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This article is taken from PN Review 218, Volume 40 Number 6, July - August 2014.

The Price Richard Price

Remember when a poem could be banned
          for beginning with the word ‘Remember’? –
for mentioning it was a poem,
for bearing the weight of twenty-three syllables
          on the long oak bough of any given line?

(Those tiny birds, conspiring on the other side of that branch
had to be counted. No modulated breath was safe, no high canopy.)

Remember when a poem could be censured for exaggerating –
          using that juvenile word ‘banned’, for example –
simplifying ‘exactly’, or displaying ‘exotic lite’, deploying ‘marram’, ‘palimpsest’, or ‘shard’?

I loved those years.
I am a Trading Standards Officer.
There should be a price on every word.

Play gentle, Rich, play nice.
You’ll always be
         a government inspector.
You’ll always be a –

I had a key for everything then, real keys and metaphorical.
Data Protection was my brief –
Magnusdottir, since you ask, Lacock, and bacon.
(I can say nothing regarding parentage but may I suggest
a widening of your diet, a little more adventure in travel?
Don’t you know questions for password amnesia don’t require authenticity –
the PsyOps mantra is ‘persistence of the identifier, not reality in identity.’
If you have to stay local, there’s always Io or Brigadoon.)

Play gentle, Rich, play nice.
You’ll always be
       a quantity surveyor.
You’ll always be a –

My favourite key, real, had the ...

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