Friday, 18 June 2021

WASHATERIA BLUES

 

I am late posting today, this week has been kind of crazy, we've had many visitors and no time for blogging ahead, as I usually do.

After writing the poem below I spent some time trying to divine how you spell washateria. I always think it sounds far superior to laundrette.  When we were in London recently I thought the place we had rented didn't have a washing machine [it did behind a cupboard door, but that was too sophisticated for me] and it led me to think about how boring it must be watching your clothes wash in a washateria. This thought in turn prompted the poem.

washateria blues


he envied his clothes

in the laundrette's tumbling drum

happier without him inside

suddenly alive

free to tangle  to have fun

to throw impossible shapes

that would break a limb


the next morning he sensed

their longing for something

beyond his predictable moves


their reproach apparent in each casual crease


I was rather taken with the idea of my clothes having more fun without me in them than when worn. I liked the thought that they could be bored by my actions, having seen them so many times before.

I think the poem is just about there and for once I have a title as well.


Here are Sweeney's Men with Willy O'Winsbury, one of my favourite traditional songs, though the king is somewhat dubious, but the tune is lovely. Apparently it is not the correct tune but it works.

Until next time.

Friday, 11 June 2021

HALF RECOGNISED


 Can any poem ever be said to be an accurate account of an event? I do not think so. Poets take their experiences and transform them into something universal, rather than offer reportage.

So it is with this poem.

Happenchance


half recognised

stopped in the street

asked my name

by friends become strangers

the gulf grown

a quarter century wide


so we swap major events

the achievements of children

obliquely they assess my status

we exchange numbers  emails

say we must catch up

properly get together


then break off  walk away


How much of me is in the poem? You know I am not sure. It is a specific event altered to, hopefully, appeal to all.

This poem wrote itself this morning out of a piece of stream of consciousness prose I had written late last night.

then you wake up

the morning after the divorce

the lost years

the redundancy

whatever particular defeat claimed you

and the physical laws are just the same

sunlight pinballs round the system

planets spin

ecosystems work  more or less

and you must decide what it is you do

yes we know what you have been

that is past

receding by the second

what will you be now?

You could argue that I have experienced some of the events mentioned, but who hasn't?

I have been listening to Pollyanna a lot recently and here's a live song.



Until next time.

Friday, 4 June 2021

NO SEVENTH WAVE

 

I have a beach hut and I've been spending the weekends there just looking at the sea. I am also a confirmed watcher of people and this is how the poem below came about. It happened pretty much as described. 

from the blue sack she produces her phone

they selfie against a backdrop of incoming tide

they turn to document the six yellow roses

they had just cast into the sea

but the blooms are lost in the swell

which constantly baptises the rocks

no seventh wave today

the water is relentless


after they turn and go

I search for the flowers

and spot one

small amid the diamond surface

I do not know what the two people were commemorating, but it seemed to me to warrant a poem. 


Here is Annabelle Chvostek, rumour has it she is touring the UK next year, I can't wait.

Until next time.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

INTERLACED



I am posting two days late this week to coincide with the fact that Magpie Bridge is ten years old today! Yes, it is amazing! I never thought when I started this bog I would still be going in five years let alone ten. Blogs I assumed were ephemeral creatures but here I am still at it.

You can read the very first blog post here. There have been 593 other ones since then and over 800,000 visits. I would like to thank you all for your continuing support.

This is a poem revised with the assistance of the wonderful Secret Poets, thank you chaps. 

Farewell Sheila


double masked

eleven people in a chapel


the clock is running down

on our fifteen minute slot


if I had though about it and I had not

I would not have imagined it this way


interlaced with flashes

of every sad ceremony I’ve known


You can read the last version here. The layout has changed as has the final line. 

I was in London this week and I bought a copy of the Funky Rob Way, an old Nigerian lp that I had downloaded a while ago. The vinyl is even better. I leave you with the title track.


Here's to the next ten years!

Friday, 21 May 2021

COULD HE RETURN THE ROSES?

 

Yes, these are lilies not roses. So close but not cigar. 

This poem grew from a simple idea, a man wanting to propose to his girlfriend while a whole string section played on in the background. The poem wrote itself.

