(Reluctantly transcribed by his amanuensis, Robert Dalvean, alias Sancho Leperello, who dissociates himself from the author’s grandiosity).
I Manfred Clootie, alias Dracula, leech
Of the soul, I’ll ransack your poor head
Until there’s nothing in it. I will bleach
Your skull, extract your marrow, and unthread
Your knotted bowels – none of this in malice,
But because it is my nature to x-ray
And vivisect. I seek to fill my chalice
With your life’s blood, and then to walk away
Bearing within me that which once was yours
Alone, and is now mine. You’ll not be aware
That your essence now drips from my ample jaws,
You’ll never know I’ve eaten you, or care.
Your life has meaning now, you may relax;
For I’ve embalmed you in my own syntax.
Left to myself I’d lie in bed all day
And dream of food that nobody would bring;
Whistle sad songs to shoo bad thoughts away
And give myself up to remembering;
But I am not alone. Quick-spurred by needs
Of others up I get, dishevelled, lurch
To table; someone pours my tea and feeds
Me as I might feed a parrot on a perch.
And I go forth, unfruitful, multiplying
Hours by coins, compelled to spend my days
Divorced from being, endlessly trying
To glean, to gather … There must be other ways
For demon poets to guarantee the dinners
Of those who see them only as bread-winners.
They say I think of no one but myself;
But were this true I’d call myself a sage,
For everyone, it seems, from giant to elf,
Is cursed by altruism; this new age
Has gripped their throats. Note the unwillingness
To be alone, to tolerate silence;
See how they hate the soul’s untidiness.
They deny death, yet revel in violence.
Take me, they say, and make me what you will;
Ask me no questions, tell me who I am;
Ease my mental ache with a coloured pill.
So, if I am all self, then you should not damn
But praise me, Manfred Clootie, proper gent,
Pickpocket, poet, lecher, heaven-sent.
She, my first typewriter, shook and rumbled
As she worked, and I yielded to her ways.
We fashioned fictions. Frequently she grumbled,
And never offered me the slightest praise.
She died, I stored her corpse in the garage.
My next was like a Siamese cat, bored,
Aloof, sleek. We sought to fence the mirage,
Bind the rainbow, mechanise the word.
Her body now lies next to number one.
And they commune in silence while my newest
Masters me, soft, silent, strict paragon,
An electronic paramour, the truest.
I age, she endures, pedantic and terse,
Amanuensis, mistress, wife and nurse.
My seventh decade looms, and I have reams
Of unregarded paper here as spoil;
These flat white bones embody all my dreams
Enduring as I fade, mocking my toil;
Are inkspillers doomed to marinade at last
In Satan’s vats? That fate is not too stern;
For well behind us killers and pederasts,
Footpads and frauds must wait in line to burn.
We are the very cream of sinners, we
Steal from Father Adam himself the right
To name; our god is vocabulary.
We wallow in a lexical delight.
But six long decades! Isn’t it the truth
That in our dotage we misspend our youth?
I remember how lean and dry it looked,
The street I lived in, the mean and furtive
Houses, the plane trees clawing sky with hooked,
Arthritic fingers, lopped for neatness. Forgive
Us, they said, prune back our vivacities.
But I can neither forgive nor forget.
Life’s all vendetta against enemies
Long dead and buried, gardeners who set
Forks in my flesh and tried to fertilise
The already fruitful – I’m out to strike
Them. Although they’re gone, I can victimise
Their progeny, but not with axe or pike.
Such clumsy hardware looks to me absurd.
My weapon is the deadly poisoned word