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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.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Love Song

This is the poem I didn't send
that I didn't intend
that didn't end
(and couldn't mend)
the quiet affair that was never quite there.

This is the poem that never was -
my favourite poem of all, because
it would have meant that you were there
sharing the castle we built in the air
for a lost affair that was never quite there.

In the labyrinth that now is me
all rooms are open, you are free
to wander at will, no need for a key
not in our castle high in the air
in the quiet affair that was never quite there.

Alas for intentions. Unwittingly
scattered around - Catastrophe! -
"No Entry" signs - you thought from me...
How could that be, so high in the air?
Sad, the affair that was never quite there.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Writers' Block

Stare at the white page...
there's nothing there, and
nothing is what
will come from it.
Better to engage
a rainmaker,
a dancer or
someone who prays
or seeds the clouds
with silver iodide,
dry ice or flares.

We need a shower
of good ideas
or just ideas.
I knew a man,
brain damaged,
wrote like you or I -
as long as there
was something
written on the page.
But if he spoke his thought
he could not write it down.

It's habit forming, too.
The water when it comes
does not seem good enough,
still smells, is brackish
or discoloured. So
we let it run a while
then as we go to use it
it runs out.

It was Robert Lloyd at Poets United who suggested Writers Block as a topic.

Friday 28 October 2011

Posh Doll and someone who might have been Jesus

Scores of them. On makeshift beds. Lying in the sun. Plastic dolls from round the world. A rabbit and a polar bear. Giraffe and tiger. Elephant and water buffalo. Dogs. Cats. Horses. Mice.

There are friends. Neighbours. Loved ones. Crying over them. Bringing them what comfort they are able. And sweets and chocolates. Flowers for the dead. Prayers for the just alive.

And then there's Posh Doll. Posh Doll lives in luxury. She has a doll's house on an ant hill in the garden. Posh Doll is married to Nkondi. Nkondi is a power doll from the Congo. Posh Doll is small. Made of porcelain. Big breasted. Wears a pelmet skirt. Low cut top. Killer heels and the fur-trimmed cape of High Priestess. She is heavily tattooed. Nkondi wears a grass skirt and boxing gloves. He sits on a white marble throne in the garage of their home.

The house is an ant-free zone. No ant has ever crawled upon it or within it. They are banned by the power of the power doll. Posh Doll is broken.

From Posh Doll's point of view the marriage, though happy, has been a disaster. The result of a mistaken identity. On first meeting Nkondi she had believed that he was Jesus. True, the grass skirt and the boxing gloves gave cause for hesitation. Against that. He looked like every picture there has ever been of Jesus. And there were repeated promises that he would give her of his body and his blood.

The gardener hated the couple. For the protection they afforded to the ant hill. One morning he arrived early with boiling water and a fork. Posh Doll realised what he was about to do. She threw herself beneath the descending tines. The gardener was committed. Could not pull back. The tines shattered her fragile porcelain. That is how she became broken. Rosie, her owner ,
commandeered her mother's novelty cruet carriage. She converted it. Made a wheel chair for Posh Doll. Alfie, her brother, fixed an electric car beneath the chassis. Posh Doll was now mobile again. At speeds up to 50 M.P.H.

Nkondi began to talk of Reverence for Life. Because of that. Because of his fanatical protection of the ants. She came to think him Albert Schweitzer. One question bothered her. Was Albert Schweitzer also Jesus? She asked him outright. Pow! There was darkness across the land. Then came light. And there was he, sitting at the organ playing. Then she knew what she must do. Find him some lepers. He had to start his leper colony.

She waited until the Power Man was out powering with his mates. Then she struck. When the Power Man returned she had them all laid out in makeshift beds awaiting his return. The lumpy skins and blisters were her with mother's giant matches. The missing digits. her again. With pincers from the shed.

The power man threw a powerful rage. Pow! There was darkness across the whole land. The light returned and there he was. Back in his old routine. Like some latter day Pied Piper of Hamelin. Without the pipe. Leading all the dolls. The animals and garden creatures. Out of the garden. Away from Posh Doll. He saw her now to be a witch. And that is what they do. Power Figures. Protect the life around them from the witches.

Posh Doll wished that she could be a life enhancer. Life changer. Could have been the one to have been nailed to that cross. Have everybody worship her. That would have been more good than she could say. But what about Nkondi? Was he Schweitzer? Jesus? At 50 M.P.H. she was bound to catch him up!

Thursday 27 October 2011

This is Davina

Davina was referred to me by the staff of the Special Needs School
                                       at which I was Deputy Head.
They had just heard that I was leaving to set up a similar school 
                                       in another county.
Davina was referred to me as my first pupil.
She came, as you would expect, with a complete set of records:
                           Speech Therapy
                           and an overall assessment.

Here is a flavour of what they contained:-

        The speech therapist had written that Davina suffered from:
                           "a considerable inter-cochlea cavity".

        The school assessment contained these questions: 
        "Can the pupil manipulate numbers?"
to which the answer was: "Yes, by a complex computational method
                           which the examiner was unable to follow."
        "Why do people go to church?"
to which the answer was: "To nail Jesus to the cross."
        "How is a ball like an orange?"
To which the answer was: "I can bite it and I can spit it out".

