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Monday 31 December 2012

just don't blame the New Year when it all goes pear shaped

What makes us think
that when the old 
year clicks its heels 
and gives way to the new
some switch is thrown,
some pattern changed,
some gravitas is born?

Time, once a mighty monarch, used
its influence on man's affairs,
then Einstein relegated it --
An adjunct now, half lost in space,
it has no arbitrary switch
to change the outcomes year on year --
nor would we profit if it had. 

The year is dying, let it die, *
but mourn its passing, do not cheer.
Bad though it was for me and mine,
it still deserves its due respect.
The bad was never down to it,
of good it too was innocent.
Ring in the new! Same as, same as...

It's true, we'll hope
with one accord
the New Year will be magical --
and hope should be revered.
So foster it 
with peals of bells
and ring the New Year in!
* Alfred Lord Tennyson. here


Sunday 30 December 2012

Change and Decay

It might have been the same bench -- only, no,
surely not the one we sat on years ago...
if so, it's weathered well... the rest has not...
the spot where Jake and I played rounders -- gone.
I see us clearly, though: padlocking our bikes...
is that the tree we chained them to whilst we --
heroes in our own conceit -- made for the beach?
We trusted precious life and limb down concrete steps.
Precarious and steep. Wind-blown. A hundred plus.
And then as if that was too little, leaned far  out across 
the rail into the void, to photograph the strata in 
the rocks. We hardly saw a soul the whole way down.

I've called the halt to let my eyes adjust, to let
the brain catch up, adjust to all that's alien here.
Jake and I lost touch a lifetime -- going on -- ago.
Married now -- a girl and boy who think this place is grand.
But even so, I can't help wondering what Jake would make
of it if he were here... the hurdy-gurdies, gaudy signs,
the loud amusements everywhere. Where once
the steps, two cable cars -- Come on mum, Dad, we're
going down on them. Come on! Wow, great! Come
ON!-- But Jake and I would never find the strata now.
They're hid away behind the cafes, gift shops and 
fast foods. Blocked off by this NEW VIEW VIRT--UAL
EXPERIENCE IN COLOUFUL 3-D. But as I look, I see
the two of us, the beach games and the surfing that
we did, the cycling and the climbing on the cliffs.
And what I see before me fades to insignificance beside 
the changes that I feel -- the frailties of flesh, the 
changes taking place in me: things  I did and can 
no longer do: the cataracts for two, the loss 
of puff and legs that will not go as far or fast as then.
Written for the prompt Change and Turns by Claudia in Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub

Saturday 29 December 2012

Why the Revolution Failed - or the dubstep goat challenge

My tale is one not widely known
of Citizen Smith* in battledress
performing for the overthrow
of known society -- Oh yes!

Installed upon the glass roof of
the public lavatories for men
(strategically placed, please note
on Tooting Broadway's thoroughfare)
with traffic surging all around,
and clad in khaki battledress,
loudly there he did proclaim
the day of revolution come! Oh, yes!

Alas, he'd gone a step too far -- Oh,
no, my friends, not the glass roof...!
but requisitioning that new phenomenon, 
the dubstep goat, promoting it to
brigadier and making it the mascot of 
his rag-tag, hip hop, bob-tail gang.

The poets -- 2-step garage; UKG; 
and jungle, loaded up with bass --
and artists of all kinds, performance
and the rest from Tooting's Steppe 
lands -- Broadway to the likes of us --
as as far as Figges Marsh** and beyond,
gathered in a protest march calling to
the dubstep goat by name and using certain 
words they knew he'd understand, asking him 
to dance. And dance he did (for long 
ago the goat had joined the hip hops
and aligned himself with them) beginning
with Rose Madder's Studio for dance --
where it was found that having four 
good legs he could pull off a solo
pas de deux. The fashion spread
and he was in such great demand, he
added to his repertoire: duos for jig, 
for jog, a new drummed dubstep, hip hop, 
hot spot, pot belly roast and more... Oh yes!!

Boast as he might -- and boast he did --
our mighty Citizen, the revolutionary Smith,
was quite unable to control his so-called
mascot. Every roll of military drum just
made him dance more off the mark. He had
become a filament, free of the bulb
that once had hemmed him in. He burned, 
he sizzled, flared, contorted, turned;
he flipped and flopped. he leaped and dropped,
crouched on the floor, flew through the air
and all who saw him thought him taught
by D.J. Hatcha or Fred Astaire.***

Without the dubstep goat, Smith knew
the Revolution doomed. Nor could he use
a goat with such poor discipline. He called
his council to their final meet -- his H.Q.
located in the box room of his mother's neat
and tidy semi- with views across the Lido.
and there he deemed the enterprise defunct.
* here
** here
*** D J Hatcha here
Written for The dubstep goat challenge at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Friday 28 December 2012


I am writing a novel
in which nobody speaks.
Also, in this novel
nobody acts from any
particular volition --
which is to say, that
nobody does anything
which might possibly
be construed as having
some significance for
plot or for character 
development. But when
I say that no-one speaks,
I mean just that: no more
and no less. Each and
every one of my characters
moves like a shadow, has 
no discernible motivation
imparted by the novel.

