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Thursday, 28 February 2013

An Infant Non-Sequitur

It was my finest castle ever,
commanding views all round,
the moat left dry by order of
my infant client with the secret plans.

But that was then.
As I recuperate from my exertions
in the hot sun (of late October)
he is busy knocking down
and building up
and changing bits. The drawbridge
and the ramparts, for example, have become
a new kind of Spaghetti Junction --
just one part of his vast
expanding grid of motorways
that threatens the whole beach.

On the highest stretch of the spaghetti now,
a hole. Roadworks! he calls -- and from
his bag takes several toy cars. Eight in all.
With them he forms a queue before the hole.
They stretch back over the long span -- at least,
some seven of them do. The eighth one will not fit.
He tries to push it on behind the seventh car.
The first rolls off,
falls into the hole.
He replaces them, each one with care,
each to its former home
and tries again, but this time from the road works end.
The last car in the queue rolls off.
Again they are replaced.
Not to be defeated, now he moves them from
the centre of the queue, creates a space in which another car will fit. But both end cars have fallen off.

He looks at me,
The bridge is far too small! he calls
It's only big enough for seven cars...
his voice tails off.
What will you do then? I inquire.
Make it longer, dad, that's what...
He looks imploringly, but I'm asleep.

I see him measuring the bridge extension now.
He's making sure it's one car length. No less.
No more. But now, before he tries again
he takes a ninth car from his bag - and still
the queue can not be fitted to the bridge!

Dear reader, you may now return
to the first line. For your second reading, please
up any number that you meet, by one!

Written for the prompt at Poetry Jam in which Peggy invites us to think in terms of a logical non sequitur.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Flame for a lonely Man

Written for the dVerse Poets Open Link Night bartended by Joseph Hesch

It grew where few eyes witnessed it,
a bloodstained hand upon the land,
a rosebud in the wilderness,
flame of a cactus, hard as coal.

Alone and conscious of itself, it stood
with little to recommend it
(save its beauty),
Less still to worship it,
and nothing to which it could turn and say:
There stands a plant like me!

Alight, alive
with love and light,
and humming with desire,
child of a green head crowned with thorns,
torn from her gutta-percha flesh,
cradled among her cruel spines,
it flourished with its Mary --
the desert sands their Bethlehem.

Only a lonely man
saw in the bloodstained hand
his twin, his earthly next of kin.
He was its saviour,
it was his.

Day after day
he travelled in the lonely places
creating in his mind a wilderness,
a barren land where that bright thing,
so finely knit by those sharp pins,
might grow.

His mind reflected back the image of the rose.

And when the wilderness stood dry
and dust and sand and empty sky
condemned the lovely thing to die
he threw himself upon the thorns
to feed the roots with blood.

Common as cow dung the ways of the stranger,
yet rare to the plants as nitrates
in a desert running to dust.

Wise men travelled far to view
the all-exciting bloom,
yet overlooked with careless eyes
the green head crowned with thorns.

This is the umpteenth version of a poem that obviously is quite important to me -- otherwise it wouldn't have gone through umpteen versions! Strange to relate, though, I have not yet come to fully understand WHY it is so important. Maybe I'm just becoming obsessive in my old age....

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

It was the Hallelujah! that did it!

One of those small squares
close to The Inns of Court.
A place for lunch, I'd thought,
and here we were --
though somewhat earlier than planned.

We'd visited the Building Centre --
and been thrown out.
Correction: politely asked to leave.
The pupils, armed with questionaires
had been set loose. Simple research
tasks prepared by John. It was John's show,
but I'd been sent along -- well, just in case!
John was new to pupils such as ours
and not quite on their wavelength, yet.

For Malcolm and his friends, research had been
interpreted as commandeering lifts
and flying up and down between the floors.
John was incensed: In all my life, I've never
been thrown out of anywhere!
he'd moaned
(inaudibly) as we'd trecked to the square.

We sat the boys along the low wall
of a fountain -- dry, as fate would have it.
Then as I cleared my throat to launch
into my homily, Malcolm, in an act of
unadulterated nonchalance, leaned back
and placed his left foot on the wall.
John was a stream in spate that burst its banks.
Take your foot off that wall and sit up straight!
he yelled. Malcolm, six feet something of Jamaican
manhood, considered. Decided. Rose to his full height.
Dat's maaaaaaaaa foot. Maaaaaaaaaa foot! he roared.
Da Gude Lawd, He gave me Maaaaaaaaaa foot, man!
Da Gude Lawd and Da Gude Lawd alone. And only
da Gude Lawd alone can tell me wat to do
wid dat dere foot o'mine. So no one else
aint'a gonna tell me what to do with maaaaaa foot
save The gude, gude Lawd Hisself! Hallelujah!

And he punched the air.

The passing public rather appreciated the
unexpected street performance - or so I thought.
John did not. He resigned soon after the event.

Monday, 25 February 2013

When the top supporting actor went missing!

I had a fever once,
dreamed I was ill,
a dromedary came
with drawers in its hump --
one either side --
with medicines for cure
and phials for suicide
and first-aid kits
and tennis balls.

