A collection of poems and other writings...

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Foot

 After Lunch
Mrs Gantry and Mrs Curtiss
would patrol the playground.

Mrs Curtiss was warm and friendly
as wax crayons.

Mrs Gantry was as spiky
as a fork.

The girls all loved Mrs Curtiss
and they bundled her from one game to another.
The brave ones sometimes
linked arms with Mrs Gantry
and her grey face
melted for a moment.

On Thursday,
it was
Richard Barnes and me
and John and Robert Jarvis.
We were talking
about tractors.

Robert was sitting
on the playground tarmac -
his shorts were baggy
and from where I was sitting
I could see his willy -
Attribution: Dave Fergusson
but his Dad had a Massey Ferguson
so I didn’t say anything.

All the girls had taken
Mrs Curtiss and Mrs Gantry
all the way
to the end of the field
where the wire-link fence
looked out into the wood.

an infant
brought the message back -
they were showing them
a foot.

A what?

A foot!

How?  Where?  A What?

A foot -
honestly -
it is one.
Come and see.

So we had to go and look.
And it was a foot -
wasn’t it?

You could see it clearly
sticking out from behind the tree.
It was a foot
about five feet up in the air
sticking out from behind that tree.
Wasn’t it?

Somebody must be hiding there -
with their foot
sticking out.
But they were very still.

Did they know we had spotted them -
well - their foot?
We ought to call the police.

It might be a thief
or an outlaw
or somebody from St Gregory’s.

Lets Get Them.

We all wanted to climb over the fence and get them.
Well Ralph Bond didn’t.
And neither did Christopher Farrell.
Helen Cross said we couldn’t
and we wouldn’t dare anyway.
I said I did dare
I just didn’t want to go ...

Then Mrs Gantry said nobody
was going to ‘get them’
because there was nobody to be got.
She sent Christopher Downton
over the fence.

We were very quiet
as he tiptoed
up to the tree
with the foot sticking out and
pulled it off!

When he brought it back
you could see
it was just a bit of old toadstool
growing out of the other side of the tree.
I said I thought it was going to be something like that -
Richard said he did too -
and then the bell went
and we had to go
and do
papier mâché.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Whole Picture

Maybe I'm getting a little too philosophical at the moment.  There is something about social media that has that effect on me, I think.  Scrolling down your news feed you dip into tiny, fragmentary moments of other people's thinking, obsessions, amusements, passions...  the major life moments nudging up against the inane, compulsive memes of dogs eating sweetcorn.  I have just been thinking a lot recently about that weird juxtaposition - the rubbish and the luxury versus the oppression and darkness.  How do I respond?  How do I stay sane?  How do I help?  They are real questions!  Please feel free to offer your answers!  This poem feels a bit like a sketch of a poem really, a first clustering of thoughts, and maybe I'll work on it some more.  Then maybe I can free myself up to just have a bit more fun again!

While this world
is cluttered
with degradation
and the fumbling of the feeble
against the
wrath of the strong,
who am I
to take time and space
and follow an inclination
with this trivial tripping
and ineffectual song

and artful twittering
and insignificant pondering
and meandering remembering
and whimsical wondering?

And while some topple disingenuously
at the tap of a footballer’s toe,
others aim to draw the angry blood
of ancient foe.
As the son of one kills
the son of another
and the mother of one
shields his younger brother
from the deluge of the poisoning thought
that he has taught himself is true
and then when he has been missing for weeks

she finds him on youtube
and the video speaks
to call comrades to arms
against an enemy
as intangible to me
as a raging, blood-boiled sea.

So who am I
to watch this
fictional news
and pretend there
is no entertainment value here
and switch the channel
with the simplest press
to find a cookery programme
to relieve the stress
and check the latest reviews
of films and songs and theatre shows
that represent the world
as a place where, surely, love grows?

And while
the Palestinian woman
in this Instagram
sits in her devastated room
and clutches a blood-stained tea-towel
to her temple
and weeps her rocking soul
in silent ululations of grief
I hunt for an adjective
to objectify the narrative

for it’s only a picture
and all I can do is just 
like it 
and scroll on down.
I can engage with it or not
as the whimsy goes.

