Friday, 20 May 2022

700 STEPS

I do not have a photograph of the Coronavirus Monument in London. It did not feel appropriate to take one. It did inspire this poem:

snapshot 2022


the Coronavirus Memorial

is 700 steps long give or take a few


there are more hand painted hearts

on the bricks than I can count


each written in by a person who mourns

a memory of someone special


on the Thames side of the pavement

tourists stop to have their photographs taken


the Mother of Parliaments

their chosen backdrop


the present incumbent and his cronies

partied their way through the pandemic

I have utterly no respect for the present government. I shall say no more. 

Here's Ryley Walker. He is playing London this Saturday, be there or be square.

Until next time.

Friday, 13 May 2022

TOURIST STATISTIC

I  was in Amsterdam recently, it was the result of train tickets being on hold throughout the pandemic. I went to the Van Gogh Museum and wrote this as I wandered around.

Van Gogh Museum Tourist Statistic


she has her vision

he is directed to position her on the screen

The Sunflowers on her shoulder

she is the centre piece


he presents the result

she shakes her head

two more attempts are needed

before she smiles


I continue to watch as

twenty other people photograph

the painting in their turn

all vying for the best shot


then I snake through the crowds

to catch glimpses of paintings

no one wanted to buy

when the artist was alive

Please do not think I am critical of the couple, I am not, I was just fascinated by their vision. I don't tend to take photographs of paintings because my efforts are no where near as good as the real thing. 

Amsterdam was fun, it is a very beautiful city. I was taken with the illuminated trees as you can see.

Pollyanna is just presenting her labour songs project, sadly I cannot find any videos of it, but from what I've heard it sounds boss. Here's an earlier video.

Until next time.

Friday, 6 May 2022

THROUGH SECRET EYEHOLES

I wrote this poem in my head as I drove along the A38. It started life as the locked room mystery but Raymond Chandler's essay on The Simple Art of Murder popped into my head and I ran with that.

Denouement


The classic country house murder mystery disappoints.

The author may deploy sleight of hand

far fetched coincidences

then withhold vital information

until the final chapter

when we are gathered in the library.

It all smacks of desperation as we characters

have our individual shames exposed

so the detective can dismiss us in turn.

How we squirm at the way we are written

at the outlandish confessions we must make

and you dear reader, as I gaze on your face

through the secret eyeholes hidden in the e’s of my lines

sigh.

But hold on one minute

can you tell me if your life is any better constructed

than I am out of my sentences?

It is a piece of nonsense. I always think, when I see any crime show revelation, how much I would hate having my life held up to scrutiny, especially as it is only designed to show off how clever the detective is.

On a more serious note I must say I am appalled at the overturning of Roe v Wade. It is always the womans choice. How dare anyone sit in judgement over another person's body? As Leonard Cohen said: I have seen the future brother, and it's murder.

I leave you with the man and the song.

Until next time.

Friday, 29 April 2022

STILL ONLY WEDNESDAY

Sometimes I have difficulty writing a weekly post, the words just don't come. As you read this I am away and this blog was written a week ago. This is the 646th post, so over the past ten years plus I must have produced over 550 poems, which does work out at one a week. 

But not today however. Here is a poem I half wrote last year but at the time during the pandemic could not polish up. I am still unsure about the change in the point of view, as the first stanza is that of an observer and the second and third is that of the driver. Perhaps it does not matter...

an impossibly long mourning car

waits at the red light

side windows fogged with disbelief


the change to green offers hope

that the driver reflects

is lost on his passengers


he thinks of renewal

the advent of spring

his fifth job this week and its still only Wednesday


Brian Pattern talks about the effect a good last line can have on the reader. How it can change the meaning of the poem utterly. That was what I was trying for.

The amazing Sault have a new album out. You can buy it here.

Until next time.


