Robin Archbold ~ Three Poems

robinarchboldIn 2009, I saw A film titled No One Knows About Persian Cats. It was about the underground music scene in Iran, and the persecution of its practitioners. It inspired a story, and the poem Abid’s Playing Air Guitar. In July 2014, the Revolutionary Court of Iran sentenced writer and poet Arzhang Davoodi to death on the charge of Mohharabeh, ‘enmity against God.’ He was co-founder of the Confederation of Iranian Sudents, which has been a major organisation in the resistance to the Iranian regime, campaigns against theocracy, and in favor of a democratic transition. He is one of many writers, musicians and artists killed and persecuted by the regime, and to whom this work is dedicated.

Abid’s Playing Air Guitar

Abid’s playing air guitar
sitting in a cellar bar in downtown Tehran
shades on a disfigured face
blind eyes focussed on some faraway place
where he’s hearing the music
got stumps for arms
hands are gone
but he’s fully groovin
body movin
got some serious internal dialogue going on
if some nosy mullah looks in
looking for sin
he’ll just see some mutilated blind kid waving his stumps in the air
having a fit on speed or crack or despair he’s supposing
but in fact Abid’s composing a song
he’s composing a song to God

He was a trainee suicide bomber
had a little wardrobe malfunction
lucky fella got a death injunction from Allah
got extreme unction but didn’t die
shrapnel in his eye
shrapnel in his head
hands blown off but he ain’t dead
woke up blind in a hospital bed
with a ringing in his ears
then the ringing got a rhythm
he heard singing through his tears
heard angels singing with him
heard angels singing with him

Two nurses in the room
Gita and Mahsheed
their names mean song and moon
two angels singing with joy
in a ward full of broken boys
a vengeful god’s toys
poisoned inside
damaged or died
flung aside
martyrs for a holy cause
just sign the registration papers
and the glory will be yours
noble story will be yours
while the laws that allow this
ban a public kiss and western music and women from singing
but there’s a song in every human heart and how do you stop the moon?

These girls don’t see anything wrong with a song
these girls don’t follow orders
call themselves the Olive Daughters
after the female suicide bomber squad
they’re listening to their own god
and they’re singing the music
they’re bringing the music
at raves in the forests below the ancient ruins of Persopolis
and sound-proofed underground bars in the metropolis
cranking out reggae, rap, jazz, electronica, the Veronicas,
trance dance seventeenth century Iranian poetry set to modern Persian Rock

hip hop, indy pop, be-bop, it’s all over the shop and the shop’s on fire
a magical musical Muslim jihad waiting for a messiah
waiting for a messiah

Now he’s a few years older
sitting in a packed cellar bar in downtown Tehran
Olive Daughter at each shoulder
shades on a disfigured face
blind eyes focussed on some faraway place
where he’s hearing the music
got stumps for arms
hands are gone
but he’s fully groovin
the whole room is movin
they got some serious musical dialogue going on
and the pilgrims they come from near and far
by foot and bike and bus and plane and train and car
to see Abid and the Olive Daughters rapping out a song to God
and Abid playing air guitar
Abid’s playing air guitar
and rapping out a song to God

‘Maximalism is a term used in the arts, including literature, theatre, visual art, music, and multimedia. As the term suggests, it is often used to describe a reaction against minimalism. It can refer to anything seen as excessive, overtly complex and “showy”, providing redundant overkill in features and attachments, grossness in quantity and quality, or the tendency to add and accumulate to excess.’ ~ Wikipedia

Just the way I like it.

