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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Red Sofa

The above image represents this weeks prompt from Magpie Tales

He still ere then, us old sofa!
I knowed ee would be. Told yer so...
Jim's idea - ee under bridge,
well out of any rain, he thought.
Us bin up the riots, aint we?
Comes across ee in they posh shop.
Languishing in broken winder -
well, gotta say, arf in, arf out.
Us take ee inter custody...
Well, that's Jim, that is. That's Jim all
over. Gotta laugh. Things bad then,
and all the people I knows needs
a giggle. So us gives em one.
How? Well, Jim sez: Us'll takes ee up
the trains and dumps ee on the tracks!

So I thinks abaht this and then sez
Owz us gonna do that, then Jim?
An ee sez, Eezy, through the gate -
that old gate where they lets the people
out, with no one there on dooty,
not at night there aint. Then us tips
ee over the embankment, see?
(I tells yer this ter show as how
us aint thieves, us aint. Not robbers.
Don think us robbed no one, us use
the stuff, not rob it. Us jist trans-
fering it to other dooties.)
So us goes ter do what Jim sez,
but fuck the gate it's locked, innit?
So us dumps ee like Jim says and
scarpers coz we seez the blue lights
iz a comin dahn us way it seems.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

What if...

in a parallel existence
He'd made the man from a billycan
and the woman out of glass?
And if they were not perfect,
at least we must suppose
they were good enough to pass...
and they loved each other - 'course they did:
she loved the tin of his manly skin
and he her pert little arse.

And the Lord gave them a garden
of flowers, birds and trees
and told them to wander at will, enjoy -
and please to do as they pleased...
with the strictest of strictures each:
for she was told to remember her bum
and keep away from the mid-day sun.

It was thunderstorms for him to avoid
with his head high over the trees.
I've made you tall, the Almighty said.
Keep away from the lightning please.

But you know how it works:
she dozed in the sun
and her bottom focussed its rays,
and the garden went up in a mass of flames
that burnt for a thousand days.

Later on, when the man was walking tall -
fulfilling the ancient prophecy,
and winding up the fall -
he would get in the way of a thunder bolt,
that wouldn't kill him, but give him a jolt -
though he'd not be the same after that,
and it must have destroyed in his DNA
the genes that should point up the moral way,
for we all now share in his pain.

It's long been my thought that the fall
in the way that it happened on earth
had nothing to do with enlightenment -
whether gleaned from an apple or not -
but more to do with keeping the law
and Who the hell is running the show?
so I set it apart in this parallel world
to work itself out afresh,
and here you have it, for what it's worth,
like a Guy Fawkes night in Marrakesh.

Monday, 28 November 2011

November Carnage

A rose exploded in the night.
It didn't die of drought or blight.
It detonated. Blew six others out of sight.
Further off, another four
were stripped of all their flesh:
red, white, white-splashed-with-red
and dusky blue, their petals lay
in wavy lines across the bed.

In contrast to their patterned fall
the bomber's body parts were blown
across the garden, side
to side and end to end
in random disarray. When blown apart,
the Rosa Mundi Bonaparte
left fragments everywhere:
on gravel, grass and paving stone,
as if four different winds had blown
together in a storm.

Strange thing: it was a cultured rose,
one steeped in Rosa lore - the very last
rose, you'd have thought
to be a home-grown terrorist.

One consolation we can take:
a quiet time of year,
the season almost done,
the population sparser then
than a few months before.
But had the bomber struck back then,
how changed the outcome could have been!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

A walk in response to dVerse Poets' invitation to write on the general theme of Wildness. I cannot do justice to their post, which in my opinion is one of the great posts, a joy to read in its own right. Go see if you agree.

Where is the verse
that comes from the wild,
emotion untrammelled
by reason's control?

Where is the paint
to colour the landscape
that rivers of feeling
have carved through the brain?

Where is the song
like a tropical storm
exploding on beaches,
unleashed on the ears?

Where are the thoughts
in verse or in prose
that undermine everything
everyone knows?

Where are the barbarous
artists untamed
lost on the waves
that arouse, not explain?

Where is the dance
and the whirl of the dancer
blurred by the fury
of motion unchecked?

Where are the rhythms
to flame the tame brain
and torch all the body parts
over again?

Where is the beat,
deep, resounding , a chorus,
a chorus of hearts,
of hearts in extremis?

Where are the purples
besmirching the whites,
the leaps out of heaven
that leave you in hell?

Where are the beasts
to roam through our culture
to trample the brush
and savage the lions?

the leftover mindsets
our attics begrime,
the fossils and cliches -
all threats in their time?

