POETRY

Introducing my poetry I was asked to pick a group of poems that would represent my poetry, that is difficult. I don’t really think of myself as a poet, and although I have written a few, they are for different reasons, and don’t always compare. There are poems I have written to aid memory. I think one of my most successful poems ever, by some standards, falls into this class. I had watched how confused small children were getting with tales of rabbits ears and diving down burrows as adults tried to teach them to tie laces in a bow. What was needed was a simple mnemonic which, as much as explaining the process, allowed them to keep track of how far they had got and didn’t distract them with ‘cutsey’ ideas, I came up with;

 

Over and under and pull it down

Make a loop and take it round

Make a hole and push it through

Pull it tight, that’s what you do.

 

I taught this to a friend who went to South Africa and became a primary school teacher in Natal. There are a fair number of young South Africans who are now probably teaching this to their children. If the measure is the number who have learned it by heart, or its utility, this poem is successful.

 

In a similar vein here is an instruction about using s’s in alliteration.

 

Sibilant S may suggest

Something smooth and soft

But less is best, lest

You suffer being scoffed.

Its overuse

Is conspicuous.

 

Of course utility is not normally a factor in judging poetry. It was fun getting all those s’s in there, and sometimes I simply play with the words, with little regard for meaning, or sometimes the beautiful words disguise the meaning very well;

 

To live and love.

 

After death is not time to love my life

Use your breath now for love and not for strife

And so straighten my back

Put spring into my step.

Thus longer love and life the both are kept.

True love lasts not forever and a day

But may last a life and still not fade away.

 

Think about it, I could almost as well say “Shut your face woman, I ‘aint got the time for your nonsense”, well, almost, except she would never stand for that.

 

Love poetry of course has a long and respected history, most poets must have tried it at some point, this was written as a valentine.

 

To my lover.

Remembering the self possessed

Awkwardness of beginning,

Avoiding the awkwardness of ending,

Dancing to the rhythm of life

The old fashioned way.

Guiding with a gentle touch, eyes locked

To stay in step,

No solitary skanking,

We have changed

Time over time In unison.

 

Giving to receive, re-sowing our seed,

Not virginally wise, to conserve our flame

We still bear the light that floods our lives

 

Living for the moment we have protected

The eternity of our existence.

 

I don’t really do the romantic or agrarian type of poetry much, most of it strikes me as pretty poor stuff, what such poets see as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, for example, has always been one of my busiest times, filled with hard work, stinking of hops, itching from harvest bugs or with sore feet from climbing ladders up apple trees. Not that I wouldn’t rather be there than in the city, but I take a practical view, I tried a romantic poem about Dungeness Power Station once, it is here in the poems.

 

Then there is a wicked side to me, do any of you remember the theme from the Thomas Crown Affair? It always reminded me of something that Tom Lehrer said about Gilbert and Sullivan “Full of words and music and signifying absolutely nothing”. I wrote this as a parody, if you know the tune you can even sing it. Thing is, if I don’t tell people they take it seriously, and some of them think it one of the best things I have done!

 

Revolve

 

Everything is circles

Some in water some on land

Stones upon the earth

Sharks beyond the sand

Within a social circle

A sphere of influence

Are those who lead you and mislead you

Ones you call your friends

Feasting on corpses was where it all began

Vultures were circling high above the plain

Take their turn at feasting

Then become the feast again

Everything is circles

Some on water some on land

Stones upon the earth

Sharks beyond the sand

Objects posses us

Surroundings and wealth

A cart wheel, an Astra

A prayer wheel, a Golf

A suburb of Swindon

A desert in the Gulf

Will engross and entrap us

Entangle us by stealth

Everything is circles

Some on water some on land

The eddies of the rising tide

Are washing clean the sand

Life is just a whirlpool where you’re forced to play your hand.

 

'Revolve'is one of the poems to be found in my book, "A Read for the Train".

 

Poets are supposed to suffer angst and be self obsessed, I suppose I had better include one that really is about me. I suffer from Wegener’s Granulomatosis, it is one of those incurable diseases that gradually tears you apart, so I guess I have as much right to indulgence as a nineteenth century consumptive.

 

Reading, Writing, Talking

 

Reading;

“Like some argument of insidious intent”,

But not an argument, so much as a

question in the wings, waiting to come in,

Be staged, dominate the age, waste time on

Rage, die little deaths of fright. Completion

Will come some night, good bad or otherwise,

And then put out the light. I have seen them all...

