I made reference to this poem in an earlier post; I wrote it in angry response to my Year 9 class (who were writing love poems) and their obsession with Miley Cyrus. I wrote it after one of the students asked me why I didn’t think she was a good role model.
Of all the stuff I’ve written, this has been received the least warmly. I think because it’s perhaps a little vicious to get so angry at Miley Cyrus for being awful when she’s working in an industry that encourages young women to behave in the way that she behaves, and rewards them with cash and sycophancy when they do.
But at the time I had been reading about Miley’s conflict with Sinead O’Connor and so I sort of hated her for that already. There was a lot of bile built up, basically.
This isn’t the role model you’re looking for
Miley wasn’t born: she was factory made,
That devil-may-care tongue jammed on with glue.
Someone else’s lyrics retch from her throat.
Nothing that she does, ‘thinks’ or says rings true.
Like Hollister, botox and nicotine,
Plastic promises hide the ugly truth:
Money is the only real objective,
Hiding behind that old illusion: youth.
Off the rails? Miley’s train is deftly steered.
Girls who like reading don’t get Google hits.
‘Hey kids, take drugs!’ Nice. Stay classy, Sony! ‘And price your soul more cheaply than your tits!’
Miley, the time will come when payment’s due.
Then only the devil will care for you.
A while ago I read an article in The New Yorker about the popularity of the Golden Gate Bridge as a suicide destination. Apparently the allure is the chance of success; while only twelve per cent of drug overdoses result in death, jumping off a bridge is “almost always fatal”. However, the huge discrepancy between the number of jumpers from the Golden Gate bridge (where somebody jumps on average once a fortnight) and the nearby Bay bridge suggested to the article’s researchers that there was a certain romanticism attached by a lot of people to jumping – specifically – from the Golden Gate.
The article also sought to talk to the few people who had survived the jump. Since jumping from a bridge has a reputation for working, they assumed that the jumpers had really wanted to die. So the writers wanted to know: did they regret it? The answers surprised me, and one man’s response in particular stuck in my memory: “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”
Around the same time, I saw Gone With The Wind for the first time. I became a bit obsessed with Scarlet O’Hara; her tragic delusions of grandeur and the tragic romanticism of jumping from the Golden Gate bridge got tied up in my mind, and I wrote this.
Gone With The Wind
Thoughts from the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Four seconds later, I imagine, when I arrive,
I’ll cleave the water as an Olympic dive.
The wind shall whip my hair; art deco curls
As my martyred body twirls and whirls.
The bridge will blaze a panorama
Rich as the sky behind Scarlet O’Hara.
Like her, I’ll never go hungry again.
This choice will neatly underline my pain.
The watery skirt of my floral dress,
Will wrap me in a last caress.
And though by then I’ll be far away,
For once, I’ll make the news that day.
Falling, at last, the truth hits. BAM!
The world still doesn’t give a damn.
I wrote this poem after reading an excellent letter from Ted Hughes to his son, the year after Slyvia Plath’s death. The letter sets out to comfort Nicholas who is trying to cope with his mother’s suicide. The resulting letter is a beautifully expressed celebration of living “like a mighty river”, embracing all emotions and letting them become a part of you, good or bad.
So I tried to write a poem on this topic and it bent and curved until it became a poem about the Mississippi river. My dad once explained to me that – even if you straightened out all of the kinks of the Mississippi – it would gradually start to warp and bend again until it had returned to its old shape. I like that idea, and the idea that humans tend to work that way too. No matter how much we try and straighten ourselves out and equip ourselves for the real world, occasionally our kinks burst back out of the seams.
P.S. Since I’ve never actually seen the Mississippi river, see below the poem for a small collection of excellent and mighty rivers.
The Kinks Of The Mighty River
You must live like a mighty river.
Like Mississippi, who never questions
why her banks crumble;
why she kinks and curves.
