0148 Dear Jenny Joseph...

Dear Jenny Joseph,

How are you getting along these days?
Now that you've hit our 'top poems' list?
I'll bet that, as a National Treasure
you're asked to give readings
at a minimal fee
with the request
'please wear a red hat and a purple cloak -
our members would like it...' aw shurrup...

I'm contemplating a parallel
to raise the status of old men
God knows we need it...

Where shall I start?
I guess the secret is
it's fun confounding expectations,
so, first on the list,
anything that labels you British - out!
(then we can start again from scratch) :

out with the stiff upper lip -
weep in public - preferably a full rush-hour commuter train
from Surrey or Gloucestershire
or Berkshire would do;
and watch the men freeze
into emotional ineptitude;

Get on a jam-packed tube train
around the evening rush hour, when they think they're tired,
those poor 20-year-olds who clubbed all night on E
and say very loud
'Which of you young people is going to give up your seat to me?
(And if there's no move
and everyone hides behind their papers or suddenly closed eyes,
repeat the question louder and louder
until even the kind-hearted of your own age
hate you...) :

When the train stops in a tunnel
and everyone goes quiet,
whistle out of tune one that everyone knows;

And don't forget that
garlic and an open mouth
can gain you valuable personal space.


Open doors for all ladies, and expecially those
wearing pierced noses and lips and eyebrows, tattoos,
SM gear and/or short haircuts
and when they walk past without a glance
say 'Thank you...? ' very loudly;

Walk round the snootiest 'boutiques'
and the more the assistants bridle,
stand near you
or raise their eyebrows at their fellow assistants
the longer you hang around, natch,
and when you say 'Just looking...'
look them in the eye
like Clint Eastwood who just hit town;

At formal weddings,
when it gets to the butt-clenching 'just cause...? ' bit
clear your throat loudly
as if about to speak...
it will give the dry cleaners
extra work.

Talk to all children with their parents
especially those whose parents quickly pull them away;
feel free to embrace all and especially sundry;
just check you have the address of your Citizen's Advice Bureau
for free legal representation;

Talk to Friends of Friends whom
you're meeting for the first time
as if you know them well;
it's amazing how many 'friends'
you can cross off that way;

Cold callers
who introduce themselves
with their Christian name
(even though Hindus calling from India..)
and are pushy (be kind to the others...)
- pretend you know them
and discuss some past
scandalous relationship with them,
then accuse them of misleading you;


Be natural - but very very publicly so;
in Victorian times, you could pee in the road
on please, only on the offside of horses;
so don't choose motorways
(though the central reservation is OK - I mean, who's going to stop
to be offended in the fast lane, or ring the police on the mobile while driving?)
and if anyone objects to your peeing in the gutter
that's what gutters used to be for
and who asked them to look anyway?

Clothes-wise, it's up to you -
though of course if 'dress-code..' is requested, well, that's obviously
inviting trouble - do they want to see you in person,
or what you bought or hired?
Or are they wanting free film extras
in the home movies of ego?

Oxfam permitting,
wear the clothes that 15-year-olds do -
that really pisses them off.

If people dropp a word
about your undone zip in public
and they're polite about it
thank them with a smile
perhaps explaining the circumstances
in friendly fashion;
but if they comment disapprovingly
threaten
further measures.

Sitting on the pavement, that sort of thing -
well, that's personal; if you enjoy it, do it...

Above all - Embarrass Your Children. Mortally.
' D-a-a-d....! '

(This Poem is an Expanding Poem -
there's more cringe-making stuff to come just here...
as Rusty says, that's what parents are for...)

Doesn't sound very exciting, you may be thinking?
OK, just try one of these, and see if
you can't cut the atmosphere with a knife.
-That's not yet court evidence, but it could be,
in a nanny state - 'The witness observed
that you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, m'lud...'

But I'm very open to suggestions
from others, to make this
second childhood
even better than the first, OK?

And Jenny, by the way, are you married?
It could be fun...

by Michael Shepherd

Comments (16)

Simply had to come back and read it again and again.....: -)
Rich, you were right too. Google 'Red Hat Club /Society' - it's now a US 'fashion moment' version of the women's lunch club for the supporting sisterhood of the 50-plus, iced tea and chicken salad...there's a book with that title. How could Hollywood resist...a sort of 'Complacent Housewives'... But Mom-power is Mom-power, call it what you will...
Well I dunno, PH. What makes a good poem ? Surely one that communicates something - the world's tragedy or comedy or both - to the maximum number of people? Rather than what experienced, intelligent, discriminating persons like you and I judge to be good? Auden, I think I'm right in saying, left 'Funeral Blues' out of his first edition of Collected Poems - now given a superb rendering of it on film, it has touched the heart of millions, as a 'poetic' expression of grief. A fair test case? Good at any one time in history - how about that? Note the culturally interesting proximity of Nehrlich and Goethe on the list, for instance... I rest my case.
Thanks for the history lesson Michael. I did not know that. The connection makes sense though.
Rich, the Red Hat Club (in the US too? Wow!) started from this very poem. So whatever we and PH think of its quality, it's earned our ladies' hearts. Could be a film in it for Helen Mirren. But be warned. There's a deep unsatisfied need somewhere there...for ladies of a certain uncertain age. Dressing-up is less expensive than cosmetic surgery too...
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