Pride of Place
THE LAST TESTAMENTS OF MISTER MISANTHROPE
‘I am, as a pure and thoughtful man, not in a state of rapture at the spectacle afforded by my fellow man.’ Matthew Arnold
The Third Last
I regret not making the usual mistakes,
like having children and a social life,
but not riding a bike without brakes
(speeding out of danger is how to survive).
Caution has been my byword otherwise.
My shell seems a safe place to hear the sea
without leaving the room. The tide is me -
the real thing would take me by surprise.
A low tolerance threshold needs its redoubt
from people who make me angry with myself
for despising their ‘fancy’s deceiving elf’.
Dark nights of the soul are my evenings out.
Doubting yourself is a form of self-defence
against judgment. ‘It’s certitude drives you insane’
says Nietzsche. And he should know. The brain
is blinkered by self-belief.
Since luck and me aren’t friends
I hedged my bets, and didn’t cheat or neglect
to sign the card. Small stakes when the roulette turns
have a better chance. But chose not to collect
the winnings. I was a loser on my own terms.
Of this I am not proud, and tell myself to sleep
with stories of another life. One I dream I am a guest in,
and love my fellow man. Now it’s just a question
of cutting one’s losses and being buried deep.
The Second Last
I did what I think I do best which doesn’t mean
it’s any good. Second best, perhaps, was all I could.
Prematurely ripped from the womb, I didn’t fit.
A pattern set. Too big for my boots. There wasn’t room.
How well it suited me. I eluded all audit.
By playing the class fool in school, I got thrown out,
and escaped the punishment of education.
My place in the world was forever in doubt.
I cannot blame my parents. I went with the job
of having children and entertaining hopes
that the inchoate blobs would grow from model dotes,
through a revolting youth, and wild oats, to become
good citizens, fathers, gray eminents, dotards,
and so on.
I couldn’t fault them. What had to be done
was done. But they hadn’t reckoned on the stuff of poets.
I unravelled what was expected of a son.
And lived on the dark side of my parents’ lives,
revelling in my one-remove from what’s normal.
The angry drone astray from the family hive.
I cut the filial knot with my permanent teeth,
wishing they’d been more selfish with me and formal.
The constant attention made me play hide and seek.
My presence behind the bars of human endeavour
was as a sparrow in a zoo. I came and went
unnoticed by the prize exhibits who were never
allowed out without a circus.
and unrecognised, I dined on crocodiles’ yawns
and flitted between right and wrong, and, whatever
no one wanted, the life and soul of dirty dawns.
The Very Last
The droppings of life cling to the heels of those who
don’t know how to walk on the grass. I went straight to
the answers at the back. Assertion gains your assent.
(‘I put in an envelope the seeds of destruction.
And send them in the hope you’ll follow the instructions.’)
I am not without sympathy for lives like shop-
windows boarded up; burdened by big dogs and cars,
and barely animate children, whose hearts will stop
once the bowels cease to function.
They rattle the bars
of a consumer prison, and buy into what will extol
a fixed existence in an eternal equinox
with a static sun. It can’t be good for the soul.
He who claims his fellow man is no better or worse
than himself has turned his back on the good, and force
of habit will make you accept anything that’s sent
by those who only believe in the arsenal
(that is, shame is in the face, and the arse as well).
Buy a gun and change your life. A Superette Spar.
This is no way to live, but as a death it’s promising.
The more you build up arms the less you see the star
that guides you to the target, a fellow human being.
He is far too near to focus.
and target the bullseye. It could be your best friend.
Perspective is lost when the horizon becomes
a mirror that reflects a wild beast in a freak show.
Allow me to efface all human traits.
I’ll be a machine that works to keep itself clean,
and doesn’t need human intervention.
will erode my rust’s notional gold down the drain.