A Collection of Poems
By Steve Cartwright
Painting by Steve Cartwright
Illustrated by Maggie Stead
A Splodge of God
A circle of white roses surround the tulips,
Like a bodyguard
Yes, really smiling.
Behind them the tulips strut.
A multitude of ruby reds and golden yellows lodged
between their tonguing leaves.
These tonguing ushers seem to set the stage and look full
well as if they’ve done the introduction and now are at
that point where they’re about to say;
“So, Ladies and Gentlemen……..will you please welcome?”
And there they are upon the stage
A splodge of God
And we, the audience, applaud
And gaze on in awe.
A Flotilla of Swans
A flotilla of swans scours the lake.
They are looking for trouble
Necks arching, craning chests thrust out.
Battle stations, they fan out, clearing a wider area.
Coots vanish, clear off.
Grebe dive under.
Mallard chunter indignantly, but yield, give up and
disappear all in a fl utter,
Jet off with whirring wings to a safer haven.
Bully boys, these swans now strut a threat of violence.
In groups they gather.
They bite, they hiss, they chase.
Arrogant and fi erce.
Lords of the manor; a monarchy upon the lake;
Privileged Porsches of the pond
Menacing, they glide toward their prey with grim
Their power obvious
Great serpent necks poised and set to strike.
Wings arched in anticipation.
The neck dropped back
The body sunk down low into the water.
Then down goes the foot low on the accelerator.
Bursting through the water.
Fierce and mighty galleons of the lake they give no
Not so cocky though out of the water are we Mr. Swan?
Great bloated lump of a body plopped on matchstick
legs and gawky orange feet that look like slippers.
Partially sighted you look cross-eyed down the angle of
One could almost imagine you donning your spectacles
wisely and plumping down in to your library chair.
A glass of sherry and 40 winks perhaps?
Appleby sang to me a million songs
When fi rst I took her, cracking ice
And chugging in the winter silence
Down the Ashby
Seeking the sanctuary of Stoke Golding
And the chandlery.
Buoyed by the Squirrel stove
We sat cosy
In the galley
Grabbing fi rewood from the forest
Free and easy
Wild and wanton.
Water gypsies lifting firewood
Dead and rotten
Cram it in the Squirrel
Steaming, drying, smouldering, burning
Giving us its body heat to warm us
Wrapped up in the chequered blanket
Snacking on the chicken pie.
Shovelling down the mash and gravy
In the warm
Moored up on the plastic mooring
Near to Bosworth
By the forest
Wandering up to Sutton Cheney
Where in the pub we slaked our thirst
Or pied a plate of crust and cheddar
Walking in the dark back down the lane
Full of love, and of each other
Close as we could ever get
Traipsing back to our last mooring
On the jet black blob of water
Above us such a stab of stars
Reminding us of where we came from
From some other time of bliss
Where memories of freedom, love and peace
Were what we’d always known.
From the copse and safety of the wild he lurched
Scissor-like legs scurrying and frantic,
Out on to the open road the cock pheasant dashed
All decked out in his finery.
Plumes of emerald green and streaks of midnight blue
A touch of red somewhere to set him off.
No doubt he sought his lady fair cluck-clucking
from the field across the way.
Half blinded by the sun as he emerged out of the
shadow of his copse, he plunged in desperation out
on to the open road.
Hope and lust replaced his natural caution.
I saw him far too late.
Had he set off a mite before he would have lived
and rolled his love with all his swagger in the hay.
But those knitting needle legs hurled him seesawing into my path.
I clocked him with my bumper bar and guillotined his head
Clean as a whistle
Headless he stumbled on but conked out in
the gutter still fluttering, his sparkling robes besmattered.
A gush of blood flooding like a tap flew from his
neck and ebbed away his stunned and dying seconds.
The overtures she sang to him had surely sealed
his fate and this once lusty cock now fodder for the carrion.
Spangled in the belly of the moon
Harbinger of Eostre the Moon Goddess.
Lop-eared and long-limbed
Springing into Spring and Spring bringing.
