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Thursday 31 March 2011


Light-footed, light dances on water;
light-fingered, it steals from Picassos and decor
whatever is less than light fast. And we,
at its light shows of sun rise and set
are lifted light-hearted or - truth be known -
light-drunk or light-headed again.

And lightsome it is, this lighter-than-air light
pen from heaven, presenting our world - light
pollution the downside; reflections of glory the up.
Yet lightweight our words at its wonders,
and lighter than lightweight there at the end
as we wait for its final "lights out"!

Wednesday 30 March 2011

First Night

A response to Jingle Poetry's prompt of Trips,Travel and Vacation.

First night at the resort.
We'd found the perfect spot:
The Heron by the Lake.
We parked beneath the trees.
Beyond them, the lake shone
like burnished gold almost,
so polished by the moon.

Just then a train sped by,
quite close, beyond the trees,
its sonic boom came first.
Itself a bit behind,
took ages to rush by
in clouds of dust and smoke.
Its slipstream took my hat.
The trees, bowed down in awe,
were shaken to their roots.
The lake had disappeared.

And then was peace again:
tranquility restored.

Mid-day when we next went.
A warm day, overcast.
A table by the lake.
No trees to hide the view.
No heron to be seen -
nor rail tracks anywhere.
Just pebbles by the lake -
except a sudden beam
revealed an old rail track
at least two meters down
beneath the silent lake.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Said the Ocean to the Shore

I am as restless, said the ocean to the shore,
as if I should have been a hungry lion
prowling round my cage.
Back and forth I roll, along your beaches,
exploring all your world, for I've been everywhere.
I've heard a thousand languages
and understood them all -
if only in my oceanic way.
Beside my energy and motive power,
the life of land
and lives of creatures on the land
are undiluted languor. Mankind
has deduced the shape and structure of the universe,
the mass and thrust of particles; his mind
is very close to God's - or to that part
of God's intelligence that has to do
with engineering, structures, heft and energy.
But of my depths and structures, of my powers,
those that are bottled up inside,
within the darkness of my belly, so profound
that no amount of light dispels it,
of my secrets man is ignorant.

I am the future said the ocean to the shore,
I see in you the present vanishing,
and then I see that what is left is past.
But people turn to me for poetry.
(Did you know that?) They turn to me,
for I am he who is dynamic. You, the land,
have settled into what you are, not what
you are to be. I know you have your movements,
but your movements are the movements of disaster;
your fragility is plain for all to see:
it suffers earthquakes and volcanoes.
My movements are of me. They are expressions
of my freedom and a joyful way of life.
And yes, I have great movements forced upon me,
but my fluid nature bounces back at once.
Only you are plunged into great suffering.

Deep in my belly are a billion tiny things,
along with killer whales and serpents and the like,
and though you, land, may also breed your living,
they are not part of you
as mine are part of me
like foetuses I'm carrying.
The Word was born in me,
as was the human race.
All races grew, as if for ever,
in the darkness of my flesh. You, land, were stone.
Only my body throbbed with life back then.

I speak of foolishness,
of what the world calls foolishness;
of birth and foetuses, no less -
but not of creatures carrying to term.
The foetus was The Word, The Word
became a poem or a song.
I will give birth to it repeatedly.
Between the last wave and the first,
it will be born as eyes are blinking open
or as they close or not at all.
Be careful of it if you find it on your beach,
for it is born of love, not treachery.

Monday 28 March 2011

On cooking a poem.

It is like cooking, really it is.
You're wanting a meal,
you open the door to the larder
to see what is lying in wait.
If it's just eggs and bacon,
that kind of settles what you'll do.

You'll write a poem?
Somewhere in the memory
you have a store
of happenings,
of issues to explore and thoughts:
from these you choose the stuff to make your pie.

Talk of cooking brings to mind
how even banquets can be ruined
by cooking too fast or slow.
Some poems need to simmer for a year or so,
and some are better slapped down in a flash.
The trick, of course, is knowing which are which.

One day you may be making beans on toast
when out of that small can pops something like:
The big bang...
did not happen somewhere someplace, way out there,
but absolutely everywhere at once.
How could you go on cooking beans on toast?

Sunday 27 March 2011

Breath of Life

A downward scrolling journey
to a land of three flat areas
of colour, like a flag - the very thing
I thought that it must be -
led on to later subtleties
of tint and hue injecting life.

These things do not belong to flags.
So, palpitations of excitement - slow,
how slow a scroll can seem!
A Rothko!. Could it be a Rothko,
here for me! But finally,
the end of scroll: a landscape,
simply cut and glued together,
with a sun for atmosphere,
and streaks of liight - all things
you do not find in Rothkos,
not the later ones, not those
whose paint becomes a living
membrane; hints of other worlds,
of new dimensions, filter back and forth,
and worlds you feel but cannot see
creep in the brain. No Rothko then,
this landscape squeezed between
two blocks of colour, something that
he might have put on canvas
had he been fired by intellect
instead of instinct, had his works
been well-behaved, content to wait
there in the corner to be seen
and not those breathing surfaces.

