If Invocation To A Muse was seminal poem for me in that it solidified my decision to write for the rest of my life, The Central Bard is just as important in its initial tempering of that flame within my belly; from delusions of grandeur in which I will save the world by power of my pen through persecution when dead people came to heckle me for not having achieved this, we return now to grandeur in which I contest I am the greatest poet ever to put pen to paper.
Except, except as always I seem able to remain detached enough from my illness to see through its entrapment of my mind. I have Ed Harris & Paul Bettany in my head as per the film A Beautiful Mind (and before it the Red Dwarf episode 'Confidence & Paranoia') but I am somehow capable of looking at these phantoms from the outside in, that is knowing them for the non-existent folly they really are, and as such I can write a piece like this whilst on lunch from the book shop for which I am working.
In 2006, I walk the short distance to Caffe Nero and there, sometimes squeezed at a small table with single chair in amongst normal people talking about real life, I get to work on this epic piece; I have read Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence that introduces me to the word 'precursor' which I have already used quite often on this blog, essentially an argument in contradistinction to Eliot's Tradition and the Individual Talent. The latter sees each poem written building on all those before so that the entire oeuvre of literature is somehow a collected effort, whilst the former negates this, charging that the poet new to his craft is up against those who wrote before him/her, not in partnership but in competition, thus causing him/her anxiety.
And finally, we have my dad again who in reading these next three poems (these are the long ones!) drew arrows right down the side of each page with the acronym 'WWUT?' alongside. I was befuddled by this, asking him to explain this new analysis of his to which he replied that it stood for, 'Who Would Understand This?'!! And that's where I come in now, hopefully to guide you if these efforts leave you a little lost. Of course, if you think you don't need my help then go for it and get started on the poem underneath, maybe you can make more sense of it than my dad (or I?) can...
The whole poem starts with my waking from a recurrent dream in which I am due to deliver a Head Boy speech at my school's Prizegiving but have failed to write a word of it (cue dream interpretation from those of you in the know). I have been invited to a feast to celebrate Old English, but on arriving find that the room is packed with philosophers alongside Sigmund Freud. Nietzsche it is who takes me to task and then I am off, spinning away like Professor Calculus on the cover of Tintin's The Seven Crystal Balls until I end up at an Arthurian feast!
From here, I meet six key poets whose work I studied as an undergraduate - first up is the Gawain-poet, a nameless figure at the banquet where I quickly insult Lancelot, Arthur, Guinevere and the rest of the assembled. When the Gawain-poet engages me in conversation I quickly insult him too, assured now that I will supersede not just his brilliant work but all others who arrive now in quick succession, Chaucer first on pilgrimage to Canterbury before a quite bizarre filmic shift in which I equate Shakespeare with Yoda from Star Wars!
And motion picture begins to dominate from this point on, Aliens, The Wizard of Oz whose yellow brick road I somehow merge with the pathway Satan builds from Hell to Earth in Paradise Lost, Milton of course following closely before I antagonise the lecturer on Coleridge by way of Dead Poets Society to the First World War poet Wilfred Owen, my guide for the next part of the piece. Yet still the films roll on, Terminator 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Highlander, The Matrix Revolutions before a bizarre verse outpouring by Leo Tolstoy and then a meeting with Christopher Marlowe in Dante's Ninth Circle Inferno, all the while The Shining, The Firm before I write off Shakespeare's Tragedies as evil and force Milton and Dante down the same route, my concluding imagery of the difference between films and books almost antithetical to how Manou will see them towards the end of William Ottoway's Utopia.
Anyway, for now I am appalled that instead of turning tide against these poets studied at university I have joined them in my own negative (and it has been negative, nihilistic even at times) output, determined at this point to extract myself not just from their cult but also from that of my baptismal faith. I am now so far down the path of Error that I have become veritable Macbeth steeped in blood; false Trinities abound and the only thing I can do now is plough on to try, to try to escape my heritage, my background, my upbringing, my very past. This is The Central Bard (I)...
...I was late for supper.