Here then is the first
significance: no language
no volition -- or is it
vice versa? Here then is
the first conundrum -- not
that it matters or will
take anybody very far. 
There is no music, so no
backing to accompany their
slow drift to... perdition?
(Recall: the novel is  not
yet finished, will not at
the present moment resolve 
all questions might be asked
of it.) There are no tele-
phones... but then again, 
why would they want them?

Here then are chapters one 
through to ten of thirteen,
shortened, but otherwise as 
I have penned them -- as I
hope you will rwlise in 3D --
superimposed on top of one
another. (You have realised
already that with no volition,
no essential motivation, even
warfare will be peaceful, no?)

Before a row of houses sits
a rabbit on a burned out car
peeling a Jaffa orange with
a Bowie knife. Other rabbits
sit on other vehicles (tanks,
tractors, tricycles and the
odd barrow) peeling a variety
of other fruits - and vegetables
(apples, grapes, bananas, pears
and radishes) with other knives.
As they peel they watch with
interest the magpies and the
crows pick over Christmas debris.

In the sky above them wheel back
and forth two flocks of starlings,  
but always flying in the contrary
direction to each other. Therefore,
from time to time they fly full tilt
and through each other. There are
casualties... yes, of course there 
are, as birds collide and fall, as 
dead as stones, down to the ground,
disturbing the more peaceful rabbits 
as they peel. Disturbed, but not
essentially concerned.

                    Chapter thirteen
cannot be written until the issues 
raised in ten and then elaborated
in eleven are resolved. As of now
Chapters ten and, to a lesser extent
maybe, eleven, seem quite unpenable.
Here, though, are those issues about
which I have been compelled to write.
Written in response to Anna Montgomery's prompt
 Postmodern (Experimental)  at dVerse Poets - Meeting the bar: Critique and Craft

Saturday 22 December 2012

Déjà vu?

It always sounds like déjà vu
but did not feel that way.
We were on holiday,
had cycled far, my friend and I,
on too much cider and in too much sun.
The road seemed endless --
no habitation and no side roads to explore --
and we were looking for a place to rest
and to escape the sun. I said:
Just round this next bend there's a café!
(I'd never been this far before -
as Freddy knew.) Yeah, where?
he grunted, disbelievingly.
Just round this bend. Beside a pub --
well, was a pub, but is a church, these days.

And so it proved. Exactly as I'd said --
except the church that was a pub
was neither now, a sad, neglected hulk.

I had not spoken out of memory,
I could not even claim a feeling in my gut,
I'd said it not quite knowing why --
but having said it, stuck to it
and tried to fake a certain confidence,
but confidence I had not felt.
I was not even confident
that it was me who'd spoken.

Refreshed with swigs of water and stale buns
(Good for soaking up the alcohol, so we were told),
we took a peep next door.
What I've called church had been a chapel
and was now a shell with leaking roof
and debris everywhere -- except a space
that must have been the bar one time.
Here was a tiny manger scene,
a mini Bethlehem, no less, almost intact,
and at the back, a banner peeling from the wall,
A Peaceful Christmas to you all!

MY WISH TO ALL -- A BLESSED CHRISTMASTIDE! ....................................................... This may be my last post of 2012, but then again nothing in this life is THAT certain...

Friday 21 December 2012

Two Nights Ago

A thousand little Santa helpers
spilling out across, along, and up and down our road,
log-jamming it to much great ire
from motorists reduced to hooting 
from the lay-by by our house --
ignored by Santa's little army
shaking Gothic wooden boxes
Your money or your life! 
All heralding the big, sleigh man himself --
a baubled, brightly fairy light lit, dressing gown-wrapped guy
atop a sleigh that wobbled slightly
 as it took the tight right hander out of sight.
I dashed out - well, I would, it's what you might expect -
camera in hand, only to be thwarted by
a Russian Sailor elfy thing, who said he 
knew me from way back. When we were through 
with chatting, his boss with the big sack of toys
was no where to be seen.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Rivets of Darkness

There was darkness
and the darkness that was there
was on the face of everything.
And there was fire.
Cold fire, blue steel fire, semblance of fire,
semblance of light, fire without promise or threat. 
And there were figures, shadows of figures,
figures figured against the light, 
a semblance of figures, but figuring hardly at all, 
in a huddle, huddled round flames lacking light.

All this was there
because there was God, tongue-tied and silent,
a murmurless mummer of God, miming creation,
re-making in mime, His one misbegotten, the one 
for which a God could never forgive himself,
for which He Had from Day One made Himself
the invisible part of His world.