A Rothko

This is my response to this week's prompt from the Writers' Island stable

Saturday 26 March 2011

The Poetry lesson

After yesterday's beach walk
I asked you to look at "Shells",
the poem by Ted Hughes, for prep.

I am now going to read it to you
in such a way as to leave time for thought.
Use the time. Think about the words,
what they suggest to you,
what pictures come into your mind
and how you might have described them
in the unlucky event
that you had been Ted Hughes!

            Shells by Ted Hughs

Shells white, shells brown, sea-shells
Tumbled by sea, cry,
     as we tumbled, losing our balance,
     together as one, in the waves

Swarm the foam's edge, twittering shoals,
a jostle of curiosity -
     always the curious one, my angel,
     me loving her for it, she
     loving the shoals and knowing them all by name.

But they screech as the wave hauls,
     screeching for joy, toppled by breakers
or, cast bare, gleam dry.

From that gigantic bed of the sea
     Was it gigantic, that bed of ours?
Where darkness on Time
Begets pearl, monster and anemone
Only shells come
To chatter of emptiness, or lie
     We chattered and lay...
lovely as dumb.
     she lovely as dumb.

Friday 25 March 2011

Grayson Perry R.A. Potter

There's something of the early dawn,
creation at the point of quickening,
when watching how form rises from amorphous clay,
the way the potter's fingers edge it into life.

If you could gather all the sand grains
from all the many beaches of this world
and match them 1:1 with all the stars,
the sand would run out long before they did.

Those fingers on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling now,
they might have been content
to render genesis
in porcelain,
had God been minimalist
in intent.

And should the potter then strive for the pristine form?
His prototype from God? Would that be it?
Undecorated and unglazed
or seen from far away,
its prelapsarian form conveys
perfection as it might have been.

But glazed, close up, the scene has changed,
and while the colours still would please
the most exacting God - and, being porcelain,
are proof against decay - they and its shape
are merely background now
to vistas of pornography,
of child abuse,
brutality and pain.
Perfection underlies and underlines
the artless marks unveiling blot and smudge.

A true and urgent metaphor for man.

Earlier this week Grayson Perry was made a member of The Royal Academy
The vase below is called "They have found the body of your child".

Thursday 24 March 2011

Where woodland, snow and water meet.

You know how memory conflates
long strings of things we've done or seen
into a single image symbolizing all,
how it subsumes a dozen walks
in a familiar place
into a walk that represents them all...
Here I have tried to find a token for
a walk through woodland to the sea
that fits a single frame.

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Stuff won't lie down these days!

Everything is taking liberties, these days.
Only last week, the moon moved in on us,
invaded our earth-space and sucked the water
from the Solent - some of it - and left five ships
there, high and dry on sandbanks. Ne'er a "by your leave"!

A river that they'd buried (culverted,
they called it) had the cheek to pop up - uninvited -
in some poor devil's private Shangri-la -
his personal back garden, mind you.
No sense of it's submissiveness. No "by your leave".

My bathroom mirror has been taking liberties.
It shows me faces that I semi-recognise
but less than half believe. It pulls them from
some form of hat - a joke hat - I should think.
Stuff's got no sense of dignity, these days.

Computers are supposed to free us from our chores.
Instead, they're into taking liberties with us.
They give us stuff we never asked for and don't want,
and scatter cookies round the world with stuff on us.
Things no longer do what people tell them to.

And not just stuff. Animals and people too.
The foxes have been taking liberties by our front door.
Someone said they're teaching us their language, see?
Or trying to. They never asked, What liberty is that?
The animals don't worship us the way they should.

There's folk who use my name. I never said.
The Government's chief scientist was one,
and some professor uses my name all the time.
There was a comic once who called himself Dave King -
and never any royalties would come from him!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Two Battle Poems

After the nonsense of the last 3-4 days (for which see yesterday's post) I needed an area of sanity and peacce to get writing again, so naturally, I went to look at Magpie Tales' brief for this week:-

And when the tools of war are hung upon the wall,
what tools have they become? Do they look down,
broadsword and battleaxe, lance, shield and dirk,
on scenes of verbal jousting round a table set
with fare from bygone days? Or are they tools
for lives vicarious, of derring-do's vainglory?
Perhaps they're looking down, embarrassed and ashamed
of all the blood that once dripped from their blades or dried
in abstract characters on wood or leathern shield.
They teach their lessons and they sing their songs,
they murmur prayers or point towards their visions
and demand to know of us: where do we stand? Are
we romantic glorifiers? historical
deniers? Or those who think they learn by their mistakes?

and then this happened:-

Standing where I am,
and looking from the bedroom window
down into a busy road,
busy with its busy people going home,
I cannot see it all;
the trees and other vehicles
protect it, snuggling in its lair
from outside view.
Inflating and deflating like a toad -
that much I see.
A boat of some kind,
with a roof-rack where its sails should be.
A fish towards the bows.
Square-eyed, round-jawed,
but somehow streamlined, like a shark.
Wide, low and blue, an anchor for a tusk,
and to the rear, with upturned tail -
a scorpion, I fear.

