The Poetry Ladder
I couldn't get on, someone had gobbed
by Chris McCabe
on each rung so there was no image-traction.
They could have been publishers or estate agents
around the table so I took the marzipan axe
to their foreheads, it broke apart soft yellow cubes
and the only red - as they laughed - was jam.
They tantalised in whispers the sound of my name
in tea-wreaths, smoke-hoops, ale-fumes etc.
I left the room, still with the visor on, to go & build
my own four up, four down (alexandrines)
overlooking the park. I didn't want clichés for bricks
and anyway, the cobwebs in the railings
looked more like shattered glass to me.
There was no variable tracker for stylistic changes
and although this was meant to last, it could have been
a mere consumable. A twister of statistics
started to shake the foundations like a boolean
pick 'n' mix in an upturned dunce's cone.
Once what I'd made rented out their page each line
came with an inbuilt ejector seat called buy-to-let
which kept the market artificially high. What I objected
to was the influx of foreign writers who took up
so much samizdat space. My readers were tenants
in the slow-build, their imaginations like cellars
harbouring poems that would not pockmark the landscape
(they were evicted whenever I changed styles)
the idea being not to use the same ladder for a whole career,
though market shifts worked against this ethos
- metaphors went out & parataxis came in -
I was the first of my contemporaries to give up
believing in the actual concept of ladder. I realised
I had faith in a poetry wall & my career entered a new phase.