No 11 - May 2000
Hephaestus on the rocks
Once, I had a vision of a Man of Bronze,
but now I see no deathless giant -
just a skeleton that walks,
a creaking framework, copper wires,
alarm-clock innards where the head should be,
complete with ping-pong optic spheres.
So be it. Me and my imagination
never did see eye to eye.
Appearances mean nothing, though.
Have you seen how your brain
mounts itself on a trestle, and
jumps off the parapet on top of your spine?
Can the seeker see in through his eyes,
or hear the drum mechanics of his ear?
With that well-printed finger-tip
he still can’t touch the texture of his soul.
So what, if man’s a gem of craftsmanship?
So is a paper-clip.
Never take a thought too far -
remember to register some feeling.
Yes, I have beheld the glory in a shining star -
even bent its beams for angle-poise
in the heart of my theodolite.
(These tubular steel devices
need no clanking ankle points to steal a march.)
My tripods on their golden wheels
became the envy of the gods.
The assembly line took off so fast,
swift Hermes had recourse to eat his hat!
It’s not like that today.
(Oh. Great Sky give me strength!)
Crank up the handle -
let’s look at the pictures.
Pandora was my cracked pipe-dream.
I primed her with my spirit,
but the temptress proved precipitate.
The season rained mixed blessings down,
like razor blades and safety pins -
gifts of scissors, egg-timers,
and accursed worm-can openers -
for an age of bric-a-brac.
(Isn’t Science wonderful?)
In next to no time, it’s the Bomb.
Great Sky, turn out the Light!
And when the Night turns around,
and sticks its finger in your eye,
and the clang-hammer dashes down -
the clang-hammer dashes down -
what happens next?
The telephone rings...
brings a message from mankind.
And the crystal bell transmogrifies
into a buzz, a bleep,
an ice-cream van that tinkles
till it tweaks your nerves to tatters:
“O God of Machinery!
Ye maker of chains!
Save us from labour!
Deliver us from pain!”
And I have switched on.
And I have switched off.
My mind is a lighthouse
collapsed on the rocks.
Even I must seek a refuge from
the madness of my merchandise...
Spoons! Spoons! Spoons!
I’ll dedicate my forge to spoons!
But the clang-hammer dashes down -
the clang-hammer dashes down -
and all is lost to microchips.
No soup-bowls on Olympus now?
Great Sky! We’ll sup in cyberspace!
The egg-timer pings, and life goes on.
But some day my machine will break,
my thoughts return to cosmic dust -
and where will that leave mankind then?
My cell-phone sounds its distant whine:
“O God, don’t let my world crack up!
Don’t let my vacuum cleaner stop!
Protector of washing machines and clocks,
don’t let my lawnmower fall to bits!
O God, I need some sticking tape -
some string, to save my soul!”
Hey, all good things run down at last.
Even the electric fan-belts of Bellerophon
will wear away and snap,
while badly dangled glockenspiels
replace the music of the spheres.
The clang-hammer dashes down -
more certain doom than cell-division death!
Yet all these mortals ever want
is motion going on and on
beyond the cycle of their satellite.
They wait, like praying manikins,
for a deus ex machina to drop by -
anticipate a parent-like delight:
“They’ve turned the wheel full circle, look -
they’ve rediscovered the bike!”
But, Talos, it is you that wakes -
robotic guardian of the hammer’s clang,
the ghost of things mechanical.
A gong recalls your parts to life,
but the rubber bands no longer hold.
The springs in your head can’t take the strain -
your pressure gauges wildly swing!
(Pandora looks away in shame.)
The bicycle bells of Hell go tring!
and ice-cream sirens sing-a-ling!
Life’s egg-timer goes ping! Ping! PING!!!
The mousetrap in your skull goes off,
and lifts the lid on your brain -
your ping-pong eyes pop out agog,
and all your cogs and thoughtwork fly away.
Chaos rears its ugly head -
Great Sky, where is thy Lamp-post now?
Mankind falls off its bike,
and I am free.
go the escapements of Eternity!
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The