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Monday, 30 July 2012

The Starling Proposition

dull toll
like funeral bell
calls the faithful to their prayers.

Sounds ring - shine
like blinding light
into the ears of corn
waveward oil seed rape
and poppy-pupilled meadow grass.

Bell waves
stir the dust
in churchyard graves
permit the ghosts
to walk again.
They make their way to church.

Above them
are the mimed
the almost silent
footsteps of the faithful.

Only the ghosts
are called by name
hear their names
in the long list of names
the slow toll of the bell reads out.

Are not the meadowlands,
the woods with their green corridors
and canopies
the warrens that the rabbits make -
all this and more
is this not something of a broader church? I'm asked.

Above the dark hills
a galaxy of starlings
whirls in a crazy gravity
forms patterns - a geometry
like fish nets cast
or dancers' veils in fishtail winds.
Upon reflection, I decide: it's answer of a sort.

Yet still the bell tolls on,
its more considered voice
the basis of an argument for some design intent.

But disembowelled,
supine upon the stone grave
I just happen to be visiting,
a tiny saviour,
spiny corpse of hedgehog stretched
out X-wise on the slab,
victim of...
argues vehemently
countering the Starling Proposition.
Nature teems with crude solutions to the problems posed by life.

The epitaph
tells that his postate killed him.
(No first year engineer
would ever have come up with such a crude device -
arguments based on design
can work both ways...)

Within the yellow-lighted church
among the flickering candles,
perhaps where incense burns
debate is stilled
and faith less focussed than before.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Postcard to a Pen-Friend from a Penguin

Hi Krilly! And thanks for yours.
I received it safely, yesterday
in snow that fell with all the weight
and thunder of an avalanche.
Yesterday was bad.

We woke this morning, all of us,
in bags of ice. Not solid ice,
what we call breathing ice.
"Like lace," my mother says, like patterns
that the sea-ice makes sometimes
in forming slowly. Easy enough
to break apart, but nasty all the same.

My mother says it's global warming.
I cannot get my head round that:
how does warming make things colder?

Such groaning and deepgrowling
like monsters in the ice,
we've never known before.
The creaking and the cracking
come as standard, but not
this grinding onslought on our ears!

You ask about my homelife.
Mum says yell you this:
that if my homeland was to melt
- and dad syas; "possible..." -
the oceans of the world would rise
by more than fifty meters!

Life is small and on the edges here.
It's in the sea you'll find the eco-system
(for now, at any rate - or until man
finally destroys it with
his manic fishing). On what
we still call "land" there's very little:
just occasionally, rocks appear
from which the wind
has blown the snow. There
you may spot a smear of lichen
or some moss. That's it.
That's all that's visible.

We penguins stay all winter.
Almost nothing else is quite that mad.
Our summer neighbours call us
"Blubber beasties" - and it's true
beneath our eiderdown of feathers
thick coats of blubber
are our ultimate salvation.
(Some fish have anti-freeze
to keep their blood in trim.)

My mother manages
a single egg each Autumn
which my father incubates.
We have a creche. My parents
leave us there while they
go foraging for food.
They talk a lot about "The Hole".
They mean the one that man
kind made in the ozone -
our solitary shield - and his! -
against the ultra violet of the sun.

Our friends at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads are encouraging us to use our imaginations to explore lands different and distant. This week in their new spot Transforming Friday Hannah suggests the polar regions as our destination. Go take a peep; here.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


How difficult sometimes
to make the right connections
to solve a puzzle or a problem
understand a work of art
or get from A to B on train
or bus, to telephone for information
that only some remote call centre has.

So easy once,
just lifting the receiver,
waiting for the operator's voice
asking which connection you required.
Number twelve, you'd say,
and hear her voice again, Ah,
Mrs Bradfield in the High Street -
often not at home this time of day...

And all connections came that easily, back then.
The transport ones for instance:
we'd step from one into the next -
and always home by tea.

These days the web connects us
to a host of folk we only think we know
and to a thousand treasure caves
of source, resource and reference.

but behind the changing scenes of life's connections
are a million billion constant ones
on which the rest depend,
connections that we make and break unknowingly -
and certainly not knowing how or why -
each moment of our lives.
Their very number is beyond
all our conceiving.
We make and break them in the brain. They make it
possible for us to breathe,
to eat, walk, talk and think -
and build connections on the web
and in our daily lives.
Linking to Brian Miller's theme Thursday of the same title.