A man, my neighbour,
with power hose, washes it,
the late sun sparkling off the jet.
St George, I reason,
does battle with
the half-organic, half bionic
androgenous, steel
(We never witnessed scenes like this
before the house price slump.)
I shall in future treat
my neighbour with respect.

Monday 21 March 2011

Normal Service

My thanks to all who have visited my blog during my abrupt and no doubt discourteous-seeming absence. My last post (pun unintended) was in point of fact half the post. Stupidly, after scheduling it to appear yesterday - when I would not be around - I decided to restore a section which I had earlier binned. I then went to lunch, leaving the computer fired up. When I returned to reinstate the aforementioned lines, the screen reported that it was unable to find the server. I therefore decided that the servers must be down. They were still down late into the evening and still down the following morning. They were not down, of course. The modem had blown a fuse, or something of the sort. I spent most of Saturday working on it to no avail. yesterday I was out. This morning I rang the ISP help line and spent a jolly hour or so getting nowhere. This afternoon I rang again and was this time rewarded by being able to speak to someone who seemed to know what he was about. The official verdict now is that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the network, but the Network Card in my (new) computer. It will have to be looked at by one of our local geeks. However, armed with that knowledge I am now back in business on my trusty laptop - completely disregarded when I thought the network was not working. One consequence of all this is that I have had no time to write anything. Tomorrow, I hope, NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED - but it could be Wednesday! Thanks again, most patient ones.

Sunday 20 March 2011


Some. like myself, have echo chambers in the brain.
We hear a sound, the sound gets trapped, runs round again.
All sound is in the brain, of course, does not exist
outside. Outside are fluctuations in the air,
its pressures on the inner ear equipped to turn
them into signals to the brain, where we live through
them in the form of sound. For some years now I've had
just such a chamber in my head. One ear has lost
its usefulness; the nerve, unstimulated and,
like all of nature in its hatred of the smallest
of near-vacuums, has learnt self-stimulation,
composing its own music and defying me
to tell the difference. It lays a single note
from somewhere in the body, runs it round a few
times, adding overtones and undertones and half
tones to the score. It's chamber music with a penny
difference, the sound-equivalent of being stood
between two mirrors, seeing endless images
extending into space. Sometimes the music sounds
like speech, like voices murmuring from far away;
sometimes the notes are dragged through water, lose their shape.
At times, I feel for those distinguished or deluded
souls who think they hear God's voice - or angels - telling
them what they should think and do. And then I think of
all the sounds the world creates, suggestive of our
human speech: the deep voice of the ocean, for
a start, and I can understand their guilessness.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Betty Stone's in the Arcade

Bumped into 'em in Betty Stone's in the Arcade -
their usual soppy grins, as if they'd won a prize
or found the year's best bargain. Tiny vacant eyes,
of course. A couple of hillbillies dressed to kill!
The big, broad brim of his black hat scrunched in his fist;
his pretty, floral coat (you'd not be seen a corpse
in such a thing); black knee-high boots that disappeared
beneath his hem of emerald green; and curly hair.
He was a lad, all right! Was he not just! And she,
not far behind: a hem that swept the ground beneath
the greens, dull reds and prints of striking blooms; all this
topped off with hair piled high, more tightly curled than his.
To see them there among the mouldering antiques,
it still came as a shock to think that they were born
and raised for exile. Just for that. Two people, grand
as Louis the Fourteenth and his eventual wife...
What were they doing there? Chinese, by birth, of course,
not meant for there - or here. Shipped expeditiously
to France, before Sat Navs, I fear, two figurines,
two porcelains of such outstanding beauty that
they looked too out of place in Betty Stone's Antiques.

See them here

Friday 18 March 2011

Earth shattering and Dust Cloud

Earth Shattering
Dust Cloud

These two images were the result of just playing around with various drawings. Any relevance to recent events in Japan is purely fortuitous - or decidedly uncanny - as they were made before the earthquake. You might notice, though, that in the interests of green issues, characters have been recycled.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Not a lot of people know this...

