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Saturday 31 December 2011

Crystallines for the New Year

A form of couplet expounded by Denis M Garrison on dVerse Poets among an intriguing collection of couplet forms. Do pop over and have a browse through them. The crystalline, I learn from Denise, was inspired by the haiku, has 17 syllables, combines Japanese clarity with English sound harmony and has a turn between the lines. It also takes a title. I did not find the form easy, but here goes:-

Chalked daffodils on pavement stone
cut vapour trails where planes have flown.

Four tiny roses opened this last week -
winter's rags are touched with chic!

A Father Christmas out of time
remonstrates with children for some crime.

Church bells ringing loud and clear...
could we but practice for the whole new year...

To all good souls who've walked this way,
to all good soul's who've not,
a sparkling New Year's Eve and Day.
For twenty-twelve a brilliant lot
to you and all those dear.
That's it for now, see you next year!

Friday 30 December 2011

Crimson Lake

Francis Bacon's
Portrait of Pope Innocent X
from the Wikipedia website.

His name was Crimson Lake.
Parental joke, maybe...
more than enough to drive
a lad like him towards
a life of crime or drink.

It pushed him into art,
he found a refuge there
and soon declared himself:
Bacon was his hero,
he planned to be like him.
("A name must have a name
or no one gives a damn!")
Michael, he'd been meaning
(rock guitarist, 3D
animator, Sony
games designer, builder
of environments):
but found himself nonplussed
when critics asked "Which one?"
Recovering at speed:
"The both of them," said he.

He had to look up stuff
on Francis. After which,
"Their influence," he said,
"was of their words, not works."
Francis gave the thought that
"van Gogh's fields give off
the violence of grass"
from which a small step took
him to: "magnetic fields
will sizzle, done in paint!"
"Man is an accident,
life is accidental,
my work shall be the same!
I'll paint the plight of man
stuck in this godless world
of widgets and white coats."

And he was proved correct:
a kind of half-connect
was made between his work
and his two guru guides.
Apparent, visual
not of the essence and
not real. An accident.
That was it. Nothing that
was consciously achieved.

For Michael Bacon's work click here

Thursday 29 December 2011


He was always at sixes and sevens.
"Awkward sod," said his father.
"Worse than the cat for getting
under yer feet!" - Well,
that was his mum.
It made me wonder: did anyone
bat on his side?

"Don't get it from me, that's a fact!"
(And that was his Dad.)
"I don't have bother with words!
Never did have!" All true.
They were all lined up at the ready -
ready for picking on Sam:
"Ham-fisted, cack-handed bugger,
no son of mine. Left-handed, see. Evil -
don't forget evil, not when you're
pointing your finger at me! Mark
of the devil, that is.
And none of my doing!"

For "evil" and "awkward" read eyes
and the limbs not fully in synch.

A difficult birth; some damage was done.

"Why can't you let him just do his drawing?
Stick him somewhere out of your way.
Paper and crayons, he's happy for hours!"
There was no going back after that.
What had been between them was gone.
Sam abhored drawing,
so how could his dad
imagine he loved it? Sam was distraught
and outraged, convinced
that his father knew nothing of him.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Talking to Children

Early sixties
talking to children
eight to nine years old.
Subject: the newly
opened Coventry

the blitz, the glass
end wall engraved
with saints and angels,
and beyond, the ruins
of the old. The architect,
Sir Basil Spence, explains
how he'd imagined
standing outside looking in
and seeing the great works
inside through bodies
of the saints. But Martin
has a different take: thinks
it was to let the worshippers
look out and see the world
they're praying for. I wonder

then, how often do we see
the object of our prayers
and all the saintly and
angelic powers that stand
nearby to intervene.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

The Dark Side of the Moon

I am the moon's dark side,
ashamed of what might be
if I should face the earth
and earth face me.

Once known as Satan or the Devil,
but now with many an alias,
I hide my true self from myself,
from each and every one of us.

I am the darkness of the moon -
not dark as in a lack of light,
but unfamiliar and unexplored,
where all that's undesirable is stored.

I am known only in my sleep,
in your analyses of probes you send,
in what you're pleased to make
of each robotic bleep.

You ask what you would see
if you could meet me face to face -
You've dreamed, I hear, of moonscapes
full of poetry and grace.

Not here, my friend; here you will find
those things that you call base.
This is a land where decency
has vanished without trace.

I am the rough side of the moon,
more mountainous and pock-marked than the rest,
abused by asteroids from birth
and left for dead, unburied and unblessed.

This is a recycled, slightly re-edited poem first posted back in May and now entered for Poets United's Poetry Pantry

Sunday 25 December 2011

A Local Mall

No shopping days left. No more opportunities to join the happy crowds!

Me, I'm taking a few days off the pooter. Hope to resume normal service Tuesday-ish.

So here's wishing the very best of the season's blessings to all who've trod this way!

Friday 23 December 2011

Light and Dark

dVerse Poets Meeting the Bar challenge for this week is to write a poem around a pair of opposites.

Half in, half out of a bad dream,
the moonlight playing tricks,
a glimmer here, a shadow there
and not a switch in sight
when from the darkest corner of the room
a figure glides towards him, stands,
occupies the moonlit patch
where moments back his wife had been.

This face he doesn't know:
long black feathers fringe her head,
woven in the many draughts.
A long black beak... a flood of light.
His wife revealed, the room laid bare.
He knows it now: The Queen's Hotel.
The feathers: pampas grass in jars.
The beak, a stork of porcelain
on which, last night
he'd hung his snowy coat to dry.

Christmas Tipples from the Poets

To help the season along a little, I thought I would recycle this very ancient post devoted to the poets as they might have been had they been not poets but fine wines. What sort of wines would they have been, with what sort of characteristics? A very happy, imaginary Christmas to you all.

Seamus Heaney
A strong, no-nonsense spirit with a distinctive, peaty flavour.

W.B Yeats
A somewhat grandiloquent wine, at times having more the characteristics of a slightly sticky liqueur. Ideal for the grand occasion, though be warned that this fine, slightly hallucinatory drink, has suggestions both of majesty and rebellion in its heady bouquet.

George Szirtes
An honest, slightly gritty wine that requires a serious meat dish for the drinker to appreciate its full authority.

Hugh MacDiarmid
The product of a robust grape that thrives in either of two soils, the one resulting in a refreshingly wild and unambiguous flavour, the other in a cloud of hints and associations.

W. H. Auden
A serious taste beneath a lively, jovial bouquet. A wine for either public or private occasions.

W. S. Graham
The punch with a punch. The first draught may be totally befuddling, but eventually - probably a day or two later - a cold clarity will hit. And you will never forget that you drank!

T.S. Eliot
One for the connoisseur, having in both taste and bouquet many associations to be enjoyed by the acquired palate.

R.S. Thomas
A severe wine with an enduring, uncomplicated flavour. A happy complement to simple fare.

Marianne Moore
Edith Sitwell once referred to this wine as "thick and uncouth", which is strange, considering its allusive and tantalising nature. Perfect with a light meal.

Robert Graves
A traditional wine, though with more than a touch of the free spirit. Ideal for the picnic hamper on a hot, sunny day, or to accompany a Mediterranean-style meal. A wine for lovers everywhere.

Thursday 22 December 2011

School Advents - Highlights in Haiku and Tanka

The Virgin Mary
lifts her skirt, shows her knickers -
to scratch beneath them

The cheerful landlord,
asked if he has rooms to spare,
says: I've loads of them. Come in

After class parties
wishing them all happy times.
Boarding the school bus
a small boy turns to whisper
I've just now had my Christmas!

A wise man grumbles
We're following the wrong star -
this one says Woolworth!

School Christmas Dinner
and I'm playing Santa Claus.
Distributing the gifts.
A small boy calls out loudly:
Why's he wearing Miss Gray's boots?

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Next Great Extinction Will Be Words

Words are birds are minibeasts
syllables   animals amphibians
and pollywogs,
utterances   insects and ophidians. 
Snakes whispering together
in the jungle of my mind.

When the trees were juvenile
youthful full of vigour
new species on a daily
basis would appear.
The pool of all created things
got larger by the hour.

Then came the time of mellowness
of seasoning and balancing
of species from the crucible
with others to the dump.
Deaths come with births
my gran would say.

The time of clearances
is here now in this not-so-jungle-
more-a-forest, where
like lemmings, species only disappear.
The pool shrinks constantly.
There's no replenishment.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

The truth about dad and Sam

That's it, the one, the famous one, the photograph.
That's dad, of course, though looking more like mum.
It set the fashion for while, had everyone cross-dressing.
Became for dad life-changing when he took it up for real.
Joe Public saw the figure as some sort of cross
between a spy and a cross-dresser - and not far wrong, at that!
A stunt it was to start with. To advertise his book:
Spies, Moles and Sexual Peccadilloes.