Only the hands,
the hands of a weaver stand out in their 
intricate movements, balletic with grace,
weavers in space, weavers of time
and spinners of space.
And the eyes with the hands...
two halves of a coin spun as one,
but in more than one space.

And then there was grace,
pure grace in a visible darkness hung like a blanket in space.
Impenetrable darkness, impassable darkness, 
a God-produced darkness that covered the face
of creation and darkened the grace.
Eyeball to eyeball the light and the darkness,
the misbegotten and the misbegotten's grace, 
stared back at each other like ghosts of the past.
Creation had needed the rivets of darkness to hold it together.

But always the hands were mesmeric!
One chink of light as if curtains were parting
and two dollies swam into view.
Not dolls, but mummies perhaps; inhuman,
but human in form, devoid of all detail,
as featureless as landscape was at the world's beginning,
the hands now a shadow of themselves,
hands behind hands, hands manoeuvering 
puppets in space, arranging their limbs,
the Final Cause causing 
one to sit on a tree stump, 
one to stand in a scene increasingly bland
as the window sparkles with light,
but is nothing but palm trees and sand.

This is a redraft of a poem I posted about 3 years ago. You can read the original here

Wednesday 19 December 2012

You'd better watch out!

At the top of the moor
there she was, in the road,
a frail little lady
hunched in the rain,
my kinda gal, 
half in my headlights,
half in the mist, 
thumbing a lift --
though it wasn't quite light.
I pulled up at once
and walked round the car, 
smiled as I asked her
where she was bound.
She smiled back at me. Ah,
that worries us all,
but for now, off the moor
would do very well!

Declining my help, she clambered aboard.
It was then that I saw her,
but not as I'd thought:
a Sister of Heaven, a strict
order of nun -- a product well liked
and respected round here.
Our own local brand.

She took ages to settle,
arranging her skirts.
I tried not to notice,
but thought it quite odd.
Then at last we were off,
driving into the sun,
low in the morning,
us breasting the hills.

We chatted a bit,
but I felt myself gagged
'till a juggernaut's lights
exposed a bit more
of my passenger's face --
a strip by the ear 
that the razor had missed.

I pulled up again,
this time with a skid,
and ordered him out,
saw him stumble a bit
as my foot went down hard.

Later that night, when
checking the car for the next day's run, 
the de-icer had rolled,
protruding an inch from 
under the seat on the passenger side.
Retrieving it, saw
two pieces of wood, hard wood and polished,
like handles of sorts -- which they were:
a diminutive axe
and a knife -- far too long.

Image as prompt supplied by Tess Kincaid at The Mag

Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Rapper Bird and I

Take the rap, take the rap, the rapper bird tapped
deep in my sleep, on my window pane, in a slurry of rain
with a tweet or two in the heat of the rap, the grip of a riff
which was swift to proclaim:- I-amb the great I-amb, I-amb!
Tetrameters tremble, the great Grand Slam 
is here, my friend, on your window pane. If you catch a whiff
of the rhythm's shift, I'll follow you into your waking world.
The lyrics were blurred, but even in sleep 
I could see they were handsome, tell they were deep.
Cocky the cock bird with taste for the tap -- like the flap 
of a sheet that smacks in the wind
or matters of state when the government sinned.

Now out in the world it has come to pass,that you can't confine
the rap to a tap on my window pane, for even the glass of an
           omnibus sings,
vibrates to the rhythm, slow or fast, to the hammering song of
           the bird's refrain.
And everywhere in the world or there, in tittle or jot -- you
           can care or not --
the song of the rapper is still the same.

The lines may be short or the lines may be long,
but the rhythm the rapper bird taps is strong
and its lyrics you'll think a definite treat --
though the rapper bird rates them no more than a tweet.

Monday 17 December 2012

My Own Little Galaxy

I'm wondering... could I... possibly
count myself as experienced now?
First day of my second year... well, no. Perhaps not!
One year, though... ought to count for something... no?
New Class. The School's Misfits - That's the 
last head's terminology. New head 
with new ideas. The new ideas
do not include misfit mentalities.

The whistle goes, the pupils line up class
by class. The head appears. Inspects the troops,
walks down the lines. Arrives at mine.
The leading boy is dressed for the wild west.
Ten Gallon hat - well, relative to his pint-size.
Six-shooters on his hips, check shirt and jeans.
"And what is your name, pray?" (The head.)
Roy Rogers, sir! "I haven't time to play
these games. I'll ask you one more time - Your name?"
Roy Rogers, sir!  Roy is dispatched
upstairs to wait outside the head's room for
some resolution of this impasse. So Roy clatters off,
his spurs banging together as he goes. The head
moves on to the next boy. "Your name?"
I'm David Lloyd George, sir! "Are you?
Well, you also can have one more try... Your name, now --
if you please." I'm David Lloyd George, sir! 
What follows is a repetition of the first affair.
As is the Peter Wilson farce that follows it.
Victor Sylvester is almost the last straw.

