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Friday 31 December 2010

A New Year Party at the Patents Office

I went as Boadicea, not having been before.

In party hats the hopefuls came
(and most - like me - in fancy dress),
all bearing plans they hoped would claim
the world for sense and hope again
and somehow save it from the mess
that's dumped it on the floor.

For good or ill, for right or wrong,
a polar bear had brought along
a high-tech hot air cooler.

From Lion King, a mini thing:
a plastic bendy ruler --
a sensible,
a flexible,
a universal proxy-King.

Three owls wore hats -
and two had spats -
with mottoes penned in inks
(that many thought were drivel):
viz: see no evil; hear no evil;
evil is as evil thinks.

The first had messages in mind
that get too mixed, as M.Ps. find:
When spin has spun beyond controls,
said he, and digging's dug too many holes,
this Sat-Nav could reset their goals.

The next, with gismo, super-fixed
a broken promise - seamlessly.

The third - grotesquely -
brought to bear
an anti-doctrinaire

Words like"vice"
spurred a baboon
to promise soon
a dirty-tricks hard water washer.

A long-eared bat
was topping that,
with smart-arse fast detosher.

Then from a tiger's sabre tooth
to swell the nation's stock of truth
there came a touch of righteous wit -
a moral spunk resuscer kit.

This year, a lowly lambkin said,
has been a perfect shocker.
Here's my device - a yah-boo-to-your-party blocker.

An ostrich came, who lacking guts,
had brought no plans because of cuts.

To all of you: the very best of all Good new Years.

Thursday 30 December 2010

"Haiku" #330

Its robotic head
allows for your changing mood -
a sat-nav system

Wednesday 29 December 2010

"Haiku" #329

calm down      those presents
that infuriate - all blocked
by Amazon

Tuesday 28 December 2010


as suggested by POT LUCK MONDAY at Jingle Poetry

Stick the fairy on the tree,
all the lights are bright to see,
bless the Holy Trinity
God is one and God is three...
(Number three came down for me.)

Light the candles on the cake,
give the tambourines a shake,
let the Earth erupt and quake,
keep the city wide awake,
we have mighty thirsts to slake.

Hang the flags and bunting out,
beat the drums and raise a shout,
out with sadness, out with doubt,
tell the world that we're about,
flood the world with ale and stout.

Sing you choristers, outsing
even songs the angels bring,
let the bells of Heaven swing.
Here on earth the wedding ring
awaits the happy happening.

Loose your rockets to the sky,
lift the heroes shoulder high,
let the sparks from bonfires fly.
If a nobler world draws nigh
let your laughters multiply.

Monday 27 December 2010

A Christmas Present

Muse Swings set this prompt on behalf of The Poetry Bus this week. The challenge was a poem about our most useless Christmas present. I don't think I've ever had a completely useless one - or I've cast it into my mental limbo - but this one came pretty close.

A cosy for your egg, she said.
A present from my aunt to match
that of the year before -
the famous Fair Isle socks

The cosy, too, was Fair Isle,
and like the stockings, knitted
by her own fair hands -
and just as generous.

She was alive to every
possibility, my aunt,
even that some day we might
start keeping ostriches.

Two thicknesses and lined,
turned inside out - I can't
think why - it made the perfect
blindfold for our party games.

This Haiku almost suggested a new verse for The Twelve Days of Christmas

a lunar surface
frozen snow     ice-filled craters
two magpies slipping

Sunday 26 December 2010

A Christmas with Long Arms

Some of you will know from past posts that at the age of five I was whisked into hospital with pneumonia in both lungs and pleurisy. I don't recall anything at all of the illness and nothing of the treatment except that it involved two large bell jars, one filled with a coloured liquid, the other empty and the two connected by rubber tubing. Another length of rubber tubing was equipped with a mouthpiece and using this I had to blow all the liquid into the empty jar.

Apart from that, I remember the deep snow outside and seeing my parents trudging through it to visit me. I remember too, the nurses bringing in large bowls of snow for each child so that we could play snow balls. Still in bed, we threw them across the ward at each other. (Imagine that in the NHS!) I also remember (This being the time of my earliest connected memories.) the Christmas tree in the ward and the presents piled round it - all brought by Santa during the night whilst we all slept, of course. My present was a large Noahs Ark with two each of all the animals - all made from wood. And I remember the photograph, taken by the photographer from the Mitcham News and Mercury, of me being held by my favourite nurse beside my cot in front of the tree. The Noahs Ark was in the cot. I remember the photograph so clearly because my grandparents bought a large copy of the original, and it did the rounds for years afterwards.

I am not sure how long afterwards it was that we were visiting my dad's parents in Wandsworth and had gone to the shops. I had been left outside one particular shop for a moment. There were two women close by who, like me, had been looking in the window, but now one took a newspaper cutting out of her bag and showed it to the other. I cannot remember - or didn't hear - what was said, but they both looked at it for a few minutes before the first one returned it to her purse.

When my parents and grandma returned I asked who the women were. They didn't know - and it seemed quite obvious that the ladies concerned didn't know me. That being so, I always thought it odd that they should be looking at my photograph, for there were no other people in the photograph, apart from the nurse.

Roll on ten years or so and I am in Northern Italy, cycling with some friends. We go into a small wayside church in which some candles are burning. One of my companions lights one for a relation - I think a cousin - who is unwell. All the candles have small cards in front of them, each with a name and a date. Some with a message. One though - are you yet ahead of me? - has no card, just a newspaper cutting. No name, just a date - seven years earlier. It bears the same photograph of me aged five in hospital. Now is that eerie or is that eerie? One last thing: the cutting from the newspaper is printed in Italian. Does that make it more creepy, or less?

Friday 24 December 2010

Something Nice Happened on the Way to Blogland Recently

The 'phone rang, Doreen answered it and said It's for you! I took it and heard a voice I did not quite recognise singing a song I did not quite recognise. Not at first, anyway. But then, it wasn't a song, as it turned out, but my poem The Eagle and the Child which an old friend of mine from college days had taken the trouble to arrange for guitar and was singing down the 'phone line.

But more than that he had made two videos of it, one of him speaking it and one of him singing it to the guitar, and had put them both on YouTube.

Yet more: he had sent the links to his granddaughter who teaches a year 6 class and she was planning to incorporate them into her teaching.

I promise I am not letting this go to my head, but if anyone out there is interested, here are the links.



On the other hand, if reading it the first time was more than enough I shall perfectly well understand!

Haiku #328

time for Peace on Earth
to all people of goodwill -
anarchists bomb Rome

Wednesday 22 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

Out of darkness into light
flies the Doubting Thomas bird,
what is hid is only might
What is might's a mite absurd.

Out of winter into spring
wing the cries of infant king,
hope and passion both they bring:-
let the bells of heaven ring!

So much hidden, so much light,
so much wrong and so much right,
earth is in a parlous plight:-
sing your carols through the night!

Sing the darkness from the earth,
we who never thought to see
now confront a peerless birth
in the light of mystery.

Need and want go hand in hand -
they did so in the stable -
read the symbols in the sand,
then gather round the table.

Ox and ass and magi there -
nothing by its birth is banned,
creatures both of faith and flair:
nothing outlawed out of hand.

Out of fable, truth to tell,
each man shapes it as he grows,
finds his personal Noel,
his own demons to depose.

Here's to a wonderful Christmas
and all the blessings of the season to you all.
May your God or proxy-god be kind to you.

Yesterday's Haiku - late.

a beauteous sight
this morning's lunar eclipse
a red moon - hidden

Monday 20 December 2010

When Earth became a lesser sun

It was a sign
the first of many
that the world was ending slowly when

we heard the pylon sizzle
like a bacon rasher

just an early surge
of fire from earth's deep belly.

