This poem combines an anxiety about the pace of contemporary life, with an obsession with the late Donald Campbell and his attempt to break speed records. It's called 'To Do List' and it's written as a to do list, with bullet points down the left hand margin. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce a bullet point, so you'll just have to imagine a small solid black circle at the beginning of each line.

To Do List

. Sharpen all pencils.

. Check off-side rear tyre pressure.

. Defrag hard-drive.

. Consider life and times of Donald Campbell, CBE.

. Shampoo billiard-room carpet.

. Learn one new word per day.

. Make circumnavigation of Coniston Water by foot, visit Coniston Cemetery to pay respects.

. Achieve Grade 5 Piano by Easter.

. Go to fancy dress party as Donald Campbell complete with crash helmet and life jacket.

. Draft pro-forma apology letter during meditation session.

. Check world-ranking.

. Skim duckweed from ornamental pond.

. Make fewer “apple to apple” comparisons.

. Consider father’s achievements only as barriers to be broken.

. Dredge Coniston Water for sections of wreckage/macabre souvenirs.

. Lobby service-provider to un-bundle local loop network.

. Remove all invasive species from British countryside.

. Build 1/25 scale model of Bluebird K7 from toothpicks and spent matches.

. Compare own personality with traits of those less successful but more popular.

. Eat (optional).

. Breathe (optional).

. Petition for high-speed fibre-optic broadband to this postcode.

. Order by express delivery DVD copy of Across the Lake starring Anthony Hopkins as “speed king Donald Campbell.”

. Gain a pecuniary advantage.

. Initiate painstaking reconstruction of Donald Campbell’s final seconds using archive film footage and forensic material not previously released into public domain.

. Polyfilla all surface cracking to Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

. Levitate.

. Develop up to four thousand five hundred pounds/force of thrust.

. Carry on regardless despite suspected skull fracture.

. Attempt return run before allowing backwash ripples to completely subside.

. Open her up.

. Subscribe to convenient one-a-day formulation of omega oil capsules for balanced and healthy diet.

. Reserve full throttle for performance over “measured mile”.

. Relocate to dynamic urban hub.

. Eat standing up to avoid time-consuming table manners and other non-essential mealtime rituals.

. Remain mindful of engine cut-out caused by fuel-starvation.

. Exceed upper limits.

. Make extensive observations during timeless moments of somersaulting prior to impact.

. Disintegrate.


from forthcoming The Unaccompanied (Faber, 2017), © Simon Armitage 2016, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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