Fables – Cutting off one’s ears for someone else is wrong


A man paid 110,000 guineas for Van Gogh’s mother.
Not even for the woman who breathed, but a picture of her.
If he’d met her when she was what she was
I don’t suppose he’d have given as much to her.

And if he had chanced to meet him would he have felt like supplying
The painter, even with enough sausage for the rest of his natural?
He probably wouldn’t have wanted him in his house:
An ordinary functioning man, sleeping and glaring about him.

And although he has to pretend to value her
Saying he’d give his eye teeth or at least his worldly wealth to save her,
I daresay he wouldn’t really have wanted to give all that money
To have his own mother sitting permanently on his sofa.

A dog would rather have another dog
Than a flat board;

And is just a dog.

from Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1992), copyright Jenny Joseph 1988, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

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