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Saturday 30 June 2012

Boy Racers

Where did we find them?
How we spread them round the bomb site
to create a cycle track,
turned handlebars the wrong way up,
stripped bikes of inessentials:
mudguards for example, lights
brakes, bells, Derailleur gears -
replacing these with fixed wheels
which we'd never used before.
Next thing, we lowered saddles - so
that midgets could have ridden them
and put their feet to ground.
The saddles then we tipped
to point towards the stars -
for we mostly rode at night,
and that by natural light.

What was the bug that bit us?
Bums almost sitting on the wheel;
cinders hitting everywhere,
in eyes, in nose, in mouth;
feet churning pedals round like mad;
shoulder to shoulder with
the champion from two nights back;
the corner coming up,
so nearside foot down flat
and hard; handlebars against the bend;
the bike spins more than turns.
Adrenalin? I'd like to think...
We hadn't heard the word,
but something made us thrill to find
the twisted bike around the neck -
and two more piled on top.
No Health and Safety then!


I had been referred to Dr Lloyd at Brompton Hospital for a chronic chest complaint. I could tell by the relief on my mother's face during the consultation that the news was better than she had been expecting. As we emerged she turned to the nurse and said David is keen to take up cyycling. I had meant to ask the doctor if it's a good idea. The nurse went back to ask on her behalf and reemerged to say Yes, Mrs King. No objections at all - as long as he doesn't take up this damned dirt track riding that's all the rage! Well, after that, what else could I do?

It was a passing phase,my interest soon moved on to more traditional forms of racing. I offer this little poem this morning as a good luck wish to Wiggins as he begins his attempt to bag The Tour de France for Britain.

Friday 29 June 2012

Blood Red Riding Hood

If you had wandered in the woods at dawn
you might have seen Red Riding Hood
stumbling from its darkest heart
(which ordinary folk have never seen),
snatched at by thorn and tangled undergrowth,
out into the lightening of the Muntjac Glade,
the covered basket safe upon her arm.

You never would have found, for all your looking,
her granmama's small hovel, hidden well,
or seen her granmama, exhausted from her hunting,
pulling  off her boots and tumbling into bed -
the blood still dripping from her furry jowl.
Nor would you likely see the corpse trail she has left,
a train of wanton killing through the woods.

Not until Red Riding Hood knocks on her door
and granmama is calling  Enter dear!
would you have tumbled to what's taking place.
Soon though, you'll catch the scent of features
that your eyes, so innocent, have failed to see:
the lupus-lykos-gorge-stuff-gobble-bolt
of granmama beneath the counterpane.

And Granmama for her part will not see
the massacre the basket represents: the scores
of furry creatures that lie dead, torn limb
from limb, decapitated, butchered, stuck with pins.
She'll not have guessed the way The Red Witch wove
her dark spells from the basket's tortured flesh
to change  her form from granmama to wolf.
Written in response to Ella's prompt for Poetry United's Think Tank #103: Fractured Fairy Tales at:  http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday 28 June 2012

Arnhem Land (Northern Territories) Rock Art

Imagine a myth
a modern myth
invented by me:
a beast, part
dragon and part bird...
steps from some fable
into a wasteland
where it dies.
The  landscape is
too high, too wild
for access by the modern
man - except proud
chopperman -
and this all fifty
thousand years ago.

The beast decays.
Flesh ossifies
bone petrifies
flesh to bone
and bone to rock
the rock a shelter
ancient man discovers
(how?) calls home.

He - Aborigine -
is spirit energy personified.
Covers walls and ceilings
with images of his true home -
our hidden genesis.

Imagine now
you find this shelter
and walk in. Around you
images begin to sing
each in its native tongue.
Here is no bare rock,
but all is marked with spirit forms
as if the fabled beast
before it died
was given a full body
interior tattoo. From which -
between the edges of the songs -
thoughts, feelings, inner images arise
and take control
of modern man
as easily as old.

Walk through
this archive of your spirit ancestors
for somewhere here
an image of your spirit stirs -
or maybe one your spirit made.
When you encounter it
hang it on the small hook
at the far back of your mind.
It is your satnav for the songlines
you must walk. They will
embrace the image fervently.

Now from the center of each song
a tear-out sheet. The souvenir.
Totemic ancestors asleep
beneath  a dark flat earth
burst through convulsively.
Half human and half plant,
they travelled everywhere,
created landscapes.
Mountains, rivers, waterholes
wallaby and kangaroo
eagle, ant and snake.

We do not own the land,
the artwork sings,
the land owns us.
Land gives us culture, soul, identity.
There are no boundaries, but everywhere
the spirits move, connect all life to all.
The image: from ABC News.
Image and poem refer to recently discovered Aboriginal Rock Art which predates by several thousand years anything known before.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Shadow of evil

Always the baddy of the piece.
the playground terrorist,
a natural stereotype: cast eye,
slight twist to mouth, as big
as any two boys on the block.

He infamously lit the altar
candles in the Parish Church,
then laid them down
against the curtains there,
and watched the fire brigade
arrive to do their work.