In Defence of Purple Prose

This is my maximalist poem.
It’s called In Defence of Purple Prose.
It goes like this.
I hate minimalism.
On the cutting-edge coalface of escritery, wittery and wild wordsmithery in the salons and underground bars of the city, maximalism is on the rise.
Less is fucking less as we maximalists say.
That’s why they call it ‘less’.
If it were more, they’d call it ‘more’.
Just suck it up, Princess, and move on.
Shakespeare claimed, ‘brevity is the soul of wit.’
Tell that to Henry James.
Tell that to Oscar Wilde.
Tell that to JRR Tolkien.
Dorothy Parker said, ‘brevity is the soul of lingerie, dahling.’
That should make sense to anybody, regardless of isms.
I refuse to be one of the harlot harlequin herd hubristically hovering in their uniquely individual homogeneity at the postmodern minimalist altar—all those earnest young writerly types skittering about to produce angsty, artfully wrought, incisively penetrating, socially politically and ideologically challenging, but sensitive and insightful, and somewhat controversial and deeply profound of course, palely loitering skeletal prose that you wouldn’t dream of jumping into bed with under any circumstances if it was human despite your rampaging textual appetites.
I want my prose to be buxom, lewd, wanton, flirty, filthy and fulsome, oozing with lubricious lexiconic liquids and vulvulating with vivacious voluptuous vocabularic viscosity.
That’s alliteration—a minimalist wouldn’t tell you that.
Purple prose pisses on prosaic postmodernism.
Purple’s the colour of emperors and monarchs.
It’s made from red and blue, the hottest and coolest colours.
It’s the colour of bruises and really big thunderstorms and Purple Hearts for courage under fire.
It’s the colour prose should be.
Sorry … maximalists hate colourism.
Maximalists want rainbows not leaden skies.
Maximalists want the karma sutra not the missionary position.
Minimalists make shit lovers.
Remember that.
My vocabulary’s hung like a horse and I know how to use it.
Vastly endowed wordsmiths like myself will not allow the Crimson Pirates of our syntaxically sensational souls to succumb to the seductive siren song sibilantly snaking—and there’s some alliteration to contend with, you grammatical grinches—from the ruby-rouged bee stung lips of some scantily clad postmodern minimalist tart of a literary fad wiggling a pert little theory under our noses.
I’ll say no more on the matter despite my inclination to do so because I’m a fucking maximalist and that’s the end of my maximalist poem.

Cynical? Moi?


Yeah … well … I’m descended from boat people too, y’know
though not of the native, migrant or refugee persuasion
rather the oppressive British colonial invasion persuasion
and my genetic pool is a bright white Caucasian soup
so I have no occasion to claim that I belong to a minority group
or other disaffected apoplected societally disconnected troupe
I searched in the brew of my childhood stew for dark repressed memories
for a slew of sexual or psychological abuse so I could produce some anxiety and despair but try as I might in the wee, small hours of the night
and days spent sitting in my counsellorslashpsychotherapist’s chair
there was nothing there

The diagnosis was—and I’ll try to get the medical terminology right—
What’s Your Fuckin’ Problem?

My Fuckin’ Problem
I said
is that I’m a typical middle-aged, middle class white guy raised in a typical middle-class white family where the worst thing that happened to me
was sore feet from the huge pile of Christmas presents on the end of my bed
sure, sure, my dad was a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, narcissistic product of a postwar farming dynasty and my mother was a teenage bride whose spirit died from his shark sharp tongue and having way too many kids way too young and postnatal stress
her white wedding dress soon dragged through the mud and stained with the blood of crushed dreams
but it seems in my generation this was normal
we were the Good White White Goods Tribe so I can’t subscribe to a diatribe of elimination, intimidation, discrimination, incrimination for pangs of angst in my poetic peroration
I wanna be an angsta gangsta but I own a fuckin’ house
and a car that starts first time every time
my marriage is sublime
my health excellent thank you very much and as such I get no downie brownie points
I lack an existentialist sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world
I don’t do dense or sit on a fence until the irony enters my soul
I have vital white entitlement because I’ve never gone without
I was born with my snout in the trough and a silver spoon in my mouth
and even though I’m not rich I’m reasonably comfortable so I got nuthin to bitch about there’s no stress in success
I’m a well-educated eager beaver high achiever non-believer non-beleaguered diva
trying to weave a fabricated quilt filled to the hilt with lacings of faux guilt
‘cause that’s what slam poetry’s all about
two minutes of angst over and out
How’m I doin’?
Two minutes thirty-five seconds?

Oh well …
First World problem

© Robin Archbold