Woken sharp by a half-remembrance this dreamer’s world,
I lay in bed paralysed as ever heretofore bipolar spat me slave.
There I was at school, though held a year retakes, yet Captain still,
Rushing from roads, paths, fields, forgotten, how forgotten, corridors, stairs, rooms
Until I found one, door ajar, past teachers and the Head talking on my failure so appear.
Absent, you see, missed whole term, where, and speech the prize give '94 not writ.
Not writ! Kick off was in minutes, apology did flood the room though knew they not my presence.
So I woke, and so I lay, cursed as felt the burden have my mind eternal so it seemed connected nether world.
Eventually, leg clear the covers, body following, zombie walked the room, washed as bid, then out.
Knew I not my fellow guests, only that a notice in Old English bid my attendance feast to celebrate the language.
What shock then on arrival see philosophers and bearded man I’d set as enemy these years.
‘Sigmund,’ I oped, ‘how do you?’ Silence. ‘Can you hear me?’ I leaned.
‘I can read you,’ he said, ‘and have done so these your thirty years. Come, sit.’
I did, nodding in acknowledgement the gathered fellows though awareness their identities was somewhat smudged.
‘Here’s Hegel,’ he said, motioning to his left, ‘here Kierkegaard, there Heidegger, Pascal and Nietzsche.’
‘I apologise,’ I humbled, ‘I am not familiar, but with you Friedrich.’
‘Yet you scorn my offerings.’
‘No,’ I hastened, ‘it is not that, just...’
‘You do not agree with me.’
‘No,’ I stammered, ‘I do not understand.’
‘Yet now you shall.’ The tone booming, the room thundering, great circles of smoke and stars
Spun my chair and lifted me like Calculus to centre table.
There, the wood oped, and a darkness infinite gaped as had my head of '95.
Pitched forward, into it I rolled, then on a sudden found myself some wintry scene though Spring was budding air.
By a castle stood I, moved me over moat, and underneath its raising drawbridge walked I
trepidation to the feasting hall.
A banquet for soldiers so it looked, warriors as it seemed, knights well that it was.
Oh, had I longed in all my days to joust among such fellows,
Gentle but fierce, noble yet ruthless, tame though malice cruel.
They saw me, to a man stopped their gnaw on poultered bone, half-held flagons stopped the air,
The foam about their mouths bubbling weakly, hardening till one on right side of the king
Smacked his chops and challenged what I did there.
‘I know you,’ said I emboldened sudden knew not why, ‘you are Lancelot, and that,’ I motioned to the only femme at table, ‘is not your wife!’
What did I speak?
For goodness sake, Chris, could you have erred further incivility?
‘I’m sorry,’ I rushed, ‘I know not what came over me.’
Then Arthur belly-laughed, the congregation roared, and I had found new friends.
I sat amongst them, drank and ate, yet saw two fellows that much soberer the rest,
Observing so I thought, did ask my neighbour what they played.
‘Those are bards,’ he smelt his beer upon me, ‘the one Taliesin, the other know we not. Out from
town, yet courteous and well-meaning,
Owns some portent seemly of event upon this night involving him.’
Pointed did he to another, strong in look, quiet in celebration, serene and peace-loved cross his countenance.
‘Who is he?’ I asked, but my inter-loc was off away with other folk.
As I studied, aware was I the nameless bard looked at me.
At catch-gaze did feel something, some impartment, a token, gift some sort bestowed from him
Which I, too rude to comprehend, did nonetheless park safely in my mind.
So beckoned, I went towards him, Taliesin swapping with a bow and bardic grin.
‘Do you write?’ I asked on sitting down beside the nameless guest, ‘I try my hand the craft on odd occasion.’ Silence. ‘Do you hear me?’
‘Poet,’ he said, his tone strangely sharp, ‘your time is near. Watch closely.’
His words whistled as the air blasted through the open oak doors and a huge green man dressed to armour-hilt rode in on mighty steed.
Saw I did the challenge, chop and charity, Gawain his undertaking,
Knights watch the fellow out return to feasting and my neighbour marvel bold the sight.
‘Not so enamoured,’ did I disdain, ‘green guy knows he wins already.’