Shadow of the evil one
our teacher said - he being
always troublesome in class.
I can't remember what occasioned it -
no doubt he'd thrown his ample
weight around again. She made
him crouch down on the floor
beneath her desk - difficult
for one so copious of flesh - and when
she'd prod him with her foot or taunt
he had to bark. Convincingly,
she said. Dog like - or he'd know what!

Slowly, the taunts took shape
inside my head. They had a point -
a starting point, if nothing else.
His misdemeanours were not it.
His father was a local constable:
that's where the trouble seemed
to lie. She had a problem where
his father was concerned - an issue
with him being what he was. Police!
And Boyo Brannagan, as he was called,
was made to suffer for it. Constantly.
This represents #11 in my Suburban Village Series, it was not due to appear until Monday. However, I have brought it forward to link it with our friends at http://www.magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/ who have supplied the following image.


Tuesday 26 June 2012

If ever...

If ever life
the rest of creation
come to behave as we behave,
might not the trees
give up their leaves
for some trivial,
short term gain?
the flowers decide
it not worth their while
to open on certain days?
the oceans tire
of throwing themselves against 
the solid
(all too-solid?) cliffs 
and decide to  retire
to their deepest trenches?
birds sing louder,
longer, more
jarringly raucous
and harsh
(as our art becomes
in difficult times)?
and only the minibeasts under the earth
go on as they always have?

If ever the rest of creation
behave the way we do,
would that change us,
the way we see ourselves,
our actions and our habits,
our modus operandi?
Could they be changed - and if so,
how - and how
might life 
respond in turn
to that?

Monday 25 June 2012

The Chimney Sweep

A narrow path connected our road and
mysterious Love Lane - the road that bragged
thee claims to fame and glory: first of all,
it was the home of Death himself. (My best
friend's name was Death - De'ath, of course,
but no one called him that. To all our friends
and neighbours, my best friend was Death.)
But more: Love Lane possessed the residence
of Grim, the local chimney sweep. There too,
the brooding, dark, and  lovely-to-some, but
to the rest, the reeking, foul, exhaling gas works.

But the sweep was the great star of stars. He sat
outside his cottage, face encrusted black,
his eyes pure white, like headlamps in the night,
his small clay pipe a fury of red sparks,
he blowing miracles of smoke from every pore.
(The gas works at full blast could not compete.)
You had to brave the fumes to book his call.
He'd write you in his diary in cultured hand.

His visit was the highlight of the week - with me
dispatched to sit beneath the apple tree
to wait for the appearance of his broom -
and to report the same tout de suite. And did
I see the soot that he shook from it? And
how much soot, a great deal or a little?
And then the bag of soot that he he'd collected 
from our chimney, he would try to sell to mum
or gran: God's own for the garden missus!
he would say, but never made the sale that I recall.

This is #11 in my Suburban Village Series.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Full Body Scan

too close to focus
too close for eye relief
or comfort
shadow forms,
forms of shadow,
form and reform
triple vision),

the gap between us
widens as
the focus hardens.
Drawn together,
Christo's and kleptoes' re-
conciled, drawn
point on top
of empty point,
imposing on
millwheeling thought,
the one true cross
awaits its occupant -
klepto or Christo?
still Calvaric.

But now
my focus
skips a thoughtbeat
the triple crosses
and three noughts -
three (slightly flattened)
Three figures.
(He? + me? + who?)
the unprintable,
that will be penned,
that will be faced.
Child art
or comic art
a rectilinear
(not rectitudinal, I think) more
like a Descartesque
response: we have
to true reality.
Just theories, faiths
and ignorance
of any credence
our thought has.
Here is
that makes no sense
I am making bold to submit this to Anna Montgomery's (see her at chromapoesy) Logophilia 1 prompt at http://dversepoets.com/

Saturday 23 June 2012

A lesson from dad.

Asleep last night. Small hours
and walking down the fairway,
father at my side. The sixteenth tee -
he having driven off a treat.

I see him speaking
in the silent film
which this dream is. He's asking me
how far to reach the green.

I have it written down. A map.
I calculate. Nine hundred yards,
I mime. Maybe
he'll understand.

He's asking for a club.
I cannot hear, but know
from here he'd take a wedge - but maybe
not in such a wind! Less loft, I think

and pass a club I have not seen before.
The blade less angled.
Dad seems pleased
and takes his stance.

The ball addressed,
he loses twenty years.
Younger now, he swings the club
and drops the ball mid-green.

There comes a burst 
of clapping from
the crowd buoyed up 
in seats beyond the green.

But now the new club -
the one unknown to me,
unnumbered and untried -
breaks clean in  half

and we are back
in dad's new garden shed - the one
he built himself when he retired -
explaining as he works

how to replace a broken shaft.
Except, I cannot hear,
the dream still has no sound.
I go on watching him

and find myself remembering
the first time I looked on
and knew instinctively
we had no need of words.

Friday 22 June 2012

a tiny kingdom

Written for Victoria C Slotto's challenge on Meeting the bar : Critique and Craft  Where in the world am I? at http://dversepoets.com/

You'll meet with anglers hidden on the shore,
perhaps with tent and portaloo
where tree and shrub reach down the banks
to touch their shoulders, point
to where the water pops and blisters,
speaks the lake's fecundity.

On dull days sky may rupture azure blue
the whole lake length and back again.
You'll sense not see the beauty there
and think he crashed the canopy.
The sudden noise of wing
is like a splintering. The kingfisher

is king. Where lilies in their season lift
their special colours, safe upon their pads,
you'll think small suns afloat on darkling seas
or tissue beauty blown in on the breeze.
There's life, you'll see, will flicker through
above, below, around them as you look.

The sandy path goes not quite round the lake.
At the far end there's marsh. Path peters out
where water tempts you in to wade
the final yards, but better not.
Here species, frog and dragonfly
are noted for their rarity.

Trees like a curtain close it all, but let
peep in, the catacomb-like passages
where trip-wire brambles, broken cello strings 
and dampness reign. Here pungent odours rise
from sun-bright fungi. Scarlets, shocking pinks 
and blues splodge olive greens and sin dark black.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Cart Ruts and Bootprints.

All landscapes have been
layered over time. Scipes.
Landscipe say. Landscaef.
Land sculpted out by man. 
Car & cart ruts. Bootprints 
simulate a layered-on, not 
a layered-into. As if a thing 
or two (say, something like 
Meccano pieces - do you
remember them?) was laid,
is being laid, or will be laid
(all is tense upon the land), 
a thing apart, though hardly
ours. Until  we made it  so.

At once my eyes are raising
them and building with them.
Towers of Babel. Something 
like. Dad will help - I'm sure.
Bolts. Nuts. Tighten to hold 
firm. Nature interferes.Water
building new layers. Delicate,
the tracery that now appears,
rubbishing our early crudity.
Lifts our eyes to interpose a
natural (and virtual) layering.
Landscaef's new dimension.

Written from the visual prompt above supplied by The Mag at http://magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Can you see, Can you feel, Is it there, Is it real?

Often enough I have tried to paint them,
draw or photograph or sketch them with my fingers:
the mountain, the tree, the woodland canopy -
though not the object that you see,
no, not the one your brain constructs.
The thing itself, the purity of structure, the unchangeable,
the thing beyond the vagaries of light and shade. That which
is there in morning light, bright sun, and then again,
no different in the moon's soft touch. I speak
of that which logic says must lie beyond
the scope of senses to detect. No wonder then
the art work fails. I'm thinking that The Hayward Gallery
is on to something with its exhibition showing
things invisible in art - for after all, complacency
of seeing becomes compulsive viewing,
and the thing that is there and the thing not there are one.
The plinth above which space (which might have held - or be -
a sculpture) has received
the ministrations of a witch
remains/becomes a plinth with space above - space where you
well might party, fly a kite or camp with four friends overnight...
Or is it? Is so much possible in that small space
above a tiny plinth? Can you detect the spell? Or can the eyes
see what the heart may feel?

Perhaps one day you'll find yourself inside an empty room,
its emptiness surrounding you, made obvious
to sight, to those with eyes to see. No one to disagree -
except, perhaps, the other senses might.
What if antennae that you didn't know you had, detect
a million people in your empty room... maybe they're watching
football on the telly as they eat their fish and chips, or there's
a space probe bumping into Mars - the sound of
or reverberations from - or will a million ants crawl in,
to leave behind them trails of paint that seem significant?
Invisible, but can't you hear the paint the way you tasted
all those fish and chips and knew there would be living
art works eating them? The way all happenings from
all time everywhere have registered their presence
in your empty room, the way a torch beam shone into the sky
goes on through all eternity, though ever weaker, ever there.

Things seen and things not seen have always been on view.
Now leave the room. You close the door - or maybe take it
with you - then in the hallway look in the first mirror -
and do not be surprised: you cannot see yourself.
Look in the next and there you are. Go out the front door,
come back in. The mirror you were in is blank. You're in
the other.

And so it seems to me, my need is for a camera, the film
not sensitive to light or infra red or any such:
receptive just to darkness... stygian, black darkness -
for darkness lays no outside influence on the pristine Thing.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

The Fates be Damned!

A back room full of magpies that she kept as pets
away from the obligatory cat, Now Wait! Not black
but, like the magpies, black and white. Ah, ha! we'd say
with knowing wink, A black witch turning white, or white
witch turning black! We didn't know which witch,
so crossed ourselves each time we passed her house. One day
the fever ambulance was there. A double cross and hold your nose
while walking backwards one by one. Her husband died - you did
if you were taken by the yellow bus. He should have died the day
before, but saw the Fates damned first if he would keep their diary to
the day. That seemed to be the mission for her life. To put
the spirit powers back in their proper place. Predestination
must not win. Whatever you must do, do one day late! In tribute
to her comes this post a day adrift.

                                                    I played with Pam, her daughter
now and then. Her one big superstition was a musical belief. She played
the violin - and played it well, I'm told. School orchestras, that sort
of thing. Whenever gales and high winds were the scene, she'd play
a certain tune or tunes and they would send the wind off course
if played against the gale. Along with this were superstitions for musicians:
a blue tie round the neck is necessary playing Gustav Holst or Brahms;
blue knickers must be worn for Chopin; Liszt required a  grey arm band,
Johann Strauss a spotted dress. There were many such, all followed
in the cause of pacifying the unruly spirits of the compositions.

This is #10 in my Monday Suburban Village Series.
The precise matching of garment to composer as set out above I cannot guarantee. I do remember certain examples, but not which went with which. Stranger and stranger, when I later got to Grammar School, the music teacher there was a spiritualist with similar beliefs,

Monday 18 June 2012

Candle-lit Dinner.

They're new... or are they?
She hasn't noticed them before.
An effect of light perhaps...
or looking through the candle flames.
But no, they're there. They're plain enough.
Maybe he hasn't shaved...
Strange, long blond hairs...
but not enough to stop her eating -
the mackerel pâté clearly to her taste.

Bob - prospective partner - unaware
of this new interest of hers... he, too,
eats on. Is unconcerned, for what could spoil
a night like this? Concern
first rears its awkward head
when his is turned to ask the waiter
for... she doesn't catch.
But what she catches is the long cheek bone
and lengthy nose. Imagination
does the most unlikely things at times.
She cannot figure why
she hasn't seen these things before.
Begins to drink more seriously, more
than is her habit, asks the waiter for
another carafe of the same. By now
the Bob she'd thought she'd known
has slipped behind a mask-like Bob -
now tearing at his venison with long, sharp teeth.

She isn't looking  now, has turned her face away,
doesn't see saliva running down, pooling on
the tablecloth. Doesn't see the thickening hair,
the subtle change of colour, the re-set eyes -
all of which, supposing that she had seen, she
would not have found the means to tell
the essence of it all. So steadily she does not look,
will not be drawn. He, of course, believes he has
offended her - How could that be? He'll get
her home. They stand to go. He cannot stand,
is bent, his spine aligned along a horizontal plane.

The car is parked a few blocks off. She tries
to take his hand, believes he is unwell. The hand
will not be taken. The palm is a soft pad,
the fingers four, the nails more pointed than before.
She can't be sure... nor we. All we can say is that
she never made it to the car, is found next day,
a not-quite-musky smell, almost like canine sex,
hangs in a cloud above her form. They'll say
she has been savaged by a dog or fox - maybe
by dogs or foxes - but who among us can be sure?

Sunday 17 June 2012

Message from the Outpost

Your voice each evening on my ancient phone -
my only contact from beyond this empty world
that teems with life. All look like me,
as I resemble them. Look through me though,
without acknowledgement.

Night falls. Day breaks. This place
like any other, home included.
But night and day are like no other:
the sullen light turned sudden fierce -
never a time between the two.
Never a cooling breeze, refreshing shower,
but simmering streets in broiling sun.
Parched fields are not my style. At night
a solid darkness pinpricked by a million stars -
it's one claim to magnificence.

Sounds have no significance.
The words I had have had the sweetness sucked,
pruned of all meaning, cut to their basic stems.
I walk the streets in search of friendly speech,
of words to walk in step with me,
that know the rhythms of my ambling gait.
Gargled and strangled vowels are not my style.

Never a smell to bring a memory.
They've no more meaning for me than the sounds,
give neither pleasure nor disgust, but like all else
are dumb with neutral flavours, leave me cold.

I wait to hear again from you.
ManicDdaily in Poetics at http://dversepoets.com/ has set Exile as the theme for our challenge.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Love's Last Opportunity

(Opportunity being the key word in this week's Thursday Think Tank #101 at http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.co.uk/ )

Let us go back for a moment,
hand-in-hand as we were, you and I,
the year we first built our castles of sand,
first saw the ocean rise in its fury,
first talked of abroad.
How you shone like early light on the sea!
How you shimmered with glee!
Back then was some happy,
and all the happy there was
was between us.

How could we know that our ocean,
the ocean we said we would cross
together, was also between us, the crossing not pleasure,
but a dream to be chosen or not,
the choice strictly ours, now laid out between
the ocean and happy?
Why did we choose as we did?

Don't look: we are back for this moment together,
face to face and across
the landscape remembered, dragged out from the ocean of time,
unexpectedly brought here together,
waves cutting us off from our prime.
We may never again
be now or be then to unsing the song of that time
or give ear to the song that remains in the waves,
tumbled and turned and churned against cliffs
that will crumble to dust in the foam and its mist.

You said you would fly -
Look! There is the swing where I pushed you
so high! And you laughed. Then:
Throw me beyond the horizon! you called
as some engine somewhere that drove us was stalled
and nothing was left of us then but the words:
words in their thousands, words more than the stars
words that we'd strung to infinity, words
not making sense. Something to trip on, to break arm or neck.
A trap, a disaster, a threat, total wreck.
Let's pick up the pieces, clear up the beach -
and see what we left and is still within reach.

Friday 15 June 2012


From Gay Reiser Cannon at the ever erudite http://dversepoets.com/ comes a rather complex challenge - including an attempt to define the modern - that you might care to check out for yourself.


Many there are hearing voices.
From tinnitus sometimes,
rhythms like speech.

From the brain's inventiveness:
speech in the sounds
of a torrent or breeze in the trees.

Epilepsy disorders the mind,
implants voices at times
even pictures the speaker, but

only the holy among us
imagine the voices
as coming from God...

And this God whom they hear:
how many voices might
they suppose Him to have?

Thursday 14 June 2012

Come celebrate the whole of life with me.

Come celebrate with me, life's triumphs in our world,
rejoice in life's resilience, delight
in how it bursts again, and yet again, upon the broken scene,
surprises us and takes our breath away.
No matter what we do to earth, air, water and the rest
of life's frail systems of support, though stripped of all
it might have counted on, life bounces back and over-runs the world -
and in the over-growing it regenerates.

In every crack and corner of the world is life,
and nowhere, though we made it near to desert, do we find
that life plays truant there. Come, celebrate the weeds and nettles
that grow there, the gnats and rats and crocodiles and snakes.
Come celebrate the bounce of life, its potency in every form it knows,
the life force that is pro-life and the powers  we think are anti-,
and the two, gift-wrapped together. We'll celebrate, unwrap -
and use our nous to help perfect creation.

Hand-in-hand came good and evil to this world. The life force was
no different to the rest. Come celebrate the final triumph of that life:
together see the end of human mutilation - and the back
of that which blights and bites into the life that is to be:
malaria, tuberculosis, hunger, climate change, a\myriad other wrongs
that should not be. Let's celebrate the final victory!

The theme "Celebration" was offered by Mary Mansfield at Poetry Jam http://poetryjaam.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday 13 June 2012

how I almost became an entrepreneur,
Simon Cowell style

skiffle : our first gig

If there had been a skiffle group*
five hundred years ago,
I doubt it would have looked
or sounded like
our Anglo-Saxon Bang-Go Band.

So forget about authentic,
just feel the rhythms 
and the beat, beat, beat.

So read the poster for the group's big day.

As for authenticity... could you have seen
the motley crew...Bluebottle II,
Scarag the hardy, Blanket Boy,
Shamrock VII, Sangfroid Albatross,
Lady Mitch and Scavenger at Sea.

Rain in quantities which I thought Biblical
throughout our Project: Anglo Saxon.
Lashings of it. Permanent wet play. Please Sir,
could we start up one of these?
These = pic. of skiffle group.
And that's how it was born.

Blanket Boy was first: arrived next day
with tea chest (stencilled on the side
the magic words One Anglo Saxon
all in sepia) complete with broom
and miles of string and fishing line.
Next in: assorted hollow things, rolled,
drilled and stretched or bent to blow or bang;
a toy guitar - more lute-shaped than guitar -
and one monstrosity of cartons on a pipe -
three, I think - from large to small,
each complete with its own reed. Lady
Mitch - her dad had made a Rackett.
So would she. Their thought to call it
Anglo Saxon - never mind the Saxon,
feel the thrum, the hum and sum of it.

Alas it didn't last and I was never threat
to Simon Cowell - still waiting to be born.

* here

Tuesday 12 June 2012

last train to nowhere

I used to paint you know,
until my hands began to wobble out of use,
I'd paint reality in all its charm and dreariness
and make up poems in my head the while I worked.
The poems were about infinity. Reality
is psychedelic, don't you know. Infinity
is purity of white that fades to white -
or black that merges with the same invariable hue.
You pass reality each day. When on your way to work
or home again, it's there in all its starkest subtlety,
waiting for the likes of you to sketch it up -
or make an image of it best you can.
The trouble is, it's inconsistent. Lets you down.
You pass the same shops, supermarkets, factories.
Day in, day out, it's there and stares you down -
but still it doesn't guarantee to get you where you're going.

Let's say we board a train. We don't know where it's off to.
We'll find out. It moves off on a dead straight track.
It has direction given it - North East - but not a destination.
It may stop in some great cathedral's nave
or in a painting by van Eyck.
It may pull in at a long poem by MacDiarmid
or pull up in a symphony by Grieg. Even, it may stop
inside a line graph drawn to show
how many bloggers saw my blog today
with axes that control its shape and size.
It may not stop at all, but just continue
along its lonely track, keep coming back
to where we boarded it but can't get off
because the place has changed: it's not the one we knew.
And still the train moves on its one straight line -
which will not always be the bearing that was set.
The painting I am working on becomes a poem,
your poem may turn out to be a bagatelle.

Infinity's a line, a track, an arrow through the heart
of what we're pleased to call reality.
Ignoring all the usual niceties
of axes x and y and maybe z,
in cutting through them all it's playing bungy jumps
and free falls from the sky with stuff
like death and afterlife and all that jazz.
I used to find I couldn't paint infinity - and that was why
I stuck to portraits of the real
but now reality seems not to make much sense.
We do the daftest things on its behalf.
Perhaps I'll paint again - my wobbly hands
might well be just the job to represent the infinite
in terms of fractal beauties x y z.

Monday 11 June 2012

The First Ray of Darkness.

Arthur Broomfield
lived in the next road to me,
across the dog-leg
made by his and mine.
Five houses off, no more.
A line of sight from house to house.
He lived with mum and dad -
as, indeed, did I.
But I was rising twelve
and he had fought in Italy.

His folk and mine were friends.
He took me places
I had never seen:
E.M.I. in London was a regular
where he bought my first L.Ps.
Beethoven's Fifth - the set,
and later, the Eroica;
a motor-cycle rally;
a concert held near-by.
My folk seemed not to mind.

He warned me about girls.
Not to get involved.
His fear was of diseases.
He'd seen in Italy
what men can catch from girls,
the agonies the men endured
in order to get cured.
But men with men was safe -
no dangers there!
Today you'd have to say
that he was grooming me.

One evening, whilst  listening
to music - Mozart's Clarinet
Concerto - the Adagio - it's
that clear in my mind - I saw
he was unbuttoning himself,
after which he looked at me,
inquiring if he'd have to do it
to himself - and what would I
like him to put on next - that's
musically speaking! I took my
courage in both hands, asked
for Haydn. 'What about the
"Farewell" Symphony?' I said.

This is #9 in my Monday Suburban Village Series
I have also added it to Poet's United's Poetry Pantry at http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.co.uk/

Sunday 10 June 2012

Dogged by choice

Admitting me five minutes earlier,
the necklace reached to just below the knees.
Shortened now to three loops round her neck,
she moved the beads like they
were on some sort of abacus -
and would continue so to do
throughout the interview.

Reclining on an ancient chesterfield,
no model ever gave more thought to matters
of the pose,  before she'd motion me
towards a leather easy chair.
The shaggy hound who'd followed us
from the front door, now took up residence
stretched out upon the floor
between me and my only exit.

For interview she trotted out the
necessary questions: how would
you organise the math for, say,
a class of ten year olds? I gave -
I think - the necessary answers:
Somehow it felt unreal, like we were acting
on a stage before an audience we could not see.

And then the unexpected question: Would I like
a brandy or Dubonnet? The punctuation mark
between the formal and the chat.
And all the while the clock ticked on
I was planning my escape.
There seemed no chance - until
the necklace broke. Some beads rolled out
across the floor, but most had disappeared
into her ample cleavage. I saw my chance.
No hesitation, I was on my feet,
palm raised in front of me. Don't move!
I cried. I'll find my own way out!

Remarkably, I got the job. Years later, though,
I learned: The dog it was chose me.
He'd liked me from the first, she said -
and that was good enough for her.
Brian Miller at http://dversepoets.com/ has set the subject Choice

Saturday 9 June 2012

Kids these days!

A lady asked me, not so long ago,
how different is childhood now
from when I was a boy.
I didn't need to think,
I might have rattled off a score
of points to talk about, but didn't try.
To me, one mattered more than all the rest:
that we were free.

We did stuff then they couldn't do today -
or if they did, they'd get it in the neck!

I had been sitting for a while in Greenwich Park,
near the children's playground there.
Swings, slides and roundabouts - and best of all...
a maypole  hung with chains.
And children hanging on,
excitement antidote to fear,
hands clutching frantically above their heads.
Bodies flying out,
while other children used the chains
to whirl them round at speed...

until a teacher popped up from the crowd
and ordered them to leave the pole forthwith...
before you strain your wrists.
You've handwriting tomorrow. Think of that!

No one ever said that sort of thing to us.
The war, technology, the busy roads,
the web, I shouldn't wonder, all have changed
the boundaries, have drawn them in more tightly
like a noose around the growing child.

We bobbed around like yachts at a regatta
and somehow missed the rocks we hadn't seen.
And then again, at times not yachts, but river
boats - which sometimes for a moment put to sea.
The boundaries were generous, but still
would give a bit, allow some derring-do.

Our parents would have had their forty fits
to meet some of the folk we met - or see
the situations that we'd at times confront.
(The vicar would have gone on a retreat.)

A kinder world than this, instinctively we knew.
Knowledge robbed of understanding saw us through.

Friday 8 June 2012

The Marriage of Beauty and Banality

What are these four, I'm wondering:
four kinds of votive offering?
Sacrificial victims to the  Lamb of Landfill?
Gate-keepers maybe, meant to keep
the dark consumer world at bay..?

Not all of it, of course. All but its detritus.
Themselves part of the detritus:
                                               a Teddy bear
waist deep in oil
(old engine oil, my guess -
                                        but what
do I know of a pool spilt sometime from
some old container?)
                               and a doll,
her battered head in duct tape turban,
splattered blood and mud,
                                        beside a leprechaun
and woolly lion with tangled mane.
                                                   The leprechaun
alone shows signs of life, as if
he is about to dance a jig.
                                      It comes
as something of a shock to realise
his head is firmly in the lion's mouth!

The lion lets loose a mighty roar,
the leprechaun is unperturbed,
doll and Teddy bear are wet with fear.

Lion and leprechaun are poised atop
a pile of old computers, and display
a sign, its marks marked out in marker pen:
Then leave the rest here for the leprechaun -
it's why he's all in green.

Who are these four
                              then, ancient saints
of this, a modern faith enshrined
here in its place of worship?
                                          Writers of
its Gospels? Or
                         the Horsemen of some new
Apocalypse, strange symbols of a pestilence,
a war, a famine and a death to come?

The way a fox will pee to mark its territory,
the priestly caste of waste recycle operatives
have marked the boundaries, the borders set
around their Holy Mountain -
                                            this to emphasise
its difference, its not belonging to
the plain of plain mankind beyond. Their
cone-shaped golden vases of fresh flowers
on trestles of white wood
include giant buttercups, ferns, meadow turf,
and daisies, burdock, sedge and bracken.
All plants with ancient powers. Some stand
in harsh and unambiguous contrast
before the grey and rusting skips and giant
containers. Others are but fragrant pee
laid down at intervals
                                 around the hinterland -
Or are they just to decorate?
                                            To beautify?
The way pew-ends are dressed before a wedding?

From outside looking in
the scene is unremarkable,
but, past the lines of guardian plants, becomes
more alien than Mars.
This is the portal to the promised landfill -
portal in its turn to the fulfillment of our dream.
This is the Customs and the Duty House.
Here creatures of a gnomic disposition,
doctors of the periodic scale of waste,
of all compatibilities and powers of such,
well versed in disciplines beyond our understanding,
do scrutinise the offerings we bring
before dispatching each of us
to his appointed bin.

Nature, in whom all beauties once were rolled together,
still can blush, confronted by her groom.
Perhaps it is the lack of visual beauty that offends,
the blush no longer innocent, but tinged with loss.

What comforts can her Black Prince of Banality provide
to compensate for what his bride will miss?

The answer's in these simple plants
the way they hold their own...
as if some tiny particles of earth
had found their first, unsullied form
and started Earth again.
No wonder it looks alien!

Our world has only taught us right and wrong,
good and evil mixed. We never thought
to see them separate and stand
in contradiction, each to each.

Beyond them lies the great nave of the Lamb of Landfill.
Here relics that have lost their power
are laid to rest by devotees
in hope of resurrection to some future life
as artefact or plant or animal.

Begonias decaying slowly on a path
acquire a different kind of beauty. Soon
from the great  nave an anthem sounds - and the event's
photographer - who could be Dali - sees a new
and alien world he must record, for only he
would think a choir of herring gulls
(white cassocks, blue-grey surpilces, and sin-black fingers to their gloves)
in panicked movements back and forth beyond the chancel arch -
though in good voice, rehearsing all their cries and squarks. Only he
would think rust bucket of a car
where the high altar ought to be.
And thinking is enough to freeze the image for all time.

The artist as philosopher.
                                      Landscapes seen
in close-up
                  morph into still lifes - or lives.
Safaris in a fridge.
                           The stains on
an old mattress are pictures in a fire.
A rocking horse is caught
in razor wire
and angel flares dance lightly every night
on clouds of methane gas.
The locals think them ghosts,
will not go near the place.

Here art is myth.
                         We artists
are the unicorns who walk
                                       the grim banality of grime.
Beauty is of Earth, and visual
beauty of Earth's God;
                                  the anthem vain.

How did banality - that strange banality
that crept upon the landscape
                                              like a predatory beast
its presence there
                          no accident
and no mistake
resulting not from
                          failure of imagination
from something we had overlooked
but by design -
how did that special and peculiar benality
                                      became acceptible
                                      adopted by our culture
                                      seen everywhere:
in poetry
              in church and fashion house
at home and in the media.
Can someone tell me what,
adopting it, we have interred?

The wedding guests are eyeless (some)
or without ears. They've lost
the organs that they did not use
or use enough. The god
of this new world has proved himself
a jealous god indeed.

Ten inches in ten years, they've raised
this great cathedral floor.
The images from yesterday
have blurred
                    the edges fuzzed
the contours lost their shape
the grass grown over them.
(Three years they have been capping it.)

(Still clearly visible from space,
but not from here.)
Its' life, but life
impinging upon life.
It's life browbeating life.

No object comes untrammelled
Each one  is linked to concepts,
expressions or beliefs.
Juxtapose the images, you juxtapose the thoughts.

As if a Chinese ideogram
became a video.
This for Chazinator's Critique and Craft prompt at http://dversepoets.com/

Thursday 7 June 2012

new wildernesses for old!

I think that when we realised
every wilderness was done for
and none were left on earth
we reconfigured waging  war
so they would create more.

New wildernesses came on stream
replacing those we broke
and some were on my doorstep
Free Gratis of the bombs
and courtesy of us.

The stories that I mostly read
when I was very small
were daring do's in jungles -
those we are cutting down -
by Biggles and his ilk.

I'd play all day on bomb sites -
hoping to find bombs! -
though later as I aged a bit
where once was wilderness,
we'd build a cycle speedway track.

Tuesday 5 June 2012


It's reassembled elements:
All are a major part of each:
the dandelion in me,
me in the irritating flea.

The artist understands it all,
has framed a visual metaphor.
A fruitful view of life.
The D.N.A. made edible.
From vegetable to visceral.

Eye of fig and cheek of pear,
ear of corn and skin of grape,
brow of pea and lip of plum
ear of corn and nose of date:
nature's magic everywhere.

The image was contributed as prompt at http://www.magpietales.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday 4 June 2012

The Cricket Green Belle

We knew her thus, and by no other name,
the homeless one who'd put down roots
on one of our two greens and made
a shelter seem like home. An air-raid shelter,
brick built, wholly above ground, but windowless.
I went in once -
to black my nose as mum would say -
and see what I could see.
Pitch dark towards the rear -
no light switch to be found - and airless too.
Pools of stagnant water that I dimly saw -
and fantasised as blood. Dank smells -
and others that I did not recognise.
The Belle was not at home, of course,
she rarely was by day. Hot day.
Her trench coat, thick with mud -
and what? - hung on a nail.
An upturned bucket by a sack of straw.
And on the bucket, three (I think it was)
large perfume bottles, still half full.
(Half full of something! my father later said -
and straightway banned me from the place for good.)
My good, and for ever.

And then I saw them (hadn't quite expected that,
thought she would have had them on), quite near the door,
so catching what there was of light: the infamous,
high, leather boots the adults talked about. Russian!
some would say, Equestrian! said others. One black,
one brown - originally. Two left feet and tooled with two
quite different patterns. Painted a deep red,
the pair of them, the deep red wearing off,
the former colours showing through.
I'd heard all this when adults thought I was asleep.
I'd heard much more... so time to go.

Then as I turned, the Belle walked in.

First close encounter, her and I. I saw, though dimly,
for myself: the crimson lips; that rouge and grime -
like oil and water - didn't mix; odd open sandals
and no socks; the chain around her neck; the short
clay pipe that hung down from the corner of her mouth.

She didn't speak and nor did I.

She turned into the darkest corner of the four
and disappeared from view. I followed her example,
but disappeared into the light like the proverbial bat -
straight out of hell.
Back home, the disappointment bit:
I hadn't seen the famed pipe lit.
This is #8 of my Suburban Village series.

Sunday 3 June 2012


He'll dance, she'll sing, he'll write, she'll bring
him meals to table twelve -
and all of them will call it work.

When acting parts or making stitches,
pulling carts or digging ditches,
playing ball or rigging boats,
just on call or hitting high notes,
all of them will call it work.

When photographing, contemplating,
selling cars or decorating,
restoring pictures, mending leaks
or re-upholstering antiques
all of them will call it work.

But some there are who just for fun
will do what others try to shirk,
while others yet, find fun and work
in schemes and tasks that most folk shun.

A ball may travel far, I've heard
impelled by force of bat -
and bat and ball will say it's work
because of energy transferred.

The energy transferred at work
can leave a body spent -
and I am mighty peeved to find
my pay is down a cent.

Energy's transferred as joules
which A spends in fond hopes of jewels.
B merely wants a cosy pad,
a place to hide when things get bad.

Energy, St Einstein  said
and mass are on a par.
E = MC2 - its truth
is writ in bomb and star.

He'll growl, she'll fret, he'll cry, she'll rage
at others earning more,
conditions in the works canteen
or on the factory floor.

He'll hardly notice time go by,
nor she when work refreshes.
He'll lose all track of common things,
they'll only care for quality
when work with mindset meshes.

Written for Stuart McPherson's prompt Workin' for it at http://dversepoets.com/

Saturday 2 June 2012

Cloud Computing

I had a mental picture once -
I must have been quite small -
of God (I'll call him that), but not
in mankind's image, not
an ancient, bearded guy.
A someone-thing in everything,
in everything on earth.

I think I didn't care too much
for this one God idea.
It didn't seem to fit
but all around me made it clear:
There's No One else in town.
So stuck with Him distributed
and every blob of Him wired in
to all the other blobs...

and this, please note, way way before
computing in a cloud was born.
I wonder then: could I not claim
some intellectual rights?

Friday 1 June 2012

This Poem's in Mufti!

A Young Boy's Magic Shirt

A Turkman tunic
                         "kirlik" -
for life's misfortunes:
                              accidents, disease.
A tribal gift to grant the young boy ease
and happiness,
                      the work - supposedly -
of women blessed by God, from seven squares
of fabric,
             gifts from seven tents.
beads, bells, coins, shells, were all sewn on to pledge
him health, fertility and wealth.
                                             The sign
for length and vigour for the tribal line
was in the ragged, unhemmed lower edge.

What do we know of threats of yesteryear?
In our more sterile times, its magic power
still rattles our cerebral calm -
                                             we bow
to what our learning's lost: its grip on fear.


Semaphore at http://dversepoets.com/ is giving us a masterclass in learning the rules in order to bend them.
My poem above is a sonnet, a version of one I posted many moons ago, but one that never really worked for me in its traditional form. The mufti mentioned above lies in the lineation. If you're wondering what this has to do with the masterclass, just follow the link and see for yourself. I promise that you will not be disappointed!