The Swagger of Subterfuge and Shenanigans

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The BBC interview* with Boris Johnson yesterday after his visit to Darts Farm in Devon – where the Prime Minister bumbled out his critical political analysis of whether it is jam or clotted cream to be spread first on a scone – is best watched without sound.

To those of us who are still occasionally incredulous at the things Johnson says – the rambling, the incoherence, the lying – this may seem obvious, but no, it is to simply watch as he visually evades and prevaricates, but more importantly as he is throughout about to explode into giggles of the most arrogant and obnoxious pissing about. His just-in-check smirks are a fuse lit by a flamethrower.

There is a lifelong lineage of personal privilege and sense of self-worth that leads to this, but the more recent line of Tory Party lies and misdemeanours over which he presides gives him the immediate individual swagger with which to play this game – and it is a game. This stems from, for example, the manifestly mischievous act of the recent FactCheckUK Conservative Twitter site deception. Another planned stunt was pulled last night by Michael Gove [and if a doppelgänger wasn’t about physical appearance but rather insidious personality he would be the perfect BJ mirror] trying to stand in – OK, irony alert after that preceding observation – for the Prime Minister who refused to appear on Channel 4’s Climate Change Leaders debate. Even BJ’s father and jungle celebrity Stanley was sent along to add to the risible set-up and insufferable insult. And now the recent MRP poll giving the Tories a 68 seat election lead buoys Johnson and his team to feel empowered and more duplicitous and shifty than ever before.

In the ‘farm shop’ interview Johnson deflects with rude as well as smug sidesteps. Asked if he will agree to be grilled by Andrew Neil on the BBC, Johnson toys in response by claiming he’s happy to undergo interrogations and inquisitions, sit down and stand up by anyone – the exaggerated language of this indicative of a haughty contempt he holds for a perfectly reasonable question as well as the public watching this interview.

I think Andrew Neil pretty much destroyed Corbyn in his Party Leader’s interview with him. A bully and a Tory, the attack and focus was expected, but Corbyn didn’t handle this well, despite the hopeful interpretations of Labour supporters – and as a Labour Party member I would have liked this positive slant to have been true. I mention because one might therefore imagine Johnson would be pleased to have a natural ally like Neil interview him as well. However, it is also probable that Neil like so many other Tories doesn’t adore Johnson in the way Boris does himself [there is precedence, members of Boris’ family have similar misgivings] and would relish pitting his own sense of self-importance against that of Johnson’s.

And since writing this, as well as being no surprise, Boris Johnson has appeared this morning on LBC radio and is filmed gesturing to have a call ended by quite a vicious mime of slicing his throat [I mean this really does tell us something], and a less visibly nasty but equally telling interview is with his father Stanley on the Victoria Derbyshire TV show with him lambasting ‘the great British public’ [meaning the working class] for probably being unable to spell Pinocchio – he too laughing when challenged about such a ‘pejorative’ observation. Like father like son like a Tory Party culture of abject arrogance soon to be in power.

Ah, but it’s all just a game and a joke.

*You can watch the interview here.



I have been distant
most of my life –

actual miles, unknowing,
new narratives.

Memory and discovery
fight it out

and find it out,
clarity that survives,

haze, a retelling that
glosses or grazes.

Miles first then:
family and home,

roots as anchor,
moves not chosen

soon enough are;
a lizard crawled across

to leave alternative trails.
The unknowing is a secret

and a partially seen
then waiting for its doors

to open wide.
Storytelling is prose

dressed as lyric
sung by the drunk

and the lorelei,
various lines recalled.

A life lived
by this kind of précis

gets to the gist
like the exercise it is,

and the divide
is linear

if drawing as the illusion
of having arrived.

Unable to attend,
these are reasons

why, and distances
retold still are.

Nebraska 43: ‘when butchers shoot pool’ by Stacey Waite

sometimes one of them goes overboard
sometimes one of them gets drunk
sometimes one of them starts a fight
with a woman who looks like Tony Danza
sometimes one of them sinks the cue ball
sometimes one of them gives the other the last cigarette
sometimes one of them becomes the other’s father
sometimes one of them holds the pool stick like a rifle
sometimes one of them makes fun of the other’s side spin
sometimes one of them hits a three-cushion bank shot
exhales quietly and grins like a pool shark
sometimes one of them has the blue of the chalk on their fingertips
or the blue of the blue chalk in their blue eyes
sometimes one of them calls the other a sissy boy
sometimes one of them plays a sexist song
on the juke box and calls their partner “the wife”
sometimes one of them slaps the quarters down on the table
like it’s the very last pulsing left in their beating hearts
sometimes one of them imagines their rage contained by the triangle
watches it crack open in the other’s clean break
sometimes one them calls the shot by nodding their head
in the direction of the intended pocket
sometimes one of them is wearing the same cologne
they wore in high school
but when the night is over
when they’ve left the bar without yelling or fighting
when they’ve left the last bills for the bartender
when they’ve both spit on the city sidewalk
when they’ve reached the fast food parking lot down by the river
one of them would hold the other if they cried
not that they cry
if they did

© Stacey Waite

Nebraska 42: ‘Final Shirt’ by Marjorie Saiser

After my father died, my mother
and my sisters picked the shirt, the tie;
he had just the one suit.
I left them to it, I didn’t
want to choose, I loved him
all those years. They took a shirt
from the closet, I don’t remember
which one, I’m sure he had worn it
to church and hung it up again.
They held a tie against the cloth
of the shirt. They decided, finally.
It’s like that. Things come down
to the pale blue or the white,
or some other. Someone buttoned it
over him, those buttons he had unbuttoned.

Poem copyright ©2016 by Marjorie Saiser, “Final Shirt,” from RATTLE, (Vol. 54, Winter, 2016).

Where We Stand

We are standing where
Kubla Khan begins,

Coleridge’s paradise poem
in granite stones along the

Land of Canaan footpath
with its walking promise,

putting our world to rights
as the election is coming –

rueing how a disenfranchised
will still vote for the privileged

who are liars: this incongruent
opium of imagining and hope –

and the dog bin next to us
reeks each time good

citizens open to deposit their
black bags of ad nauseam.

Nebraska 41: ‘Discovered’ by Shirley Buettner

While clearing the west
quarter for more cropland,
the Cat quarried
a porcelain doorknob

oystered in earth,
grained and crazed
like an historic egg,
with a screwless stem of

rusted and pitted iron.
I turn its cold white roundness
with my palm and
open the oak door

fitted with oval glass,
fretted with wood ivy,
and call my frontier neighbor.
Her voice comes distant but

clear, scolding children
in overalls
and highbutton shoes.
A bucket of fresh eggs and

a clutch of rhubarb rest
on her daisied oil-cloth.
She knew I would knock someday,
wanting in.

From Walking Out the Dark (Juniper Press, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Shirley Buettner