I'd often said to Mary
how the lines would be the death of us.

'Oh my, you do go on!' she'd say,
'yet when the canopy
is fully greened
we cannot even see the blessed things!'

I'd tell her how the lines
are modern man's
late answer to the ancients,
how to think of them
as modern ley lines - of a sort.

"They're lines of force," I'd say,
"or stave lines in the sky -
for music, too's a force
we do not understand."

Then I'd go on: "If this 'ere path
were iron filings 'stead of stones
and leaf mould, Mary,
they'd be rearranging,
jumping in the most amazing patterns
you could see.

So never mind
you cannot see them
I can feel them in my bones!

Instead of iron filings,
what we've got is us:
two people standin' 'ere, who knows
or thinks them knows
what happens in thems brains!"     'O, you
and your iron filings!' she would say,
'you do go on, you do!'

The Kingfisher had made it clear to me:
omen or first symptom, call it as you will.

We'd often seen it skim the lake,
a flash of Royal blue.
That day it was electric blue,
a lightning bolt that hugged the wires -
escape denied - before
it plunged, not into water, but
a web of steel that disassembled it.

I'm talking long before
the earth became another sun,
before it spread soft orange light
across the Solar void -
Aye, soft it was in those days,
just a night light in the nursery...

I got quite angry with her sometimes...
still, bless her that she visits me
between her visits to oncology -
and always, always
when they turn the key
to let her in, she'll ask
how I am doing,
and when will I come home.

Sunday 19 December 2010

"Haiku" #327

dogs for chewing by
from Companion Pet Products -
an advent calendar

Saturday 18 December 2010

Seeing Stars on the Poetry Bus

Two Poems (and a "haiku")

We must be humble,we
who are so easily confused
by mere appearances, he said.
But he was looking at cold stones,
eulogising them as peers of stars.
So what if he had looked at stars,
would he have likened them
to stones? Or seen instead
the point at which a formless cloud
of dust and gas achieves its destiny,
evolves a structure to become a star?
Might he have seen from where
and how the structure comes?
Would he have shared all that with us -
or can it not be caught in words?

If only that were possible
he would have taught us how to fly
wing tip to wing tip with our god -
whoever that may be.
(whoever he may be, he must
explain the stars and me.)

Might we have: seen the cloud
reach critical, its inner core
expanding, slowly for a while,
then exponentially;
seen how it grew denser; felt
the growing heat;
seen the core explode
in energy releasing
nuclear reactions;
seen it turning luminous, become
the new kid on the block?

I think he would have shown us then
a massive star, its short life over,
decaying to a supernovae,
forming a black hole.

Once, stars were pinpricks in the firmament
(My granddad told me that.)
through which the light of heaven shone
to reassure the earth.

How sad to think the only holes
are made by ex-stars now -
and so are dark and threatening,
potential spanners in
the universal works.


When I was very young
a lamplighter came round
to light my star, the lamp
outside our house.

I asked him once
who lit the lamps
in those long lines
across the sky.

That always puzzled me -
although I never wondered
much about the sun
and who lit that.

He said I was too young
to understand such things,
that I should ask my teacher -
in a year or two.

I thought he was a star -
he played with gas and fire -
before I knew
that stars were gas and fire.

So I had two -
one fixed,
one wandering -
both mine!


their micro gismo
displays two states at one time -
proving Einstein right

Friday 17 December 2010


With her ancient flute
a six month tour of gigs booked -
at the Space Station

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Homage to Munch's The Dance on the Shore

As masterpieces go, this by Edvard Munch - I will stick out my neck - is unbeatable. For me it is perfection. How on earth does one combine such calculated composition with such fluidity and dreaminess? The design of the picture is exactly calculated, but each object in it has been given its own unique colour. Yet nothing competes with anything else. The composition relies for its integrity on the interlocking shapes, the echoing patterns and the strong tonal qualities. As a bonus the lines of the tree and the ripples in the sea are perfect.

It is obviously related to The Dance of Life (below) which he painted the year before (1899) he began work on The Dance on the Shore

It is, though, The Dance on the Shore which remains my favourite. I had it in mind when I began doodling my not-so-dreamy digital version. There is no greater connection than that. When I refreshed my memory by going back to look at a reproduction of Munch's I was all but frightened into not posting mine, but it is good to remind oneself how difficult are the things that great masters almost persuade us are easy.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Women were of Earth, Men of Somewhere else

This week's Pot Luck challenge from Jingle Poetry (here) specifies Hobbies, Passions, Pastimes, Entertainment. That is our theme for this week. Silly me, when I read it I somehow overlooked passion - not something I'm noted for doing! Whatever, so here is my passionless offering.

What a muddle children make of logic,
shaping worlds from iffy intuition!
Here's a good example (two or three, for I
am nothing if not generous): required
of every man - a hobby. Wisdom of
the ages: man sans hobby withers like
a leaf in Autumn - hence his need of sheds
or stamp collections, not to mention trains,
his golf clubs, painting easels - just to see
him through. A woman, though, has interests.
These may extend into the arts, but should
not be confused with a mere hobby.

Entertainments are for families, whole
groups of people, doing (often watching)
the same thing. Being rather socially
aligned, their special usefulness lies in
their bonding and cohesive powers.
Hobbies are considered slighter. Shallow.
Interests are somehow more profound -
or at the very least, more practical.
When hobbies start to grow more serious
they're labelled as obsessions - not at all
a happy thing. These are the insights that
I garnered through my childhood and my youth.
No one preached them. Like spirits they were there;
they wafted from the pictures on the walls,
the stalking and the sporting images;
we heard them in the knockings of the pipes,
we breathed them in with every breath of air.
They were like smiling faces from a fair.

I do not meet these attitudes so much
in these enlightened times... just now and then...
an aunt not seen since eighteen Christmases
ago, will ask what I've been up to since
that far off time. I write a bit, I'll say...
What? Mostly poetry! Then I confirm
that, no, my third collection is not due,
and no, I am not yet a millionaire...
It's just a hobby then? Would that be true?
I'm relegated to the bottom league.
She does not ask if there is one to read.

Not at all a Haiku

L.V.in her eye...
logo of her contact lens -
The Mona Lisa

Sunday 12 December 2010

"Haiku" #326

they think of eating
they keep thinking of eating -
they eat a lot less

Saturday 11 December 2010

The Essence of Me on the Poetry Bus ; and Haiku #325

The image below gives the essence of this week's challenge - or one of them - issued by Titus the Dog. It explains what is an essence vessel and what it means for us as would-be passengers.

The Essence of Me

The essence of me
for those who would look:
bleached wood from the sea,
a worm in a book,
the hues of a tree.

The essence of me
for those who would taste:
a garlicky fish
with horseradish paste,
some hot curry dish.

The essence of me
for those who would smell:
ozone from the sea
faint whiff of bluebell,
black coffee and tea.

The essence of me
for those who would hear:
the silence of graves,
the words of King Lear,
weird echoes in caves.

The essence of me
for those who would touch:
smooth stones from the sea
the sea's angry clutch -
pure joy in a knee.

The essence of me
as a conscious man:
what it means to be,
what it is to plan -
life as mystery.

Haiku #325

In the library
smoking an orchid to death
was a rolling stone

Friday 10 December 2010

Not Your Actual Haiku! #324

we no want Nobel
we have Confucius Peace Prize -
less bent - Chinese Gov

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Haiku #323

killed in their thousands
just for being left handed -
by right handed tools

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Beyond the Comfort Zone

Haiku #322

not bird song wakes me
but still lifes and lithographs -
sound lines and colour

Monday 6 December 2010


This image is this week's rather clever prompt at Magpie Tales, the poem below, my response to it.

