Simon Armitage is one of Britain's most respected poets. He is considered Philip Larkin's successor in both the easy brilliance of his verse and the national acclaim he has received. His subjects have ranged from yardwork to politics, from the fidelity of dogs to the negotiations of lovers. A selection of poetry that is wry, unpretentious, and constantly inventive, The Shout collects Armitage's best work from the past three decades and includes many of his most recent poems.
Man with a Golf Ball Heart
They set about him with a knife and fork, I heard,
and spooned it out. Dunlop, dimpled, perfectly hard.
It bounced on stone but not on softer ground-they made
a note of that. They slit the skin-a leathery,
rubbery, eyelid thing-and further in, three miles
of gut or string, elastic. Inside that, a pouch
or sac of pearl-white balm or gloss, like Copydex.
It weighed in at the low end of the litmus test
but wouldn't burn, and tasted bitter, bad, resin
perhaps from a tree or plant. And it gave off gas
that caused them all to weep when they inspected it.
That heart had been an apple once, they reckoned. Green.
They had a scheme to plant an apple there again
beginning with a pip, but he rejected it.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
SIMON ARMITAGE has published ten collections of poetry, for which he has won numerous awards and prizes. The Shout is the first collection of his poems to be published in the United States. He lives in Holmfirth, England.
We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face
I don't remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth,
I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.
He called from over the park- I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,
from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm-
I lifted an arm.
He left town, went on to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.
Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.
Which reminds me. He appeared
at noon, asking for water. He'd walked from town
after losing his job, leaving a note for his wife and his brother
and locking his dog in the coal bunker.
We made him a bed
and be slept till Monday.
A week went by and he hung up his coat.
Then a month, and not a stroke of work, a word of thanks,
a farthing of rent or a sign of him leaving.
One evening he mentioned a recipe
for smooth, seedless gooseberry sorbet
but by then I was tired of him: taking pocket money
from my boy at cards, sucking up to my wife and on his last night
sizing up my daughter. He was smoking my pipe
as we stirred his supper.
Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over that razor's edge
between something and nothing, between
one and the other.
I could have told him this
but didn't bother. We ran him a bath
and held him under, dried him off and dressed him
and loaded him into the back of the pick-up.
Then we drove without headlights
to the county boundary,
dropped the tailgate, and after my boy
had been through his pockets we dragged him like a mattress
across the meadow and on the count of four
threw him over the border.
This is not general knowledge, except
in gooseberry season, which reminds me, and at the table
I have been known to raise an eyebrow, or scoop the sorbet
into five equal portions, for the hell of it.
I mention this for a good reason.
Copyright © 2005 by Simon Armitage
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