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Thursday 31 May 2012

Cooler among giants

Heat haze and
traffic haze
its roar distilled
                  to surface noise
                  to surf on distant shore
The A3 tamed and disciplined by trees.

Sanscrit writ in sunlight
Ivy trails on dusty earth
                         and melting sky
                         embrace each other.

Battlestone Hill presenting a
                            new landmark
                            triumphal arch
                            we walk beneath
                            prosthetic limb
                            knuckle and bone
                            ball and socket
                            hip joint or
fist and palm
fist slamming in.

White stone
earth's bone

            signs of spring delayed
            summer premature

rhododendrons and azaleas        batteries
                                 of fire

                                 sky fire
                                 soon to be unleashed.

Cooler among giants -
                  small ones -
                  and non-giants
                  larger these -
                  all vying for
                  the Redwood tribe.

Among them all
a kestrel hangs
tempted maybe
                  by the offer of a pad
                  free deregulated
                  specially prepared
                  lopped made habitable
                  by a process known as
                  natural stress fracturing.

Some guys can hardly know they're born.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Two Poems

Our seven faces looking down into the water... what
does the water show us of ourselves?

How time is linear when horizontal
but looked at vertically is rounded and compact,
how what lies far beneath us
like those pebbles on the bed
and what is past
(I think of branches overhead,
though seen by us in water as
a far more distant future)
are blurred by waves of feeling
somewhere inbetween
disturbing our clear sight -

but still not here, not part of us, our time and space.


If we've  forgotten where we came from
or if we never knew,
does it really matter that much?

Does it matter
that The North and The South Downs
have forgotten their old lives
as ocean floor?

Would they make far  better hills
by recalling now and then
their lost and sunken ways?

Tuesday 29 May 2012

love in today's world

We loved in the sun,
then the sun went down;

we loved in the fields -
but they built the bloody town;

we loved by the sea
'til the tide came in;

we loved on the ice,
then the ice grew thin,

we loved in our wasteland,
but they dumped their toxic sand;

we loved on the range
before the interchange;

we loved on the moors,
but some soldiers played at wars;

we loved by the pool,
but the pool went dry;

we loved beneath the trees,
but they cleared them by and by;

so we loved in the city
but the city grew too shitty;

then we loved on the landfill -
and found it the new pretty.

Monday 28 May 2012

The bells, the bells! - Suburban Village #7

We lived in Queen Anne's Gardens,
a cul de sac that formed a dog leg
with Glebe Path. We could have been
the knee cap, looking, as we did, straight
down Glebe Path, across Church Road
to the small green where was a small boy's
heart's desire: the local Fire Brigade's new station -
complete with tower, from which they'd hang
their hoses down to dry.

In Queen Anne's Gardens and Glebe Path
some firemen had their homes. In these
the fire bells rang each time there was a shout.
It was a joy to see the firemen run -
in every state of dress and undress, still
dragging on their clothes - whenever
bells went down.

The best of these for entertainment value,
was Red Jock, - always followed by his wife
who would be holding out his jacket,
helmet, once or twice his axe as if his time
had come - once even offering his boots.
With her unable to keep up, they'd disappear,
as like as not, just beyond the tower.
They were the Smiths - though no one,
I discovered, quite believed that was their
true and proper name.

Once by the station when the bells went down,
we stayed to see the spectacle. The usual few
were running in from Queen Anne's Gardens
and Glebe Path, still pulling on their uniforms.
Mr Smith was there, of course, but fully dressed,
his wife detaching from him like the spent half
of a rocket. Inside the station, visible through
wide glass doors, were other men cascading down
the pole. And then, the doors flung wide,
the gleaming tender (we said engine), red
and hungry, came out snarling almost silently,
the firemen clinging hairily to either side,
still pulling on their clothes, their lives at stake,
the engine sashaying the two tight bends. But best
of all - I'd never guessed! - my Mr Smith
was driving it!

Was I impressed! And yet, I didn't envy him -
as many a small boy might have done. The one
I envied was his friend who shook the leather strap
to toll the great brass, clanging bell that swung with
such authority in front.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Hall of Mirrors

Roll up! Come see
how easily the body slips
into extreme dimensions,
how contours that we thought
were ours, belong by right
to something/someone else.