The School Report carried the information that she had been 
                          excluded from two previous schools,
from the first for "Misbehaviour on a school visit."She had sung bawdy
                          versions of the hymns at the school's Parish
                          Church Harvest Festival Service, and under 
                          the pretext of going to the loo, had managed
                          to leave  pornographic graffiti by the font;
and from her second school for "Trying to eat the class hamster live."
(She did seem to have a special talent for pornographic drawing.)

That was all 30 years or more ago. When she reached school leaving age
I, of course, adopted her. She is still with me.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Fissures are Us.

The above prompt is from Magpie Tales to whom much thanks

The world is fractured
and here we see the truth of that
made manifest.
The motor car is villain of the piece.
Once inside the metal box
there's nothing of the world outside
but it's reflected face.
Reflections of reflections,
reflections laid upon reflections.
Glass shines like steel
and slices steel, while slivers
of that steel slide back and forth
dissecting glass. Dissection
overtakes the world.
caught in the reflections' crossfire
stands no chance.
A flick of light, a flash
reflected endlessly
and monoliths of steel and concrete
splinter with sharp edges. Fallen shards
are littering the town.

The city might be made of ice,
it breaks the way ice breaks across a pond.
We see a spider's web of cracks.
The cracks run deep
and cannot be repaired.
Only the car escapes decomposition.
The car which should connect us
root to stem to flower or leaf,
becomes the disconnect,
becomes the only world we know
of which we can be sure.
Only the drunkards fail to see the difference
and wander over cracks
that can't be papered over.
The car is such a claustrophobic world,
but small and tight are its two secrets:
small enough to hold its wholeness -
a fortress in this wilderness.

my first driving instructor

change down here!
the man on the corner
just standing there
potential suicide

change down here
steep hill to your left
that lorry there
its brakes about to fail?

change down here
see the lime tree?
could hide a boy
about to run across the road

don't change yet...
my early lessons
all in first -
know your bottom gear!

I changed up then
found a new instructor
lest I became
the suicide.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Value of a Gift

My Granddad built the house in which I grew
from birth to adulthood. Not solo, but with
builders working under him. A master plasterer,
he turned his hand to many trades. Three bedrooms,
end of terrace and two loos (unusual back then)
and solid as a medieval castle. (You could not
knock a nail in any of its walls, was his
proud boast.) The total cost: one hundred pounds.

My granddad gave me once a golden guinea
to keep safe. Years later I would lose it
moving house. That would have pained him, but
by then, granddad had died, and dad had learned
the house was still insured for that one hundred pounds.
(Granddad would never trust insurance companies
or banks - Low, robbing buggers was his phrase for them.)
By then the house was worth around six thousand.

A conundrum for you: what was the value of
my granddad's gift to me? A guinea - one pound
and five p in our new money? Even then
the coin was worth far more than its face value,
but to me the value of a gift is what
it cost the giver. Granddad, seemingly, thought he'd
given me a coin worth one per cent of what
the house was worth - or sixty pounds just then.
Half that, maybe, back when the gift was given.

Monday 24 October 2011

the contemplations of a torturer

Why does this bloodied sweetheart smile at me?
Smile with that special smile my father had?
I will not - cannot - look at him from this time on...
The patient will not speak, the surgeon cannot look!

Somehow I have to open up this gentleman...
Open up? A slip most Freudian! I'm back
at my first op', the need to steel myself. I'll do
the same again, I have a duty to perform.

I have to make him talk, tell all he knows.
He and his kind contaminate the earth.
I have my orders from the very top. From those
who know what pestilence these people spread.

I made a promise once to do no harm. What did that mean?
Is that a No to torturing the Anti-Christ?
I know of pain, have studied it and learned its ways.
I harness it to save the world. I spit on him

and ready all my tools for the long night. He'll die,
I do not doubt - or care - but not before he talks.
I am familiar with these tools: the scalpel and
the probes, but some are new. The hammer and the irons.

Why in the mirror do I see myself
in wedding dress or nurse's uniform?
Why does my past life haunt me so? (I know, of course,
but she is dead until this job is done.)

And does it need to justify itself to you,
my new, enlightened self to that which clings to me?
Why will you not lie down and take your cue from him?
Why do you put my mother's face where his should be?

But yet it will not work, this blackmail that you try...
I've learned the techniques of persuasion, tried
them on our guest, but now we have not time. What we
must know, we must know now - and shall, I promise you!

I'll try the tape again, another night
of hearing his wife scream - this time with pain,
his pain to make her pain more real to him -
and that should do the trick. He'll crack.

All this he's brought upon himself - and me.
I'll kill him for the trouble he has caused. So like
his kind. How dare he put me through all this!
Where's his compassion for his fellow man?

I am submitting this poem to Poets United for their Poetry Pantry #72.

Sunday 23 October 2011

On seeing a row of oaks

I am drawn towards these oaks
imagine them
as carved from some great silence
by a man who knew what silence is.

Not that they are silent.
No tree is that,
but that they come from silence,
are its inheritors.

A tree is many things:
hard working, for a start,
just ask the chief executive
of its hydraulic plant.

