Friday, 17 November 2017

HISTORY IS A WORD BANGLE

We are living in the death throws of Neo-Liberalism.
Austerity has been hitting the UK hard now for nearly ten years. I wonder as to the point of it? It is not as if the country were more solvent than it had been, it is not. The NHS is being slowly starved of funds and opened up to asset stripping vultures in the name of choice. The examples of Tory-misrule are all around us.
Today I read that 15,000 scientists in 184 different countries have signed a Warning to Humanity. We have to change our ways or face extinction.
 The poem this post is about how history is everywhere, ubiquitous yet ignored.
England's Glory was a brand of matches when I was a child. I've actually just done a search and discovered they still exist!

England's Glory

Clock back Sunday morning,
it could be bin day, but it's not,
Mafeking Terrace in the rain,
the silvered pavement a foxed mirror.
Walk down Sabastapol
across Inkerman.
Flashcards for past lives
and history is a word bangle
these streets wear blind.
There was a second stanza but it didn't add anything to the whole.
Here's the first few lines.

The recruiting drum is silent,
the yellowed skin hangs slack,
we no longer follow the flag my boys.
We are individuals isolated by our differences

The danger for me is that I can become determined to make it work then you have to cut your losses.
I have been listening to some old African pop music this last couple of days including an old lp by Devera Ngwena Jazz band. After my depressing post here's something to dance to.
Until next time.

Friday, 10 November 2017

CONFLICTING CURRENTS

This poem wrote itself very quickly. I've no idea where it came from. Sometimes poems spring forth from the subconscious almost complete.
I've reworked it a number of times, but it was essentially whole when it arrived.


Realisation


Imagine the blank page as a quagmire.
Conflicting currents of quick sand
lie beneath the smooth white surface,
over which you must lay word after word.
The right ones for this poem will snap into place.
There is a temporary refuge in such words
[and let's face it you do like order,
the comfort of a sheaf of sorted poems,
firm in your hand when you stand to read],
not this pit of snake letters,
that writhes in your cupped hands.
And has led you into this swamp.
Whatever. You are here now,
so wizard word your way to solid ground.
Writing about the act of creation is nothing new, though every time we create it is different. I suppose it's like that old saying that you can never walk into the same river twice.
Thanks to Paul Mortimer for his constructive feedback in putting on a final sheen.
Here's The Nits from a long time ago.
Until next time.

Friday, 3 November 2017

ARTHRITIC QUESTION MARKS

I was listening to the weather forecast getting it wrong the other Saturday which led to this.

Last Saturday

The weather forecast bullied them into carrying umbrellas,
arthritic question marks they waved at the blue sky,
while muttering that it is better to be safe than sorry,
17% of which will be forgotten on trams and in bookshops.
A typical Saturday really.
Discussions with Paul Mortimer concerning amoeba led me to revise this poem.

A Small Step for a Man

As usual the Americans were busy,
semi-secretly murdering monkeys,
no say, one way passengers,
locked into war surplus V2 rockets.
It kept the newly naturalised Nazis happy,
hidden out of the way at White Sands, Arizona.
Still the Soviets top trumped them,
proudly sending a stray dog into space to die.

There was no stopping either of them after that.
It was like Noah's Ark in reverse.
How many animals could they send to their deaths?
So let's not forget the monkeys,
the rabbit, the rats, all the fruit flies
and not forgetting forgetting the amoeba,
who came to realise
that a small step was a step too far.
Here's the Mountain Goats with one of my favourite tracks off Goths.
Until next time.

Friday, 27 October 2017

SOMETHING KINETIC

No preamble today. Straight into the poem.


Closure

At first I thought you slept,
lost in the self-profiling bed,
amid the necessary machinery
that crowds your room these days.
I can't say how I knew,
something kinetic had gone,
slipped away in that last sigh,
the one I missed, stuck in traffic.

We wait for the duty nurse to sign you off.

Mourning begins,
as if everyday we had not wished
you to be at peace
and now you are gone,
leaving the four of us
with our individual beliefs of what comes after.
Here's REM with Half a World Away from BBC Two's Late Show.
Until next time.

Friday, 20 October 2017

TOP TRUMPED

I've mentioned the Operation Paperclip before. It was a top secret strategy to bring into the USA and the UK useful Nazi scientists of dubious virtue. Among those so sanitised were Wernher von Braun and his V2 rocket engineers. The fact that they had used slave labour to build the V2 was glossed over.
Once in America they were sent to White Sands. The OSE was simply relieved that the Soviets had not managed to capture them.
They spent the end of the 1940s testing V2 rockets with monkeys locked inside them. The Soviets were doing similar things.
Neil Armstrong, when he first set foot on the moon, said it was a small step for a man.
This weeks poem is about of all this.
A Small Step for a Man

As usual the Americans were busy,
semi-secretly murdering monkeys,
no say, one way passengers,
locked into war surplus V2 rockets.
It kept the newly naturalised Nazis happy,
hidden out of the way at White Sands, Arizona.
Still the Soviets top trumped them,
proudly sending a stray dog into space to die.