The children laugh to see us changed
but shriek to see themselves
and run from glass to glass to see
it's all a joke, that nothing sticks,
the nightmare is short-lived.
But we have children deep within... what if...

We do not dare to think. We look again.
A concave shape is convex... Now
it's not. An elegance
of arabesque
is lost in bulbous shapes. The flesh
is putty in a stranger's hands.

An unseen power that formed it
now moulds and remoulds,
squeezes,stretches, bends and tortures it.
Friends, relatives, acquaintances
are momentary strangers here,
strangers aliens - all lost and all unrecognised.

Not you, my love. I see you clear
and see the you in you
through every transformation.
Love. passion, strong emotion,
call it as you will, is never fooled
by ripples in the glass or flesh

by light's exaggeration.
We pride ourselves that we can read
a face as hieroglyph, the way
the heart inclines, but such deceive
unless exposed
to love's discerning rays.

Written for the http://dversepoets.com/ prompt by Claudia:
Poetics: Fun Fair

Saturday 26 May 2012

If We Could but Get Back to the Platform

We are on a train,
                                      you and I
                                      and the people we know,
rushing towards a tunnel.

But we do not sit like good little passengers
                                      staring remotely past one another
                                      at the glories of Brighton Pavilion,
                                      Lake Windermere, Kew Gardens
                                      or The Yorkshire Moors framed
                                      beneath the luggage rack.

Not on your life! Our heads are far out of the open windows
                                      feeling the blast of cold air
                                      the adrenalin stream,
looking ahead to the tunnel rushing to meet us,
waiting for death, but not believing it will come.

They have posted a warning above each window
stating in simple English, clearly, the dangers that lurk.
But no, the adrenalin now is a flood, and we
                                      may be beyond the point of no return.
                                      what we feel is more real
                                      than what we are told
                                      what we know.

Look ahead - the tunnel still unmistakably there
                                      look sideways
                                      and all is a blur:
                                      a world that is flying
                                      and out of our control.
Do we hope that the slipstream will blow us apart?
                                      free us from ourselves,
                                      that ghost-like
                                      we'll take the walls in our stride,
                                      through the concrete without breaking sweat?

Because everything for so long has been smoke and mirrors
and solid things we have seen melt away,
can we believe that
                                      the next catastrophe
                                      will be of no more
                                      substance than what has gone before?

Friday 25 May 2012


And why should I have stayed cooped up
in this black hole all term, imprisoned
with those dead-beat no-hope losers
just because my dim old man has this idea
his son must go to Oxford? Living traumas
like this place could stunt a fellow's growth,
the way these inmates talk could shrivel brains,
their smells stop balls from growing. Fair enough
for him, gin-swigging nightmare of a Tory. Makes
me sick. Bye-bye you sleeping babes in arms,
sweet dreams of mummies by your side! I'll
leave you to your home-grown seminars
on masturbation and the like, your pitiful
attempts at adult talk without the adult thought
to bolster it - yeah never thought of that one,
did you? Confound this bloody masonry! Crumbles
soon as ever it gets touched. You'd think
the fees they charge would run to some repairs!
Nearly lost it there. Nearly lost me bloody grip. Maybe
I've lost it - in both senses of the phrase. Don't say
I've left it late. Too late. I should have done this yonks
ago. Just wait until the old man hears I've gone -
and when he hears I've joined the squat - he'll have
himself a fit, and serve him right. The likes of him
are all too keen to sacrifice their kids for their
own personal kudos. Shit! And what was that?
Another near one. Grip slipped again. A fox, no less!
One of the urban foxes, eh? True then, the myth:
they do, they live on roofs. Maybe I should
have followed it... maybe it knows an easier
way down than this. I bet it does... well, easier for it,
but then he's free. No drum kit hanging like a millstone
round his neck. Ah, better, now the moon's
poked through the clouds, and I can see the precipice!
written in response to Victoria's prompt at http://dversepoets.com/

Thursday 24 May 2012

Time in Reverse

Friday afternoon. That last period.
Me in the hall with all of them for films.
Pupils with Special Needs all set for home.
Their weekly jolly - certainly not mine!
The films were always thirteen minutes short.
(How did they know to edit them that length?)
To take us to the final bell I'd run
the last ten minutes backwards just for fun.
It was the moment they'd been waiting for:
they'd roar to see a London bus in all
its redness running backwards in the street,
but Jumbos landing backwards at Heathrow
elicited no sign of mirth at all.
Then divers as they flew feet first back to
their boards would have them screaming from pure joy,
but Welsh Guards marching backwards... not a titter.

