Keep them idiot women out, will you?

 

This is an important part of the pattern: this is

the non-benign sheltering policy, in which

men decide, women don’t need to know.

 

Kirche, Kuche, Kinder.

 

Jolly old Germans. But they were a tribal people

just like the Celts and the Jews and the Arabs,

and God knows how many others.

 

This is the primitive world of associations,

lingering on into modern times, as vibrant now

as ever, it lives, it survives:

 

It exists. It cannot be ignored.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought

another tribe to abrupt attention.

 

Here at this funeral …..

 

O, God it was so sad.

So fat he couldn’t fit into the grave,

so there was a need to re-arrange matters

while the workers worked and the mourners

became drunk and silly. Shelley, listen to me,

nothing really happened between us.

apart from licking honey off your breasts,

and as for the strawberry jam between your thighs,

that was a little joke, you must believe me.

 

You must believe me.

You meet all kinds of people at funerals.

 

I know your father’s out of work, he’s been

pounding down the beer … Budweiser! No

fuckin wonder your Daddy’s brain is gone.

 

Worst beer in America!

You hear me?

 

Sue me, you motherfuckers!

I’ll say it again … Worst beer in

OK, that’ll do.

 

Said it twice and it’s true.

Brain damage. Almost as bad

As Jack & Coke.

 

Tigers rush out from the jungles of Malaysia

with a swift and sudden rush, and they will, they will

actually kill you, Algernon, unless you find the button to play

“Our Day Will Come “by Amy Winehouse. For some reason

tigers go into purring mode, and you can gently back away.

 

Tiger Lady.

 

Was it Eton Or Winchester?

Britain, anyway. Who cares anymore …

 

Mmmm. Secret Service.

Exclusive clubs in St James.

 

In Afghanistan they have a sly and subtle arrangement

in which they want to herd you into a central place, to make you

part of a crowd (move away) so as to blow the fuck out of you.

 

You want to be cool. Hey, move away, Daddy Man.

No, I tell you. Here comes a true story: this happened

 

On the Road to Kandahar

 

Three hours by the side of the road,

falling snow, grieving people,

no sign of the idiot driver; a jeep

came by with soldiers; they piled

in the foreigners and the badly injured

and me with a teenage boy in my arms.

(his gaze had locked on my strange foreign eyes)

Allah, Allah, he moaned

as I held him tight, and begged

him to hold on, begged him

from my horrified infidel heart.

 

In Afghanistan

the landscape is unforgiving;

very harsh and rough, tones of browny-grey,

you discover that time doesn't move

quickly, unlike in the movies

where events happen one after another,

quickly, in rapid succession.

It took three long hours

to get back to Herat. Three hours

with a dead boy in my arms.

 

Sorry about that.

It still comes back in dreams

 

So maybe it wasn’t such a great poem: I was

still sort of learning at the time, climbing the ladder

that only later I was to discover led up to nowhere.

I can still see that poor boy’s face and the people who

don’t care about such things are the people I don’t care about.

Sir, can you tell us about your relationship

with Eric Clapton, was he really a drug addict,

and did you hang out with George Harrison?

 

This interview is really over.

 

Are you refusing to answer our questions?

You are not asking the right questions.

 

Did you or did you not write the following poem?

It is a blatant criticism of the Indian economy.

 

The heat of India

 

is unendurable, it drives you

to the boats on the Ganges

where slight breezes blow

as you awake among strangers,

gummy-eyed in the morning.

 

The night the body bumped

alongside, female, bloated, dead,

we shoved it aside with an oar

and just went back to sleep.

In the morning we were awoken

by the harsh cries of a hundred vultures

and stood and watched in horror.

 

I don’t deny I wrote it,

and if it’s blatant, I’m sorry, I was young

but for God’s sake that was nearly thirty years ago!

Sir, are you a communist?

Do you despise the rise of the Third World,

do you have dark thoughts about

Malaysia and Singapore?

 

Well, I dislike Singapore, that’s for sure,

they take away your chewing gum,

they tell you to marry college graduates

instead of the girl you love

so they can have bright little kids

to run their future prisons.

 

As for the Malays, they are racist bastards

more or less like the rest of us,

and I confess I rather like them.

You can get stoned, chew gum together

in friendly non-verbal harmony.

 

Sir, did you have a secret tryst with Lady Gaga?

A naughty night of sin in Knightsbridge?

Yes, of course, and I paid her five quid …

 

I was trying to write about tribes

because I belong to a tribe, if you like,

and I don’t feel so very bad about it.

 

I can give you our history for 2000 years

but it doesn’t mean much, just a warm feeling,

it lets you drink tea from a mug with your family crest.

 

God was with the remains of our ancient Gaelic world

until Culloden. The final collapse. This the End, my friend.

The End. Nothing has ever been the same since then.

 

We are mere cardboard cutouts of the men we had then,

nancying about in our designer foo’ba jerseys,

cheering on Scotland and Ireland from the couch,

going down the pub to get locked with the pals.

 

Jaysus, the post-Fenian generation

go to Celtic Park and roar their hearts out.

That’s about it. OK, now we have Aviva!

Celtic Tiger, look at the state of yeh!

 

Tiger Lady

 

New tribes arise, not along ancient lines

in which new kings had to fuck a horse in public

in what we call the good old days. Now it’s all

a matter of fear and profit and secrecy.

 

The old tribes are gone, overtaken by history,

so we end up with Nazis and other fools,

and dare I say Americans? Put a sanitary towel

over the foreign other, control your slaves and idiots.

 

What we have now are fake tribes, phonies

who do the same things under duress, people

who share a certain language, who feel they are

somewhat special, like the Mafia and the Military.

 

The real thing is gone, or if not gone it’s going,

until at moments, usually in a kitchen or lofty hall,

you find yourself surrounded by dozens of people

sharing your surname, aware of your cousins, knowing

precisely who you are and at such electric moments

you disappear, for you no longer belong to yourself.

 

Is that a good thing? I don’t know.

I don’t know because I don’t understand it.

 

Here at this funeral … can you tell me who he was?

Not a clue. But I reckon he was one of ours.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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