‘You’re a poet?!’ Ben asked, his face a mask
of unchecked incredulity.
‘I guess’, I replied, then with less certainty,
‘That is, at least, I write poetry’.
‘If you’re really a poet’, he kindly went on,
‘make something up right now, something fun.
Compose us a verse upon
an alien invasion
‘I’m not that kind of poet’, I said unnerved,
before reminding him not politely,
‘Nor am I a monkey of the performing variety.’
Unfortunately, absent sobriety
combined with my tone caused more anxiety.
‘You what?!’ he exclaimed, his voice now a shout,
‘You can’t just simply swan about
saying you’re a poet
then not be prepared to – – show it.
See! Even I’m a better poet than you!’
‘Right now, Ben, that’s probably true,
because I’m eight beers down and haven’t a clue
how to even speak right… ly
let alone recite… thee
a work of such daring artistry
that festival you and festival me
wouldn’t even begin to comprehend
He looked at me through a boozy haze,
then spoke words I’ll recall til the end of my days:
‘You know mate, just cos you talk like a git,
doesn’t mean you’re a – – poet’.
I laughed and agreed and we carried on drinking,
but Festival Ben had got me thinking.
So now when the inevitable question comes,
‘Tell me, what is it you do?’
I look straight in their eye and swiftly reply,
‘I’m unemployed. How about you?’
The first thing a bursting
of light and warmth, thirsting
for life, for air, burning
unruly and pure.
Now hold breath and pause,
as thoughts of mortality come to the fore.
How long can we hold on,
or use it before
our fingers char or the wind starts blowing?
So we tilt and we cradle and we cherish not knowing
if that’s the flame dying or the darkness growing.
For in the flame’s heart
lies the question, the spark,
the ember of every doubt:
What will you set fire to before your match goes out?
Von Christopher Unwin