Friday, 27 July 2012


being the theme for Victoria Slotto's challenge at dVerse Poets Meeting the Bar : Critique.

Everything in balance, if you please!
The colours warm and cool and light and dark,
tones and the intensity of hues,
the primaries and complimentaries
not pitched against each other,
but gently mixed - say red with green
or blue with orange, yellow with violet,
all these to be in balance, please.

This from a senior psychiatrist
to art school students with
a dream assignment: each
to paint a mural for the dining
hall in the sprawling hospital.

And this despite the fact that mixing these -
the red and green, the blue and orange -
kills them both. It's pitching
them against each other that enhances.
(Red is more red when next to green.)
This he would not have. But not just this:
colour, line, shape - emotion most of all,
the whole to be in balance, and to form
a scene of calmness and serenity.

I'll be along each day
to vet the work in progress.

This from another senior psychiatrist.
One mural I recall. A beach scene,
fishing boats parked up on the shingle;
nets, lobster pots, coiled ropes and paint.
As calm as any scene I could imagine,
but it did not pass. The fishing boat masts
cut across the faint horizon. Straight lines
crossing speak of violence. The patients
will become too frenzied.

One man's balance, another's violence.

Most difficult of all was balancing emotion.
What does that mean? What it meant then
I never did discover. Emotion in
the content is so personal - and yet it haunts
me still, seems to be the most legitimate
of all his strictures - and the one most
apposite for poetry. How easily - or not - can thoughts
of balance be transferred between the arts?
But I am sure that where emotion is concerned,
they should. Sensuality in balance with,
say, irony; tragedy with ecstacy, the sentimental
(baby food, but baby food that might taste good)
balanced by some meat. Matisee should have
the final word, I think: don't say the vase
is orange, but that the painting is!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

field and factory

Urban shortages
match rural plenty.
space and darknesses
unwinding slowly as I walk.
I match them one-to-one.

We, like prisoners
for whom the light
is permanently on,
grow used to its polluting rays,
the way they seep
more slowly in
to every fibre
of our milieu
than does all our walking.

Darkness exists nowhere but
inside - and that most secretly.

Space for us now
is space to flow
and overflow, to
realise the size
it has in mind for us.

The town is of itself
self-metaphor -
its own worst enemy.

The milieux speak
two common languages:
lullaby one day
and dirge the next.
We are constrained by this much more 
than by the hedgerows or brick walls.

Yet which to choose
(if choice is possible)?
Urban remembers light 
that rural never knew.
Yet rural sees the stars, can look beyond
the here and now into another space.

If we could only 
speak the distances between them,
there would be
no need of poetry like this.

In rural night
eyes follow
from the hedgerows -
are cameras on stalks in towns.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Soul Mates?

Six weeks a student teacher,
first experience of a modern school,
light and airy, one to die for - and the thought
was never far away. Adjacent to
the crematorium.
So every half-an-hour or so
this vista through the classroom's picture window:
a long procession and a puff of smoke.
Sometimes a puff of smoke and a procession.

Beyond the crematorium
another one, for pets.
This too, had its own (smaller) puffs of smoke.
And so I'd wonder,
the two puffs coinciding,
if perhaps they'd met,
the pet's soul and its human counterpart,
and if they had, what greeting would they get
when they would reach their final destination?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Weather Machine

Tim's first sketch developing the concept for his apparatus.

Two more drawings from Tim's write-up of the experiment.

A science project - so he said - pinch of salt, I thought.
Would you be fooled? Homework assignment - yeah,
he said that too. A likely story. Wait and see,
I thought. Just wait and see! Didn't seem
to make much sense. Tangle of metal pipes,
odd bits and bobs, part of a bunsen burner,
a magnetic coil or two, transducers off the dump,
condenser parts and stuff I couldn't recognise.
Oh yeah, a clockwork gubbins and a hook-shaped tail -
the tail wagged by the gubbins - to what end
I couldn't tell. The whole set out in something like
a love knot and a figure eight. As to the grand plan,
though, he wouldn't say - like he'd been sworn
to secrecy. Wouldn't say, more like! Let's wait and see!