There was no stopping either of them after that.
It was like Noah's Ark in reverse.
How many animals could they send to their deaths?
So let's not forget the monkeys,
the rabbit, the rats, all the fruit flies
and the amoeba,
who came to realise
that small step was far too steep.
I have been working on this poem for some time. It has benefited from being left in a drawer for a couple of months. When I came to look at it again I could see the flaws.
The photographs were taken at a reclamation yard in Somerset that used to have an old missile amongst its stock.
Here is the wondrous Annabelle Chvostek. Any chance of a tour of the UK?
Until next time.

Friday, 13 October 2017

BLUES TO GREYS

I wrote today's poem over the course of a day, returning to add and alter lines as the day unfolded. 
The inspiration came from being stopped by a traffic accident. As I reflected on the time I spent in the traffic queue looking out of the window I made my thoughts into this poem.

Night slips into dawn,
Russian blues to greys.
Each brake light neon red,
a stilled steel wave
stopped on the crest of the hill.

Most solo driven,
lonely bubbles of plastic and glass,
whose digital clocks countdown
until, at some point, we move,
to crawl past the cones.

I try not to see the trembling woman
but glimpse her new complication,
a wrecked car,
yellow metal skin ripped open.

In two seconds I have passed by.
The day is light,
the open road leads me
back into the details of my life.
As usual there is no title. Perhaps I should be one of those poets who simply number their work. It would be easier.
I am not sure if it is complete. I intend to put it away for a couple of weeks then see what it looks like.
Here is 13 minutes of superb music from Brooke Sharkey.
Until next time.

Friday, 6 October 2017

SUNDAY BEFORE THE ELECTION

I've been working on this post's poem for some time. Ever since the election in fact. Again it's based on real life experiences.
I just want to say that I really respect the people who work as care staff. Without their committed, conscientious and kind work this country would grind to a halt. They deserve to be recognised and paid a decent wage for the long, unsocial hours they are expected to work. This poem is not about those people.
Sunday Before the Election

I need the toilet
is how you greet me
two staff take you

the other inmates stare
thousand yard - no one at home stares
at the screen which dominates the day room
with its Songs of Praise rerun

you return
sit
I need the toilet

Are you sure? You've just been

staff cover annoyance
sigh
take you
the hymns continue

you return
sit
I need the toilet

You've just been I saw with my own eyes

I need the toilet

I ask the staff
apologise

somehow the tv has changed to rolling 24 hour news
Theresa May is telling me I need to tighten my belt

you return
two minutes sitting
with me trying to tell you about the family and
I need the toilet
they take you again
mouths flat lines

I watch the screen

you return
and tell me you need to go to the toilet
I have run out of words to talk at you
I have run out of any stray detail of my life
or of my children's lives
that could possibly hook you
and draw you back to us

from the screen Theresa points her finger

I kiss your head
and leave
I have been listening to Tanita Tikaram again this week. 
Here she is with probably her most famous song.
Until next time.

Friday, 29 September 2017

A THICK, PINK WINDOW


Thanks must go to the Secret Poets for their help with revising this poem. 
You can read the original here.
I was unhappy with the final line and when we were discussing the poem as a whole Fanon's book The Wretched of The Earth nominated itself as a better ending.
Thanks chaps.

TURN of THE COAT

I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply.
Just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
A very public sound
-turns, walks away.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
He wants to taste the good life,
to bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I will be an undergraduate,
reading The Wretched of The Earth
Those of you who follow this blog will know of my championing of Ryley Walker.
Here is a short film about him.
Here he is live.
Until next time.

Friday, 22 September 2017

A CERTAIN HUNGER


A couple of Saturdays ago I was once again judging the poetry/creative writing competition at Winscombe Michaelmas Fair, as I have for the past seven years or so. Paul Mortimer gave me hand this time, thanks Paul.
As we stood admiring the jam sponges we got to talking about how they are selected. Neither of us knowing anything about the judging of cakes. So we decided that this would be a good subject to write a poem about.
I spent part of the afternoon writing a list of words and phrases which I thought might make it into the poem or at least be a starting point.
The next day I wrote this:

The Song of the Sponge Cake Judge

This morning I ate no breakfast
for the task requires a certain hunger
and must be approached with respect.
Half can be discarded on first glance,
for perfection is exacting.
Never forget this is science not art.
Television has a lot to answer for,
it creates lazy illusions.
If it were that easy,
everyone could do it.
The list of words gave me the voice for the character. I wanted someone who did not subscribe to the idea that cookery is art.
I think the poem could be about there, but it will go away for a couple of months now.
Here is Sufyan Stevens.
I think Carrie and Lowell is a stunning lp.
Until next time.

Friday, 15 September 2017

CHARM

I awoke the other morning with the idea for this post's poem half formed in my head. It was a memory from childhood.
The second stanza wrote itself as I played about with the idea.

Matter of factly
my mother wraps a strip of bacon around my finger.
Just enough raw meat to encircle,
instructs me to will the wart away,
to hold the flesh to my skin
for the required number of minutes.
Invokes an ancient charm,
as her mother had before.
Time unfolds, slow, fast.
Then I am directed to hang the bacon
on a bush in the yard.

