Poem #30/52

Here is the 30th poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:

DREAR GREY PLACESnowclouds_by_Harry_Magee

Unlovely city
how dare you so tediously resemble
what you were every yesterday
beneath that painted grey sky
(as unconvincing as a studio backdrop
in an early Star Trek series).

Unlovely city
you ate your own heart out:
heart with a triple motorway bypass
cholesterol-choked heart of a country
of eternally constipated weather and politics.

Sometimes I want to scream
and make every building
in your pompous imperialist grid
stand to attention and turn around
to march south in close formation
and demand independence
from these litter-strewn pavements
and fifty percent more sunshine.

(they’ll shut down the secret cloud factory in Rothesay
the sky will crack open to reveal blue above
while ancient celestial cogwheels fall
the mechanisms of the whole masonic conspiracy crumbling
the breweries will stop putting chemicals
in the beer to make everyone vote wrong).

Unlovely city
You make me build another city every day
inside my head, just to escape you, to stay sane.
You commit arson on my imagination.

Unlovely city
You have ruined every umbrella I ever bought
And made me love you.

(-Glasgow, September 1999.)


This poem always gets a laugh when I perform it. Unfortunately, the loudest laugh seems to come at the second-last line, then nobody hears the next and final line after it. I’ve taken to adding in an extra pause, although on paper we’ll keep it just as it is, thank you. I should explain that Glasgow’s name is supposed to be derived from the Scots Gaelic “Glaschu”, supposedly meaning “dear green place”, hence my title is a pun on this and on Glasgow’s almost legendary bad weather. Personally, I think the tourist board should promote the frequent rain as an asset, on the basis that it forces honeymooning couples to spend more time in their room…. but that’s enough of that sort of talk!

It’s very ironic of course that I should be writing this on a sweltering hot day in Glasgow, one of so many we’ve had for the last few weeks, during what feels like the biggest heatwave since I was a kid. Or is that just the rose-coloured spectacles of nostalgic memories of childhood?

Anyway, by way of an accompanying image, I thought we’d use one of local artist Harry Magee‘s prints (the one inset here is called ‘Snowclouds’) which capture the image of Glasgow as a cloudy post-industrial city beautifully. We’ve got another one on our living room wall, lest we forget out roots! I suppose the political situation in Scotland has moved on since I wrote this to such an extent that the line “putting chemicals
in the beer to make everyone vote wrong” might make less sense. I was referring to how everyone used to vote Labour in Glasgow, making the council a kind of one-party state riddled with endemic corruption, complacency and nepotism. I’ve got no objection to Socialism, but Labour stopped being a serious socialist party decades ago, and are now well to the right of the Liberal Democrats. It is to be hoped that the blossoming Scottish Parliament will flush out the last remnants of these reptiles and the new generation of young people will create a fresh political landscape in Scotland free of vested interests and with enthusiasm for meaningful change and social justice. Oh yes, and a visionary energy policy free of the madness of nuclear weapons and reactors. Here endeth the sermon.

This entry was posted in 52 Poem Sequence, Architecture, Art, Photography, Psychology, Rants. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Poem #30/52

  1. Pingback: 52 Poems for 2013, 30/52: DREAR GREY PLACE

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