Friday, November 26, 2010

The man who played cricket with Wilson Pickett

When I was putting together A Tingling Catch, I came across a number of poems I didn’t end up using for one reason or another. Here’s one I didn’t use. It’s by David Flynn, an American-based poet, and was published in New Zealand’s leading poetry journal, Poetry NZ a magazine edited by poet/novelist/critic Alistair Paterson in Auckland. I felt as Flynn wasn't a New Zealand poet, New Zealand publication didn’t really qualify it for inclusion in A Tingling Catch. It’s a very enjoyable poem though and worth sharing here:


The man who played cricket with Wilson Pickett

Saturday night at the financial news annual ball in London,
the bureau employees in black tie and gown.
After a formal dinner,
a band ran onto the stage at The Brewery.
The men, middle aged every one,
wore gold lame jackets and sunglasses,
while two women sparkled in blue sequined dresses.
Soul revival.
The Commitments on a money gig.
Songs were Motown by the numbers:
Stop – the two women held their palms out like traffic cops –
in the name of love.

The face of Danny was glazed as he walked back and forth among the dancers in what he thought was dance, but what the employees thought was: Danny’s drunk again. His fiancé stood in one spot and danced, as it were, alone in her apartment. I had seen the foreign exchange specialist twice before: glazed in his kitchen trying to put together words to welcome me, and glazed while five of us stood during a Squeeze concert in Blackheath. A drunk. And a sad drunk at that. He didn’t smile, seemed not a Soul Man, and him only, say, twenty-five.

   By contrast, the summer before I sat in a Lewisham café when
Kevin, mid-20s, happened to park his mountain bike by the door.
Whatshisname, he greeted me.
Oh hi, I said, not remembering his name either.
A week before, the banker had joined us at an Italian place in the West End. He drank three beers before the waitress delivered the pizza. Keep ’em coming. You want a beer, David wasit? By closing, the waitress sang along with him: Olay olayolayolay, and the owner stayed late to cook us special slices, just like Kevin wanted.

On the train from Charing Cross to Lewisham Station he introduced women to men, men to women – Georgia wasit?, you know Timothy here? He’s just back from Spain – until strangers stood holding poles, slow dancing to the sodden sounds of Kevin the Drunk – When a man needs a woman. He knew two tricks, but they were popular. As long as he kept moving, the man would spread joy. But at the Lewisham cafe a more workaday banker smiled in his striped suit. When I looked down his mouth, through his throat, and inside his stomach, he still laughed and drank. He was saturated with silly.
A serious expression among the freckles: I never feel so British, he said, as when I play cricket. That’s the only thing I care about. I know who I am, you see.
Then suddenly: Waitress bring me another beer. Have you met Marshall here (introducing a pimple-faced man in the booth behind us)? He’s between girlfriends you know.
By the time Kevin died he would be responsible for half the marriages in Kent.

About at the financial news annual ball
the baldfatsquat lead singer
– That’s the sound of the men
working on the cha-ain gang –
introduced his band.
The drummer was:
‘the man who played cricket
with Wilson Pickett’
– Mustang Sally,
you better slow that Mustang down.
Even the bureau manager with his grey hair
sort of danced with his wife.
The editor of exchanges (Footsie, Dax, etc.)
raised hell in heels,
and a correspondent,
who had talked European stock derivatives all night,
hopped round and round the parquet.
The next Monday they would be all-money again,
even Danny, poor man,
swirling down his private toilet,
while somewhere else in London
Kevin spent another two hours
with a waitress and her boss.
He was a Soul Man,
British style.
A long life for Kevin.

Poem © David Flynn 2007

(from Poetry NZ 35 guest edited by Owen Bullock (September 2007))

No comments:

Post a Comment