Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry, Writing

Day 305

Funny thing of the day. Got a scheduled phone call at work from AA whom I’ve not spoken to for an age. ‘I don’t need to ask you how you are. I’ve been reading your blog,’ they said. That made me blush a little. And made me think it might be time to reiterate (and maybe post somewhere permanently on here) that these are my personal thoughts and entirely unconnected with work or who I work for. It also made me ask myself what I’ve been asking myself since I started this little exercise at the beginning of the year: Are my thoughts even worth reading, never mind expressing? Do I reveal too much of my real self here (or anywhere, for that matter)? Is this a confessional or a chronicle of fact? I suppose what is certain is that if I ever turn this blog into a book it will be called The Fragmentary.

There is a lingering sadness that I couldn’t enter my poem about (to) TS Eliot in the National Poetry Competition, because I wrote it straight into this blog earlier this year (16th January, to be precise) and thereby published it, rendering it ineligible. Especially as this is the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Waste Land (and I still haven’t found my Collected Works of Eliot’s, which has been my bible since I bought it in 1981 – it is probably still in a box somewhere and will not surface in the foreseeable future bearing in mind everything that’s happening and changing in this place), and the poem is a direct response to the first line of that poem. Mind you, it’s interesting to note that Eliot always said there was no room in poetry for emotion, denied his feelings for several women when recently published letters bear witness to the exact opposite. He was not a very nice man, by all accounts, at least not in his treatment of women or minorities.

How can you write a poem that’s not about love, or at least not driven by love? Even protest poetry, political poetry, is written from love, the love of freedom, the love of a cause, the love of justice, the love of the planet, the love of equality. That’s the most basic of emotions right there, and I always think Eliot’s poetry is one of love, usually discarded; his love discarded and broken, his life made uncertain, he made uncertain, by the pains of love he went through, by this conflict between his need to create and hs need to earn money. And even conflict is emotion, surely? One of these days, I will no doubt find a clever book that explains him to me, although, in truth, his poetry explains him to me in a way he thought and maintained he could and should never be explained to other people. I did read a piece by a contemporary poet recently in which she said that her aim was to adhere to Eliot’s principle of excluding emotion from poetry. I must admit I find that a very weird view.

Poetry is love.



The familiar attendant bends across to Aggie as she passes. ‘Everything alright? I mean, really?’ SHe leads Aggie round the corner, out of sight. ‘It’s not easy to overlook how he’s behaving.’

Another plan forms in Aggie’s head. ‘It’s bearable,’ she says. ‘My name’s Angela, by the way.’

‘Julia,’ the attendant says, shakes Aggie’s hand.

‘This is going to sound weird,’ Aggie says. ‘But I need to ask you.’

‘Go ahead.’

‘He’s playing a game with me. Wants me to kill someone for him.’ Her accent nearly falters here. ‘I thought I might pretend, with your help.’

‘That does sound weird. What sort of bloke is he?’

‘What sort of blokes are men?’ Aggie says. ‘They all have fantasies about one thing or another, don’t they? Delusions of power? That wish for absolute power over women? Or is it just me who thinks like that?’

Julia smiles. ‘No, you’re not the only one.’

‘Ever met a nice man?’

‘Now and then. Not often.’

Aggie nods. ‘Thank God I’m not that way inclined then.’

‘That makes two of us.’

‘I wasn’t coming on to you.’

‘Oh, I know that. I’m spoken for anyway.’ Julia runs her hands across her neat hair. ‘So, what did you have in mind?’

Aggie whispers into Julia’s ear at length.

‘Do you think that’ll work?’

‘I hope it does. That way we avoid a scene while we’re airborne.’ Aggie scribbles onto a piece of paper in the galley. ‘Here’s my phone number. I owe you.’

Julia rips the blank bottom half off the piece of paper, scribbles, too. ‘And here’s mine. I’ll expect your call.’

‘I just hope it all goes smoothly. Do you trust me?’

‘Yes, oddly enough, I do.’

‘Thanks. Right, I’d better go to the loo and get back to him before he comes looking for me.’

‘Why are men like this?’ Julia says. ‘And not to even realise you’re not into men.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘That’s the world.’

Julia smiles sadly. ‘Unfortunately.’

‘It will change.’ And with that Aggie disappears. She’s back in her seat more quickly than she thought. Five minutes, that’s all it took.

‘Jesus, you took your time,’ the robot says.

‘You can’t tell the time, that’s your problem,’ she says. ‘That was five minutes max. Didn’t you check your watch like I told you to?’

‘Why would I do anything you tell me to do?’ His face is surly.

‘You would if you had any sense. Do you have any memory of the last three hours?’

‘I was asleep.’

‘Do robots sleep?’

‘Valentine’s do,’ he says.

‘Do you believe that? Is that what he told you? I could tell by your face you thought it was just a minute after you’d last spoken to me.’

He says nothing, tries to take a surreptitious look at the watch on his left wrist.

‘Go on,’ Aggie says. ‘Do it. Not because I’m telling you to, but because you want to.’

‘Stop it, stop it now!’ His voice is a low snarl.

Aggie laughs, and leans across to him as if she’s about to kiss him, her arm curving around the right side of his neck, changes direction at the last moment, whilst her arm still snakes around him like a lover’s, as she whispers into his left ear. ‘Oh, the real Valentine takes over. You don’t want me to really wake up your robot and make him really sentient, do you?’ She laughs again. ‘Have I provoked you too much, Sir? Or are you going to let me finish your silly little game for you?’

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