If we could run time backwards in the way
I ran those films, I wonder how we'd see
our past events unravelling as if
in time's great mirror... how would feelings run?
Would tragedies turn into triumphs, and
would our finest moments end as comedy?
Perhaps this world's alternative is that:
a universe of inverse time that over-runs - not opposites.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Bring on the Clowns

The painter fills his canvas with the face,
the clown's face, canvas for the clown.
A canvas fills the canvas, while a hand
performs the function of a brush,
touches the face or pokes it, sweeps or tweaks.
Caresses. Face and hand are one.

Physique is secondary to the face.
The high-wire walkers, acrobats
and those on the trapeze Chagall has sketched,
marginalised by distance.
They are their actions or they cease to be.
The clown exists by what he is.

But what is he, this yellow clown? Some say
a tragic figure who will hide
a broken heart beneath a cheerful smile.
The gesture of the hand agrees.
Or is he deeply cynical as I
am wont to be? Slapstick enhanced

with a veneer of depth (see what he's done?)
or given spurious romance?
The children are not fooled. They see him as
the simpleton he is - ah, there's
the rub: forget the tragic hero role;
we worship the philosopher in him.


The image was provided as prompt by http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday 22 May 2012

the voices

You close your eyes
summon an image or two
of someone who is - was -
close to you.

You see them in old
familiar places,
smile at the way
they display their graces.

Or in desperation
you speak
into a darkness
of self-deception.

Later each face
acquires a voice, will come
unsummoned then
in mirage or delirium.

Monday 21 May 2012

Mr Gruesome : the suburban village #6

Two memories I cannot reconcile:
what was his name? McTavish, always first
to come to mind... but then Grujon... some name
like that. The reason for the second thought
is this: we called him Gruesome from his name.
But that he came from North the Border there
can be no doubt - while the name Grujon didna.
Just take your pick, I'll leave the choice to you.

World War I, he and his friend are orderlies.
A military hospital.
Mesopotamia. Each day
they'd set out for their odious work,
him tweaking his mind-set to certainty:
Not to catch the dysentery.
He never did. Mind over matter.
We heard this story endless times.
Each day's first lesson would begin with it:
When I was in... The whole class groaned.
From it we were supposed to learn the trick.

For each day's final lesson, though,
he'd mount his desk, a pipe in hand,
and stand above us, beaming down.
He had a store of pipes: Pan pipes
and penny whistles and two flutes -
end blown, and not the sort you'll see these days.
Always in plus fours, he'd start to dance -
tap dance, if he was in the mood -
and we would have to dance
in circles round his desk.
Then statues when the music stopped,
and he would flick the pipe to point it
straight at some quite fearful child and cry:
Spell pneumonia! chrysanthemum!
bronchitis or grammatical!

Get it right and you were early home to tea,
but get it wrong and round you went again.
I'd often had bronchitis and the like -
and knowing them would get me early home

I had to take a doctor's note in once.
I'd had a bout of bronchiectasis.
He peered at it and muttered quite a bit,
then looked at me above his spectacles:
Well lad, your spelling of bronchitis is
spot on, that canna be denied - but this
I'll tell you now: your doctor's spelling is na!

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Man Tree

The man tree was our favourite.
A chestnut with two trunks
but looking back...
two trees had grown together.
I built a pin-hole camera about that time...
two pin holes for a new view on the world:
a lot of people with two heads
and trees... but this one was for real.
We'd build a hide-out in its boughs -
before the skies got photographic, that.

Old style. One bough became the pan,
the moment blinding us, the eyes
slow to adjust, the skies
presenting proudly the emerging print,
an image swimming in a tray
raised vertically. And then:
an X-ray of itself, a skeleton
some unseen hand was etching in the mist.

