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Saturday, 30 April 2011

I am the spirit of the wall,
I set the bounds beyond which none may pass.
My mission is to keep you separate, divide
by colour, race or creed,
by politics or class.
(I have no preference
as long as there is schism.)

I stand between you, sisters;
brothers; husbands; wives.
It is my shadow falls across your lives.
Believe me, I was there
through all those Berlin years
and still am at my damnedest
in the Arab / Jew divide.

I am the spirit that immured the Saint, the priest,
the awkward customer, so cannot bleat
if people hate me so, and scribble their abusive
words on me. I try to make amends:
I shelter their secluded gardens -
"walled" they call them - and their plants from winds
that otherwise would lay them low.

And so it is that ultimately I
am the divided one, who can be evil, harmless or
a force for good, a thing that children build in fun,
sometimes to dam a river with the likes of me.
And so my motives can be impish,
childish in the worst extreme or practical.
None of which excuses any wrong.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The End

This is the end,
the end of time, the end
of one expanding universe,
the end as it will be
for any closed creation.
See the light! Take note. No more
is it redshifted. All implodes,
expansion done
phase 2 in place
the universe now
recollapsing on itself,
its journey done.
All stars and planets,
galaxies and constellations,
all of us
in one mad rush
towards extinction
and that final
bigger bang.

The image was provided by Magpie Tales for this week's prompt.

Closed universes etc See here

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Apparition of the Family : Chagall

In the process of creation this can be:
an angel host surrounds the artist as he paints,
they hymn the act in which he is engaged,
confirm the godliness of what he does.

We see Chagall before his easel, caught
off-guard it would appear, perhaps because
of those who form the angel choir:
no strangers here, no beings he might fear.

A dozen years it took him to complete,
to limn his daughter, wife and parents
(long since dead), his siblings and -
and here we reach the matter's heart, I'm sure -

the characters - stock characters - that long
have figured in his surreal art. They all are there:
the Jew who guards the Torah and the cow,
the female fiddler and the angel, straight

from heaven - having fallen from it in
some canvases. His paints and brushes
idle on his lap, his hand is on his heart,
a wistful look pervades his youthful face.

We may choose our friends, so we are told,
but not our relatives. Chagall found ways
not just to choose, but to create the souls
to see him through the spirit times ahead.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Memory of War

Torn from dream
and very like a dream:
two half worlds
telescoped as one.

Asleep, my mother next to me,
my bed made up downstairs
on doctor's orders.

A sudden shock,
a scream, a pang
of fear and stab of pain
that take the breath from me
and savage me awake -

and there's my father,
limbs spread like some crashed eagle
breathless too, on top of us,

his hard, white Air Raid Warden's hat
skewwhiff upon his head,
his gas mask on his back;
thick rubber-booted -

and the ceiling coming down on all of us,
the whole world turning white.
One thing I do remember vividly...

No, not the missing ceiling,
that was soon put right.
The French doors to the garden:
six glass panels, leaded;

assemblages of diamond shapes
and triangles of glass, now curved with grace,
convex, concave alternately.
You might have thought they'd been designed that way.

"Blast do do funny things," my Granddad said.
I don't recall them
ever being different, after that.

The house, like people that I'd get to know:
among its many wounds, this one
that no one thought to heal.


This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Mrs God

Mary, she calls herself,
Mary J, to be precise,
a graduate
of all the fat of catteries,
of option trading,
futures and derivatives,
commodities, all speculations,
all of which
she ditched for art...
and found "derivative"
a dirty word.

Telling Melvin Bragg
how Jesus Crucified
had been the greatest installation of them all,
it seemed that she was saying
so much more than that.
(Could more be possible?) At any rate,
she left us all expecting
there was more to come,
some way down the line.

Next thing we knew,
she's in the wilderness
(her one concession
to the history man);
fresh scorpions and honey
delivered on a daily basis
by private helicopter -
and arranging the odd broadcast
to tell the world she is The Christ,
a Messianic Mistress
refigured for the age.
The Gucci Christ,
the papers call her for a while,
until the title Mrs God takes root.

No prophets please, or analysts.
Forget the boxes that you thought you'd tick,
They're staying blank, the lot of them.
No miracles,
no virgin birth,
nothing out of kilter
with the modern age.
She doesn't preach
or heal the sick,
no followers, disciples,
hangers-on... except,
they do exist, and want to know
what they should do.