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Deep in an autumn night
the wind comes, blows
the last dreams from the trees.
Deep drifts of them
the like of which
I have not dreamed before
pile up against the fences,
walls and doors.

Some are from my sleep,
are from our trees,
but most are from the neighbors' gardens.

It is not always easy to see which.

In one, relaxed, reclining at his ease,
and on a hammock:
God, beneath two cherry trees
from which the fruit is falling fast,
which now I see him catch
and bless and throw into the air.
The former cherries
fly away as birds.

But then. In quite another dream
the cherry dream
is stood against a wall and shot
for blasphemy -
or is it heresy?
It's one of those...
The firing squad are hungry wolves.
Hungry for what, I ask myself.
They look well fed.

And so the dreams pile up
and rustle round each other,
flap against the windows
and the doors, demand
admittance through the day.

A rugby ball I kick along a beach
becomes two balls with every kick.
One morphs into a brain.
When I look back the beach
is strewn with human brains.
How can mankind
make use of so much power?

There is a church.
Black, silhouette
and ringed with bats.
I find it locked against me.
Black birds are flying down
from its high tower.
They're forming rings around me.
I think they will attack
with sharpened beaks,
but then they turn
and pull the church apart,
black stone by stone.
Inside the church, a cage
in which the clergy
have been locked.
All the priests
from all the ages
past and present
are trapped in there.
Of God there is no sign.

Another dream is stuck to this.
A monkey puts a match
to the steel cage
and burns it down.
God walks out from
the smouldering remains.
I do not see
what happens to the priests.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Paradise Lost Bit by Bit

Paradise Lost is proposed by Poetry Jam as this week's prompt. Several interpretations are suggested, but it occurred to me that we are re-running the Biblical fall of man in slow motion, over however many generations - and what would Milton have made of it were he alive today?

Lush hedgerows, green and bright with berries,
dry stone walls, a sweep of corn,
its ragged edge against the purple hills - all
lost to view behind the mighty coffee hoardings.

A mile of yellow sands, a line of foam,
a chalk-white cliff is nature's solar panelling -
all lost to New Developments.

Bare rock emerging from its heather cloak,
the purple tints nuanced against
the rust hues of its seams -
lost now to yellow paint graffiti - the signatures
of local gangs that roam these days.
(Navajo Indians did the same, but they
with meanings that the tribe found spiritual.)

A delicate environment for adders,
butterflies, sand lizards, voles and moths
is lost to soil erosion from its over-use.
Walkers, quad- and motor-bikes take heavy tolls.

Prime stretch of river lined with rushes and wild life.
Small pools with eddies. Willows. Rocks.
All lost to rusting hulks -
old ships, parked up to sit the down-turn out.

On Arctic wastes the polar bears lose out
to toxic chemicals washed off our lands -
that's yours and mine -
and carried north by currents in the air and seas.

A once-pure food chain tainted now with mercury.
(Used recently to make insecticides.)
The concentrations build
each level sullied more than that below,
and at the top the prize for most contaminated
goes to the food we eat. (That's you and I.)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Lip Service

As often happens,
youngsters were among the first
to see
the gross stupidity of rape,
destruction of the earth.

Now everyone's a guru
all can see what they once saw:
the foolishness,
the suicide
of sucking this,
our only planet dry,
converting it
into a fast heat breeder
that will cook us all.

Now everyone can see it
(more or less - a few
elective blind aside)
and all agree
(except the youth, it seems,
are less inclined
to give it thought)
that something should be done,

there's just this lack
of people to accept
step up to take control.

Our leaders wont,
so who then will?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Reasons to be Thankful - and some light relief.

The usual problem surfaces: where to
begin? The reasons for and why
pile up like snowflakes in a drift
to bury all that points the other way,
the negatives we could not bury, even now, without the snow.
(Angels come in many guises,
some too chilly for belief.)

For all it seems like winter's wonderland,
we take it to our hearts, discovering
that, snow or not, we have eternal spring.

The wonder of it is we ever thought
the cold more influential than the love,
our lives more blessed or blighted by thrown dice -
God's or the Devil's, for it made no matter which.

It's people with their whims and vagaries
for whom we most rejoice, for whom we first give thanks.
For them and for the fact that we have life
and by their agency have life in full -
an inner life that makes love paramount.

Sometimes we carve a brightness from the fog -
or someone carves it for us -
and in its light give thanks. The light,
high brightness of an Earth that lives (at least
for now) and faith that gives
this Earth the benefit
that it can find the way that we have lost.

This poem a response to The Gooseberry Garden's challenge to write about Things I am thankful for in my life.

Church Signs heard on local radio.