This being my response to this graphic prompt from

God and the Devil have been at it all along,
way before the earth was formed; then as it formed,
and formed from nothing, these two ancient enemies
were at it yet again, each throwing into that
great melting pot which was the earth just then, their own
creations for display - their product placements, we
might call them, forged from their own characters, as their
advertisements, commending them to us. God's part
and his achievements in all this are widely known:
the way he called up darkness and the light, the way
he then spoke us and all the living things of earth
into existence. Parallel with all this, and
trying to keep up, was Satan hard at work and
throwing down his less-than-perfect contributions.
He could not mis-create, though, on the scale of God's
creations, but instead threw down bacteria
and viruses with programmes locked inside for mayhem
and for evil of all kinds: insurgents of a
microscopic size to work their evil wonders
on programmes more divine. Success went to his head
as he found ways to influence creation's path,
and introduced what we are apt to speak of as
design faults in our daily parlance. We are most
aware of those that plague us more directly: so
the prostrate gland is one: that it surrounds a pipe,
the way it does, is not good engineering. Things
can go wrong. The mouth is one: here food and air are asked
to pass each other and to cross in what to all
intents and purposes is empty space. No one
but a devil would have dreamed of such a thing. But
such a thing the devil wrought, and many more to
mar God's plan. And so he tried in other ways as well
to sabotage creation: tried to spoil its colours, taint
the violet of violets, the orange of
its oranges, the blueness of the ocean, and
the range of colourings of human skin. Often
quoted as example are the colours of
the rainbow in the sky. These are as transient
as ever colours came, with no inherent
permanence, and yet the devil could not stain their
beauty or their promise of a triumph for it all.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

And then the Children Took Control...

I had a dream
that all the children of the world rose up
and let off steam
and marched upon the rulers of the world,
the so-called cream,
and told them plainly that the game was up:
a new regime,
one based on play - fair play - and chance - a chance
for all - and schemes
for world-wide happiness, were needed now.
Then on each green
a parliament would come together: "dib,
dib, dib," the team
would carol, "you're not 'it'," to choose the one
to be supreme
commander for the day. A session, though,
might end with screams...
"I've called you twice! I want you in for tea!"
(something not foreseen)
"And don't forget to wash your hands and face!
I want them clean!"
The kids were serious with a light touch.
None were extreme.
Some planned when they grew up to join the ranks
of Academe.
Some parliaments formed monarchies, creating
Kings and Queens.
The Kings and Queens gave banquets for their peers -
mostly of ice-cream.
Retirement age for leaders was set at
but most of them outgrew it and resigned
before thirteen.
The world became increasingly less fraught
and more serene;
folk laughed and joked with leaders where before
they'd vented spleen.
It was the daftest, most relaxed and comic
world yet seen,
and everywhere were people basking in
new self-esteem.
The kids abandoned armies, and their eyes
were all agleam
when fighting paintball battles in the mountains,
woods and streams.
They closed the gaols, sent baddies back to school,
feeding them baked beans,
and kids whose goals were anti-life had to
explore their themes
by making horror videos to watch
on the small screen.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Boozy On The London Underground

I raise this last can to the Internet,
to information overload and friends I've met.
It's fascinated me for hours on end
and everyone on Earth is now my friend.
It's opened doors to art, philosophy and verse,
to gourmet guzzling and the universe -
a lager-fuelled life of love and thought,
kebabs and Einstein with a single malt;
of wild and woolly notions set at nought.
And so: a toast to stuff like quantum, relativity
black holes, worm holes, the big bang and Complexity!
I drink to images of Jupiter and Mars;
and heady stuff about the birth and death of stars.

You're looking mystified...
I’ll demonstrate! This can... I said my last... I lied.
For now, we'll call it sun. Fantastic powers inside:
think tons  (a googol times a googolplex) of gelignite.
I shake it, pull the ring. Kapow! Goodnight!
Good Health! And as the flatulence and eructations die,
                     so I
                the macho-man
    (but call me gravity) implode the can.

               Across the aisle
             the white dwarfs pile,
 each one a star before it lost its equilibrium.

Mine, I lost in some space-time continuum
of throwing up, where were no drinking comrades of my own,
until I found myself sat here on this damned train, alone -
and wished that Einstein and his crew had done the same,
for then perhaps we’d have a different game.
            E = mc2? Small beer:
he might have changed his theories sitting here;
for space, as I perceive it now is this damned track
stretched out before and stretched out going back.

And speaking of small beer, it’s polarized
my mind, and I have been exceedingly surprised 
to learn the natures of this tunnel and the train,
how nothing matches any picture in my brain;
how tunnels rumble when trains come,
and how to greater rumbles from the gut, we do succumb;
how space is curved; how absolute time disappears
as seconds passing on my watch, on station clocks take years;
how space itself becomes surreal -
an endless tyre on time’s vast wheel -
and life an endless round, a never-ending meal.