And as for miracles, there's just the one.
Asked where she came from,
all she says is: "Through the fire."
The story is of 9/11 and
a burning ball of debris
from The North Tower
floating down to earth,
landing softly,
then exploding outwards.
Trapped inside,
she walks out, needing plastic surgery,
but otherwise intact.

A miracle of sorts,
but who performed it?
Who believes it?

She calls it fantasy
and plays it time and time again
to build it into something more.
Not preaching, but campaigning,
advocating something new. She says:
the spirit life begins in fantasy,
but left there, is a sickly child
forsaken on the mountainside.
Pick up your sickly child,
she says, and bring it to the crèche.

God, if He Is God,
must be all-powerful,
able to reveal himself
as this unlikely Millionairess in
her limousine with darkened windows...
The question is: why would He, though?

She has a church-cum-gallery,
the crèche, a place
of videoes and installations,
each one capable
of messing with your head.

Then something happens.
Something extraordinary. This:
the world takes to itself -
and almost overnight -
the thought that it is entering
the epoch of the last extinction.

This changes everything:
not the fact of, the belief that.
That changes everything.
Across the continents
the people go to bed each night
and dream her videoes .
People who have never seen them in reality
are watching them in dreams.
And watching them, they're watching her,
the universal star -
and everything is possible
to those with power
to enter other people's dreams.

And everything they've ever
heard and half remembered
from teachers of the past,
from Sunday School and marriages,
from funerals and Christenings, from fragments
of the Talmud or the Mishnah,
Ta-ts'ang-ching or Tripitaka (The three
baskets) or the parables of Jesus
Christ (and many more - the
Buddhavacana texts maybe), all
little sticky bits that stick at times like these,
along with lives of common, unregarded things
like trees and clouds and emptiness
and moments lost in space.

She is the final arbiter
of what will come to pass,
a bird kept captive
on an ocean liner and set free
a thousand miles from land
to dream how land should be,
to dream the lore
whose messages are varied, mixed;
whose concepts have too many parts.
No more are they for simple hearts.

Her sermon in The Great Mall, for example:
"Blessed are they who work with chaos
for theirs is the beauty of heaven.
Blessed are the conservers of life's riches,
for they have understood Earth's first equation.
Blessed are the enquirers of the spirit,
for they shall be understood.
Blessed are the engineers of life,
for theirs is its foundation...."
and so on, and so on.

And if you dream that Earth has died,
then dream it back alive
become a partner to the dream,
the solace of the trees is yours -
and in the trees is everything.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Two Haiku

Timed to perfection
let Easter come when it will -
the tree peony.

After grass cutting
cuttings hang like Christmas chains
from the spiders' silks

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Sunday Morning

Easter Sunday Morning and the valley
black with cloud that hangs or feels like treacle
from the hills. Once more he scrapes the canvas
clean, or nearly so, and looks beyond the
window to the scene he thinks will serve him
well. Three days of passion and there's nothing
yet to show. His broad distemper brush swirls
down from right to left and leaves a trail of
darkly coloured paints. A change of hand, a
further swirl, before he scrubs more darkness
and the highlights disappear. A dry brush
indicates the upright for the cross, its
handle scratches in two arabesques. These
mark for him the way the body hangs.

New inspiration moves him, and a flash of
Gamboge yellow splits the clouds, allows the
sun to burst upon the scene. The minor
miracle... the major still to come. Not
long delayed: the arabesques have changed, no
longer mark the outlines of his clothes and
flesh, but have grown links between them. Formed a
ladder up to heaven? More than that: have
formed a double helix. Could anything
befit an Easter Sunday Morning more?

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

A Happy Easter to you all.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Catwalk Queen

The catwalk queen
with perfect poise
each movement for
a moment poised
soft music plays
it might be dance
were not her steps
each one the same
it has the grace

but is not dance.
within each skin
so lightly shed
with each new slink
the hundred eyes
that follow her
are led the same
old dance again.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday Still Life

What should I put in my Still Life?
Not banjos or guitars,
Chianti bottles, samovars,
exquisite drapery
and through the open window there
some idyll to be seen.

No, pull the curtains, draw the blinds,
then slam the shutters shut.
Now fix them fast to wall and frame,
keep out the wind that blows.

Set on the boards the meanest fare;
no frills of sumptuous art or crafts
except a cross or crucifix
should be included there;
some water and a wholesome loaf
and something that will symbolise
the shadow cast by man.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Signs of the Arcane

Eat up your eggs and toast, my dear,
to celebrate the dead.
It's hardly proper fare, my dear,
but if you'll wipe your platter bare
the essence of our lore is there.