Shortly afterwards the head arrives to interview
his motley crew. Takes down the register, consults
it earnestly - and there they are, the way they said
they were. Roy Rogers, clear enough. And David
Lloyd George in a strong, plain hand. Further down,
there's Peter Wilson. And at the very bottom even
Victor Sylvester of dance band fame. 
The head's all smiles: I should have known,
with Dave King for your teacher, he was bound
to rustle up a few celebrities.
Dramatis Personae
Roy Rogers :born Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 6, 1998), was an American singer and cowboy actor.
David Lloyd George :Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led a Wartime Coalition Government.
Peter Wilson :A towering figure in British sports writing.
Victor Sylvester :English dancer, author, musician and bandleader from the British dance band era.
Dave King :English comedian, actor, and vocalist of popular songs. Had his own T.V. show with top ratings.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Carols and Flashing Blue Lights

Brian Miller at dVerse Poets Pub Poetics suggests we go for detail
Turn off the road, careful now,
and through the narrow opening,
brick piers on either side.
Sharp left, avoid the (totally
pointless) bollards left and right.
The curving drive has opened up
before me - quite invisible till now.
I curse -- I always curse --
its traffic calming bumps.
Pretentiousness to call them that.
What traffic are they calming, eh?
Unnecessary. Totally
distracting -- and I hate to be
distracted here. There's always some-
thing taking place, something to see,
to muse upon, an idea to take back
with me... this morning now,
a small giraffe lopes leisurely
across the lawn. It's followed by
a hippo with a barrow full of holly.
Kerrrrrumph! Kerrrrrrrrrumph! Two
for the price of one - the bumps again.
Distracted, see? Aha! A parking space.
I reverse in, then walk back to the entrance.
The door creaks open then slams shut.
Navigate the cardboard Bethlehem and
papier-mâché meercat costumes --
complete with mistletoe -- that fill
the vestibule, past the empty desk...
and why no Joan this morning? Turn
the corner by the stairs - and there he is.

Door wide open as it ever was. Tom
working on this morning's Carol Service.
A small red headed girl arrives. Could he
please check her poem for the service?
Miss isn't sure... he reads it through
and hands it back. It's absolutely fine. 
it's very Miltonesque! She skips away.
She stops. Looks back. It's very what, sir?
It's very Miltonesque! Ah, thanks!
Tom's P.A. is sorry to intrude, but did
he mean the double oven for Domestic 
Science? No, didn't. He wants the one
they talked about. She'll sort it out.
The order number's wrong. He gathers up
his papers, checks his visual aids... when
through the window behind him flashes 
a blue light. Very bright. Very intense.

Second by second it sweeps round,
bathes the room in its uncanny hue
before returning it to normal. It
reminds me of a lighthouse beam -
if I ignore the colour. Tom ignores it.
Carries on regardless. Curses softly -- 
Not the boys in blue again?
No, I say: a lorry. Lorry? but before
either of us speaks again:  Begging
your pardon, sir, Headmaster... The man
at the door is doffing his cap. Tom still
does not look up. Motorway Services
Repair and Mend Operative. In the area...
Half a load of asphalt over... Couldn't fail
to see the parlous state of your driveway.
Can't think what a state come a hard winter!
He quotes a perfectly ridiculous figure.
Tom refuses. They haggle for a bit. Okay!
(Tom as he flies off to the Carol Service.)

I spend a brlliant day with Tom, his staff
and kids. When we regain his study
so does the Motorway Repair Man -- with
a bill, that judging by Tom's violent 
expression, might fund the next moon shot.
You quoted £97! Man doffs his cap.
Correct, Headmaster. £97 per cubic yard --
plus labour, naturally!  They argue, but
eventually, Tom coughs up - and when 
the man has gone, says confidentially:
of course, I thought him genuine --
with his blue light and all! But it's a poor-
ish sort of cock-up that brings no benefit.
The traffic calming bumps have disappeared.
Thank you, thank you God, for sending us
thick asphalt! Merry Christmas
and a wonderful New Year!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Happy Christmas, Ethel!

Ethel was my friend and I was proud to know him.
His mother called him Jud, 
the name she'd given at his Christening,
but no one else could call him that.
The last to try still carried a black eye.
No, Ethel was his chosen name --
or rather, Ethelred, although the red
had quickly fallen out of use.
Why Ethel/Ethelred? Why that?
His second name was Mudd!

He was a proud man and his chest would swell
whenever -- and they sometimes did -- his friends
would rattle off his full address: 
Ethel Mudd
          Furnace Man,
                    The Gasworks
                              Love Lane
                                        Tadnam --
where, as it happened, I'd been sent
to see what I could paint. That's how we met.