On waking this morning,
for the first time in who knows how long,
that memory returned.
It has no follow up,
no proof of efficacy,
but there is no wart on my finger.
I checked, just now.
I just looked up wart charms and discovered it is quite a common superstition.
As I say I have no memory of the charm working. 
Here is Leonard Cohen.
Until next time.

Friday, 8 September 2017

LATE FOR WORK

Here is a memory transformed into a poem.
The story is true.
I just want to clarify a couple of points beforehand.
Bagging room is slang for the tea room. The place where you have your tea and lunch breaks in the factory. It is either Widnesian or Runcornian slang and very specific to a small area of the North West.
Franz Fanon was involved in the Algerian War for Independence. He wrote The Wretched of The Earth, which explores the dehumanising effects of colonisation and offers a path forward for post colonial countries and people.
Marcus Garvey promoted pan-African unity and founded the UNIA-ACL.
TURN of THE COAT

I'm late for work, but it doesn't matter
as it's the early 70's
and I'm a member of the labour aristocracy,
top of the pile, an indentured tradesman.
So I stop at the paper shop,
and on a whim, buy the Financial Times.
A thick, pink window on an alien world.

Tea break, in the baggin' room,
the shop steward, a little man,
full to the brim with us and them,
tells me:

This is not our paper,
this is for them with the money.
Why are you, a working man,
buying the bosses paper?

Curiosity, I reply,
just looking beyond the tools
at how other people live.

He shakes his head, tuts.
It is a very loud sound,
turns, walks away
and I am left sat there shamed.

By the end of that decade,
he will have emigrated to South Africa,
claiming that Britain is done for.
That he wants to taste the good life
and bring up his kids somewhere with a future.
I, meanwhile, will be an undergraduate,
reading Franz Fanon and Marcus Garvey.
The poem came pretty much as it is. I have been revising it all week.
Here's the wondrous Ryley Walker with a new song.

Friday, 1 September 2017

THE SIGNIFICANCE of DRAGONS

I've been toying with an idea for some time now. It began with the title and I have been considering what it means.
This is a very rough draft.

The Significance of Dragons

is woven into our RNA
a souvenir of our oppression
before the liberating asteroid

provoked alternatives
that led old men to decide
who was to be sacrificed

was carved into the prow
of every longship
spreading terror

has shaped this land
sculptured its contours
over long centuries

so give thanks
so give praise
I am sure there is more to say, but this will do for the moment.
I saw Ryley Walker last Saturday. He was wondrous. Here is a video of Roundabout from the gig.
Try to catch him live. He is incredible.

Friday, 18 August 2017

LOVE GONE SOUR

A  poem about endings. Not sure I can explain exactly where it comes from. 
It is danger for any writer is to rely their usual tropes. To write from the default position, so to speak. Each poem needs to be unique, bespoke to the requirements of the concept.

Love Gone Sour

She informed me I'm like that song.
That I know the one,
that I've heard it on the radio.

She expects me to provide her
with the exact analogy
she can use to criticise me, again.

It was one of those points in life
that makes you add up the scores.
The kind that makes you question love.

A brief crystallisation of an awareness
that your life doesn't have to be like this.
Another push towards the door.

You know you will walk.
I am off to see Ryley Walker [again] next weekend. Here he is with the band.

Friday, 11 August 2017

SOMETHING ELSE

I  was working on the allotment the other day, watering in the polytunnel, and that old blues song about never missing your water until the well runs dry came into my head. Over the rest of the after noon this poem wrote itself.

Something Else

He carried water to the well.
The yoke was heavy,
the water angry enough to slop.
That none had asked him to,
was for him, beside the point.
He may have claimed
it was for the general good,
or Phariseed his pious intention.
There was an unquenched fury
in his every step.

Some people live their whole lives like that.
I think as it formed that I was trying to capture the essence of passive aggression
I tend to write more in my head these days. To get the poem into some shape before I write anything down. I don't think it's a better way of working just different.
Here is Peter Tosh with his version.

SHEILA'S POEM

I have nothing to say about this poem.
It speaks for itself.


Sheila's Poem

We had hoped for death.
Crash landing
on this unexpected plateau,
where life continues mechanically
and the identical days merge.
Sometimes, across a great distance,
you speak,
words faint
ever more slippage.
There are no dials to turn,
or amplifiers to power up,
that just this once,would grant us 
clear communication.
Until next time.

Friday, 4 August 2017

TWO TRAINS TRAVELLING

I was just reminded of a Little Feat song, Two Trains, which must have subconsciously influenced this post's poem.
Things like this happen all the time. We draw inspiration from all that is around us.


Early on our temporary parallel path
she gifted the key to understanding.

It was nothing special,
a pressured, bad decision
with domino consequences falling.

She had hers.
I had mine.

Two trains travelling in opposite lines,
alternate endings wait in the wings.

The difference was this:
I kept my own counsel. 
She saw nothing remarkable in me.

I sped away onwards towards today.
I have to confess I had to look up, just now, if it was onwards or onward- Paul and Jinny I need your grammar skills now!
Here is Little Feat with said song.
And here they are in all their live glory.
Superb stuff.