Poetry: John Marston Advises Anger | clivejames.com
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John Marston Advises Anger

All the boys are howling to take the girls to bed.
Our betters say it’s a seedy world. The critics say
Think of them as an Elizabethan Chelsea set.
Then they’ve never listened to our lot – no talk
Could be less like – but the bodies are the same:
Those jeans and bums and sweaters of the King’s Road
Would fit Marston’s stage. What’s in a name,
If Cheapside and the Marshalsea mean Eng. Lit.
And the Fantasie, Sa Tortuga, Grisbi, Bongi-Bo
Mean life? A cliché? What hurts dies on paper,
Fades to classic pain. Love goes as the MG goes.
The colonel’s daughter in black stockings, hair
Like sash cords, face iced-white, studies art, 
Goes home once a month. She won’t marry the men
She sleeps with, she’ll revert to type – it’s part 
Of the side-show: Mummy and Daddy in the wings,
The bongos fading on the road to Haslemere
Where inheritors are inheriting still.
Marston’s Malheureux found his whore too dear;
Today some Jazz Club girl on the social make
Would put him through his paces, the aphrodisiac cruel.
His friends would be the smoothies of our Elizabethan age –
The Rally Men, Grantchester Breakfast Men, Public School
Personal Assistants and the fragrant PROs,
Cavalry-twilled tame publishers praising Logue,
Classics Honours Men promoting Jazzetry,
Market Researchers married into Vogue.
It’s a Condé Nast world and so Marston’s was.
His had a real gibbet – our death’s out of sight.
The same thin richness of these worlds remains –
The flesh-packed jeans, the car-stung appetite
Volley on his stage, the cage of discontent.

(from Once Bitten, Twice Bitten, 1961)