Remember we are Hung, my dear,
not those Manchu who rule,
who've banned us from our rightful ways,
who take no thought for China, dear,
nor Buddha or his school.

You need to wipe the platter bare
to see the broad design.
Our culture's there in every line
and every detail is a sign
of secrets that we share.

A bit late in the day, but only just got round to The Magpie Tales Monday prompt.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Brilliant as ever
away in midfield,
but frozen when
six yards from goal.

In writers' terms
they're suffering from
a form of strikers' block.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Fair Isle Pullover

My father's sister knitted it.
Too long, too loose (until it shrank),
the pattern all her own -
she called it "Viking Fair Isle" -
A small boy's world, as seen by her.

Around the waist, shapes on the prowl:
beneath them, grey and yellow lattice work -
perhaps the sea - became for me,
the gold and silver handle
of a Viking sword.

Then there were flowers in great profusion
I could not fit into my fantasy,
but put them on a cliff top. Later on,
it helped to know that longboats
had been called The Flowers of the Sea.

The West End gallery was small and hot,
the paintings jammed together on its walls.
I did not sense the danger of
that single bar electric fire beneath
The Way the World Will End.

The fantasy unrolled, the boats
still sailed their choppy, woolen sea -
except the burn hole grew, the threads
unravelling. When I was told it was beyond
repair, I saw the way the world might end.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Monday, 18 April 2011


"A sod of a boy!"
He'd say it of himself.
"One of the lost."

"Billy changed all that."
Brian was a friend,
one of the best.

"No, Christ changed that,"
he would correct me - or himself -
"through Billy Graham".

You had to be impressed.
The proof was there
in what he was.

And so it happened that
when Billy came to Wembley
I was there,

expecting a lone act.
But Billy brought his pardner -
Roy Rogers and his horse.

Roy told us all
to "Saddle up yous hosses
and ride hard for the Lord!"

And that's how
Billy lost me -
and Jesus nearly did.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


He sang as a bird might sing: clear,
full-bodied, matching every note
to the subtleties and splendours of a God who spoke.
But this was all in dream, in his small
private world. In ours
he had no rank or station, and he had no voice.

Yet just because he sang so in that dream
the power came to his life. He sang
of things he had not known before. His voice
thrilled through the pious monasteries. The bleak
religion of his day awoke to pray.

His world was shadowy;
the cattle alone for Caedmon were reality.
The Abbess Hilda was not real.
He knew her, of her, fed her cattle:
she remained
a symbol of his bread and butter.

Facing her across the hallowed study,
terrified to speak lest he should break the spell,
he felt the symbol change,
felt living water like a spring
well up from the abbess in her, welcome him.
The world had lost a servant, gained a limb .

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

As man stands waiting

As man stands waiting on the waterfront -
one front of many fronts of all the waters of the earth,
the sea is taking over from the land
the way that something that is neither day nor night
is taking over from the sun and moon -
the ocean, which he's always felt emergent,
still moving forward from its days as primal soup,
has gone into reverse, moved with the sun and moon towards
a time that will not be, or if it is, will never end; a time
when light and dark will clasp each other. A last gasp
before the last extinction. Sea has ownership of sky,
has spawned a dozen whirlpools where the clouds once were.

Seen through careening walls of water,
a dark and greening sun.

Appropriate, that sea, his cradle,
is to take him back the way he was before:
his flesh and all the flesh and fowl that share the earth with him -
or have done until now.

The wind has tripled many times the height and strength of waves
and driven them against the last remaining land
to splinter them in spray.
That which was solid and eternal as the hills
has ebbed away.

This is my contribution for today to Writers Island's NATIONAL POETRY's Free Writing Month.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Inseparable Lovers

The pinks have lost their passion
and the evening reds have dimmed.
Soft dew, soft light, soft darkness hide the thoughts
of these inseparable lovers, earth and sun.
Their ardour done,
their hidden source of energy run dry,
they turn apart like two magnetic toys
that will return.

Moon and stars may smooth their counterpane,
but I will not intrude.
Who knows what promises these lovers dream
who eight swift hours from now
will stir to some pale, tender
and involuntary touch?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

On the Optimum Conditions for Artistic Success - and Eternal Life

How wonderful to have a cave,
a womb-like structure all your own.
(For most, the cave is made of bone.)

How wonderful to have your own
obedient dominatrix
to ply the whip and concrete mix,
to drive you in and seal the door.

There's no way out. How wonderful,
to feel it's in your hands alone,
the magnum opus that you've known
was always there, the magic trick
to reinstate you with mankind.