Wild-eyed, purse-lipped and donkey-featured.
Insane with joy,
Unkempt, Hooray Henry’d and wildly whiskered.
Gangling and awkward.
And yet deceptively articulated.
Leaping, dodging, wheeling, lurching, drifting,
Braking then accelerating.
Then static, soppy-eyed and staring.
In V-shaped groups of 8’s or 9’s,or single file in 2’s or 3’s
They surge dart-like; their necks craning, thrust forward, low
over Thornton water
Heading for the early morning gathering, the breakfast seminar
Where they crash startled into the grey and icy waters.
Massing in their thousands
Honking, walloping, yelping even… almost barking.
A cacophony of sonic hooray henrys booming out their
symphony of bellowing.
Resonating and echoing o’er the glassy surface of the lake.
Resounding round its shoreline growing ever louder.
Deafening, maddening, disturbing; coming to a huge crescendo
As more and more of these mad geese fly in and gather, join
Then, as if there was an order from their forming ranks and
legions, mighty squadrons and huge battalions confer and
Form up and gather
And then take off from runways in the water,
Forming V’s they fly together
Up and up and up and over
And perfectly they synchronize together
Slicing through the turbulence they sever like some giant cut
throat razor angled at the centre.
Round and round they do a practice run or two.
Then as they land, they flutter and then hover and then they
sort of dither
Then splash and plop back on the water
What primeval coding ties them to this ritual?
Tells them all to work together?
Makes them gather?
But now they’re off again, the practice done, the waiting over.
Now deep within their ranks there comes the order
The squadrons muster.
Resolute and organised they gather.
Form up ranks behind the leader.
Like giant planes they cruise across the water.
Still they honk and wallop just like they’re talking to each other.
You go there, you do this and you do that
Change the pace and swap the leader.
Move the fi t ones to the centre.
Work the turbulence together.
Look-outs find the feeding waters.
Then suddenly they’re gone and peace descends on
You can almost hear the ducks, the coots,
the moorhens heave a sigh and mutter
to each other
O thank God that’s over.
It’s a Tow Path
Shoo shoo shoo
To the moo moo moo.
Its a tow path
Not a cow path.
What’s wrong with you?
Its got a calf
And then it saw me
Like a bus
Its coming for me
Oh my Lordie
Its going to gore me
Bang Bang Bang
I have to clout it
With my stick
Thank God I’d got it
It does not stop it
Panic’s rising in my gullet
Have to launch another wallop
And this time it does seem to stop it
Just long enough for me to hop it.
Never thought a cow would do it
Caught me out right good and proper
Like a giant mad space hopper
Horns and flanks and flying udder
Charging down the tow path at me
Thought my time had come I tell ya.
Tangerines or Satsumas, I dunno
Tangerines or satsumas, I dunno.
A prod of thumb into the node
And the peel fell off
Easy as you like.
It spiralled off
And there underneath
Chubby little gob-sized quarters
See-sawing on my table
Veined with pith
The peel in curls leaning against the other curls.
A bit like the bowing slivers scraped by the butter knife.
Moonlike its cratered innards gape and dehydrate.
I got them from Lidl.
In that bit at the front where they sell things cheap.
Tangerines or satsumas
I saw the damson.
Nestling half-hidden in a carnival of foliage
Proferring its fruit like a treadmill down its laden boughs.
Bruised and dusted sugarplums clinging limpetlike
to their tentacles rose like the heads of rusting
rivets on a seam of steel.
Bulging like the tyre tread of an alligators tail.
I stripped a couple bare
Plucking each gem from its socket and gently
placing it in my carrier.
Ripe and wet and shining through their dusty coats
they will soon adorn my pudding.
What a Peach
This peach has somehow survived its neighbour.
A gob of rotting flesh slides down its fleshy flank.
I wipe it off.
It’s still intact and edible, but having watched Kill Bill it
reminds me of a torn-out eyeball
And I gag at the thought of eating it.
Its glorious peachy youth has passed and old age is setting in.
