Poetry: Iliad! | clivejames.com
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From a fragment of an ancient manuscript recently discovered in the ruins of Los Angeles. Edited by Clive James

Then well-toned Brad of the head wider in the jowls than in the brow, Brad of the digitally enhanced thigh, addressed his army of computer-generated warriors, saying: “Computer-generated warriors, merely because the city we besiege is suddenly full of water would you fall back? Are you afraid of Kevin?”

With these words he put heart into his army, but on the battlements of the city now full of water Kevin of the small-chinned tallness called up the goddess Angelina of the exaggerated curvature and the extensive self-harm, asking: “Are you with Brad or with us?”

And Angelina of the improbably luscious lips said: “First you must fight the battle, and then fate will reveal who is to be preferred.”

And Kevin’s lieutenant, Dennis of the maniacal laughter and armless jerkin, said: “What kind of deal is that?”

But already the arrows and the cross-bow bolts were raking the battlements as with a harrow, and at the gate the way was open for the chariot of Mel of the hair extensions and the deficient anger-management to enter, bouncing over the heaped bodies of the defenders.

So doing, Mel of the augmented coiffure and the inappropriate language, resplendent beyond all others in his kilt and chain-mail tank-top, cried out his war-cry in one or more of the many dialects of which he was a master: “Och aye, wetback trash. Will ye nae face my wrath?”

And his chariot, a Volkswagen under-tray with a Chrysler hemidome V8 engine, bucked and snorted, even as the Kawasaki jet-ski bucked and snorted between the knees of Dennis of the demented cackle. And stricken by the glittering shafts flung by Mel of the irresponsible invective, Dennis of the psychopathic hilarity went over backwards into the water and his life fled.

Now from the tent where he had long been brooding came Keanu of the impeded sinuses. And Keanu of the approximate diction, instead of saying “Dere’s a bob on duh bus” as he had been wont to say, this time said: “Dere’s wadder in my ten.”

And then to his side, soothing his forehead with elegant fingertips, came light-stepping Saffron of the massive appeal to women as well as men, telling him that the fate of the city depended on his valour.

Having considered this with the plucked channel between his eyebrows furrowed by the pain of thought, Keanu of the inexact elocution replied: “Dere’s wadder in my ten.” And Saffron of the slim wrists admired by women as well as men knew grief. But even as he spoke, Keanu of the long black leather coat and the blurred enunciation had risen into the air.

Turning his feet skyward, Keanu of the repetitive aerobatics made his way through the whirling swords of the warriors of Brad of the inverted skull, he who had trained them all in the fighting techniques employed in the act of love by himself and the goddess Angelina of the well-concealed tattoos.

Co-operatively shouting to announce their presence and hostile intent, the warriors presented their faces to be kicked one after the other by Keanu of the retarded speech and infinite martial arts skills until so many of them lay floating that they formed a pathway for Kevin of the tattered postman’s uniform and Saffron of the soft mouth desired by women as well as men to make their way to the citadel.

For on the steps of the citadel, leaning into the divinely inspired wind which blew only in the close shots so as to outline her bosom in its casing of chiffon and cunningly wrought wire, stood well-stacked, fabulously-bottomed Angelina in her gold cloak and ill-advised gold platform boots as worn when taking the form of the mother of Grendel of the ice-bound northern lands.

“Our cause is doomed,” sighed Saffron of the doe eyes adored by women as well as men, and Angelina of the unfeasible pulchritude said “Stick with me, yielding and fragrant one” as her inconceivably curvaceous rack palpitated, almost as if Kevin of the long thighs and the shyly retiring lower jaw were not there.

Then Naomi of the dark elegance and the irrational anger let fly her telephone at Russell of the neck wider than his head and the equally irrational anger. And her telephone was encrusted with sharp precious stones but his telephone was heavier, so both were struck grievously in the eyebrow and their lives fled.

And the Terminators fought the Predators and the Predators fought the Aliens and the Aliens fought the Transformers and the Transformers fought the X-Men and the X-Men fought the Orcs and nobody cared. And Natalie of Naboo had a new hairstyle even more hideous than the last but nobody cared about that either because her quest for new dialogue had failed.

And so it was that on a thin rope, from one of Ilium’s topless towers to another, swung Tom of the bared teeth and the built-up boots, but the boots were too weighty by far and when he landed he slid off the edge of the tower and began to fall. And Viggo of the pronounced masculinity said: “Somebody should do something.” And Orlando of the less pronounced masculinity said: “Yes, they should.”

But then the invaders faltered and drew back as the giant silver air chariot of well-preserved Harrison of the hat, whip and determined maxillary musculature emerged from the billows, drawn by three hundred thousand horses. Astride the silver air chariot’s vast and glistening back, Harrison of the even more fiercely focused eyebrows than in any previous scene cracked his whip and called for silence.

And there was silence, even from Mel of the loose mouth. Spreading as a lack of noise spreads in the leaves of trees when the storm dies, there was a deepening stillness from all except Dennis of the hysterical mirth. Restored to life by a breath from Poseidon, Dennis of the psychopathic merriment rose from the water on the dripping wreck of his jet-ski, and cried: “Don’t let Gary Oldman on the plane!”

So the water retreated, and there, lying in the mud, ready to be gathered up and burned, were the corpses of all the poets who had ever been under contract to write epics. A vulture tasted one of them and turned away.


Standpoint, June 2011