Good title that, I thought, had every one a-flutter, wondering
and wanting just a bit more info than the book would give.
He went too far. Over-cooked it for the photograph. The wig,
the long, dark curls... did not sit well with the rough beard!
The there's the shadow of the man about to rape
or murder him or her - or so Joe Public liked to think!
And as for that great hole in him... don't ask. A camera lens!
Supposed to be a secret camera. The fashion then - for spies.

But it was Sam who turned Joe Public fully on.
He took her everywhere, his doll with porcelain-smooth skin -
and God-alone-knew-what on the inside.
Mechanical transexual.
Capable of Masturbation,
which she would demonstrate on cue
until the microfilm appeared
from God-alone-knew-where, somewhere deep inside.

He took her on his tours to publicise the book
and waited for the world to come,
to beat a pathway to her door -
which soon enough, they did -
especially security, the counter-everything brigade.
The photograph's iconic now,
worth a pauper's ransom, shouldn't wonder!
Pivotal it was in their divorce.

The image is this week's prompt on the Magpie Tales blog.

Monday 19 December 2011

Leonardo's Virgin and Child with St Anne

Leonardo at his peak
pulls out all the stops,
light and dark
to modulate
length, breadth and height
while background melts
to haze of greeny-blues.

Mary melancholic,
Anne benevolent,
are given slight
indefinitions -
Mona Lisa smiles.

The distance to the hills
is measured here
in muted tones
and subtle hues.

The Christ Child
holds a lamb -
symbol of
His suffering.

Rocks and mountains
earth and vegetation
have sworn themselves
to silence
hold the trio
in a firm embrace.

Mysterious, the light
seems charged:
low tension current
suspended here
like slight
will soon engulf
and power
the world.

The image is from Wikipedia

Sunday 18 December 2011

Rock Solid

Submitted to dVersePoets Poetics : Out the sketc boook

Trembly as rocker arms
were the formerly rock solid rock dwellers,
the Rockabillies of Rockall, when
their rock-bound, rock-hewn homes
took off, rocketing skywards,
past a small boy fishing for rock salmon.
Fuelled by their heavy rock oil deposits,
their rock caves and rococo palaces,
together with the rocks containing them,
had suddenly grown lighter than air.

With their own heads lighter than Brighton rock,
they leaped now from their rocking chairs
and rocked 'n' rolled
to avoid hitting rock bottom.
Out, round their rock gardens they rolled,
out among the rock plants and rock tripe,
(not to mention the rock roses),
joined by a few rock rabbits
and even the odd rock-borer,
together with flights of rock pigeons.

They well knew that it wasn't rocket science
or even rock mechanics
that would rocket them back to earth,
for in the stables the rocking horses
that would tow them back rock-by-rock
(with the help of a few rock lobsters)
were already champing in their rock shafts
when for good omen a roc flew by.

Saturday 17 December 2011

the mountain and the tree

There is a tree I know, a favourite tree, beneath which tree I love
to lie, and focus on a mountain far away.
And as I look I hear the tree creak like my garden gate
and I imagine I have walked the so-familiar path
and now am opening the gate and passing through,
and wonder: where will I end up? where now, my destination?
and: does it only creak, this tree of mine, when I am here?
and: could it be my thoughts that make it creak?
and: what part does the mountain play in this?

You will agree that these are hefty thoughts...
and I must tell you that I think the whole of life
is punctuated using transcendental ands. Like bells, they toll
to draw attention to life's solemn and most Eucharistic parts,
parts not to miss if we would fully grow into ourselves.
The ands make life continuous, joined-up and pliable.

But now the mountain beckons me, and as it beckons, so the tree
creaks loudly once again. I hear the hinges speaking to each other
and to me. The tree no longer feigns to be a gate, but has become
a portal for perception to pass through - it swings, in fact,
to let the whole of me that is the true me through.
The tree's my tree of life, of knowledge, good and evil as they were
before we mixed them both together in our special human brew.
The mountain is life's ands and source of ands -
the source of all those Eucharistic bells.

Once, when I was sick and feverish, I flew
above, beyond the mountain, wondering what I'd find.
(Before the days of Google Earth, this was - though in this context,
what would that be worth? No option, but to go myself.
No other agent could have prophesied - none even tried.)
I saw a wonderland of white, a landscape in its wedding dress -
dressed not by nature, not by falls of snow, but at its quiet centre, by
The Riddlesdown Cement Works in full flow
the chalk dust from its quarry spreading out across the hills.

(I've often noticed this in life, that at the very centre of a waking dream:
the workshop that's creating it.)

I've tried a few times drawing them, the mountain and the tree;
it's never really worked a treat, the tree still looks a tree
and the mountain keeps its daily guise and is a mountain still.
Neither ever looks the thing essentially it is.

Friday 16 December 2011

Alba Madonna by Raphael

Not in the gospels,
Leonardo's bright idea:
John the Baptist,
playmate for
the infant Christ.

Raphael endorses it;
gives the two of them
a plaything cross
as augury.

Mary's finger holds
the place of older
prophecy - Isaiah's;
yet to be fulfilled.

The composition's style
again, is Leonardo's.
Not the light.
Gone, da Vinci's mystery,
this light is bright
and even. Democratic,
even. Mellow as befits
a rural idyll,
rolling hills
and everything

The image is from Wikipedia.

Thursday 15 December 2011

the coffin kept changing its colour

The coffin kept changing its colour.
In the snug - for the wake - it was a dark mahogany
but as the bearers lifted it, I saw it turn to honey.
Out in the street, it was more like oak,
but winding our way to the chapel gate -
the chapel on the hill - I wondered:
could this be his ultimate joke?
or had he another, perhaps, up his shroud?

Well, I'd known, I suppose, the answer to that all along.
I was right: as the coffin was carefully set on its bier:
PING! it went, PING! Very loud, very clear.
LIFT-OFF that was, for a chrome coffin nail. Straight up!
Into orbit, no doubt, no messing about. Soon followed: the rest...
PING! PING! PING! PING! (Though each to its different note.)

It took me a while to fall-in (there were a large number of nails):
the tune was his numero one: Cabaret.
I looked round the chapel, but only to see
they all were still serious - looking at me! I took off the grin.
Had I imagined it? Maybe dropped off? Dreamed the whole thing?
Almost missed his voice? Recorded back when?
No way of knowing... Dark one as ever he was. Just listen!

There's never a spark
'till the mind grows quite dark

Like sods in the fields where the fork has been,
the dead will turn
and the animals scrape them clean.

I hopes you're laughing,
'coz while you're laughing
I'm happily passing away.

Then when at last the cortege formed again,
and took the path to the steep stone steps
that lead down to the beach,
the bearers whispered together
(I heard them as we went)
how the coffin grew heavier step by step.

They rested it then - at his request - on the lichen-covered rock,
his feet towards the sea - just touching it.
We watched the coffin turn a cobalt blue, then we were off again,
back up the steps, but now to open ground, the coffin black as jet.

And that's about the end of what I can tell,
the rest of what happened taking place - dissolving, I should say -
in desultory rain that washed each new trace from my memory.

His life and mine had run in parallel
but now they merged into a single, clear solution
which I have yet to filter through the net of night.
Like oceanic rise and fall, I felt breath leaving me
to cloud the day as if it was ice cold.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

beware the lady worms

My thanks to Magpie Tales for the picture-prompt.

On navigation charts of any sea
or ocean, you will find, an arm's length down
from where you always thought it ought to be,
the unmarked Isle of Katchmeeiffukhan.

It is a tiny island made of sand.
Just that. No rocks or other minerals.
No vegetation, no inhabitants -
No inhabitants, that is, but some strange,
elusive, annelida lady worms.

These humanoids, possessing bodies in
appearance much like ours (but twice the length
and less than half the girth), live deep beneath
the sands, from whence they pop up into view

whenever movement from above alerts
them to an interloper on their sands
or in the waves. Unwary visitors,
grabbed by the ankles and dragged down, may find
themselves in plights at which we can but guess.

Not one has ever made it back to tell.
An empty rowing boat or other craft
bears witness now and then that they were here -
but of the annelida lady worms'
existence, no firm proof has yet been found.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Memories of a Storm - and guilt

"Memories" is one of the prompts offered this week by The Gooseberry Garden

Seven or eight and once again
in hospital as Christmas comes -
but this time round have fingers crossed,
hoping to go home tomorrow.

Tonight, a savage thunderstorm:
it shakes the walls and rattles beds,
echoes overlay each other;
flash follows flash without a break.

So sister comes to calm the ward.
We tell her that the bangs are bombs;
the lightning flashes gunfire and
incendiary bombs igniting.

We have an air raid, not a storm.
She plays along. Her face shows fear.
She shelters underneath her desk,
cries oo-er at each flash and bang.