A wizened wrinkling skin begins to hang upon its frame.
What shall I do with you I think.
It looks a bit like me,
The decent thing to do
would be to eat it
Put it out of its misery
And so I do.
Where Rapids Meet
Beneath Spaen bridge,toothrot tongued by rapids
eats a cavity into a leaning slab of slate.
A rockpool gathers in the gaping hole.
Lichens, yellow on the tree and mosses, more
caught than rooted on the stem, flower and hover twixt the branches.
Peat has tinged the water teabag brown and gobs of
spittle drift then break away where rapids meet.
Waters rush and dart and thrash and then, beyond
the rapids, splosh and trickle, then tinkle like drops
after rain pinging in the puddles.
Mountains dollop and gullies drain them.
Varicose they slide into the loch.
Snow ages them, whitening their plaited braids and blue tinged
ice slices them and combs them.
Cloud, rain, sleet and blizzard heap frenzied showers upon them and the glaring sun is ever there to toss their heavy braids and dry them.
Scary Ben Nevis blows his icy breath and bellows.
Gods, they blast and scurry weather.
So much water.
Over dinner I spit chatter, prepare a sermon, entertain and ponder
Crack my aching brain and wrack myself asunder.
My neighbour spills an ageing odour, or is it me, I wonder.
Nearby a woman, bringing apples in her basket.
Brown teeth gobbing tobacco and munching,
Wheezing into her rattle.
A vast ricket down below and flying from her skirts reeks
of something old and dusty gathering in the knicker.
Then …eyes down for yon bingo and watch the entertainer countrify us with his witty banter puking
mediocre rock and roll and Americana from the mini discs that daub a perfect sickly backing on to each and every single number.
Oh so out of kilter with these Scottish lochs by which we
gather and which we have come to marvel at and ponder.
And so I hunt the bedroom and sit writing in my corner
then bathe and pickle and seek the solace of sweet slumber.
How the Blackberry goads me into her fearsome lair
Her maidenhood now robed in a shiny garb of satin and damask
Her eyelids droop
Her lashes curl.
Come gather me she calls.
Free me from this spiky stem.
Let my sweet and tasty juices melt and slither.
And let your cup be full
Come let me tempt you way beyond these fearsome guards
To find the portal that will free my cloistered daughters.
I am Crow
I am crow.
I am scavenger.
I dine on rotting flesh, old bones and spilled innards
The shreds of blown out tyres, flailed and broken on the
wheel host my feasting.
Sun drenched, peeled and bleeding limbs, torn from
roadside trees, prod my meat and dither in my gravy.
The offal of old lorry tethers and the writhing coils of
lathed up steel, slither in the grease of my tortellini.
Great plates of rims and red reflectors nuzzle in a stew of
Old cats eyes wobble on my pudding or wither in my
Squashed beer cans leer crone-like as they shrivel,
creased as in the frozen moments of a wave dying.
Like dead grins, they pile up in my treasure trove and
I raid them for my goblets sipping water greased with oil.
Old engine innards stranded in lay-bys creak
upon the shelving of my larder.
These are my utensils.
I belch bolts
I fart screws and I shit iron fifi lings.
I am crow and I am scavenger.
A huge Colossus
Shivering in the cool of a Summer Night
Thrusting upward to the sky.
A ring of stars swim round its towering head
Adorn it with a coronet of diamonds,
Gleam out against the black of night.
I lie beneath its mighty limbs and scour it’s length
It’s like some huge giant leaning back and looking
down frozen in the act of laughing.
Calling out to me from whence I came.
Dogs I’ve Known
I have no pedigree for knowing dogs.
The first I do recall was Cindy a corgi,
She belonged to my sister.
Her regal ancestry however annoyed me
As do the monarchy.
Scampy leapt up at me fawning in a pet shop.
The last of a litter.
I bought her for my tiny daughter.
She liked Shirley more than me and this brought out
the excesses of my immaturity.
She was cowed in the company of people.
Savage with dogs
Like a schizoid.