‘For green guy is God!’ thundered the bard, slamming his fists the table so all upset their fare.
A deathly quiet prevailed.
Still winds moaned about the place.
Companion stared me down.
‘Glare all you like,’ I off-hand shrugged, ‘my world succeeds yours, aggress is on the wane.’
He leaned forward then, eyes popping, veins the bulge, spittle mixing with the frothed-up foam
his lips, yelled
‘Know you not the weight you bear? It is heavier than any has shouldered heretofore. Responsibility is serious, get that fool, you grand myopic idiot!’
Courteous and well-meaning, always the turn I thought...
Sudden the floor fell beneath me, not e'en time watch my fellows tumble afore I gripped grimy rooted walls,
My nails paring dark the soot, down onward down, so bleak and black, falling blinded orient the
ation until, well,
The daylight flooded hard my soul and I was in some field, walking with procession,
Winter's bite it somewhat tamed by springtime swallow calling high above the trees,
Merry song, and I with people how they strangered crew the path did forward lead.
One, narrating, asked me what I did, who I was, whence I came, would I speak, tell tale after him,
Twas fellow snowing meat and drink about him, asked me who I thought most fre.
‘The necromancer,’ quoth I, ‘tis he who made the rocks to vanish, and in this age deception tis he who wins the prize.’
Another stopped and hauled assembly to quiet.
Gravity went with him, at point our gazes met some mote invisible did pierce my eye so felt I grow inside, more knowledge, further wisdom,
Smiled he at me where congregation waited, drew me to one side.
‘You speak ungently,’ he smiled, ‘especial in such company. Know you there are knights and gentlemen, nuns and priests who listen.’
‘And reeves and millers,’ I returned, ‘though their tales are no more corrupt than the others.
Tell me, what does it feel like to complete such work?’
For pity’s sake, Chris, what’s got into you?
Feared I for his wrath, but he smiled benignly and put his arm my shoulder.
‘Youngster,’ he warmed, ‘when you attempt high aim, you may learn how difficult the task your airless mount ascent at summit proves.
Until then, you shall adhere.’
‘I shall adhere to no one,’ curious sense the deja seen my sulk, ‘I am all the way along a line you barely tread.
Take your Tales and Fowls and put them in place behind my engine.
Pace has gathered, and the work moves with speed hitherto unknown.
What say you that?’
‘I say I see you in me. But none of you in Him...’
Ground sank beneath me, instant grass turned to boggy marsh, mud sinking me my feet, knees, thighs,
Dragging me at waist, snapping at my chest, pushing shoulders, dunking head until I drowned,
sinking lower to the bottom swamp.
Strong hands grabbed me under the pits and so I found me in watery home, reminding me the
Degobah grand master’s dwell.
Woke properly, did study my surroundings whilst dwarven being pottered pans his cooking
Forward he came, smiled at my trance-exit, knew I straightaway his aura be my lord.
‘Unfriendly have you been,’ he hummed, ‘not your usual self, I think.’
‘I know not what came over me,’ I so admitted, ‘I seemed to disrespect, they to anger drove.’
‘As will you,’ he croaked, ‘when the Central Bard your place she doth usurp.’
‘But I am her,’ I protested, ‘I have trained, your teaching learnt. My time is near, I see it coming.’
‘No,’ he said, moving the cloak on his back, ‘trounced you will be.’
‘No,’ I stood, looking down upon him, ‘you will be, by me.’
‘Careful, apprentice,' he softly growled, ‘to you this matter have I spoke before.’
He settled window, pulled the covers up to chin, I sat beside and tended him the while.
‘Master,’ said I, ‘it is my destiny. I feel it. Why would drive to top the pile so be planted in my central thought if not for me to aim there?’
For long seconds I could barely hear him breathe.
‘Will,’ I checked, feeling his pulse, ‘William.’
‘Pave,’ he murmured, his voice thinning, ‘but not with gold.’
And then he slumped.
‘No!’ screamed I to the roof tops, shaking him to useless shape, ‘not another. God damn, must
you take them all from me?’