 

Writing;

The Dr. shakes his head and frowns, unconsciously

looks down. Seen and understood, suffering

and pain will come again, I’ll live life that way.

But not yet, not today. Today is for

sentience within the sentence, or else

banality outlives mortality,

Practice defiance, and don’t neglect skills

in which I found my unsound reliance.

 

Talking;

“... useful things to fill the day” from the

other room facing away. While seeking

what is personal and universal’

wanting distraction from inaction.

Ask for a repeat and start unwonted

Argument. “Deafness from ear infection

Is a symptom”. “I am not deaf”, “Maybe

you should have a test”, “... now you face this way”

“Maybe you just don’t like the things I say”

“And what were they?”, “Do not be so grumpy”,

“You were next door, speaking to the floor,

I was miles away.” then again, “What did you say?”

“Oh, never mind, it doesn’t matter, go

back to your precious keyboard”

Domesticity and necessity,

Interruption before completion.

The thought I thought my own has flown, Restart.

 

Well, I seem to have come some way since “Over and under and pull it down”, perhaps you see what I mean about finding it difficult to chose something representative? I will finish with one of my favourites, but leave you to judge what it is about and see if you can spot the references, a clue, I am not keen on alcoholics.

 

Doubting Thomas.

 

‘Am not a prince, nor yet was meant to be

Someone’s father was enough for me

I grow old.

I grow old. His intrusions are too bold

Do not go gentle, he screams like someone mental,

Denying the sunset that will end all.

 

A youth whose time has not yet come

Awaits a wren bone introduction to his son,

Bodies old, and worn leave willingly

They are not torn from you and me,

Wild old men tamed and rocked by moonlight

Slip into the sloe black, slow black darkness,

and goodnight.

 

 

Sisters of Repentance (with audio link)

 

 

Sisters of Repentance pass Judgement on the run,

The Blessed sit under parasols waiting for the son,

Ride paper tigers on the royal road to battle,

Read Closed Books. Drive home The Sacred cattle.

 

In pursuit of Pleasure some fall Backward in the race,

Some repent at leisure those they wed in haste.

Swift feet dancing scatter wide all fears and tears,

But cannot slow or halt the relentless, passing years.

 

There runs through my mind as I run out the door

That this run is a rerun, I’ve been here before.

Seen explosive chain reactions of my old emotions

Wasting precious life in wild, harsh, convulsions

 

Watched sad departures in the depot of the dead,

Lived out the dream that was filling up my head.

I should have been away, up away and running,

My stupidity is stunning I should have seen it coming.

The unending stimulation of fruitless masturbation

Bears no real relation, a sad and pointless situation

Simulation, not elation, and other reader’s wives

Living in a half world through other people’s lives.

 

Sisters of repentance pass judgement on the run,

The Blessed sit under parasols waiting for the son,

Ride paper tigers on the royal road to battle,

Read Closed Books. Drive home The Sacred cattle.

 

On a knife edge

 

Cleaning out the cutlery drawer I came

Across the knife my father used to carve

Austerity roast in to thin slices.

Abandoning Gustav Emile

I closed on bone handle, wielded black steel.

But the skill had not jumped generations

I could not raise an edge on the old blade,

I Severed slabs;

Still, he never sailed a boat,

Though he did ski in Austria

as a Young man before the war, and broke a leg.

He and one other shared a private ward;

A German army, fascist, officer.

There are things that are truly inimical

Some are mental and some are physical.

 

Fourteen lines

 

Mountains may crumble and rivers run dry;

Continents crash and heave rocks to the sky

They force up clouds that then fall down as rain,

Lo, there are mountains and rivers again.

The evening will come, night’s darkness fall

A new dawn follows where light strikes the ball.

The cycles will turn and planets will spin

I am the one that won’t come round again.

Life is different from everything else

Life will change form, and modify itself.

The old becomes new, and passes away,

Our time is short, even humans won’t stay.

Live here and now, catch each moment’s passing,

Seeking solutions, answering and asking.

 

Wasps

 

A head a thorax and abdomen

Six legs, wings and a sting on ‘em.

Egg, larva, pupate

then emerge pure hate

“All wasps should die” we say, “amen”.