Several days went by and Tim was playing with his toy
beside an open window, the way he'd done each day
since he had brought his notebook home from school.
A lovely day it was an' all, but then dark clouds blew up.
I took him in his cup of tea  just as the first cloud streamed
in through the open window, only to be stopped - for so
it seemed - within the large loop of his apparatus. Outside,
the world was changing - being changed - the sky becoming
an assemblage of black tube-shapes and psychedelic
fluffy balls, the former heading for our window at a rate
of knots, the latter bouncing everywhere across the sky
and over the horizon. The tubes, it seemed were being
pulled or sucked towards us by Tim's mechanism -
but not just that: birds, lady birds and beetles, leaves
and tiny things in hundreds at a time had found themselves
caught up in it and drawn in through the open window to be
processed in the coils of Tim's Leviathan. And all of them
departed this reality as puffs of smoke or flame. As I
put down the cup I saw the dark cloud-tubes and patches
of unnatural colour burst into flame and set the sky alight.
Beyond the conflagration all was a flat black. Only as
the early waves of terror left us as we realised we were
still here... only then did any of us realise that nothing
from the outer world had been destroyed, but all had changed,
put on new livery, was smaller, larger, transfigured
each in its own way as if the change had been designed for it.
I am indebted to The Mag for the original image and the inspiration behind this post.

Monday, 23 July 2012

the mystifying mark

Sometimes an artist makes a mark - undoubtedly
his own, but one to baffle him.
He wonders what it means,
ponders its likeness to the bird
he saw desert the V-formation and then veer away
to do its own thing in its own way in some
other sky. What drove the mark and what
does it intend? It made a break for freedom,
that much is crystal clear, but yet the where of it
contains no resonance of what was in its mind.
And saying which... there is the mark in question...
Do you not see it clearly in my painting?
Can you not see how it is troubling me?

Is it the burnt remains of  long ago experience
that does not fit the brand new image that I have of me?
It stares at me, defying me to do whatever it might be
it had in mind for me to do - remove it with
the palette knife, include it as a figure, bird or sign...
whatever it may be, I will not do, I will not do! It shall
not interrupt the smooth unrolling of my vision... except,
perhaps, it is the essence of that vision stealing up on me.
Do I make myself a fool in trying to divine
the meaning of the mark, this mark which came from me?
Ah yes, but from which part of me? And which part now
has set it free? These are the questions I must answer -
or I'll never look it squarely in the eyes again!

Perhaps it's mathematical... perhaps there is
a function to apply, perhaps the application
of that function will turn the whole caboodle
into flights of birds - or might it not transmogrify
into a fractal from my brush, a graph perhaps
to map the coefficient of man's inequality?
I am linking this poem to The Poetry Pantry #107 at Poets United

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The garden that thought itself a spinney

I watch him soak the paper,
take in hand the brown and sticky tape
and run it round the paper's sides
to seal them to the board.
We wait. The paper as it dries
pulls taut. The day
is gloomy yet
with just a trace of sun about to break
beyond the foliage.

He sits. Allows the board to rest
so lightly on his knees.
Shapes. Areas of interest.
Rich and dark and difficult to recognise.

He sprays the paper - lightly now -
and on the wet
floods in his reds and greens,
lighter for the foliage.
Dull shadows of a violet hue.

A wisp of blotting paper. Rolled,
he uses it to draw in detail, bring
the image roughly into shape.
Light on dark. It's like a negative
emerging in a photographic tray.
He sprays again (The paper
has begum to dry.)

The water droplets granulate the paint.
He floods in powerful cadmiums -
reds and yellows. Sprays again -
the shadows now - then rubs them
with his finger tips and thumb.
(A risky business
that could turn the painting
to a sea of mud.
This time it works O.K..)
A spot or two of opaque paint
and all is done - a woodland scene
from one small garden grown.
Written for Claudia's Poetics : in Schillers footsteps 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Our Town

We built the town,
we gave the town away
to folk who didn't love
it well enough. We're back
to see how it has fared.

We trailed it like a smile
along the river. Pinned it there,
a church spire at each end,
a pub or two to keep it tight -
but not too tight.
And that was that -
or so we thought.

