Crap Allegory by Jonathan Taylor

For Stuart

We need to talk about the burnt-out tower
a fuck-off middle finger
raised to gentrification
in a rich part of London.

We should speak about the burnt-out tower
an immigrants’ incinerator
blackened by poverty
against a bourgeois sky.

I want to write about the burnt-out tower
how ash rained down in showers
onto white BMWs.
Drivers had to put wipers on full.

I want to but I can’t write about this –
it’s a crap symbol, far too obvious,
a modern Gormenghast made unambiguous
or some crude medieval allegory
starring the Desperate and the Greedy.
Reality like politics makes for shit poetry
which cannot contain the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the smoke the

 

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His most recent book is the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk

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Oedipus and Tiresias by Jonathan Taylor

After Sophocles

 

Beloved Oedipus,

there will always be a Tiresias

sitting tight-lipped in the corner

of chamber, pub or courtroom,

not saying what he is thinking,

his eyeballs an opaque mirror

on plague, famine, massacre,

a city of wailing and ashes.

 

Beloved Oedipus,

you can interrogate him,

beat him, even arrest him

for silence under oath,

deviancy, transgenderism

or for your father’s murder

(as you have many others)

but still you see what he sees

within and cannot unsee it

despite dossiers, ministers,

secret police and newspapers.

 

Beloved Oedipus,

you can kill him as your father

or fuck him as your mother

or both. It hardly matters

for there’ll always be others

somewhere in the crowd

blindly knowing what you

have done in the past

and will continue to do.

 

Or maybe one day,

beloved Oedipus,

you’ll even take his place,

donning sackcloth and ashes,

haunting foreign cities,

eye sockets bleeding truth,

leaving a trail like history.

..

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

This year all the mirrors have shattered by Jonathan Taylor

for Helen

 

and the mansion is a labyrinth of reflections,

corridors shards, rooms fragments, faces cubist.

Passageways lead to themselves. Kitchens

teem with the poor chewing cutlery.

In living rooms pianos have been detuned.

The library’s shelves are full of hollow books

that double as ash-trays. Few speak aloud

though refined voices murmur through walls,

locked doors. You can hear the clink of bone

china, shuffling papers, a gavel. In the cellar

there is sobbing, the clanking of chains,

the smell of burning. No-one ventures down

to see what’s there. Somewhere in the maze

is a lost self holding a loved one’s hand

but you’ll never find your way back again.

On coffee tables are newspapers full of lies

about an outside world clamouring to get in –

as if anyone would want to come here,

as if anything exists beyond the front door.

..

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the UK. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

This year all the mirrors have shattered by Jonathan Taylor

for Helen

 

and the mansion is a labyrinth of reflections,

corridors shards, rooms fragments, faces cubist.

Passageways lead to themselves. Kitchens

teem with the poor chewing cutlery.

In living rooms pianos have been detuned.

The library’s shelves are full of hollow books

that double as ash-trays. Few speak aloud

though refined voices murmur through walls,

locked doors. You can hear the clink of bone

china, shuffling papers, a gavel. In the cellar

there is sobbing, the clanking of chains,

the smell of burning. No-one ventures down

to see what’s there. Somewhere in the maze

is a lost self holding a loved one’s hand

but you’ll never find your way back again.

On coffee tables are newspapers full of lies

about an outside world clamouring to get in –

as if anyone would want to come here,

as if anything exists beyond the front door.

..

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the UK. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

My imagined community* by Jonathan Taylor

is an earworm,

a half-recalled fragment

of a ‘foreign’ folk-song.

 

Or it’s something glimpsed

by a lone cyclist

in Malvern mists

(or deserted carpark,

or derelict Satanic mill),

never in full daylight,

never in chanting crowds

 

because its language comes alive

only on the lips of others

who talk in foreign cafés

of an illusion that is most itself

when not itself.

 

It is never found in tabloids

except in their apologies,

tiny columns on page 17

saying sorry like war poetry

for the battlefield of the past.

 

It breathes only in recollection,

only in Wordsworthian hindsight,

a memory of something

that was always (being) lost.

 

 

 

*After Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Edward Elgar, Introduction and Allegro, and George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn.

 

 

Jonathan Taylor is an author, critic, editor and lecturer. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He directs the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

Pitch for a Forthcoming American Disaster Movie by Jonathan Taylor

After Susan Sontag

..

Okay, we know that a BIG THING

has to happen before the titles

which foreshadows what is to come,

and we know that there must be

an expert (obviously six-foot Alpha)

who knows what is foreshadowed

because he has spent all his life

figuring it out, neglecting the wife

and son or daughter because of it.

..

He must warn a mayor or another

jobsworth who scoffs and ignores

him because of money or power

(which, of course, are BAD THINGS).

Meanwhile, the BIG THING worsens

though various CGI tableaux

where people who we don’t know

are whistling through day-to-day

lives but are then eaten, burned,

infected, crushed or drowned.

..

Depending on how BIG the BIG THING

is, hundreds, thousands or millions

of people can die, till the mayor guy

is overruled and hands over the reins

to our expert. He will save the day

and then snog his estranged wife,

make up with his son or daughter

who don’t bear him any grudge

for all those years in the office or lab.

