Tomorrow all the trains will stop
and we will be stranded. Cars
have already been immobilised
by the petrol wars, and sit
abandoned, along the roadsides.
The airports, for two days now,
are closed-off zones where dogs
congregate loudly on the runways.
To be in possession of a bicycle
is to risk your life. My neighbour,
a doctor, has somehow acquired a horse
and rides to his practice, a rifle
clearly visible beneath the reins,
I sit in front of the television
for each successive news bulletin
then reach for the whisky bottle.
How long before the shelves are empty
in the supermarkets? The first riots
are raging as I write, and who
out there could have predicted
this sudden countdown to zero hour,
all the paraphernalia of our comfort
stamped obsolete, our memories
fighting to keep us sane and upright?
My son sat his GCSE literature this morning and this came up as the Unseen poetry analysis with the Welsh Board. My son’s reaction was more enthusiastic than for his mock examination, perhaps because poems about love and nature have previously left him unmoved and bored. At least something had happened in this poem he felt. And that somehing seemed catstrophic enough to produce a fable, provoking enough to rouse the most disaffected teenage boy?
We do feel stranded in this poem. Stranded by the punctuation which keeps closing off possibilities and stranded by the progressive shutting down of alternatives to this world where all the co-ordinates of the daily are being steadily undermined and even eradicated.
The surreal image of the doctor on horseback with a rifle going to work rearranges any visual normalities. Human beings are flexible and can adapt. Yet the rapidity of this social implosion threatened to reveal human beings monstrous and capable of anything.
Again the mention of the ‘dogs’ who are mysteriously congregating on runways offers an image that seems dystopian and surreal. The poet does not even incline himself to explain. He is watching the news with his bottle of whisky, waiting for the ‘zero hour’ when only God( who has left us) can explain what we are left to expereince and to suffer.
And would we all slide into mental instability without our yardsticks of the ‘normal’? Would it be left to our acts of remembrance to sustain us? Would this be a battle? Or would we just side away into chaos?
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