The train winds on through spools of black spaghetti
to pools of twilight consciousness: another meal with Hetty;
those boulevards under snow, the drinks we had with Caroline -
those were not stations down a line,
not boarding or alighting points, just Alka Seltzers in a jar.
Stirred, spinning, spreading fizziness and influence far,
they coloured all… So, where did that dumb image spring from? Shit!
I haven’t understood this Circle Line a bit!
A response to Jingle Poetry's call for something on Food, Drink and Indulgence.

Monday 14 March 2011

Time and Tide : A Story

It was the last lesson of the day. Astronomy, Tom's favourite, so it should have been a joy. Unfortunately, it was the last lesson of the day, and Mrs Smith had this incredible gift for making the last lesson of everyday interminable. Earlier in the day, the same lesson would have set the world alight, but not this late on. This late she had the power - a power which she never failed to use - to make the clocks run slow, almost to stop.

Eventually the school bell sounded loud and clear, of course. It was accompanied, as always, by sighs of relief all round - until Mrs Smith held up her hand for silence. "And what is it, children , that we do last thing before we all go home?" All the hands shot up.

"We write tomorrow's date across the top of the blackboard, miss!"

It wasn't a blackboard, of course. This was a modern school. Its boards were all white boards, but everyone still called them black.

"Indeed we do. Well done, Tom. You seem much more alert today!"

He was alert. He had 50p in his pocket, which he would spend on his way home.

"And tomorrow the date will be... "
"Wednesday, the sixth of March, Mrs Smith!" said Tom

"Excellent!" said Mrs Smith, and began to write, slowly - and, Tom thought, laboriously - across the top of the board in her immaculate script (Which she could not have done with chalk on one of those old blackboards. No way!): Wednesday, 6th March. She finished with a flourish, turned to the class and silently clapped her hands together, the signal for them to leave as silently.

Tom made for the bookshop. It had a 50p table which he was in the habit of visiting whenever he was flushed. Today, though, there was another table beside the 50p one. On the new table two or three splendid books were displayed. "Hi Charlie!" said Mr Thomas as Tom pushed open the door. He'd always called him Charlie, since almost his first visit when he hadn't known Tom's name.

"Hello!" Tom had replied , before burying his nose in a particularly attractive book on the new table. "Signs and Wonders of the Heavens" it was called. The coloured maps and photographs were stunning. Tom was all but salivating over it. He looked back to check the price. £20. His heart sank, but he read on. Well, in fact he couldn't read a great deal. Not with understanding. Most of the text was beyond him. There was a chapter on time that caught his eye, though. Again, he couldn't get it all. His dad was always talking about time as if it was a river, just flowing on by. Unstoppable, unchangeable. Remorseless. "Time and Tide wait for no man." he was always saying, which didn't seem to Tom to be quite the same thing as his Time and river saying.

The chapter on time appeared to be suggesting that time was not so much a river as a sea, and that it sometimes came in waves and could be pulled around by the heavenly bodies in the same way that the moon affects the oceans. He wasn't sure he understood all that it said, but he had learned long ago from his foraging in Mr Thomas's shop that you didn't always have to fully understand a book in order to enjoy it. What you did have to do, though, was be able to afford it! At this point he noticed that Mr Thomas was heavily engaged with a man in a rather fierce argument. Before he even knew what was happening , Tom had slipped the book into his school satchel and slipped out of the shop.

And then, on the way home, he had just reached the little green with the newsagent's shop when he noticed, could not but help noticing, that the window of the shop, which had been badly cracked the week before by skateboarders, was being replaced by a man from EverGlass. It was Bob, the man who had put in their new double-glazing back in the autumn.

That evening Tom took the book to bed with him and studied the chapter on time until his mother came in and said the word "Sleep!" in her usual authoritative e way. Dad would have said; "Time to hit the hay!" Mum merely repeated "Sleep now Tom" and turned out the light as though the action was all part of the sentence. Usually it worked - better than dad's hitting the hay - but not that evening. That evening he simply carried on reading under the blankets with the aid of his powerful torch. He fell asleep, still not having grasped what the chapter was attempting to tell him.

When he awoke in the morning he felt rather different about it. His conscience had kicked in. He was distraught. He had done a terrible thing. How could he have? He had no peace all day at school. What could he do? How to put it right? He didn't fancy taking the book back and making a clean breast of it. By the time that Chloe was telling Mrs Smith to write Thursday, 7th March, he had resolved what to do. Just before he would get to the book shop on his way home was a beautiful little church which they sometimes went to as a family. He would go in there. That's where you went when you were in the sort of trouble he was in.