Its workshops are frenetic:
sap slurping in the pipes,
air pressures lifting roofs -
or if not that, then bursting cells -

to drive or energise
the process of osmosis.
The best of tissues rupture,
and though you may not hear,

a thousand little buggy things
will catch the pop.
Maybe they'll stop
their noisy chumping,

or making love.
Maybe they'll not.
But to return to silence:

could you imagine
you are one such tree
as carved from silence
by my enlightened man?

Like all things living
you exist as twins.
Non-identical. Inseparable.
An inner and an outer oak

The outer oak is what we know:
great strength, longevity
dependability and calm -
the silence that we seek.
But now the inner oak...
how does that feel?
And can you sense your spirit's strength,
your heft, what made the Druids

worship you and link you
to their summer solstice,
use you for their wands
and as a centre for their world?

Or do you simply fret
about your outer oak,
the roughness of your bark,
the fruitfulness of fruit?

I am submitting this poem to Poets United for their Poetry Pantry #72

Saturday 22 October 2011

Killing Gaddafi

He was not found, as we all suppose,
beneath a road in a concrete drain,
but on our square, where scooters scoot
(and shooters have been known to shoot),
where holes are now for a water main
and pipes are plastic, a snake's head wide -
Exactly right for a rat to hide,
now dead and bloodied from head to toes.

And he was not thrown in the back of a truck,
but tied to a scooter, bound and chained,
not shot in the head as our screens proclaimed,
but done to death by a digging machine
(the one they had used to dig the holes),
its bucket cracking Gaddafi's head -
well, that's what his murderer up and said.
I heard all this as I cut the grass.

They buried the body back in the hole
and filled it in with tar and dirt
(recall, this didn't occur in Sirte),
the concrete mix having set too hard.
All this was yesterday. And now they choose
the government they want to rule. The boy
who cracked Gaddafi's head, bags
he's in line to be Prime Minister.

Some say it's kicking off again...

Friday 21 October 2011

Talking Rubbish...

Snow flakes
           fall like confetti
ice-cold on oil-dark sea
           melt at the touch
and are gone
            the sea absorbing them completely
as it absorbs all that fall into it -
or so we thought
                and threw in far too much.

Below the surface
                 - say seven thousand feet -
where oil-dark turns to total blindness
hydro-thermal vents
                   (underwater geysers,
                   "black smokers", as they're called)
spew iron and sulphide -
four hundred centigrade, let's say - too hot
for any creature known to us to live.
But even there our waste is killing them.

          Strange, eyeless adaptations
          of entities we thought we knew.
          Like creatures out of some Sci Fi
          thriving in a temperature
          four times our boiling point

          and poisoned by our heavy metals.

A small boy drops a lolly stick.
Rain washes it:
down drains;
           through sewers;
                          to the sea
where currents known as gyres
shepherd it onto a floating tip
now growing exponentially

          factory waste, insecticides
          toxic chemicals and human tissue
          plastics, high and low grade radiation
          and waste from hospitals.

How many little boys
to make this tip -
as it now is -
two U.S.A.s in size?

Thursday 20 October 2011

Talk to a Painting

Talk to the man you don't understand,
invite him for supper or tea -
or if it's a piece of impossible art,
chat like you would to a friend;
take it home in your head,
pillow-talk it in bed
and give it some quality time.

I'll give you a case I bumped into by chance
as I was doing my rounds:
a gallery space
and me face-to-face
with The Dance of Life by Munch.

I was puzzled at first by the masks,
the facades of people having a dance -
and said so: "The shame,
the gloom and the grief,
not enjoying the hour
of their dance by the side of the sea."

"I am no Dance of Life, my friend,"
the picture disagreed.
"My title is an irony.
I'm more your dance of angst.
I am obsessed,
as my creator was obsessed,
who painted many canvases
of his anxieties.
I am the grand summation of them all.
He wrapped them all in me: his three
iconic forms of womanhood: the virgin,
inaccessible and pure; seductress,
predator and vampire; and the mother,
stiff and suffering, yet stoical."

"And yet, you're something ghostly, ethereal,"
I said. "Not flesh and blood. How can that be?
The sea is calm, the moon
a ring of beauty with reflections in the sea.
These things should influence
the scene - not leave you cold."

Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Annual Pilgrimage

buds and yellow leaves
spring and autumn on one bough
stranger times to come?

On Sunday last, our annual pilgrimage to Wisley, the home of The Horticultural Society.(Actually we like to go much more frequently, but Sunday was the first time this year! Fortunately, we had perfect weather: warm sunshine. We were even able to have our lunch alfresco.

Two shots showing parts of the rockery

This handsome fellow (below) is called Bigfoot. We found him in the greenhouse. He is a member of the cucumber family - believe it or not! I should have included something for size comparison, but he is perhaps a meter across.

I saw the fellow below on the lake. He was some distance away, the zoom was up to the job, but my shaky hands were not. Ergo the shot is a bit fuzzy. I think he's (or she's) a heron. Does anyone out there know if I am right?