Now matron comes. Is not amused.
Sister, control yourself, she says.
You are more childish than your wards!
(Sister's in trouble, next we hear.)

Monday 12 December 2011

The First Conservationist.

Adam's job description
included oversight
of all the animals,
but it is said
that one by one
he forgot the names
of all of them,
and one by one
with each forgetting
the forgotten died.

He should have been
the naturalist
par excellence,
the model for us all,
the archetypal

Our failure is not his.
Ours is much the greater.
We have not even seen,
much less forgotten,
nor even given names to
(names we could forget)
multitudes of life forms,
great and small.

We kill them sight unseen,
we burn their habitats
in darkness and in shame,
make life impossible
for those who hold -
it's highly probable -
the gift of life for us.

Sunday 11 December 2011

a way to go

He stood there thinking of the week just past,
then slowly closed the blinds. The early frosts
had savaged her prize blooms. She now seemed one
with them, her waxy skin, so tissue-thin,
so like a petal when the sun shines through,
it glowed, so full of subtleties of shade
and hue. She'd watched it all with hungry eyes:
begonias that should have had months more
to live, their heads inverted on the path
in stages of decay, instead had changed
from beauty into loveliness. She'd seen
it from her made-up bed downstairs, missed not
one detail of the winter's slow advance:
hydrangeas finding subtleties to fit
their fading hues and holding on to their
last fires. She revelled in the natural
masterclass of beauty blossoming in
what we call decay. All things, she'd once said,
she had found too late. Now gardening! Still
under fifty, it had seemed to break the
mould - until this final illness and her
strong content to join in nature's soiree.

Saturday 10 December 2011

City Arrival

This poem is for submission to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads who have set Arrivals and Departures as this week's theme.
It is also for submission to Poets' United's Thursday Think Tank #77 whose theme is The City

A culture shock:
something from my past.
Flashbacks from North Africa.
The Desert.
Something of it snapping in my brain.
Compulsions crowding in...

For instance, if I'd see a column on the move
I'd have to tag on to the end of it. The only way
to stay alive I reckoned
come what may
no matter what I was supposed to do.

It took years to beat that one.
Only living in a tight community
small and intimate
could help to win my war. But this...

I'm claustrophobic.
Phobic by the yard.
The desert was an endless blank.
Oddly enough, this is the opposite,
yet even so it brings the ancient symptoms back to me
still with all their fire and the old terror.
It's not the towering office blocks
the dust storms in the streets
the unknowingness of where I am
and which way's out of here...

... and here? No need to join the crowd.
I'm swept along
a small leaf in a storm.
There's no escape, even if I had a mind to
which I don't. The mind I have insists I stay:
Go with the crowd, where ever it flows
and sooner or later you will end up somewhere:

that is what it says. So in three days
I've been to my first football match,
I've caught a train I didn't want
to somewhere that I didn't know
and visited a shopping mall
with not a cent to spend.
I think it's fair
to say I'm lost.

These mile high piles of lego bricks...
jet black windows just reflecting more
of what I see around me -
and the only clouds I ever see
I see swim by in them. Just like the desert:
unchanging vistas. Visual
units endlessly repeated mile on mile.

Skyscrapers don't they call them?
Sky-blockers in my book!
The city stifles -
which come to think of it
is what the desert did to me.
They are the same.

Friday 9 December 2011

The Beast of Burntwood Moor

Lynx, panther, jaguar, lion,
a bit of each and something else as well;
we felt its presence long before
the first eyes saw it
seconds on the skyline then away
among the trees, behind the hillocks
and the sheds where are our animals.
It haunts, it stalks;
we're not right sure which word is nearest to the truth,
but all we know:
there's something in the way it stretches
in mid-leap or -lope suggests
it has reserves of length we cannot guess;
and then there's something in its colour:
black -
or jet as some have said,
though neither term does justice to its depth -
intense as mortal sin
dredged from the guilty mind, and dark as unbelief.

And then there's something in its shadowness...
substantial as the creature is, there's something in
the way it flits
from tree to tree
or clump to clump.

Ground-hugging, bat-
like animal!
Though others see it differently, all are agreed
that in the whole of what it is, lives menace.

It comes to this perhaps:
that what we see in anything is what we've hid within.
Our guilty minds make blockheads of us all.

Thursday 8 December 2011

The Dissatisfied Robot

Of days before it first was energised:
No memories;
no myths of its existence
of how or why, by whom?
no tales of daring do.

Then at its birth its finder, a young boy,
fumbled the electrics
the spark of life.
The "it" became a "him"
but several circuits in his brain were blown.
Since then:
disturbing dreams that he was meant for more.

All his active life he's been a toy
(that's all they've used him for),
a thing built round a sphere
(something from the cutting edge,
but something vague, mysterious)
incorporating total knowledge
(whatever that might mean)
in complex circuitry
and banks of memory
no toy could ever use.

He has this cross to bear:
that whenever now he thinks of being made,
he thinks of these:
his unused circuitry and empty cells,
his unused memory,
ambitions unfulfilled
(though even those ambitions' names are blank)
and links them with the content of his dreams.

Then he reflects upon the sphere,
so central to the thing that he calls "me",
the sphere whose reason is obscure
but must be filed away somewhere
within his circuitry
as if he could pull out a drawer and sing.

And yet he doesn't sing,
in part because he has no language,
no symbolic code in which to wrap these things -
though he could sing within himself we must suppose -
but in more major part because
he has not found the meaning for his life,
the motive for existence.
His existence.
And so there is no urgent push to sing.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

the barely human

(The image represents the Magpie Tales prompt for this week.)

It's the sameness of the scene that most offends,
the chagrin of these units that were men,
the tedium of copies cast in monochrome
as if a ruler had an army baked in clay
(of drudges, skivvies, menials and slaves,
the lowly ones of this sort and of that)
who now await the pleasure of his death
in the claustrophobic confines of his tomb.

That would be bad enough, but this is worse:
they are not subjects of some distant potentate
who thinks in terms of citizens as things
but members of a race that trumpets freedom,
the individual, the grace with which man's born.

They make no sound, beyond the chomping
of their simple fare; they do not laugh;
they dare not look to see themselves in others,
are too downtrodden to communicate,
are barely human. Cattle. They await their fate.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

A Life in Free Verse...

(The title basically represents the challenge put out by The Gooseberry Garden to write something personal about ourselves)

It's only when I take a moment to look back
I see the land for what it really was
and am surprised:
the mountains hardly ever seemed that high
or at the time were steeper than they look.
The land's a patchwork quilt of this and that,
a nature that as part of it,
too close, I'd overlooked.

There was a randomness that coloured in those squares
or left them bare and challenging -
some background space left plain for me to paint
or sow with a new seed.
Luck mostly came, I found,
at the eleventh hour: I'd just squeeze in
when rational assessment said I'd missed the boat.

It never was the moment that I'd strive for
but the one that had arrived
would drive ambition best for me,
the one that led on to the next.
It was teaching, I believe, that taught me so:
the child who one day will want calculus
today must draw -
his life depends on it.

The spiritual is what you glimpse between the squares,
the stitching holding them in place
and giving them existence with each other.
It's not the images, that you are shown will last forever
(the young Jew on his tree
the Buddha under his),
these are the catalysts restructuring the old solutions
for a newer generation.
For me the beakers filled with poetry.
Years then before I understood that others
(Wallace Stevens is a good example)
had made the same experiment long time before,
arriving at identical conclusions.

On nights you cannot sleep
it's only when you give up trying that you find
the goal achieved.
It's when you hold the moment in your arms
and let go all the comforting controls
that life - the life
that runs the universe -
can take the wheel.
My life began
the day that I got married.
That was resurrection day for me.

The trick is now to make life's end
a small, intrinsic part of all that's gone before.

Monday 5 December 2011

The Green Graffitist

His first graffito, "Rape"
(all will be given names)
a modest scene
beneath a railway arch:
reclining nude
morphed to rural idyll.
Mammary, the hills
vaginal lake
and thrusting motor way.
Crude. Unambiguous.

The last spray not yet dry,
a woman comes from nowhere
whispers in his ear -
before the darkness
swallows her once more.

He takes a brush -
a few sharp hairs -
and adds a line, a shape
a woman being raped
though so diminutive
that only he
will ever know
of her existence.
Unnoticed rape!

A quick developer
his works gain power
with every outing.
Soon she becomes
the factor
common to each one
grows strong
in features
and temperament.

So now
he always adds
the figures.
Always two.
A man and woman.
Always small
too small to register
to careless eyes:
his signature.

one night
he cracks it.
will become
his first
will raise
to level uno:
call iconic.
caught in mats
of ocean garbage:
plastic lines -
all human detritus.
And even as he sprays
the final empty space
she comes -
so briefly -
from the darkness
whispers in his ear
then lets the night
devour her
once again.