Tom entered very cautiously, but need not have worried: it was empty. He stopped in front of the statuette of Jesus. Then he went down on one knee. He was just about to launch into the intricacies of his moral dilemma when an incident from a recent visit to a store in town came into his mind. A woman had approached one of the assistants very belligerently. Then, thumping the counter with her hand, had demanded to see the manager - "The general manager. Don't try to palm me off with some under manager!" His dad had told him that such behaviour was the height of rudeness. To go in like that, demanding to see the man - or woman - at the top was not the way to behave. You should state your case, and let the person concerned decide who was the one to help resolve the issue. Only if you found yourself getting no satisfaction, should you take the initiative and demand to go higher. He saw a similarity with his own case. Maybe he shouldn't go straight to the boss! He moved on. But who else was there? Ah, he thought he knew. In a stained glass window was an image said to be of Joseph. Yes, he was of about the right seniority. He explained it all to Joseph and as he got back to his feet, he was sure he saw the image wink!

Tom left the church not really knowing how he felt. Without noticing much of what was going on around him, he reached the little green with the newsagent shop, he noticed, though it hardly registered, such was the state of his mind, that Bob, a man he knew vaguely, was replacing the cracked window of the newsagent's shop. After which, though, Tom did notice, and with increasing unease, that he was meeting and passing the same people as the previous afternoon, and at exactly the same points on his journey home. The killer blow, though, came when, soon after he had arrived home, Tom turned on the telly to find himself watching the very programmes that he had watched the previous afternoon. He checked with The Radio Times. No, this was not what was listed for Wednesday afternoon. "You daft thing," said Mum." It's Tuesday! Tuesday, the 5th!" No, maybe that was not quite the killer blow. Maybe that came when he went up to his bedroom to renew his acquaintance with the book that was causing all the trouble. The book was nowhere to be seen.

He ate his evening meal with nothing clearly resolved, and went back to school the next day, still in a turmoil. His turmoil increased alarmingly when he looked at the blackboard. Across the top, in Mrs Smith's immaculate script, was written: Wednesday 6th March. The day went by in a blur. He couldn't wait to get back to the church. Joseph would have to sort this out! And if Joseph couldn't, then he, Tom, would demand to see the absolute boss! But when it came to it, he ran straight on by. Something impelled him to the book shop. He crashed through the door ("Steady on, Charlie!" said Mr Thomas.) to be confronted by the two tables, and on the first, displayed as ever was: The Book, "Signs and Wonders of the Heavens". He skidded to a halt in front of it. "You like that book, don't you?" grinned Mr Thomas. "I do, yes... I thought that you had sold it!" said Tom. "Nope. I've had a lot of folk look at it," said Mr Thomas, "but there it's stayed so far, right where you see it on that table!" Can a person dream his way through a day before it even happens? wondered Tom, or did Joseph know some way that he could send time back a day and rewrite it, like me erasing a sentence I had written? I do believe he might have fixed it so that I never did take that book in the first place! And what confirmed Tom's belief in that second possibility was the realisation that he could remember not one word of what he'd read. Not only had he not taken it, but he'd also never read it. Well, that would follow logically, wouldn't it?

Sunday 13 March 2011

Adults Only!

Grown-ups got up to things each Christmastide.
Long after we were fast asleep, they came -
strange relatives whom we had never met,
and what they did, they did in our front room!

Next morning we would find them on the floor,
out for the count and snoring through the fug.
It took a war to lay their secrets bare:
those who had puzzled us, no longer came,

and I was getting older all the time,
so grown-up thinking was for things to change,
and they invited me to join their gang -
a rite of passage as I see it now.

Ten round the table, ten o'clock. In comes
Granddad with some toy like a roulette wheel.
On the wheel are images of horses,
all varying in size. He who was big

enough to hog the rim, would hog the chances.
We played with pennies or with coloured chips.
(Before I joined, I think they played for more.)
Beside the wheel a board laid out the odds.

On this we placed our bets. It was quite rare
for one of us to win or lose a lot
but that had happened once - before granddad
engaged a "letterer" to change the odds.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Creation's missing piece

Apocalypse is now...
The prophesies fulfilled...
They're out in force again
who spout the end of all,
of this and other worlds,
all to be grist for God's
new mills. Each fresh mischance
brings our end nigh again.

Nothing lasts for ever,
that much is true, we know:
our sun, our world and all
our fine abstractions, soon
will crumble into dust.
The Great Collider's search          *
for God's own particle
confirming The Big Bang
has so far drawn a blank.

I'll take some comfort if
Continuous Creation                     *
gets kicked back intp play.
It seemed the way to go
when I was just but a kid.
In the beginning: words.
And yes, words meant a lot,
but words were syllables
and could be decomposed
to make new words. As old
worlds passed away new worlds
were being born. The Word
made whole and new again.

The Liben Lark

I'm sending it
a Good Luck card:
"Hope you make it
Liben Lark!"
(though little care
is being shown)
The Liben Plain,
East Africa.
Alternative address:

At first I thought:
a Get Well card,
but thought again:
the lark's not ill,
just being ousted
from its home,
the Liben Plain,
a tiny square
of grassland, man
has found no way
so far, to share.