Keep taking my name in vain
and I'll make rush hour longer.

Honk if you love Jesus,
text and drive if you want to meet him.

Church Parking only.
Trespassers will be baptized.

How do we get Holy Water?
We boil the hell out of it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Figure in a Landscape : Intermediary : Green Earth


Storm flood and drought
the sky forever
threatens earth.

Man is the one
the only one
who walks the skyline
touching both.

Figure in a Landscape

wild garlic
field of
last night's shower
sharpens tang of
and yet delicate.
All other scents of
hurry over
from the wood
like children
running out to play.

Apart from which
the world is soft
in all its aspects:
early sun
its light and shade
slow warmth
and colouring,
the folded chalk
its rounded ridge,
the shallow moat
its sapling occupants,
the eerie drip
of rain from trees,
six tents of sleep-
starved little boys
all sleeping now.

A figure, ghostly
shows itself
in gnarled oak bark -
or minds play tricks.
He walked from there
out of the wood
across the ridge
up to the tents
undid a flap
and asked a boy -
asked any boy -
down to the woods.

No one here has seen him
but the oak. Perhaps
it caught his likeness.

Green Earth

more delicate
than pepper grains
scattered on the beef -
the touch of nature:
nuance of yellow
on her greens and browns.

I have dealt with the school camp incident before in more narrative form. If interested you can find it here

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Kiss

The image is this week's Magpie Tales prompt.

Nothing exists
in their world
but the other.

At each point
and moment
of contact
nothing exists
but two pairs of lips.
His on hers.
Hers on his.
are reduced to this

but in
the touch and press
of lips
awareness of
a universe.

Only the lips
are figured
on tactile
mappae mundi
that their brains

their bodies,
pure geometry,
are lost in space
are unread ideograms
scrawled across
a no-man's-land
of crumpled sheet.

Sensation is a match
flaring at the touch
to strong emotion
dying down again.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


(This poem is offered in response to the dVerse Poets' challenge to write something on the subject of change.)

Eternal things do not survive for long
for time does hold them all in flux.
The pyramids, the merely permanent, survive.

I wrote these lines
somewhere between
when I was six and ten -
the early years of World War II, a time
of great upheaval.
But not for me.
I longed for change.

Illness was a great, grey blanket
spreading itself across my life.
Quite literally, at times,
keeping me confined
indoors if not in bed.
My world had much in common with the pyramids.

Such changes as I saw
were not occasions for applause: on walks to school
a house that once had featured
in my games, a tree perhaps,
might well have disappeared
in last night's raid. And yet
my friends and I,
collecting shrapnel, went our way
into a world
whose essence had not changed.

Church was one salvation,
for there they spoke of change,
its possibility
was part of their agenda.
The ritual, the Latin and the incense
were the earnest of a transformation
to a world and to a self
too sombre for my tastes.

Dreams were another.
Were the only other. Here
I watched the everyday
morph into something different:
mum's corner shop
with nothing on its shelves
and mum behind the counter
(which she never was)
was suddenly a reptile house,
the floor knee deep in croc's.

Today's other poem is here

A Quiet Emergency

The sun deck
cleared of passengers
and movables:
sunbeds, tables, chairs
and parasols.
A deckhand
works his way
starboard to port
around the bows.
Dismantles lamps -
those crystal globes
enchanting after dark.
Slow business.

And all the while
a chopper, an
air ambulance
marked eliambulanza
waiting patiently
for its safe space
to land.

And now
at the precise
awaited moment,
the moment of
the Ready signal,
the eliambulanza turns -
we think to land -
but disappears
into the summer's
azure blue.

Deck hands return.
Reconstruct the lamps.
Replace the furniture.
Erect a counter
serving food
as passengers
begin to trickle back.

The Captain's voice
is thanking all.
The emergency,
he says, is over.
the day is hot and sunny,
for an hour or so
no one can find the earlier mood.
No one is interested
in the food.

Today's other poem is here

Saturday, 19 November 2011

If your name's on it...

You never hear the one that gets you!
My dad, returning from his war,
told me some things that he'd been sold,
among them, this one, very old,
left over from an earlier war. 
It spoke of shells and bombs and bullets. Boy,
you never hear the one that bears your name!

It's true, of course: the bullet's speed
outstrips the sound;
you hear it when you're dead. The one
you hear arriving
has passed by overhead.

The wise old owls up in their trees
thought nuggets such as these
would make men more relaxed,
less worried by the sound effects.

These more enlightened days
we're less naive:
they'd not have conned the likes of us!
Who listens now to canned advice?
for instance, thinks that Get
rich quick, or die in the attempt
is code for living well?
        But that's the philosophy
        that's the monstrosity
        of second hand living,
        of life less the giving -
        how lifeless is that?