Battle-proud, you too must lurch and flow
as Mississippi must dance
with all she knows, beating on
to the Gulf of Mexico.
Yes, you must live like the mighty river.
Welcome each tributary with equal pleasure.
Invite the White and the Red
and the Big Muddy river.
Let the sediment sink;
make the dirt your treasure.
Yes, you must live like the mighty river.
Bathe in the thrust of silt and foam
Like Mississippi, bend but never break,
Brace the banks
until the ocean
pulls you home.
I wrote this poem shortly after moving to Vietnam. The poem we were reading was ‘Queen Kong’ by Carol Ann Duffy: one of my favourites of Duffy’s from ‘The World’s Wife’. It’s a beautiful love story with some great images but, unfortunately, every child I’ve taught it to thinks it’s creepy and weird.
She just needs someone to unlock her
I watched her today reading a poem
as three of us lay on my bed with
full bellies and after dinner mint cigarettes,
basking in a perfect slice of right place at the right time.
And given licence to express herself –
and share something she knew was good –
she grinned like a light-bulb as she pronounced the word:
She ate it like a summer-ripe strawberry.
Her clean cut English accent,
which sometimes sounded clipped,
at that moment was spring water clean
and felt like dipping your face in a stream.
Her eyes were 30 degrees and blue sky
where often they were overcast grey
with threats of showers.
She looked gorgeous.
And I thought:
she just needs someone to unlock her.
For God’s sake don’t we all,
somewhere down the line?
This was the second half of a two part poem I wrote a while ago with two different perspectives on timelines. I really didn’t like this one and it is very unfinished but a couple of people said it had potential so here it is, in case I magically think of how to make it better at some point.
You said that you saw Muse in 2006
in a rain drenched field in Summer Leeds
you were coming up as the opening chords
poured out and made you tingle cinematic.
I saw them myself in 2010
with some best-friends-for-lifers I now hardly know.
The UK was hotter than Madrid or Rome
As I sat listless on my shoulder throne.
Two separate seas of people were waving at Matt Bellamy
Years and light years between your field and mine
Two crowds so present in the present they were in
that they hadn’t yet considered the next one.
Or the next one
Or the next one
Or the next.
Now it’s 2014 which – like every year – surprised me
Quietly lurking in diaries and waiting for it’s cue.
You and I hurtled towards it separately
In the unsettled stillness of the eye of a storm.
Sometimes laughing and crying and falling out of love
All the time hurtling and spinning round the sun
Always meaning but never expecting
to land at that party in Pimlico
where the lines met and felt deliberate
But kept going.
I remember very vividly thinking on my fifth birthday that I had truly arrived at maturity. I was leaning back against a hosepipe reel in my back garden and watching my dad play with all of my other five-year-old friends on a bouncy castle. My party included cheese and pineapple sticks and free flow raspberry and orange Calypso drinks. I felt, very surely, that I was rollin’ with the big boys. Now, at twenty-six. I think I may have been slightly premature in my thinking. In fact, I’m starting to worry that my adult certificate might never arrive at all. Here is a poem I wrote on the topic.
Adulthood: A Formal Complaint
Dear Sir or Madam,
I write to inform you that it has been 8 years
and my manual is – annoyingly – yet to arrive.
I’ve been waiting patiently for all this time
and doing my best to keep myself alive
with Google searches and the advice of friends.
But messages are mixed and it’s hard to see
whether I’m getting the most up to date version.
It’d be nice to get a bit of clarity.
Am I supposed to be an achievement machine?
Or living each day as though it’s my last?
‘Cause I’ve Carpe Diemed lots of wine this week
but now I can’t seem to run as fast.
– Should I count nights out or calories in?
– Is melanoma worth it for a perma-tan?
– Do I really need to worry about aspartame?
– and what am I supposed to look for in a man?!
In summary I’d be pleased if you’d get in touch
enclosing my manual A.S.A.P.
I’ll be waiting patiently (and without a fucking clue).