He adds his signature:
this time
a crouching man
trussed and bound
a woman towers
over him.
And both
as always
are too small to see
from way below
where people pass.

"Rain Forest
Torched" comes next
and once again
the final touch
and there she is.
The whisper in his ear
and back into the night.
But now the change.
This time he follows her.
This time
he too, will disappear
into the night.

Next day
they find him
sagging at the knees
supported by a post,
just a tar
and charcoal likeness
of himself.
Half corpse
half tree
black branches
sprouting out of him.

His face
is black
quite featureless.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Flame Boy

A fan from his first appearance,
smitten by his sheer flamboyance -
and his talking pet flamingos,
I believed that early issue when he knelt
beside an orange tinted Orinoco
to play with the electric eels,
saw nothing surreal when green flames licked out
from hair-line, elbows, knees and heels,
accepted that the shocks had changed
some unknown organ in his brain,
that now for ever he would be
a tinder box with in-built spark,
a walking conflagration.

I didn't think he'd gone too far
in shaking hands and squeezing out
a small inferno from his palms
to scare the baddies half to death -
with much collateral damage done.
A hero can do anything! "Top Kid!" said I.

The school play gained enormously
from Flame Boy as the dragon - though
a tad unfair on George, I thought:
he lost out for the first time ever.

And I loved it when his Nan was a hundred and some-
thing or other, and he blew all her candles
(not out, but to set them alight - not one did he miss)
though they melted and ran all over the cake - ran
better than some of these lines I should say!

Yesterday's prompt on dVerse Poets was an invitation to write on a character, real or imaginary, from a comic. Flame Boy is an invention of mine.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Heathland Fire

Initial thoughts: steel birds
had flown in first before us
weaving nests
of barbed or razor wire
but got them into tangles on the ground
before they later lined
their Brave New World(ly) homes
with soot.

All this was bramble once
and not so long ago.
Where is the spot
on which I once proposed?
where we became engaged?
So difficult to tell.

A large oak (just a while ago)
is split as though by lightning.
Still standing
but in form a giant clothes peg now,
a concept sculpture maybe
for a West End gallery.
And in the pool -
I don't recall a pool -
its mirror image, grey and powdery,
wavers slightly as
the more uncertain twin.

And here and there
a corpse or two - small animals
that did not have the legs to make it,
lost out to the wind that drove the flames
far faster than a man could run.

Friday 2 December 2011

Whispers from a Sunken World

It is a kind of swimming,
walking through these woods.
Greens still tinge the oatmeal coloured air,
and still there is the feel of floating: moats
caught in currents of high spirits
dancing where the light's rays
bring them into being; seeing
which way's up and which is down
when gravity stays mum
and tells the senses nothing.

Beetles scuttle silently away
like bottom feeders feeding on
the sandy bed. The banks
are dusky and mysterious.
The bed slopes down.
You cannot surface here
where water carves a hollow, stalls,
tracks back upon itself,
by-passes urgency
or is itself by-passed.

It is enough to realise
that here a sense of surface surfaces;
there is a lightening
where two worlds meet,
and that it reassures;
that limbs move freely here;
and that the water parts,
admits me to its inner sanctum,
then closes round me like a cloak,
behind me like a sphincter.

I am enclosed and cosseted.
A babble of white noise
descends from trees.
I think of brooks, white rivers,
summer rain. It sounds like speech,
but muffled by the water.
The bed slopes slowly upwards now,
the waters break, re-birth me
into a world more ill-at-ease
with me and with itself.
My soul takes on
the whispers from my sunken world
to travel back with me.
They will become its prayer.

The prompt at Poet's United's Thursday Think Tank #76 is The Soul's Whisper This is my submission for it.

Thursday 1 December 2011


The film is finishing
the credits roll
I think of bed. A knock.
My neighbour from next door.
Smartly dressed and hair in place...
Apologies. Disturbing me...
Her husband has collapsed.

I find him slumped, a dead weight in the chair.
He's in his dressing gown. Somehow
I get him gently to the floor.
No sign of life.
A mirror to his lips stays clear.
I start the drill, hoping I'll remember it,
but know it is no good. The medics come.
Take over. More professionally, they try -
but soon decide to stop.

It's not until the body in its decent bag
has gone, that she confides:
She too had been prepared for bed.
Modesty would not permit
her calling on me in her dressing gown.

The facts exonerate us all:
a massive heart attack:
dead from the start.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Red Sofa

The above image represents this weeks prompt from Magpie Tales

He still ere then, us old sofa!
I knowed ee would be. Told yer so...
Jim's idea - ee under bridge,
well out of any rain, he thought.
Us bin up the riots, aint we?
Comes across ee in they posh shop.
Languishing in broken winder -
well, gotta say, arf in, arf out.
Us take ee inter custody...
Well, that's Jim, that is. That's Jim all
over. Gotta laugh. Things bad then,
and all the people I knows needs
a giggle. So us gives em one.
How? Well, Jim sez: Us'll takes ee up
the trains and dumps ee on the tracks!

So I thinks abaht this and then sez
Owz us gonna do that, then Jim?
An ee sez, Eezy, through the gate -
that old gate where they lets the people
out, with no one there on dooty,
not at night there aint. Then us tips
ee over the embankment, see?
(I tells yer this ter show as how
us aint thieves, us aint. Not robbers.
Don think us robbed no one, us use
the stuff, not rob it. Us jist trans-
fering it to other dooties.)
So us goes ter do what Jim sez,
but fuck the gate it's locked, innit?
So us dumps ee like Jim says and
scarpers coz we seez the blue lights
iz a comin dahn us way it seems.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

What if...

in a parallel existence
He'd made the man from a billycan
and the woman out of glass?
And if they were not perfect,
at least we must suppose
they were good enough to pass...
and they loved each other - 'course they did:
she loved the tin of his manly skin
and he her pert little arse.

And the Lord gave them a garden
of flowers, birds and trees
and told them to wander at will, enjoy -
and please to do as they pleased...
with the strictest of strictures each:
for she was told to remember her bum
and keep away from the mid-day sun.

It was thunderstorms for him to avoid
with his head high over the trees.
I've made you tall, the Almighty said.
Keep away from the lightning please.

But you know how it works:
she dozed in the sun
and her bottom focussed its rays,
and the garden went up in a mass of flames
that burnt for a thousand days.

Later on, when the man was walking tall -
fulfilling the ancient prophecy,
and winding up the fall -
he would get in the way of a thunder bolt,
that wouldn't kill him, but give him a jolt -
though he'd not be the same after that,
and it must have destroyed in his DNA
the genes that should point up the moral way,
for we all now share in his pain.

It's long been my thought that the fall
in the way that it happened on earth
had nothing to do with enlightenment -
whether gleaned from an apple or not -
but more to do with keeping the law
and Who the hell is running the show?
so I set it apart in this parallel world
to work itself out afresh,
and here you have it, for what it's worth,
like a Guy Fawkes night in Marrakesh.

Monday 28 November 2011

November Carnage

A rose exploded in the night.
It didn't die of drought or blight.
It detonated. Blew six others out of sight.
Further off, another four
were stripped of all their flesh:
red, white, white-splashed-with-red
and dusky blue, their petals lay
in wavy lines across the bed.

In contrast to their patterned fall
the bomber's body parts were blown
across the garden, side
to side and end to end
in random disarray. When blown apart,
the Rosa Mundi Bonaparte
left fragments everywhere:
on gravel, grass and paving stone,
as if four different winds had blown
together in a storm.

Strange thing: it was a cultured rose,
one steeped in Rosa lore - the very last
rose, you'd have thought
to be a home-grown terrorist.

One consolation we can take:
a quiet time of year,
the season almost done,
the population sparser then
than a few months before.
But had the bomber struck back then,
how changed the outcome could have been!

Sunday 27 November 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

A walk in response to dVerse Poets' invitation to write on the general theme of Wildness. I cannot do justice to their post, which in my opinion is one of the great posts, a joy to read in its own right. Go see if you agree.

Where is the verse
that comes from the wild,
emotion untrammelled
by reason's control?

Where is the paint
to colour the landscape
that rivers of feeling
have carved through the brain?

Where is the song
like a tropical storm
exploding on beaches,
unleashed on the ears?

Where are the thoughts
in verse or in prose
that undermine everything
everyone knows?

Where are the barbarous
artists untamed
lost on the waves
that arouse, not explain?

Where is the dance
and the whirl of the dancer
blurred by the fury
of motion unchecked?

Where are the rhythms
to flame the tame brain
and torch all the body parts
over again?

Where is the beat,
deep, resounding , a chorus,
a chorus of hearts,
of hearts in extremis?

Where are the purples
besmirching the whites,
the leaps out of heaven
that leave you in hell?