The wind blew then, fierce through the house, and I was swept all along the floor till out and to the swamp I slipped,
Yet just before the bank my leaf-strewn path gave out and down I fell some bottomless pit,
Hitting outer doors some craft the future,
Clinging on to woman and foot she clasped the wall-fixed ladder.
Shook me clear, oped the hatch, and struggling did I lose my hold as lady kicked me clear.
Tumbling through vacuous space, dying lack of oxygen, then suddenly saw brick yellow road stretching over ether.
What nonsensical hilarity, to see i’th vast cosmos a bright and coloured pathway leading from my planet’s home the Earth unto, well,
Some gravelly grovelly grotto of,
I neared the place, had not I been here many times my life, yes,
Did greet Sin and Death at entrance,
The butler back behind I hadn’t seen my visit last.
‘John,’ I hazarded, ‘is that you?’
He nodded, led me back and out, so started we on walk our way back o’er the void.
‘You’ve seen him then,’ he asked, as passing did we field-figure on the which fat crows did perch, ‘he told you.’
‘He said I wasn’t the Central Bard,’ I returned, finding an oil can the floor, ‘role my life seems valueless now.’
‘Yet you are of much import,’ he continued, ‘watch out!’
We ducked as great beast o’th plain jumped over us, turned and licked his chops, then whimpered hid hind bush.
We reached the end the road, expectant was I pot of gold, rainbow further or some Oz,
Not demons nor devils, ogres nor ores had passed us our route,
Yet all fell to nowt when I found myself connecting corridor twixt front department theatres.
Into library small we went, there sat with verse he wrote. ‘No,’ I cried, standing sudden, ‘not here.’
‘Why?’ he whispered, ‘twas here you studied hard my scripture.’
‘Scripture,’ spat I, ‘you had the fiend as hero, and so he smote my mind.’
‘Twas not my intention. Of Lucifer are great poets made.’
‘Not this one,’ I shouted, throwing the book his face, ‘I was born to praise mankind. Adam is my
hero, and so I wrote rewarded for endeavour.’
He laughed then, yet in him did I hear the cackles of the three I’d recent seen,
Discordant twangling such thousand things of darkness gave me pain delighted not.
‘A mid 2.1,’ he scoffed, ‘yet you seek to better us.’
‘I already do,’ I said, leaning in towards him, ‘you may threat all you like but my supercession
‘Fool,’ he drawled, flapping his hands as if some spell to cast, ‘you dress yourself in regal gown,
yet beggar do you scrap.’
‘That’s right,’ I countered, ‘yield I my power to the populace.’
So saying did I feel a force, some grasping hand claw and catch then drag me by the neck out from the room,
Down the passageway and into lecture theatre had I even shuddered pull my Aaron through.
Sloping, many in attendance, man spoke at front lectern whilst students in dead torpor took their notes, joined I at back.
‘Well,’ he lorded, ‘if the bard was weather-wise...’
‘Coleridge,’ I bellowed, ‘a drug-addicted chattering depressive, wait, anyways,’ I continued, ‘he should not be studied.’
‘Why not?’ seethed the lecturer.
‘Because he cannot rhyme.’
‘His Mariner is perfect.’
‘Boring,’ I yawned, ‘albatrosses give you three shots under, nothing more. He and his companions must be glossed.’
‘Glossed,’ he boomed as though I'd asked him porridge more, ‘glossed. The verse these fellows penned is timeless.’
‘Less time for us,’ I off-hand scoffed, ‘ask these folk what they think. Go on.’
And so he did, and so some student did he hesitate I spoke the truth, then fellow more, and another girl
Till all we captain and my captain stood the lecture desks, pages torn and thrown the floor
disgust these dead white males.
‘Now,’ I boomed, leading the throng against the stage, ‘such viper thoughts you coil our minds must as shackles borne be broke so cast for freedom.’
‘Freedom,’ shouted he, trying to gain order, ‘you know it not for ever having lived in its embrace.
So must you be taught - get you, all of you, to the Front.’