How right that glass should guard the threshold where
the two domains, inside and out, have drawn,
in silverpoint, self-portraits on its back-
to-back pellucid sheets that now are one.
So shapes we've left behind us ghost before
and those before embrace the ones behind
and worlds we thought were separate are mixed.
Our artefacts and nature interact
and works we see as nature's or as ours
become a montage when we look again .

Sunday 5 December 2010

The Eagle and the Child

on the Poetry Bus

I can't quite believe that I've written this. It was a brilliant and original prompt (to take a pub name and from it create characters for a story - preferably rhymed) by Poetikat which excited - and finally defeated - me. Not at all my usual sort of endeavour, but that was a large part of its fascination. Hopefully, I will have learned something from it - maybe from the comments?

I tell the tale
of a bird of prey
and a child who met
by a lake one day.
Both were shy
and with nothing to say -
just a child by a lake
and the bird of prey.

The bird was gentle
and far from wild -
or so it seemed
to the trusting child
who saw in feathers
a place to hide,
in powerful wings
a call to ride.

They flew for ever,
flew far and high,
beyond the rainbow,
above the sky,
to a place where life
is light and free
and devoid of weight
or gravity,

a land too wondrous
to be quite true,
where rubbish food
is good for you,
where kids are more
than adult size
and adults think
them 'fab' and wise.

There, as they soared
above a stream
of ice and chillies
and juice and cream,
the eagle at last
had run out of steam
and dropped the child
from its happy dream.

Down he fell,
where they'd been before
to land with a bump
on the bedroom floor.
His parents tucked him
back into bed
deaf to the novel
stashed in his head.

Saturday 4 December 2010

"Found" Haiku

(lifted - almost verbatim - from a reader's letter in The Guardian.)

smokers get the nudge
tobacco companies the wink -
the health white paper

Friday 3 December 2010

The Way Time Passes.

"He likely won't see six," I overheard
the doctor say, when I was five.
I thought he meant o'clock, and so
resolved to stay awake.
Later, when my mother said: "That's it!
It's seven - past your sleep time!"
I was cock-a-hoop.
Only later - some years later - did I realise
what I'd achieved, how
cheating The Great Reaper,
I'd joined the great immortals.

Later still, I thought
I'd slipped time into over-drive
when time was but an ocean
and hardly moved at all,
except within itself.
Its tides and currents,
like so many secret thoughts,
like those that I enjoyed
that no one outside me
could know about.

Next, I can recall
the day I sat and worked it out
that half my life -- exactly half --
had vanished down the Swanny.
So I subtracted from my age,
sixteen, the theory being
that the years from one into the teens
could hardly count. And so,
I had two thirds
remaining in the bag,
as yet unopened.
And so we seek
to slow the pace of time
and make of it a dwindling stream.

Three interviews I went to, and at each
they said how young I looked.
I grew a beard. It worked: I got the job.
I'd suddenly grown older.
Time was then a flash flood in the sun.

Now time's a stream in tumult,
its speed increasing

I have no strategy for that.

Thursday 2 December 2010

What's in a Haiku?

Spring loneliness -
it falls short of the surf
this stone I toss.

Soon it will be a year since I began my (almost) daily "Haiku" on current affairs and "newsy" items. From the beginning I had a nagging anxiety: that I might be misleading friends who are not yet au fait with the nature and mysteries of the Haiku. They are not, never have been, were not intended to be, the real thing, to engender in their readers the unique experience which is the Haiku moment. They are no more than its skeleton, its structural form. Many will know better than I what the haiku is about, but for those who do not, I have worried that I might be doing them a mis-service. When I began these Haiku, and on a couple of occasions since, I have gone to some pains to explain the true haiku and to make clear that mine were not of that ilk, but were merely wearing a Haiku dress. However, that was long ago now - or seems it - and many new friends have happened along since then. So time to put the record straight, I think. Here, then, are the essentials of a Haiku as I have come to understand them.

The overriding characteristic of a Haiku is that it should encapsulate the Haiku moment. By this is meant a moment of genuine awareness, perception or enlightenment. A moment of Epiphany, in fact. The moment will be one of intuition and feeling, and the poem will engender these in the reader or listener. It is important to note that what is first felt and then conveyed in the poem is not something amenable to logic and will normally be ambiguous to a degree. Unsurprisingly, therefore, ambiguity is much prized in the Haiku. It is a poem of genuine feeling, not a mere tinkering with ideas - as many of mine have been!

The aspect which may be said to be next in terms of importance - though many there are who (mistakenly) will place it first - is the form. Structure is important, but is secondary to cadence. In English the accepted structure has become three lines of 5 - 7 - 5 syllables. This is a rule of thumb. Nothing more than that. Haiku translated from the Japanese hardly ever conform to this formula. Mostly, 5 - 7 - 5 does what is asked of it, but the important thing is for the poet to find an equivalent that suits the natural cadence. In Japanese the long vowel counts 2, so right away a dogmatic adherence to the strict 5 - 7 - 5 rule becomes untenable.

The poet's secondary job is to come up with an array of words that cuts the Haiku into two opposing sections, rather as the turn does in a sonnet. Usually in the Haiku it is 12 syllables pitched against 5.

Punctuation is most decidedly not prized. The less there is of it, the better. In most cases it will be verbalised or the line breaks will serve in its place. Often the dash (-) is used instead.

The Haiku will give hints of emotion or attitude (again I stress, not logic) which ideally should grab all five senses - though this must be seen as a counsel of perfection.

The third most important characteristic is one I have already mentioned: ambiguity. It is highly prized, and is often obtained by the use of juxtaposition rather than by the use of conjunctions. Along with ambiguity I should mention open-endedness and a very sparing use of adjectives.

That, I hope, gives a broad view of what the Haiku is all about, but now we need to consider the techniques commonly used to bring all these requirements together - no small task, I think you will agree.

The first of these to spring to mind is the concrete image. These, when juxtaposed without syntactical links as mentioned above, create the emotional tension or atmosphere for which the Haiku is rightly prized. Used in this way, they are considered to be stronger than simile.

Most Haiku are written in the present tense and report simple observations or occurrences. They do not deal in generalisations or habitual happenings, and there are no explicit statements of feelings.

The mood is usually light and not ostentatiously poetic - but definitely not flippant.

The haiku deals in all aspects of contemporary life in what has been described as an interesting but disinterested way.

Vocabulary consists of ordinary, everyday words rather than poetic or ornamental ones.

Normal poetic techniques - e.g. alliteration, assonance, rhyme, melody, rhythm, enjambment, etc - may all be used, but they must not glare i.e. they must not draw too much attention to themselves.

Finally, titles are avoided.

Which just leaves us with the small matter of content! You will have gathered from the above that comprehension is of the essence, that only the absolute essentials are included. But there is more: in a traditional form of Haiku it should be possible to tell from the script in which of the five seasons the poem is located. (Five, because for the Japanese the New Year is a separate season.) This is often done with a key word. Mention of the moon for example, will give a Japanese reader to understand that the poet means the harvest moon - i.e. it is Autumn. However, there has been some extension of the Haiku beyond traditional limits, due mainly to the fact that people do not live as close to nature as they once did. Now there is a category for social concerns such as homelessness and illness. Even so, the effort is towards placing it in the now - example: the last haiku given below.

I have mentioned the turn which should occur somewhere in the poem, normally at the end of one of the lines, that also is most often managed by a key word called a kireji. Sometimes this is a meaningless word added to create a pause before the turn. The kireji can create a lacuna or a ligature to the poem's next unequal half.