Then with the fever gone
I wrote it up.
A T.V. script. Speech
to the left and visuals right --
I knew no more than that --
and posted it as an idea
to one I knew
would see at once
its possibilities...
to Michael Bentine's It's
a Square World.
his zany sort of thing!

It didn't make my name. Alas,
too late, I see the reason why.
My main protagonist escaped
my notice in the dream.
My Venus with her drawers! Now,
had I put her in, she with the dromedary, would
have zapped the world, no doubt!

I had not expected to be posting today, as some of you will have read in yesterday's post, but my plans having been changed for me, I offer this quickie as a response to the Mag's fantastic visual prompt here -- for which much thanks.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Widow

Dark hair a ball of wool
loosely wound
even with a slight unravelling
its waves hang on
to what might be
a coracle, a
small black pill box hat,
tipped, not jauntily --
let's say
precariously --
behind the head.

Framed by the waves
the shocked complexion
is more felt than seen.
Her mourning
is a work in progress still.
The eyes stare straight ahead.
Only the mouth speaks clearly of
uncomprehending pain.
All else about her
seems too spare.

Written for the prompt by Kelvin S. M. Artistic Description at dVerse Poets Pub
Unable to post tomorrow due to forces almost beyond my control(!), so hope to meet up with you all again come Tuesday.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Chance has its Favourites

Hey then,
what should a young priest do:
first church,
first congregation,
almost -- but not quite --
his first communion with them,
entering the chancel by the vestry door
between the altar and the choir stalls,
heaven, if you will,
and hell,
eyes flicking left to clock
the crowded pews before
he turns to genuflect
and sees (or rather, doesn't see)
the chalice of pure gold, sees in its place
a shining, spinning roulette wheel?

What should a young priest think?
A prank? A hoax?
The choir boys?
Surely not the altar boy? And then he notes:
the absence of a ball; the rate of spin
is constant, the wheel's
not slowing down; and where the wafers
of unleavened bread should be,
a pile of gambling chips...

What should a young priest think?
There is no precedent to answer that.
But this one thought:-
of Marcel Duchamp
moving a urinal
into a gallery, converting it by that
into a work of art... might this unholy thing
by method not dissimilar, become
a found and holy joy?

But then he thought -- we'll blame the spin --
his mother's dressing table,
and her music box:
and incongruity upon more incongruity,
the handle of the spinning wheel became
the ballerina there...
no, not the ballerina on his mother's box,
a dancer, male, wild and wanton, spinning yes,
but leaping too, and hanging in the air.
More sexual even, than a ballerina,
his dance was breaking all the rules,
all conventions,
prohibitions, inhibitions. Out of the church,
into the night he spun and jumped.
A moment later, back he came,
a long leap from the transept,
landing light as air, a mere squeak
from his dance shoes on the floor.

What should a young priest do
about to celebrate communion?
He wanted most of all to join the dance.
Called to the barr,
he saw the two of them in pas de deux.
Two male dancers in a pas de deux!
When did you last see one of those?

Well, finally, the last remaining strands
of reservation broke, and he -- quite unbeknown
to him -- was on his points... Fading now,
the roulette wheel, the chancel arch,
the altar, choir stalls, choir boys:
all a blurr... and he had spun his way
along the nave and through the great east door
out into the night, into the cold and dark
among the grave stones and upon the pure
white frost... and no, my friends,
sad to relate, he is not spoken of
these days in those same tones
of reverence as is his hero, Marcel Duchamp.

The image is from Wikimedia Commons here

Friday, 22 February 2013

A Two-Gun Wannabe, Bashful to a Fault.

Yeah, bashful was what
worked against him in
the end. His work was
always hidden, tucked away,
a bit of fencing in a wood,
an allotment shed, a roof --
yeah, roofs his speciality!
To paint a roof would make
his night. Small signatures.
A rat, a tree. Daubs for
the birds.
But get my drift?
Viewings by appointment only.

He was just a lad with a can
when I first knew him -- but
he'd heard of Taki 183. (Had
the jump on me in that.) Had
a poster, so he said. Hero,
Still experimenting
in his own backyard. All this
before Hip Hop or Banksy, Blek
the Rat -- and long before the
days of satire and the urban
warrior brought respectability
(in some eyes) to the scene.

Yeah, lad with a can became
a lad with two cans firing
from the hip, both guns blazing.
Rhythmical, the work. Lyrical
and calligraphic. Geometric
patterns or a wood -- he loved
a wood -- but rarely people
at that time. A graffito
was a freedom. Something he
could do. Excel at. Relax into.

Then I lost contact. Visiting
a school for young offenders --
part of my studies -- looking
round the workshop there, I
heard this voice behind me:
What ho, sir! What the hell
you doing here?
talked him out of aerosols
and into carving stone.
Gave up the paint. Couldn't
very well compete with guys
like Michelangelo, eh sir?

I didn't state the obvious.