Since when,
the careless ones
have filled each green
and verdant space
with tenements
like old teeth gritted
behind the smile.

We must give folk
somewhere to live
they would contend - and
that was true enough.

But now decay
has visited the teeth.
Their turn to be unloved,
unlived-in and a prey
for vandals. Only
the graffitists now
will give them
time of day.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Love Song to London

Celebrating its first anniversary, dVersepoets asks us to encore a poem submitted to them in the last year. The following is a new draft of the one I posted on the 17th August 2011

 How to forgive you, London, my lovely?
 Last time I saw you, alas, you were dirty:
 Oxford Street cluttered with boxes and beer cans,
 litter and dust clouds there, blown by the wind.
 I'll forgive and forget as all lovers do,
 for these are the prints I've no wish to retain;
 I'll stick with the warmth that I felt for the art shows
 where dealers invited the populace in:
 colourful, small, like the stalls in a kasbah -
 not that they'd thank me for putting it so! -
 their paintings and prints delighting the soul.

 In one of those galleries columns of smoke
 signalled the end of my favourite coat -
 one naked bar fire beneath a small painting,
 one extra lapse, already forgiven.
 How could I drop you and your House of Commons?
 (The best entertainment for free you can get:
 dead meats and their prices debated for hours.)

 How not to forgive who showed me the ballet:
 Berisova and Fonteyn, and dear Drury Lane?
 The glories reflected to your signal credit
 include The Royal Court, Pinter, Osborne and co.
 Oh London, my Lovely, I'll pardon your faults...
 though the riots, I grant, will take a wee while!

 Oh London, my lovely, your charms are sublime, are
 brighter by far than the stars in the sky,
 more abundant than ever though marred by your garb.
 Remind me, my London, over and over,
 that change is illusive, you still are the London
 of memory cherished before our brief parting.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Way to Begin

Oh yeah, I dig this -
that the soul rolls
like a storm cloud through a valley.
And out of the valley, a subtle beat
is taking the heat right out of me...
It's deep, bass, rhythmic; it's regular guys,
but over it, quietly, softly, there flies,
flows, rolls, whispers the soul...
Trip and tremble and gasping, whole - and
mellow as moonlight, laid back as spring
and forging, as  spring, a way to begin.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

in a Godless world

Only at night
does the known
and the seen

Look out
at the stars.
All is well.

Look out
in a storm.
The connections
are there.

By morning light
the dreams
and the scenes
will no longer fit.

"How,"asks dream -
in its dying echoes -
"to be, what to do
in a Godless world?"

To echo
comes answer,
echoes of echoes,
down from the mountain,

out of the blue,
"as if I am there
in my rightful place."

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Parish Church Corpse

Between heaven and hell
down crumbling concrete steps
behind a veil of trailing ivy
to a basement area
and oaken door -
frighteningly left ajar -
and through the door
(both with shoulders pushing)
to a half state
neither tomb nor church
but chilling dark
is where we meet him, him
whom we have never met before -
the church corpse,
laid in state upon a trestle table,
headless in a gown a deeper dark
than lampblack. So we wait, my friend
and I, our eyes' adjustment to
the dark. The corpse is more pro-active: sits
bolt upright, growls at us, his face
revealed now as he pulls the surplice
down that covered it, and smooths
it over the black cassock that he wears.
He growls again. (And no, we have not run,
could not have run.) (And no, we didn't
do that either!) "What's you doin' 'ere?"
Another growl. We see now that the
gown and surplice are both frayed
and grubby. He's still not overjoyed
to se us, that is clear. Did we awaken him?
We made no noise. "Git Moliere,"
he stretches out a hand we fail to shake.
"Grave digger. Factotum extraordinaire.
You've caught me at my passion. I dress up."
And so he does. He has a wild collection.
Old costumes (faux ecclesiastical and others)
hung around his tiny boiler house.
I can't forget the altar overhead.
Approaching something like full consciousness,
surplice and cassock are pulled off -
do they do service as his jim-jams? Now he stows
them, neatly folded, on a ledge.
He growls again. Repeats: "Git Moliere!
But to us he is, will always be,
the Parish Church Corpse Extraordinaire.
We swallow hard and introduce ourselves.

