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Kevin Higgins – Advice To A Modern Odysseus

Kevin Higgins LE P&W February 2019

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Advice To A Modern Odysseus, Kevin Higgins

Kevin Higgins has published seven collections of poems The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost in the Lobby (2014), The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins (2016), The Minister for Poetry Has Decreed (2016), and Song of Songs 2.0: New and Selected Poems (2017). The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most read living poet in Ireland. His poems have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Times (UK), The Independent, The Daily Mirror, Hot Press magazine, on Tonight With Vincent Browne and read aloud by film director Ken Loach at a political meeting in London. Kevin’s eighth poetry collection, Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital, will be published by Salmon Poetry in June.


Advice To A Modern Odysseus

after Homer

Spend hours convincing yourself the object of your lust
is the sort who takes milk in her Bovril and probably
eats cold Brussels sprouts by the basin load;
though even if she did,  you know
it wouldn’t matter in the least.

When you think of texting her,
employ local youths to tie you
to the nearest available electric fence
and leave you there. When
you eventually wriggle free

and still can’t stop picturing her
pay your neighbours – the entire street –
in advance to arrange an orchestra
of chainsaws to block out
any possibility of her.

Join the Workers Revolutionary Party –
Lower Salthill branch – and spend
the next fifteen years racing about the place, saying the words
hegemonic, neoliberal, neo-colonialist
until no one anywhere will talk to you.

And when even this fails to kill your want
ask a kindly nun to drive a forklift truck
angrily over first your left
then your right foot.

When you come round in hospital
still muttering her name,
become a small time religious fanatic
and spend your evenings wisely
going door to door flogging
your own personal Jesus or Satan.

Behind the wife’s back,
smuggle yourself in a taxi to the vet –
bringing the cat along for moral support –
and beg him to apply his trusty wire cutter
to your troublesome bit.

And when he refuses, publicly volunteer
to unblock free of charge other people’s sewers
(any time of the day or night)
to remind your nostrils what everything
in the end turns into.

The last still functioning part of Hell

after Zbigniew Herbert

When the last murderer
of underaged boys and girls
has been sent out the gate
with a long-tongued kiss and handshake
from Mephistopheles.
When the Right Honourable
Boris Johnson, Gary Glitter,
the Boston Strangler, every former
U.S. Secretary of State, and even
your local traffic warden
have all been exonerated
by whichever devil is available
to sign the release form that day.
The last remaining
occupants of Hell will not, as one might expect,
be the assembled remnants of the Waffen SS,
the entire court of King Henry VIII,
or Michelle Obama’s publisher,
but those who practice
false modesty on social media. Who type things like

I can’t believe this is happening
to little old me. Who are humbled 
by each of their own microscopic
achievements. Who are secretly
Napoleon without the talent,
the Emperor Caligula without the orgies
to which there was at least a chance
you might have been invited.

It is written that they will have
their teeth knocked out with cricket bats,
their faces erased with wildly angry Brillo pads,
their finger-prints scrubbed off with Potassium Hydroxide
and be made eternally circle
what looks like Trafalgar Square,

carrying signs that shout:
A lot to be modest about.


After the terrible events earlier

Days like this, our very way of life
(and death) under attack we realise
we are in this together: your pet assassin, Fang,
and the mouse whose corpse
she dumped on the doorstep this morning;

the sunlit girl playing hopscotch
in the school playground, and the man
across the road watching her intently
and sweating small waterfalls into
his vastly experienced cheap grey overcoat;

the widow in the dress she’ll wear
in her own coffin and the funeral director
his head tilted to indicate
how sad he is to be taking the last of her money;

the aid agency official on an all-expenses
paid trip to Phnom Penh
and the escort struggling for her breath
under his shuddering bulk;

the senile old dear putting out her budgie, Harry,
for the night and the burglar who’s coming
to cave her skull in with a hatchet;

the supermarket majority shareholder
looking out his hotel window
at the moon over Lake Geneva
and the checkout assistant with holes in both her shoes
whose soul he quietly owns.

Though rest assured
tomorrow, or the day after,
normal will be back to its British best
every paw for its grabbing,
infected self.

Until the next outbreak
of “terrible”, “sick”, “depraved”,
when we’ll be temporarily
in this (whatever this is)
together again.

And Now This Report From Our Arcadia Avenue Correspondent

Sources close to someone
I’m always impressed to be talking to
inform me that here on Arcadia Avenue,
if it is ever actually built,
the interest rate will be pegged
at zero point five percent,
except when Atlas or one of the miniatures licensed
to operate on his behalf decide
otherwise. Terms and conditions will be applied
like handcuffs owned by
a shell company based in some bit
of Canvey Island that yesterday
quietly fell into the Thames.

Not all will be admitted
to this blossom-lined haven.
For the fact of their exclusion
is how it earns its name
and is essential to investor confidence,
even if no one ever actually ends up living here.

That said, the hope is
in its purpose built bedrooms
the ladies of Arcadia Avenue
will conceive a new generation
of carnally constipated accountants,
and sellers of high end fire places
specially designed for houses without chimneys,
with the occasional freelance graphic designer
thrown in to give Gran a laugh
and,  every Christmas, recruit her
to the International Socialists
for at least five minutes.

For some, Arcadia Avenue is a rest stop
before they’re eaten by larger carnivores
who’ll joyfully drag their carcasses
as offerings to the one true god
who works out of an office at Canary Wharf.

Others likely to be born here will,
on reaching the age of majority,
rise up against those who find problematic
their overuse of the word problematic,
dye their hair pink and go screaming out the gate.
Only to return when Mom and Dad are safely dead
or, at least, buried
to redeem their inheritance
and put down the dog.


©Kevin Higgins