She’s Mine


he wanted violins

for only the complete string section could describe his love for her


the price was beyond him so he maxed out his plastic

on a string quartet from the local music college instead


she told him they were history and this was typical

him lost in the grand gesture unable to see her needs


this could have been a blessing


for her eyes were on the cellist

those long expressive fingers his strong hands


they left together in a taxi for her place


as he stood in the street he was left to wonder if he could return the roses

perhaps the florist would refund him under the circumstances

I did not want the main character to have an easy time but such a grand gesture seemed to lend itself to failure.

The Secrets aided the layout, thank you. Its always a good idea to play about with the layout of a poem, you may stumble upon something better than you realised.

I have just come across Polyanna, a rather wonderful French singer-songwriter. You can listen to more of her music here.
I shall leave you with In The Snow.
Until next time.

Friday, 14 May 2021

HOLY COW!

 

I wonder if you remember the old slang phrase Holy Cow? It's a piece of my 1960's childhood. Robin the Boy Wonder used to say it in the Batman tv series. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang defines Holy Cow as an American in origin, an exclamation of surprise, first recorded in the 1920s. It sits between Holy Cod [a 19th century term for Good Friday]  and holy crap! A exclamation of amazement [1960s + US].

The slang dictionary is a totally absorbing read. I often think I could run a poetry workshop on slang, writing new words, generating a poem from a definition - watch this pace...

Holy Cow!


Holy cows were forbidden in our house,

my mother did not hold with mid-60s lingo.

I could watch [and hear] Robin, the Boy Wonder,

Holy Cow! And Holy Broken Bones, Batman!

But could not echo his words.


Lee Dorsey, on our monophonic

solid state transistor radio,

could sing the phrase thirty or more times

in his song of the same name

but I could not utter it once.


Because nice people don’t say words like that,

common people do, and Paul, we are not common.

[We were but my mother steadfastly denied it]

I just happened to see on the open page of the dictionary the phrase home on the pig's back, which is an Australian saying meaning very contented, happily or successfully placed, having arrived at a successful conclusion [1910s +]. May you be high on the pig's back.

I have to end this post with Lee Dorsey singing that song. Great New Orleans music courtesy of Allen Toussaint. 


Until next time.

Friday, 7 May 2021

ALL IS ENERGY ONCE MORE

 

 

The other day I noticed just how tall one of the horse chestnut trees was in the local park was. 

the horse chestnut


All is energy once more,

a sap green canopy

ablaze with conker candles

and suddenly over brimming with life.

Taller than the houses

that cordon Carey Park.




I originally had:

I walk between the trees

words of praise on my lips.

at the end but thought the poem did not need my endorsement. 

Here is another poem I've shortened.

Night Meteorites


the bathroom window

was a dark blue square

stained by the street light

he chanced to see

friction lines cut the sky


on waking he will question the memory


You can read the original here.

Essentially I have removed the first two lines which described waking in the night. Sometimes the poem needs a frame to contextualise the events but where ever possible I try to let the poem stand as it is. Once written and out in the world poems can be interpreted in many different ways. Who is to say the poet holds the definitive explanation?

I leave you with Jonah Moyo and Devera Ngwena.

Until next time.

Friday, 30 April 2021

MOSES DOWNED TOOLS

 

Earlier this week I caught on camera a reflection I had seen last year at this time. I cannot work out just what the sunlight is shining off in the sitting room but I like the result. Strangely it was not there the next day, so perhaps I was very lucky.

A brief poem that wrote itself from the first line. In the poem the Egyptian parents were not as lucky.

Industrial Action


Moses downed tools

and before the management capitulated

things turned very nasty

frogs fell from the sky alive

and children died.

Imagine that

children died.


Could you pray to a deity

that valued one child’s life over another?


When I was a child and I first heard the story of the Exodus I did not consider the pain and distress of the Egyptian parents, to lose so many children like that must have been horrific. I can only compare it to Aberfan disaster in 1966, when 116 children and 28 adults died following the collapse of a colliery spoil tip. I was 10 at the time and the photographs shocked me.

Even if, as I suspect, the story of the Exodus is untrue, I would still have doubts about praising such a deity. 