The haiku at the head of this post and the first one below are the work of the modern master Suzuki Masajo

no escaping it -
I must step on the fallen leaves
to take this path

The next is by the eighteenth century poet, Buson

plumes of pampas grass -
the helpless tremblings
of a lonely heart

Finishing with one by Inahata Teiko and one by Kaneko Tota

running down inside

buckling in the heat
where the A bomb burst
a marathon

I may not be around tomorrow, may not be replying to comments until the weekend. I have a family funeral to attend - if I can get out!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Bubble and Squeak

"Haiku" #321

They take them with them
their favourite coffin things -
mobile phones and wine

Heard from two small(ish) boys playing soldiers in the snow:-

1st boy : I've bombed your secret camp.

2nd boy : You couldn't 'ave, you don't know where it is.

1st boy : I do so, it was on Wicked Leaks!

Snow turning crimson
has buried the maple leaves
is stained by their blood

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Evening Shadows

mine and his can change a world --
sinister Jack Frost

"Haiku"  #320

They'll send a lump of coal
gift-wrapped to your least loved ones --
on-line gift firms.

Monday 29 November 2010

Haiku and "Haiku" #319

The first fall of snow
scooping handfuls from the car-
boys whiter than white.

Now that he's famous
there's a statue to Nani -
which he has at home

Sunday 28 November 2010

"Haiku" #318

"Big Society"
O.U.P.'s word of the year -
Bigger by the day

Saturday 27 November 2010

Here I would Live! -- and "Haiku" #317

I heard once of a woman who was having a recurring dream in which she would see a house. It was her dream house and it looked so real that she would try to buy it. She came to know it, every detail of it, inside and out. The occupant, however, would not sell.

One day, touring with her husband, they passed the house, the very same house, exactly as it had been, night after night in her dream. She stopped. Could not resist. She knocked. The door was opened by a woman who, taking one look at her, screamed for her to go away. I know you, who you are! she screamed. I've dreamed of you, you are my enemy. You want to take my house from me!

I was reminded of this story when I discovered that our friend Dana at Bug'e Eye View is driving The Poetry Bus and has given a choice of three destinations. Difficult to choose between them, but I have gone for my dream place place in which to live. I trust it will give no one a disturbance like that suffered by the poor ladies in the story above.

The house stands     all but hangs
on    from    above    among unpromising
uncompromising rocks. In front,
a wide expanse of water, a
dance floor for the later sunbeams
on a summer's evening    or
a playground for them, let us say.
Behind it, hills rise up with pinnacles
and overtones of racks of lamb.

The house itself is low and featureless,
reluctant to intrude above the rocks
with anything more solid than its colours
or strong texture. These it flaunts in sympathy
or contrast, challenging the granite
with its quartz    feldspars    its serpentine
in friendly rivalry.

Inside, the walls are plain, in neutral colours
as befits the ground on which the works will hang.
Prints mainly, reproductions, some of mine
and others I've acquired. Some flotsam here and there
the sea has spewed upon the beach.
One sculpture stands outside, alone.
A rock now riddled through with holes,
an instrument the sea and tides
and they alone can play.

One other must: an attic or an out house,
a studio-cum-study, one end lined with books,
the other, one unholy mess.

Outside again, perhaps a tiny bunny,
its source high in the hills that back the house.
It runs not far from here.

We all can write scripts
Tim Burton wants our talents -
tweet his next few lines.

Thursday 25 November 2010

A Favourite Spot : and "Haiku" #316

Heard on the radio
We must stand with our allies --
North Korea

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Haiku #315

Front page news -- Church splits
North Korea fires on South
A Royal wedding

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Fire on Earth

Fire on Earth

Peerless they are among the fire sticks of the sky
and totally without peers on the earth, where fire
does not exist - and never has - as they well know.
Too young though and too playful for their roles
both as ambassadors on earth
and members of the sky's haut monde.

The younger firestick kicks his brother on the shins
and skips away, his brother in pursuit,
both calling names, their laughter like the water in the brook.
Flip-flopping high above a thorn bush
they disappear in hummock grass, to reappear
their roles reversed, the younger giving chase,
becoming though, more breathless with each step.
Azoombo turns and makes to cross a ridge,
but finds the lighter and more nimble Zimber
gaining, so he hides among the branches of a tall
Acacia tree and waits to see Azoombo go below.
He drops upon him like a fall of stones.
They roll together on the ridge, and ever closer to the edge -
then over it, and sliding down the steep slope on the scree
creating sparks and shooting flames that when they reach the grass
become a conflagration such as earth has never seen.
In no time it engulfs the flat, the hollows and the hills beyond.

The owners of the firesticks, brothers also,
hunters from the famished world of sky,
have come to earth in search of food. They see the fire
from far beyond the hills and know that earth
does not possess the gift and threat of it. They hurry back
to where they'd left their firesticks in their kit
and scoop them up, returning post haste to the sky.

Tribes people wandering the flats beyond the hills
now see the flames and even from that distance feel their heat
and realize that here is something they can use.
They pull brands from the burning and return with them
to light small fires in every village home.
And so it is that earth is now a place of fire.

This week's prompt from Writers' Island is the one word peerless. For me it clicked with my poem Aspects of Creation after which I mentioned that I might try to write a series of poems on The myths of the Aborigines. This may - or may not - be the first in that series.

Haiku #314

From Greenland's glaciers
tasteless     it creates a taste --
 pure bottled water   

Monday 22 November 2010

A Magpie Tale of Emasculation

This thought-provoking image was this week's prompt at Magpie Tales. As with last week's Poetry Bus prompt it sent me scuttling back to childhood memories. I seem to be in that particular loop just at present.

As a kid
I neutered things
would doctor wasps
or draw the stings
of scorpions.
I'm talking
metaphor of course.
Not living things -
the livingest
were dreams
nightmares most of all.
I had such beasts
the beasts had beasts
that followed me
out of the night
into the living day.

I neutered them
in self-defence --
once I'd discovered
how the human mind
has tools to tackle them
by docking vital parts

In my mind's eye
dissecting images
I'd cut and paste
give twigs for claws
hard spines and scales
with Grandma's flannel vests.

the nightmare that returned
night after night
I'd work the image
as I fell asleep.
This picture
might be one of mine
a clock face of
eleven noughts
through which dark spirits poured
and weird eleven
or truncated twelve
pared to that single hour.
The clock
deprived of clockness

the wayward geni
safely bottled for
my peace of mind
which had been free
to run amok.
Still waiting to be corked.

Haiku #313

Keeping your skin taut
keeping healthy bones and heart --
the up-side of moles

Saturday 20 November 2010

Christmas 1938 on The Poetry Bus

This week our good friend at Enchanted Oak is driving The Poetry Bus and has asked us to address our own existence in the world. Fine, couldn't be better, except for the fact that it is ground I have worked over repeatedly. However, there existed an early poem which left a great deal to be desired. And so it was that Enchanted Oak's challenge was for me the spur to another attempt, another version. I felt I was far enogh away from the first not to be influenced by it - a triumph of optimism over experience, if ever there was one. Here though, the results of my second dig.

First joined-up memories of the real world,
of me a part of it, not understanding it,
of me in bed, my dad not making sense:
We have to go... he says,
a kindly place with special air...
where wizard folk charm children well
with just a puff of it.
Your Doctor Shellswell will be there.

I see it straight away in my mind's eye,
a towering wonderland of glass,
a shop of barley sugar minarets
all shimmering like sunlight on the sea.
Shelves bright with wands, Aladdin's lamps
and magic cloaks, tall hats and rabbits
out of them, and birds of paradise --
and elephants that disappear when told.