So when the bombshell crisis
landed in the banks,
bursting among us punters,
remember what they said,
those manning the financial line?

We never saw it coming!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Her Rock of Belief

It was her firm belief
that dreams are not
you are not severed
from reality, drawn
into a world of fantasy.

What happens is:
the vital part,
of what we call
the psyche
leaves the body
to renew itself
in that same spirit life
it left to lodge in you.

What we call dreams
are post cards
from a soul on furlough
inviting us
to share in its renewal.

Then she began
the bad dreams:
doing bad things
sniffing coke and the like,
going with blokes
who were sick in the head
and getting in fights.
In her dreams
she became
a sort
of anti-person
to herself.
The negative image.

So what should she think?
That her rock of belief
was a handful of sand?
Or this was herself,
the she she should be?
A negatives is
the source is it not?

Too much to ask.
She succumbed
to the doubt
and was taken away.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Credentials for a poet

A friend of mine,
a poet of ability,
finds concrete images
to represent his poems,
imagines favourite
and current works
as solid objects,
and in his mind
arranges them
like furniture
around the house.

He pictures then
the house engulfed in flames.

How many objects
will he hope to save,
given that
the risk to him
increases with each one?
(And just as interestingly,
I would have thought:
which ones?)
But no, for him
the question is: how many?

He'd try to rescue
two or three.
Enough, he thinks,
to give him the credentials
that a poet needs.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Execution Block

First woodwork lesson in my new school.
Mr Woodiwiss - apt name! - is asking
What would you would like to make?
An execution block,
I say.

(The block is for my Uncle Bill.)

Reputation would suggest
sir should roar displeasure,
vault the bench perhaps,
throw something my direction.

he does not even take exception,
sits talking ways and means with me.

A word of explanation:
why an execution block for Uncle Bill?

To help him with his Christmas role:
The Lord High Executioner of Turkeys on the lawn.

And he comes THIS close to using it
(My thumb and forefinger
all but touch. I hold them up.)

Dark night. The only light
streams from the bathroom window.
The turkey's neck is on the block,
the hatchet raised
the light goes out.

The pitch-dark night
turns lighter shades of blue
as Uncle's language spills into it.

But Uncle Bill's performance
for sir's
more disappointing one.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

a prophet is not without honour...

The above image was provided as prompt by Magpie Tales

She had foretold
the world would end,
set out the chairs
for all her followers.

They'd sat there
through the night,
alert in prayer
high on the hill

for the best view,
the clearest sound.
The cataclysm
passed them by.

Far out in space
another planet
witnessed it.
Earth remained unscathed.

The flesh was weak.
When morning dawned
the empty chairs
spoke faithlessness.

So now she's stumped:
how to return
the chairs by noon,
fulfil her other promise?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Three poems without Titles

Imagine a plant
something like a sweet pea
but much more delicate
sending out feelers
to grasp at things
(all manner of things)
to hold on to...

His poetry was like that.
Intricate. Fragile.
And with so many reference points
you'd need a machete
to loosen its grip.

Beyond my understanding,
I nevertheless
could feel the weight
of what I was missing.

Our favourite restaurant
we've called in for lunch
purely on impulse.

Sitting in the bar area
having a pre-lunch drink
we look over the menus.

There are two:
the one the waitress brings
and a blackboard on the wall.

The blackboard on the wall
shows today's specials.
There are quite a few.

A waitress comes
climbs up to the board
and rubs out the beef dish.

Except she doesn't
the beef dish is obstinate.
Beef remains on the menu.

The waitress climbs down
and disappears
returns with a bottle of solvent.

She climbs up
pours solvent over her duster
and rubs and scrubs again.

Soon the beef dish is reduced
to a pale shadow
of its former self.

She climbs down
looks at her handiwork
and disappears.

Would it not have been easier
when bringing the other menu
to tell diners the beef is off?

(Just an idle thought,
no occasion for great art.
Sorry to have misled you.)

The rose bushes,
that in summer bore blooms
large as a tea plate,
now in November
are covered in netsukes.

Here for Netsukes

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Good and Bad Spirit

Everything happened around I was five
everything came to the boil
the house like a beehive
first I got ill, was hospitalised
then a new brother arrived.

Big disappointment,
me dreaming a sister -
not to pull hair, as some thought,
but play with her dolls.
(Back then a doll was taboo for a boy -
well, it was if you lived with your gran.)

