A stolen poem

In Others
October 27, 2009

I found this poem in the London Library’s Summer magazine (I have a pile of magazines, I work through them slowly). I worry about posting the work of writers online without permission – I know Wendy Cope is quite against it – but as Clive James posted it on his own site himself I hope he won’t mind too much. And if he does, I’ll take it down!

In searching to see if he’d put it online, I found lots of scurrilous articles about James’ extra-marital affairs. Of course if these weren’t sanctioned by his wife (and some wives do), they are quite reprehensible. And yet this seems to me to be a poem written by a man who likes women. Which is an attractive quality in a man. So often men seem to talk about how much they dislike women and then in the same breath wonder why no woman will go out with them (and the same applies to women who say they dislike men of course). But this is quite the opposite of that.

A Message From the Moon

Clive James

Ming fruit dish, swirling Jackson Pollock tondo

From Wedgwood, just because you’re so much bigger

Than I am, don’t you lord it over me,

The frail outrigger for your fat canoe.

My seas are dead but I control your tides

And stir your women on a monthly basis

To their blood sacrifice. It isn’t you

That liquefies them for their absent lovers,

Churns their insides, puts highlights in their faces

On hot nights where the sun no longer lingers.

With my lost air to breathe they lie bereft,

Touching themselves for hours beneath thin covers

As I lean down to them and pull them open

Like little oceans I can close at will.

You think them satisfied but I know better.

Those men you sent me were too small to feel:

A pin-prick when they came, and when they left

One tiny splash of fire I hardly noticed

While they went home tin heroes. Next time send me

Someone who’s known me since she was a girl.

— London Library Magazine, Summer 2009

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