Sunday, March 11, 2007

In which ToE sells out by writing a poem in return for beer

ToE received its first poetic commission the other day. (The brief was as follows: I had a great idea for a poem …as I struggled with trying to repair the drywall in the master bedroom. Something like "the do-it-yourselfer's lament". As I continued to get a smooth surface through endless cycles of mud-patching and sanding, the thought occured to me that in addition to vacuums, nature abhors a flat surface. I'm sure there's a poetical way to express that insight.)

It’s neither very long nor very profound but the rhyming scheme is so brain-achingly intricate that I reckon Duck owes me at least six beers for this.

There is a rhythm to it, which you can achieve by leaving a pause of two beats after lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 and 23.

Do It Yourself
for Duck

Is it just nesting,
or besting the neighbours
that commands these labours?

Lilliputian in scale,
In travail Herculean,
and lasting an eon.

The Stygian depths we have to plumb
behind the sink. The hammered thumb
turns salmon pink, and then goes numb.
And I’ve given my all
to that dumb drywall.

So I’m off for a drink.

“Well that’s what you think,”
replies the Trouble-
and-Strife, “With the dust and the rubble
you’ve left in the hall! And trust me, the pub’ll
still be right there - no please don’t swear -
when you’ve swept up it all.”

So I must perform a painful manoeuvre
with a dampened cloth and a stain remover,
And have to assume that, as seems plain,
Mother Nature abhors a flattened plane
as she does a vacuum.

And as I hate a Hoover.


Duck said...

Magnificent! The hammered thumb is a nice addition. I've done that and worse. I once managed to impale myself on an extruding nail. Scanning my memory bank of do-it-yourself injuries, I've just come across another rule for acheiving a tolerable equanimity: never take a chainsaw up a ladder.

I was hoping to delay the payment until I can reward you in person, though that might not be for another year, unless you plan to be in the states sometime this year. Otherwise I can ship you some of my homebrewed ales, as long as shipping beers internationally is legal.

Brit said...

It's ok, I can wait.

Peter Burnet said...

That is really very, very good. Is it the powerful coffees, the Old Speckled Hen or the glass of red that gets the credit?

monix said...

Excellent, but I thought I put my request in first! You reckon Duck's homebrew beats my chocolate cake, eh?

Brit said...


Thanks. All of the above, plus the post-prandial kip and a remarkable rugby victory for England over the French.


I would never say that, but I've already done one about middle-class priggishness.

David said...

Now you're just showing off. You know how selling out always impresses Americans.

Duck said...

What a gentleman!

I especially like the double meaning you found for vacuum.

David said...

As long as you're taking requests, I'm curious about the grammar of "innit." It seems to be used more broadly than if it were simply a substitute for "Is that not in fact the case?"

I will pay up with the beverage of your choice.

Brit said...

Yes, it's a corruption of "Isn't it?" (which is a corruption of "Is it not?" which means "Is that not in fact the case?") but it does have a broader implication.

First, you can use it quite aggressively, to emphasise that the point you are making is correct, rather than as a request for the addressee to confirm that it is correct. A bit like "so there!"

Second, youth slang allows you to use it after virtually any assertion even where "isn't it?" would be grammatically incorrect.
As in: "He went to the shops, innit?" Or "They won 3-0 away, innit?"

Third, and perhaps because of these two, you can even use it as an (ironic) greeting, accompanied by a snap of the fingers. A bit like US youths saying "Word!" or "Whassup?"

Duck said...

A beer for English slang etymology? David, don't bid up the prices! Soon he'll expect premium beer for a poem.

I've generally seen the term used to add emphasis to some angry rant on politics, such as "Well, its just an insider's racket, innit?", or "Bloody Moon landing just a waste of time, innit?"

Brit said...

I don't care whether the beer is premium, so long as it's room temperature.

Mike Beversluis said...

Why is this guy trying to flatten me?
Only to sigh and begin to respackle me?
The perfection he seeks in a Platonic ideal
It's just his rejection of the imperfect real.
Rivers never course straight down to the sea,
They curl, and bend, and swirl languorously.
And spacetime's meter is non-Euclidean,
Cause gravity tugs at the stellar meridian.
When I reach for the stars,
The stars reach back for me.

Brit said...


Wonderful imagery in there, and "non-Euclidian/meridian" is a corker of a rhyme.

One or two issues with the scansion, perhaps - would you be offended if I suggested a few tweaks?

Mike Beversluis said...

Oh definitely, it's a fixer-uper.

Brit said...

In that case, how about:

Why does this guy want to flatten me?
To heave me a sigh, then respackle me?
The perfection he seeks in Platonic ideal
Is just his rejection of the imperfect real.
For real rivers don't wend
straight down to the sea,
They curl, and they bend,
and swirl languorously.
And spacetime resists the Euclidean,
As gravity twists at the stellar meridian.
And from this drywall to the dry lunar seas,
When I reach for the stars, they reach back for me.

Mike Beversluis said...

Consider yourself owed a pint in DC for that lunar seas line.

Brit said...

Cheers. I'm going to save these up and embark on an exceptionally boozy tour of the States.