He watched me for a bit, then asked
if I would draw him at his fire.
Of course, I said I would -- and he went wild,
as if his team had won the cup. He asked:
And with that charcoal you were using, eh?
"Certainly," I said. 
I'm off to wash me face!
"You're not, you know! Just don't you dare!"
and then explained, as best I could
the soot was part of him and what he did.
Gave character. He didn't understand,
but did agree -- and liked the Portrait when
I'd finished it. And in your paintin' Guvnor,
show me at my fire? "Well no....

I drew you yesterday..." showed him again
the drawing that would go into the work.
"You're doing up your bootlace... you recall?"
Oh, he recalled alright, but floundered
when he tried to understand...
Why would I rather have him doing that
than stoking up his fire?

I pointed on the drawing to the way
his muscles tensed and shaped the back and legs,
the lines of stress that ran down through his form,
how figures in the background echoed this --
as did the open furnace door, its shadow
and the flames.... And I can do all that,
he gasped  by tying up my boot! -- I must
be quite a special man, at that!
"Ethel," I said, "You are, you surely are!"

We sent each other Christmas cards for years.

Friday 14 December 2012

Ode to a (Basic) Mobile Phone

Dear fossil from a bygone age,
not bought when you were all the rage,
but recently in the pretense
that we embrace the cutting edge...
Alas, like me, you're not the part,
but have some aspects close at heart.

"Mobile Phone," they christened you...
Misnomer of the century,
since no one phones with such as you
but spans the world in other ways.
Your nearest kin are artists now,
snap-shooters and photographers...

But that's not you, my dated pal,
you are what you were meant to be:
a 'phone and a few angles more.
(The screen is just for user's ease.)
A simple soul, but keen to please.
No Mona Lisas spew from you.

But on the other hand, you stay aloof
from all the intrigues, every spoof
the network yobs can throw at us.
My neighbour's breasts are safe with you:
I cannot sext her with my lot,requesting 
her full frontal, naked body shot!

Written for Victoria C Slotto's Meeting the Bar prompt to write a Second Person narrative. You will find it here
Sexting: a current craze for sending full frontals or close-ups of genitals to someone of the opposite gender and requesting theirs. (With variations, of course!)

Thursday 13 December 2012


Consider if you will 
the way an image or a word
can hold a strong emotive charge
(and what the physicists call spin).
As such, it's not susceptible to reason,
ducks beneath the flailing arms of logic.

A word is just an abstract sign? That's all?
Believe that at your peril, it's a Trojan Horse.
For good or ill, your landscape's under threat.
Take  cancer for example, how it is
two hundred different illnesses,
two hundred different entities.
One word to vouch for all.
Think how they use this umbrella word we've given them
to creep up incognito in disguise --
a kind of burlesque to confuse us in the night.

Some ancient narratives
folk tales and myth
are interwoven here.
These are the bases of its reputation,
the raw material of its powerful charge.
And so we ask: how best to counteract its ill effects,
the wills- o'- the-wisp that reason cannot touch?

I've heard of patients giving sexy names
to what at first they found unspeakable,
Sugar Daddy Baby being one.
She found him more acceptable that way.
Familiar handle, trivial terms
killing it with friendliness.

I knew a man who had Tallulah Bankhead in his groin.

How could a man feel bad about a thing like that?

Just recently, I've been impressed --
I should say blown away --
by images of cancers on the walls where patients wait.
Stunning, complex forms, more succulent than fruits,
like fractals drawn in five dimensions.
Serious, seductive, natural works of art -- the colouring
a function of laboratory staining,
admittedly, not fundamental to the form 
(but then what colour ever is?). And so
the thought occurs: is this not clue or cue
for some aesthetic therapy? These powerful images
have the same kinds of force fields as the enemy...

They would be shallow craft, I know,
not to be launched in heavy seas, but when the waves are calm,
could they not use their charge to neutralise the foe's?
 There must be some new way beneath those flailing arms...

Wednesday 12 December 2012

The Owl and Me

It was a day like any other day
(if I haven't got that wrong),
the day of my first inkling
of who and what I am.
Across the twittern *
bordering our grounds,
my tawny owl's tall tree.
I'd see it sometimes, 
mostly I'd just hear,
but worried now, the past few days:
why had my owl become
no more than half an owl?
too-wit, he'd go, too-wit, but no too-woo!
Until an uncle eased my mind
and told me how it was:
too-wit, was the male tawny
calling to his mate, too-woo,
she's answering I will!

So now I'm thinking: lonely and downcast,
perched high up perhaps, 
his favourite bough, and vainly calling her.
But this the day I mentioned at the start...
The day I came upon him/her (I could not tell):
a feathered heap, some old 
flea-bitten thing,discarded 
for the dustman to collect.
There, looking down at him or her
I knew the truth of something dad would say:
He/she was gone the way all flesh must go!
I saw so clearly then: one day that owl is me!