Written for Anna Montgomery's prompt on Graffiti at dVerse Poets
The image doesn't quite qualify as graffiti, I think (it was obviously done either by the owner or with his permission - as were the early works of my protagonist here) but I fell in love with it on a visit to South Wales and included it anyway.

Thursday, 21 February 2013


Not Yanks.
ant that.) Can-
adians, so Gran
impressed on us.
Our distant
cousins come
to fight our war.

John showed me
how to load
and fire his gun.
Alan shared a
Something for
the peace, for when
the war is over.

A frog. Red
bands and black,
a rugby
football shirt.
Eyes, hands and
feet all black --
strange I remember
that! And deadly
poisonous. An arrow
poison frog. American.
(Ooops, sorry gran!)

And did the Indians
boil these
for poison for
their arrow tips?

They did.
And he
the fearful and
obnoxious deaths
the frogs endured.

The way the
colours ran
in boiling froth;
the way the skin
would bubble up
like chewing gum...
That's probably enough:
Guess which
distant cousin
held me most
in thrall!

Written for Peggy's prompt, Stripes at Poetry Jam

Wednesday, 20 February 2013



Shadows racing over sand
are thoughts the land is having
that concern the sea.

Ah, but you are right:
sand is pure mineral is of necessity
thought free.

But for the land, on its behalf,
the thoughts attributed to it
are had by me.

In loco parentis, so we stand
to all that's shadowed by the thought
that time is running out.

A Time

There's a time for this
and a time for that,
a time for prayer
and a time for praising,
a time for love
and a time for parting,
a time for the wholeness that we share,
a time to show the world that we care.

There's a time for rhyme and song and sonnet,
for words of long, endearing love,
for words of sadness at our parting,
for words of praise and words of prayer,
for words that speak,
for words we share
in which is the glory
of this and that.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Wind of History

The wind that comes from history
whistles in our windows, boorish 
with the voice of know-it-all, been
there, done that, I'll tell you how it is...
with lessons to be learnt. Without a by-your-leave
it thunders with the energies
of yesterday's mistakes, it rattles 
every edifice and breaks each stony will,
tears iron gates from hinges
and whinges on until
the city's like a war zone
with yesterday's repeats. 
The past is round our necks, but still it isn't done:
it tears the very soul of now
from everything we've built
and drags it screaming from its place
into some future past.

The wind that comes from history
is air most rarefied: salvation
for near-drowning man -- though rare-
ly is that so. It brings a shift --
a seismic shift -- in how the world is planned,
but few there are who hear
in one in fifty thousand winds
the whisper that could be. Most times
the wind is whispering
past shouts of jeopardy.

It splatters on the pavements,
it batters city walls
and shatters every lingering hope
and all our unearned pride
until the nation falls.

It doesn't stop to bury
its corpses on its way
but hurries to the future
where it's other fry to slay.

Written for The Tess Kincaid prompt at Mag 156

Monday, 18 February 2013


The school bus comes,
the way it does each Thursday,
Autumn Term and Spring,
to whisk us to the public pitch,
my football group and me.

The boys spill out across the park,
clattering the tarmac with their studs -
except, of course, for Noah.
Noah checked out of life a time ago,
he watches from the sidelines, now,
cheers or boos as he thinks fit,
adds a comment here and there,
but refuses to take part.
His mates have changed their boots
on board the bus. Not he.
His trail behind him
bouncing over bumps and stones
on long entangled laces.

Noah likes a grandstand view,
and finds one in the nearest tree;
shins up it nimbly, boots and all,
and perches in a fork among the leaves.
Once. Twice. Three times I call,
inviting him to join us on the ground.
No way. Neither in word nor deed
comes a reply. (In thought, maybe,
but best to leave it. Go not there!)

So that is that. He will not come 
to harm. Nor will he perpetrate
harm, left alone. He's happy there.
(I'm not sure that these times
are helping him. The head, though, 
sees them differently. Press on!)
It's Noah's new life-style --
so one theory goes -- known
to some as non-alignment.

You cannot always out-guess life.
My last request was overheard.
A lady passing by - along the path,
as life would have it, right
beneath Noah's tree. She's heard
the end of it, is swathed 
in furs and tows a Pekinese the way 
Noah towed his football boots.
She looks up through the leaves.
Her voice is sweet -- as though
she wants to charm the birds:-

Why don't you be a good boy, now?
Come down and do what you are told?
Your teacher knows what's best. 
Noah knows some good invective,
when he thinks the time is right.
But even so, I have not heard
the like of this from him before! 
Suffice to say the stream begins with
And why the f*** don't you... 
Suggestions follow, some in the realm
of fantasy -- and hardly possible.

Would-be do-gooder, well-meaning 
to a T, the lady, gathering her furs
around her, gives the Pekinese
a tug that says let's go ,
resumes her progress through the park,
and snorts, but nothing like a lady,
as she passes me.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Rock Walk

My watercolour painting of a tree on The Rock Walk.
Nature's Sculpture Gallery,
was how I thought of it
and wondered who'd curated it,
what genius had had gathered these exhibits
and what s/he'd meant to show.
The Rock Walk, it was called,
which was perhaps a clue.

