Tuesday poem: Not my best side

Not my Best Side
by U. A. Fanthorpe

Not my best side, I’m afraid.
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–
Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl’s got to think of her future.

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can’t
Do better than me at the moment.
I’m qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don’t
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You’re in my way.

The conversation that’s possible between different art forms, and especially the one that flowers between fine art and poetry, is something that has delighted me for years. A kind friend introduced me to this poem by U.A. Fanthorpe years ago, and I’ve had a postcard of Paolo Uccello’s fifteenth century painting of “St George and the Dragon” tucked into my copy of Fanthorpe’s poems ever since.

I love the idea of giving each of the protagonists a turn at speaking: first the dragon, then the princess, and finally the warrior saint. None of their voices is predictable, and the combination of content and tone is so arresting, amusing, and finally so disconcerting.

She was a great poet, I think, and I’m sorry she was pipped to the Poet Laureate post years ago, by Andrew Motion: you’d never have known what she was going to say but you’d always have been sure it would have been witty and surprising.

Posting this poem celebrates not only U. A. Fanthorpe as a poet, but also the Tuesday Poem blog – do go and have a look at what’s there this week, both in the main section and the sidebar, where if a post says “Tuesday Poem’ you can be sure there’s a poem there. All you have to do is click.

4 Responses to “Tuesday poem: Not my best side”

  1. Kathleen Jones Says:

    Oh I’m so glad that you’ve posted Ursula’s poem. This is one of my all time favourites and – spookily – I too have a print of the Uccello painting. Both utterly beautiful.

  2. admin Says:

    Great to hear from a fellow enthusiast, Kathleen. I love her “Atlas” almost as much, but this one has a slightly mean-spirited edginess to it that somehow makes it so perfect.

  3. alicia ponder Says:

    I love this, it has everything, Drama and Comedy and Dragons.

  4. admin Says:

    Yes, that’s all we really need in life, isn’t it?

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