And finally, left over from the flash,
a blue flame dancing slowly still
along the hemiplegic tree's
remaining arm. One arm and leg gone A.W.O.L.
Cropped. And that quite brutally.
The thunder was not done. Rolled on.
Somewhere, you might imagine
the photographer disputing about truth -
the lightning winning out, I'm sure.

This for Poetics: Tools of the Trade (Verbs All!),
Manicddaily's fascinating challenge at http://dversepoets.com/

Saturday 19 May 2012

from one who knows

Let's get high!
Get in the car,
come share a jar.
Come down the street
and feel the beat.
The heat's with me.
No comedy!
Let's go meet
that guy what stole your money...
and see what we shall see.
Don't think I'm being funny.
He sees cash
and he feels rash.
You gamble it away.
Instead, don't play.
No way Jose!
That's how he makes his dough,
so tell him straight and tell him No!
He takes no rap,
don't be the sap.
He got a stash
of others' cash.
He tell you piss.
You ask: How did it get like this?
The man is bent,
he aint a gent.
Investors never work like this,
'cos this aint bliss.
They meets their agent
face to face.
This man's an absolute disgrace!
A disgrace to the human race.
A waste of space, the likes of him.
Don't let your chance go dim
of meeting face to face again!
So use your brain,
go find a guy who's in the grain.
These days it's pulses down the wires,
no one inquires
what gives,
what lives
now all's computerised.
Nothing now goes past your eyes.
That's why it all goes belly up
and you is left with the sour cup.
Surprise, surprise?
I'm sorry guy,
but that's the way it is,
the way it goes,
that's as she blows!
From one who knows.

Friday 18 May 2012

Sprung Rhythms

Well, that's the idea behind latest challenge by Gay Reiser Cannon at http://dversepoets.com/. I leave it to you to decide if any thing has sprung from it.

Kat-erinka kidnapped, carried off over the shoulders. Little men
carting her off unseen, unconscious. Not green not men, not
really. Vermillion. No shade of. Non-men. Creatures called
leaves who took her ship-side, kat-erinka shipped to the
upper deck called the globe. Home of the Unger Beasts, not
beasts  really. It being sun-like, spherical, sparkling, almost org-
anic, brain-like. Themselves appendages, did not tie or bind her or im-
prison her. Freedom they gave her to roam the ship they called
Fruit4. Telling Kat-erinka Go everywhere. See all. Try all. Knowing
she would not, could not work it out, but  mapped it, charted it, dis-
covered the brain on her paper, cusp of their secret. From  her
memory, elevations, like early warning systems. Cold war thought of, tech-
nology among the stars. Round head perching on a tiny pedestal. Over the
stem an entrance. Leaves blowing in and out. Drawn up like leaves, like
falling in reverse when first they reached the entrance, she entranced -that part
that still was conscious, functioning beyond her senseless knocked-out state.
Beyond the entrance. Bedlam cells, the leaves' work area, from where the
fruit4 mechanisms were controlled. A T.V. hall with screens galore.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Everybody will want this!

A teenage friend
Asperger's syndrome sufferer *
was tasked with this
as homework for the holidays:
Invent a new religion
that everyone will want to join.

He asked my help. I gave it thought.
The picture was of people queueing up
demanding to sign on.
Not just people in their millions,
but everyone. So something spiritual
with universal pull...

Free love, perhaps? Free booze?
met neither of the two criteria.
Two transcendental moments
for the price of one? But then,
correcting me, he asked for help
specifically with symbols.

I must confess my thoughts ran now
on old familiar lines, and thought
that water ought to be involved,
either real, the actual wet stuff, or
as metaphor. The most adaptable
of substances, it washes one of sin...

or would we not want that - sin mucking up
our new and sparkling modern faith?
Well, water's universal and refreshing,
and without it is no life - or not
as we have known it, not cellular,
not carbon-based, not our life form!

So then, I'll have my water, so I thought.
And after it came light. Another must!
And that was where my thoughts began
to sound too déjà vu. And that was where
my friend began to help me out:
I don't think this is right. We have to find

fruits everybody wants to eat, can't do without,
and make them central to our faith,

make them what our faith is all about.
And are there such? And if there are
should they be central to our faith? Is that
not building faith from the wrong end?