Then when it had all settled down -
a year or two maybe -
I saw this mad doll. In a world of her own.
A whole Doll's Hospital window
all to herself. Rescued, she'd been,
from a fire, I think.
Her rib cage smashed. And hands and feet.
But I couldn't forget her face.

Older than me, Danny, my friend,
explained it: a leer. (He knew
about leers from his dad.)
How could she leer?
And why was she leering at me?
I saw it at night. And by day,
if I closed my eyes, it was there.

I must have talked about her
'till my friend went nuts.
Built an imaginary friend round her.
Perhaps he'd had enough.
That's maybe why he turned up
with a rival. A replacement doll.

Thrown out by his sister.
Smashed hands and feet. And broken cheek.
Not smashed quite in the way the first had been,
but near as I would get.
(Was he the doll's assailant?)

Alas, she did not leer
but worth the horse-drawn hearse and conker.
She almost measured up.
Enough for me to swap them gladly.

She'll leer, said Danny. Give her time.
She'll pass it on. All that
was done to her, she'll do to you.
She weaves thought webs
to trap her prey, he said. The strands
come from her eyes. (He'd heard
of women doing things like that to men.)

Her web began to form around my fear -
and yes, at times I caught a leer.
No way, though, would I part with her,
for fear wove webs of strong desire.

Yet after I had dropped dad's hammer on my toe,
come off my bicycle and grazed both hands,
and met with other bumps and bruises,
I did begin to wonder: was he right?

I never did discover
what sort of spirit was she.
Good or bad?
Or simply badly treated?
But for a year, maybe,
she had this hold on me.
Her damaged hands
more powerful than a wand could be.
Her spells more difficult to understand
than ancient abracadabra.

We hid her in the coal shed
so I could not well complain
that there were times her magic came out black.

But there were spells of purest white.
The night the lightning struck the weeping willow tree.
Two willow trees there were.
The one that was our camp.
And the one that was the enemy's.
Her face was in the lightning flash -
and so our rivals' camp was struck.

I am entering this poem for the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Friday Challenge.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

rapping up the crisis

Who's at fault, who's at fault?
Too little money in the vault.
It's all a game,
but who's to blame?
Stack 'em high and sell 'em short.

Money goes round and round the till
'till some fat hammer-head makes a kill.
That's the perception,
that's the deception -
now where's the guy whose got the prescription?

Come with me, let's hit the street,
hit the street and feel the beat,
feel the beat and get the heat.
The whole damned world's in hock to who?
I'm in debt and so are you.

Let us go then; quick, quick, slow,
the dance of life sets flesh aglow.
Who's the villain, we would know.
I tell you friend, it gives no joy
to hear it's neither man nor boy!

Don't blame the suit in the High Street branch.
He's not the one who took the chance,
he didn't lead us in this dance.
The one you want is miles away.
You're fast asleep when he makes his play.

It's not the fellow who shook your hand,
arranged your loan for a hundred grand;
he's not the one who did you down,
he didn't make the nation frown.
We're talking shades in a shanty town,

a shanty town of high-rise bliss,
luxury pads and avarice.
Someone there has caused this piss -
not the fellow we all have seen seen,
but a shadowy ghost in front of a screen.

Now, down to him, we're over taxed,
and still the government's too relaxed,
too relaxed while a nation rages
at city pets, outrageous wages
and stacks of venomous mortgages.

They sell their debts as they think they must,
knowing what's sold will hit the dust,
then lay out bets in funny money
that the mortgage buyers will all go bust -
but the cash is ours, so how's that funny?

Who's missed out, who's missed out?
They're the ones that my song's about:
the ten per cent in the social pit,
the five and a half who don't quite fit,
the one per cent who just might quit.

The richest rich then make their pitch,
the poorest poor are shown the door,
the gulf between them widens more.
The richest rise like birds of prey,
high on the thermals, hogging the day.

My voices tell me democracy
(and only it) is the way for man -
no place here for a backup plan!
The government's mired in complacency,
and all we've got is to bear the can.

Three great Cs once made a start
at changing the world - or, better, the heart.
Each in its turn would prove a flop,
offering nothing but regular sop -
Guess them from the names I'll drop.

I'll mention Keynes and Marx and Christ -
all of them masters of the heist -
but none of the Cs has failed as guide;
they kind of simply aint been tried,
their basic tenets all denied.

So where shall we look to find the vision?
Where unearth a sense of mission?
What can now excite us all,
unite us all
in the next demanding call?

Friday, 11 November 2011

First Real Snow

Best Christmas present ever: deep, deep snow.
A whiter white than I had ever seen,
but out of reach, beyond the window glass,
and not available to feet and hands.
I'm five years old and full of wonder: how
might it feel against the skin? As fluffy
as it looks? As smooth? And how would I react?

