John Whitworth

Wittgenstein’s Beetle


My mind is like a beetle in a box.
I open up the box to see it go.
It scuttles up and down and to and fro,
Telling me everything I want to know.
You have to be a hedgehog or a fox.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

My universes are unnumbered clocks
And every one displays a different face
For each exigency of time and space,
Another person and another place,
Another bastard set of building blocks.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

Beached and benighted by a paradox,
Our age has lost the concept of degree.
I grieve for it myself incessantly.
If you weren’t you who would you wish to be?
You love the freedoms, can’t abide the frocks.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

Pull down your knickers or pull up your socks.
It’s sex or standards and I don’t care which.
Now is decision time (the rest is kitsch)
And plans for getting seriously rich
Despite portfolios of falling stocks.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

Is it Christ’s blood or whisky on the rocks?
Is it the answer or the seventh clue?
Is it the angel or the bugaboo?
Who would you wish to be, if you weren’t you?
Is it the upsurge or the aftershocks?
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Throw out those bloody clocks!
But yours and yours and yours are just the same.
We’re on a losing streak. We play the game.
The whole thing’s fucked and nobody’s to blame.
They’re digging down behind the hollyhocks.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.

They sank the blackened bodies in the docks
Which previously were given to the flame.
Who went is clear, a good deal less who came;
It all comes down to claim and counter-claim,
A neat solution, if unorthodox.
My mind is like a beetle in a box.


John Whitworth informs us that  he has ‘published ten books of poems and one about how to write them.’  And also that he ‘lives in Canterbury where he enjoys food, drink, cricket, and poetry, of course’, that he is ‘married to Doreen Roberts with two grown-up daughters, two cats, and newts in the garden pond. His poems are published irregularly in many magazines here and in the United States, and regularly in Quadrant, an Australian journal rather like Encounter, if you are old enough to remember it, whose literary editor is the great Les Murray.’ John says that he ‘has won lots of prizes but thinks it un-English to boast.’ His collection Girlie Gangs was published by Enitharmon in 2012.

John has also remarked: ‘Being short-listed for the Strokestown International Award is very gratifying, winning it would be even more so. Only the Daily Mail has given me more than 3,000 euros for a poem.’

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