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Poem of the Week - ‘For a Plain Man’ by Marianne Burton

Posted on June 16, 2015 by Pete Hebden | 0 comments

We're always told that you should never judge a book by its cover, but you have to admit that sometimes a cover can give you a pretty strong hint that you’re in for a treat. Case and point, this week’s Poem of the Week and its spectacular housing, She Inserts the Key (Seren, 2013) : 

 

And behind the excellent cover, there’s some excellent poetry too.

 

For a Plain Man

 

For a plain man you have fancy writing.
It announces itself on envelopes 
in a fanfare of loops and curlicues.
Your letters clasp hands to dance galliards,
throw each other through the air, swooping
down lower than is strictly legible,
deeper than any teacher would have ever ticked.

You must have practiced it under the desk
of the village school that wrote you off,
with short blunt pencils and scraps of paper
salvaged and stored in the empty inkwells,
working up rococo scripts whimsical
enough to summarise the man you prayed
you would become, just to spite them.

None of it comforts you of course. Not
your florid penmanship, nor the fact that
you are now important. The child still sits
under an alphabet frieze in cheap clothes,
tight-lipped, trying to coil his pot hooks into Os
of wonder and praise. You can’t get back
to tell him it worked out. None of us can.

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