I see the people come and go with it.
I see it piled on shoulders, woolly hats
and scarves. I see deep footprints where they've walked.
Among them are my parents, come to visit.
They come into the ward still dressed in snow.

When they are here, they're everything I want,
but when they're not, I want the snow. Just now
they are at home, and snow falls heavily.
What good a Christmas present that I cannot use?

But now a transformation: nurses come;
they're carrying huge bowls of snow which they
distribute round the ward. Soon they are helping
us to mould snow into cannon balls.
For hours - it seems - we hurl them back and forth,
targeting each other, 'till the ward's awash.

When parents come, the bedclothes are still wet.
Great cries of anguish fill the battle field.
The dead and dying - of pneumonia
and such like wounds - have had recovery
set back by unknown periods of time.
But nurses somehow manage to persuade
them that the fight was therapy for us!

I am entering this poem for the Poets United "Winter" challenge.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

human perspectives

I got the idea watching children play imaginative games,
watching as they chalked their scenes across the square.
Arranged their artefacts like tokens on a game board...
It was the way to start a canvas for my next dystopian view.

I stand it on the easel with myself arranged before,
the light behind me - where the devil's s'posed to be.
My shadow falling on its spotlessness, I wash it in.
The shadow now is permanent, a sort of watermark for me.

They used to say at art school, 'Put something of yourself
into each work - or give it up'. Well this is what I do!
I am the ghost behind the image, a sort of quality control.
And even when the layers build or thick impastos cover me,

when only I remember that I'm there, it puts the brake on me.
My hidden form still gives a human scale to what I do.
I am the ghost that haunts the image, keeps perspectives true -
or maybe, with more truth, the children are the quality control.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

As Dante would have done.

Here's a dream to dream sometime
when you are looking for a dream to dream.

You are a sculptor who sculpts words,
then builds them into poems.
You're making ready your next book,
one hundred pages long. The title
poem is the only one. It takes up
pages two and three, but fills the book.

How does a two-page poem fill a book?
Well, that's the sort of poem that you write.
Recall: you'll be composing it in dream;
that being so, each word, each line will share
the mythic power to which a dream is heir.

Your poem will have all the subtle powers
that Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan
would have possessed had he but scratched it down
before the man from Porlock came along.

Set your sleeping mind against all rhetoric.
Hard, stony consonants like Dante used
are what you should be carving from your rock.
Their weight and influence will fill the book -
would fill a shelf of books of empty pages.

Waking, lose no time in setting down;
be sure to transcribe word for word -
no editing, redrafting as you go.
Change not a jot or tittle from the dream.

Then when the work is done,
turn to any empty page
and find the poem still engaging you.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

In Brompton Cemetery

It was that time of day
when shadows are most apt
to play their roguish tricks.
We took the short cut
through the burial ground
beside the oratory. Stones
took on a new significance.
The monuments
loomed up at us
like stage sets
and their ivy drapes
looked sinister
in that half light.
I thought for certain
we would hear an owl,
but no sound came
except for gentle
rustles in the wind
and footsteps - soft
for lack of anyone around.
What did seem changed
from how they looked by day:
the tombs, small houses
for the dead, complete
with gardens, railings,
iron gates and doors -
and windows, glass,
but thick with grime
and spiders webs
we thought were made
of string. We dared not
peer inside - although
my friend maintained
he'd looked and seen
a skeleton laid there.
I thought not then
and think not now.

Then close beside
the catacombs
a monument
to outdo all the rest,
and just beyond
another house - and now
we could not miss,
much less explain away;
framed in the window,
back-lit by the moon,
two heads: the furthest
from us, plain as plain
could be, a wolf's;
the nearer one a bird
of some sort, black beaked,
head framed in feathers
black as the blackest
window glass we'd seen.
"Egyptian figures?" asked
my friend, excitement
mounting with the fear.
We'd stopped. Not noticed
that we had, but there
we were, hard-rooted
to the spot, for at that
very moment both
the heads had moved.
A moment later they
were walking down the path
towards us as we gaped.
The bird a woman in a long
black dress, the wolf
a man. They stopped and kissed -
black beak and long wolf fur
and all - and then moved on
along another path
towards the moon.
Two ex-reflections
risen into solid form.

I am submitting this for this week's Gooseberry Garden challenge and also for this week's Magpie Tales Challenge.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Poetry Reading

The oven was hung with icicles,
the toaster was singing a song,
while a plant and a pie were playing I-Spy.
The kitchen was totally mad.

Such was the vision of one young man,
a runner-up in the 5-8 category.