* A narrow country lane.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

What we're told and what we learn

Deep shadows cross the valley
stealing sight.
The five men plunging on ahead.
Trying to keep up,
I kick against a sleeper. Stumble.
Twice I nearly fall
before the blaze of light.
And in the light
(think: insect in a spider's web)
a rabbit staring straight ahead.
The ganger's coat flaps open wide.
Voluminous, down to his feet,
the coat seems made of pockets.
Enormous ones inside. He
picks the rabbit up
and pops it in.
As easily as that.
Then we move on. Not far.
The light again. A rabbit caught.
Five times in all before we're done.
The men are quite delirious. Explain:
the station master owns the land as as far as you can see.
The thought has made their evening perfect as could be!

Midnight gone when we get back
regain the carriages.
(Two are sleepers, one a diner.)
No time at all, I'm bedded down. Top bunk.
(Mostly the men have bottom ones.)
Then in the darkness: Spose youse guessed it, lad...
we all of us are gay... wondering...
Could youse be interested, eh?
Politely I decline.
Politely they accept.
No more is said, no moves are made.

For me, this has the force of revelation.
Not what the culture of the day
has led me to expect. The warning was
they'd force themselves upon me
or wheedle their way in.

All evening I've been winding back
the mileage counter from
my bicycle's front wheel --
fluorescent in the dark.
And why have I been doing this?
I've no idea. The why is lost in memory.
The doing, though, is vivid
beyond anything that day.
Is that not surreal?
Would you not say?

I reach the target number...
Done it! I cry, triumphantly...
which in the darkness, worries my five friends.

The men were working on the line
and living where they worked
when I'd turned up, my bicycle
the last train gone.
They'd offered hospitality,
as warm as any you might find.
They changed my whole perception
of how gay people are, what they can be.
I look back fondly, even now.
Yet only now the thought occurs...
But what if I'd said 'Yes'? --
and me still under age?

Monday 10 December 2012

on not being positive...

I'd often thought one day I might,
but now the world's in such a plight
I don't know if I will at all --
I might just go and have a ball.
A ball is what I'm needing now,
a crystal ball to tell me how
and when and where and what to share --
and most of all, if I would dare.

I asked the guy behind the bar
who thought that things had gone too far.
He'd tried himself to do it once --
on Bournemouth Sands -- and felt a dunce
to see it all go up in flames...
thought me too old to play such games.
His last idea was Get out quick:
These Hooray Johnnies make me sick! 

A funeral man with horse-drawn hearse
said he had done it with his nurse,
a friend had tried it on the horse --
mainly using chilli sauce.
He'd heard of such things tried at wakes --
They're not all beer or tea and cakes!
He'd found it, though, a strange affair.
(Illegal now, so have a care...)

Illegal gave a certain frisson...
but not enough to go to prison.
I could have gone for it in France
(where it's become a form of dance).
I saw it on the Metro done,
and in the mountains, just for fun.
More seriously, the Eiffel Tower
was  venue for a bid for power.

So now I don't know what to do --
and indecision makes me blue.
My ex-inspector used to say:
Be pro-active every day.
Make your mind up early on,
then stick to it -- you'll not go wrong! 
But to the contrary, I'd find
I'd get a boost from change of mind.

The positives were plain to see,
but this conundrum puzzles me.
I'm certain now, I've missed my chance...
I'll wallow in insouciance,
although that isn't really me --
I'm serious, dynamic. See?
I pray you all, my friends, will find
the power that goes with change of mind.

Sunday 9 December 2012


At some point, I suppose, I did leave school...
Must have! The last that I recall of it
was that limp operetta: all
us bloodless pirates prancing round the stage,
the parents clapping like the ninnies that they are,
and earlier, the hours of tedious rehearsing -- during which
I found the time to write my new, alternative, 
more violent script, The Pirates of Pen's Pants. Ah,
I remember now, THAT'S when I left school,
a tad before my time! Years after that
I found my hayloft studio
and bought the thermal lance and 4X4
to turn out beetles in sheet metal by the score.

It all goes back to frightened pirates walking home
along a pitch dark twittern known as Cold Blows under trees, 
in uniform -- or costume, if you will --
and that last evening of them all, when Mother Nature
furnished me with props beyond my dreams.
All week I'd walked home leaping, whirling, 
putting Dervishes in shade.
I'd given them the scripts I'd written them, my friends,
but could I get them to join in? God,were they afraid? Of what?
The shadows or the hospital for those who couldn't live?
Who knows? That evening, though, the beetles
fell in curtains from the trees to form 
a carpet that we walked upon, its pile 
was inches thick and crunched beneath our feet...
Okay, fair dos, a nauseating sound. I felt it too,but I am made
of sterner stuff and set about those beetles with a will.
My cutlass thrumped above my head like helicopter rotor blades.
That night I slew a dozen demons in my head,
chopping beetles by the thousand clean in two.