He also has a fine collection of old bones.
He has them in a flour bag, rattles them,
then takes them out and lays them one by one
along the trestle table for our sight.
"All human, boys," he says,
but looking back, I rather think them animal.
"Found whilst digging graves."

He fascinates us both.
We'll seek him out, I'm sure,
all days we can. I'm also sure
that we should not.
We'll keep him to ourselves.
He chats about the graves,
how some are cracked acoss the lids.
On some the lids have moved,
but moved or cracked they stink "the stink of hell".
He has a story for each one,
how each spirit rose
and what the odour signifies.
We'll hear them all, but not today.
Git's a gift - we'll keep him to ourselves.

This concludes my series on The Suburban Village. I have left perhaps my favourite character until last.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

France and all things French

For Manicddaily's Poetics : a French Twist at dVerse Poets.

Idiosyncratic images
have always formed
my effigies of France and all things French,
my private iconography:
Brie and Balzac by The Eiffel Tower.
Lovely jubbly - which reminds,
soon hopefully to be
Champagne and Claret in the Champs Elysées
when Wiggins - or when Froome -
have won the Tour de France,
the greatest sporting conquest
that the world has ever seen
by many an Alpine climb.

It was not alway so...
all those years of thinking we'd done well
just having someone IN the thing!

But even in my bike race days
it was not always so for me:
French Art was tops.
France was my Bohemian,
the child who didn't take to rules
and didn't fear the rod.
Macon in Montmartre would have been the job.
And after that it would have been
French kissing followed by French letters.
These are the images of France
that have made my juices run.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Inspiring Things

The seeing eye
the listening ear
the active mind

                                          can't be found
                                          it finds

the whole world in
the grain of sand...
that sort of thing.

                                          like us when small
                                          boys scrumping
                                          in the garden of
                                          the vicarage

too small to shake
the trees. The fruit
found us - fell off
without our help.

                                          no need to look
                                          for something

a broken toy
a knot hole
in a fence, a
small tear in
a curtain...
whatever finds
you just do not
cold-shoulder it.

                                          For some one simple
                                          object or one place
                                          may last a lifetime:
                                          the artist's passion
                                          mountain, garden.
                                          river, single tree.

Walk throuh a wood...
everywhere are works
of nature unresolved
unfinished images
embarrassments of
riches. Inexhaustible.

Written for Brian Miller's Inspiring Things prompt at Theme Thursday.

And no, once again I have not tried to highlight sections - again, it is something Blogger insists on doing to me!

Lucky Break

It has been a lucky break.
After reaching my breaking point
and nearly breaking down in front of him.
Then breaking out in a cold sweat
Then thinking him about to break my dream
when he became emotional and his voice broke.

"How can I break this to you...?" he began.

"Go for broke!" I said. He did!

In the dream, lost and hungry in an overgrown brake,
I had broken off a succulent and eaten it.
At once strange body parts had broken through my skin.
I had consumed the Devil's Breakfast and would never die.

The Doc broke in upon my thoughts: "You have three years!"
Such relief! Immortality would have broken me for sure!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Ars Poetica

(for the prompt by Gay Reiser Cannon at dVerse Poets)

Writing a great poem
the poet lights a fire
builds a spray of flowers
that is itself a fire.

Between his fingers run
exquisite feelings, stems
to feed the images
he marshalls to his cause.

There's beauty in the blooms
semantic and of sound,
sexual of purpose
though strictly down to earth.

Attraction is the key,
that thought and felt should wed
though intellect by sense
should tenderly be led.

Beside all this, the blooms
poetic visions all
make memorable that
which else is commonplace.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Dreams of Reality

Do you see Picasso there,
sloping off to paint the world,
to show the world the way it is?

A painter of reality
is what he's set himself to be.

I'll paint that clown,  Picasso says,
and that small horse, 
the way they are.

I'll really be a painter then.
A real one - of reality!  

He does not know
the clown is masked.
The horse looks on,
looks on askance.

The clown will not reveal himself,
the horse is kicking up -
the horse it seems,
just won't play ball.

Appearances are all 
I've got,  says Pablo to himself:
A mask, a dance - and that is it,
for life is nowt but chance.  

Picasso sees, as in a flight
of mirrors in some wizard's Hall,
a flight of visual metaphors.
Picasso has a ball.

