AUGUSTUS YOUNG        light verse, poetry and prose

  a regular webzine of new and unpublished work
‘There’s no such thing as a poet. Only people who write poems.’



Laps of Honour


Pipe of Peace


The Grace of God

Can't Help it




Storms in the mountains cut the power. I light candles around myself, and lie on the floor looking through the skylight, a bidon of wine at hand and a roast chicken at my feet. It is the vigil of my sixtieth birthday. The sky a moiling mass of clouds with a peek-a-boo moon. 

The heart is ribbed with branches
beating against the window.
One night the wind will rip
the riggings and release the boats.
The heart is ribbed with branches
beating against the window.

One night the wind will rip
me open and break the glass.

I am the same age as Julio Iglesias. Gilded middle age has passed me by. No gold chain dangling on an open-necked shirt. But what a waste of a life, to be like Julio Iglesias and never grow old. It must be like living in the plastic skin of a Sainsburys black pudding.

I resolve to grow my nails long. I owe myself a ponytail and talons to comb it. I will haunt the streets in the small hours, the revenant beyond repose. My mask will be invisible. In the mirror, I am in slightly better condition than the dead Balzac at fifty-one. Attempts to make a death mask failed, as he decomposed too fast. ‘I penetrate the soul without neglecting the body’, he said. Beethoven never meant to look like Beethoven. It’s just he hadn’t time to shave.

Vincent Van Gogh sits on a wicker chair with a pipe in his hand. He takes a match from behind his ear and strikes it on a sunflower clenched between his knees. A cloud of smoke blots out his eye. Sucking deeply on the stem, he puffs, obliterating the other. Well, if it isn’t James Joyce himself.

I break the mirror with a look, and then piece it together to examine my teeth. Yellow wobbly fangs of unreliable character. They could do with toothpowder, like Byron’s (letter to Hobhouse, circa 1820). Leigh Hunt jibed, ‘The lower half of his face was a model of beauty’. My teeth only move when I move, and in nightmares.

‘Stop the dance. I done gone lost my teeth’, says grandpa in a John Ford western. Of course curls disguised the terrible truth about Byron’s upper half. If I shaved my hair off I would have a noble brow. But, since my sins are written on it, it’s either a mop or a hat. My face is a blank stamp going nowhere.

In better dreams I am always the fresh-faced aspiring boy, all his life before him, anxious to please but not knowing how - but I wake feeling the boy has been disappointed. So seeing the old man in the mirror is a relief. 

I extinguish my candles one by one. There is comfort in darkness.