The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea

The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon Read Free Book Online

Book: The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Haddon
This Poem is Certificate 18
    When you open a collection of poetry or attend a reading you need to know that the poems you choose to read or hear are suitable for the audience.
    To help you understand what a poem is like you can look at the certificate it has been given. This poem has been classified as 18. That means this poem is unsuitable for anyone younger than 18.
    A poem with an 18 certificate may contain scenes of a violent nature. Carlos de Sessa burning at the stake, for example, his hot fat bubbling like porridge. Or Erymas, stabbed in the mouth, the blade smashing clean through to the brain so that teeth, bone and blood spray from his ruptured face. The slow death of a parent, often from cancer, is particularly common.
    There may be sex, too. A man may be sucked off in a McDonald’s en route to the airport, a babysitter may masturbate on the kiln-fired tiles of her employers’ bathroom and an arsehole may be described in more detail than is necessary. The word “cunt” may be used.
    In a poem with an 18 certificate the syntax may be knottier and the meaning more opaque than in light, narrative or straightforward lyric verse. A phrase may have as many as four different interpretations, all intended for more or less simultaneous comprehension. Conversely, when the hedged sun draws into itself for self-quenching and these modalities stoop to re-enter the subterrane of faith, the intention may simply be to confuse the less intelligent reader. Sometimes a line or phrase is used simply because “it sounded right.”
    A poem with an 18 certificate may be written according to occult rules which are not made available to the reader. A parallel universe may be assumed wherein the expanded
inkling
undergoes an
allusion
and, at the climax of
frogging, binges
in the
Bermuda.
Some 18-certificate poems purport to be translations of work by Finnish and Romanian poets who do not, in fact, exist. In others a lightbulb may be granted sentience.
    Like plumbers and dentists, poets are fallible, and the possibility of genuine nonsense cannot be ruled out. Unlike plumbing and dentistry, however, poetry is slow, frustrating and poorly rewarded work which fails more often than it succeeds and is therefore embarked upon largely by men and women labouring under a sense of almost religious vocation, grandiose self-delusion or some combination of both. As a result, many poems with an 18 certificate are written by people whose minds you may not wish to enter.
    The language of a poem with an 18 certificate may be denser and more powerful than the language you are used to dealing with. And though it makes nothing happen it may, like a piece of ice on a hot stove, ride its own melting into your soul and bring you face to face with the madness of space.
    It is an offense to read or supply a poem classified as 18 to anyone below that age.
    Poetry certificates are there to help you make the right choice.

Trees
    They stand in parks and graveyards and gardens.
Some of them are taller than department stores,
yet they do not draw attention to themselves.
    You will be fitting a heated towel rail one day
and see, through the louvre window,
a shoal of olive-green fish changing direction
in the air that swims above the little gardens.
    Or you will wake at your aunt’s cottage,
your sleep broken by a coal train on the empty hill
as the oaks roar in the wind off the channel.
    Your kindness to animals, your skill at the clarinet,
these are accidental things.
    We lost this game a long way back.
Look at you. You’re reading poetry.
Outside the spring air is thick
with the seeds of their children.

Nuns
    They’re out again,
flocking on the esplanade
like crows.
    Passing the nudist beach
they giggle into cupped hands
like smokers around a match.
    Some play crazy golf.
Some buy the less exciting
flavors of ice cream.
    Others lie in deckchairs
and seem unnaturally comfortable
despite the heat.
    Their ankles are
like flashes
of lightning.
    We come across

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