The Surrealists’ Summer Convention Came to Our City

We were as lip as the guidebooks

to the city. We had our ankle tendons

severed to combat the heat.

We dined on carp all summer:

the magazines were full of recipes.


The city fathers talked about a new guidebook

which would inform the tourists

in languages and dialects for all.

It was delightful in the streets but there was

outrage in the suburbs now thatit was no longer safe to stay in at night.


The carp was piquant but we were getting bored

picking out the lead shot. Some of the tourists

said it wasn’t sporting. We got tired

of being barracked and decided to shock

by stringing violins with carp-gut.


The Philharmonia played especially sweetly that summer;

they made a recording of the Floral Dances

which is still controversial because of the sound

of chattering monkeys in the coda.

Weekends we shared dinner in our block, sitting

on the carpet and, by Autumn, eating minced carp.


We ate carp with oranges and, retinas

stinging with zest, waited for the season

to flop- the mayor’s lung complaint

to become fatal, the city’s sheaf of stocks to falter.

But all that flopped that year was

the fishy moustaches on the breeding carp.

Recording used by permission of the BBC, broadcast in NEW VOICES, 11th May 1989: from Electroplating the Baby (Bloodaxe,1988), reproduced with kind permission of the author.

Jo Shapcott in the Poetry Store

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