The shapes and hues on the clown's face
he sees could be a bowl of fruit,
the jerks and jumps of little horse,
rats in a sack of jute.

Incomprehensibly he shows
the clown asleep, his eyes fast closed,
who in his sleep dreams this strange dream:
that he's Picasso painting him -
him and the little horse, of course.

His painting done, the clown's awake.
Picasso needs a second take.
He knows the man, the scene grows dark.
Saludos, he greets him then,
 Buen Día, Señor Braque!

And that is how my friends, you see,
they came to launch their rivalry.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

An Experiment

written for Poets United

In the days - not far back - while painting from life
(the subject, of course, one loaded with feeling),
I'd sometimes compose at the back of mind,
a poem that rhymed. The task was to sever
the picture before me from all conscious thought.

The very next day I would study them both,
much as a poacher might study his traps.
Mostly I'd find that the poems were slight,
at times rather silly and trivial things.
Not so the paintings: they'd have the power
to surprise me well, more significant somehow,
than I might have foreseen in my rosiest dream.
From this I concluded that a poem requires
the whole of the mind, that the poet must bring
all the manners of thinking, all his riches to bear.

Not so the paintings, those autonomous things,
left to themselves - they preferred it that way -
they thrived in the knowing they were not observed
when consciousness left them alone. Ignored
by logic, they went out on the town,
free as the birds to manage themselves.

They and the poems strolled out hand-in-hand.
The latter I owned, each one a child,
the paintings were different: untrammelled and wild.
The task this week was to use the two pairs of words: trivial/significant and observe/ignore

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Hare

Look over the edge where the ocean churns
then over again, where the cold earth burns,
but wherever you look, and whatever runs there
good and evil are shaped like a hare,
configured for you at the time of your birth
and always abroad and at work on the earth.

And all that is there, that is left of the world,
all that a man can expect of the world:
all that the world has failed to forgive,
every promise it's made, every prayer we've prayed,
all art, all music, all poetry lives
in the breath and warmth and flight of the hare.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Ministry for Immobility

I went for a job the other day.
To suit a pensioner, they said:
part-time, not rocket science, poorly paid -
you know the kind of thing!

The Ministry for Immobility,
the chasing branch, newly formed,
in need of legs, the idea being
when any section is in danger -

a department threaten movement, say -
the chasing branch will be there
tout de bloody suite
to nip incipient motion in the bud.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Jack and Arnold

Twin shooting stars, they shot across my sky,
landing, one bright Sunday breakfast time,
coincidentally, at our front door.
"Out of the blue!" my gran said, sniffily.
Thought I: the same blue as their uniforms!
From Canada. Kit bags slung on shoulders -
and better yet:  Royal Enfield rifles sloped
across their backs. Gran's distant relatives.
Arnold and Jake: I'd never heard of them.
"They've come to bloody Hitler's nose!" she said.

They showed me how to strip the rifles, and
how to use one, lying prone, to kill off
all the Germans hiding in the rose bed.
"We've done no actual  killing yet," Jack said,
apologetically. Wrong! They'd killed
off my desire  to drive a big red bus.

One summer's day when I'd been playing up
(exactly what I'd done and why, what it
was all about, God knows - I've asked, of course,
but He's not saying), they ended it quite
summarily, debagging me. Dumped me
in our small front garden, shut the door and
left me there, how long I do not know, might
not have cared if Ann had not come by. I
must have had a crush on her. Thereafter,
nothing's clear of my two stars. I've hazy

images of fun. That's it. One image,
though, there is that does not fit. Jack (I think)
arrived with a large box of letters tied
in bundles with red tape, and asked if gran
would keep them safe for him. The cupboard un-
derneath the stairs became their home. Soon he
was back to burn them all. i asked gran why -
and why was Jack in tears. "Huh!" she replied,
"they're crocdile tears, nothing more!" How strange
that phrase seemed to me then! Why crocodile?

