Poem: Cardiff Central – A Poet’s Journey

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I.

Cardiff – you have soothed and slayed me;

I need only inhabit you for the space of five

Minutes to assure myself that the madness

Of my pent-up prophecies is as nothing to the

Weather-beaten wastrels who prophesy and

Harangue on your wind-cavilled corners – even

The Mayor crawls along in a sleeping bag,

Piled-up garbage auctioneered by seagulls,

Steel bins rattle out West Indian rhythms,

And those that rave against the wind that rages

Against the too solid dreams of architect’s shopping

Bills, can find their muse in a pint – a pill – in the cold

Delectation of needful starvation – in a parka – in a tree –

In a saucer of coffee – in a needle. Like geometry hurling

Away from the simple primacy of a circle, girls and trend-

Tortured boys find ever more deviant ways in which to clothe

Themselves to conceal their hollow nothings. Noise, noise,

Everywhere, as we pilot a city that feels like a ship sailing

Drunken over vertiginous seas

II.

And then to the museum, where I navigate past Bacon,

Doig, Monet, Picasso, Daumier, and a bevy of French

Impressionists, before I find heaven in the 18th Century,

Only to be kicked out ten minutes later. I admire the

Curvature of faces – scenes from Goethe – and every

Pretty girl I see seems to be a hollow chuckle in the face

Of my celibacy. I can entertain Mediterranean phantasies

Within the safety of a frame – feel the sensuous warm winds

Of French-Italian orchards from the 1800’s – love-uplifting

Paradises so far removed from the tragicomic melancholy

Of Wale’s capital city.

III.

And no one has ever told me that I look Welsh:

French, Polish, Russian, American, Canadian,

Norwegio-Scandanavian, apocryphally European –

But never have I been observed to be a Celt in the

Country where I have haphazardly arisen. Could I

Be said to belong to this country anymore than I

Belong to this century? A classicist! A classicist!

Some idealist hangover from another aeon when

One could squawk to the cries of Aesthetics, Ideas,

And Irreligion! When to think, to speak, to read,

And to think meant more than just a brand name,

Or the production of a meaningless YouTube video

That is sure to make some yuppie millions.

IV.

And then I come to Daumier’s scene from Cervantes’

Don Quixote, and for the first time since reading it

I realized how much like the self-proclaimed knight

Of delusions I’ve been; the absurdity of my chastity

In a century that dwindles everything down to the

Freudian milestone of sex in the banal inadequacy

Of its own reduction; of my enraptured, ecstatic,

Fevered sensibility in a generation where to feel is

To be ill; to be ill is to be the pet demon of a diagnostician;

And to be diagnosed is to be sedative-dependent, kept far

Away from feelings, feelings, feelings – “O, feeling begone!

Feeling keep out!” the shop sign should say to the numb

Consumption of our over-shopped bodies – no sorrow,

No grief, no susceptibility, no surf on the surging spindrift

Of gurgling thoughts – just the pharmacy-sanctioned

Monochrome of apathy unfree and unwheeling.

V.

Now The Poet, The Knight has taken himself to a

Shopping Mall coffee shop where he can linger

In a caffeinated-delirium pretending to be Samuel

Taylor Coleridge, or Samuel Johnson, though it is

Hard to make the verses or definitions flow when

You are listening to Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber.

Puffs of coffee brewing plumes to powdered wigs,

And a blonde on a laptop opposite holds eye

Contact with me for longer than is either healthy

Or sensible. I do not hear the rustle of petticoats,

Nor the flirtatious bird-flutter of sequined fans; only

The flurry of keys on her Apple Mac – and because

Thomas Gainsborough is not available to paint her,

Snapchat will have to do instead.

VI.

Now then comes that awkward moment when we have

Both looked over at one another too many times not

To do something about it. I posture like a coquette,

Flirting with my own hair, playfully rubbing my Arabic

Scarf against my face in the drapery of suggested eroticism.

Perhaps if this were a Jane Austen novel I could have presented

Her with my card; some boring old matriarch of social relation

Could have tendered an introduction between us – but, try as

She might, she will not be able to swipe me on Tinder – and

As there is no drunken offender to call out my name, she will

Not find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram either.

VII.

And, so, what are we to find in the beheading guillotine

Pincer of this moment? This indecisive flirtation prolonged

By tension and poetized in free-verse’s diction? I no longer

Have any legitimate reason for staying; I have drunk all the

Free cups of coffee that my charm can acquire me – I am

Like a teardrop suspended on somebody’s eyelash that is

Destined to fall, but has not yet conceived the conviction

To do so. What would any woman want with this over-

Chaste wastrel, this handsome, yet aggressively gentle

Tatterdemalion? I need more than just limbs – but thoughts,

Feelings, the voluptuous teasings of genius to arouse me;

Whatever phantasy you have of me, I will entertain it as

Much as I will demolish it, as my mind swirls along the

Arabesques of foreign geometry, and I dream of kisses

Concealed in clouds, the softness of hands, of eye-contact

Over-prolonged, until your whole universe turns into iris,

Into pupil, and you can see everything in those rivulet-

Changing colours; until you are so consumed by romance,

That lust almost tricks you – no longer a hollow product

Of bodily desire, but one of the natural outpourings of

Love.

VIII.

Ah, my skin feels like it is swimming in colour when it

Entertains such thoughts! When summer is not just an

Airy dream, but a tangible reality, and I am back in those

French orchards again, the atmosphere sucking me with

Slow delight, like a young child savouring a lollipop, or

A sex-suggesting young coquette slowly applying her

Lipstick!

IX.

And all of these agile, Hyperborean thoughts are

Accompanied by the bladder-pressing knowledge

That I really need to piss. “To pee or not to pee?”

I question, loath to leave my perfect vantage,

Wherefrom I can scribble in my notebook, and

Occasionally, tentatively, glance up at the blonde.

X.

And then the walk back to the train station, bright

Lights against darkened skies, the hint of fires on top

Of the cathedral, the flaming relique of religious

Conviction. Drunken assemblies of contemporary

Celts tossed about by their own uncertain tides,

The yawning mouths of crowded clubs invite like

Doorways into the discotheques of hell, guarded not

By Cerberus, but bloated bouncers, police mingling

With the drunkards they both protect and prosecute.

XI.

Now the train ride back home – polite conversation

With rugby fans on the platform, able to give an imitation

Of sociability, but too genteel, too alien, to fully commit to

It. A vacant seat beside me. I wonder what kind of woman

Could fill that seat – what kind of sensitive sylph could inspire

Me with love, and could commit to loving, and being loved by

Me? What will be the color of her hair? The sparkle of her eyes?

Her raison d’être? Her response to the vastness of infinite skies?

How will she inspire me, irritate me, castigate me, uplift me;

How will she understand and desire me without merely

Fetishizing me?

XII.

These lofty wonderings are disrupted by a conversation

Between some drunken Saxons who have just noticed a

Pair of women – a redhead and a brunette – who have

Had the foresight to bring a cheeseboard onto the train.

This is the all-inclusive inseparability of life, thought

Becoming reality, and reality inspiring thought.

XIII.

And I feel sober, sensible, philosophic, dull: my

Mad Welsh brethren, I cannot compete with you!

So I sleepily return to my bookish bower in Abergavenny,

Where I will be grateful for more than just sleep.

***

 

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