An inland cliff. A narrow, sandy path
descending -- always wet --
with, to the left, a wall of rock,
and to one's right, a drop --
in places sheer -- down 
to a wide and verdant vale, floor
thick with grass, the edges
rich in many forms of tree
and matted undergrowth.

And yet for me the Rock walk
beat them all, was more than just
a route down to a valley floor.
Boulders of every shape and size 
with calligraphic marks and signs,
most blotched with mosses,
wrapped in ferns and liverworts
and written on with lichen signatures.
Simple geometric shapes were there.
Exhibits too, of subtle or of tortured form,
trees interspersing them -- 
the world of text turned inside out:
characters to punctuate
a script of punctuation marks.

Had that been all, the fascination
would have been complete,
but then there were the roots!
Roots like snakes, like strings
on fossil lutes, unworldly instruments.
But everywhere the sinews stretched
and wound round tree and rock form
to create a wonderland in what
remained and dark and clammy place.
Strangest fo all, perhaps, the songs
from hidden birds. They never failed.
I often wondered why the birds
did not prefer the sunlit glades beyond.

The Rock Walk is -- or was -- part of the scene at Wakehurst Place, otherwise known as Kew in the country. I visited Wakehurst again a year or two back, after not having done so for a long time, but did not seek out The Rock Walk. They had made some fundamental changes since my previous visit, and so I have written this in the past tense, not knowing if the walk is still as I recall it.
Written for Mary in Poetics at dVerse Poets who has suggested either Leonard Cohen or a favourite place as our theme.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Real and Unreal : Cloud Poem #2

A thumb of mist has smudged a line of trees
and the horizon far beyond until
we cannot easily distinguish them.

    Dark clouds
      worn threadbare like old clothes
   through which
         the sun slants down             Houses in a wavy line
            between the branches,        along the hills --
           combs the undergrowth.        they could be ships
                                             some lost among
                                       the folds of ocean.
     What treasures might be buried here beneath the waves?

The tablets of stone cracked and
           crumbled long ago.
   On silver birch
    white lichens grow like star fruit we could pick

                The climate has
                      grown too extreme
                             for human beings now.

     tumbles down
        a rock formation,
 pools among the evergreens      A row of thin trees
 in which                      upright as a guard of honour.
 there perches                   From here 
          in his finest blues      they might be stick
     the Fisher King                 insects out
king fisher most remarkable       to catch us off our guard.
eyes boring holes                 
in watery murk.
He dives. 
Once. Twice. 
Has two fish in his beak,
before: a shiver of water and an arrow from a bow, he's gone,to leave  the colour as a trail of cobalt blue electric sparks. He, too, will    catch the likes of us off guard when he returns -- but from the        opposite direction!  

Real and unreal interact here
urge eyes to look
and minds to think 
 in other ways.   
                                           ploughed fields
                   Approach the hazels.     retain some snow
                     Trunks decorated      in speckle form
                   with more lichens     or furrowed rows --
Over to our left    (pale blue plaques       a lunar land   
a hazel wood        with small black         an artist
contributes           squiggles)tell --      tidied up
its own fuzz         or ought to tell --
to what is          of past celebrities
after all           who slept or lived
a fuzzy scene.       among these branches --
Branch and twig,        The hazel dormouse Muscardinus
how fine they are!        lived among these leaves.
How fine
the winter canopy!     
Brushes of              
camel hair                         Now undulating land,
to brush the sky               dips and grassy knolls.
ruffled                     Gnarled roots beneath the feet 
by the breeze.          suggest
                               it was not always so.
                           Clouds now like mountains
                           where was smudge before.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Sacrifice: no longer cool.

Nobody sacrifices now
the way they did of old,
the guys of the Old Testament.
They really knew their stuff
and buttoned up their faith.

They did it in obedience.
Thou shalt, said God
or Build!  -- and build they did
an altar for their sacrifice.

Without sacrifice, no worship was.
Bloodless was some --
plants from the field.
Or Bloody when a beast was slain.
Both offered up with salt --
the mineral for purity.

Extreme stuff, then,
with guilt the motivating spirit,
life offered in exchange for life.
Burnt offerings -- the immolation
of a victim (male).
They called it holocaust. 

All technical. Correct.
According to the law.
And in the last analysis,
all for the self, the soul --
self preservation for the latter day --
or preservation of the holy race.

Then came The Great Creator's
master stroke. In modern
terminology: 2G technology.
An apps for every generation:
Christ Crucified. Beat that!

I think now of my parents...
In war-time Britain. Offering up
their rations for their children's health.
(We weren't supposed to know.)
Was that not worship, too?
They never thought it so...
I'd need a whole new raft of adjectives 
to make my feelings plain.

Looking back, they were the generation
of the 3G Testament, perhaps...
but look around, there's plenty of it
going on. More covered up I guess.
By what? A Government demanding
its percentages according to its law.
Thou shalt!  again. And Build! 
Build a big society! 
Bricks without straw!
Heavens above, we've heard it all before...
And rights. So much demanding
of the individual's rights. No one looks
for duty and for sacrifice.
But both are rife.
This week's prompt by Laurie at Poetry Jam suggested Sacrifice as this week's theme.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

St Valentine and the wolves.