And is this rabbit something that a teenage boy,
might pull out of the hat on a holiday assignment?
* See http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/asperger.html

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Fear of the Future

The local radio
I work to that.
Last day, first week
in my new job.
I wash the old man
according to instructions.
Between two tracks
(Love her madly
and Good Girls Go to Heaven)
a voice invites us listeners
to send in views
on this week's topic:
the recent  rioting.
The views will be expressed
in four words maximum.
Example given:
Fear of the future.

Now from next door
another radio,
turned up too loud,
is drowning ours -
or nearly so.
Drives me to distraction.
How can they work like this,
my comrade undertakers,
busy with the mysteries
of barrier techniques?

We can't afford a slip
in case infection spreads...
Is every corpse infected?
I want to know,
but no one answers me.
The dead are living here:
an ever present threat.

Never speak ill of the dead,
my uncle said,
they can't speak back.
Dip into life's
delicious mix
of saintly joys 
and sinners' kicks.

Most people
who have ever lived
are still alive,
he also said.
So when you die
you join a more
select community.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

... and a half eaten guava

This for Gauguin was The Promised Land,
so why the need for him to rearrange
what Nature, greatest artist of us all,
had made with such astounding flair?

This is no meal - see what he's done?
Two different paintings crunched up into one.
Two registers: still life and portraiture,
bananas eating too much space - and over done.

The children, not surprisingly, show not
the slightest interest in Gauguin's spread,
look neither hungrily nor lovingly
at what we were to think was meant for them.

A painting from his early Eden days -
before he'd learnt its prelapsarian ways..
Later he forbore to blatantly contrive
and painted that which Nature spread for him.


The image of Gauguin's The Meal was supplied as prompt by http://www.magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/ Magpie Tales.

Monday 14 May 2012

Sunshine and Bombs : Suburban Villa #5

She kept the corner shop
somewhere to stop
between my home and school.
Jar upon jar of home made sweets
all kinds of treats
(my favourite: frogs' spawn and -
but I forget now what came after "and":
it maybe just as well)
for boys who had no taste at all
but free of rationing,
no coupons needed -
what matter if they melted in your mouth like paste?
What went into them, well,
only Heaven would have known -
and kept the secret like the world depended on it.
She was our heroine -
for that was long before
they made it non-PC to use the feminine.

At first her name was Gloria.
Glorrrrria, I'd call it,
rolling the r round on my tongue,
trying versions and extensions for effect.
Trying anything that came to mind:
like Glory, Glorious and glorify.
They all, along with Gloria itself, I learned,
were from the liturgy.

Soon, though, she mentioned to my dad one day
she never could stand sun,
she'd rather have the bombs than sunshine any day.
And after that her name was changed.
Sunshine and Bombs we called her then.
The name caught on.
Some thought that she must be a Fascist,
some, just a nutty tart,
others thought she might be sick - have caught
a tropical disease -
and needed to avoid the sun.

She had a counter, very small, in a dark corner,
with loads of stuff for witchery,
black magic and the like.
Some said the sweets came from her spells.
My Gran said not to buy them,
for she made them in her bathroom
and stored them underneath her bed - although
she'd say the same
of Elderado when he peddled his ice cream.

Sunday 13 May 2012

The Night Kitchen

Listen up, good soldiers all,
I've such a tale to tell
about the man
of eight who ate
the Maurice Sendak card - *
the-not-quite-truth of which,
I fear,
was never truly told
nor how a character was bold
enough to write a tale for him.

So gather round,
my people here,
I'll seek to put that straight.
I had been early to my bed
on that auspicious night
and soon was dreaming -
as I almost always am.
I dreamed I met a Wild Thing
who'd brought a card,
hand drawn it was -
by Sendak, if you please -
especially for me
and meant for no one else.
I kissed the card.
I slobbered it
but Wild Thing said
to eat it would be best.
So that is what I did,
and when I did...

I floated up and out:
out of my bed,
out of my clothes,
out of my house,
out of my dream
and out into the weirdest world,
into a world much bigger than
the one that I had known,
into The Kitchen of the Night,
into a giant mixing bowl,
into a sea of dough.

Three bakers came
(dead ringers each
for Oliver the Hardy one)
who mixed the dough
with me inside
and placed us in the oven -
a fiercer one
than you have ever crept inside.

