HappenStance, 2007 - £3.00 www.happenstancepress.com
Cliff Ashby’s A Few Late Flowers is a collection preoccupied with age and the process of aging. Given the poet’s advanced years (born in 1919), this is perhaps unsurprising. But the poems never lapse into a monotony of meditations on transience, thanks mainly to the wicked sense of humour displayed throughout. In one poem, ‘A Spent Force’, the poet has a half-seen conversation with a prostitute to hilarious effect:
Good day to you, Madam,
And spherical objects to you too!
I will endeavour to do
As you suggest, but my
Prostate gland is …
Indeed, it is where the poems leave their sense of humour behind that they begin to waver somewhat. A prevalent theme of the collection is religion—or at least the poet’s relationship with God and his faith. Compare these delightfully quirky lines from ‘It Being Lent’:
On the bar a small white dog sat,
Around its neck a Leeds United scarf,
Under its nose, half drunk, a pint of beer.
Lying beside the dog a set of plastic teeth
Shrilled out their clockwork mirth.
The dog it caught my eye,
The teeth cried out
This night your soul may be required of you
with the promisingly-titled ‘Bothered by God’:
He revealed Himself
To me as love
And filled my heart
Saw fallen men
Sons of God.
Self-conscious irony is never far away, but these sermonesque passages risk turning this reader off. That said, there is some delightfully funny, honestly recounted poetry here.