Today I might write a poem for a friend,
just a lousy poem,

or perhaps a little prose.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

We mostly walk on the pavement

I was walking home today and noticed - strange - that although the road was completely empty of traffic we all still walked on the pavement.  Not really that strange perhaps but it did make me realise that we are basically conformist and for the most part that is an acceptable thing to be.  So perhaps going a little against the grain of modern poetry here is an ode in praise of conformity...

We mostly walk on the pavement
and mostly ignore the fact
that windows are easily broken
that glass is easily cracked
and objects belonging to others
could very easily be
lifted through broken windows
a handbag, perhaps a tv.

We just don’t, most of us, mostly
we simply abide by the rules
a set of agreed ordinations
decreed by our forebears, the fools.

And most of us mostly wear undies
to protect from an unpleasant stain
and most of us find some protection
whenever it’s starting to rain.
These are things that we do out of habit
and a feeling that such things are right:
when you’re using your phone I don’t grab it
though I could – (and maybe I might,
just because it is really annoying
when people use phones on the train
or the bus or the street or the library - 
seems I’ve gone off on one again.)

I think what I’m trying to fathom
and what I am trying to explain
is that people are generally similar
and generally good at the game
of being human and getting along with
the people that live round about.
It’s all too easy to get strong with
the people who dither about
but we don’t, do we, mostly,
we patiently let them get through
or get on the bus just before us
even when they were last in the queue.

We’re sociable animals mostly
and I’m glad about that, yes I am.
We modify our own behaviour
So we don’t all end up in a jam.

So thank you for not going naked
and thank you for not pooing there
and thank you for just being pleasant
and human
and kind

and aware.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Dead Pigeon

This beautiful drawing was made by Erika K Harada.  Find her blog here
There is
a dead pigeon
on the kerb today.

I doubt this pigeon
this morning
as it flustered from its roost
under the railway bridge
to breakfast on
cold, strewn fries
that today
would see it
split from gizzard to cloaca.

Some angry, car-clad man,
fresh from the defeat of being
merely human,
has maybe come barrelling down the highway
and chosen to be less than human
to this slow-witted, paltry bird

and now
here it lies, 

served with a side order of
starburst wrappers and grit.

Gristly tubes of stuff
spoiled out into the gutter,
a deep abyss hiding
within the feathered wound
where some internal animus
has at last found escape,
and allowed its
homing instinct full sway
- a soul’s seedpod split
and spent -
leaving a hollow husk
and a flurry of down
blizzarding along the kerb.

And Ruth tells me that
The Boys at School
would catch a random,
slow moving,
claw-stunted bird
such as this
and stuff it
into an empty carrier bag,
then toss it casually
under the wheels
of an approaching bus
to laugh at the
helpless popping
of the fragile carcass,
the splintering bones
and the instant cessation of
a life
so insignificant it is deemed
a suitable play thing,
a plastic counter
to be flipped with derision.

And we are human,
is it not so?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Harvest Time

When I first took up residence in this house

I said
this is the best house there can be
I will raise a happy family here
I will plant a fruit tree
I would like apples to grow in my garden
I will love to feed my apples
to my children
and to their children
when they come to visit us
at harvest time

I thought about it for many weeks
I thought about the variety I would choose
I thought about the best place to plant it
I read books on how to keep a fruit tree alive

while I was thinking
and choosing
and studying
I noticed there are things
not quite so good about this house
it is very close to the neighbour’s house
there are some damp corners
the garden does not catch the sun
and is full of slugs

I wondered
maybe there is a better house somewhere else
maybe we should move

I decided
I will wait
until I have found
the perfect house for me and my family

and then I will plant my fruit tree

then I will give apples to my children
and to my children’s children
when they visit us
at harvest time

but I have not found a better house
and I have not planted my apple tree
and now my children have left home

and I have no apples to offer them

Things Matthew Gorse Did.

I went to primary school on a bus like this - Lewis Coaches
On the bus
Matthew Gorse
with a piece of thick wire.

Mr Lewis had
to stop

Matthew Gorse’s head
straight onto
the piece of wire.

The sharp end went into his skin
in the middle
of his forehead.

