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N e t a d e l i c a

BBC Commission...

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) recently commissioned me to write a poem for the popular evening slot on BBC Radio One, the Mark Radcliffe programme. They did this in the novel way of, during Mark Radcliffe's programme, inviting all listeners to submit a 15-word poem containing the word "table", for Simon Armitage's regular poetry slot within the programme. Why they disguised their request of my work with this public invitation may remain a secret forever, but my work, and my work alone, is surely what they sought.

I set to work composing the most insightful and beautiful 15-word poem with the word "table" in it that the world had ever seen, sure in my heart that future generations of scholars would seize upon it as the definitive statement of the late Twentieth Century condition. How proud my great grandchildren would be, to hear how their great grandfather had directed literary thought over the preceding years, how his work had caused great rifts in the intelligensia of the early Twenty First Century and then, through the new interpretative thinking his work had inspired, healed those rifts!

The realisation that, maybe, I held the key that would unlock the door that might lead, through a virgin corridor, to the beginning of a new dawn of thought-era was almost incomprehensible, almost too great. I had to find that key. I had to write that poem.

Years compressed into months, months into days, and days into, magically, mere seconds as I let forth a stream of shit^H^H^H^H consciousness onto paper. The time passed by in a flash, my mind unravelled, and my body was ravaged by those awful seconds. I can remember almost nothing from that time, yet we are left with the fruits of my labour. Strong men have been overcome reading it, their shoulders heaving as they fight to keep their identity, lest the power of this piece overwhelm them. They regularly have to leave the room, their only defence laughter.

With hesitation, I present my commission here. Read it as you will, for it may make little sense to you now, but be assured that you have witnessed a turning point in the development of mankind.

(good start I hear you mutter)
unfurled his spitoon of mince
and, wincing,
gathered a tribe of mice
among the pigeon-strewn loft
in which Uncle Fent, who died of a Poorly excuse,
once told me with his breath
of the time he confronted
the Devil
and died while defending
a family of mice
with the only means handy,
a table.

After reading the piece, Simon Armitage could only utter "Some fool's sent in a 15-line poem and we only wanted 15 words". Clearly, he was subconsciously denying the magnitude of that to which he had exposed himself.

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