And there, behind the counter,
tall in wizard's cap, my doctor
taking from his bag the magic props
he always brings when visiting:
pills, stethoscope - and best of all,
his books of British Empire stamps,
two books of swops whose very names
are incantations, powers to cure all ills.

There's Montserrat, Somaliland, The Camaroons,
Hong Kong... My Brunei Grey
for his Seychelles, my Grandma says,
once cured my mild pneumonia.

Carried on a flying carpet in through Casualty,
where fairy sterilizers whistle steam
like kettles on a hob -- Just tell them mum,
two armies poised for war, I've left,
men bunkered in my bed,
I say,
I haven't time to stay for tea!

Next up, real lemonade and buns with cream.
(No mention yet of oxygen.) It might be fun -
and this from mum! - to stay the night.
All things conspire against me now
to put my private war on hold:
the Christmas tree, a nurse who fans
a latent spark in me, so easily she pulls
my strings, who tells me Santa knows
where I will be, will leave my things beneath the tree.

And so he does: a large Noah's Ark
with all the beasts, an army ambulance
with working parts and camourflage -
and - envy of the ward - Snow White.

But fairylands can harbour evil things.
Across from me, a terrorist,
a sleeper 'till the time was right.
Now with the confidence that heavy armour brings,
he'll send his Christmas tanks, he says,
to snuff out my Snow White.

Friday 19 November 2010

Haiku #312

It's all happening
It's Erotica 2010
It's World Toilet Day

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Immortal Lines

Soon after rousing me from my previously comatose state to a merely partial one, Radio 2, to which our clock radio alarm is tuned (do not ask why) regales me with a spot called Immortal Lines in which listeners 'phone, text or (presumably) email in their favourite immortal song lines. You may have spotted that I have purloined their title for mine own.

It has struck me a couple of times (being still in the semi-comatose condition mentioned above) that it might be interesting, entertaining - or even a giggle - if folk could be persuaded to part with their chosen immortal lines of verse. If so, the comment facility is there for your use. If not, well I have a very broad back and shall perfectly well understand that you did not feel you could indulge, yourselves not being in any sort of comatose condition.

To give you a feel of what I am on about, here are a few examples from recent broadcasts:

Someone left the cake out in the rain.

I'm celebrating my love for you
with a pint of beer and a new tattoo.

Hello lamp-post, what's your name?

Hopefully, they will have given you something of the flavour of what goes on on Radio 2. There are a couple of things to point out about these lines:

They do not have to be lines. They can be phrases, couplets, whatever.
I have not heard any source being given for them and have not recognised one as yet, so I am not willing to swear they are all genuine. Therefore, if you want to make them up or quote an immortal line from your own poetry, that will be fine. Immortal, of course, means immortal to you.

Most importantly, you should not feel it incumbent upon yourself to rise to the heights illustrated above. Something more normal will do very well, as long as it is immortal normality.

For me, the immortality of a line consists in its ability to summon up, and maybe in some sense to sum up, the poem itself.

A couple of examples:
First, from Wordsworth's Ode from his Intimations of Immortality:

Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,

and one more, this maybe a better example, for it summons up for me, not just the poem, but a whole collection. It is from George Szirtes's The Budapest File
and from a poem entitled: Undersong

I love the city, the way it eats you up
And melts you into walls along with stone

It sends a shiver down my spine now as it did, as the whole book did, when I first read it over a decade ago. He writes hauntingly of the changes that took place both above and below ground in his native Budapest, and this quotation brings it all back for me.

Another "Haiku form"

Fast-track growing up
that is why they disappeared -
the neanderthals

Monday 15 November 2010

Aspects of Creation : according to the Aborigines - and me.

being a response to Jingle Poetry's prompt of Moods, Feelings and Emotions.

In the beginning Earth was flat and featureless,
devoid of interest, of life or consequence.
And then there came the Dreamtime,
a great age of change, when giants rose
up from the soil to roam the land.
Half human and half animal, they wore
the natures of the beasts and birds, but acted
in a wholly human way, and set out for all time
the way the Aborigines would live their lives.
They camped, lit fires, they dug for water,
fought each other, hunted, killed to eat.

When finally the Dreamtime reached its end
a moment shrouded in great mystery,
the great, half-human heroes had to go,
their time was up, but as they went,
wherever one had left his mark, a feature
rose up from the land to say he had been there.
A watercourse, a tree, a mountain. Every
artefact the Aborigines enjoy was left to them
by those of old. And more: their laws and customs,
memories, all given. Each one absolute.
As in the Dreamtime, so it still must be, they say.

It happened, though, that in the early days
there came two skyfolk from above to hunt.
They moved in silence, setting traps and tracking prey.
In doing so, they came upon a man
and woman making love - or trying to.
A passionless performance doomed to fail.
This so disturbed them that they took to studying
the Aborigines at work and play, and came to see
that these earth folk had two emotions only: rage and fear -
the two that babies still exhibit in the cot.
Enough, no doubt, for their survival, but insufficient
to guarantee their race into the future.

And so the skyfolk donned their fearful aspects,
striking terror like a flame into the hearts
of men and women. Two beside a lake
they took, rigid in their arms, and flew,
first high above a mountain range,
then on, beyond the desert, to Woomoombo,
a volcano, very large and fiery, then in full eruption.

They flew into the crater, down amongst the spewing
cinders, very near the flames, until their captives
could not breathe. In mortal fear of their two captors,
they faced an even greater fear, that of nature
at its angriest. Unknown to them, within their souls
a tiny portion of that early fear had broken off
and from it awe had grown. Next thing, the sky folk
carried them away to a deserted island.
There they showed them passions greater
than they'd ever known - and in their new-found
awe they were both thrilled and terrified,
a state in which they saw for the first time this thing
called beauty manifest itself in beach
and tree, in sea and distant mountain.
And so it came to pass that a full range
of human feelings and emotions came to earth.
The last act of the skyfolk was to give
them music, art and poetry, a soil in which
to nurture their new feelings.

Haiku #310

To be in the mode
think about your third wardrobe -
a choice of night attire

Saturday 13 November 2010

The Poetry Bus meets a Diversion

This, my response to this week's Poetry Bus challenge, is a reworking of one I posted way back, before becoming very dissatisfied with it. The challenge has given me the opportunity for a thorough-going rewrite.
I am much indebted to Karen at "Keeping Secrets" for the prompt. We were asked to choose between the following: A time when we had to choose between two divergent paths; a time when we were called to take a path we did not choose; and a time when we refused to take such a path.


Science has gone well.
Continuous Creation, not
the Big Bang of the future -
C.C.'s the theory for this age.

We file into the hall,
the head to lead the prayers.
His homily from Genesis.
Creation done again .

Josh, back in class, is fidgety
distressed, is asking might he paint?
Four sheets of sugar paper,
tape together - and he's off.

Creation number three.
Hills, valleys, trees, the sun, stars,
distant mountains, rivers, flowers...
and then, unmissably, two moons.

I suss the second moon:
it's Sputnik, Russia's first, just launched.
Beneath it are two men,
one huge and one diminutive.

The huge man, haloed,
has one hand reaching out, looms
above small man
who points up to the moons.

Now Josh can't wait to tell me:
Big man, God. Small man
Adam, Adam says to God,
Look there then, I put that one up!

And what's God say to that? I ask.
He's showing him a spider, see.
I jist made him, he say -
You go, beat that, my man!

Not this one moment by itself,
but many like it
have deflected me
from one path to another.

The master plan, teach art and paint
is binned, the children
more appealing somehow,
the focus is on them, not art.