Not a verse from his poem,
just four odd lines pulled at random
from "Kitchen" - a totally hilarious offering.

He sits to thunderous applause.
Thoroughly well deserved.

Follow that!
My turn to read.

I down the rest of the Chablis.
(The rest of my glass, that is),
pick up the type-script,
grab the right elbow which is off doing a jig.

Everyone thinks it's nerves, of course.
Which it isn't.
It's a tremor I have.
Alright then. It's a tremor exaggerated by nerves!

I read three lines (and a bit).
A door bags open.
The Old Woman of the Sea enters.
Shuffles to the rear.

The papers in my hand flap like flags in a high wind.
Why am I even reading this?
I know the damn thing, word perfect.
Am I afraid my mind will go blank?
That must be it.
But why so many nerves?
I'm well used to speaking in public.
Too much Chablis?

I can't see the damn lines to read them, anyway.
I bet they can't even hear me at the back...
not above the flapping of these papers.
I chuck the script.

All the entries are on display around the room.
I read them earlier.
Didn't do a lot to boost my confidence,
seeing what I'm up against.

Do professional poets
have to earn their living this way?

There's always someone
worse off than yourself!

Somehow I croak my way to the end.
Reach for another glass of Chablis.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Rainbow Boy

Josh had a thing about, a love of, rainbows.
Josh was simple. Everyone knew that.
"That's why he has this thing, it's all to do
with colours," they said, knowingly - as if
there might be something else in rainbows,
something hidden, that they couldn't see. Each day
Josh painted rainbows.

He knew the names and sequence of the hues,
but saw no need to stick to them.
He'd paint with either brush or fingers, mostly.
Just sometimes he'd use a knife. A single 
colour on occasions. Mostly two or three
or all of them. Whatever colours made 
him feel "electric" or "switched on" that day.

He painted, he would say, the rainbows
in his head, not those up in the sky.
Once he painted one all black - that being
how he felt that day, his 'lectric "sparking
out" on him. His "bows" were always wild arcs
swept across the page. Sometimes two or three
in the same frame, sometimes vertical
and sometimes crossing one another. Weird
at times, and always only them. Nothing
else to spoil the view. 

                        And then
the doctor said that Josh had "moments".
Join the club. And don't we all!
    The secrets that we almost grasp, know we are inches short of them but cannot quite see what we know... the hidden things that make us gasp... the place we thought we'd entered but were a shade away.
Josh had a moment like one of ours, a brush with the "thing" of his dreams: a rainbow whose secret he had heard. His science teacher triggered it. He told the class:-
    We can prove the Big Bang by the rainbow, the where and the why and the when. The secret of all that has happened is locked in the flimsiest thing.
Josh responded with a salvo of rainbows, twenty one full rainbows, closed into globes like a child's glass marbles with coloured straw rings. At the centre a blob of violet, then rings of blue, blue-green and all the colours out to red. His fondness was for purple - a mixture that of radiation from both ends. Bows broke the rules therefore. There were two-coloured ones: maroon and red, one white and yellow. So too, the bands were smudged, as always in his paintings. This time though, with movement blur, their tails curled back towards the centre of the page. The globes were flying out beyond the frame. And folk began to see his simpleness as something different, not simply something less.
I have entered this poem for the dVerse Poets colour prompt

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A Waste of Words

Think of a tap left running to waste.
All that water,
thousands of gallons
running to waste.

A priceless resource.

How much more tragic are
words the world over running to waste
in the normal course of achieving nothing?
A priceless resource.

I switch on the T.V. news.
Someone talks to a microphone
speaking in Russian, Chinese -
Ancient Egyptian, for all I know.
But wait... someone translates.
Two taps together, but just out of step.
Running to waste.
Important debate.
Delivery slow.
Text dry and technical.
Like a chef who insists his diners should watch
as the Brussels are topped,
potatoes are peeled...
then serves them up raw.

These times must rank
among the most exciting ever
serious ever
frightening ever
fatal perhaps. And yet
we render them boring.

How is that done?
Why does it all run to waste?
In parliament they talk for hours
to rows of empty seats.

News readers don't like reading
reporters all but hate reporting.
What they like is atmosphere
and experts who can talk.
For atmosphere
they'll shout their news above an angry crowd
or talk beside a runway
with jet planes taking off
or chat among the traffic
on a busy urban street
in the middle of a storm.

On video phones
they mouth like drowning fish
until it freezes,
when they speak
like poor ventriloquists.

What happened to the days
when they simply read the news?

Friday, 4 November 2011

for a poem I have long admired

(read it here)

Damn and blast it, he was right:
I'm with the kid;
I'll not go gentle
into his good night.