It's part of history
(almost); the die
is all but cast.
You will not miss it,
nor shall I.
I read of it,
the day before,
was ignorant;
far too late.

A scraggy thing
with voice of gold,
it needs its tiny
square of grass,
but so does man.
There's water there
and fertile land,
so we erode it
as the sea
erodes the shore:

I'd send a card
With Sympathy
if there was
it could go,
a mourner
to be comforted.
The loss is ours
and Earth's, of course.
A first, this is, for Africa,
but not, I fear, its last.

Friday 11 March 2011

A Little Known Incident from WWII

Only the stretcher bearers had been spared;
the rest were left beheaded: officers
and other ranks, along with all their horses.
The severed heads, with caps and helmets still
in place, were strewn about like poppy seed -
though not one horse's head was ever found.

Full military honours. All the works.
Funerals to die for - for the horses.
The soldiers though, could still be put to use -
Praise be to God for lead and hollow men!
Dad's wax and dead match therapy, would see
them whole again - and back on the front line.

But for the moment: carnage in a box!
I saw the deed in terms of what I knew:
the havoc wreaked by Foxy on our hens:
in my mind's eye I saw the flying limbs,
and massive flows of blood from open necks.
Rommel, I knew, was called The Desert Fox,
but could you have a Rommel under 5?

An uncle came by at the crucial time.
"I see you've resurrected them," he said.
I didn't know what "resurrected" meant.
"I can't bring back the horses," I replied.
"Indeed," he laughed, "not creatures without souls!"
"What's souls?" I asked. "It's heads that they have lost!"
It was my launch pad to theology.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Shaping the Clay

A sculptor toils to shape the stone
or mould the pliant clay.
His work is physical; the forms
have heft, exist in space.

Located in the ideal place,

a word can take
a sculptural form.
It fills the space
and shapes the space around

Wednesday 9 March 2011

another secret one : The Lad Who Drew Ellipses.

for this one I am indebted both to Jim at The Truth a bout Lies and to The Writers' Island prompt: Secrets. It was Jim's comment on my original response to the prompt (for which scroll down 2 posts) which led to this poem - and do I feel a series coming on?

Ex-officer, ex-guards -
or so he'd say, although
he seemed too short to me -
but now a clerk-of-works,
his office a small shed
with panoramic view
of all the square bashing
his stalwart heart could wish.

Teased by sub-contractors -
one in particular -
whose knowledge he'd rely
upon to see him through.
The open secrecy
with which he led his life
had never helped his cause.

Each Friday he'd arrive,
small brown attache case
and polka dot bow tie,
the usual bowler hat.
Then enter "Irish Tom",
one trouser leg rolled up.
"Off out this ev'ning George?
Where's it to be tonight?"
And then he'd waddle back
and forth and slap his sides
with dead straight arms and quack.
"Quack, Georgie Boy, Quack! Quack!
And kiss the nice duck's arse!"

And George would look at me:
"Do you know how to draw
ellipses lad?" he'd ask.
"I think so, George," I'd say.
And taking tapes and DIM *
books we would go. Again
he'd look and this time say:
"I'm not allowed to tell
you lad, on pain of death!"
"I know," I'd tell him, "and
I do not need to know.
We all have secrets, George."

In truth, I never had
to draw him an ellipse.
It was a code - one known
to all - that meant: let's go!
Just something that George said.
It got me known though, as
the lad who draws ellipses.

*DIM book: Dimensions Book - a note book ruled rather like a single cash book in which we wrote our measurements and calculations.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Shucks to idols.

They fuck you up, your heroes do.
Those most in need are those who choose
the Rooneys of this world,
and even now at my great age,
mine are a deeper shade of sage -
and some are even midnight blue.
Con artists all, they sell you short.
We're ferries at a channel port,
role models roll both on and off -
no wonder wiser elders scoff!

And if it's true, the world's a stage
and we but act our given parts,
it follows that our heroes too
are stage personae, lacking hearts.
There's nothing there, the soul to please,
but comedies and tragedies.
We choose them when we're least informed,
then wonder how we get deformed.
They're not all bad, but - rule of thumb -
you would not take one home to mum.

Jingle Poetry's prompt for this week was Idols, Role Models, Mentors. It started a train of thought that resulted in the above offering.

Monday 7 March 2011


Another from the sketchbook. I had driven out to capture a particular group of trees, parked under some nearby trees and became fascinated by the reflections of them on the car.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Christmas Turkey

From this week's Writers' Island prompt: Secret.

