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I am Very Bothered -- Simon Armitage

Guest poem sent in by Nandini K. Moorthy
(Poem #1310) I am Very Bothered
 I am very bothered when I think
 of the bad things I have done in my life.
 Not least that time in the chemistry lab
 when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
 and played the handles
 in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
 then called your name, and handed them over.

 O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
 as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
 then couldn't shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
 the doctor said, for eternity.

 Don't believe me, please, if I say
 that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
 of asking you if you would marry me.
-- Simon Armitage
I stumbled upon this poem by chance and it sure proved delightful reading (Not
to mention the gush of sweet nostalgia that comes associated with school days).

The innocence of the 13 year old rips through the poem masking the damage
caused by his foolish teenage prank.  Neither the title nor the first two lines
of the opening stanza least prepare the reader for the anecdote the poet

What I thought was amazing about the poem, was poets ability to squeeze the
anecdote in fourteen lines (typical of love sonnets), with explicit explanation
of the incident, uncompromising on the humor and at the end, the shameful
acceptance of the act.  I assume the poets reference to the "burning rings" and
"marked for eternity" is part of marriage proposal that he discloses.   The
tinge of shame is also evident in the last stanza

Simon Armitage is a British poet and this poem is from his collection "Book of
Matches" based on his school memories.

[Martin adds]


That did nasty things to my imagination. *shudder*

53 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kerri Clarke said...

I liked the term ³butterfingered² too, as an old folk remedy advises
spreading butter on burns to speed healing, speaking further to the poet¹s
desire to heal his loved one¹s wounds.


Martin DeMello said...

This is Just to Say

I have heated
the scissors
that you grasped

a brand
you will probably

Forgive me
I was thirteen
So young
And so butterfingered


james crollie said...

You may not be aware of the old English country treatment for minor burns - to put butter on the wound - to which the term 'butterfingered' can also said to refer. Of course these days we know that putting grease or fat on a burn ensures that it carries on burning, thus leaving a permanent scar. It can be argued that the act of 'branding' which indeed is what the narrator in the poem is referring to, ensures that the thing branded remains the property of the 'brander' for ever, regardless of to whom the 'item' subsequently 'belongs.' So, underlying the 'innocence' of the childish act, and the cruelty of it for which the supposedly adult narrator still feels no guilt, is the additional layer of bitterness that marriage kills romance (the burning rings of which you speak) and the pain of loss coupled with the knowledge that his first love will always 'belong' to him.

It's actually a very sinister poem filled as it is with an unhealthy obsession for another human being rather than the pure innocence of first teenage love. Should you read the anthology 'Burning Matches' - so titled for the kids game of burning a match and telling a story in the length of time it takes for the match to burn completely from one end to the other, you will find many of Armitage's poems have a similar sinister undertone.



Vas said...

We have been doing this poem in english for a few weeks and i was looking for it to use for my homework, i like this poem because it is very different to any of the poems i have read so far i like the way that it is romantic but in a twisted kind of way i also enjoy the fact that it is not soppy or boring it is very intense and explains the way in wich a 13 year old boy proves his love to a girl !

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