Matthew Gorse
just sat there
looking around at us.
Then we saw the blood
- it started to form a big blob
where the wire had gone in.
Then it started to run down his nose.
But Matthew Gorse
didn’t notice
- he just kept sitting there looking round at us
as if he could see things we couldn’t see.

When we shouted,
Mr Lewis
stopped the bus in the hedge.
He climbed out of his seat
and came back to look
Matthew Gorse.
He told him how
he was to be playing
a piece of thick wire
in the bus
and he gave him a handkerchief
to hold all the blood.

In assembly,
on Thursday,
Matthew Gorse
did another thing
he did not want the teachers to be cross.

When he needed to go to the toilet
he did not ask
if he could go to the toilet
he just went
to the toilet
where he was -
in his pants.

We knew he had quite quickly
because of the smell
but Miss White
didn’t notice for a bit -
then when she did notice
she stood him up from the bench
and after she had smacked his leg
she told him he had
done a stupid thing
and she asked him if he was still a baby
and did he need a nappy
and she pulled him
out in front of everyone
and took him off
to her classroom.

Mr Higham
put the foot catch on the door
to let some fresh air in.

at playtime
Matthew Gorse
was stood around
in someone else’s shorts -
he probably had
someone else’s
underpants on too,
but we couldn’t see them.

He had to take his home,
in a carrier bag

- all brown -

on the bus.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Mr Higham's class, 1968.
St Mary's RC School, Marnhull

Me, top right.
Mrs Higham
lost her voice in
the classroom
when it was being decorated
so we had to have
in the canteen.

the canteen was a great big black
tunnel of corrugated iron
but there was
room inside
salt and pepper
and vinegar
in glass

and great big
 shiny metal
water jugs
red and green and blue and gold

and benches.

We had to sit
on the benches
at the dining tables
to do the sewing.

Mrs Higham
came over and whispered across
the tables.

Fingers on lips, everyone,
 she whispered.

She leaned right over to me.
would you run to the
the register.

You could
smell the polos.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

When Dad smiled

Just a little one for Dad on Fathers Day...

When Dad smiled
and his cheeks
drew back
from his teeth,
there was a little clicking noise,
so even when
he was behind you
you knew
he was there


Saturday, 14 June 2014


A tale of dimensions and miscommunication
source: http://www.qe2.org.uk/

When they built the QE2
we did it at school.

Mr Higham
taught us all how long it was.
He said it was about
three miles long
from proud to sternum
or something
and we all had to go up the road
and stand
and be markers
and count all the
ten yards that would make up the three miles
or however long it was.

I was seven ten yardses
up from the school gate.
So I was standing there
and some people were left standing
being only two ten
yardses -
or three ten yardses -
they were really close to the gate.

Then everybody else
went round the
to be two hundred
and fifty yards
or three hundred and ninety yards
and things.
And it all went very quiet.

For quite a long time.

I said to sixty yards
that it was boring.
He said it was too.
Fifty yards said he
needed to go toilet.

We stood there for ages
and you could hear all the others
a long way off
great fun
three hundred and seventy yards
and such.

Then after a long time
Paul Louth came running back
from around
the corner.

We got right to the post box -
he said.
But we’ve finished
so we can go back and have playtime.

So sixty ran off
back to the playground
fifty ran off
back to the toilets.
And so I ran off -
back to the classroom -
to get my marbles.

But Mr Higham
came breathing right down
low and hot
into my ear
just as I was
walking down the path
by the church.

I could smell his pipe.
His hand was as big as a bookcase.
It grabbed my elbow.

Where was I going
did he tell me I could go
one more thing like this and he was onto me
I should mark his words
just one more thing
he would not have anyone
making muckery of his lessons
did I understand.

I told him I did.

But I didn’t.

What is ‘muckery’?
I’ve never done it.

Later that afternoon
when I had done the picture of
the Police Cadet In His Uniform
I called Mr Higham
by mistake.

My face went hot.

Everyone laughed.

Except Mark Donovan
who had come to school
with pink nail varnish on his fingers.

He had spilled it
but Mr Higham
told him he must have done it on purpose

because he was a girl.