St Valentine, we send your cards,
and yet we know, it's not your day.

Our customs seem remote from you --
more Lupercalia, they say.

Then priests with leather thongs 
would strike and cure the sterile girls --

and at the same time use the charm
to banish wolves that roamed the hills.

The tradition of St Valentine's Day (some say) is a remembrance of Rome's earliest days when ravenous wolves roamed the countryside where shepherds grazed their sheep. These shepherds were the earliest inhabitants of Rome. Watching over these shepherds and their flocks was the God named Lupercus (lupus = "wolf"). The Feast of Lupercalia was celebrated on the 13th and 14th of February to honour Lupercus. Maidens who were "up for it" would put their names in a box and the lads would draw lots. The pairings would hold good for a year. With the coming of Christianity the church attempted to replace the pagan festival with one of its own. Youths and maidens drew names from the box, but the names of saints, whose lives they were meant to emulate for a year. The church chose St Valentine to replace the pagan Lupercus.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

how do you define a lucky kid?

In the snow
the children
are making a dolls' hospital.

Reminds me of a school
I taught in once
(for delicates,
originally, treatment for T.B.).
Bandstand type construction,
open on all sides.
On days like this
winds of pure ice whistled through

The children came to breakfast.
Asthmatics, mainly.
Some seemed to be on their last breaths.
You thought they would not last the day,
but after breakfast they were fine.
No thanks though, to the wind --
escape from home's 
emotional uncertainties, more like.

Back to what the children do.
Rows of lumpy animals --
some of species indeterminate --
and fragile plastic dolls,
most with missing toes and fingers
or wide cracks here and there.

They lie in snow -- the lucky ones
have bandstand structures 
made of straws
to shelter them -- 
on thrown-together beds.
A wooden nurse looks over them.

Their parents huddle in a corner.
They cry for them, have flowers 
and grapes for them -- real grapes,
but paper flowers. A short way off,
a dolls' house where the parents live.

The flowers, I hear them say,
are for them to remember
those who've died.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Game of Consequences

What the artist said
(on a small brass plaque next to his exhibit)
There is nothing to
my installation
save tall mirrors,
my arrangement of them.

Stand on the welcome mat,
look into the first, blue, mirror.
You will see yourself,
but in some context
that your brain supplies.
Not standing in a gallery, 
but kissing someone
or killing someone,
or making tea or sniffing coke
or hoovering. Perhaps
you will be sleeping
with somebody unknown to you.
What happened when they opened
A visitor, J Fogg by name,
stood on the welcome mat
and gazed into the mirror
as advised, then slowly,
from an inside pocket
of his smart Italian suit,
he took a glove and, slowly still,
pulled it over his right hand
then smacked his fist against the glass.
A spider's web of cracks spread out across the mirror, and
What was later said by Fogg to explain his act.
                             /             \
                            /               \                                  
The mirror had gone black                    The glass was
bringing on a bout of his depression.        full of smakes
In the total blackness he had seen
a black dog snarling -- seemingly at him

     Most frightening
    were shadows thrown
   by people known to him             The image in the mirror
  with bright light cores           briefly changed, became
 or dew-bright eyes that          an X-Ray photograph of him
shone and followed him.         and showed dark shadows
                              on his lungs and heart,
                            that grew and switched
                          from time to time to dark
                        red, glowing shapes,
                      then back to black
Going dark, the glass
had left him with the
fear that he might sleep --
the terror of The little Death

Monday, 11 February 2013

Ancient Dreams

Some dreams lie deep
beneath the flux
and tidal flow
of tidy minds.

Titanics on the ocean floor,
ships of dreams,
your dreams of mine.
Dreams we had and lost
six lives ago.

Dark dreams that hunger,
sunk in deep despair;
and dreams of light and cheer:
all bottled in 
the darkness of the sea
and indistinguishable there.

These images need rescuing,
transporting to our world.
Real-world exposure
reveals the substance to the mind.

How shall we rescue them,
these ancient wrecks?
How shall we drag them to
the surface or the shore?

They're colonised by now.
A million different life forms,
all unknown to us,
have long since called them home.

And can we see the loss of them
as something spiritual?
Like all forms of decay
and natural change,
it's part of nature's plan
for life. We'll be content
to join it there.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cloud Poem #1

                          The water colourist will know
                       within himself
                           the moment that the work is finished
                                                      and yet
                                                 and yet
 Letting go                                  and yet
is hard to do                  he goes back time and time again
                                to add a bit
                             fine tune a bit
  The parents know                           or thicken up 
  the time has come                               an arabesque
the child a child no more             until the sparkle's gone 
They must let go                             the form is lost.