Half baked, I was,
or nearly done, when
by a lucky strike
the oven door flew open wide
and I escaped my fate.
I heard the bakers talking
of being short of mlk.
So from the dough
I made a golden eagle
and jumped upon its back.
We flew up to the high neck
of Milkpool Tower
above the clouds,
a bottle of Gold Top
that sent a fountain
of the stuff, pure white
and nourishing,
in spurts towards the moon.

The moon, I thought,
could do without.
I chose a jet,
deflected it
down to the Hardy men
who caught it in their hats.

By dawn the baking was all done
and I awoke to find the card
in Puppydum's front teeth.
(He is my favourite dinosaur
and was about to swallow it.)
I grabbed it just in time
and ate it as before.

Alas, this time
no magic was.
(My mother said
that magic
only ever happens

The prompt came from Brian Miller at http://dversepoets.com/ Diverse Poets in Poetics : Sendak and the Wild Things in tribute to the recent death of Sendak.

* Please follow the link to the prompt for the story about the card - and much else.

Saturday 12 May 2012

When a poem
comes into the world
line by line, unaware
of what it will become,
when words appear by magic on the page
only to feel their way towards another line,
it's obvious they're blind -
but getting there.

And then the final mystery - how can it be?
Between the lines
synapses grow -
the poem's own -
allowing metaphors and images to flow
like current through a grid,
to form allusions and
illuminate each other.

And then we send it out into the world.
Still blind and feeling its way forward,
of what is there or not, but now
of who will love and who cold-shoulder it,
to gain experience and grow
in true significance
in the world's ways.

This is my submission to http://poetryjaam.blogspot.co.uk/ (Poetry Jam)'s The Blind Leading the Blind prompt for this week.

Friday 11 May 2012

defining image

Army land they'd called it.
And it was.

any piece of land
that armies had fought over.
And earkier:

a bit of common land
like any common land
seen anywhere.

And then the blocks.
Huge, concrete blocks,
as though a child

had smashed
his tower of bricks
in some

great fit of pique.
And those who chanced to see
this lost corner

of the natural world
would turn away,
muttering perhaps

about our modern lack of care.
And then the natural world
was back

and making inroads
once again,
reclaiming what was lost.

And would have gone on
doing so,
but for the car.

Stripped of all its glass.
Doors welded to their frames
The whole car

robbed of anything of use: wheels,
headlights, bonnet...
wild creatures in and out

of its blind headlamp sockets.
Only the shiny engine now
proclaimed its former owner's pride.

It seemed the final conquest!
Symbol of technology's
world dominance; of man's

now fatal love affair
with all machinery
for getting there.

But to that lost
and hopeless corner gave
the one thing that it always lacked:

distinction drawn from colour.
The change was slow,
but in the car's good time

a fierce and vivid red appeared,
smeared itself across
the two-tone greenish black

and rubbish grey
that had merged
well enough with its environment

to keep the wreck low profiled
for a while.
Then finally the rust

spread out
into the wider world
where never was bright hue before.

It was a triumph of a sort:
defining image
of our last (perhaps) obsession.

written in response to Chazinator's prompt for Meeting the Bar : Critique and Craft at http://dversepoets.com/

Thursday 10 May 2012

war correspondent

War correspondent.
Speaking of a sea of faces. Spoke
more truly than he knew.
Which war it was, is incidental.
As is the where of it. Enough to say
it was a crowd in turmoil.
What else is there to know?

He who speaks of sea or ocean
speaks of restlessness. Eternal
movement at great depth.
Of currents powered by primal forces.
Emotivations far below the skin.
And how cross-purposefulness,
as between the different streams,
puts them in conflict with each other -
and in time with every one,
affecting what the surface says or does;
affecting masks that hide the face, mysterious -
and in the last analysis,
imperative. Invincible.

The faces may be drawn,
stressed-out by moon or mooniness,
be whipped by winds
and shallow feelings, but beware:
they break and shatter in a spray...
of what? It's that
we do not know
and shall not know
until it is too late.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Sitting on a Capstan on the Dockside

I'm sitting on a capstan on the dockside
as, off and on, I've been for several days.
The skipper of a frigate by the dockside
has suspicions that he's not afraid to air -
he's sent an officer, repeatedly, to question
why I'm sitting on this capstan on the dockside,
why I've been doing so for several days.

