JOEY AWAKE NOW

Some poems,
right some poems.

I’m a lover of poems.
And yes, we lovers of poems

must stick together. Don’t mind me. Pardon? Glenn?
Glenn? Glenn. It is nice to meet you, Glenn.

You are thinking you are in luck.
Because look,

a strange old man has joined you at the bar.
How fortunate you are

this fine day. I beg your pardon? Indeed.
The secret’s out. I am indeed

a man with English, how do you say Raul, issues,
exactly, English issues.

No, not for fifty years.
Hoboken Italian now for fifty years.

I’m English when there are wars.
I was English when there were wars.

Oh no you don’t have to pretend
you give a damn. You came here to write, my friend,

then a sleepy old fool comes dropping by to tell you
what it was like in his day. Well I’ll tell you:

I was extremely handsome. It took me
seconds to go to the bathroom. End of story.

Raul, the same for him and the same for me,
he’s being much too polite. English, you see,

not like us. I’d have said Bugger off
by now.
Raul doesn’t get that, ‘bugger off’

he thinks it’s some kind of cool
new vodka, don’t you, Raul?

Raul says he understands,
he understands

bugger off
it’s what I was afraid of,

no secrets now, no secrets
for the Brits,

not from Americans
Glenn, no secrets from Americans.

The war?
Ah-ha.

Look at him, pen at the ready, like I could say
some poetry. We lovers of poetry.

What’s so important in the world that you can’t
stop the ride a moment,

open a little black
empty book

and remind the world you’re blue? There’s not a thing.
Burning building? Nothing.

Love of a lady?
‘I am at work. Please ask her to wait in the lobby.’

His eyes are glazing over, he’s remembering
something he’s forgetting

something. If you ask me, to tell you,
Glenn, if you’re sincerely truly going to,

I may
do so. I may

tell you a thing or two, I wouldn’t do so,
I wouldn’t—muchas gracias—I wouldn’t do so,

only it’s Saturday.
Not Saturday,

Black Saturday.
And in sixty years of rinso white Saturdays

it never did find
one to hide behind.

You go through morning into afternoon
and it’s always sunny, Saturday, in rain

or snow or storm who cares?
you pass the hours,

you’re free and the crowd is free and the whistle blows
a goal is scored, the long shot by a nose

then you happen to glance at the sky
and I say you I mean I . . .

I say you I mean I, me
riding on my bike and I

saw this mass of planes
in patterns they were their planes

and with the sky so thick
the light was weak, your hold on it was weak

your life so far
some kind of lucky break. They were everywhere

and in the day,
not in the night in the day like your worst fear suddenly

figured it out and came.
What’s stopping us? I rode my bike straight home

to tell my gran and I’m pedalling for my life
I know they can see me up there! Hey Ralf

shoot zat paper boy or he’ll never stop!
Never stop

telling ze vorld on us . . .
Raul’s laughing at me. You’re not? That’s how it was.

Personal, kind of. Felt you were in their minds.
They were in our minds,

pale types, munching schnitzel! Here
well it’s true they had thejaps but not here,

they didn’t have them out of a blue sky
over the skyline on a Saturday.

September 7th. What do you mean it’s the 8th?
The Saturday was the 7th, it wasn’t the 8th.

He’s telling me. Where do you come from? Pardon?
Say again what garden? Well-in-the-Garden?

Oh there.
Shredded Wheat’s made there.

That was the sort of place we thought we’d get to.
Because we had to get to

somewhere, we were bombed out
on the first night of the thing. Or, we weren’t bombed out

precisely, me and my gran,
she always believed what I told her, did my gran,

Mrs Katherine Mabel Stone.
Truth of the matter is, I had my own

reason for getting out.
It isn’t a thing you know when it’s happening. But

you’re young,
you’re wearing a wedding ring,

we figure it out in time.
You’ll understand how it was if you give a damn.

And if you don’t give a damn it’ll still be there
a year or so anywhere

you find me. Soon I won’t be giving one either.
Then you and I can give not a damn forever.

  — Glyn Maxwell (b. 1962), English poet.