How marvellous to hollow out
a space devoid of all but wall,
a space where only spirits call.
It needs no more to furnish all
the dream will need to come about.

You hang your fate upon the dream
and ride it like a rocking horse.
It bucks and kicks and throws you off -
until the day the cave has gone.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Whisper your twelve decibels of love
to drown the heavy traffic's ninety-four.

Not for me the seven score
of jet or heavy metal
(though some love these

when thresholds ease
as hearts recalibrate their scales).
Outside is only amplitude
the loudness lies within
where pain and impercipience
define its narrow range.

A subtle change
of pressures in the air
frets through the fine combs of the ear
and makes no greater stir
than would a wayward lock of hair.

This is the aural frontier
where medium and creature meet,
where comb and hair in silence
turn base configurations into sound -
perhaps the most disfigured sounds on earth,
or Graham's 'one good sound',
the music nature makes occurring.

So now a reservation as I find myself preferring
even megadecibels (in patterned regularity)
to any soft dishelvelment of noise.
I will not hear the scream Munch heard,
so magnify for me the sound of birds
and cherish above all,
the sound of love.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


It's the invisibility of space
that makes it so appealing to the eyes.
It's what we cannot hear that makes each sound
a prized possession
and a silence so profound,
for silence too is spatial
and space a place for resonance.
We long for both,
their attributes and shape,
the way they fold around us and become
one gown to hide our nakedness.
We wear it like a shroud.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Problem

It was always a problem
when I was a boy
that the dead we buried
would go to a  heaven
above the sky.

I asked around,
the vicar first:
the dead we bury -
they go to heaven?
They do indeed!

Why do we launch them, then
in quite the wrong
He promised me a year or two
would see me understand.

He was wrong, of course:
it never did.
Though it's not a problem
for me these days,
I think it is for some.

A stone in the churchyard
reads "Father and husband,
John lies here,
departed this life
and raised to Heaven... "

Impatience, perhaps
at being fenced in -
or joy at its opposite.
Let's call it rapture
or bliss
or euphoria -
or One Stop putting her  up to this.

This my respons to One Stop Poetry's prompt.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

High Wire Walker

His day of destiny; the wire
stretched taut above the square.
A fall, an end, might magnify
his life from some perspectives.
Not from his. He would lament
the imperfection, the inadequate technique.

Meanwhile, our world is frozen,
turned to stone. Up there is life
incomprehensible, foretold
in his self-image. All his days
he's walked a wire of some sort,
for the most part, privately, but here exposure

is the object of the game:
the square is his theatre,
the world a place to stretch a wire,
to walk a skyway; never
a part of our lives - save
the moment when a gust excites, disturbs,

ruffles leaves and hair, and brings
the crowd to life. He pauses,
stands insouciant, then sways
as to a distant band; moves
on once more, the poise regained
that was not lost, except we thought it so.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Said the land to the sea.

Being the land's reply to the sea - see note below

This is where your freedom ends, the land
said to the sea. My cliffs and beaches are
the bounds you sometimes go beyond,
tsunami-style, but even that
is down to me,
my shuffling of plates.

I am the prestidigitator of your fate.
Remember friend,
you lie on me and when I stir,
turn in my sleep,
heave up my restless back
or cough, you are the one who's spilt.

You may occasionally push me back
an inch, a foot or two, a meter now and then,
but what have you achieved?
A dislodged rock, a heap of pestled chalk?
At other times you are constrained
by forces from outside:

by winds and moon,
the drivers of your tides.
Our so-called freedoms are illusory, my friend,
for freedom speaks of self determinance, the lack
of interference, states of minimal restraint;
yet still you nibble at my shores.

Your vaunted freedom is to roam at will;
my liberty, the right to stay
inviolate. Impossible, are both.
We play around the edges,
neither of us having what we crave:
the freedom to make choices.

This poem was suggested by Jim at The Truth About Lies in his comments on my earlier poem Said the Ocean to the Shore Jim mentioned that he had been expecting the Land to reply. The remark was picked up.

Friday, 8 April 2011

A Love Song

The waterfall. Do you remember it?
We came upon it unexpectedly,
should not have done; it made its presence felt
in ice-clear song
long before it took our breath away
with that first view.
It was its size, perhaps, and grace
that so surprised us both.

You were the first
to think the sound of it
some kind of speech.
Not speech in all its purity:
white noise and much redundancy
made up the most of it,
but at the core of all those sounds
you heard it speak.

