Baby on Board

This badge
proudpinned to my lapel

may proclaim Baby on Board
but it fails to dispel

the mistrust that sits
around me. Suspicion crams

itself into the carriage.
They would rather see me hang.

Me! With my aching back
and Monday morning sickness,

these need-to-go-to-bed eyes,
and a belly that thickens

beneath my shirt
like skin on a rice pudding.

Me! A clearly pregnant man
in his forties, unshaven

with three days’ stubble
who is experiencing unruly cravings

for pistachio ice cream
and shredded wheat.

But no, not a single
please, DO have this seat.

I suppose that’s what happens
in these post-truth days;

no-one believes anything
another says.

I clutch at straps
for the remaining journey.

Inside, I feel
something stirring.

My Resolution Will Not Be Televised

after Gil Scott-Heron

You will not be able to discover it from your sofa, brother.
You will not be able to sit there under the cat, sister,
remote control in one hand, phone in the other,
and put the kettle on during the ad breaks,
because my resolution will not be televised.

My resolution will not be tweeted.
My resolution will not be announced on Twitter.com
in 140 characters of self-promoting concision
to be retweeted by Ricky Gervais in between posts
concerning animal cruelty and the release date of his latest film.
My resolution will not be tweeted.
My resolution will not be televised.

My resolution will not be Facebooked.
My resolution will not feature next to an inspirational quote
set against the backdrop of a soaring mountain or a mirror-blue lake.
My resolution will not be posted beside a shining infographic
illustrating how many kilos I have lost, how many pennies
I have saved, how many drinks I have not drunk.
My resolution will not be Facebooked.
My resolution will not be tweeted.
My resolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures on Instagram
of kale soup and black bean-quinoa salad.
There will be no pictures on Instagram
Of NutriBullet breakfast smoothies.

My resolution will not be vlogged.
My progress will not be revealed to you
in a twenty-minute daily video diary
documenting my trials and tribulations
whilst being brought to you in association
with John Lewis, Iceland and Marks and Spencer
and my resolution will not be right back after a message
about my brand new range of eyebrow pencils.
My resolution will not be vlogged.
There will be no pictures on Instagram.
My resolution will not be Facebooked.
My resolution will not be tweeted.
My resolution will not be televised.

My resolution will not be available to preorder
on DVD, Blu Ray, CD-Rom, VHS or Betamax, brother.
My resolution will not be prerecorded or livestreamed, sister.
My resolution will not be part of a thought-provoking video installation
and exhibited in a Museum of Modern Art to critical acclaim.
My resolution will not survive more than two days.
My resolution will not be televised.

Your 2017 Haiku Horoscopes

Capricorn

Trousers start to sag
as your pockets bulge with coins.
A year of much change.

Aquarius

You join the circus.
Retrain as tightrope walker.
Good work-life balance.

Pisces

You leave the city
to become a sheep shearer.
New year, a new ewe.

Aries

On Twitter you find
your new haiku horoscope.
It tells you little.

Taurus

You hate your star sign.
Disgruntled, you convert to
Capricornism.

Gemini

Mars enters the sphere
of concupiscent Venus.
Not sure what that means.

Cancer

The year drifts past you
in TV shows and hot food.
Netflix and chilli.

Leo

You date all your cheques
with the year twenty sixteen
until November.

Virgo

You stare at your phone,
look up briefly in July,
then stare at your phone

Libra

At last you make it!
That flat pack IKEA desk
from their Croydon store.

Scorpio

You decide to stop
thinking about anagrams
and sort out your file.

Sagittarius

Year of good fortune.
Not once do you encounter
Jeremy Clarkson.

Have Yourself a Brexit Little Christmas

Have yourself a Brexit little Christmas
and fill your days with fun,
because we know our troubles will have just begun.

Have yourself a Brexit little Christmas
and drink your days away.
From now on, our troubles will be here to stay.

Here we are as in olden days,
so-called golden days of yore.
Failing those who are near to us
for they are dear to us no more.

So just say auf wiedersehen to Europe,
au revoir and ciao,
then hang a tattered flag upon a lonely bough,
and have yourself a Brexit little Christmas now.

Christmas is the Thing with Feathers

Crow: look at that, look, would you.
There he is again. Adonis, adored, adorning,
season’s greeting, tweeting, oi, stop it.

O my bleedin’ heart. Bleedin’ erithacus rubecula,
syphiliticus rubik’s cube, rub him out,
ooh rubbish. Sticking the ol’ chest out. Cor!

Bless him and his red breast. Ah. Stick him
on your cards. All wintry, ain’t he? All Christmassy.
All snowy and chirpy and chipper. Git.

