Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Six Degrees of Separation from Shelley | clivejames.com
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Six Degrees of Separation from Shelley

In the last year of her life I dined with Diana Cooper
Who told me she thought the best thing to do with the poor
Was to kill them. I think her tongue was in her cheek
But with that much plastic surgery it was hard to tell.

As a child she had sat on the knee of George Meredith,
More than forty years after he published Modern Love.
Though she must have been as pretty as any poppet
Who challenged the trousers of Dowson or Lewis Carroll,

We can bet Meredith wasn’t as modern as that.
By then the old boy wouldn’t have felt a twinge
Even had he foreseen she would one day arrive
In Paris with an escort of two dozen Spitfires.

The book lamented his marriage to one of the daughters
Of Peacock. Peacock when young rescued Shelley
From a coma brought on through an excess of vegetarianism
By waving a steak under his sensitive nose.

Shelley never quite said that the best thing to do with the rich
Was to kill them, but he probably thought so.
Whether the steak was cooked or raw I can’t remember.
I should, of course. I was practically there:

The blaze of his funeral pyre on the beach at night
Was still in her eyes. At her age I hope to recall
The phial of poison she carried but never used
Against the day there was nothing left to live for.