Where are the beasts
to roam through our culture
to trample the brush
and savage the lions?

the leftover mindsets
our attics begrime,
the fossils and cliches -
all threats in their time?

Saturday 26 November 2011


Deep in an autumn night
the wind comes, blows
the last dreams from the trees.
Deep drifts of them
the like of which
I have not dreamed before
pile up against the fences,
walls and doors.

Some are from my sleep,
are from our trees,
but most are from the neighbors' gardens.

It is not always easy to see which.

In one, relaxed, reclining at his ease,
and on a hammock:
God, beneath two cherry trees
from which the fruit is falling fast,
which now I see him catch
and bless and throw into the air.
The former cherries
fly away as birds.

But then. In quite another dream
the cherry dream
is stood against a wall and shot
for blasphemy -
or is it heresy?
It's one of those...
The firing squad are hungry wolves.
Hungry for what, I ask myself.
They look well fed.

And so the dreams pile up
and rustle round each other,
flap against the windows
and the doors, demand
admittance through the day.

A rugby ball I kick along a beach
becomes two balls with every kick.
One morphs into a brain.
When I look back the beach
is strewn with human brains.
How can mankind
make use of so much power?

There is a church.
Black, silhouette
and ringed with bats.
I find it locked against me.
Black birds are flying down
from its high tower.
They're forming rings around me.
I think they will attack
with sharpened beaks,
but then they turn
and pull the church apart,
black stone by stone.
Inside the church, a cage
in which the clergy
have been locked.
All the priests
from all the ages
past and present
are trapped in there.
Of God there is no sign.

Another dream is stuck to this.
A monkey puts a match
to the steel cage
and burns it down.
God walks out from
the smouldering remains.
I do not see
what happens to the priests.

Friday 25 November 2011

Paradise Lost Bit by Bit

Paradise Lost is proposed by Poetry Jam as this week's prompt. Several interpretations are suggested, but it occurred to me that we are re-running the Biblical fall of man in slow motion, over however many generations - and what would Milton have made of it were he alive today?

Lush hedgerows, green and bright with berries,
dry stone walls, a sweep of corn,
its ragged edge against the purple hills - all
lost to view behind the mighty coffee hoardings.

A mile of yellow sands, a line of foam,
a chalk-white cliff is nature's solar panelling -
all lost to New Developments.

Bare rock emerging from its heather cloak,
the purple tints nuanced against
the rust hues of its seams -
lost now to yellow paint graffiti - the signatures
of local gangs that roam these days.
(Navajo Indians did the same, but they
with meanings that the tribe found spiritual.)

A delicate environment for adders,
butterflies, sand lizards, voles and moths
is lost to soil erosion from its over-use.
Walkers, quad- and motor-bikes take heavy tolls.

Prime stretch of river lined with rushes and wild life.
Small pools with eddies. Willows. Rocks.
All lost to rusting hulks -
old ships, parked up to sit the down-turn out.

On Arctic wastes the polar bears lose out
to toxic chemicals washed off our lands -
that's yours and mine -
and carried north by currents in the air and seas.

A once-pure food chain tainted now with mercury.
(Used recently to make insecticides.)
The concentrations build
each level sullied more than that below,
and at the top the prize for most contaminated
goes to the food we eat. (That's you and I.)

Thursday 24 November 2011

Lip Service

As often happens,
youngsters were among the first
to see
the gross stupidity of rape,
destruction of the earth.

Now everyone's a guru
all can see what they once saw:
the foolishness,
the suicide
of sucking this,
our only planet dry,
converting it
into a fast heat breeder
that will cook us all.

Now everyone can see it
(more or less - a few
elective blind aside)
and all agree
(except the youth, it seems,
are less inclined
to give it thought)
that something should be done,

there's just this lack
of people to accept
step up to take control.

Our leaders wont,
so who then will?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Reasons to be Thankful - and some light relief.

The usual problem surfaces: where to
begin? The reasons for and why
pile up like snowflakes in a drift
to bury all that points the other way,
the negatives we could not bury, even now, without the snow.
(Angels come in many guises,
some too chilly for belief.)

For all it seems like winter's wonderland,
we take it to our hearts, discovering
that, snow or not, we have eternal spring.

The wonder of it is we ever thought
the cold more influential than the love,
our lives more blessed or blighted by thrown dice -
God's or the Devil's, for it made no matter which.

It's people with their whims and vagaries
for whom we most rejoice, for whom we first give thanks.
For them and for the fact that we have life
and by their agency have life in full -
an inner life that makes love paramount.

Sometimes we carve a brightness from the fog -
or someone carves it for us -
and in its light give thanks. The light,
high brightness of an Earth that lives (at least
for now) and faith that gives
this Earth the benefit
that it can find the way that we have lost.

This poem a response to The Gooseberry Garden's challenge to write about Things I am thankful for in my life.

Church Signs heard on local radio.

Keep taking my name in vain
and I'll make rush hour longer.

Honk if you love Jesus,
text and drive if you want to meet him.

Church Parking only.
Trespassers will be baptized.

How do we get Holy Water?
We boil the hell out of it.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Figure in a Landscape : Intermediary : Green Earth


Storm flood and drought
the sky forever
threatens earth.

Man is the one
the only one
who walks the skyline
touching both.

Figure in a Landscape

wild garlic
field of
last night's shower
sharpens tang of
and yet delicate.
All other scents of
hurry over
from the wood
like children
running out to play.

Apart from which
the world is soft
in all its aspects:
early sun
its light and shade
slow warmth
and colouring,
the folded chalk
its rounded ridge,
the shallow moat
its sapling occupants,
the eerie drip
of rain from trees,
six tents of sleep-
starved little boys
all sleeping now.

A figure, ghostly
shows itself
in gnarled oak bark -
or minds play tricks.
He walked from there
out of the wood
across the ridge
up to the tents
undid a flap
and asked a boy -
asked any boy -
down to the woods.

No one here has seen him
but the oak. Perhaps
it caught his likeness.

Green Earth

more delicate
than pepper grains
scattered on the beef -
the touch of nature:
nuance of yellow
on her greens and browns.

I have dealt with the school camp incident before in more narrative form. If interested you can find it here

Monday 21 November 2011

The Kiss

The image is this week's Magpie Tales prompt.

Nothing exists
in their world
but the other.

At each point
and moment
of contact
nothing exists
but two pairs of lips.
His on hers.
Hers on his.
are reduced to this

but in
the touch and press
of lips
awareness of
a universe.

Only the lips
are figured
on tactile
mappae mundi
that their brains

their bodies,
pure geometry,
are lost in space
are unread ideograms
scrawled across
a no-man's-land
of crumpled sheet.

Sensation is a match
flaring at the touch
to strong emotion
dying down again.

Sunday 20 November 2011


(This poem is offered in response to the dVerse Poets' challenge to write something on the subject of change.)

Eternal things do not survive for long
for time does hold them all in flux.
The pyramids, the merely permanent, survive.

I wrote these lines
somewhere between
when I was six and ten -
the early years of World War II, a time
of great upheaval.
But not for me.
I longed for change.

Illness was a great, grey blanket
spreading itself across my life.
Quite literally, at times,
keeping me confined
indoors if not in bed.
My world had much in common with the pyramids.

Such changes as I saw
were not occasions for applause: on walks to school
a house that once had featured
in my games, a tree perhaps,
might well have disappeared
in last night's raid. And yet
my friends and I,
collecting shrapnel, went our way
into a world
whose essence had not changed.

Church was one salvation,
for there they spoke of change,
its possibility
was part of their agenda.
The ritual, the Latin and the incense
were the earnest of a transformation
to a world and to a self
too sombre for my tastes.

Dreams were another.
Were the only other. Here
I watched the everyday
morph into something different:
mum's corner shop
with nothing on its shelves
and mum behind the counter
(which she never was)
was suddenly a reptile house,
the floor knee deep in croc's.

Today's other poem is here

A Quiet Emergency

The sun deck
cleared of passengers
and movables:
sunbeds, tables, chairs
and parasols.
A deckhand
works his way
starboard to port
around the bows.
Dismantles lamps -
those crystal globes
enchanting after dark.
Slow business.

And all the while
a chopper, an
air ambulance
marked eliambulanza
waiting patiently
for its safe space
to land.

And now
at the precise
awaited moment,
the moment of
the Ready signal,
the eliambulanza turns -
we think to land -
but disappears
into the summer's
azure blue.

Deck hands return.
Reconstruct the lamps.
Replace the furniture.
Erect a counter
serving food
as passengers
begin to trickle back.

The Captain's voice
is thanking all.
The emergency,
he says, is over.
the day is hot and sunny,
for an hour or so
no one can find the earlier mood.
No one is interested
in the food.

Today's other poem is here

Saturday 19 November 2011

If your name's on it...