       Letting go is good to do! 

           let go!      De-      cluttering       the house...
                          so much stuff we do not want
                                         will never use
                                 why can we never let it go?

        stunt man                                Opportunities
         for the films                  so rarely come our way
           friend of mine                    we must not 
 driving his (special) Austen Healey               let THEM go!
              spun it on a patch of ice.
                To let the car correct itself
          he took his hands from the steering wheel.
The car, like a well-trained working dog
   rewarded him for trusting it.                Letting go --
                                And yet           both vice
                         And yet               and virtue.
                  And yet
               he did not wholly let go of the reins --
              his feet were busy all the while --
         doing what, I never fully understood.

The subject was suggested by Claudia for Poetics at dVerse Poets This form is something I have just begun to toy with. As you see, I have called it a cloud poem. You find your own way through it. There is o right way or wrong way. Unfortunately it does not lend itself very well to blogging, preferring the landscape format, but I thought it might be fun to try. (I' sure someone will tell me it's been done - it always has been in the world of art.)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A Small Storm with an Aftermath

That was not thunder, sister,
but a gun,
not lightning nurse,
incendiary bombs...
See there --
a plane just crashed...

How many adults with
so much to lose
or keep intact:
authority, position, dignity --
and class, perhaps,
would throw it all away
to play with a few children,
to cringe and quiver on all fours
beneath the table, desk and beds
to play their silly games?

Ward Sister Mary would.

For it was us
who would have shrunk beneath the sheets
in abject fear had we not braved
ourselves to face the world
with our new game of make believe --

make Sister Mary, if we could, believe
the storm was nothing of the sort.
A simple air raid -- not a thing
for us to fear,
though adults would, we knew.

Too soon, alas, the matron came
spitting fire and brimstone
and ordering our playful sister
to desist. Come out at once
and tidy up your uniform!
A most disgraceful exhibition,
letting down the hospital. 
Behaviour worse than any child's! 

We heard next day she was in deep, deep trouble.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Christmas in Hospital

Special air, dad said --
and mum was coming, too.
Magic stuff to make me well --
and Dr Shellswell would be there.

I saw the place at once:
the shop had barley sugar walls
and gold shelves stocked
with wanda and spells and crystal balls

and jars of coloured air.
Behind the counter, Dr Shellswell,
tall in wizard's hat,
was opening his bag of tricks:

stethoscope, pink medicine,
some pills -- and best of all,
the book of British Empire Stamps
he always brought to swap with me.

A white bus with a red cross
took us to the magic shop
for us to buy the air.
Then wafted on a magic carpet 

through a cave called A and E
where silver kettles belching steam
were filled with knives and kinds
of things I'd never seen before.

I made it crystal-clear, I thought:
two armies I had left at home
teetering on the brink of war 
(one was bunkered in my bed)-- 

of course I could not stay to tea!
It was the sparkling Christmas tree
I think that changed my mind -- also
that Santa would be there that night.

In the morning, true as true,
a Snow White doll and a Noah's Ark.
Across from me, a terrorist,
a sleeper 'till the time was right,

who'd had some heavy armour brought
by Santa in the night.
He'd send his mighty tanks, he said,
to kill or capture my Snow White.

This is another rewrite of an old poem (partly because I'm on a mission to make some that are important to me somewhat leaner and meaner) but also, in this case, rewritten in acceptance of Victoria C Slotto's invitation to submit poems based on early childhood memories for this week's Meeting the Bar at dVerse Poets
These are actually my first significant memories. I would have been five. It was just before the outbreak of war. Interestingly, what I imagined has stayed more vivid than the reality of how things were and what happened. (This leaves some room for manoeuvre when writing, as - for instance - I had imagined several scenarios for "going to this magic place to get the air".)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

An Incident at Sea

Like a giant locust
green and yellow
thwwwum-p thwwwum-p thwwwum-p
looking for a stalk of corn 
                           to land.
            printed on its side.

A deck hand
armed only with a tall step ladder
makes his way around the stern
from lamp to lamp
climbs each one as he comes to it,
removes the globe
and moves on to the next.

The locust's getting tetchy now
and belly-wiggles -- much to say
Get on with it, for 
Time is of the essence, man.

       the lights are down
there's room now for the rotor blades...
thwwwum-p thwwwum-p thwwwum-p
reminders come
              that it's still there.
The deck hand joins his mates --
there's still some clearing to be done:
deck chairs, loungers, 
tables, food stalls.
                  Only then...

but finally
           we're ready for...
One deck up, we're crowding forward
cameras and smart phones ready for...
It's Action...?

No, the ambulance completes a final circuit,
     and disappears.
                    Show over folks.
Dispiriting to realise
(I don't at first)
                  the reason why
the need for it has passed.

This is a rewrite of an older poem. You can read the original version here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Fucking Has To Stop. NOW!

They're laying into her without restraint,
her injuries are indescribable.
She screams for mercy and the busy street
absorbs her screams the way it stockpiles traffic fumes,
accepts them as concomitants of all known plans
for human progress, happiness and wealth.

The screams could no more now reverse the flow
of wealth and progress for the few (and who,
meanwhile, has happiness in tow?) than could the traffic's 
racket drown the toxins that the street consumes.

