Issue 20: Robert Sheppard
from HAP: UNDERSTUDIES of THOMAS WYATT'S PETRARCH
Perhaps a Mishap
Inside the poem is another poem; inside that another.
The SS guards stoop to pat the lager hound.
You hate the poem, its logic, its symmetries.
Somewhere, someone is giving birth on an oily rag.
They’ve taken a convoy of Mercedes to visit the ruins,
the diktats of a lasting piece, the master plan.
Inside the plan is another plan; you’re running
through the forest with a stolen hard drive.
The dry shells of dream open as you wake – you find
no trace of relational interference. As Wyatt knows,
debugging his devices against the infant’s cry,
the yearning whine of the washing machine. On
the commute from Kent he scopes the news; the fisted spider
that dissembles as a berry: one side ripening, the other rotting.
Because I have the still kept fro lyes and blame
My tongue is rigid, moist in attentive silence, unlike
those of slack Brexiteers who promised the riches of the land
to a sequacious populace without delivery or deliverance.
(Wordless, it glistened down drifting down from your navel.)
Your slim leather gloves slap to the floor of the crowded train
at the feet of a young man who ignores them under his phone.
‘This isn’t what we wanted Feminism for,’ stooping, lame;
‘I just wanted the right to an abortion if I were ever raped!’
Your rights could become wrong at the flick of a tongue,
and I’d have to stand, hands behind back, tongue-tied,
beetroot-flushed at blatant bloviation, unperfected
in my studied ‘Foreign Office’ sprezzatura; minding
my mistress in Camberwell with her proofs of the next Mantell,
my wife and kids with the washing machine back in Kent.
Ever myn hap is slack and slo in commyng
Whatever happens happens. Slack comings or
stern desire. I’ll take it or leave it. She loves me
not. These paper jousts of the pastime tiger
make brittle kindling for a heartless fire.
So snow shall rest unmelting on her black hair;
the Atlantic shall drain to leave a Grand Canyon
for our special relationship; the crowded Thameslink south
shall be free of their spy crouched behind The Sun;
before I shake off this sweat of conspiracy, this
fear of wrongful arrest (and the rest). I’m as bitter and twisted
as Kentish beer – culpable sweetness covers her winy secrets,
saccharine wasteland where I build my shanty trust,
a refugee camp that I can no longer police – now I arrive.
I’m wired, wired-up, Wyatt. Anything could happen.
Was I never yet of your love greved
A dead file with your name on it (and mine)
could finish me off, just as I’m commissioned
to speak in propria persona. No longer aping
Petrarch or Plutarch for the first first lady,
I’m filing a report to frame the second’s dark portrait.
I’m impelled to dredge the linings of Eurocrats’ stomachs,
with a posting to Brussels in the last days should I fail.
On the last night the umbrella tip might sting my vitals.
Don’t touch me! I shall persist, though you insist on tears
(mine). You’re right on rights, the environment, nukes, yet
you’re squawking like one of Trump’s tweets in CAPS!
Cause and effect is affected by metatruths and his dispatches
but you’ll only bring the flat (or the axe) down on your head:
you’re the last cause of everything I hold dear, LOSER!
Love and fortune and my mynde, remembre
I’m taking the rap (again) between these sheets (alone)
or undercover in Brussels. My mind presents present promise
against the presence of the past, which is expiring faster than
my EU passport. (When I speak like that I wish I were dead.)
I’m out of sorts (with love, with you), and the failing pound
leaves me out of pocket here after one sour greuze and,
out of my mind, I crank myself up in the middle of the night,
to rub out my heretic Reginald like a furious youth!
Pleasure is a gif file on repeat: your breasts swinging.
All I’ll bring back from Europe will be re-memories of England.
I’ll be through these luckless sonnets before we hit the worst.
My fortunate face peppers with glass, my untrue heart splintered:
iron discipline shatters the one-way mirror during illicit interrogation,
its evidence as inadmissible as happiness.
I find no peace and all my war is done
‘I am a difficult poet in Kent’ (Charles Bernstein)
I jet above the world’s woolly defence. My hubris clouds over.
I’ve been withdrawn from Brussels. Draw no conclusions from The Daily Hate.
I’ve nothing in my diplomatic bag, yet all of Europe fructifies beneath;
I fear I’ll be frozen out from Boris, dried out in Frinton again.
Love of my country (and her) loosened my tongue, but now
I’m as tight as a berry. I’m unsafe in this safe house,
dark space for my dark place, like Pole’s mum on the block
when her head went splat! splat! splat! ha-ha.
I’m fixed in Brexitland permafrost, purr warm words about soft power.
I’m the Baptist of a British Anthropocene, the Commonwealth of Big Data.
I love it all, yet my wife alone loves the washing machine man, a Pole.
I pull the wrong face in the wrong sonnet and it weeps ha-ha.
This unreformed pleasure is the cause of my back-pocket
schadenfreude: Paul Nuttall’s fake degree from Edge Hill.
Robert Sheppard has recently published his anthology of co-authored fictional poem Twitters for a Lark: poetry of the European Union of Imaginary Authors from Shearsman. He is also working his way through English sonnets, and Hap follows on from the 14 versions of a Petrarch sonnet published by Crater as Petrarch 3. His The Meaning of Form was published by Palgrave. He wrote about sonnets in that book too.