Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

For some reason I have a great fascination with bad taste. This is one example.

In the Meat-Safe

In the Meat-Safe

There is a functional greyness
where the banal, but unusual,
has found a graceless permanence
that only the odd can admire.
Those collectors of cigarette cards
and worthless believe-it-or-not facts,
are the antiquarians of corroded
appliances who worship a dullness
as lonely as the fattest man in the world.

Solemn gaberdines, they cherish
the swear of broken wirelesses,
goose-pimples on zinc canisters,
pre-war electric razors, sticks
of worn shaving soap, bakelite
gadgets, enemas, ration cards,
contraceptive coils that once fed
safe passions in colourless rooms
chilled by utility furniture.

Most of all they delight in
the stubble that grows on dead chins.
Recording their drab histories
in back issues of Exchange & Mart,
they swap this confidence - that,
in the cheap hell of scarlets' accents
twittering in faded movies,
someone will sing of tinned kippers
and an ultimate boredom.


from Selected Poems 1972-1990 (Faber, 1993), copyright © Tom Paulin 1993, used by permission of the author and the publisher