At no point in the rape from strip to death
does any Good Samaritan attempt to intervene.

Serendipity might be held responsible for this poem's birth. Three factors came together. Taking them in reverse chronological order: there was this reference to the dVerse Poets Open Link Night on Brian Miller's blog:- write something and put a bumper sticker on it that reads poem, only the hauty will tell you it's not anyway...and you can ignore them, i do...smiles. Well, not a bumper sticker perhaps. The title of my poem was the heading for a stunning piece of graffiti I saw - briefly - from a train. Lastly, that same day I read a newspaper report of a rape in a High Street during daylight hours. I tried to make my short poem refer equally to the street rape and the rape of Mother Earth. (Hope you picked up the clues. Please tell me if you did not.)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Man Who Wasn't Cézanne

It might have been Cézanne
who went into the field of corn
and setting up his easel,
looked around and saw
the mountains to the rear
and, argumentative in sky
and corn, the raucous crows.
It might have been Cézanne,
this painter on a mission --
and if it had been he
he would have known
where best to stay his eye. 
But this was not Cézanne. 
This painter was anonymous... 
famous but anonymous. He was
in need of time, reflection, 
thought. He needed to consider,
weigh up all the aspects. He 
had come to paint reality.
He'd paint it in whatever guise
it came to him. But where in
all this richness should
a painter focus first? To help
him in the awe-inspiring task
he'd brought an aid to mental
application: a chocolate cream egg.

He bites the egg.
It spurts. It stains
his shirt. But more:
it stains his pristine canvas.
He looks with horror at two stains --
a dark brown chocolate-coloured streak
beneath a yellow egg yolk smudge.

He takes a palette knife,
attacks the irritating marks,
but only spreads them, makes them
more offensive to his eyes.
He is about to try again
with greater fury when
a crow adds to the mess with
a grey-white and black, grey white
conglomerate obscenity... He stops,
the palette knife raised high
above his head in preparation for
the final strike... he's struck
by thought. And are these not,
he cries aloud, more real than
any marks I've ever seen purporting
to be art? Seconds after
voicing this epiphany he is engulfed
by midges, which he sets about
with vigour and his cap. Only later
does he realise that he has swatted some
on to the canvas, where they've
somehow morphed as crows among
the egg yolk-corn, above
the chocolate earth.

So that's reality! he says.
Reality impinges, bites, invades,
encroaches on your rights, becomes
a bloody nuisance now and then.
And if it don't do that, then man,
it just aint real enough for me!
Reality don't paint, it simply
spreads itself around. It's mucky,
fucky, unlucky for the guy
who gets too stuck with it. Reality
finds you and when it does,
then do all what you have to do with it --
and get out pretty quick! 

(Perhaps the world of art
would not have been the same
if anonymous had really been Cézanne!)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Could Anything be More Destructive of Poetic Form?

Sylvia Plath
thought it would be difficult
to accommodate a toothbrush in a poem.
In a novel, yes.
(A novel is a rag bag,
will take anything you care to throw at it.)
But in a poem?
Almost impossible!

What is it then, I wondered,
that a toothbrush is or has
that is so devastating
of poetic form?

Could it be by some association?
The open mouth, for instance...
How unromantic, unpoetic that can be!
Responsible for putting dentists
right up in the stratosphere
of mental breakdowns.
Topping every list.

Its total lack of looks, perhaps?
(neither have I ever seen it 
in a still life... or brought in
to a gallery as something found.) 
A urinal, yes. But toothbrush? Never!

I have tried to disprove Plath's contention. 
Here are some of my attempts:-

At the dawn of day
my toothbrush comes into its own...
Oh the spring water!

(Well, do I still agree with her?
I'm damned if I am sure...)
Let me try two more:-

On that one side - pain
even so there too I clean
with morning vigour!

Of difficult names
the spring weeds must rank highest --
next to the toothbrush!

O.K., they're fiendishly clever,
those Japanese,
so I'll try something else;-

Against the rubber tongues of cows
the toothbrush in the hands of men...
(With apologies to Ted Hughes - "Thistles".)

And from Ezra Pound (Canto XLV):-
with usura
hath no man a glass and a toothbrush on his bathroom wall

O.K., I confess, I don't know.
I merely assemble the evidence.
You, dear readers are the jury,
what thinketh thou?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Moving Shades of Light and Dark

This is the second instalment of the adventures of this particular monkey. You can read the first instalment here.
This instalment was written for Manicddaily's prompt, Light and Dark for Groundhog Day at dVerse Poets
It was raining when I visited
the monkey in captivity. 
The squirrel monkey (as I am
now told he is) and sexy wife had both
been given names and set to work
with children's paints and brushes.

So are they thinking (Kerry speculates
of his tormentors, all-those-White-Coats-
my cage is a round blob to me? 
that tree a longish smudge along the ground? 

Well yes, that sums it up, I guess. 
That's what they think. Paintings 1 to 5,
for instance. Monochrome. 
Dark, blotchy lines. Up and down the page.
Like ink blots that have run together.
Just one light corner. Bottom Right.
(That's where the sun pokes in the cage.)
Painted yellow. And then a growth
of pale blue crystals - seemingly.