With that, the lectern which he spoke crumbled, the screen behind gave way, and dragged we all were from the room through
Broken shards, barbed wire, hard shrapnel piercing arms and legs,
Siege guns booming, explosions flaring, grenades whistling,
On we went through the mud, oh the mud,
Was ever place as Passchendaele they called more contaminate the stuff,
It sucked at us, grabbed us, drew us down the duckboards not no match nor march for cleanly state,
Moved we quiet the trench where fellow did he speak the troops.
‘That old lie...’ he said, and I too eager, ‘...Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’
Assembled men stared at me with eyes of hateful death.
Commander drew he near then barked, ‘the Hun, fool, their lie unite this continent their rule.’
He studied us, confusion reigned his features. ‘Who are you lot?’
‘With me,’ another said, approaching gravity charisma held the tongues us all. ‘Look these folk, do keep them safe.’
At me, ‘This one need I borrow.’
So saying, took hold my arm did lead me further Maginot and with concern voiced, ‘Chris, how do you after your travail?’
‘Wilfred,’ I hesitated, ‘do recognise your tone, tis unlike the rest.’
‘As yours,’ he smiled, ‘with me and this experience did verse its purpose alter.
No longer comment on but active change unto. Evil’s pace had gathered such it must be
challenged and curtailed.’
‘I cannot do so,’ I plained, ‘not no longer by myself. Require I help, and that right soon before I fold.’
‘Nonsense,’ he chuckled, ‘resilience floods your soul. You are seeing off your masters, so must you I.’
He took a gas mask then, fixed it to my head, and sudden the haunting flares some ecstasy of fumbling all but he,
I screamed for him to cover, but muffle mine was met by knowing smile as Obi Wan some other clime had done -
Dim through the misty panes I saw him gag and gargle, fall the floor with writhing eyes his devil’s sick of sin.
‘No,’ I yelled, unclasping my cover rushing to his poisoned corpse, ‘you spoke me fair. Of all my predecessors...’
But in fire and flames, drawn up on hooked-end crane,
I found myself some factory where Connor family wept.
‘What is it?’ asked I, searching the furnace, ‘what leaves you?’
‘He as been my dad,’ said John, and Sarah, ‘he my Kyle the two of them real men.’
We moved from brink edge, back through burning factory,
Liquid nitrogen pouring into tanker on the freeway,
Suddenly at Skynet future thought I brilliant so they saw machines the rise,
Sarah gently rocking as my kind do so,
Repeating over over how no Fate but what we make ourselves.
Back the sandy desert,
Pescadero where some doctor saw delusion grow it real...
... and then I saw the point this backward trip as memory of my own drew me from young adulthood to adolescence childhood and infancy.
Twas not my fault my illness but the artless place to which I born was slung.
Wilfred’s war had ravaged the world, yet its successor had torn it to pieces and thrown it the ravenous dark.
And art, the great betrayer, had not stood defiance of such act.
Instead it had colluded, then outright led to end half-century utter evil chained.
So sudden forward I swept again through chaps and ladies half they recognised,
Their work outstanding merit, own individuality stifled recent history.
‘Must I supersede these too?’ I wondered aloud at which they turned and laughed my face.
Dear God, or so it was the voices I had heard berate and threaten me some fiery hell.
Ill of course I’d been, but through a transmigration of the souls of living, not just dead poets.
Why, though, why gather to crush my spirit when I would hap’ly have given o’er?
I hated this way with words thrust my head, my pen, the page,
How would I loved to have, as friends, family and my darling Alison thought importance o’ practicality and work.
What cruelty further to birth me to environment whose arts creative work was shunned.
And then a fellow carrying badge lapel came towards me,
Man woman splitting from their stuck to join him as some three.
‘I am sorry,’ I started, urging them to sit, ‘I truly wish that none of this had ever been.
You,’ I said the lady, ‘you have this age, tis rise the female and her emancipation,
May you onwards strive improve your lot the planet.
And you,’ to fellow, ‘you own the freedom I never will.
A litany of dead whites crushes me to submission, whilst you your blessed folk
Rise free as phoenix air the ashes of your forebears’ ships.