Granddad would bag the parson's nose,
the wishbone was fair game between
the likes of we two boys. We'd each
take hold, and on mum's say-so, rip
the thing apart, and doing so,
would make a secret wish. The bone
would split unequally. Next, mum,
behind her back,would hide them in
her fist - just two white ends would show.
Then one of us would choose. We each
would hope the other would step up.
Whoever chose - or by default
obtained - the larger part, would wish.
The wish just might be granted - if
you kept it to yourself and breathed
no word to anyone. That was
the challenge. Meet it, and you well
might have your heart's desire. But what
if it came true for you? What then?
Could some malignant spirit steal
the booty from your grasp? I have
to say, I never did find out,
and even now I cannot tell
you, friend, one word of what I wished.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Minutely Worked Out - A Complete Theory of Time

I saw a clock on a mantlepiece
that was telling three different times,
it belonged to Joe , a man of peace,
who played me its three different chimes.

I watch the hands and I meditates,
for I really like to see
how time and the hands have different rates
at different times said he

This one here shows the time to come...
and here is the time to go!
But what is to go and who is to come?
asked I, who wanted to know.

Whatever is up and whoever is down
said the man I knew as Joe.
Life is a matter of ups and downs,
as everyone here must know.

And the third time there? I asked with a smile.
It's the start of an inch and the end of a mile
said Joe with a puzzled frown.
(I thought I was getting him down.)

Inches and miles and ups and downs...
isn't it time to stop?
I asked with a surreptitious look
a Joe's remarkable clock.

Not at all said he, with a look of pain,
I am on the track of time.
It's a slippery worm that farts in your brain
and hides its face in the slime.

It's a bird on the wing or a seagull's screech,
a tangle of wool or a line on a chart,
it's a ripple that runs on a shingle beach
or the sound of a dead man's heart.

Whatever it is and wherever it goes,
you can't define it, it tickles your toes.
It's a day and a half or a couple of ticks,
as light as a feather, as heavy as bricks.

Like the whale as it swims,
it's a back or a tail,
the rest you imagine over your Pimms:
it might be a pig or even a snail.

You can't see it all,
it's a conjuring trick,
you don't know whether to run or crawl -
but whichever you do, do it pretty damned quick!

Friday 4 March 2011

The Trees

What if these trees have memories?
What would you say to know that sap
is heavy with the fruits of thought
that leaves alone can understand?

A wood is a monastic place,
its trees provide incessant prayer,
and images of states of grace
are mined by roots and raised to God
in litanies the branches trace -
though when a breeze excites a tree
the prayers are more extempore.

I'm safer here beneath their shade
than any arched or stone arcade;
they will not let the world intrude,
but guard this peace and solitude
and all those constant streams that rise
from spirit earth to spirit skies
to make our intervening space
a pristine, breathing, birthing place.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Lake Windermere

Towards the end of January I showed some of my earliest photographs, taken in my late teens or soon after, which I had come across in the process of trying to re-organise my work space. They depressed me slightly, if the truth be known, because I thought them better than I am achieving now, notwithstanding the fact that I now have much superior equipment.

Here I am trying to correct the emphasis. This is one of my earliest watercolours. I don't feel the same way about it, though it is not a finished painting, but a sketch from my sketch book.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

A Perfect Bloody Picnic


Magpie Tales provided this image for this week's prompt.

Out of the sun -
or a hundred watt bulb -
the sabre-toothed hornets,
wave upon wave
had fallen upon
their natural foes,
the five-fanged flies
with their death-ray eyes
laying their eggs
in a sausage meat roll
and feasting upon
the blow-out prepared
for a human tribe
that was looking scared.

The flies fighting back
at the rival gang,
tearing the teeth
from the hornets' jaws,
added more blood
to the sanguine scene,
'till all were dead,
but a favoured few
and the Table Rock
was the deepest hue
as the battered survivors
removed their dead.

It was all arranged -
God, you might have guessed! -
by Damien Hurst
at The Cube's behest.
His installation -
here you see it -
a palpable hit
with the cognoscenti.
The result of it all
you can plainly see:
the process
is what you infer,
said he.
This is the end
of a perfect picnic.
Imagine the bodies
preserved in aspic.

Tuesday 1 March 2011


Strange gesture from the young man. Out of context.
Like tugging on a ripcord. Then the pause
before the fireball swallows him.

Self-immolation, it is called - to make
it sound a tad respectable, no doubt.
We hear him through the flames.

Screams of pain? No, none of that, but calling
in his high tone voice: "Take me, take me now!"
It's The Buddha that he's calling.

He's never been a Buddhist - until now.
Looking for a shortcut, I suppose?
None of us can get in close.

The flames are threatening to last for ever.
People, trees and buildings: all are seared
and blackened by the fire.

Then they subside to night-lights. Flickering.
A charred corpse sits there with pale orbs for eyes,
his body glowing red,

but soon he stands and towers above us as
a man full-grown, of adult stature,
his beard luxurious.

And we all falling to our knees, beseeching
Allah, Buddha, Jesus, any deity
who might be listening.


Jingle Poetry suggested Cartoons, SciFi and Super Powers for this week's prompt. This is one of those last two, but I'm not sure which.