You should have heard them squeal, my yellow-livered crew.
I told them straight: how beetles feel no pain; 
remove a beetle's arse or abdomen, it eats on as before.
It stood me in good stead,that night,helped my career take off
like I had made the world's best mouse trap. People came
and beat that once proverbial path to my front door.
And yet I needed more...
The cutlass was replaced by thermal lance and 4X4.
I threw my beetles from the hayloft door
or ran them over with the 4X4
or with the thermal lance would cut them clean in two --
or three or four.

I asked two of my Cold Blows friends
to join my project, share in my good fortune, 
help me make a mint. The one ghost writing this I asked
and one who's putting sharks in something called
formaldehyde -- like that will catch on sometime soon!
Yellow-livered still, they both declined. 
Ah well, the more for me!

Written in response to Hobgoblin's prompt, Acting and the First Person Narrative, which you will find at: dverse Poets' Pub, this is a rewrite of one written several years ago (though posted more recently), but from my viewpoint. Here I have chosen the viewpoint of the main character. Also, this version, unlike the original. is not told in true chronology. You can read the original here.

Saturday 8 December 2012

The Seasons

It seems to me we favour most
the season of our age --
though truth to tell, the summer's heat,
for all the time that I recall,
would leave me cool inside.

My first love was
vivacious spring,
its joie de vivre,
its brightness, hope and colour sense.
It was a long affair. Perhaps too long.
But then again: no one got hurt.

So summer time was overlooked
and went without the small amount
of credit it deserved. Harsh of light,
bunged full of stuff,
it lost its shape.
Warm, staid and comforting,
its boring days
were friendly and reserved.
I kept it just for doing things --
other things, not things with it.

Autumn took me by surprise
(the way that summer did to Eliot
across the Starnbergersee),
but like a lover in my case --
like one I'd always courted,
but never thought to win,
who'd never shown the slightest heed,
but then had caught me willy-nilly
with dark and flashing eyes.

But now, ah now, 'tis winter time:
the season and my soul agree --
and if the body jibs a bit,
it always was a misery,
not liking this or that...
I bow to winter and its charms,
its stark and minimal delights,
its skeletons and filigrees
like blueprints in His pattern book
the Craftsman opens just for those
who'll revel in His Winter show,
and so reveals this time of year,
the elegance of structures,
the underlying rhythms:
His reasons and his rhymes.

Friday 7 December 2012

We All Are Players : a Quatern

I see the ghosts of parts I played
before I played the larger stage.
This was my house -- stage left, the door
through which my father went to war.

All that you see, my Granddad built,
wherein are ghosts of parts I played.
A cast of five, we trod these boards
before I knew the truth of guilt.

My baby brother enters (right)
as I exeunt (stage left) to school,
I see the ghosts of parts I played
once this split stage became the rule.

And was my role of Joker flawed,
the arty fool upon whose acts
the love of all the rest was poured?
(I hear you, ghosts of parts I played.)

The quatern was given as a prompt by Gay Reiser Cannon for dVerse Poets' Form for All

Thursday 6 December 2012

Teachers too, can daydream at the back..

School assembly. My mind on what comes next.
I have not even noticed
the heads are turned my way. I'm busy
fantasising the infamous 3C -
next period with me!
Day #2. Student teacher for six weeks.
Here to study practice:
learning how it should be done.

Suddenly, I'm back among the living.
A sea of eyes.
The only eyes I see are his, the boy's.
Beseeching me.
I've missed the play so far, am trying to
rewind. To travel back through time.
To reconstruct: the boy
was in detention yesterday.
The boy did not show up.
The boy went home. The boy
now says he spoke to me. I gave him the O.K.
I do not recognise the boy, but then
I do not know the children generally. Just
one or two. I was on duty at the gate...
I spoke to them... a few... more than a few...
couldn't pick them out... not many of them.
Saw them off the premises. Wished them Goodbye. 
That sort of thing. He might have been...
Perhaps he said: I'm off now, sir!
and I replied: Oh, lucky you!... I'm sure
I did not give him - anyone - permission 
to leave school.

They're waiting. Hushed. Expectant. All of them.
The head not so inclined. 
Let's have it then! You either did
or you did not!
Did you say this boy could do a bunk? 
I little more than mouth the words:
No, I did not have that conversation,
Sir, with anyone. It's possible that I -
I'm unprepared for what will happen next.
(The boy not so.)
That's all I need to know! --
The head triumphantly.--
The boy's hands rise and fall alternately.
The cane descends to meet each in its turn.
The boy is howling now. Now walking off,
hands on his head, as custom must require.
The head announces the last hymn:
The God of Love my Shepherd is... 

So there's best practice for you --
clearly demonstrated.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Time happens

I didn't know that Time had time
to watch us as it ticks away --
or is it us it ticks away,
a smoke and mirrors party trick,
the way the quayside seems to leave
our stationary ship?