I was quite taken by these grasses.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Devil Birds

being my response to the picture prompt from Magpie Tales

Six years ago they came,
a dark smudge in the sky,
no more than that at first -
but then they came to Earth.
On land they were supreme.
Big as Christmas turkeys,
with wings that hid the sun;
claws fit to rip a rib
cage bar from flimsy bar
and take the beating heart;
and beaks like bayonets.
They'd run you through without
a flutter or a qualm.
They might have come from Mars.
No man or beast was safe.

The spellbinder was spell-
bound, for a change. Poleaxed
he was, with that same awe
he'd strike into our hearts.
For all he tried this charm
or that, wails to the moon
or potions by the score,
the birds just laughed at him
and wobbled on their way.

And then one day our plants
began to wilt and die.
Followed by our children.
"Disease," the charmer said.
Dunno if he was right
or not, not for meself.
Anyways, he mixes up
a new concoction: blood
and scrapings from the dead,
and disappears. Where to?
Your guess... soon after that,
the devils start to die.

So what's he do? Tells us
how we must hang them - string
them up to decompose.
Each day he takes one down
and roasts it - not to eat,
oh no, we has to smear
ourselves with grease and blood.
Protection's what he says -
from evil influence,
the birds themselves, their dread
disease... and from ourselves!
Can you beat that? Ourselves indeed!

Monday 17 October 2011

Titchtown United

When they demolished the stadium
the fans bought squares of its turf
and took them home
and fitted them into their well-kept lawns.

Then nothing disturbed the tranquil ways
of their well-kept town until the day
when the brand new season dawned. Which was when
they found the squares were out of control
and the grasses therein were thicker
and longer and stronger and far far greener
than those which composed the lawns of old.

And then there was something else:
the grasses could not be cut, they found,
not with mower or shears or any mechanical tool.

And still they were growing
and not only growing but spreading,
and not only spreading but singing.
Yes, that's right, the new grass was singing,
horrendously singing, way out of tune.
It was singing the songs of the fans,
the songs that the terraces knew,
the songs that were green, but also blue.

And not only singing, but swaying
swaying in time to the singing.
And not only grasses, the town:
the whole town was singing - or so it would seem
if you happened to pass that way.

Soon it was taller than sunflowers, taller than trees,
and still it was singing and still it was swaying
and people covered their ears
and they closed all their doors
and not even a window was left ajar.
And only the fans and the players of football
enjoyed the songs that the grasses sang.

Then experts came with knowing ways
and examined the grasses, and let it be known
That: "of course they will sing, for their stems are hollow,
they've reeds in the wind to sing!"

For by now among them was pampas grass and several reeds
and sugar canes and tough bamboos,
and cocksfoot and fog and perenniel rye,
and the roughest of rough-stalked meadow -
though not one of these grasses and been in the squares
that they'd bought when the stadium closed.

And their little town became known as the town
with thousands of towering towers.
There were leaning towers and straggly towers,
thick towers and thin towers, all manner of towers,
and all of them towers of the living grass.

Next thing they found: the grass could be cut
as long as the cutter would sing along
in tune with the grass that was out of tune
and sway in time to the swaying grass. Next thing,
the grasses developed an orange stripe
- orange and green was the strip of their team.

So the fans cut wands of the waving blades
and took them along to cheer the lads,
and they waved and they sang and made such a din -
and never again did they win.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Jackson Pollock

Here is violence absorbed,
a wildness, a ferocity,
a turbulence of stick,
ferocity of knife,
pigment wildly thrown:
a clash of disparate energies -
all somehow harvested
as from a tangled garden bed
where buds appear
and tiny leaves
and trailing things
like brambles drawing blood.

"Be still," it said
"and know here is a god."
The canvas knows.

"Be still," it says to me,
be as a tree
with its deep roots
and broad reach of its arms.
Take in the world,
take the world's mess,
Be still as me."

image from Wikipedia

Saturday 15 October 2011

The German Way With Words

The Germans like portmanteau-words -
with not a single dash in sight.
New lexicons are for the birds,
their words will never see the light.

Inventors of a language glue
by means of which
a word will stick
to any other word they pick.
ThelongestwordthatIcanfind: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz:
(the labelling of beef, I'm told): like Topsy, it just grew.
Concatenation is their choice:
pronunciation takes your voice.

The words spool out, mile after mile -
and some are longer than the Nile
with words like trucks of endless trains.
They never have to scratch their brains
to find a word for something new
when strings of older words will do.

Or is it shortness that offends?
and joining makes the length that mends?

Friday 14 October 2011

A World in Passing.

A response to a prompt bydVERSE Poets for a poem modelled on one by an established poet. I have chosen Ted Hughs's Conjuring in Heaven

Children's chalk games on the square,
squares within a larger square,
and in the squares are icons drawn -
though mostly scribbled out in blue
where two dead zebras white on black
in passing have been spared.
(The rain has washed out Africa.)
Close by, a circle,
top half sun with earth beneath,
the two at the equator met. All this to show
the two can live
in harmony?
that neither is a threat?
Pie in the sky while all the trees
burn merrily. Their leaves,
like insects, cover earth.

Then look again
where two white suns
collide in space
and ask of us, "Can earth survive?"
Incredibly, impossibly
they've chalked blue numbers on them all.
What do they do,
these children, skip
from one disaster to the next?