 

Raif Badawi

 

Raif Badawi was accused of apostasy and ridiculing the Saudi commission on the Promotion of virtue and Prevention of vice. He talked about Valentine’s day on his blog and he congratulated the commission on ‘teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise’

So far he has been sentenced to seven years and 600 lashes for ‘insulting religious authorities’, the apostasy carries a potential death penalty.

 

A sonnet for the persecutors of Raif Badawi

 

Love is a lesson that’s not often learned

To punish, an option that’s rarely spurned.

Promoting virtue and preventing vice

Proceed the same way without thinking twice.

But all ways and thoughts undergo change,

The ways of creation are subtle to us,

And our best knowledge is only a guess.

That constant named ‘same’ gets well re-arranged.

A stream may be dammed but dams are all breached,

An innocent past can never be reached.

Live in the present plan for the future,

Refrain from punishment learn to nurture.

Preaching the static is ridiculous

And flogging discordant in Paradise.

 

Posies of a poetaster

 

Spenser had interwoven schemes of rhyme

To make the various quatrains chime

But not on the place that splits the line.

Now is my moment, now is the time

For sonnets schemed with internal rhymes.

 

I’ll knot some twisted line about my love

‘Til all is interwove and she is mine

Both hearts and minds entwine to make knots of

Our every move in my grand design

Until I have done and have made some lines

Which then we shall align and make as one

Then what was fun becomes something more fine

Take that as a sign, how our course may run.

But then, what if this will is mine alone

Some story come from a mind that spun

Out of its intended orbit of the sun.

Then what have I done, and where have we come?

The moon and sun run rhythms through us daily

By their light we see each other palely.

 

See how centre rhyme reflects the end

‘til the regular scheme is made to bend

Where the words of doubt are spoken,

Then the scheme is twisted and broken?

 

It’s still the same old story

 

The characters are changing, but the tale remains the same

We are in a different setting, but we burn the same old flame

Different tellers of the story tell the story different ways

It’s still the same old story, different tellers different days.

 

I made a note in my notebook when the train came through, and then picked up on it more than once, two versions of the same, fleeting experience.

 

Fast train.

 

 

Stood on the platform a fast train came through,

I saw it coming on into the bend,

A distant headlight it turned towards me

Rocking and roaring it sways the station

Fighting with the bend, threatening my end

Until constrained by the rails it passes through

And turns into a harmless red taillight.

 

On the platform when the fast train was due

I saw its distant headlight come to the bend

And turn lazily towards me.

Rocking and roaring it sways the station

Fighting the bend and threatening my end.

Constrained by rails it re-enters the darkness

To become a harmless red tail-light.

 

Or

 

Alone on the station

The track curves here, standing on the platform

a distant headlight is approaching me,

Coming straight at me. It veers off and crashes

Past feet away, straining and leaning to

Reach me over the bend, tons of metal

Held back only by the thin, shining rail.

For some moments the world is all thunder

And shaking, then the quiet night returns.

 

The South Downs,

 

The size and the rounded, feminine shape

Say solidity and security.

They cut monuments. as long as man has

Lived here, in the life coloured, rolling hills.

Directly under the green turf there lies

The sea that was lifted when Africa

hit Europe, white chalk still in the final

ripple. A last roll from steep, alpine slopes.

 

The turf is a frail sham, ephemeral

As the green slime coating a damp surface

You can overgraze, you can never plough

Acid rain, passing through, dissolves the chalk

These constantly climbing, falling hills are

As transient as man, in time scales that are not man’s.

 

Glimpsing Gods

 

Was it a glimpse of Gods tilted a balanced mind.

The obscenities behind Cenotaphs

Scream loudly through the mad, open, mouth.

Imperial is National gone large.

 

Even shrunken cheeks twitch with emotion.

Wide open, opaque, eyes watch tally kept

Looking for peace in victory,

Or narrow, at compromise and betrayal

 

They do not understand,

“What do I care if they hate me, so long

As they fear me” lacks the power

Of love.

 

Moaner

 

Sometimes I secretly mope

Or enjoy a jolly good whinge

Not that it helps me to cope

It’s more like having a binge.

 

People say don’t be grumpy

Why do you always complain?

They tell me I’m being humpy

But let me try and explain

 

That is only from their side

All that they hear is the groan

But a grumble cheers on the inside

There is nothing like having a moan.

 

Dungeness.

 

Monolithic block sits on the headland,

 

 

There was always an edge.