And if time closes Time's one eye,
will everything slow down,
will snores replace the former ticks,
and tocks turn into grunts?
Will what Time watches be but dream?
Will Time have dreams of us?

Our dreams are dreams of possible
when Time is out of town.
Things happen coincidingly:
the Eiffel Tower is London Zoo,
the train becomes a bicycle
before Time's eye can wink.

And is it tick and tock, my friend,
or is it snore and grunt
that brings the music to a life,
the rhythm to a dream?
For even ugly sounds can sing
transmuted by the ears.
I am indebted to Willow at The Mag for this image as prompt.

Monday 3 December 2012

The Super Highway

Will future ages say of us
we were a new line of descent:
Arachnid Man who blanketed
the world in wonder webs?
If so, no wonder, they might think,
the world became so heated underneath!

Or will they call us Link Age Man,
and realise that all those threads
were Fred and Ethel, Jim and Beryl
trying to connect?

Ours is the Age of Connectivity --
and not of information, as we're taught.
Connecting has for ages
been what's super cool --
it does not matter much with what, to whom:
the globe is but a super room
where we can chat our stuff...
But you think not?

Well, things are changing slowly, so I hear...
the super-highway has been mugged,
become a tad less info' and touch 
more Hi ya Pal! --  With very little info'
kicked around... raw information
isn't what the kids are all about.

The web, some say, does for society
what our connective tissue does for us:
it binds, supports and keeps apart 
the body parts that otherwise would jar.
If we should lose the internet --
by some default of use, let's say -- society
would suffer all those stiff and painful joints.

Yet I was reading only yesterday
how youthful sections of the global population
now think the web is naff.
It's a Dad Thing, they will say.
Or worse: A Wrinkly Thing -- of course,
they still connect, web-wise, in other ways!

But if the Not Cool label sticks,
if others take it up,
the viewpoint spreads,
the web might just become
man's last big thing --
Perhaps we'll end up as the End Time Man!

It is twenty years since the first text was sent.

Sunday 2 December 2012

A Little Bit of Bread and No Cheese

Good evening, Evening Sunshine!
Have you wondered how my day was going,
alone and in a place we know so well?
I thought I'd mail you, tell you what
a strange experience I had.
Ghost of a place, I'd say. I could not
come to terms with it --
how nothing clicked the way it used to click.

I saw the waterfall where we first met
and walked where we have often walked before.
I thought I knew each blade of grass,
the sound that feet make on the boards
that oversail the wetland strip. You taught
me names of reeds and rushes there,
and how to tell the summer song
the robin sings from that he sings
when winter comes. I thought I knew
the pinetum's most distinctive  smell,
the sound of wind high in the trees --
do you remember how we once agreed
it sounded like a brook? You taught 
me how to recognise the song -- what bird
was it? the name eludes -- that sounded like
a little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese.
I had not thought until that day
how birdsong might have lyrics...

All this I had expected to be there
as ever was. Alas, I did not recognise the place.
How sad and boring rushes are! How colourless
are reeds! The planks across the wetlands
merely groaned from missing you.
I heard the robin in the usual place,
but could not tell without your high
accompaniment to paint the notes
which of his songs he sang.

And in the pinetum's highest trees
the wind this morning sounded like... 
the wind once more! I think 
the little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese bird
had gorged on Gorgonzola late last night.
(It's coming back -- the yellow hammer, yes?)
The pinetum had no smell at all --
how could that possibly be so?

Next time I go I will not go alone. XXX
Poems of hate and Hope at dVerse Poets (Poetics)have set Missing You as theme for today.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Mistaken Identity

Someone has nailed a note to the front door
like one left for the milkman -- but it reads:
                  KEEP OUT
The house's number, that I'd thought was six,
is twenty six. The two is on the ground.
All is boarded up, but none too well --
a plank has fallen, and a window, like
an eye half open, stares at me with some
malevolence --  and all the depths of ocean.
Does something far too grim for airing harbour there?
Strangest of all: the morning paper in
the front door tells, for those who care 
about these things, of shattering events 
around the world. But no one does, the paper 
goes on getting wetter in the rain.
There's no one here to care or take it in.

Three signs of life I see, and only three:
a tree is coming into leaf, a cat 
runs furtively from just behind a concrete wall
to garden rubbish bins. Precariously,
a mouse's life hangs from its teeth.

The garage doors hang crookedly
on rusted hinges to reveal
a jet black Cadillac -- with patches of
dark indigo, like someone beaten black
and blue. It might as well have been 
a hearse as adjunct to this house of death. 
But wait! A further sign of life: a nest
of robins in a smashed headlamp...

I'm imagining the Cadillac as hearse --
or maybe just another funeral car --
processing down this cobbled hill -- and who
will follow it and all the mourners shaken
up inside? The cat perhaps, the paper boy,
the refuse men and those who put the sign
in place -- and he who didn't know him: me.