Don’t put crow on your cards. No, not crow.
Crow with his blackness. Crow and his filth.
Not unfestive, festering Crow, oi, stop it.

But I seen him, erithacus rubecula.
Arithmeticulous dracula. I seen him with worms.
All writhing and wriggling and squirming

and rotting away in his oh so pretty beak
above his oh so pretty blood red breast,
mayhem, murder. Robbing ’em of life.

Stick that on a card and send it to yer nan.

Hygge if true

These are the hyggelige days we live for,
dark afternoons brightened by simple things;
pumpkin soup bubbling on the hob,
logs crackl – sorry, my phone just pinged.

Today we crochet socks.
We swap knitting patterns and tales
of meandering pine forest walks
and the frail beauty of a nightingale’s

song, as the scent of fresh rosemary clings –
I think the wi-fi has just gone down –
to our fingers. We shall bathe ourselves
in hygge’s warmth; it cosies, it surrounds,

and wraps our friendships like a blanket.
The soup is ready upon the aga.
I hope to heaven they will all leave soon.
I hear the call of Candy Crush Saga.

In Search Of Lost Tomes

I had forgotten that —
for a long time — I went to bed early,
seduced by Proust,
who so often had le mot juste
about affairs of the heart
and the nature of art,
and all that stuff.

But life and things passed,
gave way to armchaired collapse
in front of a screen,
scrolling through memes,
watching videos of cats.

Until one evening,
when retrieving the remote,
I found you again, on the shelf,
as if stumbling upon a swan’s nest
amongst the reeds, hidden,
your pages like fresh linen.

Written to commemorate the death of Marcel Proust, 18th November 1922.

Christmas Commercial Break

These days
I head for the mountains,
safely out of reach
of the avalanche of campaigns
for new perfumes and TV tie-ins
or someone’s latest book.

Up here a stillness surrounds me.
And, in the solitude,
there hangs a kind of poetry,
which, incidentally,
can also be found
in the book mentioned above.

At peace now,
I watch as the winter sun
melts the mountain snow,
in much the same way
as a collection of poems (£12.99 – available in all good bookshops)
can unfreeze a heart,

and I think about the rock beneath us,
and the wonder of us,
our singularity,
each of us unique
like a book with its own individual identifier,
(e.g. 9781783523054)

and Christmas
becomes magical once more.

An example of the kind of book you might find featured in the first stanza of this poem.

They’re Renovating Buckingham Palace

They’re renovating Buckingham Palace —
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Went past cash-strapped hospitals and schools,
“The Sevres Porcelain sounds really cool,”
Says Alice.

They’re renovating Buckingham Palace —
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
The queues they found were as long as food banks,
“They have Vermeers and Van Dycks and Rembrandts,”
Says Alice.

They’re renovating Buckingham Palace —
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Outside, the homeless were all moved along.
“The Grand Staircase, I’ve heard, is cast from bronze,”
Says Alice.

They’re renovating Buckingham Palace —
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
“You know so much ’bout the palace and grounds.”
“I got a book before the library closed down,”
Says Alice.

The Ice is Slowly Melting

And if you gaze long into Abbey Road,
Abbey Road also gazes into you.’

They cross but come back once more,
in the early August morning light,
walking out, not quite in step,
painting colour on black and white.

A photographer perches on his ladder,
sandals lie abandoned on the floor,
a man – with hands on hips – gazes, counts:
one and one and one and one is four.

It would have been easier to let things be,
declare they were already past their prime,
but they want to – they want to so bad –
come together, right now, one last time.

Because the amps are there, they turn them on
and – for a moment – arguments disappear;
there’s something in the way they play,
it seems like years since they’ve been here.

Ringo counts them in, of course,
as the lights and recriminations fade –
one and one and one and one is four –
in this Maida Vale hideaway in the shade.

Some bits are stitched together​
with sun-honeyed harmonies
and fenestrated fragments
of musical mastery –

miserly, mustardy –
under the custody
of polythene dreams,​​
a golden-slumbered tapestry

of rich, interwoven melodies,
snatches, echoes, refrains,
and it carries the weight
(it’s so heavy!)

of where they’ve come from
and where they will go
in the end.

Back outside, we glimpse them through the lens;
four is one and one and one and one.
They walk across the road once more
and then they’re gone.

The Abbess is a pretty nice girl
But she doesn’t have a lot to say.
The Abbess is a pretty nice girl
But all she seems to do is pray.
I want to tell her that I love her a lot
But I gotta drink a bottle of Blue Nun,
The Abbess is a pretty nice girl
One day we’re going to have some fun, oh yeah,
One day we’re going to have some fun.