Dominic Fisher Poetry
“As if a tree could stutter briefly into being
lose all its leaves then vaporise”
Bonfire Night from a Loft Window
Adventures in woke
A woke and sunny May weekend: Saturday morning in north Bristol, avocado on toast before going down the Gloucester Road, allegedly the longest row of independent shops in Europe, for tofu and a copy of the Guardian, and then that afternoon to Heron Books to listen to poetry from Deborah Harvey and Mab Jones (both published by Indigo Dreams), before going home for ramen with tofu (and kefir to boot). Sunday morning was spent at the allotment, among other things, weeding the peas and picking gooseberries.
The sunshine, the poetry, and the general wokeness, were lovely. So much better than being bludgeoned into surly distraction by ministers. The weekend, it’s true, was also partly spent considering the aggressiveness of current political language, the ‘war on woke,’ the ‘invasion’ of asylum seekers, for example. But what has this got to do poetry? Get back on the allotment and write a sonnet about apple blossom or poppies, some might say.
But poetry is made of language, and our responses to that language, is about being human and humane, about cultural exchange, not about cutting ourselves off, snarling at strangers and swaddling ourselves in nostalgia for a largely imaginary realm. So here’s the wokest poem I think I’ve got. It’s the first of a crown of sonnets, written in 2018, two years after the EU referendum and two years before the UK formally left.
Suppose there was a darker Albion
beneath us, thick as porter, fat as eels
a flag of anthracite blood-crossed and torn
a country where we might be stiffed by deals
that got signed off while we were still asleep
or selling sandwiches for bugger all
making ghost calls from half a mile deep
hauling nets or ploughing sooty fields.
So who might rule in that unpleasant land
or chair the grisly boards who rigged the rules
to push that mouldered Blighty’s tainted brand?
The splendid chaps, no doubt, who always do,
venturers who shipped half-dead flesh for gold
or mined the nation’s sparking crown of coal.
(From The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead The Blue Nib, 2019)