Do I just pretend to be open am I a charlatan at heart how sincere how honest when push comes to shove when the chips are down what remains that is true to my intent
Have I forsaken my promise my desire to be me openly faithful truly chaste a compassionate soul struggling for honesty and resolved to lead into the Promised Land
My poems are imagination’s creatures but still slave to whim to make-believe and the pre-determined end does this condemn me to reach a bargain to fudge the truth
If so then has that truth become another lie or does it just allow me a latitude a breadth of narrative which covers up the shallowness of my intent
I compromise surely make accommodations to reality inhibited by thoughts of entitlement feelings of worth desire to please to purchase credibility a mercenary versifier forever regretting that this facade must be negotiated with my better judgement not wanting to hurt protecting decorum and further weakening honesty effectively dissolving the truth
And yet rather this than face the rejection that surely would follow as always the truth that no – I am no wunderkind not tomorrow’s success nor Destiny’s child just waiting to be found
Sir John Everett Millais … ‘Bubbles’ 1886 – Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight
My Parents Kept me from Children Who Were Rough
My parents kept me from children who were rough and who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes. Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.
I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms. I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges Like dogs to bark at our world. They threw mud And I looked another way, pretending to smile, I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.
. . . by Stephen Spender
Spender’s disability of having a club foot and a stammer intensely affected his childhood memories, particular those of rejection by his peers. As a grown man and a distinguished poet and author, he expressed those feelings of early rejection, of being an outsider in this moving poem which, in some ways, is akin to Philip Larkin’s remembered distaste felt for the way his parents had brought him up (See: ‘This Be The Verse’ ). Spender regretted his parents keeping him in a ‘bubble’, protecting him as they saw it, while all the time he had wanted just to be ‘one of them’.
Some of my readers will recall that I used Spender’s phrase “threw words like stones”in my recent poem: ‘The Black House’ (q.v.).