I've explained, as plain as I can make it sound,
that sitting on a capstan on the dockside
is not an occupation I would recommend.
As a chair the capstan lacks a few essentials,
and I've tried to make it clear it's not for fun
that I'm sitting on a capstan on the dockside
observing naval vessels leave and come.

I think I'm now about to be arrested,
for the skipper's glasses glint more often in the sun.
I can only say what I have said - and now repeat:
that I'm waiting for another man to come,
a man essential to a most essential plan:
a man who will be authorised to start
the job that I've been given clearance to complete.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The River Speaks

Look at me now...
how did I come to this?
What you call picturesque:
to me, old age. Obesity.

I was the line you did not cross
except with caution.
Red DANGER signs were everywhere,
on even my least racy stretches. Straight

down the line of least resistance
like a saw through timber, I went, meriting
the narrowest of lines when drawn on maps.
I'm thicker now, more broadly beamed.

The lines are curved these days,
are full of bends and slow meanders -
and you'll be loving that,
and how I'm kinder now to trees...

but how I miss youth's rush. Impetuosity!
Though silky surfaced, sliding wide between
green banks and greener greenery
or corduroyed in breeze.

Where pummelled, tumbled, all textiles torn once all together,
water falling between between rocky outcrops,
I was a life-line for a population
short of water without me.

I who never toed a line
before this late existence,
drew the line at sedentary life.
Made my own line of force.

Nothing but a line of sight these days
for lines of artists, anglers, tourists
and the like. Not in my line
to change things any more.


The image was provided as prompt by http://www.magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday 7 May 2012

When Music was the Food of Love

The Suburban Village #4

Small, frail and white haired lady, less
timid than she looked, of great
antiquity, who taught me (in a way
of speaking) the piano -
though in more truthful terms,
I'd have to say, she gave me lessons
and I soaked them up. I loved
those hours of practise and tuition
and if the music left me, not unmoved,
but somehow not transformed
or challenged at the core, I know
Miss Gleeson left her mark for good -
and that for good - upon my soul.
And I know too I had a crush on her.

Which of us two was masochist
and which the sadist, I'm not sure,
but for a while, and to our mutual chagrin,
we added violin -
a project that was shipwrecked when she heard
how I would practise it in bed.

A life-long Methodist of Primitive
persuasion, Miss Gleeson soon became
my sounding board for what was right
or wrong - a situation which exposed
her now and then to disappointment -
and me to episodes of darkest guilt.
(As when, for instance, she discovered,
pencilled in my "Definitions",
mine for a sextet.)

To Father Probity she seemed
The Antichrist. Her saintliness
cut little ice with him. She was a Methodist -
and that was that. He warned me
about fellowship with her. And so it was,
one Armistice Day Celebration
as he officiated at the War Memorial,
that she arrived with friends.
He gathered up his soutane and strode off,
muttering about dissenters in our midst..

Of her true worth I only got to know
on hearing that she'd died. And I was mortified.

Sunday 6 May 2012

The Honky-Tonk Man

With all due apologies to Wallace Stevens who never did me any harm.

A man sat down at his upright grand
among critics preferring their music canned,
and the critics cried, It honks, it swings! -
apart from which, consider your strings:
they're standing up; they should be laid down.
It isn't a grand; it's too down town!

It's Pop Art, man, in a musical sense
said the man at the grand - it never was dense!
I've fashioned no theory for its defense,
it makes no demands like your serious art,
but it comes from the depths of an ernest heart
that has felt the pangs of Cupid's dart.

Then he started to rap and was seen to swoon
like a lover alone with a pallid moon,
and the notes he plinked and plonked along,
not caring a jot were they right or wrong,
for the rhythms he said, of his simple tune,
he had learned in the school of his mother's womb.

So feel the rhythms I bang from the keys,
he cried to them all, as he rocked from the knees.
I'm the man who can lift an ice-cold crowd -
can do it soft, but prefer it loud.
Why should you worry about my strings
when the world is so full of worrisome things?

