Mr Punch

This is part two of Mr Punch Dreams, my 13-part junk poem with illustrations by Maxim Peter Griffin.

2. A glass eye, with a thin crack running across the pupil

It’s raining inside Mr Punch’s head.
His bedroom curtains are red rags.
Judy is somewhere out at sea,
on a ship with hand-shaped sails.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

There’s one wife for you! What a precious darling creature! She go to fetch our child.

Mr Punch fears Jack Ketch’s gibbet.
It casts long shadows across his dreams.
The noose is the law’s reptilian eye.

There, there, there! How you like that? Nasty child. I thought I stop your squalling.

The hangman’s eyes roll madly like marbles,
like dead moons in headlong orbit.

– Where is the child?
– Gone. Gone to sleep.
– What have you done with the child, I say?
– Gone to sleep, I say.
– What have you done with it?
– What have I done with it?
– Ay, done with it! I heard it crying just now. Where is it?
– I dropped it out at window.



The full title of poem is:

Mr Punch Dreams
or 13 items discovered at the murder scene

A junk poem

I don’t usually like to explain or justify what I write, but I feel like writing a few words on the term junk poem.

By junk poem, I mean a poem made of junk. By junk, I mean scraps, odds, ends, rubbish.

Junk is also a slang term for drugs. And genitals.

I did not write the poem. I assembled it. Over several weeks I wrote lots of tweets about Mr Punch, Judy and the sadistic executioner Jack Ketch. I also wrote some longer pieces about them, which I published on this blog. All along I was really writing about the Bird King, of course, but this version of him has roots in the English psyche, something I wanted to explore.

I love fish n chips and the Sex Pistols.

Mr Punch is the archetypal punk, an anarchist, a toddler in adult form, a raging id.

The poem is a hymn to England, screeched by a drunken rabble.

I thought it would be fun to gather the various fragments I had written, organise them somehow. So I used a 13 I had already written as a framework, on which to hang the bric-a-brac, (dis)organised thematically. That piece was 13 items discovered at the murder scene, a crappy piece, but one which leant itself to the Punch project, for reasons I can’t articulate.

There are lots of voices in Mr Punch Dreams. Also lots of quotations, many of them battered and twisted. You’ll find snatches of The Prodigy, Shakespeare, Blake, a dictionary, the Three Little Pigs. All very English. And big chunks of John Payne Collier’s 1832 Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy. The poem is a collage. In this respect it’s not unlike The Waste Land. But where Eliot’s masterpiece is elevated and universal, my poem is base and parochial. It’s also a lot funnier than anything you’ll find in The Burial of the Dead or Death by Water.

What really made the poem, finally, were Maxim Peter Griffin’s astonishingly colourful, childlike, trippy, saccharine, nasty illustrations.

You should have a look.


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