Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Poetry by Tug Dumbly

One Version of Les

What’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution 

– Constantine Cavafy

Your bullied childhood your moneymaker,
embunkered otherness a blanket 
burred about you by your beloved nanny 
Nurse Grievance, flopping out her trusty old dugs
to be suckled yet again, way beyond 
the age of consent, two frothing jugs, 
bile and honey, poison next to cure, 
one expressing a dairy of dissent, 
the other drugging away the pain. 

She soothes you to sleep with fairy tales,
fables grim to whet the spade, 
to dig the trench, to send periscopes
up all those sweaty academics  
and desperado intellectuals   
scoping you from their towers, 
all those elites howling for your scalp, 
stalking your corpus down Escher halls 
of privilege and power. 

But Christ, what if the unthinkable happened Les
and the barbarians cancelled the gig,
threw in the towel on pillaging Bunya,
slapped ya back, said good on ya,
even worse, dared to love ya?

Jeeze, maybe someone blundered.

What if the enemy didn’t exist,
or had done a Gallipoli flit,
pulled out on the sly, leaving you squeezing 
a figment of thistle in each clenched fist,
howling at a bucolic sky?

No lie, Les, but could be 
apart from the odd angry scribbler –  
the Last Tasmanian Poet gone feral,
carrying on a futile Thylacine resistance –
the Huns and Vandals have abandoned 
their advance on your books. 

Their Hercules couldn’t brook your tortoise 
over the distance, you set to mean a slog.
(Though the animal could be wrong –
Jeremiah was a bullfrog). 

To make more shrapnel of metaphor,
maybe your Turk has crept down to their trench
to find nothing but gifts – chocolate bars 
of critical acclaim: ‘Attaboy Ataturk, 
your salvos won the day!’

You stormed Normandy without casualty,
took Troy without a horse,
the fortress doors of Academia 
are unguarded and swinging wide:
‘but come inside, you’re on the course!’

The chatterers and cultural pashas
offer garlanded entrées, to  
Chairs bestrewn with posies, in 
lecture halls bedecked with bouquets.

On a laurel sash pinned a note:
‘sorry we missed you. Just popped down to the shop
for your latest anthology. 
Make yourself at home –
we’ve drugged the dogs, drained the moat. 
Everyone’s dying to meet you, 
if you haven’t another appointment …’ 

Fuck, what a fly in the ointment!
Universally lauded. 
How dare they queer your disappointment!

But how ‘bout this Les – if you finally 
win the dynamite prize, don’t chase us like 
the loaded dog. Just accept our surrender. 
You won the war, unconditionally even.

Though she still won’t like the terms 
your old Nanny, Nurse Grievance.

- Tug Dumbly 2018

Tug Dumbly is a poet and satirist who has performed his poems, songs and monologues on radio and in schools, venues and festivals, both in Australia and abroad. He has released two spoken word CDs, once won the Spirit of Woodford storytelling award, at Woodford Folk Festival, twice won the Banjo Paterson Prize for comic verse, and three times won the Nimbin World Performance Poetry Cup, most recently in 2017. He was runner up in the 2015 Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize, and recently completed a project writing 12 Christmas-themed poems, based on historical documents, for Housing NSW, which were displayed in installations around Sydney’s Rocks area in the 2017 Christmas season. 

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