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Poetry Magnum Opus

The Inauguration


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I'm not going out of my way to be weird since this seems to have been a custom among the Celtic tribes until the early centuries of the AD era. The Doge of Venice "married" the sea by throwing in a ring to the passing waves from his richly-caparisoned gondola. The more ancient Celts seem to have have believed in a more direct approach ....
Conch shells, a blare of horns,
then a flare of the band of pipes.
My poor old father is dead
and I am the new king.
I plan to dismiss or murder
most of his advisors.
In the meantime
I have to fuck a horse.
There's no way out of it.
Tradition demands it.
I asked if I could choose a horse I liked
but was told to be patient,
that the priests would arrange it all.
Also, the poor bloody horse
has to show signs of satisfaction.
Dear gods!
Here am I with my Latin and Greek,
a student of Heraclitus,
soaring along with Homer
but dependent on the sighs
of a large-arsed animal.
It gives a new meaning to riding.
My people are both fierce and loyal
and we face a bitter war:
strangers have come among us.
They look to me to lead them and I will
but I cannot be their king
until I do this horse.
I don't want to do this horse
in front of all my people!
This is an ancient and stupid custom
and I don't want to shame myself
except with David, whom I love,
and that in private.
I shall have to marry
when I am king, of course,
one of the daughters of the O Cahans,
a sharp-nosed family of usurers
wo are essential:
they provide the money.
O gods, here we go.
The day of dread has arrived.
Clansmen all with bright colours and banners
are drunk already; wives and daughters
gather in set-aside tents.
I feel sick.
I am dressed in ancient robes
and dangling, tinkling, medallions.
They lead me out to a stage of new wood
in the centre of a grove of ancient oaks
and I beg my knees to carry me on.
A great cheer and the high-pitched Gaelic cry
thunders as I mount the steps.
I wave with all the enthusiasm
of a man condemned to the gallows
and wait, wait for the horse.
O gods, here she comes,
a two-year-old mare from the looks of her,
as they whack and chivvy her up the ramp;
the poor thing looks as nervous as me
and I stroke her nose in sympathy.
Hello, darling.
Then there's the mumbling of the priests,
cold hard-eyed men with soft and flabby hands,

a secretive crafty breed;

they murmur a code of memorized words
that feed on fear and superstition.
One of these hooded halflings
looses the cords of my trousers
and I stand, ashamed, before my people.
He grins at me, the idiot, and I smack him hard
and a cheer comes up from the multitude.
O yes, we like violence.
Lugh of Light, Mananaan of the Sea,
come down, ye gods, and sanction me!
But the gods are silent. They are always silent.
And I stand there, drooping, I cannot do this,
the innocent horse is also silent.
The whores of the town are sent up to me
to get me going, among waves of laughter,
gay ripples among the gathered throng;
mothers shade the eyes of their daughters
but laugh along with their husbands.
Do I want to be king?
I must be king: a bitter war, I know, is coming.
The whores do their business, I start to rise,
then mount the ladder behind the horse.
It has to be done.
It has to be done.
What shame,
what barbarism!
It doesn't take long.
I pretend it takes longer,
then raise my fist and bellow:
will you follow me to the death?
Yes, they roar, yes they will,
yes and yes and yes and yes!
This bitter business is done.
(rewritten from an original 2009 version)

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

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from the black desert

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