They asked him then, and they asked to his face,
What in your music enhances the race?
There's rhythm for sure, but the question is tough:
Is it art, my friend? Is rhythm enough?
Is it more than a boy could bash from a drum?
Will it help man to soar or keep him dumb?

The response was swift, but it didn't convince -
and the argument's rolled on ever since:
the artist, my friends, is of yesterday,
the art's not in the sounds that I play,
but in ears that turn base sounds to gold
and clothe the spirit in gowns of old.

Written to the prompt by Poemsofhateandhope at dVerse ~ Poets Pub Poetics: "Our Music"

Saturday 5 May 2012

misplaced enthusiasm

Work Experience, they called it.
Boys in their final year of school,
giving them the taste and touch of adult work.
Dredging the canal. That's what
the boys and the boys' leaders called it,
but really that was not the word at all.
Just clearing out the muck: the weeds,
the broken bicycles and wheels
was all that was required. But still,
the status that real work conferred, excited them.
The status of a word was overlooked.
Dredge became a part of their vocabulary -
so in the end, it happened to be what they did.

The bed had silted up with thick, brown clay.
They set-to with a will and scraped it all away -
the lining that was meant to keep the water in.

Some houses in the neighbourhood developed cracks,
as did a factory, a church hall and a pub.
Did someone then put two and two together?
Well yes, they did, eventually, but the town
was plagued with water in the ground long after that.

Friday 4 May 2012

Clarian Sonnets : The Tree

The oak was full of spirit energy.
All felt it, from the humble bumblebee
to children changing mien as they drew near.
Wild creatures arched their backs or howled with fear,
but mostly calmed, and opened hearts to joy -
as did the fox, the man, the bird, the boy.
I felt the force of what the tree could do:
compelling thought and making that thought new -
until another broke its spirit force:
a nearby river flooded, changed its course.
The river undermined the tree's old root,
and swept the old before it, brought new fruit.
It too was full of spirit's fire and zest,
the vital in the worldly manifest.
This poem is a response to Semaphore's prompt at http://dversepoets.com/ dVerse ~ Poets Pub.
Clarian Sonnets are named after John Clare whose preferred form they were.

Thursday 3 May 2012


The sky had grumbled off and on
we should have known
that something was afoot
even before the dark cloud spat
its spume flakes of bright light,
tasering the trees before our eyes.

The wind intensified
white balls bounced waist high from the grass,
the roof of the conservatory broke forth
with automatic weaponfire. Meanwhile

the children on the square
who had at first shrieked out excitedly
now shrieked quite differently,
each wet and in distress
at his stung hands and face.

And then the cold began to penetrate,
blossom was knocked from flowering trees
and petals from the tulips in their beds.

But at the end
was nothing left of spectacle
except a deeper and more distant grumbling.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Every castle, someone's home...

This in response to Gooseberry Garden's prompt: Fortresses, Castles, Palaces, Royal Houses.

He was always finding places
you'd not have dreamed were there.
Once he found a grotto
hidden in The Silent Wood,
then Thursday last, the castle.
Sprawling edifice.
Him whooping mad for joy,
no way to calm him down,
insisted there and then
that I should take a look.

Big surprise, I can't deny.
Concentric style.
Machicolated parapets,
turrets by the score.
One turret had collapsed -
well, I expected that, and more.
A total ruin, truth to tell -
though I'd not say so to him.

But some big "do" was taking place.
The moat bone dry, a car park now,
every bay was occupied.
Expensive cars at that: Bugattis,
Rollers, Aston Martins, Mercs
and many more; the owners, squeezed
into a tiny courtyard by the keep
where an orgy in full spate
had dolly birds in various states
of full or part undress.

We'd got there in the nick
to see the final act.
(Glad then, we didn't miss...)
Twenty minutes. Half an hour.
No more before
the tide would knock it down.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

"And that concludes the world..."

And that concludes the world.

Maybe there'll come a day
when newscasters around the globe
will speak these words - or something like
on radio and television -
or what will have succeeded them -
before they fade to black. And part of me
would like to be here then - tuned-in,
not just to hear the phrase,
but to have heard and seen
the stories that preceded it.
There's part of me
believes the ending might be
tranquil, fascinating - or plain boring:
the final evening going into night...
a family saloon that's running out
of juice on the last hill...
a planet peacefully
awaiting the last rites.