She had puppies.
We named them after a constellation.
They were truly stars.
Their awkwardness caught you at the heart.
Scampy tired of their constant suckling,
Would wander off to kill a rat.
Half eat it,
Regurgitate it for the puppies.
I gagged as I watched the process.
Cute little puppies gobbling vomit.
Eventually we sold them all.
I remember them bundling my tiny daughter over as they
tumbled on the rug before the fire
And I remember Scampi when she’d had enough
scarpering up the Leicester Road.
Alas, she could never get away.
There behind in perfect single fi le the puppies trailed and
held the traffic up.
Scampi got arthritis and a heart condition.
I made a trolley for her back end.
Eventually though we put her down,
Her dignity gone
And so too the quality of her life.
Later we had a lurcher.
Twiggy, scared of her own shadow
Sort of blue
She was probably cute
But died after an accident in which she shattered her thigh.
Then Rosie the boxer came.
She was the most ugly dog.
Her facial distortion so extreme she outshone beauty
Kicked it into touch.
Her features melted any heart
And her long-legged athleticism and fawn and white
markings made her the star attraction
Except for the drooling and her tendency to raid the
fridge and piss in the kitchen.
The other dog I knew was Fudge.
As vile a dog as I have ever known.
It didn’t bark, it shed hatred.
It could not be trusted.
Eventually some sanity prevailed.
They took it to the vet put it down.
The world is now a better place.
One other I recall.
I was five.
Tethered to the kitchen table was a bullmastiff,
White and pike-headed with pink eyes.
It had bitten the butler at the hall and been relegated to our house.
Like Fudge, it exuded a massive evil and I prayed for it to die.
Not being a member of the upper classes,
I have only ever known three horses.
The first was Sue
Pony trekking somewhere in the Black Mountains.
She turned her head slightly
And nudged me over the cliff.
I think I heard her laugh
But neigh that would have been a step too far……..
Later as I sat up on that huge back,
Neigh literally took off for the homestead,
Heedless of the howling whoahs, the yanking bit and
the fat space hopper bouncing on her back.
Back at the farm I watched her and her horsey mates swapping stories.
A sly look my way had me wondering again.
One other time,
My three children, three horses, my wife and I pony trekking.
“No we wouldn’t need an escort, it’ll be fine”!
On the high field another gelding flung itself sideways
and rolled in a pile of horse shit.
This behaviour it seemed was infectious.
The horses, Pudding, Soldier and Mars Bar joined in
the shit-rolling debacle.
My children thrown.
Much later with the children back on their shit covered saddles
We rested by a wall.
Soldier by far the largest horse you had ever seen
Felt the need to impress me with its bulk.
With a slight lean it crushed me.
Again I thought I heard a giggle.
Neigh surely not.
It couldn’t be.
My last and final tangle with an equine being was
somewhere at the seaside.
As we trotted through the farm gate the horse
The girth slipped
And I rode through horizontally.
That clinched it.
I’ve just remembered three other equine occasions.
At the farm shop I leaned into a stable to stroke a horse.
Hector it was called.
It bit me, the bastard.
A gypsy horse I tried to feed with an apple did the same.
Luckily this time I had my leather coat on.
One more equine encounter I recall
Three years old perhaps
Feeding an old nag tethered in a field in Broughton Astley
My learned equine experiences warned me this would end in disaster
Not wishing to project my own fears onto my uninhibited offspring
I watched as they played under the nag’s sagging belly
And pulled some horsey naughty bits
The beast continued chewing
A faint look of surprise upon those equine features
It just shows you they’re not all out to get you.
One lucky last cast on the Calder and pikey took my spinner.
A contest deep and mighty then ensued
As deep into the depths it plunged
And bent my straining rod
And stretched my squealing twine.
On and on the battle raged
With leaps and divings
Feints and twists
Till finally old pike was spent.
Exhausted it yielded to the final winching of my groaning reel
And slipped into the shallows
Where in the windings of my landing net
I sealed it’s sorry fate.
But here it’s will returned.
