Business Trip
Neck arched to skylight,
her hand between her breasts,
fingernails crackling against her thumb:
it wasn’t the echoed whispers of the crowd
that muffled her mind; not the torn canopy;
or the broken lift; or the dog-eared pitch
of the quivering throats;
or the policemen barricade;
or the mum shielding eyes
with spread-out finger;
or the hear-no-evil headphoned;
or the shoe that landed before the body –

it was the gliding tie,
the loosened noose,
that seemed to fly forever.

Cædmon Sings a Different Tune
The name’s Mr. Cædmon (drop the ‘e’ to pronounce)
I wrote words of worship, for whatever it counts
Now some books and that Bede say I’m first of my kind
I make Old Tongue poesy – and yeah, nothing rhymes
But the weight on my shoulder is heaven on earth
And this gift was bestowed on me years after birth
So now when I speak, it comes out much like this –

‘Nu scylun hergan   hefaenricaes uard’

Most people think I’m just taking the piss
So these stories you’ve heard of poetics and me
But this is the truth for all here to see

I worked at the abbey, on that hill over there
Every day I came ready to pay for the care
That the monks would all show me, of shelter and supper
(And sometimes a sip of their home-brewed cupper)
Though I wasn’t too keen on the choir and song
Never quite felt that my voice would belong
So I’d finished my days, and my work for most nights
Was to govern the cows, keep away any frights
But those beasts weren’t too chatty, so I made up a bed
From the hay all about, to lay down my head.

And that night as I dreamt of meadow and maid
Of sheep all asleep as a pan pipe was played
There came an old man right in front of my eyes
He told me to sing, but he got a surprise
I said that I couldn’t, that I’d also away
As the monks sat there singing at the end of the day
When he heard that he frowned, and said “Listen here
I got faith in you boy, now there’s no need to fear
Now sing of Creation, you know how it goes”
So I opened my mouth (first breathed in through the nose)
I suddenly sang out, these things new to me –

‘metudæs maecti   end his modgidanc’

Of heavenly landscapes, and God’s love decree
“See!” said the old man, “you got in one
Now I’m off back to heaven to have me some fun”
So then I awoke with this thing on my tongue,
Spitting out verses till God’s kingdom come.
I got a bit worried, didn’t know what to do
Was scared I’d gone schizo, nutty, cuckoo!
I went to the monks and they said “Yeah, it’s true…
no one sings hymns quite as saintly as you!”
Well they asked me some questions to test if the skill
Was dictated from God or the Devil’s black will
When they guessed what had happened they told me much more
Of the books of our Lord, so I took up the floor
And I sang lots of songs of God and his son…

‘eci dryctin   æfter tiadæ
firum foldu   frea allmectig’

Was surprised as the monks when all’s said and done
But the more that I sung, the bigger my rep
As Saint Cædmon — Gospel truth in each step
So history has cast me punk-poet of my time
But people like me were a dozen a dime
(or rather gold coin, you see that’s what we used back then, but anyway)
Unlike Shakespeare’s sister I was given that chance
To express all my thoughts in word, song or dance
So all I’ll say now was I dreamt and then found
Some worth in my thoughts on poetical ground

It’s just Mr. Cædmon – drop the ‘e’ to pronounce
Wrote words of worship, for whatever it count
So the books and that Bede say I’m first of my kind
Just made Old Tongue poesy – and yeah, back then, nothing rhymed

First Book Blues

If I had a book, displayed on shelves
in stores on streets in cities in other countries
not a pitiful bit of paper, a photocopy job
with elastic band binding
but a proper brick, a block of meaty stock
a thick collection of emotions in recollection
I would plaster the cover with quotes to boast
to pressure the buyers so they wouldn’t just coast
by and not buy my book
but they wouldn’t be a reviewer’s splutter
or famous poet’s mutter
no teacher’s recommendation
when pressed, caught in the glare of hesitation
I would use the mentions made by family, friends
no pretence or pretended purpose
just the tested truth, the transparent
wrestled from real life
dragged from their own fixed point pivot
around my own centre of gravity
orbits traced by blood or brotherhood
those willing to give an ear, like
my mum’s “That’s nice” upon hearing the news
the “Mildly amusing” that my boss once mused about my work
“You’ve written better” from my peer’s last 2nd class letter
“Is that about me?!” my wife once pried, as I paused
looking out to an imaginary window
“Daddy, I’m hungry” from my 4 year old daughter
and “No” from my 2 year old daughter
both all smiles and snot
– somewhere, in the future
of bright lights and reviews
the prizes and other dues
the joke is got

© Luigi Coppola