DEATH TO TYRANTS

Six months to plan and that was the best he could come up with? “Lure them into Tripoli, fight, lose, flee.” It’s looking increasingly certain that there is no great trap waiting to spring – the escape of Saif al-Islam wasn’t the prelude to some gloriously gruesome ambush where thousands of defected soldiers turned out not to have defected after all; the water-supply seems not to have been poisoned; the journalists at The Rixos Hotel weren’t used as human-shields or hostages; while the fighting that continues, with its snipers and Scuds, seems desperate and uninspired. Compare the siege of Tripoli with the siege of Misrata! Which means that Gaddafi’s strategic awareness finally went as deep as: “My people love me!”

Of course one of the many pleasures of watching dictators being toppled is knowing that, in the end, the bitter end, there must have been that realisation: “Not only do my people not love me, but they never were ‘my’ people.”

Good luck to the men and women of Libya! Let’s hope they don’t learn the hard way that “democracy” = “dictatorship” except and unless where preceded by a word like “constitutional,” “Jeffersonian,” etc.

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WRITER’S BLOCK

My fingers sit like ten Zen monks on the edge of this table,
The spirit is willing but those fingers are unable
To rise to raise this blue biro to write a single thing,
All the pens are poison all the paper’s Snow White sleeping
Yeah this paper in front of me attains the Clear Light of the Void:
I should be blissed-out enlightened but actually I’m annoyed,
I don’t want whiteness! I want words instead!
But one hand t-t-t-tapping taps not even claptrap from my head,
No, Trappist discourse is the disorder of the day:
Nothing to say, nothing to say, I’ve got nothing to say!
So I’ll get up sit down get up again I’ll make me a quick ten cups of tea,
Instead of troubling to double my efforts I’ll wonder about a certain tree
Yeah if that tree falls in a forest does it make a sound,
As it groans and splinters creaking crashing to the ground
Or is it drowned out by the brag of the chainsaw that brings it down,
By the mushers that mush it up, the lorries that take it to my town
To sit on shelves in shops, five hundred sheets of A4;
To be bought by me and carried tenderly through my door
Because I want the world to know my name! but how can you impress
People with volume after volume of emptiness?
I rue those wasted nights sat drinking in The Garbage Inn,
How hard can it be to think up just one original sin?
How hard can it be to melt Snow White with a lightbulb like this? [DING!]
How hard… Ooooh ten cups of tea… I really need a piss!
I rush to the toilet but I’m afraid I have to say
The toilet-seat put me down there was something in the way
It bowled me over with its porcelain purity,
Kinda felt like it was lavving at me
Yeah it was bogging me out, it was yanking my chain,
I’m out of there quick and back to work again
But no I cannot face that paper, that unspeakable curse:
The negative of a photo of the death of the universe.
Cumulonimbus mind! – perhaps the calm before the brainstorm
Because I do now have just one idea albeit kinda lukewarm
But the more I think about it the more I think, Okay,
I’ll do what every genius does or so they say:
Plagiarise… and… shine!
I hurry to my shelves, I grab a dozen books of mine.
This tea-leaf’ll tell you the future: the future belongs to me,
As do the contents of these books… but these books are empty.
Virgo intacta pages, missing ink,
Not a comma, not a full-stop, I cannot think
What has happened? Where’s it gone? Where has Shakespeare gone?
Where’s Dante? Where’s Borges? How can the world be so wrong?
Blank verse, the lot of it, from Auden back to Ovid;
The encyclopedia’s empty and the dictionary’s deserted
And as for this one here well I can barely bear to look,
But yes I see flipping speechless through the phone-book
That there’s no-one at all, and they live on no road
And they have no phone-number and no post-code!
It doesn’t make sense; I have to see I have to be sure
That I still exist, so I run out the front-door:
Well my street’s the same as ever, it’s reassuring to see;
I figure I’ll stretch my legs (a classic displacement-activity);
It’s a bright sunny day! but not on this side of the clouds,
To my left are terraced houses, in front of me the pavement, dog-fouled,
To my right a row of cars claustrophobing along,
And as I walk past them I realise: something is wrong.
It takes a while to notice, it takes a while to be sure
But yeah: their registration-plates: blank rectangles, nothing more.
What could make absence of it all? What could it mean?
See that street-sign on the corner there it might as well have been
A finger pressed to lips; I walk faster and faster,
From windows comes a TV flicker but not so much as canned laughter;
I turn onto a bigger road, the main road into town:
Scores and scores of men and women are standing around
Saying nothing.
Everyone stares sullenly there’s a vague threat of violence,
Every relationship breaks under the weight of this great awkward silence,
Mouths have never felt so hollow as they do today:
Nothing to say, nothing to say, we’ve got nothing to say!
Neither do the signs and posters from one shop to the next:
It seems like every last product is now sponsored by Tippex,
And on everybody’s clothes there’s not one slogan to be seen,
Not a NIKE not an ADIDAS not even an A for ANARCHY,
While up on billboards the adverts seem to say
In their minimalist way that it’s Buy Nothing Day;
Out of nervousness however we still press phones to our heads,
Silly little phones into which nothing can be said,
Still it helps to distract us, yeah we cling to old habits,
We cling to empty-as-ever tabloids fitted with pics of assorted tits;
Past the bus-station I see there’s the same silent-treatment,
Numberless buses chugging up well who can tell where they went
Or where they’ve been or where they’ll stop or how much might be the fare?
No-one gets onto the buses, they just don’t dare,
They stay still in their queues, I guess they’ll queue there forever
As meanwhile in the supermarket shoppers wonder whether
This plain tin they’ve picked up might be a tin of peas?
They gesture in vain to the shop-assistant but the best she can do is sneeze,
Nothing has ingredients, there’s no price-tag, no brand,
It’s the “No Logo” dream but it all looks bleached and bland,
I keep walking; I reach the edge of town:
There’s one hope left to lift me up from this down.
I arrive at the bookstore, you know the one I mean,
The corporate-owned chain-bookstore trying to part of the coffeeshop indy scene,
I step in through those glass doors, quiet frankly I don’t fancy my luck,
Inside mutebuttoned-down souls are similarly dumbstruck
But they bustle anyway, it seems everyone wants a copy
Of the new best-seller, it’s the autobiography
Of a guy who against adversity became a TV chef
Then against adversity managed to join the SAS,
He teamed up against Islam with a ganglord who loved his muvver
And who’d once been a finalist on “Celebrity Big Brother,”
They did some stuff and things, they did that, they did this,
They went blah-blah-blah-blah-blah until the inevitable shocking twist.
Okay so I was wrong I’ll confess:
It turns out people will swoon for volumes of emptiness.
I get out of there, back onto the unearthly shushed streets,
I notice that the Internet café – “Trick Or Tweet” –
Is closing, ditto the hairdressers, the library too:
Well in this absolute hush what’s left for a librarian to do?
Yeah what can they do, minus reading and writing?
They’ll have to take up something new, maybe cage-fighting?
Emptyheading home I can see things are getting worse:
Maybe this really is the heat-death of the universe:
There’re some subjects verbing objects, there’s an indescribable hat
Worn by an indescribable man… who’s stroking a cat… on a mat…
And the mat’s no particular colour: even colour’s gone ex-tinct,
It’s getting harder and harder and harder to think.
Home at last! My bedroom: something dangling from the wall;
Okay I will get some writing done today after all!
Cos pinned to that wall’s this paper, one of twelve sheets
On which are squares in rows and columns, nice and neat,
Yeah rows and columns of boxes, thirty of them or so,
In one of which I scrawl the only letter I still know,
Yeah with my pen I “X” my day away:
Fuck! Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something to say.