Haiku #310

New Health Policy?
PepsiCo and McDonalds
will help you write it

Thursday 11 November 2010

Two Haiku

mist and tree are merged
they have embraced each other
people stand apart.

art and religion
shape and embrace our feelings -
pity lonely moods

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Haiku #308

So many spring plants
heads so very far above
the winter's parapet

Tuesday 9 November 2010

The Standing Stones

I've got to watch that I don't become a prompt junky. I've picked up three of them these last few days and run with them all, which was not intended initially. This one really gripped me, probably because I had had this rather empty idea floating round in my mind for some time that I might write about some standing stones. Various locations came and went and still the idea did noting for me. Then came Jingle Poetry's suggestion that we might like to try writing on "Buildings Landmarks or Monuments" etc. That seemed to do it. Why or how, I have no idea. Maybe the phrase gave me a new perspective on the stones. Anyway, this is the result.

The thorn hedge ran it through
divided it
as neatly as a butcher's cleaver
severs meat
strips meat from bone
they were the bones
the bones of some old megalith-
ic structure
eight all told
and six still standing
three in either field
and one in each laid flat
symmetrical design

but nature had begun to fence it in
commandeer the mound on which it stood
tough brambles scrawling over it
their nonsense verse
a mockery of what was on the stones

not that any soul
from heaven earth or hell
came near it
save a stranger with a guide book
now and then

until the day the rings appeared
crop circles people said
before they'd realised
the standing stones were central to the thought
the same thought that the megaliths displayed

the megaliths were thinking out aloud

concentric thoughts
around the circle of the stones
soon brought the people in
the clip-boards and the instruments
the cameras and the microphones

Tom Shanks was one
for all I know the only one
to hack and bleed his
way into the stones

what radiated from him
only he will know

and for the rest of us
we left the brambles undisturbed
whose scrawl had turned to script
our duty to preserve

from rune and bramble
as we turned
to eye the distant hills
the land reshaped itself.
The colours first.
Intense. On fire.
As if a van Gogh or a Paul Gauguin
had set them down
for real. To hell with paint

other changes
caught our eyes
each one switched on
in its own time
the way a foetus grows
progressing at its given rate
but turning time around
backtracking through the years
unravelling the decades

Tom was a changed man after that
changed more than we
his mind had changed
its architecture like our land
more permanent than ours.

Back in the normal fields
our normal hills returned
the trees put on once more
their workday leaves
and grass turned green again.

His mind had gone for ever.
Its malls and manor houses
brick and concrete turned to dust
replaced by mud and wattle
thatch and ditch and stone
immersed in ancient wisdoms

it was he said like poring over lilies
watching as they opened
studying their passions
hidden structures
how they made it to themselves

like a poem on a snowflake
melting on your tongue
for the taste buds to take in

a lover's serenade
as in the instant that you know
it's being sung for you

like a form of sexual rapture

or sex for the first time

say fifty different kinds of love

a moment out of time
speaking a new meaning
not a word of explanation
speaking straight to you
without explaining how

He who had been shallow
a shadow of a person
placing hands on stricken man
on his animals and institutions
feeling hidden structures
feeling his way clear to put them right

He could have found a flying horse
old man, mandala, lotus, wheel,
the hanging man or voodoo doll -
all myths to do the job.
It just so happens that he found
scratches on some standing stones,
a scribble of brambles and their leaves.

Haiku #307

Forty five pounds sir.
Here's your masterpiece, signed by...
After you've paid sir!

Monday 8 November 2010

Magpie Tales

This week's prompt at Magpie Tales was a splendid image of a cock's head which Blogger has steadfastly refused to reproduce!! You can of course see it if you click on the above link.

The Cock

owning his wee bit of it -
far as eye can see -
and having taken it
for granted -
or from God.

He has called the morning
to account,
has challenged it and knows
there'll be no takers -
save the echoes of his crows.

No need to show
the rest of him -
it's there in that proud
twist of neck,
red comb
and silhouette.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Surfing on the Poetry Bus

We were asked this week for poems to do with sea, swimming or bathing. But do take a look and read the challenge for yourself at:  http://networkedblogs.com/9ZSOY

The Surfer

The wave is sexual
is all excitement, power.
You'd wait a lifetime for the one I mean,
as a poet for his masterwork
a lover for the idolized.

The wave is my beloved.

Treading water
like pacing a street corner,
scanning the horizon...
how to spot her in the crowd
to pick her from the endless stream
of waves identical?

If there's a visual sign
I have no word for it.
Not height, weight, speed nor light,
not colour beam nor breadth...

Somehow I'll know.

Far off, I've chosen her.
Move forward. Gain
as much momentum as I can
until I feel her slide beneath me,
speeds synchronized,
her belly lifting mine,
mine perched on hers.

Our tipping points meld into one -
the perfect union.
Adjust my body angle
then feel her surge, stop, sway, dissemble -
or the perturbations come from me,
from my uncertainties.

Does she feel me as I feel her?
The question's not so strange,
she feels the ocean floor,
becomes pure mathematics,
as she always was -
the ratio of length of wave
to depth of sea will break her yet.

Storm-crafted and storm-driven
across a millpond undersea,
she planes its grain towards the shore
and curls up in a perfect circle
one huge shaving from the sea -
the crest on which we ride.

Inshore, the sea bed,
rises through the Zen-like calm,
replaces it. She feels
the drag of sand
and gravel on her underside,
but then again,
the crest is hampered not a jot, flies on.
And thus she leans,
spills forward,
as a runner when he stumbles might,
all balance lost.

The perfect circle is deformed,
stretched out into a long elipse.

There is a magic number to the lean:
at one in seven she holds on;
a fraction more, the wave explodes.
A million shards, and every one
and every molecule, to weave
its fractal from the sun.
For half a second - hardly more -
Eternity's begun.

Guests invited for
"Intimate Shooting Party"
Balmoral - this weekend.

"Haiku" #305

To spot your secrets -
speed, glove compartment, seat belts -
roadside cameras.

Friday 5 November 2010

The Word

In the beginning was the word.
Not quite. Before that was the sound.
Act 1 was all about the sound.
In Ac t 2 the sound became the word.
Act 3 saw the word acquire an image.
Act 4 has not really been an act,
but an encore.

Thursday 4 November 2010

Haiku #304

 rife in stone age Britain -
  short forefingers

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Monday 1 November 2010

Tanka Time

They check their handbooks
before they deal with witches,
Druids, teenagers
or naked folk with hands tied --
Metropolitan Police

Sunday 31 October 2010

Haiku unnumbered

Double-dyed black sun
eclipsing chalky white moon -
must be Gothic fun

Saturday 30 October 2010

Pardon me while I scream

This is the night for the bones to rise
and cartwheel across the darkening skies,
for wind-blown ashes from years ago
to gather again like driven snow,
to dance with their clanking limbs on fire
with partners they drag from the funeral pyre.

This is the night the lovers wed
then sleep for a year on a thistle bed.
The dead and the undead welcome here;
the living may come in mortal fear.
Consume your partners, one and all,
then step it out at The Pox-Trot Ball.

This is the night the rivers flood
and boil and bubble with human blood.
The priest stands waiting to plunge you in,
then lift you up to a life of sin.
From his censer the smell of putrid meat -
a promise of death at The Judgement Seat.

This is the night they rattle their chains
who will suck the mind from a vicar's brains
and strip the flesh from his stinking corpse
for a stew to enjoy when your sane mind warps --
as it will when you taste in his body's juice
the heart of a long dead, mouldering goose.

This is the night when a million eyes
replace the stars in the furry skies,
and snouts and ears shake out as well
and all the creatures from every hell
appear as shadows with blazing trails
on birds of prey with monster scales.

