The King in the Mountain

Carrying on with the subterranean theme of the last poem, here is my take on the potent nationalist myth of the hero who sleeps under the mountain with his army, waiting until things get really shitty up top to come out and reinstate the old order. This has been King Arthur, Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa or any number of militaristic bigwigs in different cultures and eras.

I think a lot of fascists see themselves as awakening a dormant national spirit which will wipe out the perceived decadence of the age, so I had some fun with the idea. It was moderately more enjoyable than indulging the terror I often feel about how things are developing in the geopolitical arena at present.

I started with a mental image of Nigel Farage riding into battle on the back of a clapped-out steed and took it from there…

The King in the Mountain

The king in the mountain
waits with his faithful retainers
until an arbitrary national unit
fatally shreds its moral fibre

his support team of analysts are
always busy
poring over febrile newsfeeds
scanning the diminished horizon for grim pointers
which signal the long-mooted emergence
of this ambered order
a narcoleptic bulwark of
heroes who trained long and hard for their calling
first during legendary lives in which they tilted
at whatever bogeymen history could throw at them
then during periodic tests of capability
where the codewords “up periscope!”
prompted them to sally forth from their subterranean repose
shivering and coffee-breathed
to half-heartedly chase cut outs of dragons around the snow capped peaks
before once more embarking upon their ageless sleep

these guests at a heavily armoured slumber party
consider themselves the six hundred and sixty sixth emergency service
but alas, the years have not been kind to the
crack troops of the cultural save point

their investments did not pay off
and the money which is left only gets you
Charlemagne’s beard
a deal with a mining company
downsized their cavernous domain to a meatlocker
their keen blades have perforce been pawned
replaced with litter-pickers
and a hoard of knackered nukes

but when the petri dish appears irreversibly fouled
and the sign on the wall reads
“days since last end of days incident – zero”
a chorus of vuvuzelas will summon this ancient cohort
and they will arise and set out on their emaciated nags
with flaking heraldry and rotting pennants
to recreate a miserable approximation of their glory days

lumbering liegelords Batman! they will be quite the spectacle
the living embodiment of mothballed values
seeking pledges of fealty from bewildered countrymen
whose forelocks will fall out before they can tug them

Inhumation

Following on from my last post’s megalithic theme, here’s a possibly over-ambitious poem which I completed this week. It attempts to link antiquarianism, the effects of industry on the landscape and death rituals over the ages.

I had a thoroughly amazing afternoon sat in the Stoney Littleton long barrow last year, a womblike space which has strange acoustic properties, silent save the occasional fly. It was a positive experience where I felt properly plugged into something very old…but the poem came out bleaker than expected and I’m not sure how or why that happened. Apologies for the sound quality of the audio – it’s recorded through my phone.

Inhumation

I am planning a raid on the territory glimpsed in the mirror
a temporary transfer from wood to stone
achieved by memorising the layout of black traffic cones at the crematorium
or discerning the path hinted at by the desperate signage
of dessicated offerings strapped to lamposts

I will follow this trail through the sagging high-rises
whose outlines are blurred by organic cladding
into sepulchral forests which frustrate the forager
where the giant thistle heads
of empty crows nests rest in skeletal trees

a cankered willow stoops to drink from the silted canal
which echoes with the soft knocking of
abandoned barges nuzzling one another
the rotten locks are permanently overtopped

I wish to shake the cold, dead hand on the tiller
To ask its owner for the words which will
prise open the burial chamber
so that I may present my gifts

this is the airless dream I don’t want to return to
yet this is the place which I always come back to
a wingless moth
circling the exhausted seams
spoilheap navigator, powered by the twitching pulse of unused tyre swings
looking to quietly nestle myself in the inverted turret of my tumulus observatory
to plot the smeared course of decomposing stars
and scatter worked flint for my ancestors to find

Castlerigg

Happy Valentines one and all. To celebrate, here is a megalithic love poem.


Castlerigg

the stones, the view
but foremost, you
momentary glimpse of balancing natures
a life less complex, distilled in this landscape

resting my head on the ancient rock
I close my eyes, but not to shut things out
on the contrary to open myself more fully to this feeling
your amplified essence, this circle we’re building