They've left some pieces on the ground...
personal belongings
scattered round
like tokens on a board:

a plastic man

theatre plan

a recipe for fish
beneath a stone for paperweight
beside the cataleptic beasts.

Conjuring in Heaven

So finally there was nothing.
It was put inside nothing.
Nothing was added to it
And to prove it didn't exist
Squashed flat as nothing with nothing.

Chopped up with nothing
Shaken in a nothing
Turned completely inside out
And scattered over nothing -
So everybody saw that it was nothing
And that nothing more could be done with it

And so it was dropped. Prolonged applause in Heaven.

It hit the ground and broke open -
There lay Crow - cataleptic.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Little King

I bet he walks two steps behind his queen.
Self-effacing little king,
he holds the sceptre of his power
and majesty behind his back -
not to be seen.
Bashful little thing!

He stands upon The Daily Rag,
the news of common man, consumer man,
but hasn't opened it.
Such outward things dwell not in his desires,
his mind is on some astral plane.

His ermine trim is faux, of course;
he's greener than the bees.
He sings from angel hymn sheets -
but when they sing, he leaves.

His morning coffee has been served.
He's turned his back on it,
prefers the nectar of the gods -

and walks two steps in front of them,
insisting on his right. But here, his queen

of six feet seven, blocks out all his light.

My thanks to Magpie Tales for the image/prompt.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

"My best friend died here"

dVerse Poet's Pub Open Link Night speaks of superstitions and particularly those involving the number 13. This set my mind working along that particular track.

Big letters on Victorian red brick
above a too-imposing entrance.
(Red once, but soot-encrusted now.)
I and the day are both thirteen.
I'm not exactly superstitious,
but in the light of those dread words
can not afford to take too many chances -
or so I feel. I ask my mother
and my aunt, "What are my chances?"
My aunt is quick to reassure: "It's lovely here -
My best friend died in here just recently."

I should have brought the rabbit's foot
my friend had offered me. I am not ill.
Not now, but have been so each year
since I was five years old. I've come
"for observation only" - which, I reason,
should improve my prospects.
(The family are frightened of T.B.
I do not know at this stage
that consumption is T.B.)

Neither do I know the treats in store for me:
a stunning view across the London roof tops -
from the hospital's theatre;
and then a fun broncoscopy - a periscope
inserted down the windpipe. No fibre optics then;
a rubber pipe with lights and mirrors
like a prestidigitator's dream.
I didn't see the show. I couldn't wait,
went into shock and saw them all
back stage when it was done.
My aunt was still in form:
explained how many patients died -
though not me! (Which I
already had worked out.)

Who needs memory?

David Shechtman
Latest Nobel Laureate
for chemistry
discovered quasi-crystals
back in '82.

So everybody laughed.
(Not I, did you?)

First came the fractals
endlessly repeating
their own forms
on every scale;
now quasi-crystals,
exactly the reverse,
in non-repeating
patterns to infinity.

So they forced him
to resign. "No such
thing," they said
"as quasi-crystals -
only quasi scientists."

They knew - as did
we all - that matter,
all of solid matter
for that matter,
is composed
of crystals packed
in regular arrays.

Not so for quasi
crystals. Each stage
makes a transition
to the next, creates
the pattern
next in line.
The past
is meaningless.
It's strictly no repeats.
The process is
completely memoryless.

I and Quasi-crystals
have that much
in common.

Let me repeat...
except I can't, I too
am (almost)
sans recall! But I
shall sing it
from the rooftops.

Man achieves
what nature
pioneers... in
Medieval Mosques
mosaics have
this self same form.

Beauty can blossom
without memory!
There's hope for me!

The upper image is of some aperiodic (or quasi-) crystals. The lower one is of mosaic tiles laid to an aperiodic pattern.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Before You First Had Sex

Before you first had sex

you'd have mused a great deal
on how it would be.
What it would be like?

Then after you'd had it
the question arose:
Is that how it is for us all?

Like the sex film at school.
Questions: "Sir, what's it like?"
"Sir, how does it feel?"

And all of a sudden
they all want to know,
there's a fervour of "Sir, what's it like?".

The condom's forgotten,
mechanics are binned
for the sake of how it might feel.

It's not what you think...
Well, partly it is,
but they're anxious as well,

the worry is etched on their brows.
And you feel such a fraud
with no answer to give,

so you ask of your partner:
"do you have a word that says what it's like?"
but find she's no answer to give.

So you keep on asking; she'll say:
"it was "good", it was not, "terrific"
"not out of this world."

But go on asking as long as you will,
you will never hear - and I'm guessing now -
any way in which it was "like".

Then at last it occurs,
the thought that no answer exists,
that maybe it just isn't like.

And soon you're reflecting
on whether you've had the real thing -
and how would you know?

And does it exist?
For if it exists, then surely to God,
it would have to be something quite like!

Monday 10 October 2011

How I helped to win the War

'I cannot stay to tea!' I cried,
whisked in through A and E
past sterilizers, stainless steel
that steamed like mother's pots at home -
I really hadn't time:
two armies poised for war, I'd left;
huns hunkered down among my sheets,
the allies ranged on Eider Down.
The stretcher was a magic rug,
but how was I to know
I'd pass a cushy war, laid back -
and most of it in bed?