This is the night when mice eat owls
and the woods are full of hoots and howls
the night for a visit to do you no good --
(If you haven't been, you bloody-well should!)
This is the night to impale the flesh,
and the careless to end in a spider's mesh.

This is the night of the cancelled wake,
the coffins will empty, the churchyards quake;
the spirits are leaving before their time,
the souls of the holy are smeared with grime;
an innocent's head goes by on a stick --
for some it's a treat, for others a trick.

Thanks for inspiration also due to Magpie Tales

They're off to Holland
learning how to mountaineer -
beginners, it's true

Thursday 28 October 2010

Matinée Performance

A safety curtain like the Berlin Wall
confronts me. Flux and change
mark this strange world of drifting scenes.
They blur and merge; the house lights dim;
the stage lights blaze;
the knives are out; a cast of shades
is waiting in the wings.
A disembodied voice, the leading man's,
its aim to reassure, proclaims:
"Low blood loss operation, this."
No one replies.

Half-seen (more ghost-like than I'd thought),
they glide on stage. Or do they?
In this topsy-turvy world, they have encircled me.
Theatre in the round. Or is it? Am I not
the one on stage! I look up to the lamp,
the nearest, largest lamp, almost above my head.
Its polished rim is mirror-like, gives sight
beyond the wall. Chief ghost
is cutting something - and the cut is long and thin,
its ends and middle decorated with
three glistening beads, tiny and bright red.
Unpacking something - me - as from
a bag, he finds his role
and slips into his second skin,
becomes the master craftsman, and begins.
He rummages a bit, then grunts -
he's found the hernia.

A head is laid alongside mine. I do not see it,
quite so much as feel it there. "Hey,
you can see, can't you?" she says,
and looking where I am looking, asks
if I am watching what she sees. I own up,
wondering if I have broken any laws...
Perhaps it's criminal stupidity... Indecency...
Am I a spy? A Peeping Tom? Ostensibly,
her role is pump attendant at the cannula
in my left hand. In fact, I am convinced
she's there to keep my spirits buoyed.

So well she does it that, distracted, I
come close to missing what I sense to be
the highlight of the enterprise: a length
of mesh becomes a part of me.
That which was torn was fixed and now is fortified.
Chief ghost regains his former role, adjusts the lamp -
and by so doing has removed my view.
Above the wall, just heads and faces, masks and shrouds -
and now and then, a blood-stained something on a stick.

You could go to Mars
They will be pleased to take you -
but not to bring you back

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Haiku #301

It's going to rain
their snouts will fill with water -
the sneezing monkeys

Tuesday 26 October 2010

"Haiku" #300

If you're average
you'll spend a year of your life
parking your car

Monday 25 October 2010

"Haiku" #299

A great cover-up
by museums their mummies -
not to offend the pagans

Sunday 24 October 2010

Magpie Tales #37 and Haiku #298

Metres from the wall on which it hung
fallen on the unmade bed -
having flown around the room -
reflecting nothing human
inviting you to look.
But if you look, my friend, look in
with fear and shuddering
lest you should see yourself.
Your true world waits to claim you as its own.

Two and a half grand
their disposable income -
that's eighteen year olds.

Saturday 23 October 2010

"Haiku" #297

A rather poor style
with emotional impact -
That was Jane Austin

Friday 22 October 2010

Boy with Robot (watercolour) and "Haiku" #296

It's dangerous they say
eating more than two per day -
that's octopus heads

Thursday 21 October 2010

Haiku #295

They will get jealous
of their husbands' female friends -
women on the pill.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Haiku #294

Equally dangerous -
telephoning at the wheel
and from the back seat.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Haiku #293

Parents' evenings?
They risk a legal action,
they being sexist.

Monday 18 October 2010


For this one I am indebted to Writers' Island and to this rather impressive visual prompt.

First magic realism and tromp l'oeil -
and now this art phenominal,
process of nature aped in paint,
powerful forces, tides and currents
penned within the picture plane.

Such hubris! Seedlings from the big bang, now
confined in two dimensions, needing four,
when sun and moon in rare conjunction
cast their magic spells...
The real becomes too real.

High tide and sea surge, wave crash and splash
to break the sea's constraints. No paint
can thwart the onslaught,
all in their path is overwhelmed,
the seabed spreads as sea gains ground.


I have decided that on days when I have other posts I will no longer post haiku - except, of course, on days like today, when I do.

Haiku #292

The miners rescue
inspired by Winston Churchill -
so says Pinera

Sunday 17 October 2010

Haiku #291

They don't speak German?
Not welcome in Germany -
Angela Merkel

Saturday 16 October 2010

The Cemetery / Magpie Tales and Writers Island Prompts / Haiku #290

Broken shapes.
The cemetery wall is topped with slates
like headstones, leaning.
How many sorrows can a wall contain?
Shapes that we associate
with death enclose the burial ground.
Mourning encloses mourning.
Beyond the wall the graveyard stones are white,
here they are blue and turning black.
Grief, too, has found its flavours,
each flavour finds its addicts.

Someone has scribbled "Mummy" on a slate.
I wonder when she died - or if she died.
If so, of what? And when? How old?
The wall is border, demarcation:
dead and living must not mix or be confused.
Inside are other borders, other demarcations.

A cortege has appeared, from nowhere it would seem.
Ghosts. People-shapes of mourners,
a black regatta
flowing first towards me, then away,
unsure of form, unsure of what to say
and stripped of all those age-old consolations,
as am I.
Only the cemetery has that sureness,
the quiet certainty we've lost.
The rest is faithless, featureless:
the wilderness, allotments
and the garden bordering.
Dust everywhere.
The dust of those traditions,
those muddled certainties.
So many lonely people.
People lonely in their different ways.

The coffin like a landscape,
sparkles in the rain.
Sparkles into life, you might say.
Almost. Beyond it,
stone steps to where the landscapes meet.
Collide and run together.
If only we could map all our
internal rifts and all our roots,
have nothing strange or mindless left
to throw us off the scent.

The dust requires some structure to be put in place.
We think a wilderness of thoughts
and try our best to bring them all together.
This place is part of that.

The rain is setting in more solidly.
I watch the wasteland and the garden edge together,
blur, and penetrate each other, pinch
each other’s frontiers further back.
Man and nature alternate
in tiny triumphs and disasters
where neither stands supreme.
Between this lost domain and that
the words that carry visions fall as dust.
A bit of bramble here,
a slither of herbaceous border,
clump of nettles... Near at hand
a coffin stacked with flowers.

The Cemetery was written and waiting in the wings for a launch date when first Magpie Tales and then Writers Island came up with these two prompts which suggested what follows:


As clear a mark of spring as daffodils,
the house flung open to the fields that wait,
and out all dust and winter festerings,
then in sweet floral scents, the mind to breathe
and make of this dark cell a forest glade.

No winter is more dour nor has more weight
than shuttered minds routinely looking in.
It's in the looking out, beyond, behind
we see the colours that are there to find.
The world is black and white or it is grey

(a veil as false as shadows on a wall
that fogs the mind as cataracts blur sight)
until the veil is lifted, bolts are drawn.
If transience intensifies the hues
it's grief that renders them in black and white.

In the bedroom once,
one thing led to another
now it's in the bathroom.

Friday 15 October 2010

Haiku #289

Closed by the watchdog -
IhateRyanair.com -
but for its sponsored links

Thursday 14 October 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name.

Just me playing about again

Four shots of a rose before a camera.

This one's just called Abstract

(Did you spot the photographer?)