I had a zoom meeting with the Secrets the other day. This is a revision, you can read the original here

it was the size of the day and

it slipped in while he slept on


so that when he awoke

it was its sun he saw


its trees and grass he glimpsed

through its windows


his body slumbered

machines worked to keep him stable


it was large

yet it was not infinite


he knew on his solo walks

in the empty park just where to stop


for one step more and he would have been

enmeshed in its membrane


the ceaseless machines watched over

his silent hospital room


What's changed is the layout, it is now in couplets. I think this one is slowly evolving, watch this space.

The talented Annabelle Chvostek is celebrating 25 years as a professional music ian this week. Congratulations Annabelle! Here is the title track from her latest album.

Until next time.

Friday, 23 April 2021

FRICTION LINES CUT THE SKY

 

I woke in the night and wrote the first draft of this post's poem. This is not something I do often.

It concerns the Lyrid meteor shower which was visible this week in Devon. It all happened pretty much like the poem says.

Night Meteorites


he happened to wake

at the optimum hour

the bathroom window

was a dark blue square

stained by the street light

he chanced to see

friction lines cut the sky


on waking he will question the memory


I appear to be in a very prolific phase at the moment. 

This poem too is a little observation.

one hour in


we were at the stage

when everything takes on

an infinite aspect


and so were running around the house

taken with the newly revealed size of it all

and the distance between the rooms


a picture caught me

an etching of a dress

I stood and watched all the straight line dance


it does not last long

you are soon carried on

smiling into the next phase


Here is Laura Gibson, I Carry Water.


Until next time.

Friday, 16 April 2021

MY FEET TOOK MY HEAD TO THE BEACH

 


I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend time at the beach recently. In Torquay you are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches.

This is poem was written while I watched the world go by on Meadfoot beach.

gulls ride the thermals over the bay

spiralling dots in a blue and white sky

ever higher lost to my eye


It doesn't quite work, the metre is uneven but it captures the moment. I have often said that writing what you see is a good exercise for the poetic chops.

my feet took my head to the beach


when I saw

from the top of the hill

the low tide laid out before me

I could have cried

for the beauty of the moment

and walked that much faster

to stand on the tide line

be amazed by each successive wave

savoured each stolen second

gave thanks, gave thanks, gave thanks


The beach in this case was Goodrington. I think it captures the right mood, one of thankfulness. I believe that we are here to give thanks for the beauty of existence.


Here's a dream-like song about the sea side, Anne Briggs, off her second album The Time Has Come

Until next time.

Friday, 9 April 2021

IT WAS THE SIZE OF A DAY

 

I was leafing through an old notebook and I came across the phrase: it was the size of a dog, which I misread as it was the size of a day, the poem wrote itself after that. I have no idea where it came from but my misreading certainly gave life to something very different.

it was the size of the day and

it slipped in while he slept on

so that when he awoke

it was its sun he saw

its trees and grass he glimpsed

through its windows


his body slumbered on

machines worked to keep him stable


it was large yet it was not infinite

rather he just knew

on his solo walks in the empty park

where to stop

for one step more

and he would have been

enmeshed in its membrane

and forced to decide


the ceaseless machines watched over

his silent hospital room


I do not think it is a complete poem yet, it needs a redraft or two I think, but for now it is as complete as I can make it. Time for it to go away for a couple of months.


Annabelle Chvostek has just released another live video - enjoy.

Until next time.

Friday, 2 April 2021

MILK TOKEN

 

I feel I must explain what a milk token is to begin with.

In the past [up to the 1970s] diaries would issue milk tokens, special coins that were the equivalent of a pint of milk. As a child, as I remember, we would leave milk tokens out for the milk man and he would leave the requisite number of bottles. 

Milk tokens are a spin off the token economy that was in operation from the 1700's onwards.

it seemed natural enough

to pop a milk token

into the gas meter and

turn the dial to get the gas


round and green

concentric circles on one side

the size of a shilling

and I suppose the same weight

as it made the gas flow


that’s it 

no more

just a stray

Saturday morning memory

floating to the surface

fifty plus years later


The poem is what it says, a memory.

Perhaps it is the fact we have been locked down for so long that I am trawling my memories for subject matter? It's a modest little poem. But it works.

I leave you with live music from Annabelle Chvostek recorded just as Montevideo was about to go into lockdown last year. Her new album is out, it is superb, and you can buy it here

Until next time.