Friday, 22 April 2022

BETTER DAYS

I was unsure about posting this poem as I think it says more than it shows, however, I shall let you decide.

better days


I returned to the scene of my first wedding night

like some voyeuristic thief who must convince himself

that he has really got away scot-free


the hotel had long gone replaced by a car park

so I supposed the only physical memory

was the coat hanger I had taken away with me


you were missing of course


I walked streets 

past closed shops

stood on the beach


the wind raised waves of fine sand

until it combined with the rain

to send us all in doors again


the cracked pavement 

a broken mirror

reflecting the street lights up to the stars

There's not much to say about it as I think the poem contains the background. I wanted it to sound weary.

Annabelle Chvostek was performing recently in Montevideo, I wish I'd been there!

Until next time.

Friday, 15 April 2022

PRACTICAL TIME TRAVEL

Recently I spent a morning walking round Plymouth. It was unexpected. A meeting I had to attend had been cancelled at the last moment due to Covid and I decided to have a look at the city centre. I had been a student in Plymouth, back in the early 1980's and I knew the place well. Like everywhere it had changed over time. As I meandered I could not help comparing the reality with the memory, perhaps this is nostalgia, but to me it seemed the nearest I'd ever come to time travel.

Practical Time Travel


this used to be a bookshop

that covered two floors

wall to wall books


now it trades for a charity he has never heard of

all that they can scrape together

makes constellations on the floor


next door had been an Oddbins

he would buy the house red

to take to student parties


everything had seemed so permanent then


today is an unplanned visit to Plymouth

which has him comparing now

to the city that lives in his head


and reality comes in a shabby second

The poem may not be complete, I think I need the Secrets perspectives on it. I am standing too close. I did, however, dash this off.

there is no way back

no magic door

no wormhole wardrobe

to effect the switch from here

to some romanticised past


this is where we live

so fight to change tomorrow

as yesterday’s stale bread is hard to swallow

This is not going anywhere, too much tell and not enough show. Here's the Human League from the 1980's.

Until next time.

Friday, 8 April 2022

A PIPEWORK OF VEINS


 We live in increasingly interesting times. Our politicians seem intent on ignoring the scientists pleas for action to minimise global warming. Gove has changed his tune on the pesticide that is decimating the bee population, when part of the EU he supported banning it, now we flounder he is all for using it. And the war drags on.

Phew! Here's a poem about getting old.

his hands had aged

in this room

in the late afternoon light

there was no hiding

the pipework of veins

the dry wrinkled skin


and the liver spots

were the icing 

on his old cake

Not sure about the last line. I think it needs a different word to old, just haven't found it yet.

Here's a rewrite of an old poem. I have never been satisfied with the ending, you can read it here. Part of me wonders what the significance of the poem is, why am I drawn back to play about with the words? Honestly I do not know.

I used to long to hear the sound of copters

rotors thumping the compliant air

getting louder drawing near


there were times when

such a B-movie rescue

would have suited me


I chose to forget that after the credits roll

the actors return to playing themselves

in the films of their own imperfect lives


bridges are a safer bet

you climb above the trouble

just walk away

I want to end on a positive note, Spring has arrived and this is Steve Ashley.

Until next time.

Friday, 1 April 2022

FREE RANGE POEMS

I have always maintained that the raw material for poetry is all around us but that most of the time we don't realise it. A poet is a person who sees the possibilities and who tries to respond to them. Last Saturday I had the idea that the air is teeming with poems, they circle like airplanes waiting to land. This is what I did with that idea:

Poems Are Everywhere


a complex holding pattern

keeps the free range poems airborne

invisible they circle the world

we are oblivious


every now and then

one of us may catch

a whisper in the ear


a few may write down

the words they hear

and mangle the streamlined form


a fewer still will claim to know

the secret frequency with which

they could guide any poem to the page


but he was sceptical

and simply gave thanks

for every poem that chose him

It's a work in progress. I am unsure if free range adequately describes the natural state of poems in the wild. Also I am not sure if the penultimate stanza works- who are these people, hacks?

