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John Eppel

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE



[a sestina]

Possum swopped muses for Moses, Pound said,

whiles he forsook them for the living dead:

‘active’ men like Ullysses, men who led

their people out of the suburbs, who bled,

questing – for what? – the great bass beyond bed-

time stories from Uncle Remus?  Ahead,


he cries, ahead!  Brer Rabbit had a head

for sculptors; an inclination, it’s said,

by you and collaborators, to bed,

like prophets and dictators, the undead

women enthralled by il poeta ; bled

hearts for him.  Meanwhile Mussolini led


Pound from delight to ‘wisdom’, disabled

the lyricist, the trickster; plunged him head-

long into the trough of jewsury, bled

all compassion from his veins.  Cocteau said,

a rower on the river of the dead

is he.  Yes indeedy, It ain’t no bed


of roses living with old Ezra the bed-

wetter (ask Olga); the fascist who led

his inmates astray, led them to the dead-

end of the Cantos, from the fountainhead

of petals on a wet … best left unsaid.

Hitler, economics, disenabled


Il miglior fabbro  Possum’s fabled

words are tactful rather than true.  No bed,

no belt, in the Pisan cage where they said

you would be shot or hanged.  You were misled,

turning the pentameter on it head.

Long live the poet; the poet is dead.


At San Michele, island of the dead

where words and song and dance, not bodies, bled

the blood of exiles, you will find a  head-

stone marking the American’s last bed,

with his ultimate lover who had led

him to silence  ten years before, you said.


Yes, that’s what you said; it’s still in my head –

Beatrice beds in the land of the dead,

where fragments are led, where poems are bled.



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