Friday, 26 March 2021

A SMALL THING, HALF FORMED

 


A  new poem. 

The phrase memory jogger arrived in my head and the poem constructed itself around it.

rubber banded


there was a memory jogger

buried deep

in the language of the book


and it hurled him back in time

to gaze upon his younger self

a small thing, half formed

with many miles before him

Rubber banding is a Transactional Analysis term for the experience of being catapulted back into a past trauma. In a split second you are back experiencing the heightened emotions of the event. It seemed like a good title [for once].

I had been talking with a friend on the telephone and he described how he had been reading a book set in Scotland. Some of the dialect words and phrasing took him back to his childhood, he had spent his formative years in the Lowlands. 

For once I did not think there was a poem in his words but the next morning I wrote the first draft. A slow burner.


The marvelously talented Annabelle Chvostek has a new album out today [26.3.21]! You can buy it here. She has been working with a stellar cast of Uruguayan musicians and drawing inspiration from both her own East European heritage and art of the tango. The tracks already released are wonderful, you can watch them here.

 I leave you with the latest video Come Back.


Until next time.

Friday, 19 March 2021

HYPNAGOGIC PATTERNS

 

Here is a revised poem about sleeping and the chance to dream. I was not happy with the end of the last version. The final line, I realised, I had used once before, many years ago. I did not feel comfortable recycling myself.

Also the Secret Poets suggested removing the numbers that demarcated each section. In truth as soon as I read it aloud I realised the numbers had to go. Thank you Secrets.

the night in five segments


hypnagogic patterns

or people endlessly morphing

projected on the cave wall of my skull


always I wonder if I’ve seen them before

weigh their significance


fall into the black

...

but for not as long

as you might expect

just one hour or two


hydrangeas flood the house with the smell of winter


the night is still

...

so I don’t look at my hands

though there is something I must do

this buzzing internal puzzle


I walk through that door and

am under the ocean

...

awake at three or four

this house a dreamscape

the floor boards in the bathroom

wooden warm smooth


the tree dances in the street light

...

this final waking

in the winter’s miserly light

ritual begins


the rich day waits

at the kitchen table

I think it works now.

I had forgot one of my rules- always read the poem aloud. If it does not sound right then it is wrong and requires redrafting.

I seem to have gotten over my dry period, I am glad to say. A new poem next post.


Anna Ternheim has been releasing acoustic versions of songs from her last album recently. Here's When You Were Mine.

Until next time.

Friday, 12 March 2021

ALL SPACE AND SEA AND ROCKS


A revised poem again this post. 

To be honest I am finding it difficult to write at the moment. I am managing to revise though.

You can read the last version of this poem here.

Wallshill summer 2020


the three of them


stop


by the wire fence

by the flowers

by the memories


by the sign that reads

Danger Crumbling Cliffs


the other side is all space

and sea and rocks


they take in the parked cruise ship

waiting it out in Lyme Bay


the views are amazing he tells them


you only live once 


and like the gentleman he is

he parts the wires

so they can limbo through


doesn’t matter if you die

I have changed the final stanza around. Moving some of the man's conversation until after the three clamber through the fence.

I discussed the poem with the Secret Poets and we agreed that moving the final line of dialogue and making it the last line heightened the tension, making it somehow more final, a conclusion.


Brooke Sharkey has just played a concert at Green Note and it has a limited viewing period. If you watch it and I advise you to, Brooke is superb, as always, then please donate via Paypal. Musicians are suffering terribly at the moment.

I leave you with Brooke.

Until next time.

Friday, 5 March 2021

AFTER THE PILGRIMAGE

 


Another revised poem. 

You can read the last version here.

After The Pilgrimage

Cape Finesterre


finally the fire caught

aided in no small part

by the razor wind

that cut across the beach


we watched the clothes we had worn

all those long miles to Santiago burn


then looking beyond the sea

to where our former lives waited

no one spoke

Discussing the poem with the Secret Poets, they felt that the poem was more understandable once you knew that the narrator had been on a pilgrimage to Santiago. 

As we discussed the poem it became clear that the penultimate line was unnecessary. Small changes but hopefully they increase understanding. 

The talented Annabelle Chvostek has just released a third single to herald her new album.

Until next time.