‘Myself Am Hell’ | Matthew Clegg
I’m perfectly aware how dead and black my eyes can look.
I have run over small animals in a great big Jag.
I have coerced uncertain lovers to drive a great big Jag
down country lanes, and they have run over small animals
and cried. I invested my second wife’s marriage settlement
into a business I broke, and when the bailiffs came knocking
I left all the debts to her. I have not reformed myself,
and have subjected those closest to me to my most
self-indulgent moods. I made half a million in six months
and spent it all in one. I have deceived, and forged what I lacked,
and brazenly bribed all manner of upstanding obstacle.
I drove my business partner to a place where suicide
felt like the only way for him to wash his conscience clean.
I tend to abandon those who will not follow me blind.
I am deaf to anyone who lovingly advises me
against my worst excesses. I have tendered false promises
to my own darlings, and to the children of my ex-wives.
Don’t listen to me; I don’t have your best interests at heart.
I have no shame. I will be talking to you. You will feel
I am part of your life. You will think all our plans are shared,
but you are just temporary, and I am turning left
at the junction and dissolving into a bigger picture.
I am ambivalent about the social contract. I expect
some of you are too, but you don’t vocalize. You,
with your carefully Facebooked, perfectly airbrushed lives,
and your quiet expectation that we should all contribute
to the cause of self-interest under cover of practised hugs.
Some days, I long for someone to turn to me, simply,
and say, ‘you are a very nice man’, but not often enough
for me to make any serious changes to my breath,
which smells of cigars, and Scotch rotting through a dead pig.
I am by no means a charming and casually adjusted
citizen of liberal views and immediate appeal,
but I have presence and a rare ability to persuade.
Moloch and Belial coach me in my unasked-for dreams.
If you still feel you can save me, you are wrong. If you think
all I want is to retreat into a thickening forest
at dusk, and forget my name amongst the loneliest birds,
then you are precisely the kind of person with most to fear.
More than 60 previous Featured Poems can be accessed via this index (many of these pages also contain audio recordings and short films).