Nothing I say is entirely
untrue. I wasn’t like the boys
with blackheads, or the boys with brass.
When bigger kids would flatten me,
or when I couldn’t nod to sleep
my father told me stories
until the night-time lost its edge.
‘Robin’, he used to say, ‘we come
from the flower of the thistle:
way back in the long Tay River
of our blood is the man they called
Rob Roy: debtor, rebel, outlaw
of the glens…’ If Dad was drunk,
or darker-tinged and wounded
from my mother’s practised taunts
he told me our true ancestor,
his and mine, was Gregor MacGregor –
self-named Cazique of Poyais…
I fell in love with that word, Cazique,
though I couldn’t find its meaning
in any book my father owned.
It broke the shackles in my brain:
just thinking it or speaking it
made me taller, other – simply more.
The man I later read about –
veteran, explorer, confidence-
trickster – the stylish crook who made
a brazen fortune selling bonds
to settlers in a republic
little more than mud and flies –
he was the dream-song of myself.
My father often told me this:
folks are stupid when times are good
and hope breeds fools like beef draws flies…
I’ve had my share of boom and bust,
and now the times have bottomed out
I’m the Cazique of Mexborough –
mucky St Helena of my mind.
I have a plan and all I need
is half of everything you own.
Listen to Matthew Clegg reading this poem at the Sheffield launch of Cazique:
‘Cazique’ is the title poem of Matthew Clegg’s new collection.You can order the book securely by clicking on the relevant PayPal button below.
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