No, when they come to close the day
I'll burn and rave, be downright rude
at any proffered platitude,
and not accept the death of light.

Who is it says that night is right?
that dark must always
conquer day
throughout life's length and breadth and height?

Who is it says, no matter what
life throws at us
we make no fuss;
accept it all with undue grace?

No, when the light is fading fast
I'll kick and scream,
harangue and curse my useless god -
and find the fear of Him at last.

Except... solicitude (just that)
for friends and family around
might force a smile, allow no sound -
and keep the bottled rage within.

But then again,
I'm still not sure
another light wont break upon
a darker and more distant shore...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Siren Voice

From gently singing in her sleep, she wakes.
She of the siren voice slides out of bed
and makes her way to her small bathroom space.
Low. Slope of ceiling. There
with nowhere for the head,
she bows, as all must bow, unless,
as she does now, 
the skylight is unlatched. Pushed up into the night.

Head in cool night air,
the naked body slightly shivering,
she stands, part in, part out, to brush her teeth.
Arrayed before her: sea and naked rocks,
she tilts her head, looks up towards the stars.
At their most beautiful.
                        She pauses her ablutions,
hits the perfect note - high C of legend -
has shattered tumblers in her time
and wonders
                  can she shatter stars?

The note fragments the song, her voice
and voice box now are instruments,
her art an abstract sound...

And now a stream of perfect notes.
She hears the echoes coming back,
hears what we don't hear: harmonics
gathering like birds on wires.

She hears the cosmos tremble
                            at the sheer audacity
of what she tries -
                   or thinks she does.
Such deep and vibrant sounds -
then bends again
                resuming her ablutions.
Glances back
            up once more and out into the night
looks up towards the stars.
One star seems brighter than
    and larger than before. 
    Grows as she looks.
The light awhile too bright,
                            she hides her eyes.
The sea erupts as water spout.
There's violence.
Then when she looks
                   is calm again.

Has she a voice to lure stars to the rocks?
A song to suck a satellite
out of the ether,
out of the very cosmos that is sky
reflecting back her voice?
(For is that not the very thing 
the satellite is meant to 
Do? Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do?  Do? 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Great News : and Let's Dance!

Unbelievable news yesterday: those good folk at Poets United have chosen my blog as their Blog of the Week! Difficult to express how immensely pleased and grateful I am - not to say surprised! Do pop along and suport them if you have a moment.

Last Sunday Kerry at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads challenged us to produce a poem in Waltz Wave Form. This requires lines of 1,2,1,2,3,2,,2,1,2,3,2,1,2,1 Having not got around to it until last evening - so much excitement in my life of late - I have now come up with this.

puff of
and there
is rhythm
in my
and I
am dancing
with the wind for
Come dance
dance for joy.
When life

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Halloween Debrief : (How was it for you?)

I had my bag of goodies for the ghoulies,
ghosts, hobgoblins and the rest. The door bell sounds,
I answer it, see no one for a moment.
From total gloom a voice booms: Trick or treat!.
An adult voice, I realise. Into the light,
the man who calls each month - a local lottery
to help our hospice - grins sheepishly.
It seems I've chosen the wrong night!
he says. I've had to run the gauntlet just a bit!

A skeleton, just six or seven, I would guess,
starts up the path, then noticing my caller - who
is more than average tall - turns tail and runs
back to his mum, and is not seen again.
They were my only callers all last night.

My Small House by the Sea

I live in a small house by the sea
and have been trying recently
to let the attic room
from which at low tide there's a view
of black stumps, the remains
of ancient forest trees that grew
before the sea came in.

To date I've had three people
come to see the room. The first,
a man, was none too clean. He chewed
a lot of gum, and what he couldn't chew
he stuck beneath the peak of a new
Kill me, Baby, Kill me! baseball cap.
He rattled on about a lot the council ought to do:
Get rid of those unsightly stumps, for one!
They spoil the view. Like stubble
on a fellah's chin, they are!

He wasn't serious. Would never have
considered living here.

Then came a woman. Portly. Fifty-ish, I'd say.
She gushed about the view. The ancient forest.
That's romantic, that! she'd say -
And kinda weird! She'd take the room.

And last of all, a vicar came
and looked it over with great care.
I chatted on about the ancient forest -
like you do! But all the time he knew:
That's why I want the room, he said.
It took a while for me to realise
that he was blind. He spoke
as though he saw the stumps for sure.

The odd thing was: they'd all had dreams
about the ancient forest, and the dreams
had led them, each one, to my room -
and not to beat about the bush... to me.