In February this year 2005, I finished a series of poems based on the 10 Commandments. I have no idea what prompted me to do this, other than I was on a train and there it was, the idea. So I rushed into Smiths at Victoria station, because I couldn't remember them all, and consulted a children's bible. Well, it took a while, but was an interesting exercise, having been brought up a Catholic. Some of them are quite forthright, some ironic. This one came because I began to realise what a ridiculous commandment it is, given human nature, so I started thinking about all the different ways in which people commit adultery. This is just scratching the surface. It worried me, because it's basically a list, but it seems to work in performance. One poet I performed with said he'd done all but two. That was probably said in jest.
I have found it stimulating to write a series. The hardest ones to write were the don't kill and don't covet. Because that is what humans do all the time and because I suppose I didn't want to approach those ones ironically.
I hope these will appear in my next book. I think they will. Now I'm not writing much at all and when the poems do arrive, they come singly or in twos and threes. No more series for the time being. Two of the commandments poems have appeared in The Rialto, a wonderful poetry magazine based in Norfolk and edited by Michael Mackmin. I was grateful for that.
Don’t commit adultery
In a hotel room, rented flat, a friend’s place, beach,
car, caravan, your own bed, his or her bed,
the childrens’ beds, with dogs, that guy from the Red
House, your boss, on a motorbike, in a coach,
wearing that old leather jacket, after a cricket
match, in a tent, while your second child is being born,
watching a famous boxer do press ups in the gym,
while your first child is being born, after 10 shots
of Greek brandy, with someone who writes fan mail,
with your therapist, the priest, manager or director,
wife of your best friend, while your wife is having a
hysterectomy, because she has thrush, piles,
with your son’s teacher, when your husband’s in a coma,
with your son’s girlfriend, in the Pussycat Club, with a lap
dancer, while smoking a cigar or reading the latest crap
crime fiction, contemplating Escher’s prints in the Alhambra,
while your partner’s leaving a message on your mobile,
by e mail, live webcam, wearing stiletto heels, while your wife
is undergoing radiotherapy, while flying a plane, in Fife
station, with a doctor, over the baby listening device.