When came V.E. day and the celebrations
Jack announced that he'd be volunteering
to go to the far East. Armold called him
fifteen sorts of idiot, but Jack had
the last laugh, was shipped back home, had weeks of
embarkation leave... at which point peace broke
out. Jack, demobbed, returned to civvy street,
while Arnold was still stuck in what for him
was no more than an outpost that had me.
I post this edition of my Suburban Village early, while I still have broadband!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Twixt Clock and Bed

(Edvard Munch's painting "Self Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed" was his last. It can be seen here - Scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

Aren't we all
(in a manner - our manner -
of speaking) somewhere between
the grandfather clock and our bed,
time out...  final rest
(though we stand to attention
facing the world)
ticking our way
weighing the ticks
in the palm of the mind's right hand
'till between-clock-and-bed
slips out of the world
and the world is unchanged when it's gone?

Alone at the end
(though friends gather round)
all we have known
are the clock and the bed
and how to stand firm
in the face of the world
frail soldiers on guard,
last duty done
for the ticking has stopped.
It's time to turn in.

Looks like I might not get round to all my friends for a while. I have lost my broadband - looks like it might be long term. I shall return!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I could be treading water
through this dusky coloured air
lapping like an ocean at the boles of woodland trees
then merging with a wide expanse,
opaque and greenish hued,
of underwater gloom,
profoundly deep where sunlight filters through
and makes unreal suggestions of a surface high above.
Dark streaks of simmering Venetian red
suggest a dying sun where foliage
with sharp serrated edge
leans threateningly in.
And then the mystery, my friends:
the twisted frames of cycles on a bonfire not yet lit.
Smoke blackened, but not here - the foliage intact.
A skeleton... not human... no, not that... but
bird-like... and the bikes... in spiky set-up, weld
upon sly weld, to form,
in ill-defined resemblances, a pentagram
and Plato's broken line, an endless knot,
an enneagram, a sulfur, crescent, crux,
a ringstone and infinity - a stunning cycle crash!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Newton's Clockwork Universe

In Newton's day
the universe
was sort of clockwork. Scientists
imagined God as maker, setting it
in motion. That was it. His bit then done,
the laws of science took control
and He retired to watch.

I wish that I'd lived then - before
this quantum stuff destroyed that pretty scene.
I could have managed in a world like that,
nothing too mind-bending, a lack of useless tatt.
I see myself hypothesising
that the simple frame, the clockwork world
inferred a clockwork God -
no, not retired, but active then as now.

From time to time
we'd have to wind Him up a bit...
but what of that? At least
I would have understood
the way He worked and what
He was about.

In later days we might have thought
up-dating Him to batteries.
But for the then, mankind would know
the blessings of a clockwork will
and of a body that itself
at times could be rewound.

Why did those ancients,
on to such a useful thing,
stop short of the whole hog?

Monday, 2 July 2012

darker than dawn's ray

The night is my companion poem writer.
Words seem to change their meanings after dark,
and wear the most fantastic night attire.
They wake me with a whispered shh or shat
and from them spin the beauteous of lines
which if I write down in my booklet then and there
bear no relationship to what they'll mean next day.
So night time has a language all its own,
that much is clear, the time has come
for me to differentiate the ones we write -
the night and I - for darkness, I alone for day.
It seems the night may harbour jealousy
when I make bold to offer up to day
what we have scribed together in the dark
and what is darker altogether than dawn's ray.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


You met him just last Monday, my best friend,
now here he is again, popped out of one more
poem, to show himself in our true colours,
the rightfulness of getting something wrong.

Death to us all, De'ath is Buttons now -
and thus, my friend in make-believe no less
than in real life, for I am Cinderella,
and he The Baron Hardup's handyman.

The Sunday School's ambitious pantomime.
Everyone I know is here - on stage as some-
one else or sitting in the hall as them.
Good job I've Death to keep my thinking straight!

When Buttons asked his mother for a costume,
mother got it wrong. That fact explains how
Death became dead ringer for a Pearly King -  *
and should he mind, as ladies finger him?

It wasn't scripted quite like this, that my
silk stockings should keep falling down (not silk,
no, not in war time Britain, could they be?)
Laddered - it took Death to help me pull them up.

They say we brought the house down once or twice...
we didn't notice, we were acting straight.
I won a prize for my performance, though:
a book about the life that beavers have.
This poem was written for the http://dversepoets.com/ Poetics prompt, the brilliant "Buttons" theme hosted by Brian Miller.
I am also including it as the next instalment in my Suburban Village series.
* see here