May your race strengthen, and with the female seek to turn a world extinction brink by mine.’
The two of them did stare me down but said no more.
Twas middle man who gently spoke he next. ‘Why the competition,’ he began,
‘What be this need to outdo every and each other?
May we not complement, strengthen and in our unity resurrect this subject for a stronger species?
We no more wish to beat you to submission than a schoolmaster his charge,
Yet when you try do we resist with anger cold and calculated.
Stand alongside us, Chris, not upon our chests.’
I sighed deeply.’Tis the past, sir,’ I spoke, ‘on my journey have I clashed alone with poets learnt at...’
Of course, with poets learnt at Bristol.
God, would I ever reconcile the place my onward life?
Their work had flattened me, yet my soul had stood back aft impress to wreak revenge upon them all, past, present, and future.
‘Once more,’ the fellow whispered, ‘alongside, not upon.’
I studied him then, his floating form, the two beside him smiling Trinity,
Reaching hands to welcome me their fold, and I responded,
Lifting out my own until at point of touch I sudden felt the energy bestowed upon me by my predecessors
Suck it out, and glitch the female poet as in deja vu she on a sixpence turned the Ark benign malevolent,
Great lines of fire shooting out towards me whilst she and her companions energised McLeod my aura lifted i’th air became as one
And landed in a pit the road we both wore blackened sunglasses.
‘Smith,’ I hesitated, straining see beyond the darkness round her face, ‘the bad man.’
‘Not so,’ she said nearing, ‘once you get to know me.’
Kicked me hard the chest, crippled in corner gravel, rain pouring, puddles eating at my feet, though still I struggled up against her.
‘Why do you persist,’ she growled, slapping me the face, ‘why rise when you are beaten by us, by us all?’
Again the hit, again I slumped though sat me back upright.
I had no clue how, the force and pressure strikes enough were to have rive right through my soul at start assault,
Yet something, some mote within imbued me with resilience inhuman in its strength.
‘Why,’ she repeated over, ‘why continue when you have no hope surpass e’en the infant scrabbling with his crayons?’
‘Because I choose to,’ I mouthed, though noticed with no input force but for that which kept my conscious face repeated knocks.
‘It doesn't have to be this way,’ she launched another punch, ‘no need for you to suffer. Give o’er your struggle, know that we will care.’
‘Care,’ I barked, wiping the blood from my lips, ‘you show no concern at all.
This place is struggle so to form the greater good afore death and next plane.’
‘No,’ she screamed, finding pole from somewhere, ‘you musn't be allowed.’
She drove it through me then, half-planted in the ground so I impaled slipped me down.
Then, when I had reached the earth did stand above me, twist and downwards thrust until my red light softened, died.
Aware was I of some re-routed power, three men on camels, no shepherds they seemed,
Bearing gifts towards me had my Jesus complex grown gargantuan,
Yet walked straight by though I hailed, called out loud,
Headed for some manger so I guessed upon this Bethlehemic route,
Followed at a pace towards the town where seat religiosity was mired in war twixt factions.
To a stable led me they, some mother father with a donkey horse and lambs did gaze the centre at an empty cradle.
‘Where is he?’ breathed I to myself at which the first wizened turned to whisper,
‘This place now lies forsaken.’ He looked away, and placing figures four the bed did bow so step he back.
Craning hard, I tried to see them clear, yet found me blocked by second sage who leant he in and pulled from pocket
Huge whole man at once he carried largest novel classic writ.
Cossack danced he in the cradle, kicking each the figures singing to in turn,
Oh! Poem divinity.
And then I recognised, did know he meant the three, yet last’s demonic regicide, how divine?
Well, the figures fought they back their corner, devouring him in turn, and I crying the lion’s name
Saw this melancholic fellow eaten as the third of sapientic favour drew out from back behind him
Further person had the look Elizabethan. ‘Deptford,’ said he, pulling a dagger from his side,
The blood issuing into cradle, ‘but for that I would have kingly been.’