First time, though, they all saw
it differently. A memory of the forest then.
Then came the day of darkness and a lorry parked
beside the cage, a blaze of light. Kerry
in his element -- until it moved. Then
he went ape and threw himself around
the cage and hurt his arm. Later he drew
lines across the page before attacking it
with vicious force. The theory was 
he had responded to the shadows of the bars,
the way they'd swept across the floor.

Kerry and Kitty often think 
(the theory also is) of all those images 
of heaven and of hell (their versions of, 
not ours) and sit there staring at 
the latest work (this one jointly executed)
without flinching hours and hours.

Their version of... consists (I'm told)
of shadows moving, creatures looming
(That's their hell) while heaven is
each other and their chattering.

Ask how they know a monkey's thoughts
and the white coats speak of
Stage 2 of their study.
This follows when a painting's 
finished, framed and hung.

The monkey sits 
like someone meditating,
immobilised, except the hands and eyes
are free. But nothing he can reach or see
except the painting. We scan the brain.
Observe which cells light up
and which go out. His latest painting
was a revelation, the way he 
circled blobs with his small finger,
but when we trundled bands of light
and darkness up and down the work
or columns of thick shadow horizontally,
he freaked out totally. Then when we let him go
he made for Kitty, stroked and cuddled her,
then ran back to the painting
and did the same to it. We have concluded 
that it's Kitty birthing fanny.

Their keeper, though, proclaims
he could have done as much -- no need
of scanners, infra red or head 
restraints -- all done with love 
and empathy. I, too, can follow --
 with my eyes -- to see
where their eyes go. 

The birthing picture Kelly worked with brush 
as kitty pointed to herself or stroked
to show where was the hidden birth canal, 
then making circles round her breasts 
and abdomen. Their gestures are
a proto language other monkeys know
(and we could learn if we got close enough)
They painted it small blobs at top 
where Kitty smiled, then larger 
going down to where she grimaced.
At the bottom: cries of pain. 
Biggest and best of all the blobs
with strongest darks and brightest lights
are here. Gold medal goes 
to Baby Fanny's head. 
Big feelings get big contrasts and big blobs.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

...and then there was form.

At first there was force
and only force.
Force invaded the void
and tore the void apart.
Only then
could force begin its war on formlessness,
only then could force begin to mould its forms.
Force moulded form both from within
and from the outside.

This force could not be seen
but in its works it could be known.
Whatever else Creation threw its way
it gave a shape and purpose from the gods.

Early on there was a joie de vivre
that took the lead. No one was sure
enough to say that this came from the head
or from the heart, but what was sure
was that it crafted the most gorgeous arabesques.
Form became a visual form
and those with eyes could hear it everywhere.

But also in the forms, concealed from all,
was surplus energy, a spilling of vitality
across the universe. This oomph, this zest,
this liveliness, exuberance was looking
for an outlet, a channel for its own dispersal --
which in the shape of form it found, and in a form
we came to know as dance. This was the Dance
of Life. It would become both form and force, and 
as such was the most contagious thing on earth. 

The lesser forces moulding form from the outside,
forces such as wind, were blown away by it.
It gathered up all that was loose and wayward
and sewed it back into its masterpiece.
The dancer's tresses now were part and parcel
of the dancer's form. Her energy flowed on
and was the most delightful thing on earth --
until its even more delightful child was born:
the love that knitted man into the grand design.

The image is a paper cut-out by Matisse entitled Blue Nude with Flowing Hair

Friday, 1 February 2013

Dragonfly in a Spider's Web

And how the hell did I do this?
A web to hold me...? Well,
that's got to be some web - and then some!
Strands of bungy rope, steel hawsers,
they might do... Titanium, no less!
So, how did I not see this edifice, this trap?
Completely blanked it. Flew straight in!
Embarrassing or what? A bloody sin!

Conspicuous by its absence, though,
the owner of this down-town joint, 
whose never met the likes of me! 
This livery should overawe,
it says sod off and know your place.
You, oozing ugliness from every pore,
stand back and bow to natural grace!
For sure, he's up against a bit of class 
and not your normal, stinking fly. Don't think
of me as horse- or house. If that's his stand,
well then his error's more than grand!

I'll keep the web convulsing for a bit...
he's throwing up by now, I'll bet. He hasn't met
vibrations at this level of intensity -- and that's for sure...
or is he boxing clever, waiting 'til my thrashings
have exhausted me? So maybe i'll ease off a tad...
I'll let him get a real good look at me.
I'm bigger, smarter, better kitted out...
I'll let him make his own decision
not to tangle with the likes of me.
Class will out... but what is this? Last thing
I needed... lousy timing... slow paralysis!
Having been inspired by the prompt at Poetry Jam to write a piece on how the world might look to a fly with its many faceted eye, I was then so taken by Mary's fine poem about a spider musing on this prey(here) that I determined to write one from the point of view of the victim. This is it.