You never hear the one that gets you!
My dad, returning from his war,
told me some things that he'd been sold,
among them, this one, very old,
left over from an earlier war. 
It spoke of shells and bombs and bullets. Boy,
you never hear the one that bears your name!

It's true, of course: the bullet's speed
outstrips the sound;
you hear it when you're dead. The one
you hear arriving
has passed by overhead.

The wise old owls up in their trees
thought nuggets such as these
would make men more relaxed,
less worried by the sound effects.

These more enlightened days
we're less naive:
they'd not have conned the likes of us!
Who listens now to canned advice?
for instance, thinks that Get
rich quick, or die in the attempt
is code for living well?
        But that's the philosophy
        that's the monstrosity
        of second hand living,
        of life less the giving -
        how lifeless is that?

So when the bombshell crisis
landed in the banks,
bursting among us punters,
remember what they said,
those manning the financial line?

We never saw it coming!

Friday 18 November 2011

Her Rock of Belief

It was her firm belief
that dreams are not
you are not severed
from reality, drawn
into a world of fantasy.

What happens is:
the vital part,
of what we call
the psyche
leaves the body
to renew itself
in that same spirit life
it left to lodge in you.

What we call dreams
are post cards
from a soul on furlough
inviting us
to share in its renewal.

Then she began
the bad dreams:
doing bad things
sniffing coke and the like,
going with blokes
who were sick in the head
and getting in fights.
In her dreams
she became
a sort
of anti-person
to herself.
The negative image.

So what should she think?
That her rock of belief
was a handful of sand?
Or this was herself,
the she she should be?
A negatives is
the source is it not?

Too much to ask.
She succumbed
to the doubt
and was taken away.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Credentials for a poet

A friend of mine,
a poet of ability,
finds concrete images
to represent his poems,
imagines favourite
and current works
as solid objects,
and in his mind
arranges them
like furniture
around the house.

He pictures then
the house engulfed in flames.

How many objects
will he hope to save,
given that
the risk to him
increases with each one?
(And just as interestingly,
I would have thought:
which ones?)
But no, for him
the question is: how many?

He'd try to rescue
two or three.
Enough, he thinks,
to give him the credentials
that a poet needs.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

The Execution Block

First woodwork lesson in my new school.
Mr Woodiwiss - apt name! - is asking
What would you would like to make?
An execution block,
I say.

(The block is for my Uncle Bill.)

Reputation would suggest
sir should roar displeasure,
vault the bench perhaps,
throw something my direction.

he does not even take exception,
sits talking ways and means with me.

A word of explanation:
why an execution block for Uncle Bill?

To help him with his Christmas role:
The Lord High Executioner of Turkeys on the lawn.

And he comes THIS close to using it
(My thumb and forefinger
all but touch. I hold them up.)

Dark night. The only light
streams from the bathroom window.
The turkey's neck is on the block,
the hatchet raised
the light goes out.

The pitch-dark night
turns lighter shades of blue
as Uncle's language spills into it.

But Uncle Bill's performance
for sir's
more disappointing one.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

a prophet is not without honour...

The above image was provided as prompt by Magpie Tales

She had foretold
the world would end,
set out the chairs
for all her followers.

They'd sat there
through the night,
alert in prayer
high on the hill

for the best view,
the clearest sound.
The cataclysm
passed them by.

Far out in space
another planet
witnessed it.
Earth remained unscathed.

The flesh was weak.
When morning dawned
the empty chairs
spoke faithlessness.

So now she's stumped:
how to return
the chairs by noon,
fulfil her other promise?

Monday 14 November 2011

Three poems without Titles

Imagine a plant
something like a sweet pea
but much more delicate
sending out feelers
to grasp at things
(all manner of things)
to hold on to...

His poetry was like that.
Intricate. Fragile.
And with so many reference points
you'd need a machete
to loosen its grip.

Beyond my understanding,
I nevertheless
could feel the weight
of what I was missing.

Our favourite restaurant
we've called in for lunch
purely on impulse.

Sitting in the bar area
having a pre-lunch drink
we look over the menus.

There are two:
the one the waitress brings
and a blackboard on the wall.

The blackboard on the wall
shows today's specials.
There are quite a few.

A waitress comes
climbs up to the board
and rubs out the beef dish.

Except she doesn't
the beef dish is obstinate.
Beef remains on the menu.

The waitress climbs down
and disappears
returns with a bottle of solvent.

She climbs up
pours solvent over her duster
and rubs and scrubs again.

Soon the beef dish is reduced
to a pale shadow
of its former self.

She climbs down
looks at her handiwork
and disappears.

Would it not have been easier
when bringing the other menu
to tell diners the beef is off?

(Just an idle thought,
no occasion for great art.
Sorry to have misled you.)

The rose bushes,
that in summer bore blooms
large as a tea plate,
now in November
are covered in netsukes.

Here for Netsukes

Sunday 13 November 2011

The Good and Bad Spirit

Everything happened around I was five
everything came to the boil
the house like a beehive
first I got ill, was hospitalised
then a new brother arrived.

Big disappointment,
me dreaming a sister -
not to pull hair, as some thought,
but play with her dolls.
(Back then a doll was taboo for a boy -
well, it was if you lived with your gran.)

Then when it had all settled down -
a year or two maybe -
I saw this mad doll. In a world of her own.
A whole Doll's Hospital window
all to herself. Rescued, she'd been,
from a fire, I think.
Her rib cage smashed. And hands and feet.
But I couldn't forget her face.

Older than me, Danny, my friend,
explained it: a leer. (He knew
about leers from his dad.)
How could she leer?
And why was she leering at me?
I saw it at night. And by day,
if I closed my eyes, it was there.

I must have talked about her
'till my friend went nuts.
Built an imaginary friend round her.
Perhaps he'd had enough.
That's maybe why he turned up
with a rival. A replacement doll.

Thrown out by his sister.
Smashed hands and feet. And broken cheek.
Not smashed quite in the way the first had been,
but near as I would get.
(Was he the doll's assailant?)

Alas, she did not leer
but worth the horse-drawn hearse and conker.
She almost measured up.
Enough for me to swap them gladly.

She'll leer, said Danny. Give her time.
She'll pass it on. All that
was done to her, she'll do to you.
She weaves thought webs
to trap her prey, he said. The strands
come from her eyes. (He'd heard
of women doing things like that to men.)

Her web began to form around my fear -
and yes, at times I caught a leer.
No way, though, would I part with her,
for fear wove webs of strong desire.

Yet after I had dropped dad's hammer on my toe,
come off my bicycle and grazed both hands,
and met with other bumps and bruises,
I did begin to wonder: was he right?

I never did discover
what sort of spirit was she.
Good or bad?
Or simply badly treated?
But for a year, maybe,
she had this hold on me.
Her damaged hands
more powerful than a wand could be.
Her spells more difficult to understand
than ancient abracadabra.

We hid her in the coal shed
so I could not well complain
that there were times her magic came out black.

But there were spells of purest white.
The night the lightning struck the weeping willow tree.
Two willow trees there were.
The one that was our camp.
And the one that was the enemy's.
Her face was in the lightning flash -
and so our rivals' camp was struck.

I am entering this poem for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Friday Challenge.

Saturday 12 November 2011

rapping up the crisis

Who's at fault, who's at fault?
Too little money in the vault.
It's all a game,
but who's to blame?
Stack 'em high and sell 'em short.

Money goes round and round the till
'till some fat hammer-head makes a kill.
That's the perception,
that's the deception -
now where's the guy whose got the prescription?

Come with me, let's hit the street,
hit the street and feel the beat,
feel the beat and get the heat.
The whole damned world's in hock to who?
I'm in debt and so are you.

Let us go then; quick, quick, slow,
the dance of life sets flesh aglow.
Who's the villain, we would know.
I tell you friend, it gives no joy
to hear it's neither man nor boy!

Don't blame the suit in the High Street branch.
He's not the one who took the chance,
he didn't lead us in this dance.
The one you want is miles away.
You're fast asleep when he makes his play.

It's not the fellow who shook your hand,
arranged your loan for a hundred grand;
he's not the one who did you down,
he didn't make the nation frown.
We're talking shades in a shanty town,

a shanty town of high-rise bliss,
luxury pads and avarice.
Someone there has caused this piss -
not the fellow we all have seen seen,
but a shadowy ghost in front of a screen.

Now, down to him, we're over taxed,
and still the government's too relaxed,
too relaxed while a nation rages
at city pets, outrageous wages
and stacks of venomous mortgages.

They sell their debts as they think they must,
knowing what's sold will hit the dust,
then lay out bets in funny money
that the mortgage buyers will all go bust -
but the cash is ours, so how's that funny?

Who's missed out, who's missed out?
They're the ones that my song's about:
the ten per cent in the social pit,
the five and a half who don't quite fit,
the one per cent who just might quit.