Like flood the red from hotel lifts some little backwards writing mirror boy incarnadine the manger did it start to overflow,
The figures drowning first, then lambs, the donkey, horse and we all,
Drawn by sucking whirlpool central slid, gasping, gulping hottened claret
Till it filled our lungs the retinue all spinning towards the vortex hole did catch.
Out, out I went...
... and in my loss of consciousness was I once again at school, though pre-prep playground,
Picking on some fellow how it stored against me go round come round,
Admonishment the Head next, injustice at the hands some class help wrongly so accusing I had slandered her,
My teacher Art sneering how I couldn’t draw and then, enough,
The focus on such minimal life tendency annoyed my centred thought until
There I was running the corridors, searching the rooms, and finally the office did I find,
Only when I looked interior were more men than before,
Not just the Head and teachers but, yes, the fellows I had sat myself at table by,
The psychiatrist, philosophers, each the poets I had met, all of them save one the which I could not think,
Walked I up to enter did some walrus-look man the door slam shut my face,
Left was I hurt, confused, enraged.
I knocked hard.
The lock was turned.
I twisted the handle, banged again, hammered with my fists whilst shouting for assembly so to open.
But then I stopped.
Why did I bother?
They cared not for me.
Not not cared I supposed, more indifferent, they had their club and I was not to be part of it.
Rested did their sect upon continued worship of established order,
I the revolutionary more dangerous for that my anti came from being once a part of their establishment.
No, I must turn and forge my own, once more take on their gathered might with whatever was
that gave my soul its life support.
I stepped back and stood in goo.
Sticking, I spun round to see young Kit still pouring from his side.
‘Let me staunch it,’ I said, looking vainly round for dressing, ‘the wound must be...’
Handed was I bandage by some fellow, didn’t look for had I sudden noticed how forlorn and barren these surroundings were.
Craggy rocks repelled sharp waves of fire, and everywhere the sound of human groaning cut the air.
‘Ninth circle,’ the chap said as I fixed the tape to a pensive Kit, ‘we can go no lower.’
Looked I at him then, on sudden realised he it had been absent from the room back there.
‘Wilfred,’ I said, ‘I knew you wouldn't shut me out.’
‘They were wrong,’ he sighed, sitting on a nearby rock, ‘there are no gods nor demons, devils nor angels, poles of opposition nor shades of dark and light.
Man is alone, and alone among Earth’s species seeks destroy himself.’
‘But what can I do?’ I breathed desperately, ‘my masters trump me at every turn.’
‘Rubbish,’ he scoffed, lighting a cigarette, ‘there’s none but Dante, Shax and Milton.’
‘That's quite a collective,’ I smiled wanly, ‘and both we know I am nowhere near their heights.’
‘Depths,’ he blew his smoke, ‘the one invented this Inferno, the other its relation to our world,
The middle did he place it in the minds those cradled men without the proffer answer how to combat.
Remember Leo,’ he urged, ‘recall what he sang. Place the word, Chris, place it.’
And sudden did he vanish.
‘No,’ I cried, looking round, ‘what mean you?’
But nothing, except continued battering of the sea, incessant groaning undead zombies,
And gradual realisation I had been betrayed my teachers.
Kit stirred then, bid me near, did ask me how I felt now I was out beyond them.
‘Beyond,’ I disbelieve repeated, ‘I feel utterly eclipsed. At least before I owned some
lightened thought, now...’
‘Think on the matter,’ he whispered, ‘think hard and it will come.’
‘Am I the Central Bard?’ I asked point blank, ‘Kit.’
He stirred. ‘Why search for labels, Chris?’
‘For I have been labelled mad,’ I fumed, ‘and wrongly so it proves.
Voices heard have been no other than these precursors,
Though they have sought to end me. Why? Kit.’
‘He was beneath me,’ did slowly whisper, ‘I the only man his ever master.’
‘Care I not for that,’ impatient so I spoke, ‘am I he?’
‘You have his fire.’
‘The Central One,’ I seethed, ‘he.’
‘Apply generic label,’ breathed he, ‘as Wilfred said, one turn deserves...’