I suspect I took the word free range from the news that all free range chickens in the UK have been kept inside so long because of bird flu that they must be reclassified as barn eggs. Things fall apart.

Here is a song by the Mountain Goats that references another bird flu epidemic while lamenting the death of the reggae sing Dennis Brown.

And here is the man himself.

Until next time.

Friday, 25 March 2022

THE EMPTINESS OF THE NIGHT

I occasionally wake in the night with a poem half formed in my head. I usually get out of bed and write them down but do not turn on a light in case I disturb  the household. The poem in this post came about when I was sat in the dark writing and yes I did see a man on a bicycle wobble by.

the muse calls me from my bed

to sit in the dark and write out my dream

in wide spaced words on blank white paper


its 4:30 am no car goes past outside

then wobbling in the tail end of the storm

a man weaves along the road


no lights on his bike I note

and from the way he steers

no exact idea of where to go


he executes a sudden turn right

and when I look up again

I take in the emptiness of the night

I think it works as reportage, but I am unsure of the final line [although confident enough to use it as the title of the post...]. Your guess is as good as mine as to where he was going to or coming from. 

Midlake have a new album out. Seems pleasant enough, though I've only played it twice, but I do miss their glory days with Tim Smith. 

Until next time.

Friday, 18 March 2022

WHEN THE WEATHER COULD BE TRUSTED

This post's poem is based on a memory that popped into my head the other week. It was about one of those rare winds that blows sand from the desert to our island. 

certain days


the red wind from the Sahara

had blown a fine sand as far as Blackpool

depositing it all over the paintwork of the cars

parked in the street of our boarding house


I traced my finger in wonder

through the thin rust red layer

on car after car

entranced that I was making contact

with somewhere so impossibly distant


now I know that happened once in a while

back when the weather could be trusted

Its strange how some memories just appear in your head years after the fact with no apparent prompt, no obvious connection to now. They just are there. The poem is straight forward enough. I like the implication of the last line. 

Last Friday evening I went to a concert by Peter Edwards and it was excellent. Here he is live.

Until next time.

Friday, 11 March 2022

A VAST CITY INSIDE YOUR HEAD

I am not feeling particularly chipper this week, the news is terrible. I honestly could run away and live with The Culture, if they'd have me, if they were real. A post-want, pan galactic society, sounds very attractive as we squander our last chance to limit the rise in greenhouse gasses and we murder people for territorial gain.

Enough! Here's a poem about a dream.

trying on dream clothes

that of course always fit well

and are tailored to perfection

I talked jazz with the assistant


there are worse ways to pass a night

than buying threads

but you wake 

unsatisfied with your tactile wardrobe


no matter how hard you try

on successive nights

the tailors shop eludes you

in that vast city inside your head

Not much to say about it, save that the clothes were very comfortable and well tailored. Threads is old slang for clothes. Here's a rewrite. You can read the previous drafts here and here.

the waiting room


lung wrecked in the wing back chair

my father was marooned in his house


he rewatched the programmes

he did not like the first time round


told me that there was a certain

safety in knowing what comes next


his neural pathways began to short circuit

left in him sleeping an assisted sleep


that brief whisper of exhalation

follows each creaking inhalation


until it is time to cast off

to sail outward into the deep 

I think it's finally there. Thanks must go to the Secret Poets for their amazing feedback and the suggestion of moving the stanzas about. There is a quiet satisfaction at arriving at the final draft [and a title].

Speaking of jazz, as I was in my dream, here's Emma Rawicz. She's got an album out soon. Excellent music.

Until next time.


Friday, 4 March 2022

SILENT AS AN AUDIENCE

It is some time since I wrote about the actual process of writing poetry. So today I am going to talk you through how a poem came to its final form.

The poem concerns my work at Marjons when I was note taking in an acting class. The aim of the session was to present a monologue. As the actors moved around the theatre space they spoke their lines oblivious of each other which prompted me to write this:

seven people the space move inside their own words solo talk out loud the wall mirrors a silent audience  

As you can see though it is rough there is something there. I left it for a week or so as I could not see a way forward, although my first instinct was to leave it as one long line with double spaces for punctuation [apologies but Blogspot plays about with spacing so you probably can't see it as I wrote it]. 