The richest rich then make their pitch,
the poorest poor are shown the door,
the gulf between them widens more.
The richest rise like birds of prey,
high on the thermals, hogging the day.

My voices tell me democracy
(and only it) is the way for man -
no place here for a backup plan!
The government's mired in complacency,
and all we've got is to bear the can.

Three great Cs once made a start
at changing the world - or, better, the heart.
Each in its turn would prove a flop,
offering nothing but regular sop -
Guess them from the names I'll drop.

I'll mention Keynes and Marx and Christ -
all of them masters of the heist -
but none of the Cs has failed as guide;
they kind of simply aint been tried,
their basic tenets all denied.

So where shall we look to find the vision?
Where unearth a sense of mission?
What can now excite us all,
unite us all
in the next demanding call?

Friday 11 November 2011

First Real Snow

Best Christmas present ever: deep, deep snow.
A whiter white than I had ever seen,
but out of reach, beyond the window glass,
and not available to feet and hands.
I'm five years old and full of wonder: how
might it feel against the skin? As fluffy
as it looks? As smooth? And how would I react?

I see the people come and go with it.
I see it piled on shoulders, woolly hats
and scarves. I see deep footprints where they've walked.
Among them are my parents, come to visit.
They come into the ward still dressed in snow.

When they are here, they're everything I want,
but when they're not, I want the snow. Just now
they are at home, and snow falls heavily.
What good a Christmas present that I cannot use?

But now a transformation: nurses come;
they're carrying huge bowls of snow which they
distribute round the ward. Soon they are helping
us to mould snow into cannon balls.
For hours - it seems - we hurl them back and forth,
targeting each other, 'till the ward's awash.

When parents come, the bedclothes are still wet.
Great cries of anguish fill the battle field.
The dead and dying - of pneumonia
and such like wounds - have had recovery
set back by unknown periods of time.
But nurses somehow manage to persuade
them that the fight was therapy for us!

I am entering this poem for the Poets United "Winter" challenge.

Thursday 10 November 2011

human perspectives

I got the idea watching children play imaginative games,
watching as they chalked their scenes across the square.
Arranged their artefacts like tokens on a game board...
It was the way to start a canvas for my next dystopian view.

I stand it on the easel with myself arranged before,
the light behind me - where the devil's s'posed to be.
My shadow falling on its spotlessness, I wash it in.
The shadow now is permanent, a sort of watermark for me.

They used to say at art school, 'Put something of yourself
into each work - or give it up'. Well this is what I do!
I am the ghost behind the image, a sort of quality control.
And even when the layers build or thick impastos cover me,

when only I remember that I'm there, it puts the brake on me.
My hidden form still gives a human scale to what I do.
I am the ghost that haunts the image, keeps perspectives true -
or maybe, with more truth, the children are the quality control.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

As Dante would have done.

Here's a dream to dream sometime
when you are looking for a dream to dream.

You are a sculptor who sculpts words,
then builds them into poems.
You're making ready your next book,
one hundred pages long. The title
poem is the only one. It takes up
pages two and three, but fills the book.

How does a two-page poem fill a book?
Well, that's the sort of poem that you write.
Recall: you'll be composing it in dream;
that being so, each word, each line will share
the mythic power to which a dream is heir.

Your poem will have all the subtle powers
that Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan
would have possessed had he but scratched it down
before the man from Porlock came along.

Set your sleeping mind against all rhetoric.
Hard, stony consonants like Dante used
are what you should be carving from your rock.
Their weight and influence will fill the book -
would fill a shelf of books of empty pages.

Waking, lose no time in setting down;
be sure to transcribe word for word -
no editing, redrafting as you go.
Change not a jot or tittle from the dream.

Then when the work is done,
turn to any empty page
and find the poem still engaging you.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

In Brompton Cemetery

It was that time of day
when shadows are most apt
to play their roguish tricks.
We took the short cut
through the burial ground
beside the oratory. Stones
took on a new significance.
The monuments
loomed up at us
like stage sets
and their ivy drapes
looked sinister
in that half light.
I thought for certain
we would hear an owl,
but no sound came
except for gentle
rustles in the wind
and footsteps - soft
for lack of anyone around.
What did seem changed
from how they looked by day:
the tombs, small houses
for the dead, complete
with gardens, railings,
iron gates and doors -
and windows, glass,
but thick with grime
and spiders webs
we thought were made
of string. We dared not
peer inside - although
my friend maintained
he'd looked and seen
a skeleton laid there.
I thought not then
and think not now.

Then close beside
the catacombs
a monument
to outdo all the rest,
and just beyond
another house - and now
we could not miss,
much less explain away;
framed in the window,
back-lit by the moon,
two heads: the furthest
from us, plain as plain
could be, a wolf's;
the nearer one a bird
of some sort, black beaked,
head framed in feathers
black as the blackest
window glass we'd seen.
"Egyptian figures?" asked
my friend, excitement
mounting with the fear.
We'd stopped. Not noticed
that we had, but there
we were, hard-rooted
to the spot, for at that
very moment both
the heads had moved.
A moment later they
were walking down the path
towards us as we gaped.
The bird a woman in a long
black dress, the wolf
a man. They stopped and kissed -
black beak and long wolf fur
and all - and then moved on
along another path
towards the moon.
Two ex-reflections
risen into solid form.

I am submitting this for this week's Gooseberry Garden challenge and also for this week's Magpie Tales Challenge.

Monday 7 November 2011

The Poetry Reading

The oven was hung with icicles,
the toaster was singing a song,
while a plant and a pie were playing I-Spy.
The kitchen was totally mad.

Such was the vision of one young man,
a runner-up in the 5-8 category.

Not a verse from his poem,
just four odd lines pulled at random
from "Kitchen" - a totally hilarious offering.

He sits to thunderous applause.
Thoroughly well deserved.

Follow that!
My turn to read.

I down the rest of the Chablis.
(The rest of my glass, that is),
pick up the type-script,
grab the right elbow which is off doing a jig.

Everyone thinks it's nerves, of course.
Which it isn't.
It's a tremor I have.
Alright then. It's a tremor exaggerated by nerves!

I read three lines (and a bit).
A door bags open.
The Old Woman of the Sea enters.
Shuffles to the rear.

The papers in my hand flap like flags in a high wind.
Why am I even reading this?
I know the damn thing, word perfect.
Am I afraid my mind will go blank?
That must be it.
But why so many nerves?
I'm well used to speaking in public.
Too much Chablis?

I can't see the damn lines to read them, anyway.
I bet they can't even hear me at the back...
not above the flapping of these papers.
I chuck the script.

All the entries are on display around the room.
I read them earlier.
Didn't do a lot to boost my confidence,
seeing what I'm up against.

Do professional poets
have to earn their living this way?

There's always someone
worse off than yourself!

Somehow I croak my way to the end.
Reach for another glass of Chablis.

Sunday 6 November 2011

The Rainbow Boy

Josh had a thing about, a love of, rainbows.
Josh was simple. Everyone knew that.
"That's why he has this thing, it's all to do
with colours," they said, knowingly - as if
there might be something else in rainbows,
something hidden, that they couldn't see. Each day
Josh painted rainbows.

He knew the names and sequence of the hues,
but saw no need to stick to them.
He'd paint with either brush or fingers, mostly.
Just sometimes he'd use a knife. A single 
colour on occasions. Mostly two or three
or all of them. Whatever colours made 
him feel "electric" or "switched on" that day.

He painted, he would say, the rainbows
in his head, not those up in the sky.
Once he painted one all black - that being
how he felt that day, his 'lectric "sparking
out" on him. His "bows" were always wild arcs
swept across the page. Sometimes two or three
in the same frame, sometimes vertical
and sometimes crossing one another. Weird
at times, and always only them. Nothing
else to spoil the view. 

                        And then
the doctor said that Josh had "moments".
Join the club. And don't we all!
    The secrets that we almost grasp, know we are inches short of them but cannot quite see what we know... the hidden things that make us gasp... the place we thought we'd entered but were a shade away.
Josh had a moment like one of ours, a brush with the "thing" of his dreams: a rainbow whose secret he had heard. His science teacher triggered it. He told the class:-
    We can prove the Big Bang by the rainbow, the where and the why and the when. The secret of all that has happened is locked in the flimsiest thing.
Josh responded with a salvo of rainbows, twenty one full rainbows, closed into globes like a child's glass marbles with coloured straw rings. At the centre a blob of violet, then rings of blue, blue-green and all the colours out to red. His fondness was for purple - a mixture that of radiation from both ends. Bows broke the rules therefore. There were two-coloured ones: maroon and red, one white and yellow. So too, the bands were smudged, as always in his paintings. This time though, with movement blur, their tails curled back towards the centre of the page. The globes were flying out beyond the frame. And folk began to see his simpleness as something different, not simply something less.
I have entered this poem for the dVerse Poets colour prompt

Saturday 5 November 2011

A Waste of Words

Think of a tap left running to waste.
All that water,
thousands of gallons
running to waste.

