Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robert Sheppard: The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham (re: History or Sleep, Selected Poems

Here's another de-selection from the Selected Poems, not because it doesn't make the grade, but because the appearance of a number of poems in both Tin Pan Arcadia and Complete Twentieth Century has allowed me to be more severe with their de-selection in the process. This is one of those; it's also a part of the 'Materialisation of Soap 1947' strand (and the original is represented in the selection, as is Schrage Musik, (see here) a long poem included entire, in which George and Pearl (a psuedo-couple like some of Beckett's that appear again and again in Twentieth Century Blues. (As in the last, here. And read here about the whole project 1989-2000.) I forbade their reappearance in  my work, so enjoy their caperings while you can.

The dedication to Keith and Nate was result of their work on the original '1947' poem for its inclusion in the Oxford Anthology of British and Irish Twentieth Century Poetry. Looking again at that poem I decided (as I have done on a number of occasions) to go back to the source material (National Geographic pictures of Britain in 1947) and use them again. See what happens. This was my third and final squeezing of that material, and the most surreal. I like it. Enjoy it. It was also an experiment with lineated prose and was written on 17th August 1999 and is Twentieth Century Blues 66, Articulates 10 (the 10th lineated prose work), Impositions 2 (the second using some technique of using images, I forget what, exactly, and the fourth Materialisation of Soap poem).

The Sacred Tanks of Dagenham

for Keith Tuma and Nate Dorward

once Pearl pricks the two chops in the sizzling pan restaurant music she says

crouched towards the postcards outside the tobacconist’s George lives and loves it all though iceless

not the corner ABC spelt out of emptiness nor the mobile library of American magazines

an abstract noun fogs the capital city until the breeze’s caprice

looks could kill and still be made to look good

packets of Creamola in windows searched after their sewing class digests with gusto

absence and abstinence

leading to orderly queues or queues of asylum orderlies wheeling their own reflections into the chilly English Channel

the frozen symbol of nationhood empire’s dissolution home made

eat what you see hell of damaged stock half-price turnips will find their way to Heaven

through multiple hardbaked soil

creak for milk over the bathtub she poured coffee in case who will buy air

(selling air 

a high wind bites through the worn threads of jogging army girls a state bard recites through his beard and his beads of sweating half rhymes

Pearl’s first wrinkle faces the wringer

buxom corn maidens with gleaming washtubs await the dispensary of grubby propensities to consume the word ‘democracy’ doesn’t creak through our rafters

too high for worship

her finger tickles his meat balls his organ is an old widow’s wellpaid wellwisher

George’s wick sticks up in sticky appreciation

bangs like a barn door for the girls’ buoyancy against the oppressive clouds there’s a cut out shape where Pearl was washing George’s smalls

threatening blank pages at the backs of ration books ready for whatever is fewer

winners catch the cooling mint flavoured newsprint scrolls from Dagenham to Dagestan

labels Individual Balconies small squares on the brushed magnificence the Sacred Tanks open thin ribs of land dress for talk everything is mean and means little

unrelated to a shortage the Sydenham band has disbanded the saxophones swing in the heat near the public well

(skilfully carrying water jugs for miles on their heads

the woman in foxfurs explains the marvels of the snow on the field of blood meaning itself subject to this economy

the clacking abacus drum stores the few apples’ stories as documents and dockets

cleansing invisibility hides in Hyde Park from the laughter is deaf but vital hands perhaps even George’s weeping penis washing Pearl

will emigrate to Canada to begin again

doing her business lust flashes like George’s shape has been pruned from his allotment of pure time regeneration trumpets over the city in each tree kippers and cider roused them to it

outside Timothy Whites they clatter the hardware like Gene Krupa tubs in his straps a post-war blur of rematerialising Hero nervously waits to deNazify the English East Midlands of its thin-lipped officials

abed in the crystal crematoria of recent history

the past’s persistence we knitted our way to victory and now we’re eating shit 50 million flies can’t be wrong

(‘and now Pearl will croak a few bars for barter

George sniffs his way through her fat negotiating hothouse grapes gleaming bladders in greengrocer’s immortal calligraphy spelling flowers for his staff car

plenty is the finger that touches Pearl’s meat for once they’ll recognise this attempt

to conjoin George’s triumphal offal language falling from signposts (we work or want; no

says George: we     



to provide a validating ethos for Man kicking in the night (‘here he goes again

a bombsite ripe for conjuring him once more in plentiful Kodachrome against her shins

whose thighs make a necklace of pearl clouds in a grey sky building plots national assistance

near the dosshouse round the back of the Palace of the Winds