Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Thirteen New Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

This poem was inspired by Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955, who wrote the original Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird . This new version is by Aiden McGee who gave a reading at the Exmouth Arms recently.

1 A blackbird zig-zags the forest clearing.
It forgets and cannot foretell
The thread of this ballet.

2 The man showed the people
He was a man of the people
By wearing country clothes
And walking around some villages.
The blackbird ignored him.

3 A man and a woman are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird are one.
(Wallace Stevens)
But a blackbird in a flock
Precedes a trail of dots
After which words and numbers
Invisibly dispute the final total…

4 The cynic returns to his roots
And makes up a lot of hard luck.
He sulks on a hillside
In front of a tree
Above him branches criss-cross
Where the blackbird perches.

5 At 0500 hours you had two hours
Before you had to get up.
Capital Radio cannot account
For how you were thinking -
The blackbird had an audience.

6 One January England got cold
Just after Chesterfield.
The freeze moved northerly
As a blackbird moved
From the skies to the hedgerows.

7 A thing is either a blackbird
Or it is not a blackbird.
And binary logic is so coolly composed
It’s a wonder that nobody has tried
To punch right through it.

8 He had an affair for two years.
He could not say what she could not say
So they were communally static.
Towards the end they bought a cat
That looked squarely with intent
At blackbirds on the patio.

9 Doing things is our ordeal,
We are confused by the many,
Fixated on the one,
And there is an asymmetry
In the blackbird’s beak,
Thin, orange, like an oboe reed,
Essential to the whole.

10 But things do not link.
The earth is but a country park in the nexus,
Part of a list not causal;
Mercury, Venus, Earth, love,
Crust, core, blackbirds, hemispheres,
Tesco, all waiting their turn
And then something else.

11 The clairvoyant has a future
For people will fall in love.
But it is everything that happens
Within that moment
As when a blackbird blinks
That the crystal ball finds so elusive.

12 There are two sides to purity.
Cuckoos are bailiffs that don’t send letters
Seagulls scream like affronted children
Wood-pigeons morse code in cooing and shitting
And rooks do a satire that makes words look…
But the blackbird potters around
A little like an unobtrusive minister.

13 The summer made a joy of the afternoon
The city was full of pubs with gardens
And the pubs with gardens were full of people
And the burbling hilarity felt justified.
On the edge of it all
Near some mustard fields
The blackbird found a partner for life.

Copyright Aidan McGee 2001, 2007

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