Monday, May 5, 2008

Tonight at Noon

Today I thought I’d share a poem that have a very strong memory attached for me.

By Adrian Henri

Tonight at noon
Supermarkets will advertise 3p extra on everything
Tonight at noon
Children from happy families will be sent to live in a home
Elephants will tell each other human jokes
America will declare peace on Russia
World War I generals will sell poppies on the street on November 11th
The first daffodils of autumn will appear
When the leaves fall upwards to the trees

Tonight at noon
Pigeons will hunt cats through city backyards
Hitler will tell us to fight on the beaches and on the landing fields
A tunnel full of water will be built under Liverpool
Pigs will be sighted flying in formation over Woolton
And Nelson will not only get his eye back but his arm as well
White Americans will demonstrate for equal rights
In front of the Black house
And the monster has just created Dr. Frankenstein

Girls in bikinis are moonbathing
Folksongs are being sung by real folk
Art galleries are closed to people over 21
Poets get their poems in the Top 20
There's jobs for everybody and nobody wants them
In back alleys everywhere teenage lovers are kissing in broad daylight
In forgotten graveyards everywhere the dead will quietly bury the living
You will tell me you love me
Tonight at noon

The first time I heard this, it was being read by a man who is a fellow teacher and poetry-lover. He has the same basic taste in poetry as me and tends to like the humorous side of things; so when he started reading this poem and the first few paradoxes were in my ears, I started to chuckle. As the poem progressed, and I heard them continue, and some were funny (“and the monster has just created Dr. Frankenstein”) and some were more social commentary (“white Americans will demonstrate for equal rights/ in front of the Black house).

But than that last couple lines. Oh my. It hit me like the proverbial ton of proverbial bricks. “Oh,” I yelled in my brain. “Oh, it’s a love poem!” I absolutely did NOT see it coming, but now, looking back, it all makes perfect sense. The speaker is talking about all of these things because he/she knows that there is no chance that his/her love will ever return. So it’s the whole “when pigs fly” cliché coming back in a new, original way. How great!

The whole theme of unrequited love is everywhere in poetry, but it’s rare for it come be told in such a surprising way. It’s difficult to write a love poem, and I always say that it’s the hardest topic to write about because it’s so personal yet so universal, so when I find one that is as innovative and powerful as this I tend to like it all that much more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Been listening to Mr. Henri and the Amazing Adventures of the Liverpool Scene this fourth of July. What a pleasure...And it was midsummer, forever.