A priceless resource.

How much more tragic are
words the world over running to waste
in the normal course of achieving nothing?
A priceless resource.

I switch on the T.V. news.
Someone talks to a microphone
speaking in Russian, Chinese -
Ancient Egyptian, for all I know.
But wait... someone translates.
Two taps together, but just out of step.
Running to waste.
Important debate.
Delivery slow.
Text dry and technical.
Like a chef who insists his diners should watch
as the Brussels are topped,
potatoes are peeled...
then serves them up raw.

These times must rank
among the most exciting ever
serious ever
frightening ever
fatal perhaps. And yet
we render them boring.

How is that done?
Why does it all run to waste?
In parliament they talk for hours
to rows of empty seats.

News readers don't like reading
reporters all but hate reporting.
What they like is atmosphere
and experts who can talk.
For atmosphere
they'll shout their news above an angry crowd
or talk beside a runway
with jet planes taking off
or chat among the traffic
on a busy urban street
in the middle of a storm.

On video phones
they mouth like drowning fish
until it freezes,
when they speak
like poor ventriloquists.

What happened to the days
when they simply read the news?

Friday 4 November 2011

for a poem I have long admired

(read it here)

Damn and blast it, he was right:
I'm with the kid;
I'll not go gentle
into his good night.

No, when they come to close the day
I'll burn and rave, be downright rude
at any proffered platitude,
and not accept the death of light.

Who is it says that night is right?
that dark must always
conquer day
throughout life's length and breadth and height?

Who is it says, no matter what
life throws at us
we make no fuss;
accept it all with undue grace?

No, when the light is fading fast
I'll kick and scream,
harangue and curse my useless god -
and find the fear of Him at last.

Except... solicitude (just that)
for friends and family around
might force a smile, allow no sound -
and keep the bottled rage within.

But then again,
I'm still not sure
another light wont break upon
a darker and more distant shore...

Thursday 3 November 2011

Siren Voice

From gently singing in her sleep, she wakes.
She of the siren voice slides out of bed
and makes her way to her small bathroom space.
Low. Slope of ceiling. There
with nowhere for the head,
she bows, as all must bow, unless,
as she does now, 
the skylight is unlatched. Pushed up into the night.

Head in cool night air,
the naked body slightly shivering,
she stands, part in, part out, to brush her teeth.
Arrayed before her: sea and naked rocks,
she tilts her head, looks up towards the stars.
At their most beautiful.
                        She pauses her ablutions,
hits the perfect note - high C of legend -
has shattered tumblers in her time
and wonders
                  can she shatter stars?

The note fragments the song, her voice
and voice box now are instruments,
her art an abstract sound...

And now a stream of perfect notes.
She hears the echoes coming back,
hears what we don't hear: harmonics
gathering like birds on wires.

She hears the cosmos tremble
                            at the sheer audacity
of what she tries -
                   or thinks she does.
Such deep and vibrant sounds -
then bends again
                resuming her ablutions.
Glances back
            up once more and out into the night
looks up towards the stars.
One star seems brighter than
    and larger than before. 
    Grows as she looks.
The light awhile too bright,
                            she hides her eyes.
The sea erupts as water spout.
There's violence.
Then when she looks
                   is calm again.

Has she a voice to lure stars to the rocks?
A song to suck a satellite
out of the ether,
out of the very cosmos that is sky
reflecting back her voice?
(For is that not the very thing 
the satellite is meant to 
Do? Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do? 

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Great News : and Let's Dance!

Unbelievable news yesterday: those good folk at Poets United have chosen my blog as their Blog of the Week! Difficult to express how immensely pleased and grateful I am - not to say surprised! Do pop along and suport them if you have a moment.

Last Sunday Kerry at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads challenged us to produce a poem in Waltz Wave Form. This requires lines of 1,2,1,2,3,2,,2,1,2,3,2,1,2,1 Having not got around to it until last evening - so much excitement in my life of late - I have now come up with this.

puff of
and there
is rhythm
in my
and I
am dancing
with the wind for
Come dance
dance for joy.
When life

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Halloween Debrief : (How was it for you?)

I had my bag of goodies for the ghoulies,
ghosts, hobgoblins and the rest. The door bell sounds,
I answer it, see no one for a moment.
From total gloom a voice booms: Trick or treat!.
An adult voice, I realise. Into the light,
the man who calls each month - a local lottery
to help our hospice - grins sheepishly.
It seems I've chosen the wrong night!
he says. I've had to run the gauntlet just a bit!

A skeleton, just six or seven, I would guess,
starts up the path, then noticing my caller - who
is more than average tall - turns tail and runs
back to his mum, and is not seen again.
They were my only callers all last night.

My Small House by the Sea

I live in a small house by the sea
and have been trying recently
to let the attic room
from which at low tide there's a view
of black stumps, the remains
of ancient forest trees that grew
before the sea came in.

To date I've had three people
come to see the room. The first,
a man, was none too clean. He chewed
a lot of gum, and what he couldn't chew
he stuck beneath the peak of a new
Kill me, Baby, Kill me! baseball cap.
He rattled on about a lot the council ought to do:
Get rid of those unsightly stumps, for one!
They spoil the view. Like stubble
on a fellah's chin, they are!

He wasn't serious. Would never have
considered living here.

Then came a woman. Portly. Fifty-ish, I'd say.
She gushed about the view. The ancient forest.
That's romantic, that! she'd say -
And kinda weird! She'd take the room.

And last of all, a vicar came
and looked it over with great care.
I chatted on about the ancient forest -
like you do! But all the time he knew:
That's why I want the room, he said.
It took a while for me to realise
that he was blind. He spoke
as though he saw the stumps for sure.

The odd thing was: they'd all had dreams
about the ancient forest, and the dreams
had led them, each one, to my room -
and not to beat about the bush... to me.

Monday 31 October 2011

The Tale of Maudlin Jones and Bloodless Jack

This is the tale of Maudlin Jones
who loved a girl who was nowt but bones,
a lass who had died a century back,
who had jilted him for Bloodless Jack.

I tell of the night Jones rose from his grave
with never so much as a shower or shave.
What could he do to the bones of a man
who had turned him into an also-ran?

Bloodless Jack he met at her tomb
in a clash of bones like the knell of doom.
A butt to the head and kicks to the shins:
the last man standing's the one who wins!

For an hour they whirled like a Catherine wheel,
all brute force, not an ounce of skill,
'till the bones of each were a bric-a-brac:
one half Jones and the other Jack.

One was sporting Jack's head and breast,
whilst the bones of Jones comprised the rest.
The other stood tall with what remained -
and neither could say what he'd lost or gained,

but the half of each that was Maudlin Jones
was still in love with Mary's bones
and swore with an oath that could curdle blood
that he'd take her yet, would the graveyard stud.

Bloodless it seemed, at heart was a prude
and three in a bed seemed downright rude.
But Maudlin's bones would leap with joy
to learn from Mary they'd had a boy.

Well, they would have leaped, but dragging round
the bones of Jack, they felt earth-bound.
And nothing that Mary could do would free
the bones of Jones for eternity.

Now Maudlin Jones was a bit of a toff,
though the bones of Jack were a real turn-off,
but this was the night of Halloween
when the undead rise to join the scene.

They rose in their thousands to fill the skies
and mingle their screams with unearthly cries,
but none were as scary - no, not the whole pack -
as Maudlin Jones and Bloodless Jack.

Though all who wandered abroad that night
were shocked to see the bones ignite,
see skeletons carried on rivers of blood
and witches and vampires drowned in the flood,

for the rivers of blood had burst their banks,
engulfing the phalanx of bonyshanks,
and Mary, still between the two,
could hardly have known what the hell to do.

Then the loving trio were lifted high
on a giant wave that was sweeping by,
and dumped like flotsum on top of a dune
where they carried on by the light of the moon

until in that dim, romantic light
she saw what must rank as the ghastliest sight -
enough to trigger two cardiacs:
the bones of Jones were rejecting Jack's.

How wild is love when it doesn't care
that half of its lover isn't there!
How wild, when missing face and breast,
it can turn to the half that lacks the rest!

Two halves of one lover - Jones renewed?
No, self-assembly's awfully crude.
Not recommended for bones and such -
and Mary felt she was out of touch...

Two halves of a loaf... she thought to herself.
One for now and one on the shelf...
Alas for her plans, the night was long
and wolves and mummies did her wrong,

consumed them all, not a grain remained
when the sun returned, when the moon had waned.
And only the bairn of Maudlin Jones
remained to comfort its mother's bones.