We put our ears to those great stones in simple fun
and you translated what the water said.
To me it simply murmured such sweet nothings
and I was more than happy with the fact.
You wanted it to tell you something more,
how we would end and what life had in store.

We found a cave of sorts among the stones
and sat and dreamed in it a while.
You sang the song you said the waters sang,
and I was happy just to hear you sing.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Correspondence School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students.

Doing the rounds yesterday, I called in at the Rinkly Rhymes blog, where I discovered a response to a competition challenge, the task being to take the first line of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop and construct a new poem from it. This seemed like a fun thing to do. Not restricting myself to one author, I opened my Norton at random (page 1741) and chose the title above. I confess I had not heard of either.

Goodbye,lady in Bangor who sent me
the shaving mug with an image of me
as George Bernard Shaw. Goodbye "Mechanic
on Line". Pornographic verse such as yours,
inscribed with initials (ours intertwined)
are not to my taste. Bless you, "Old Bardic
Thug", for your thoughts and kind wishes. You may,
as you say, have inherited Shakespeare's
flair for the sonnet, so thanks once again
for the quill and "The Bees in the Bonnet",
though I wondered about the sixteen lines -
a simple mistake or a modern touch?

All-in-all, a most successful session:
two virgin poets published in "The Bog"!
That can't be bad - and one collection to
be "looked at" by an editor I know.
There's nothing "deviant" about your verse,
"Small Cornish Pixie in the Wood". Perhaps
it might help you to gain a broader view
of what is normal if you mixed more with
the general crowd, not just with poets.
I shall treasure the ditty and not be
upset in the slightest by the images!
We all felt very chastened, I am sure,
by Geoffrey's demonstration of his link
to Chaucer, but the highlight of the term,
"The Rapper's Dream of Home", by "Elsie Clone",
had us, as they say, "in stitches", for the
hour it took for her to read it through. A
word to the performance poets: please look
for new material next term. Some stuff
without the cliches - failing which, you might
make them the point of what you do. Try to
send them up, they way you do the people
you portray. Searching for the word that best
describes the group, "imaginative" was
the first to spring to mind. The task that lies
before you is to use that quality
to give your subjects greater depth, explore
them as you might as scientists. Do not
be satisfied with mere embroidery.

This poem has been added to this week's offerings on One Stop Poetry

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Chagall's "Homage to Apollinaire"

Golden, the dawn that was Eden,
retaining its hold
like a stain
that seeps into,
sleeps in the old and the new,
in the spokes of the wheel,
at odds with the flavours
of earth, fire and sea.

God's wheel of fortune
constantly spins,
rising on one side,
falling the other.

Day of Judgement, the image;
Medieval, the style.
And what of mankind, of Adam and Eve
who are joined at the hips,
not a fig leaf in sight,
his hand on their sex,
their two torsos split,
set apart by their difference,
diverging at last.
Eve's with desire -
the apple preserved -
achieving their promise of genders deserved.

Evicted from Eden
not just mankind,
but the whole of his poetry,
science and art.
His mouth is a rictus,
not fit for purpose,
hers is for song.
She carries the banner
of culture for man.
He's twisted in pain.
Between them they bring
to Earth Eden's reign.


Click below for the four names Chagal has inscribed around his heart.





Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Champagne in the Mud.

Perfection of Autumn, her gifts:
sunlight on frost and long rifts
in white clouds

and largest of all,
the silence of sounds,
air holding its breath.

Sounds creeping round
like a thief in the night,
his bladder inflating

there on the grass -
slow infiltration
of colours too gaudy

for nature's creation.
Twin burner-roars
to show us whose boss.

Mouse-like. Too meek
with its squeaks
speaks the basket we enter.

Earth falls away
with the voices we cherish,
relations and friends.

Sound breaks the barrier,
the mist at an end.
A chorus of sibilants sings.

From garden and field
we are reached by clear speech -
the surprise of the day.

Another in store:
earth covered with flood
water, field after field.

"There's nowhere to land.
I can't put it down!"
It's O.K. by us.

Nothing lasts, there's a field
sloping quite steeply,
Dry at one end.

Escapement of air -
for real for this once.
Then comes the jolt.

The basket is toppled,
we're thrown on the floor.

Wind towards flood
the basket is dragged,
great squelch of mud

echo of sounds
from my days as a child:
knuckles - my mum's -

rub on the washboard.
We grate on the ground,
picking up debris.

Excitement of squeals,
then corks popping out.
Champagne in the mud.

