Poetry

SPLEEN: AFTER BAUDELAIRE



1

Sky? More manhole cover horizons wide,
A lid pressing down upon soul or id –
Call it what you may. Ennui, a.k.a.
Nothing doing, is here (and how) to stay.

Dawn’s a misnomer. There weigh shades of grey
Beside which night appears a holiday;
If the earth’s turned bunker, hope’s a bat
Battering its brains against dank wall and slat;

Vast isobar after isobar,
Rain has taken us mass prisoner;
Spiderwebs spun from the troposphere
Then latch onto our hippocampus…

Bells all of a sudden do not ring but shriek,
Launching heavenward a furious clamour—
Think flibbertigibbet, think poltergeist—
Gibbering misplaced persons, nations gone bust—

Long hymnless funerals recurring: Like
Some despotic Sherpa Tensing had earmarked
My brainpan’s Neverest for a comeback,
Anguish plants there its flag of atrocious black.

2

Having it in for the town A to Z,
Rainuary tilts an oceanic urn:
Chill and gloom, poured down as if in return,
Twin mist-shrouded commuters, the centre’s dead.

Restlessly my cat patrols the parquet,
Scrawny mange-gnawn body seeking a litter;
Forgotten poet’s shade roams the gutter
For acceptances that might’ve made his day.

The great bell groans, smokey log, falsetto,
Duets with grandfather clock struck by flu:
Afterplay is the name of the game and must

Inherited from some dropsical old maid,
Where darling knave of hearts and the queen of spades
Rake over affairs since come to dust.

3

Imagine being monarch of a rain-wracked clime,
Oligarch, yet impotent, old before your time,
Who, scorning mentor or consultant,
Grows bored with palace lions, loyal serpent.
Nothing diverts you, private jet, Ferraris,
Citizens dying in the square like flies.
Pet jester’s jokes and fables all fall flat
Before the stare of a semi-psychopath;
Lilied bed’s become a silk-decked tomb
Where court ladies, any ruler their groom,
Find neither lingerie nor perfume
To turn this premature skeleton on.
Wizards hired from Zurich, Bern and Bonn
Will never quite uproot the ingrown poison;
Roman bloodbaths just like History orders,
Tired tyrants’ tonic across epochs and borders,
Cannot warm this moribund has-been,
Through his veins Lethe flowing cold and green.

 

 

Bennett_Martin_2014 Martin Bennett lives in Rome where he teaches and proofreads at the University of Tor Vergata while contributing occasional articles to Wanted in Rome. His poems have appeared in Stand, Poetry Ireland, Descant, The Independent and elsewhere. He was the 2013 winner of the John Clare Poetry Prize.