I had expected gas attacks
(Dad warned of oxygen);
but with the ward a makeshift barracks
(itself a crafty ploy)
I tested secret weapons -
which even nurses, though they brought
those weapons to me, didn't know.
They'd bring me two huge bell jars
joined by rubber tubes,
one filled with purple liquid
or pink or startling green.
Then through another tube I'd blow
the secret fluids jar to jar.
And from those deadly juices
brave back room boys - like me! -
would conjure up the victories,
unsung, unknown, unseen.

Sunday 9 October 2011

The Kingfisher

This is a response to Free Write Friday at Magic in the Back Yard to write a poem based upon a memory.

A path forever darkening; and then
a light, a lightening, an eye
that winked between the trees to say
"Come on!". I found a lake, its shape
dog-legged, and on its bank
a solitary angler, oil-skin caped,
with whom I passed the time of day.

There, as we talked, from trees
behind us and above our heads,
a rending sound, as leaves,
confetti-like, showered down.
Then from the fisher-man
a muttered curse as though he knew
a flash of blue would come,
would tear the sky apart
the way it had the trees;
and while that sundering
yet echoed in our ears,
an angry seamstress of a bird
would rip the faulty work apart
and leave its ragged seam
stretched out along the lake.

My startled movement released more:
a flight of butterflies rose up
from somewhere on the path
and merged with the descending leaves.
Pale pink, they caught
the day's one shaft of sun,
a stab of blood-stained blade.

I saw him later, that bright bird,
brown-bellied, duffle coat
of cobalt blue pulled back,
white flashes shining in the mist.
He'd perched upon a stump
in splendid isolation in a stream
that fed the lake, but he
was like an emperor or bishop
on his throne, and in his beak
a fish, a scepter of a sort.

Saturday 8 October 2011


Poets United's" Thursday Think Tank #69 provided for prompt this photograph and the thought that the house might be haunted.

My nightmare house. Night after night
I've dreamed this house. Exactly this.
Always the same house, never the same dream.
Sometimes, as I've approached the house
I've seen it shrink. Right before my eyes,
shrivel down to dolls house size, then
seen it all kick off: grinning faces
peering down at me from every pane of glass.
Sometimes the house has slid away from me,
a pace away for every step I took;
sometimes it shrieked at me, the boards
would move like mouths and scream obscenities.

But it was never real. Imagine then today
I lose my way, am driving down a road I do not know
and there it is: the house I dream about, the very same.
I stop, walk up to it, knock on the door,
it doesn't move or shrink or scream at me.
The door is opened by a lordly looking gent
who welcomes me and clearly is expecting me,
invites me in, asks why I'm late and pours
me out a drink. He knows my tipple to a tee.
He asks about my luggage - and then he disappears,
just vanishes. No puff of smoke, but might as well
have been. Except... he's still there in the mirror,
pouring whiskey at the bar. His image hasn't moved
beyond the movements of his arms and hands.
And then he's back. Comes back the way we recently
came in - and for good measure, steps out of the glass.

One corner of the room is very dark.
I noticed it before. It struck me then as odd
why light from elsewhere doesn't filter there.
I pushed it, I suppose, into the "pending" tray,
but now my mind is working on it, and I see
there is a cage, and in the cage a cockatoo,
some sort of green. My host puts down his glass
and turns towards me, says, "They should be ready for
us now!" And even as he speaks he undergoes
a transformation, morphs into the form of cockatoos,
whilst in its cage, the bird accepts his form.

It lasts a second. Half of that. No more.
So fleeting is it that I half imagine I imagined it.
But no, it happened right enough, the two
exchanged their states, though briefly it is true.
There's proof: the colours are the last particulars
to change. For seconds more, my host is emerald green,
the cockatoo a pin-stripe blue. I don't think
I will wait for "them" to see if they are "ready"!
I make extremely false excuses and let him lead
me to the door. The knocker hammers out a rapid
rat- a - tat tat tat. I look at it and see
it's jerking up and down. That's its "Good-bye" he says

Friday 7 October 2011

Mixed Bag

My long(ish) poem Angel Bitch was published yesterday in Beat to a Pulp. You can read it here.

Tip: It contains a poem within a poem. If time is pressing you could skip it go back and read it later!

The Angel and the Sculptor

For months the sculptor had chipped at the rock,
yet no one could make out its form.
When asked, he had said; "It's an image of God!"
but at that they would laugh and wander away,
and the man would chip for another long day.

When at last he could see the end of the task,
when drawing close to the vision he'd seen,
an angel appeared and told him to stop.
He was getting too close to what no one must see -
the faithful reflection of God.

"Imagination is all I use!"
he said to the angel then. But the angel replied
that that in itself, was a perfect image of God.
"I could change it, perhaps..." the sculptor said,
"- if you could suggest what to change?"

"I've no idea," the angel replied, "not having seen
for myself, the force that lies behind the universe,
the multiverse and the things that have always been.
I just have my orders, I'm told what to do,
they pop in my mind, from where I don't know."

The sculptor, frustrated, took his chisel once more,
and hurled it with all of his might. It hit and removed
a great lump of rock. The carving glowed white
before a great flash and a darkness enveloped the earth
and the voice of the multiverse screamed.