The blood curdled and caked, his side cracked, and the waves rose over the rocks,
The groaning souls crying in pain though still I saw them not.
Who were they, these invisibles, why suffering in place supposed not to exist,
And when would dead folk die again to separate me further from the living?
I looked round, chewed my nails, ground my teeth and thought upon those blasted titbits always left me lurching further grasp.
Place the word.
Apply generic label.
What generic label?
What be the single thing my age reflected on?
Technology, celebrity, peace, war.
Ay, war so it was, and had been on the increase each allotted century since, well,
Since recorded history saw advance in weaponry ability annihilate more folk.
But war alone could not be it, felt I it went deeper to the common cause.
Thought me then on Wilfred, our first meet, what had he said, oh how forgotten that he quoth.
I sat down upon the soil, the groaning and the lashing how their pace had gathered...
Of course, twas that word did paralyse my soul the more reflected I upon its connotation, nature and effect.
But one turn, why mention that, in all my output had I ever used it for the hatred stacked upon
No, not that easy, surely?
Evil, turn, Leo's cavort, let me try.
My soul sank through my feet at realisation too horrid to envisage.
The central works our civilisation, those signposted to improve us,
Owned reverse effect.
No, twas not so, yet when I listened the waves had settled back and those phantom moans grown lesser.
I thought hard.
Had this Trinity’s genius evil proved?
How much more damaging, though, to me at least had it been than ever any film director?
Dante brought me here, Shakespeare kept me its mindset, and Milton lauded its ruler over the true King.
With film, images were planted the mind, fixed, never growing, like small plants in window box,
Books however, their words were as tinder to the fireworks of imagination,
Blowing up huge trees whose foliage stayed the night sky, faded, then joined to form a canopy block out the next day’s sun.
And if the written word was dangerous, what of learning and erudition themselves?
Was the better path actually to live banality, focus on gossip, hearsay, fashion and trend,
Were not these the things that gave purpose and meaning to folk,
Not supposed high literature that focused on evil whilst offering no solution for its extirpation?
All through academic life I had struggled against internal emptiness more hollow than the most scooped log,
Suffering self-doubt, self-condemnation, and then self-loathing as I was on the constant shut fraternal club.
Ever since, I had struggled, railed, my confidence shot by knowledge I would never ever even make the drop-zone of my chosen subject's league,
But now, now I knew I was not of their sort.
I created, not commented, I would never be one their critic.
Or had I not always trod such path?
A glance back through my output showed I could not have been more the tradition.
I felt as cult member, brainwashed to their manner, churning out yet more representation of darkness, negativity, straight nihilism buck stable.
Not again, I thought tiredly, standing from the ground,
Had I just spent last decade freeing myself from my baptismal faith, now another ten?
Might I finally be free at forty to live, enjoy some freedom?
‘It can come sooner,’ said someone behind me, a light female voice lifting the spirit in this gloomy place.
‘We can help you,’ said a second as I turned to see the Trinity of modern poets walk towards me.
‘Join us,’ the last beckoned, ‘we may be as one.’
‘I don’t want to be as one,’ I angered back, ‘work I better on my own. And besides, you drove a pole through my soul.’
She looked at me uncomprehending.
I had it right, didn't I, was not her who had so abused me in maths land?
‘Then you have no place our canon,’ did the leader sigh, ‘and your work will not be recognised.’
‘Of that we will let History judge,’ said I. ‘Now leave me be.’
I turned, sickened by my own reluctance join in their community.
What was it, why choose to be the outcast, did I think more highly of myself than they as so my masters did of me in turn?
Maybe if I joined forces, embraced the cultural heritage my own age might I better become.
Perhaps I was the fourth their three, perhaps more settled time would come if I marched their rank.
But was not ready yet.
Two cults the size of those I had indoctrinated and abused by been
Ensured at least for now I’d move myself at own pace,
Gradual rebuilding strength, identity, confidence and real-life knowledge.
I looked up to see the Trinity away the ether where a sudden staircase Jacob’s ladder did it stretch up into the night.
On bottom step I put my foot, aware was I of presence just above,
We started the climb.