(Poem #894) Watch Your Step - I'm Drenched
In Manchester there are a thousand puddles. Bus-queue puddles poised on slanting paving stones, Railway puddles slouching outside stations, Cinema puddles in ambush at the exits, Zebra-crossing puddles in dips of the dark stripes -- They lurk in the murk Of the north-western evening For the sake of their notorious joke, Their only joke -- to soak The tights or trousers of the citizens. Each splash and consequent curse is echoed by One thousand dark Mancunian puddle chuckles. In Manchester there lives the King of Puddles, Master of Miniature Muck Lakes, The Shah of Slosh, Splendifero of Splash, Prince, Pasha and Pope of Puddledom. Where? Somewhere. The rain-headed ruler Lies doggo, incognito, Disguised as an average, accidental mini-pool. He is as scared as any other emperor, For one night, all his soiled and soggy victims Might storm his streets, assassination in their minds, A thousand rolls of blotting paper in their hands, And drink his shadowed, one-joke life away.
Yes, it rained today in Tokyo, and I conveniently left my umbrella at home, hence the choice of today's poem. Or poems, perhaps: for some reason, "Watch Your Step - I'm Drenched" always strikes me as being two different poems, lumped together under one title for convenience (and not a very good title at that). The stanzas have parallel opening lines, but there the similarity ends. The first stanza is descriptive, evocative, and murky; it explores (in loving detail) the conceit that puddles everywhere are united in a nefarious plot to rob us poor humans of our dignity (it's a conspiracy, I tell you!). The imagery is brilliant: Mitchell writes of "Railway puddles slouching outside stations / Cinema puddles in ambush at the exits" and you know immediately what he means, down to the noises and smells and colours, the soiled overcoats and the soggy socks. Add immortal phrases such as "One thousand dark Mancunian puddle chuckles" and you have a winner. The second stanza is completely different - yet equally successful. The focus here is on a single anthropomorphic entity, the Sultan of Splatter, the King of All Puddledom. A barrage of alliteration is followed by a telling phrase - "as scared as any other emperor" - which segues flawlessly into a suitably absurd (yet strangely convincing) image, that of a thousand assassins with revenge in their hearts and blotting-paper in their hands. Wonderfully, wonderfully done - Mitchell at his always-entertaining best. thomas. [Minstrels Links] Adrian Mitchell: Poem #28, To Whom It May Concern Poem #95, Nostalgia - Now Threepence Off Poem #211, The Oxford Hysteria of English Poetry Poem #337, Jimmy Giuffre Plays 'The Easy Way' Poem #397, Ancestors Poem #623, Ten Ways to Avoid Lending Your Wheelbarrow to Anybody Poem #810, Beatrix is Three