What is the use of books in bed,
The half-read and the to-be-read
With no-one at your side?
The clock becomes a mass of ticks,
The blankets do not yield to kicks
And vanish like a tide.
England meanders into night –A room gone quiet after light –
This dull autumnal day;
The U.S. with the poet’s wife
Beneath horizons bursts with life,
And makes demotic hay.
In California golden menWith names like Brewster and like Ben
Are riding on the surf;
The sun-soaked cities eat the coast
Like young PR’s devouring toast
Out on the morning turf.
In Oregon, that lovely state,Committed young make drivers wait
Until they’ve checked the gasses
That spluttering from a cracked exhaust
Might visit minor holocaust
Upon the natural masses.
In mid-West states the farmers bringTheir combines to the harvesting –
The glowing plains are shorn;
They loathe the Russians, all they do,
Think Carter should rough up a few,
But want them to eat corn.
In the New South of dust and plainA cowboy flies an aeroplane
And drinks at Caesar’s Palace;
A businessman concludes a deal
To civilize the commonweal
And bring The Who to Dallas.
In Washington and in New YorkDiscrimination’s all the talk
Against the blacks and women;
And Puerto Ricans, Mexicans,
Christopher Street and Indians,
And anyone not winning.
Off Union Square a church is full –A group debate the pentacle
And study the “I Ching”;
Next week it’s “You and Worry Beads”.
Outside, a faded notice reads
“The Church of Christ the King.”
On campuses a few old menWith shaky lips remember when
They lectured on the Good;
Their students sat in quiet rows
Developing a canny nose
For what was gold or wood.
But Giroux in his office groomsThe products of cheap, rented rooms
Refusing to allow
That Art and Culture should become
As hollow as a beaten drum
Or bellow like a cow.
In England now the pundits writeAs if they ever had been right
And try to scan the times;
Boring as men in urinals
They only know that criminals
Incline to commit crimes.
Our intellectuals drink their juiceAs subtle-arrogant as Zeus
And open the New Statesman;
From front to back it’s full of “it’s”
And other non-elitist bits,
As surly as a placeman.
The poets rise soon after noonAnd spread their butter with a spoon
Singing a small “introit”;
If Pope or Chaucer stood before them
And spoke of wit or of decorum
I fear they would not know it.
The people who produced the balladNow struggle for a crazy salad
And know not want they do;
The streets are like a vale of sighs,
Their windows are accusing eyes
Demanding “Who are you?”
As sullen as an offshore rockThat’s grazed by a forgotten flock
And cut off by the tide,
England sings ditties to the sky,
Scratches its cheek, is jostled by
The flotsam at its side.
The storm clouds of this latter worldAre spreading fast like flags unfurled,
The Furies search for blood;
We play our corner of the game,
Giving our number and our name,
And watch the rising flood.
Think of the starving and the fraughtWhose lives are no more than a thought
As officers prepare
To move their armies to the front
Where villages will bear the brunt
As if they were not there.
Come back my love on the last ’planeAnd we shall bill and kiss again
Before the thunder starts;
For soon a sword will draw a line,
The generals will give the sign,
And frenzy grip our hearts.
====================© January 1980