Photographs, Memories and Nostalgia, was Jingle Poetry's brief for this week.

The young lady in the photograph is my daughter. She accompanied me on my wife, Doreen's, present for my 60th Birthday.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Good Bye

It was the usual thing.
She did it all the time:
she'd post it on her social network time and time again
that she would overdose.
She'd post "Good bye" to all her friends -
the whole one thousand plus of them.
All that was usual,
the usual thing.

Only, that day was slightly out
of what we might term

she had come of age.
Her special day.

All in good time
someone had found her.

Someone far away
had wondered
been uneasy
spoken out...

and so it was that
someone found her

but too late.

(Based on truth, but with details changed for obvious reasons.)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

An Evening at the Theatre


For all sorts of odd and silly reasons it had been a long time - far too long - since Doreen and I last had an evening at the theatre. As much as anything then, this post is in celebration of the fact that a few evenings back we broke the mould and went to see Alan Bennett's The History Boys. According to the progamme notes, the play had been "quietly maturing" in Alan Bennett's mind for 60 years. The seeds were sown when an ambitious headmaster persuaded him and seven of his peers to apply for Cambridge. You may know the play well. It has been around for six or seven years now and has been made into a film. I did not. What higher praise can I give it than to say it is up to Alan Bennett's best.

The staff of Bennett's imagined school consist of a Headmaster and three other members of the teaching staff, each one with a philosophy and outlook wildly different from any of the others. Most of the arguments that I have heard in the staff rooms I have known through the years found echoes, if only dim ones, somewhere in the play. The headmaster sees passing exams and getting a place at university - especially Oxford or Cambridge - as the primary, if not sole, purpose of education. His one motivation seems to be a desire for the school to move even further up the league tables. Against which, there is an English master called Hector who believes that exams and educational strategies aimed at passing exams are a complete waste if time. Hector believes in the value of knowledge for its own sake, but has an unpleasant sexual side to his personality, which Bennett draws out in the play whilst cleverly keeping the audience on Hector's side. I saw parallels with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in this and in much else.Hector comes to a sticky end, as does a homosexual boy, whose closeness to Hector finally gives the headmaster the excuse he needs to get rid of Hector. The boys, too, are distinctly and differently drawn and the interplay is both fascinating and amusing. At times hilarious, as for much of Hector's time with them they are engaged in enactments of classic weepies, such as Brief Encounter One moment that I really en joyed and seemed to typify the play occurred after Hector and a temporary teacher had agreed to share. Hector is asked by one of the boys who is going to teach them. Does it matter? asks Hector. Yes sir, is the reply, we need to know what sort of pupils we're to be. Shall we be smart for him or studious for you.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

I Delphinus

According to the ancient songs my people sing
we walked on land in long ago - as flippers will
confirm. Their build is for a five-toed limb. Beyond
which, we have vestiges of hind limbs and of hair.

You humans know about our echo-ranging skills -
what you call sonar, if you please, like we are ships!
It no doubt pleases you, suggests you're on a par,
that you've caught up with our technology. No chance!

Did you not know we can transmit far more than clicks?
Whole visions of the world around us we can see -
pollution makes no odds - and furthermore, we send
these postcards round the world to others of our kind.

And if it's true we walked on land, we're talking back,
beyond collective memory, we're tailored now
to fit our ocean ways. How many years it took
to work that change, we can but guess. It turned us grey.

The trouble is, your human race lacks gravity.
Consider how you see my race: a spectacle.
Both following your ships and doing circus tricks,
we're nothing special. Most of nature is the same.

We creatures of the sea, like those of air and land,
see things contrary to you, but no less valid.
If only our two sonars could communicate!
What visions of salvation would be there to share!


This is my response to the Poetry Bus prompt of Titus the Dog, but please do visit Titus to read up on the whole project.

Friday, 1 April 2011

La Gioconda

The Mona Lisa seen at Magpie Tales


When Leonardo painted me
he knew he'd backed a winner.
This smile was his, not mine,
somehow it got transferred,
as if the corners of my mouth
and eyes and all expressive bits
were his, reflected in the paint.

And well might he be smiling,
he'd made the market his all right,
him with his chiaroscuro,
dark and light, paint modulated,
making me sophisticated,
sculpted. Then his sly sfumato:
forms meld to ambiguity.

The influence of opposites!
The power of imprecision!
His clients couldn't get enough -
and yet he gave as much to that
old misty landscape at my back
as ever he put into me!
That's why my eyes have followed him,

that's why I wear this rueful grin.