Gerald Variations

Maybe you have an empty room to charter to his likeness; but you do not know this Gerald by whom I am enthralled – because he renovates my mind with his very presence like a hardback anthology of insights I dip into whenever I am bedridden by a head-cold. And unfortunately asking him about it is out of the question.

Maybe you have a missing button that fell into the bouillabaisse; but you do not know this Gerald whom I cannot stand – for the esoteric arrogance of his every utterance is like a vital ritual in an obscure and terrifying religion. And unfortunately he is not here to defend himself.

Maybe you have exaggerated the dubious moral relativism of your township’s museum; but you do not know this Gerald to whom I am indifferent – for his trespasses have come to disappoint me, like the overstated hallucinogenic properties of a harmless dried root. And unfortunately I have spent all the money intended for utility bills.

Maybe you have recorded an album with a caged seagull and two agnostic percussionists; but you do not know this Gerald whom I love – for I have known the fiscal security of his patronage like a doctor’s hand against my heart. And unfortunately he will not extend the same courtesy to you.

Maybe you have manufactured and sold a range of oblivion-flavoured sweets; but you do not know this Gerald whom I loathe – for I have felt the humiliation of his scorn like fat spitting from a frying pan or fireworks in a celebration against me. And unfortunately I was too taken aback to retaliate.

Maybe you have had sex on a bicycle without sustaining or bestowing a single injury; but you do not know this Gerald with whom I am currently eating a hot dog – because we are both hungry. And unfortunately I have dripped mustard onto his copy of The Cloud of Unknowing.

Maybe you have sought his face in cross-sections of courgette; but you do not know this Gerald to whom I am currently dealing little deaths – because I trod in dog excrement on my way back from the post office. And unfortunately I am wearing shoes with an especially deep tread.

Maybe you have skipped across the rocks and broken your leg on an abandoned rowing boat; but you do not know this Gerald to whom I feel superior – as, for all his intelligence, he has forsaken his humility and humours my ideas like a cat toying with a shrew. And unfortunately the irony of the situation is lost on me.

by Luke Kennard

From The Harbour Beyond the Movie
Shortlisted for Best Collection in the Forward Poetry Prizes 2007

Luke Kennard is an award-winning poet, critic, dramatist and research student at the University of Exeter. His first collection of prose poems The Solex Brothers was published by Stride Books. He has worked as regional editor for Succour, a bi-annual journal of poetry and short fiction and as an associated reader for The Kenyon Review. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005.

Web page and podcast of the poem available at Salt Publishing

Review quotes

“When was the last time you laughed out loud at a poem? If you can’t remember (and chances are you can’t), treat yourself to The Harbour Beyond the Movie. Luke Kennard considers pressing contemporary issues – from comparative economics to journalistic accountability – via a wittily didactic brand of surrealism which renders the politics palatable … Kennard’s collection proves that humour is a neglected but effective tool in the poet’s arsenal.” – Sarah Crown, The Guardian

“To read him is to be startled into remembering exactly how exciting and energetic language can be, as it forces us to face the poignant absurdity of experience and to laugh out loud or cry in equal measure. Kennard is an undoubted original, driven by a mature intelligence and a giant wit, yet guided by the wisest, self-deprecating heart. A brilliant new writer you simply must not miss.” – Andy Brown

“Luke Kennard’s The Harbour Beyond the Movie is scintillating, funny and often moving.  Reading it reminded me of how I felt when I first read Muldoon, tuning into a new frequency, the frisson of hearing a voice for the first time: so eerie and odd and delightful – you realise that is why you were searching in the first place.” – David Morley