ANDREW MAYNE POETRY
STULTILOQUY: THE EDITED VERSION
Thin conjectures. He coughed and turned away.
Was evasive. Or sometimes expansive
in registers we could not understand.
We courted influence; then found ourselves
unwittingly pitched into his orbit –
a no re-entry, Phaëthon-style career...
As we tried to form sentences poised on
the edge of a ceremonious fullness,
hinting at calm, judicious inquisition,
we gagged on inedible collocations.
Our teeth did not seem to fit our mouths;
the bite came down wrong...
We lost ourselves in long parentheses –
mazed in qualifying subordinate
(blunted) clauses – periodic sentences
we forgot how we began – misplaced,
Our self-belief buckled with our syntax.
When he said that he did not know this play
was it a ploy – double bluff or blind man’s?
Nevertheless, no question, he had made
his point: no point in carrying on.
The gestured stage direction was: Silence.
Later we found other men’s voices struck up
in our throats; hand-in-gloved, we dizzied sleights of
the ventriloquised never before attained.
We made perfect dummies. So it was that
‘inspired’ like those bellicose poetasters,
those liars straining after the simplified
certitudes of the hierophantic mode,
we prepared our report. (It was required.)
You might have thought him exiled on a nowhere
shore – at the world’s rim, among barbarians...
In hammering similes we next record
(Disguising our stammer):
He hugged the hard, black rock of his tristia
like a millstone
like a skull
like a child
like a growth...
(We grew rich in proliferating falsehood;
then tippled into the touch of bathos:
like a rugby ball.)
Let it be put to you thus – all we can
part-truthfully formulate. He proved to be
the veridical maestro of our tongues,
this lord of utterance. We had listened
too closely. Mimicking his obfuscations
we became his fools; then we were aping
some riddling dumb-show...
As we fashioned his silence
(he was like a silence we forced to speak)
echoes of our soundings made us forever
incapable of our own utterance.
We tuned back to ourselves to find something
missing. As you find. Of course, you hear it,
mouthing our logorrhoea...
If someone were to bring the branks to give
us peace, it would still all be swilling here
inside our heads – lagan, unroped, adrift.
He smiled as he undid our understanding,
leaving us doubting our ability
to express the simplest sense of who we are
and able to speak only like this.
Tears in the Fence (56)