Monday, April 2, 2012

A Poem for an April Day #1: "Slough"

April is poetry month, so here's a poem about the nastiest town in Britain.

April is poetry month, so I will try to post a favorite poem of mine on a somewhat-regular basis.  Let us begin with "Slough," a subversive poem by Englishman John Betjeman.  You may be familiar with this poem if you are a fan of Ricky Gervais's British version of The Office, which, I am a little ashamed to say, is where I first encountered it.  This is a lovely, wicked poem for anyone who has ever had fantasies of burning down one's hometown.


Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now.
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs, and blow to smithereens
those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town--
a house for ninety-seven down
and once a week a half a crown
for twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
who'll always cheat and always win,
who washes his repulsive skin
in women's tears.

And smash his desk of polished oak
and smash his hands so used to stroke
and stop his boring dirty joke
and make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
the profits of the stinking cad;
it's not their fault that they are mad,
they've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
the birdsong from the radio,
it's not their fault they often go
to Maidenhead

and talk of spots and makes of cars
in various bogus-Tudor bars
and daren't look up and see the stars
but belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
their wives frizz out peroxide hair
and dry it in synthetic air
and paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
to get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
the earth exhales.

                -John Betjeman

For information on visiting Slough, visit their visitors and tourism center!