My Aunt's Purse

My aunt (95) lost her purse earlier this year. She thought she'd dropped it in the road. Many weeks later her friend and neighbour found it. "His" fox, the fox that had taken out squatters' rights on his garden cold frame, had been looking after it for her. It was very chewed, but the money was still intact and the purse had been given pride of place among the fox's collectables: its private papers, old coins, gloves, a handkerchief - and a cardboard cut-out of an angel.

My aunt was so grateful to the fox, she cooked it a special dinner.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Missing Child

Something of the backstory to this is here

The children - if it was the children-
have restored the chalk world washed out by the rain.
Halfway across the square the squares have names.
Here is one tagged "HOME". The games
are not familiar to me
and change repeatedly. I think they are created
on the hoof. Two days ago, two doors from me,
a small boy disappeared from here, this square within a square.
Propped up nearby, a tattered Teddy Bear.
His innards hanging out, he squats
beside a faded rose. Are these
just two abandoned tokens of the game that they had played?
Have they no deeper meaning than dead zebras or the river,
lemon squeezer, jungle track or shark-infested sea?
Or are they something darker, a thing that should not be,
the trappings of a dread? anticipating grief?
I shiver at the sight - or maybe at the thought;
the thought that others had the thought
of how it might have been. It could be both:
the tributes were incorporated as they played,
became part of the apparatus of the game. Five hours
or thereabouts, his whereabouts remained unknown,
policemen calling door to door. The dogs
seemed out of touch - not knowing, I suppose,
how rapidly the scene can change, the game move on,
the children rearrange the landscape of the square.

Some dickhead, numskull, dolt invited them - the little boy
and friend - to his house to play their games, and they
had wandered off with him to see this somewhere new,
the patch of greener grass three streets or so away.

Now for the moment, men are laying water mains,
machines are in possession of the square.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Apples were never that sexy!

In full flight, running by the sea,
leaping ancient groynes like an immortal,
I've almost landed on them -
Adam and Eve on holiday.
They have been soaking up the sun, are sprawled,
half-buried in the sand -
and this, before they've eaten any fruit.
His arm round her
and hers round him, two arms
like serpents slithering together
and showing by example
how to - or not to - enjoy sex.

The Eden Method : Lesson 1.
(So what the apple taught them later on
was something other than we'd thought.)

Change of focus:
just below their feet,
the tree, the famous tree,
the knowledge-of-good-and-evil tree
with every fruit of every kind displayed
(a supermarket range) to say
that every form of good and type of evil
will be included in the deal.

The sea is almost on them and will soon
be washing them away - as if they cared!
Six hundred years might vanish in a day -
should they be bovvered? Not a bit!

Strange to see them wet and steaming in the sun
as if they have been skinny dipping in the waves.
Some wag has threaded sea wrack,
green and brown, between their thighs,
along their sensual contours,
and then - the whole point of the exercise, no doubt -
in buns to hide the nakedness of their pudenda.
(And furthermore, of all such pubic hair
as they possess at such an early adolescent stage.)

A stone's throw out to sea
the falling remnants
of the rest of Eden crumble
sand to sand and flotsam bits
back to the sea to float away;
then further up the beach, below the bathing huts,
a vision of their family some twenty decades on:
their sons and daughters, more experienced by now,
have found the joy -
enough to populate the world.

Then all is gone.
So what remains? A trace of memory?
A golden apple, aptly won:
This week's "Sand Sculpture of the Beach".

Tuesday 4 October 2011

pictures from the future

The picture is this week's Magpie Tales prompt.

I switched my printer on this morning
and it chuntered out
a stream of images
sent back from the future
by processes as yet not understood.

They show the Earth as striped
with bands of heat and cold,
the sky is likewise barred
with streaks of black and gold.
These are not merely tints
but particles.
Sky, air, cloud: all that we know
as insubstantial,
seem concrete to the core.

Stripes cut across
the furnishings of landscape:
trees are slashed with ice,
long icicles and fire;
the dance of flames on flowers
most grabs the eye;
then as flames die
the flowers return and then are burnt again.
ice bands are thick with "mushrooms",
fungi large as juggernauts
that last a moment then are gone,
reduced to smoke dots
before they drift away.

The bands move on,
almost impalpably,
as if controlled
by ghostly clockwork.
Tick-tock, tick-tock
fire into ice
ice into fire.

Small animals
have grown the signs
and attributes
that once were those
of trees and plants.
A dog has leaves
instead of fur;
a cat is bundled
in white twigs, has
buds for eyes and
bark upon its back.

Winged elephants
like startled geese
take off in clouds
of scattered dust like water
from webbed feet (They're startled,
don't you see,
by too much urban sprawl,
the creep of factories and cooling towers:
it's that has driven them
to grow their wings,
evolve - along with all life forms -
a conscious evolution.)
to scoot bare
inches from the ground.

No plane can fly
those metal skies,
no sun peer through
nor birds take wing,
it is a shutter
on the earth, as
if we're riding
out some massive storm,
some climate change.
(Could that be so?)