Haiku #288

They've binned their hobbies
not a stamp album in sight --
the kids of today

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Haiku #287

They text and they tweet
twice as much behind the wheel
as ever they talk

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Haiku #286

Faux sunflower seeds -
Tate Modern's hundred million
are all hand painted

Monday 11 October 2010

Haiku #285

San Francisco toured
The Golden Gate Bridge crossed --
by Google's robot cars

Sunday 10 October 2010

Disturbing the Fields ..... and "Found Haiku"

Was it welcome, the intrusion? A relief perhaps
from boredom? Or a son-and-father moment
interrupted, lost for ever? A blip, they thought,
but no great deal. A thing with heft,
metallic - obviously that, for interrupting
the magnetic field of their detector.
They'd visited the field so often in the past,
had swept it side-to-side and up and down
and long ago convinced themselves that it was bare
of artefacts worth finding. But still they'd gone
on sweeping, since they liked the view.

A small disturbance to a Cumbrian field.
No more than that. A head. Victorian, they'd thought.
Well, no. As it turned out, First Century - perhaps.
A Roman bronze, a mask, a helmet for the cavalry.
And beautiful, complete and haunting. Certainly,
a face to reckon with. One to disturb the status quo.
Two thousand years entombed in local soil, they graced it with
a local name. Their hope, that it would bring in visitors.
They raised the cash in bucketsfull. More than enough.
Way, way beyond the likely price. But it had powers
beyond their dreams, that ancient head disturbing,
mesmerising, gripping man across the globe. Outbid,
the soil of Cumbria not rich enough... the last
disturbance..? That will be abroad - maybe.

Found Haiku

Your love is sunlight,
transcends prison walls and bars,
strokes each pore of my skin

Part of a letter from Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese activist serving 11 years in prison to his wife Liu Xia.

Friday 8 October 2010


This was the fine prompt offered at Magpie Tales earlier this week. Alas, I was late in coming across it.
lamp-lit and dying,
old men enjoying
the moonlight,
not expecting tomorrow.

Laughing, they hang there,
fondling their age-old loved ones
under the branches,
hushing their rustling into the silent, cold morning.

brighter they shine there than lanterns burning
under the branches. Entangled.
Leaves, bright-eyed and yearning,
yearning to shake themselves free of the tree,
to fall at last, to frolic and be
free to explore this moonlit wonder,
free to flee to be trodden under.

Haiku #283

Conference on Boring
will look for excitement in
Dust's History and such

Thursday 7 October 2010

Haiku #282

a book of breasts wearing make-up -
launching for Christmas

Fungi : Watercolour -- and Haiku 281

This was one of those should-never-happen occasions when I found myself in woods without a camera. I came upon these fantastic fungi and made black and white sketches with colour notes. The painting was produced from the sketches and notes a week or two later, as faithfully as they and my memory would allow.

Gormley, Hirst and co
are the new custodians -
of our Manor Houses

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Haiku #280

Not simple emotion -
twelve complex mental processes
this falling in love

Monday 4 October 2010

Haiku #279

He lives in panic
fearful for his next poem -
Seamus Heaney.

Sunday 3 October 2010

A Living Thing

The chalk path like an old scar
ran jagged through the hills. On either side
the rivulets made suture marks where flesh,
millennia ago, was torn aside.
At least, that’s how I saw it then. Now looking back,
I see a living thing, a serpent
writhing in the clutch of stunning views.

That day, a dozen goddesses invited me
to walk their breasts, to fill my eyes
from skirts they’d spread a hundred feet
or more below my feet, skirts laid
with fruit and cereals of every hue:
ochres, greens and oranges, deep wells of blue,
impenetrable blacknesses and reds
as fresh and vivid as new wounds, I saw.
Silvers were there where sequined rivers ran
between deep banks of pewter, apricot and tan.
On days like that, one’s more alone
the nearer one approaches bliss.

And so, my loneliness was like a moorland fire:
slowly it had smouldered in the grass,
caressed the air - and seemed no more
than if a furtive lad had lit
a fag behind the woodhouse door.

A backpacker, she’d packed a punch
to spread the flames across a continent.
Our bodies, tinder dry, ignited in our bed.
The landscape changed as if to mourn the deed.
Dead trees became the norm. For days
they lined our path like flightless arrows
fallen from oppugnant skies. If they
were Cupid’s, they had missed their mark.

But we strode on, took all the mountains in our stride,
then strode on down to where
a cowpat landscape lay with dunghills at its back -
And there we whispered our goodbyes.

Alone again, I came upon the lake by night,
looked down upon it from The Devil’s Tooth,
saw charcoal waters imaging a mouth
that feasted on the sky.
Regulus, I saw, Denebola, both bright in Leo,
and the moon. Beyond them, wet with rain,
a glass town shimmered from a distant shore.
She called my name.
How had she come to know it?
Who was she? – And from where?

M87 is a black hole, man, three billion times
as heavy as our sun. The beetles rule the world:
two hundred families, each one
with thirty thousand species to its name!
Did you know that?

She kept it up
until we walked into the glass town hand in hand,
our bodies then a strange irrelevance. We overcame
their gravity. The lake - its lightness -
gave new meaning to our lives. Inevitable then,
that we should overstay its welcome.
As love gained strength the great lake shrank
and took on the dimensions of a glove.

But still I pulled it on each morning and gave thanks.
It had become for me what life had always been:
a detail etched upon a detail, a patch of light,
a soft complexion borrowed from a bank,
a ripple or the movement of a fish.
The lake no longer held the universe; Denebola
and Leo and the moon were gone.
Just one small detail (in her kidney) grew;
just one much larger detail died…
and all the skies that ever were came down into the lake,
and the lake dried.

Haiku #278

Death a major theme
Seamus Heaney's Human Chain.
It was news to him.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Haiku #277

New World families -
Supermarket price wars
are damaging their health.

Friday 1 October 2010

Haiku #276

Childhood allergies
having a pet dog might help -
but only dogs, not cats.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Night Woods - and Haiku #275

Another of my "mixed media" efforts.

Germany pays up
this Saturday - it clears its debt
for the first World War.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Haiku #274

Forget about legs,
legs that go on for ever,
it's arms boys look at.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Haiky #273

Among "most often left"
Cable's book on the recession -
in Travelodge Hotels

Monday 27 September 2010

Haiku #272

An old English sheep dog
says Ann Widdecombe of the Pope --
no Rottweiller he.

Sunday 26 September 2010

The Wolf on Red Riding Hood - and Her Gran : Plus Haiku #271 (As overheard on the Poetry Bus)

Ably driven this week by Rachel Fox to whom much thanks.

It definitely was the red,
I know what did it. Girls in red?
I've no defence, I'm finished. Done.
(My mum would tell me to "watch out
for girls dressed all in red - they're out
for only one thing, them." Thanks mum,
I'd think, I'll sure remember that!)
And then there were her kinky boots...
(Not mum's, of course. Red Riding Hood's.)
They're guaranteed to work me up,
no sweat. So all in all, she looked
the sort who'd heat up for a bloke
who'd put the frighteners on her.
(Just a touch, that is. Nothing too --
what shall I say? - extreme. Know what
I mean?) So there's me faking it,
like reality's gone out of
fashion while our backs were turned,
not telling her, not letting on --
first this, then that, about her gran.
Warming her up nicely, thanks, and
wondering if I should tell her --
if that would be to shoot one line
too many -- what a goer her
old Gran turned out to be, and how...
when in roars this mad hatchet man
like, well, he's just cleared out Hell's crypt...
So then, I'm out of there, and tout
de suit
an' all! And very sweet
it could have been. Still, must stay a
touch positive. Some new chat-
lines came from it: like those big eyes,
big ears and stuff. They should all prove
more grist to my voracious mill.
Roll on the next dame dressed in red!

They're on the war path.
Spanish Grandparents might strike --
and bring Spain to a stop.