(Poem #105) Five Ways to Kill a Man
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man. You can make him carry a plank of wood To the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this Properly you require a crowd of people Wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak To dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one Man to hammer the nails home. Or you can take a length of steel, Shaped and chased in a traditional way, And attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears. But for this you need white horses, English trees, men with bows and arrows, At least two flags, a prince and a Castle to hold your banquet in. Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind Allows, blow gas at him. But then you need A mile of mud sliced through with ditches, Not to mention black boots, bomb craters, More mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs And some round hats made of steel. In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly Miles above your victim and dispose of him by Pressing one small switch. All you then Require is an ocean to separate you, two Systems of government, a nation's scientists, Several factories, a psychopath and Land that no one needs for several years. These are, as I began, cumbersome ways To kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat Is to see that he lives somewhere in the middle Of the twentieth century, and leave him there.
A simple, direct poem, neither overstated nor emotional, yet chillingly effective. The matter-of-fact tone, as dry as a news-caster's, highlights the horror of the deeds being described; at the same time, it suggests the impersonality which makes war so terrible. This is a poem where form is as important as content in establishing meaning. thomas. [Biography] Born in London, Brock (1927-) served two years in the Royal Navy. He was a police officer when he completed his first poetry collection, An Attempt at Exorcism (1959). Influenced by American confessional poets, Brock writes about family relationships, childhood memories, and sometimes shifts into the linguistic mode of an advertising copywriter (which he became in 1959). Suggesting that all poetry is to some extent autobiographical, Brock argues "that most activity is an attempt to define oneself in one way or another: for me poetry, and only poetry, has provided this self-defining act." His works include over a dozen poetry collections; a novel, The Little White God (1962); and an autobiography, Here, Now, Always (1977).