The Young Poet at the Polytechnic
Ordure of the animals,
buboes of the bibliophile!
Bound for the Reading Room
you are mistaken yet again
for the Bright Young Novelist,
the name on tertiary lips,
the taut young thing with a
nice line in self-deprecation,
the midday darling, confidant
of treasurers, analysand in altissimo,
the floorshow at this year’s Grand Final,
the paragon of publicists, Booker nominee,
King Penguin, Export of the Year,
the chinless cynosure himself!
Everywhere you go it’s the same:
you’re stopped, sprayed, stroked, snapped.
Doling out marshmallows
the Furies at Darrell Lea expatiate
on metonyms in the novel.
Dry cleaners refuse all payment,
though they advertise your raiment.
While librarians titter in the stacks
borrowers rip the shirt from your back,
fossicking for sock, label and cuff.
A tram conductor won’t let you off
until you’ve autographed his fist.
Even when you relent, stabbing
your name like a death-wish,
undergraduates appreciate the joke
as they do your obfuscatory prose.
Who would have thought you’d end up
shaving your goatee for a neophyte
from the bush, spending each night
with the phone off the hook.
In dreams you’re stalked by
publishers in capes, promising the
greatest happiness of the least number.
Like Garbo, all you want is to savour
your own company. It’s not asking much!
Console yourself that eventually
his crabbed masterpiece will disappear
from the bestseller list (pipped by
Bradman’s Credo, Favourite Pavlovas,
Young Talent Time’s Great Epistemologies).
No sooner will unser Held return
prolix and doctored from Oxford
than a sententious mayor will dangle
the keys to Berlin. Watch him give in!
Then your lunchtimes will be inviolate again,
precious anonymities, undisturbed by
fame, interest, recognition.
© Peter Rose