I was not happy with that and over the next week it changed to this:

the monologue rehearsal


seven


people the space


solo


speak out loud


move inside their own scripts


the wall mirrors are


silent as an audience

I think it's about there. A simple observation of how actors inhabit their own spaces in a communal area. Perhaps it's a metaphor for how we all live privately in public view.

Here's Selene Saint Aime with Awarak Uhuru from her new album.

Until next time.

Friday, 25 February 2022

LUNG WRECKED


 I was not happy with my last post. The poem was half formed. Here is a redraft.

lung wrecked in the wing back chair

my father was marooned in his house


he rewatched the programmes

he did not like the first time round


told me that there was a certain

safety in knowing what comes next


that brief whisper of exhalation

follows each creaking inhalation


his neural pathways began to short circuit

left in him sleeping an assisted sleep


until it is time to cast off

to sail into the deep

Some poems write themselves, others, like this one, require more work. I am happier with this version. No idea for a title. I think it should be something about a pause or a new cycle, but that would explain the poem before it is read...

Here is Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines with Weather Bird. This tune never fails to raise my spirits when I hear it.

Until next time.

Friday, 18 February 2022

A BRIEF WHISPER

I have been writing about my parents recently. I do not know why, there are no anniversaries immanent. Sometimes one thought just leads to another. It can be that simple.

my father marooned in his house

lung wrecked in the wing back chair


his focus on the procession of his breath

the inhale silent

the exhale a brief whisper


he rewatches the programmes

he did not like the first time round


there is a certain safety in knowing what comes next


until the wiring in his head begins to short circuit

leaves him sleeping an assisted sleep


until it is time to shake his body off

he kicks off from the side

pushes out into the deep

My father had emphysema, it dictated his final years, but did not kill him. He died of a number of mini-strokes. I miss him. This poem is about his end days.

I am not happy with the layout. It looks cluttered, perhaps it reflects life? This is definitely a work in progress. I suppose setting myself the task of posting a poem  a week means there are going to be times when I am not happy with the draft. So watch this space.

Hurray For The Riff Raff has a new album out. I am eagerly awaiting the posty to deliver my copy. Here's Pierced Arrows.

Until next time.

Friday, 11 February 2022

WALKED TO RUNCORN

The town of Runcorn is situated on the River Mersey across from Widnes. I was born in Runcorn, next to the Manchester Ship Canal which is separated from the Mersey by a wall. There have been a number of bridges built between the two towns, the oldest being the Railway Bridge. This poem is about being dragged across the Railway Bridge as a child.

she dragged me snivelling across the Old Bridge

my hand in hers my head not in her reality


for my Mother the wooden walkway was solid

immutable older then her 42 years


I only perceived the spaces between the boards

each held a view of the Mersey far below

and I expected to fall through every gap

somersault the thin air and be lost in the tidal race

cold swift and patient as I knew it to be


this was not to be the last time we walked to Runcorn

Thanks to the Secret Poets for their invaluable assistance. 

Here is a redraft, again with the Secrets help. You can read the first version here.

Witches


Witches want your empty eggshells

so they can sail to sea

and summon storms to drown the sailors.


This is a fact. I know.

I was born beside the water

in the shadow of the old Transporter Bridge.


My uncles worked the Ship Canal

tugmen, exempt from The Call Up

free to drink each St Monday dry.


My mother was at war with them

the hostilities endless.

I could never fathom the reason


and she was not the kind you’d ask

even when I was grown and she frail

with aching hands of knotted oak.


Besides by then we lived across the river.

A word to the wise though -

always break your eggshells.

The layout has changed, as have a couple of words.I suspect this is possibly the finished article.

Here's some Soca from Black Stalin.

Until next time.