from NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT:
Overdubs of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnets from the Portuguese
My letters! all dead paper,.. mute and white!
These papers speak the language of hush,
the dead letter of the NDA you signed
with tremulous hand, in exchange for DNA
and certain digital files. Don’t speak, madam!
Listen! He said this and that. No matter. You get
Wimpole St, a golden handshake, a golden bowl for Flush,
even the Elis Regina vinyl, it’s all here. But redaction’s
total: these sonnets will be written over. OK? Done.
Imagine if Dox could negotiate this fast with Barnier!
Fox fixes a day in Spring to strike arms deals with the Saudis.
Go’s future thunders in your past relations. Thus far
your words have ill availed. In your next article
tell how people are now pronouncing it Bregsit.
Normalise this madness. Mute and write.
2nd March 2018
The first time that the sun rose on thine oath
The last time austere promises are advertised
on the side of the rusty bus there will be no tickets.
Darwinian celebrities will rise from its wreckage,
scrub up into aphoristic hubris, blow
a few farty phrases on stolen trumpets. Slacken
the bonds of dependency in despondency:
moral hap hazard is no fickle fact but lasting truth.
Quick fixes quickly unfix; only duty endures.
Etc, etc. At one stroke, fiddle and diddle.
I’m keeping out of this one. It’s all too clear
how I’m going to end up in this gig economy.
It’s not the jokes you tell, it’s the jokes you know
that matter. I solemnly promise to be grim
for the sake of the future. That leaves me in stitches.
9th March 2018
YES, call me by my pet-name!
Pet! Petsy? Petronella? Petrarca! Where Petrarch dwells
there lies Poesy, as he makes for himself a self
in language, however embarrassing his cowpat lyricism,
since he – I – could not hope for imperial laurels.
I’ll almost miss the barked command, the Skripal panic.
Unreconciled, I’ll not spend more time with my families!
She no longer calls. I sit silent with my warming beer,
while she calls Go, yes, calls Go! Ba! I’ll let it go. But
my mouth bears the testimony of those exanimate,
buried beneath my jokes, who laughed themselves
to death. East and West divide; Europe unites.
Putin turns off, and on, the gas (or whatever it is).
Don’t call me Fuckface or Gruffnuts, but call me now! Or,
Petal, you’ll hear the last of me, hoisted by my own pettitoes.
16th -17th March 2018
If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange
What do you mean ‘if’ we leave? The plebiscite
was absolute. No careless talk can now exchange
the blessed result. A new range of goods from the far
Far East will complement the offal and the off-cuts.
National death comes with international debt,
the Barrett estate in the west West Indies forfeit.
There will never be another home with such dividends;
elope to Vaucluse with the dog, paddle in Petrarch’s pool.
If communal grief is transmitted epigenetically,
like slavery’s, this grief could last months, dead
dead eyes gawping at trauma they can’t comprehend.
These sonnets used to be funny but Ken Dodd’s dad’s god’s
dead. Can happiness be transmitted? We used to laugh at lines
like ‘the wet wet wings of thy dove’. Whoever we were.
23rd March 2018
Copyright © Robert Sheppard 2018
Robert Sheppard’s most recent book is the collaborative work Twitters for a Lark, published by Shearsman in 2017. His Petrarch 3 from Crater Press, 2016, is the first part of a loose series of 100 sonnets, of which Non-Disclosure Agreement forms a (much-later) part. He blogs quite regularly at robertsheppard.blogspot.com. His work has previously appeared in Molly Bloom 13.