Monday 3 October 2011

some mysteries can never be resolved

A man begins to read a book. We shall call him Alan. The book is the story of a man's life, but he doesn't know whose life it is. Alan has done what he always does with a new book: he has turned to the back to read the last few pages first to see how it ends. Alan cannot bear to read a book without knowing how it will all pan out. Partly because he knows the ending, he has become absorbed in the book. Obsessed by it, you might say. So much so that he cannot bear to be parted from it, and he takes it everywhere with him. You see, he has reached the point at which the hero is exactly the same age as himself. Furthermore, he has for some time nursed the growing suspicion that the book is the story of his own life. And now, with the account of Alan's birthday celebrations, he is certain of it. Indeed, to such an extent do these considerations occupy his every waking moment that he has absent-mindedly left the book on a bus. Of course, he will do all the usual things: ask at the bus company's lost property office, check with the local police to see if it has been handed in, advertise in the local paper, but he knows for a certainty that the book has gone for ever.

This is something of a disaster, for he now knows how he will die, but not how his life will get from where it is now to its end point. Not even how long it will take. And his death, he has inferred from what he has read of it, will be horrendous. It seems that it will be the result of some sort of train crash. Of course , dear reader, it's true that the remedy is obvious: all he has to do is avoid railways like the plague, stay right away from lines and railway stations, and he will live for ever! He realises this as well as you and I, but something gnaws at the back of his mind, saying that without the book and the rest of the story he is floundering.

What he does not know is that not far away, in the next village in fact, another man, whom we will call Bob, is reading the same book. He too, has read the end of the story first and has reached the point at which the protagonist is the same age as himself. (Consider at this point, dear reader, whether or not this indicates to you that Bob is the same age as Alan.) Either way, Bob can not longer bring himself to read on, and so has presented the book, along with a number of others now surplus to requirements, to one of the local charity shops. Not surprisingly, having made this spur of the moment decision he at once regretted it and is back at the shop hoping to recover the book. He is unlucky. Of the book there is no sign. What neither Alan nor Bob realise is that the book is their father's autobiography. Well, it's true: some mysteries can never be resolved.

To recap: all that we can surmise with any certainty is that until now their lives have run on identical lines, and that their deaths will be identical, but neither knows how his life will run between now and then. And although each is someone else, neither knows himself to be another person, let alone that he and the other person are one. Also, neither knows that the hero of the book they have only partly read (and that word "partly" is important) is their father

There is an interesting postscript to this story, though. That is to say, there has been reported in the press a strange incident which might or might not prove to be a postscript to this story. It seems that a man in a sports car and a man on a motorcycle were following a vehicle, a low-loader, up a steep hill when the low-loader's cargo came adrift and rolled back, crushing the two men, their vehicles and a pedestrian who had been waiting to cross the road. None of the three was killed outright, but all were rushed to hospital, where it was found that all three had lost vast quantities of blood. However, when their blood was tested, it was found that each had an identical, previously unknown, blood group and consequently none of them could be treated. They all three passed away within minutes of each other. Coincidentally, the hospital authorities confirmed that all three were about the same age.

Oh, I nearly forgot: the low-loaders cargo - it was a railway locomotive,

Not sure where this came from! I found it among my drafts in my handwriting, but can not recall writing it! If it's yours, let me know and I'll remove it!!!

Sunday 2 October 2011

Brain Tumour

Hugely disliked
when he could see,
his subject more so -
Latin Grammar. He,

harsh disciplinarian,
"cold fish"
who hated boys.
That was the general view.

Then came the tumour
and the head's announcement:
he'd not return.
Relief was palpable.

It seems he'd left
in the head's study
blank sheets of paper
for Latin test results.

Then came the change of plan,
the brave experiment:
he would return,
though permanently blind.

The head explained:
success or failure
would be down to us.
Cooperation key.

He hadn't changed:
he still was Mr Judge;
knew which boy where
was throwing paper darts;

whose homework book,
still blank, was on his desk.
He still could throw a piece of chalk
to hit the talking boy.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Plan B : On Writing Poems

I decided to introduce a plan B and hold over until tomorrow the promised poem on the second teacher, the reason being the suggestion from dVerse Poets that we should break all the rules and do what is never done in the best circles (and which of us could refuse an invitation like that?) and write a poem on poetry.

Words, originated
in the main for commerce
or converse over fences:
can they be crafted,
forged or hammered
to new purpose to express
the eeriness of life
and all creation?

Or could we build a whatnot
from a pile of kindling wood? (The tasks
are not a million miles apart.)

Yet we are pledged to try,
from meagre scraps of words,
to craft a furniture of thought,
for we are poets who believe
that words at times work miracles -
or call them forth,
we know not how. It's on a par
for mystery with the Big Bang:
the fashioning from nothing
(almost) of the all.

And that would be enough for most
if that were all, but when we add
that nix begat infinity, almost
our vision fades. We are perplexed.
So shall we versify perplexity?
And how should that be done?
Can craft alone atone
for loss of visionary heights?

Words on their own, I find
solve fewer mysteries
than they create.
Great poems excavate
the very depths of what we call
the self - the source
of what is most mysterious.

And can the grains and streams of words,
can rays they shine upon the riddles
be set by us in the right order,
be set to replicate
the world that Nature crafts,
the genius of their genesis?