 

There had always been a cobble, an edge,

Even before doing mixed with saying,

Five heavy hits along a hand held wedge.

Then, with saying came thinking and playing,

A grammar, an order for expression.

The natural shapes of leaf, prey and man,

Fresh seen, a conceptual digression

A leaf tip hanging drop, the curve of hand.

Hitting became knapping, finely flaking

The clues remain about the place somewhere

Discarded chips, flying from the making

Show I was handed by their arc across, there

I sat by Stone Age hearth to fashion

The objects used for death and passion.

 

Quatre Bras to Waterloo.

 

A French breast-plate does make

An excellent base for grilling chops,

Fat and blood run through the holes.

How much moaning can a man take?

But it is worse when all sounds stop.

Outside the firelight is dark, silent, cold.

 

The little colonel marches with his men

Smiling, tweaking noses, pinching cheeks

Parading, building the bravado they need

To lift and carry them on from now to then,

When the salt tears and red blood leaks

From their bodies. So first they do the deed.

 

Men file past, to move into their position,

With Old Beaky, saddled, silently watching

Waiting for the other fellow’s plans to unfold.

Thunderer sends Old Guard on their mission

Down the centre, with careless dispatching.

“We shall win this after all” too bold.

 

Another dawn and the first light gleams

From water in the ruts and twisted metal.

Scavengers arrive. The living, walking scum.

Who greedily survey the devastated scene;

All broken, each blade of grass, every petal.

If battle lost is melancholy, so is a battle won.

 

An unknown commoner

 

Mine is the corpse that is cut and contused

They fled the field in fear, or forced forward

I’m left to lie, puddles splashing, rain lashing

Cold as the chopping block, a curtailed clock

 

Mine is the short life sliced suddenly to silence

They have heavy loss or hard fought victory here

All melancholy, manifest in the mourning mist.

Life shifts, sorrow slides silently elsewhere.

 

My remains remain, rotting, red and contused

What’s left of a lifetime of used and confused

Moulded and mocked, laughed at, left to lay

Among the abandoned at the dawning of day.

 

They were my dogs

 

Curly had straight, silky-smooth fur. Towser

was part Spaniel part collie and all brown

eyed soft friendliness. Irony was not

their forte, they both thought their name was Oi!

 

Not that I was much of a master, more

Leader than owner, joining in the pack,

Unlike the superior and distant

Cat, who deigns to accept attention

 

Twenty five dog doggrel

 

They fight, then leg it,

Body gone at a trot

from the catcher.

Sharp eared, long of tooth

Leaving the house of wood.

To nap for days,

Too tired to end the bull.

Wary of the hot gun-fire.

They hang over the sea,

Watch the water full of fish

Lap under them.

 

Can you find them all?

 

For those that don’t get it; dog fight, dog leg, dogsbody, dogtrot, dogcatcher, dog eared, dog toothed, dog house, dogwood, dognap, , dog days, dog tired, dog end, bulldog, hot dog, gundog, firedog, hangdog, over dog, seadog, watchdog, water dog, dogfish, lapdog, underdog.

 

Do I have time?

 

Do I have the time to write another poem,

Access the tension, make the connection,

Focus my thoughts on the interruption?

Can I spend time on assonance and rhyme,

Let influence lead to inspiration,

alliteration capture attention?

 

The shod foot does not feel the earth

 

The shod foot does not feel the earth

Trampled underfoot with casual curse.

The close observing eye is occupied

And does not see the vast expanse of sky.

 

Man’s works take all of man’s attention.

The slope made slippery with emotion,

Expediency conquers intention,

Invention subverts to convention

 

And still wet sand, pounds under bare feet,

hard or soft in dunes, rippled by tide and winds.

Throwing small shadows, like a concrete yard

Made by men, a plank, and productive minds.

The, bare, hard, man’s yard wears out unshod soles

Painfully stubs the vulnerable toes.

 

Untitled

 

The sky is pink and grey

Seen through the winter trees

As dawn gives way to day

 

Things aren’t always what they seem

And the cat that gets the cream

Might end up fat and find that that

Is not really where it’s at

The indecisive finger hovers along

A row of keys that are all wrong

And then moves on,

Dodging in and out of lanes

Judging life by short term gains

If only I and Babylon

Could make accommodation

But Babylon’s enforcement man

Won't live with what I can’t or can.

 

 

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