writing

On Escaping from Nature

The birds are at it again,
arguing about Brexit
from their branches;

the smug song of a starling,
the crows’ cry
of blue murder,

and the inexpert chatter
of a so-called chaffinch.
Across the street,

a dog cocks its leg
against a lamppost
in protest against

the chronic neglect
of the National Health Service.
A leaf lies ignored

on the pavement
it slept on last night,
and dreams of home.

Further out,
in surrounding fields,
cows hold seminars

on the refugee crisis
and the pigs debate
what to do about Syria.

Goats stare bleakly
from desolate crags,
remembering Trump.

Soon it will be time
for the penguins to march
against global warming.

I do what I can
to keep nature at bay,
drown it out

with radio or TV,
find refuge
in the tranquillity of Twitter.

But it’s late now
and outside
I can hear the owls

calling parliament
into session
once more.

The Flowers of the Garage Forecourt

Budding lovers beware
of the Flowers of the Garage Forecourt;
they are not for courting.

Love will not blossom
with the Flowers of the Garage Forecourt,
these blundering bouquets

of cellophaned sadness:
the slip-road roses and tarmacked tulips,
petrol pump peonies

and crushed-dream chrysanthemums.
All those dahlias of desperation.
The I-forgot-you forget-me-nots.

Please know this, would-be customers
of the Flowers of the Garage Forecourt:
romance wilts with a lack of forethought.

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.

Thief

You caught me stealing
a glance at you.

Ordered me
to empty out my pockets.

I shook my booty
onto the table:

a swiped charge card,
a nose I’d pinched,

one poached egg,
a ruler (half-inched),

a gaze I’d shifted,
some spirits lifted,

and other
stolen moments.

You told me
to stop thieving

and start behaving.

Fat chance.

I would even nick myself
shaving.

Best seen, not heard

Writing poems which rhyme can be tricky and tough
for words often look like they’re from the same bough,
yet the end of each line sounds quite different, though,
and best hidden behind a hiccough or cough.

I wonder, did this bother Byron or Yeats?
Or Larkin or Wordsworth, Auden or Keats?
Were opportunities presented or simply just threats?
Could they think up their rhymes without caveats?

But what should it matter when all’s said and done
if you should read this as scone when I meant scone?
It’s hardly a crime for which you need to atone;
it would all be baloney to an abalone.

So perhaps I should not be quite so afeard.
Some poems are best seen rather than heard.

How Poets Write Poems

It starts with a window,
preferably of the Georgian hung sash variety,
for the Poet is nowhere without one.

There may be other things involved, too:
a laptop, or some paper and a pencil,
or a Remington Home Portable.

And a pipe, of course.

Equipped, the Poet sets his* face
to one of Ruminative Contemplation
to survey the world through the window.

The Poet stares. The Poet gazes.
The lips purse. The brow furrows.
The eyes narrow and then …

    a leaf floats down from a tree,
a snatch of birdsong is caught,
a postman rummages in his bag,

and the Poet is off!
The image, smell, sound
is plucked, examined, cross-examined,

until a memory is stirred …

    perhaps the pattern
on a childhood picnic blanket in a Dorset field

    or the trace of that first kiss
in a grimy bus shelter in Wolverhampton

    or the crumbling headstones
of a Cumbrian church graveyard in October

which, in turn, provokes
larger – far grander – thoughts
about Life and Death and Beauty

and Hope and Truth and Loss
and God and Loneliness and Self
and Terror and Forgiveness

and so it continues
until the day slips softly into darkness
and the people who have proper jobs,

in factories and in offices and in shops,
walk past, carrying their bags and lives home,
and glimpse the Poet, silhouetted with pipe,

through his Georgian hung sash window,
and think to themselves
that he really needs to get out more.

 Please note that Poets are available in all genders

Poem, revised draft

I had to write this poem again.
I left the first draft on the train
and now it doesn’t look the same.

The original was a paean to Love,
to Truth, to Beauty. It soared above
the everyday and all that stuff.

It would have healed estranged lovers’ rifts,
stilled the sands on which time shifts
and stopped the world before it drifts

further into quagmired crisis,
ended famine, toppled ISIS.
Employed ingenious literary devices.

I tried my hardest to recall
its words and rhymes, the rise and fall
of the carefully cadenced crawl

through the English language.
But it caused me pain and anguish
for there was little I could salvage.

It certainly didn’t end with a line like this.

The Importance of the Oxford Comma

Owing to ambiguities caused by its omission,
the Oxford comma became the subject of a petition
raised by serious serialists desperate to ensure
its use was to be mandated in lists of three or more.

Signatures flooded in from across all of society;
never had they expected to see such variety.
Who would have thought that those in favour
would have had such a diverse, democratic flavour?

There were the investment bankers,
the robbers and thieves,
as well as C-list celebrities,
the needy and mildly-diseased.

There were the footballers,
clowns and less mentally able,
alongside the poets,
unemployed and emotionally unstable.

There was Michael Gove,
a drug fiend and a trafficker of human organs,
and, of course, the sexual deviants,
Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan.

Such was the range of names
that the list did constitute.
Oh, not to forget the Queen,
a well-known madam and a prostitute.

Exclamation Mark!

Mark was his name!
He would shout and proclaim!

Every sentence he wrote
would end just the same!

He would assert! He would blurt!
He would ejaculate and spurt!
Each line was a screamer!
A gasper! A slammer! A shrieker!
A literary loudspeaker!!!

Frankly, it all began to needle and nark!
Why did no one think to question Mark?