Its energy came rushing back.
It thrashed and squirmed and raged and raved.
Oh such a serpent.
Now bowed and grounded
But still screaming hate.
I dragged it with the net to higher ground and
smashed it’s head in with a brick.
I watched it’s body tremble,
It’s death rattle.
I felt it’s soul come leaping out.
That vicious head.
That shark of teeth.
That fearful shining torso.
All now lifeless dead and spent.
Splattered on the bank.
At home I slit it’s gut,
Took out its bowels,
Cut off it’s head.
I sliced it up in thirds.
Two parcels in the freezer.
The last I ate for dinner.
Will this mad act of violence from me, the Hunter,
now register as karma on the akashic scroll?
I think not
Since no more frantic victims will fall prey to pike’s mad jaw.
A purple, deep as Old Souls, adorn her outer petals
And golden Coronets wink hexagons from her inner core.
Green tonguing leaves
Bunch up around her
Like hearth waves that spill out onto a beach
And then withdraw.
What joy she brings
Now posing for a pittance on a shelf at Lidl.ho could resist?
Not I fair maid.
My pound’s well spent
For you’ll be pouting your full lips at me for several weeks
In your poor plastic pot up on my sink.
The squirrel is a monster
Of delight ….of course.
A ball of fur and almost nothing more
And yet it leaps and jumps and flies and jerks that tail
And scurries round and up the boles of trees
And flies from branch to branch
And often tree to tree
Then prances on the lawn in search of hidden food it’s lost,
Always darting, checking, always moving
And then it freezes on the spot.
Such zest, such joie de vivre.
It is as if it’s driven by the light.
The cutest thing you ever saw.
Its feral joyful heart.
It catches at the heart.
I killed a squirrel deliberately
Well …. an assist
Five years old and relegated to this planet.
In the wood at Hatfi eld
With my father and his twelve bore.
“Look Dad, up there” I shouted,
“There way up in the beech”.
He raised the gun and belched a murdererous spread
It hit the squirrel in the leg
And down it came
Crashing through the branches
It landed stunned upon the bole
Where daddy clubbed it with the butt and brained it
We took it back to Uncle Perce
Who chopped its tail off with an axe
And flung its body to the dogs.
A bob a tail we got at Luton market
50 years on
And my son Patrick found a squirrel
Dying in the road
A hit and run
Crying for it’s kin.
Young Patrick wrapped it in a wodge of leaves
Whispering, caressing, loving, calming
Brought it to the roadside
And laid it gently down
Then found a bottle in a bin
He knew what must be done
So out of love and out of Mercy
He brained it
Freed it from it’s awful pain.
The debt repaid.
Doing a social work course at Perry Barr.
Winter in the 80s.
I pass his grave on the train through Nuneaton.
Stare out the window into the rain.
In Birmingham the starlings gather on the town hall
in their millions.
A cloak of colour slithering as they settle, then rearrange.
I remember a similar gathering in Abbey Park some
They tried to shoo ‘em off,
The shit disturbing
Killing off the trees they said.
I doubted that.
My mind conjuring a parabola of their flying.
A three dimensional wave of intellect and of intuition
A pituitary of glandular cohesion.
Surely just this miracle alone would justify a bit of shit cleaning.
Pondering these thoughts
I stand alone on the station
Waiting for the next train to Perry Barr
The radiance of the starlings’ colours should enthrall me,
Lift me up
But it doesn’t.
A purple daub stains my soul
And the sheer weight of their numbers
exacerbates my total isolation.
We are Swift
We are Swift.
Beings of the air
Almost permanently fl ying
We drink, we eat, we preen, we even sleep upon the wing.
In April, from Angola and the Congo, in our millions
We fl y epic and perilous migrations
O’er deserts and o’er oceans
Skimming on our sickle wings
Where we feed and fatten on insect hatchings in your
warm moist air.
From May we mate
And nest in nooks and crannies
High above the hedgerows.
Then in August
We fly once more o’er seas and mountains
Back from whence we came.