..

It all ends in one final amnesic hug,

in which we all happily forget about

the hundreds, thousands, millions

who died to make a happy ending,

to make a divorce not happen

and the American family whole again.

Laughter Epidemic by Jonathan Taylor

It all started with besuited newsreaders

sniggering while reporting a massacre:

anchors passed it on to correspondents

who passed it on to interviewees

who infected millions of viewers.

 

A neurologist compared it to the plague

in Tanganyika, ’62, but was crying before

he could finish. His po-faced colleague

diagnosed mass psychogenic illness

but farted before she’d finished too,

as if hysteria had to escape somehow.

 

No one could stop themselves:

the Chancellor couldn’t take his cuts

seriously; the PM declared war

as if he were inviting everyone to a party;

brass bands snorted at the cenotaph,

historians and students at history;

Alzheimer’s and cancer were side-splitting

for untreated patients and their families.

Refugees turned back, scared of contagion.

 

Parliament dissolved for the election

in fits of posh giggles. There were reports

of voters dying, their hearts exhausted

by comic speeches, promises like jokes,

an outbreak of national hilarity

as unending as despair.

Person Specification by Jonathan Taylor

You will be a high achiever

who knows everyone else is not.

 

You will be the kind of person who leads

by accepting a new company Audi

on a morning you announce redundancies.

 

You should have wide experience

in eating previously healthy organisations

from within. In terms of qualifications

you will hold a grade A in Asset Stripping

and Parasitism.

 

You will have the skills necessary to tie

in knots of regulations anyone who needs

tying up. Deep down, you will believe

people rather like it. Leadership is bondage.

Remember, it’s all about those acronyms:

BDSM – Bondage, Domination, Sado-

Managementism.

 

You will enjoy making jokes about bondage

to your personal assistant, as well as

relevant sexist or racist or ageist

(delete as appropriate) comments

and will be an expert at clarifying afterwards

that any offence was the employee’s fault

for not having a sense of humour.

After all, tone is everything for a leader

when faced with a tribunal.

 

You will like suits, football and golf

and you will have a family incarcerated

in a frame on your desk.

 

You will be happy to make difficult decisions

while dressing them up in frilly tutus.

Your cross-dressing decisions will curtsey,

pirouette, grand jeté, plié faster and faster

until all the mesmerised audience can do

is gasp and applaud and then file

out of the auditorium in an orderly fashion,

switching the lights off as they go.

..

Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer and critic. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collectionMusicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

Savile Row by Jonathan Taylor

The white men in suits fucked up

the whole Scooby Doo ending

in an episode that’d lasted decades,

unmasking victims rather than culprit.

He’d never bothered wearing a mask

till he was buried. Afterwards the suits

might be heard muttering remorsefully

into their swirling Chardonnay

We’d have gotten away with it too

if it wasn’t for those grown-up kids

from retirement villas in Tuscany.

 

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, critic and lecturer. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

Election post-mortem by Jonathan Taylor

Following the election pundits explained
why the pundits had got it so wrong.

We are sorry, they said.
We underestimated the People, they said,
their universal love for one another,
their beautiful way with strangers.

Our polls were black holes
sucking in the light.
Our pie-charts were sieves
through which a hidden wellspring
of crypto-hippies tumbled.
We didn’t film our nation’s march
hand in hand towards the sunset.
Our cameras were pointed at the dark

so we mistook inner-city waltzes for riots,
bankers’ hand-outs for looting,
ribbon-wrapped parcels for bombs
and poetry for politics.

It’s easily done.

 

Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, critic and lecturer. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.

The Great Inundation by Jonathan Taylor

After a vision of Fr. Balthassar Mas, 1630

 

I dreamed of a great inundation, everything swallowed

by a wave moving up the Thames like a leviathan

until only England’s highest turrets and steeples

reached above the flood. The best were saved,

lords and ladies on their battlements, clergymen

clinging to spires, hems of cassocks pulled away

from the drowning and the drowned.

 

Finally God sent a rainbow as the waters receded

a little. Those left were relieved and arranged

causeways of the heaped-up dead to France

or were rescued by strange flying contraptions

which swooped down like angels and took them

to the fertile lands round the Nile and Red Sea

where they were greeted by many thousands

and went on to found new and better Englands.

Musical Anthropocene by Jonathan Taylor

After Thea Musgrave, Green, and Robert Macfarlane

 

We are the irruption of noise into music:

ariosos disintegrate in our hands

while discordant clusters round low F

shake the earth beneath our feet.

 

Our symphonic scores rot,

violins are resurrected as trees,

but that tremolo F remains below all

and remains to the last,

persistent as fossilised plastic

or a nuclear legacy radioactive

for 10,000 years.

 

 

 

 

Note: Green is a short piece for twelve strings by Thea Musgrave, commissioned by the Scottish Ensemble, and first performed in 2008.

 

Bio:
I’m author of the novels “Melissa” (Salt, 2015) and “Entertaining Strangers” (Salt, 2012), the memoir “Take Me Home” (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection “Musicolepsy” (Shoestring, 2013). I’m Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. My website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk