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Friday 30 November 2012

The Mole

When I had grown too big
and too mature for pedal cars
but was in need of a new war machine
to take my troops (I was the King
of a fearful and a mighty army)
into the hidden depths
beneath the seemingly so solid earth,
I had this idea for a mole --
as I would call it -- a huge burrowing-
into-the-bowels-of-earth- machine.
As luck would have it
mother had a lightweight ringer going spare,
so with the help of nifty addings-on 
(the ringer being one) and nifty take-aways, my old
but very sturdy set of wheels, became
the object of my dreams -- and the envy of my friends.
The rollers from my mother's mangle
I aligned to point the way ahead --
but with the handle turning, they became
drill bits to cut through earth or hardest rock instead.

(years later, watching International Rescue  with my son, 
I'd tell him how the puppet masters
must have stolen my idea. I'd see that weary
Dad-is-off-again expression on his face.

The mole required a crew of six.
We burrowed into mountain sides and
excavated miles of tunnels;
built ourselves a rabbit warren of a base
that would defeat the cleverest enemy
and puzzle him to winkle my men out.
Then we discovered cities deep beneath the oceans;
were charged by herds of subterranean buffalo --
all of which we killed and salted down for food.
And from these tunnels we would sally forth to save the world.

The portal to this secret world, the old oak stump
behind the garden shed -- a false tree stump, of course.
Here sections of an air-raid shelter stood
and leaned against each other, overgrown
by brambles, vetch and moss and overhung by
elderberry trees my Granddad blamed 
for poisoning the ground. They leaned
at crazy angles dropping berries red and black - a sticky mess
we often found. This secret place
was more imagination than real garden space. From here
we burrowed into worlds that even we did not quite understand,
did not entirely relish, that made us partly glad
when meal times came around and thoughts of more hostilities 
were shelved for cake -- what passed for in those days
of post-war rationing -- or what 
the butcher found that week for us. 
Written for the My Heart's Love Songs Make Believe prompt at Poetry Jam

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Lost Boy

Black shapes,
dark, predatory birds,
sky full of them, they fell
and swooped, I shrank
to half my size, ducked
dived, accelerated. Still
they came in ones and twos,
whole squadrons of them at a time.
Then Messerschmitts... machine gun
rattle, somehow soft, like Grandma's pills
spilled on the floor's linoleum.
Some scorched my ears... and I
a vulnerable Tiger Moth.
I flapped my wings, rolled side to side,
but still they came, their fearful hands
reached out like claws to savage me.

I vaguely heard
a Tannoy somewhere -- earphones playing up --
speak of a lost boy. I paid no heed --
I had no heed to spare!
was fully occupied with mortal fight
and frenzied flight. I'd swear on oath
that was the day 
I learnt the body swerve. 
Two came at me from either side.
I ducked again, enjoyed
to see the two collide.

It ended sadly, I'm afraid.
I crashed into a counter,
knocking over a display
and there above the wreckage, with
a Santa's Grotto-Christmas crowd-type backing, glimpsed
my would-be rescuers... and mother's face, 
the face that launched my thousand ships --
but on this one occasion killed
the fantasy stone dead.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Mixed metaphors

In a room that
is an ex-room
of bare walls,floor,
ceiling, piles of
dust and debris,
the decaying
skeleton of
a room that was,
there stands a chair --
a luxury
that's out of place,
or seems to be.
Stark contrast, then:
of vivid red, 
its velvet touch
surrounded by
shambolic room.

Such plushness speaks
in times of great
What does it say
to you? What springs
to mind? blood? rouge?
boudoir? scarlet
woman? knocking 
shop? And do you
see which way my
mind is running?
I'm thinking: flight
of fancy. Dream.
A fantasist.

To me the chair 
is symbol for
the richness of
such fantasy;
the room denotes
its ultimate
its falling short
and leaving us

Tess Kincaid at The Mag provided the above inspirational image as prompt.

Monday 26 November 2012

Stalker : the shadow of a darkness

Yesterday English law caught up with Scottish law in one particular: stalking became a criminal offence. Before yesterday nothing was clear-cut as between, for example, stalking and harassment. Now the offence exists, defined in law.

Sometimes a shade that shaded into darkness,
torn from a darkness,certainly,
though not a darkness that she knew --
a shard of blindness
spiking shadows, bleeding them 
of their half light.

Unnatural, this penetrating umbra
moving as she moved,
pausing if she stopped for breath. It entered her
as thought that was not her
thought, but a formless silhouette of thought,
an alter ego, fragmented and searching for itself.
Did they belong together,
she and it? What
had the two of them in common?
Could ordinary selves
immersed in ordinary lives
and this amorphous wisp of soot-dark smoke
belong as one?

Only once safely home,
with doors and windows locked and bolted,
could she look out and in 
the lamplight sometimes see
s spectre solid as herself.
She had begun to see it as a dancer,
a demonic dancer with a role to dance
in some infernal ballet
on a stage she once had thought was hers. Death
By Slow Degrees the ballet was,
It danced the villain, she the victim.
Act One had been her breakdown.
Since when, its former domination of the stage
had turned into their pas de deux.
Through pure emotion such a story's told,
emotion motionless or moving rapidly --
no time for thought or even breath. Everything
that it had done -- that they now did --
flowed from some shade of sentiment, some 
negativity -- and issued in
a devastating fervour.

One night things changed. Stepped up a gear.
The lamplight caught what she had never seen before:
a face, the unseen face she'd dreamed about, the face
that was her story's face, that formed around the simplest
sights and objects, the way that sounds spill out of silence,
movements from a stasis,
feelings from a block of ice. She jumped.
The curtain fell on a denouement of a sort:
another shape that darkness took, amorphous as before --
but spiked this time by railings black as pitch.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ready for Anything on Stir Up Sunday

Mary for Poetics at dVerse Poets' Pub has set Preparation as a topic for our endeavours.
Be Prepared,
the Boy Scout motto.
What, I wonder, had
Lord Baden-Powell in mind
in choosing that? For what
should all those small boys
be prepared? Should little Jimmy
on his way to school watch out
leat he be ambushed by some hungry
lion or tiger? flattened by a rhino
charging from the vicar's orchard?
a killer monkey stalking him?

I never was a Boy Scout, didnt fancy
all that stress of constant vigilance.
How can you be prepared for......X?

I had Lord Baden-Powell's brother,
shade or spirit teaching me to drive.
Picture if you can, the scene:
approaching a quiet junction,
not much traffic, nothing going on,
just standing on the corner
waiting for the lights to change,
an innocent pedestrian. Slow down.
Watch him! my teacher says.
Potential suicide! Change down.
He could be psyching himself up
to throw himself in front of you.
Under your front wheels. Slow
down and be prepared! Hear that?
Those very words! To be prepared...

Easy enough to make your preparations
if you know what's coming up on the 
itinerary... let us say you have a long
car journey facing you; there might 
be snow: you'll take a shovel, chains,
a thermos flask, warm blankets, clothes,
maybe your book of prayers for
all occasions -- none of which
will help you if the tiger springs, the man
jumps out in front of you, or tons of rock
fall from a cloudless sky, or you go quietly mad.

A word about Stir Up Sunday, which today is. A traditional day in the church year when all the family gather round to take their turn at stirring the Christmas Pudding. It was a great occasion when I was a child, stirring in the huge bowl with a very large wooden spoon. Best of all was throwing in the silver threepenny bits -- and hoping that one would turn up in your slice on Christmas Day

Saturday 24 November 2012


The Reverend Thomas Hardy spreads his arms as wide as they will go, palms turned to heaven, to announce his theme.
The rain falls evenhandedly on the righteous and unrighteous,
he begins, then fixes them with his blood-curdling stare
but far more often on the righteous, the unrighteous having stolen their umbrellas.
He does not laugh, for it is such an ancient joke. Indeed, The Reverend Thomas Hardy does not laugh. Full stop. In truth, it would be difficult to imagine The Reverend Thomas Hardy laughing. Some matronly ladies in the pews beneath the pulpit - his fan club - titter. Further to the back of the church the congregation tuts and whispers. It matters not, The Reverend Thomas Hardy rolls on remorselessly.

Meanwhile, not a million miles away, The Reverend Goronwy Jones, having just completed a dramatic prowl of his huge pulpit like a lion around its enclosure, now hangs across the polished wooden balustrade towards the congregation. He is locked in prayer extemporaire.
Oh, Almighty God, intones said Reverend Goronwy Jones, we do praise and thank Thee for all Thy great benevolence towards us and to all of Thy Creation. We thank Thee too, O Father that Thou art all-wise, dispensing only what is needful to Thy Kingdom here on earth, for Thou has sent in season, the sun to ripen and the rain to water fruit and grain. But Lord, there have been times of late, when flood and lack of faith have tempted us to doubt the workings of Thy wisdom, but when in such inclement weather I feel myself sore tempted, then do I recall the time when long ago Thou didst choose a servant from among us and didst lead said servant to invent the umbrella. We do thank thee Lord for that Divine initiative, for rendering to us all that Thou didst see Thy servants might require.
Some where between the two of them (geographically speaking) we find Henry Miles II. He his talking to his class of Sunday Scholars. An umbrella word or phrase, he is explaining, is used to include a disparate group of objects or ideas in a single reference. You might want to find a term for a wide variety of plants, for example. Or politicians. Religions. He sets them a five minute task to invent an umbrella term. They come up with Parasol, extreme, cuckoo thorny and wet.

Just about this time Mrs Goronwy Jones is visiting her aunt. She has taken a wrong turning and has found herself high up on an exposed ridge at the top of the town. The town is in the middle of a downpour and it is blowing a gale. In fact, it has just turned Mrs Geronwy's umbrella inside-out. Most people would find this a stroke of malfortune, but Mrs Geronwy Jones realises that she has been led to this spot by the spirit, for she is right outside a shop that is displaying in its ample window space its newly patented Unreturnable Umbrellas. So are the faithful faithfully rewarded in this life.

This week Mary at Poetry Jam invites us to write, choosing as title the title of a best selling book.

Friday 23 November 2012

For Life and Love : a paean.

Semaphore (Samuel Peralta) in Form for All at dVerse Poets Pub challenges us to write an acrostic* poem -- a new departure for me.
Friends of Gaia gather round,
Open up your loving hearts
Return the love you have received:
Love the self, that first of much;
Inspire the tired, lack-lustre ones,
Fire them with the Earth's sure touch. 

Earth has bounty still in store.

All creation joins the song
(Nations clamour still for more),
Delights to greet each golden crop
Looks to man to mind the shop 
(Oh,shame, not all crops reach the shelves),
Violence is to ourselves.

Earth, begin again today!
A tad too late for your Thanksgiving, I tried to find a related theme. *Acrostic = The initial letters of each line spell out its theme.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Tell Me If I'm Dreaming

I'm not yet in my teens -- but nearly there!
and as a treat allowed to spend the day with dad.
He works for Spalding, sports manufacturer
as golf club maker, making them by hand --
and that is where we are, his place of work,
but on the roof, looking out across the River Thames,
past Putney Bridge, to where the boat race -- Oxford
versus Cambridge -- is about to start. We watch
until the boats are out of sight -- three cheers,
it's Oxford in the lead! -- and then go down into
the bowels of the factory, there to find 
dad's workshop -- or attelier, as I prefer to call it, 
having recently acquired the word. Dad picks up 
an adze - his favourite tool and I await
with bated breath expecting he will start to shape
a club head... No, it is a rifle that he chooses from
a cupboard, places in his vice and starts to shave the butt.
A woman enters with a half-strung tennis racquet
asking his advice about a problem she's encountered.
I cannot take my eyes off her. She is a younger version
of my mum, for this is how they met. When I do,
I see the former workshop is an aircraft hanger,
and standing at the far end is a Meteor jet fighter.
(Dad worked with Whittle on developing the first
jet engine and later worked on them with 616, the first
jet squadron.) This one, solid looking to begin with,
morphs into a drawing of itself as I look on. 
I recognise the drawing straight away: dad gave it
to me when he came home on a weekend pass. 
It had been drawn inside an empty Camel 20 packet
to show me what the secret plane was like. Imagine then,
how mortified I was to have to burn the box--  and not
to breathe a word about the secret plane to any
of my friends! The hardest thing I ever did that was!

A courier now enters with some crates of brand new clubs.
Dad takes one from its box and swings it gently, testing
weight and balance. As he does, the head falls off and hangs
from the shaft end on a length of leather whipping which
is slowly -- very slowly -- unwinding as we look. 
It is as though he's caught a club head shark 
and now is playing him for all he's worth. 
Alas, the shark is winning -- handsomely. 
He tries another club, and yet another,
seventeen in all, and everyone the same. A golfer --
high profile and professional -- comes in with yet 
another clubhead dangling from yet another shaft. 
dad speaks to him and reassures him. He will fix the club.
He leaves and so do we. We join the queue for the new
trolley bus -- our latest, state-of-the-art means 
of transport home to Mitcham. We find The High Street 
packed with people leaving from the riverside. 
Above their heads we can quite plainly see 
a locomotive, green -- Pacific Class, as I recall from recent
spotting days, huffing and puffing its way towards us.
Well, you will know quite clearly that this was a dream. It was in fact an actual dream which I recorded at the time, recorded because everything in the dream had also occurred in actuality. All, that was, except the fishing rod golf clubs . That occurred many years later. A small detail, I know, but it has always been enough to make me wonder... (And Okay, I guess you can say that none of dad's Meteors morphed into a drawing, but it did have a basis in fact.)

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Play Blind - or Crossing the Sahara.

Now shut your eyes...
Screw 'em, I say! Tight
real tight
you see a sky with clouds and things
all very odd. Not like a sky at all.
So feel your way along the hedge
the fence
and feel where scratchy bits of twig poke through.
Back flat against it now.
No dodging out!
Arms out a bit
away from sides
palms facing back...

I get the Spring Road Busy Body in my ear.
I know her voice.
She says I've knocked the blossoms off.
(I'd like to knock her blossoms off!)
She doesn't like the way my eyes are shut!
Too bad. Can't open them.
Must keep them screeeewed up tight.
Says I'm being ruuuude!

You reach the end. It's open desert now.
Crossing the Sahara. 
This is where you want to cheat.
But not to peep.
Don't let the light get in your brain.

You're on your own out here.
Remember where things are?
The road. Parked cars. Lamp posts.
The square is booby-trapped with paving slabs
sticking up odd angles. Trip you up.

If you can do this well enough
for long enough
you go unblind --
see things you never saw before:
amazing black holes everywhere -
in sky and in Sahara sand...
army tanks perhaps on fire
huge gun turrets are turning in the sun...
beasts with fabulous great heads.

You're bumping into things.
Recycle bins. Food kettles. Cars
and clumps of nettles.
Ramp. Steps. The litter bin.

The pictures in your head keep changing.
Like a drug. Could be a trip
to set you in a spin.
Just in case there might be any doubt, this is based on a game I saw the children playing round our way. Some of the comments are based on instructions given to younger children by the born leader of the group. (I wish to make it clear that I, personally, have never wanted to knock anybody's blossoms off!)

Tuesday 20 November 2012

More things there are than this world dreams of

Three years and one day after he'd retired
the coastguard cottages came up for sale.
He bought the one they'd lived in, he and Jan,
when he had been the guard along that coast.

From colleagues they'd received a whirly line,
a carriage clock -- and his binoculars.
The latter he had used to study the 
sea birds -- in truth too powerful, but still

he'd persevered and made himself a name.
Two years in their new home and Jan had died.
He'd found no use for glasses after that,
and so they'd hung forlornly from their hook

to snuggle up for warmth to Jan's old  coat.
First thing each morning now he'd take the path
of stones that Jan had laid to the cliff top
and sit and watch the sun come up -- or not.

First anniversary of his Jan's death
he took his lap top with him on his walk
and sat and watched the video they'd made,
the two of them together in the bay.

The day was windy so he'd left his coat,
soaked through the night before, out on the line --
and playfully, had pegged Jan's coat beside
it, telling them No hanky panky, not

until I'm back! Up on the cliff as he
had run the video, he'd heard her voice
as background sounds to their amazing -- but
quite silent--  shots. Disturbed, he'd made for home.

The coats were missing from the line. What's more,
the front door stood ajar. Inside... nothing.
Not until the bedroom. There they were.
Laid side by side, arms around each other.

Watching them appeared to spark them into
action, for now they rolled around, writhing,
opening and closing  rhythmically,
swallowing each other and contorting

into shapes he afterwards could not put
into words. Then came the sounds of laughter,
kissing, grunts and groans... That was the moment
he first saw the wading bird. Pure white,

it stood high up on his tall tallboy,two
green eyes locked on to him, its long curved beak
opening and closing rhythmically
like the coats. The sounds must come from it! he

thought. Soon the sounds embraced Jan's voice. Its warm
distinctive intonation was too much:
He left the room, the cottage, Jan; ran down
the path to disappear for ever from

his friends -- who still get messages from him:
texts recounting endlessly the strangest
happenings -- of which this tale tells just
a few. They come from some black cyber hole.

For the image which forms the basis for this prompt I am indebted to Tess Kincaid at The Mag

Monday 19 November 2012

Out of its depth, the neighbourhood watch

Beware of dreams and other idle thoughts.
To this or that one they confide
the wonders of a great cathedral nave,
impart the inspiration for a masterpiece
in paint or sound, and on occasions have been known 
to disclose all the workings for
some new break-through machinery. 

By contrast, on the likes of me they lay
the burden of dark secrets not to be disclosed --
secrets I  would treat them well to be without.
Their latest confidence, bequeathed
through thoughts that I was not controlling at the time,
but letting them run free, was clearly worked out
in advance, before they saddled me with this:-

We have a squad of killer babies in our town.
There is no doubt. Coincidences come
too frequently. And each time I've been steered
their way to see. First time: across the square
a row of trampled snails... and there, six yards
beyond the row, a fluffy toy, a tiny, woolly lamb.
So, not convinced? Try this for size: next thing,

a hedgehog in the roadway. Dead, of course. The gardener,
who lives across the road from me, has said
it died of some toxicity -- and not a hundred miles away
a baby's dummy lay. What better instrument,
I ask, for one so young to use for poisoning?
Then just this last weekend, a fox cub we first saw
in spring... found in the gutter. Bloodied. Head bashed in.

This was the babies' top-most topping yet --
they still have not, to my uncertain knowledge, struck
an actual person dead. No doubt they're working up to it!
But now, apologies... the fox... how do I know? How am I sure?
Not fifteen yards away, a baby's plastic rattle. Split 
from top to bottom by the blow! And so, each escapade 
becomes more vicious than the last.

It's true I have not seen these killer babies yet.
Imagine them to meet at night, but have no clue
how they achieve these meets. Maybe the birds
are utilised... the cell is organised through tweets --
but that does not explain the no doubt ultra-strange
logistics of their meets. How could small babies manage 
them? And what are parents doing at these times?

Sunday 18 November 2012

Exit means Yes.

Today we shall consider...
(reveals it with a flourish)this:
our current scene of crime.

Look well --
with fresh eyes if you will.
But whose eyes? Choice
determines focus. 

Are you to be:
Investigating Officer?
forensic scientist?
Lover? Mother? Medic...? Yes,
this is a rape scene that we view.

World war artists were forbidden
to depict
the dead or devastated bodies that they saw.
They chose instead
the shattered buildings and torn trees
to be their representatives.

All rape is violent.
Here, torn plastic sheeting round the door
is nothing less -- indicative of more --
than the torn underclothes
of a once-decent space --
the MORE might be
the ruptured hymen. 

For sure, someone has penetrated, forced his way
beyond the limits set -- that EXIT sign,
blood red... I wonder... did he take that for a YES?

And through into forbidden space... what there?
The famished tree of Good and Evil in the yard,
still with a few leaves attached,
leans to the field and scatters
blossoms and dewdrops... finds
no answer to the way
our sense of homelessness
plays globally today.
What images would Browning find
if he came back this way?
An Embarrassment of riches! Sincere thanks to Claudia in Poetics at dVerse Poets for the stimulation of some wonderful images from the photographs of Terry S. Amstutz. Please visit his site. I guarantee you will not be disappointed

Saturday 17 November 2012

How Much You Want?

The lift girl took a fancy to her blouse --
my daughter's. Every time we'd travel
with her in her lift, whether up or down ,
I'd see her finger it and smile.
Nice, dearie!, she would say. How much?
And every time my daughter would just smile
and shake her head, turn slightly pinkish
and the girl would ask again: How much?

I thought it strange. Though some clothes 
were in great demand, the blouse was very like
the ones the locals wore round town --
embroidered in the same half folksy style,
with just the motifs differing: hers Teddy
bears and dolls; theirs pine trees wolves and trolls.
(One hotel guest disposed of all her husband's clothes
and went home with a suitcase full of useless currency.)

Daily beside the hotel swimming pool
illegal currency exchanges on-going all the while --
and all beneath the noses of the far-
from-secret Secret Officers in far-
from-plain-clothes suits, with half-
mile-wide lapels - suits that only they could buy.
How much you want? and Give you... echoed
quite like laughter round the pool.

And then one evening during dinner:
a commotion. An Officer type Spiv --
lapels at 10 to 2 -- had arrested on the hotel beach
a young girl for soliciting. She'd cloned --
I swear to heaven -- the very blouse my daughter
still was wearing. Some sort of badge or sign
those motifs -- so the inference was that all the guests 
soon drew. My daughter didn't wear the blouse again.
I will not divulge at this stage where in the world these events took place - thought some might like to guess. My daughter at the time was ten years old.

Friday 16 November 2012

Lourd on my Hert

Victoria C Slotto at dVerse Poets' Meeting the Bar suggests we attempt a poem with literary - or other - allusions to another work of art. I have chosen a poem by Hugh MacDiarmid who has long been perhaps my most constant influence. If I were to be allowed two poems on my desert island, I would want them both to be long ones, and would choose two by this man: his great masterpiece, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle and On a Raised Beach . Today's choice is a lightsome thing - but don't let that fool you into thinking him a lightsome poet!

Lourd on my Hert

Lourd on my hert as winter lies The state that Scotland's in the day. Spring to the North has aye come slow But noo dour winter's like to stay For guid And no' for guid! O wae's me on weary days When it is scarce grey licht at noon; It maun be a' the stupid folk Diffusin' their dullness roon and roon Like soot Nae wonder if I think I see A lichter shadow than the neist I'm fain to cry: 'The dawn, the dawn! I see it brakin' in the East, But ah --It's juist mair snaw!
..................................... Lourd, heavy : dour, hard : wae, woe guid, good : licht, light : mair, more maun, must : neist, next : snaw, snow And here, my reply -- which strikes me now as more a parody - something I'd not intended:- To Hugh MacDiarmid I take your drift, your Bardic thoughts for England's state lies parlous too. It's not the seasons -- snow or sun -- but self-inflicted pain I rue. We long for gilt It's guilt we see. We all are drawn into the stew... God damn it man, will no one bless the stupid folk we've set in charge who've caused -- and go on causing -- our distress? It's loot man, loot, keeps good times oot! If all you've got to draw your tears are shadows lightening in the East, you'll get no sympathy from me; your dawn will come -- this time or neist! but as for me... I scrimp in abject poverty!

Thursday 15 November 2012

The Moment that Never Was

For Poetry Jam's prompt, Under the Big Top, this is a complete rewrite of an earlier Poem, (see here)
To publicise the big top on the green,
clock high  above the square,
town hall to church, a cable stretched,
pulled taut, on which a small clown rides
a penny farthing bicycle. ( In truth, more like
a ha'penny farthing fairy cycle than
the real McCoy.) Across the handlebars
a bendy pole, a bucket at each end.

The  crowd below looks up and holds 
its one collective breath.
And then: a sudden gust.
A gasp.
Explosive, for
the vicious blast has  scattered leaves. 
He's stopped.
Sways wildly for an endless  moment --
as if time's flow has stopped.
He sways, leans left, leans right. Repeats.
Retreats -- reverses half a yard,
then stops again. Another wave.
Such grand insouciance! As though
there never was a thought,
a possibility that he might fall...

He waggles for a second his long pole,
splashing the buckets' contents on
the upturned faces of his audience.
A final wave and he resumes his ride.
The moment gone that never was...
except we thought it so.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

My Most-Remembered Lie

The one that haunts, keeps coming back...

Friday afternoon: the class debate.
Dicky Bird (Englsh, Literature and Grammar,
Lower School) has just this moment
introduced his theme (half-promising,
the way he always does, we all could be
M.Ps. one day): Meccano in
the School Curriculum?  And now,
by way of limbering up, 
he's going round the room inviting
us to say if we possess Meccano 
sets at home; and if so, which; and
how they figure in our leisure hours.
(Sets range from 1 to 10. Set 5 or 6
would indicate a lucky bunny.)

He gets to me. Set 10! I say.
The whole class looks with incredulity.
He offers me the chance to backtrack 
just a bit, but I am adamant. Set 10!
I say again. He starts to list out all
the parts set 10 includes. I nod at each,
stick to my guns! They start to grin.
Then giggle. The more they do so,
the more I nod. Truth is -- one version of --
I have set 8 plus set 9A. 9A
converts set 9 to 10 -- but not, alas,
set 8. I'm almost there, but lacking
set 8A. I have convinced myself --
almost -- it's near enough to pass for truth.

And I keep thinking now... perhaps
he saw the spark, perhaps he knew
I should have been an M.P. after all.
Meccano Steam shovel. Image fromWikipedia

Tuesday 13 November 2012


Verdun, an ancient fortress town strategically placed on the road to Paris. It has a long history of siege and conflict. During W.W.II it became a symbol of French resistance when it survived a long and terrible assault from vastly superior german troops. The painting by Felix Vallotton was contributed as this week's prompt by Magpie Tales

Sharp. Angular. The forms
man brings to bear. How
apt! Snapped shut or open.
Scissor-wise. Knives 
in pincer movements cut.
Shred. softer forms
that Nature spread
in kinder days.
Man's browns
have muddied
purer greens. Where pastures were
strange landscapes have replaced
their peace with heave
and blast of earth.

I say: if ever this great onslaught ends
(somewhere beyond the death of friends
I do not doubt),
then shall the landscape
fall into a silence, speak
the death of speech,
the death of sapiens. Only
the homo in us will survive.

I dare to say of this: if ever it should end --
the stuttering machine gun madness;
exploding earth and cries of pain;
then shall we hear:
no birdsong;  whispers
from no furry creatures
in the non-existent undergrowth;
no rustling of dead leaves.
No sounds beyond the sighings of 
the dead in search of graves.

If it had eyes, this landscape 
would lie silent, staring into space,
a dumb and broken thing. See now:
beyond the small hill's brow
shapes piled that might be corpses --
or fallen trees... or simply shadows
thrown by the light of hell.

I say again: if ever this great onslaught ends
there will be nothing left for light to show --
except the most impenetrable darkness
man has ever seen.

Monday 12 November 2012

This be the planet

This is the planet that nurtured life
from the moment life began,
the way a man will blow on a spark
in order to kindle a flame.

This is the planet that welcomed life
and awarded it top spot,
gave it the keys to its atmosphere,
and the freedom of ocean and rock.

This is the planet that stocked its shelves
with all the essentials for life:
trace elements, carbon and vitamins --
and left it to fashion its prize. 

This is the planet that held its breath,
preserving what others had lost --
and preserved it well until man appeared
and fiddled with all the controls.

This is the planet that healed itself
with feedback, nudge and tweak,
until it was pushed way over the edge
into Chaos and Prospect Bleak.

This is the planet out on  a limb
in need of a settings change.
Its final, desperate hope is to
recapture its maker's range.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Peacemaker Extraordinary

He was big, much bigger than big,
a mountain from Jamaica.
Most days his voice boomed through the corridors,
shattering what peace there might have been.
The school was two thirds Chelsea fans.
The other third -- less one -- supported Arsenal.
Malcolm was that one: he would be Manchester
United to his dying day. He had
a string of names they'd given him, the boys:
Big Mal was one; Mal-ignant was another
(never to his face); Mal-icious yet a third.
He'd modelled himself on his childhood hero,
Malcolm X,* just recently assassinated, so
 a martyr now to boot -- and very much alive.

At Stamford Bridge the hero in those days
was Peter Osgood.** Monday after Monday,
Mal would enter like a conqueror. We'd hear
him chanting from afar: Osgood, no good!
Osgood, no good! No other person could
have managed that and lived. Amazing then
the staff should christen him The Peacemaker,
but so they did. Had he not stood between
those warring fans, between that mighty rock
and that hard place, our place of learning
might have been undone. You had to think
of bold Horatius before the wild Etruscans***
at the bridge -- not Stamford, though. Yet he
had one horde facing him, but not like Malcolm, with
another at his back. We never knew why Malcolm
made this stand, but all applauded that he did.

One Monday Mal was sick. A spate of fights
broke out that no one could control. I tried...
I campaigned long and hard that Mal should receive
The Nobel Prize, but nothing ever came of it.
* here
** here
*** here

Peace is the apt order of the day for ManicdDaily's prompt at DVerse Poets

Saturday 10 November 2012

if art should fail humanity...

If you could find a place
where no one would find you,
if you could paper that place
with a paper to suit you,
if you could make a garden
to surround your lonely place
and live there like a hermit
'til you knew what human was,
if you could send a post card
delivered to my door
to describe in single syllables
what human life is for,
and if the world at large
could be invited in,
I wonder... would that open
your brave new world to sin?
And if you took to painting
would sin besmirch the vision
of your world seen at its best
or seduce you from your crusade for
explicit this, explicit that -- 
in which the vast majority
by definition don't believe.
(Blessed are they 
that have not seen
and yet believe... etc, etc.)

If you could keep your place
for both the secular and holy,
free of false dichotomies,
a land of god and no-god,
seeing god as both a shorthand
and a longhand form of art,
seeing art as sign and semaphore,
a dance with flags and dazzling lights,
unverbalised theology
bringing music to the sights --
a cannabis for scriptural faith...
And if you left your haven
to dance down dirty streets
would it all be out of kilter,
would you need the magic philter,
explicit sex and revelation,
to return you to your station?
If you could paint a tenet
for a faith that's yet to be,
would a fine brush or a wide brush
or a roller set you free?
Would you nurture a small parcel
or a landscape or some scree?
And if art should fail humanity,
where then would prayer be?

Friday 9 November 2012

Form for all - Than Bauk

Wild wind, I fear
your roar, hear and
revere your feats:

tiles thrown down streets --
stuff for tweets; stuff
that skeets on pride.

But met outside,
Bonafide friends,
wind, bide as treat!
Gay Reiser Cannon provides this rather tricky prompt at dVerse Poets Form for all. Please visit to see how the rhyme scheme is constructed.

Thursday 8 November 2012

A Card in a Shop Window

Seen among the Lost Pet cards: Have you seen them? Two lost faiths, much loved and greatly missed: A fluffy kitten, black and white -- answers to the name of adam (meaning earth -- pristine, of course). Also, a snow-white puppy -- comes when you call eve (life- giving - as in the biosphere of all life, everywhere). When found, they'll likely be together. Please search the garden and the potting shed, beneath the apple tree, etc.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Private View

A hundred paintings on the wall,
all thrown together thoughtlessly -
enough they could be crowded in
with no blank wall to spare, now
looking down at people on display:
Conceptual Dressers -- are they? -- or
Performance Artists  maybe? Some
new genre for the in-crowd to go on about?
Motifs interchanged before your very eyes:
motives confused, confusing or Confucius-
like -- you'll know them by their too much
nibbling at their cheese on sticks, and too
much sipping of expensive wines. So where's
the art in that? the pictures ask. The people,
they point out, are frameless every one. And so,
these strangers who keep peering up at them,
these voyeur-viewers-concept dressers-per-
formance people with no boundaries,
all without straight edges set to crop 
them into manageable wholes and hold
each whole together, are one conglomerate mass,
devoid of individual voices, setting out a style.
You hear it in their talk, the formless way
it spills across the gallery, the vague
waft of the hand to indicate
where Post-Impressionism colonises
something known as  Luminism. or
a perfect balance is achieved
between Expressionism and ingestion
of the spirit. More Burgundy, like blood,
lands SPLAT! upon the floor.

Linking to dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night #69

Tuesday 6 November 2012

My First Computer Program - and why God's not around much, these days.

There was a time 
a moment only,
no more than that...
I'd written my
first, earliest
original --
shall I go on? --
computer program
Draw a Man
and watched it run
(no help from me)
and draw a man --
not just a man,
the very man
that I had thought of
days before
the program was complete.
So now I thought
See, if you will,
what I can do!--
for I was God,
was master of
my universe,
the small world of
a yellow screen --
that could be green
or blue or red
with one small movement
of my hand. I could
control my uni-
verse, the man
was in my power
for I'd created him.

There must have been
another time,
a time before,
when I'd been God
and made my mark
(my very first),
pencilled or crayoned,
I gave it sense.

First turn at being 
the First Cause!

And was it just
like that for God?
He made the world,
the solar system,
couldn't stop;
went on to make
the Milky Way,
The Sculptor,
Virgo, Ursa
Major and the rest?

And is He out there now?
Millions of light
years off, creating
So far away
they never will
be seen by us?

Is that why He
seems so remote
and not involved
with us these days?

Monday 5 November 2012

Choice and no choice

Too late to make a start,
to write my life the way it might have been,
like a poetic form grown line by line,
each line composed
of four or five well chosen words,
each line exact,
weighed in a careful balance,
balanced to a nicety...
A common fret?
No, more than that. The awful thing:
that this is always so,
a much for the young boy
as this old man.

No time to drive a rhythm through,
empowering life
to something more than prose.
That chance was gone
before you held a pen.

Not easy to determine
(as you yourself will know)
the sequence that the words should take...
Harder for the boy,
he cannot know
best order changes constantly,
that we
are all collateral casualties
of some world/universal order
that changes as we go
but can't be changed.

Not so:
collateral wounds do not exist;
all wounds are core, the end 
and very essence of a war.
The deaths,the man/the boy 
were choices someone made,
choices someone weighed,
thought justified.

The sculptor doesn't choose. He waits
until an idea comes to him, one that says
this XXX will fit your marble block
exactly sir. It's there
and waiting to get out.

Free choice a human right.
No one's pleading that he's
 Just obeying orders, not these days,
they're simply doing the wrong thing:
the philistine who helps to shape our country,
the rogue who goes to make our laws,
the shaman who with magic stone 
will keeps himself in power,
the leaders who start wars.

It's far too late for choice; it always was.
You have your block of stone.
I am linking this to Poet's Pantry at Poets United and to the Poetry Jam prompt Choice

Sunday 4 November 2012

light seeps

Nature scribbles on a scraperboard crafted from man's craftsmanship: where stood a human logic: cottage = love in solid form of walls, roof, door and windows, hearth and fire, the labyrinthine logic of the fire has won the day. The door stops nothing now, protecting no one. All shall be free until the brambles stop it up again. light seeps -- a grain or two a day. No more -- to let the darkness in. Those who were here had fashioned love, carved it of the hardest stone, impervious to gloom. Meanwhile, stucco and plaster flesh peels from the charred bones to the floor. Small, furry creatures amble in and out, and what is wild and rooted leans against this skeleton as it decays, reclining in the sun. Light idles time away, plays with its finger paints upon the wall, forgets that what it sees as squiggle pad is carcass, and as such is worthy of respect. But this is time that will march on, cannot turn back, cannot reverse the bramble tide. Nature at least will give a decent burial. ...........................................
Enormous thanks to Brian Miller and SueAnn (see her work here), the first for masterminding an inspirational prompt, the second for the picture fest at dVerse ~ Poet's Pub Poetics - Through the Artist's Lens

Saturday 3 November 2012

Ere the first sad petal falls

It always was this way. My age perhaps,
my inner age, the age I've always been,
that I see beauties in a flower long past it's best --
not there when it was in its prime.

The rose that blooms a step too far,
gets over big, too heavy for its stem,
its face too blown. Perhaps
too sated for the bees that visit it,

but in whatever cause, it oversteps the mark,
cannot contain its shape or hue.
If only nature had a reset button for the flower --
as that hid wrapped inside the human brain.

I understand the present beauty of the flower.
Inclusive loveliness.
A montage of the graces that have flown.
To me it says: Perfection never was.

Decay rips silently inside the ache for more.
The artist knows not when to stop.
There is no point at which two visions meet:
This vision of the future on a view of now.

What once seemed consummation of
our hopes, the rose's full potential, its
maturity, was but the master's small 
maquette for what was still to come.

Back then I gave it all my admiration,
but now it has me locked in its embrace,
defenseless in the face of these new charms
and ravished into ecstasy.

Friday 2 November 2012

Ezra Pound at the Stock Exchange

Later he would blame the screens,
the way they'd mesmerised him. Not
the screens themselves, maybe, not --
no certainly not -- their one-eyed stare
straight into his eyes, and not their
flicker that might try odd times
to grab a brain wave passing by...
No, none of these: the culprits were the figures
and the way they danced and flounced across 
the screen, they way their hips would wiggle
and their thick lips pout. The way he's think
they were the front row of The Windmill
or The Follies in their prime. And he
in his own private box, could sing:-

    You can hear the girls declare
    "He must be a Millionaire."
    You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
    You can see them wink the other eye
    At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

Figures of fun: the dollar, yen and pound
among them, skeletons seen in the round,
seen by one small part of his fantastic mind
that put the other parts to sleep, allowed
no doubts or caveats. he'd brush them all aside:
I'm sticking tails back on the donkeys
at a party, he'd protest... but more than that,
I'm not completely blindfolded - I sense where donkey
is and where he's going next. I have a nose for such 
things, such I cannot fail.And more than that:
the party that I'm at is MINE! Come join!
The future's all in futures and derivatives.

    But thinking pounds had put this in his mind:-
    His mind had stretched and stretching, had become
    The World's Sargasso Sea,
    a calm stretch in a frenzied ocean
    where bright ships left you this or that in fee. *

But it wasn't just for self that he'd forgo all meals,
would work all night. He was the posse out to clean
the town for all posterity, the Tommy tangled in
the barbed wire on The Somme, the hero of his people, out
to make his mark. God for John Bull, the Kingdom and
this Bank! he'd cry. God for the killing that
we'll make! God save The White House, Prince Harry and 
the Pope! This time it will be different! This time
we cannot fail! and so he played another million
on an outside chance that cotton would come up again...
In fact, he saw it more as knickers coming down,
for figures had a sexual charge and mone was orgasmic.
As counterweight he payed out twenty thousand grand 
to say that concrete would be hitting a new low.

    With Futura has no man a house of good stone
    Stone cutter is kept from his stone
    weaver is kept from his loom
    with FUTURA
    wool comes not to market
    FUTURA is a murrain, futura
    blunteth the needle in the maid's hand
    and stoppeth the spinner's cunning.
    Corpses are set to banquet
    at behest of FUTURA. ***

Each time he lost, he laughed it off with all 
the confidence of one with little evidence. So weak
was it in fact that he would laugh again and sing 
the mantra that was going round the bank: 
What you see is all there is! Why should 
he ask for more? Intuitive predictions had got 
him where he'd been. He would be there again.

    So if there's nothing in the whole of this,**
    nothing that is quite my own, 
    still this is me, he told himself.

No matter what you're down you double up next time
around -- and add a constant for your profit said
the small part for his brain, now helplessly
intoxicated by thoughts of wealth to come, I only
need to get it right the once> Come join me -- and play on!
* and ** are (slightly) modified quotes from Ezra Pound's Portrait d'une Femme . *** is a passage from Canto XLV. Here "FUTURA" is my word. Pound's was USURA, from usury, meaning the charging of exorbitant interest.

Written for dVerse Poets: Meeting the Bar for which Anna Montgomery has set us to write on Postmodern (High and Low Art)

Thursday 1 November 2012

How was it for you? -- A very unspooky Halloween.

A massive pile of funny sweets
and other stuff to pass as treats
had been assembled in the hall
in preparation for the call
of spectres who might be around
or denizens of hell's dark pit
who'd come to haunt us for a bit.

We waited hours, and all in vain,
disturbed by neither hoot nor chain,
until the sound of ghostly --what?--
palm or fist of ghost or crackpot?
Alas, no spectre rang our bell,
no entity at all from hell,
just this one, insistent thump chink chink --
the bell, I found was on the blink
and none but this fraternity
had had the spunk to bother me.

A nurse there was, intent to minister,
but nothing there you might call sinister;
a fairy too, complete with wand,
a gorgeous redhead and a blonde --
enough to tempt me to abscond,
but nothing there to shock or fright...
were others hiding from the light...
until I saw their type of fun:
the nurse had pulled a taser gun.

A cowboy stood with legs real bowed,
a lassoo and a lamp that glowed,
but pitifully, none too bright --
it couldn't pierce the murky night.
The rain was coming down in sheets;
Riot inc. Beware the streets
a tattered, blood-stained banner read --
persuading me to head for bed.