06 July 2010

Tuesday Poem: The Wrong Horse

The Wrong Horse

The pleasures of the text are the pleasures of spring.
Halter tops, tanned skin, buttocks
sashaying past an open office door.
You pack your books away.

The self is conceived as a structure of signifiers.
Thirty years at the chalk-face,
a dozen published books,
twenty to life in the M.L.A.

The forms of nature order themselves in codes.
Wine and juice, finger food,
a bound edition of Baudrillard,
a speech from the Head of School.

To repeat excessively is to enter into loss.
You will haunt the Library, play golf,
back the wrong horse
into the descending zero of the sun.

First published in New Zealand Books, Autumn 2007.

Tim says: The lines beginning the second, third and fourth stanzas are quoted or adapted from the works of, respectively, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), and Roland Barthes (1915-1980), all of whom were important precursors of or contributors to academic postmodernism, which flourished in university humanities departments worldwide between the 1960s and 1990s.

The M.L.A. is the Modern Language Association, the US-based professional association for literary critics and theoreticians, renowned for its annual conventions.

I used to work in a University, though I was never a lecturer, but I have observed members of the species at comparatively close quarters. Alison Bechdel's Professor Sydney Krukowski and her similarly inclined father also helped to plant the seeds for this poem.


Helen Lowe said...

A keen observational poem, Tim, but also one with "bite". Will this one be in "Men Briefly Explained" as well?

Mary McCallum said...

Wow. I love this esp. 'The pleasures of the text are the pleasures of spring.' A haunting poem.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen and Mary. It is another "MBE" poem (why wait for the Queen when you can 'honour' yourself?) - I see that I forgot to add to the post both this info and the Tuesday Poem link - which for those who don't know it is:


I'm glad you find it haunting, Mary: I think of it as being satirical, but as I'm just an old softy at heart, a bit of affection shines through.

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

This collection you're writing / have written is going to be a beauty. I love the restrained desperation in this - the dust! The bitterness.

Kathleen Jones said...

Really like this Tim - somehow elegiac.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Kay and Kathleen. I'm pleased that those who have commented like this poem; what's especially interesting is that responses to it are so diverse.

Kay, as an Englishman (by birth, at least) I think I can say that "restrained desperation" is my birthright, or as Pink Floyd put it, "hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". Kathleen, and others, may differ.

Helen said...

This one really got me Tim - nice work. 'why wait for the Queen when you can 'honour' yourself' - Indeed!!

T. Clear said...

I must admit that I especially love your comment "though I was never a lecturer, but I have observed members of the species at comparatively close quarters." A species indeed!