When I first started out writing poetry and getting into poetry, I listened to a manifest by A E Stallings on the Poetry Foundation website called The Presto Manifesto, which was an apologia of rhymes in poetry. My word, I hated it. I had before that listened to the Futurist manifesto and if we just forget for a second the horrid fascistic implications of that, it was a fascinating thing to hear, and in any case I am normally one for improvement and progress, concept and process, than I am about rhyme (see what I did, I rhymed when I was making a point. I bet you sometimes read this blog and are quite astounded by my astonishing wit aren’t you?). Anyway, I was at a “do” that Luke Kennard was reading at, this is the first time I’d seen him perform after *years* of waiting, and he read a poem he’d written called Men Made of Words which was in rondeau form. I thought it was amazing. It still sounded fresh and new and had the elements of the surreal and the contemporary that I loved but it still was wrapped up in this rigid form, and I love that dichotomy between Tradition and The Individual Talent.
So, I wrote a rondeau of my own that’s actually on this site, if you remember “Falling Outside Normal Moral Constraints”, and now I’ve written a poem in a different form I can’t remember the name of. I don’t have a name for it yet, and this is my first draft. It’s written in response to a weird conversation I had about an old friend with some ostentatiously dressed people I recognised from years ago, held recently, at an exhibition preview. This is a person I very rarely talk about in poetry, I think maybe I wrote one poem about him when I was 18 and then as far as I’m aware there’s only one other one. The person committed suicide, and suicide is something that still scares me so much I tend not to write about it. I think I also wrote it about how when you’re young, everything always seems a lot shinier and brighter and more exciting than it is now. I remember once in a restaurant when I was 16, I ordered fillet mignon and it was the first time I’d ever eaten it. I took it rare and all the way through what was – looking back – a mediocre steak, I made so many noises of sincere pleasure at eating this meal, and someone at the table remarked it was nice to see I was still young enough to be excited by everything.
Shifting the gearstick in bloodied, white cuffs
When a pothole propels you to resist the wheel
I sit in the back eating marshmallow fluff.
Half-cut on Claret we slur as we scuff
Through the gilding the afternoon serves to conceal
You suck on a Lucky, and I take a puff.
Tonight you’ll reintroduce me to that snuff
That we took every night with our evening meals
A drag queen will grab you by your bloodied cuffs
and I’ll laugh – and pretend what we brought was enough
As I finger the rim of my glass and you kneel
At my waist, and our friends (and me) swear it’s a bluff
Insincere, or a joke, or that I might rebuff
For a laugh – just a crack – before the great reveal
Of my answer, one word, watch it gleam from the rough
Of these people we know, of those nights that were tough
When we’d argue, like grown ups; and i found it surreal
When I tugged, like a child, at your bloodied white cuffs
And you spoon-fed me mouthfuls of marshmallow fluff.