a collection of poems by
Cover Painting by Steve Cartwright
Spitted on an agony of doubt
I delay conclusions I have already sought,
eternally cooking in the fat of guilt and desperately
seeking salvation and its freedoms.
Heaven beckons lovingly.
Its paths confuse;
Seeking The One, I dither and stumble.
A toe in the waters of forgiveness, aye just a glimpse,
I now await the waves of karmic oblivion to subside
and grant me full emersion.
Battered by the wind.
Shivering, we rounded the church
And there, behind it, we saw the monastery
Its ruins staggering.
Though denuded of its finery; its roof, its leaded glass,
Its symmetry still glowed a glorious past.
Cloistered, it ran an avenue of corridors
Arched and holy
Surrounded by a rink of graves on which we skated,
scouring them for Sylvia.
Eventually we found her in the overspill among an eternity
of graves where neither monument nor banner marked her loneliness.
Only a lowly headstone and a ridge of pebbles.
A garden was her shroud.
Someone had erased her married name,
The Hughes struck out.
A statement proclaiming her a poet in her own right
And an accusation aimed at the patriarchy whose shadow
dimmed her light.
Now though, Sylvia shines from her grave both as a genius
in her own right and an icon for a more enlightened age.
Olympe de Gouges
Its hard to fathom understand
How France when revolution sprang,
Could so discard and then abuse
The brilliance of Olympe de Gouges,
How could a woman such as she
Then meet her end in the same way
As felons, murderers and thieves
The super rich ,the monarchy
The duke, the duchess, the marquis
Spread-eagled on the guillotine?
For these we know deserved their fate
For crimes against the human race.
In decadence they lived their days
All beings viewed by them as slaves
Who pandered to their every need
Washed them, dressed them, served them food
Plied their make-up to their faces
Flattered all their airs and graces
Fed them brioche, sugared bread
Tucked their children up in bed.
Washed their linen, poured their wine
Served caviar at dinnertime.
Silver spoons and golden ladles
Lay upon their heaving tables
Napkins of the fi nest lace
Lay beneath their dinner plates.
Cut glass decanters, ornate bowls
Laid out before these pampered souls.
And food of every style and mode
From every corner of the globe
Impeccably displayed and served
With gravies, sauces, spices, herbs
And oyster, lobster, goose and quail
Were served to them at every meal.
And chocolate and the finest wines
They guzzled as they came to dine.
And over all of this there ruled
The Marquis and his gang of fools
Strutting out upon their steeds
To check the boundaries on his deeds,
While in her chateau La Marquise
Surrounded by her family
Adorned in rubies silver gold
Festooned in lace and rich chiffon,
Scream and giggle as they gobble
At the heaving dining table
Look out upon the snow and ice
And have their servants load the fi res
While these same servants spend their days
Deprived in every single way.
They work and toil upon his lands
From dawn till dusk they labour on
They live their days in poverty
Spend their lives in drudgery.
They watch their trembling children starve
Or freeze for want of food and warmth.
Used and abused in every way,
Nothing more than common slaves.
But Olympe de Gouges had always screamed
Against these tyrannies that she’d seen
She saw the filthy, stinking rich
And those who bore the brunt of it.
She always was, in her short life
An advocate of human rights.
She knew the changes that must come
Vive La revolution!
But so much more she wanted changed.
Firstly the sorry plight of slaves
And then for women there must be
The same with men, equality.
Nor did she want to see
The sordid madame guillotine
Used so freely to despatch
The monarch and aristocrat.
She felt a better way would be
To hold them under lock and key
Not butcher them in public view
The women and their children too.
So that they too became the same
As those whose lives they sought to take.
But Olympe de Gouges had wealth and power
The Jacobins need rid of her.
The Girondins from whence she came
Had all gone to the guillotine
And as the Terror now began
Olympe de Gouges’ time had come
This new regime did not intend
To implement Enlightenment.
And so with those who used the poor
And put their monies into war
Invested in the slaving trade
Lived out their useless pampered days
Creating lives of misery
And living off their poverty,
Olympe de Gouges, this spirit free
This champion of equality
This champion of human rights
This harbinger of love and light
Then shared the stage with such as these
Embracing Madame Guillotine
And with her too there died that day
Her vision of fraternity
Of liberty and her clarion call
Equality for one and all.
Fear is a dreadful thing.
It lingers in a myriad of places.
Flares up when some past events recalled
Or leaps out when least expected.
An article, a word misplaced,
A strangers face
A bit of T.V. footage,
Anything can raise it up.
And in an instant, miniscule, it rears its ugly head
Assumes a size immense,
Grows out of all proportion,
Stands looming, stops you dead,
Impairs your thinking.
Makes you falter, fills you with dread.
It heats you up, draws out your sweat
Sends panic wracking every fibre of your body
Flits around inside your head.
Sends thoughts in trilli seconds hurtling into cells.
It feeds upon itself, grows fat
It has no limit to its size
Fear feeds on fear
And like a raging tiger stops you in your tracks
It can’t be fully stopped
But will retreat.
Say how balloons deflate.
Some logic lets it down.
Blows some of it away,
And though it lingers still in fibres in the brain to
flare back up
It can be tamed.
And so it seems this is the way.
We are here we have no choice.
We have to live, engage, live out our days
Keep fear at bay.
Learn ways of thinking that will hold it off
Content and light and caring
Seek out love.
Keep that tiger in the cupboard
Keep sentiments of doubt and darkness
Crushed beneath the boot.
They must not reach the cupboard,
Flick the latch,
Let tiger out,
To catch us out and corner us again
Flit about in our mad head
And heat us up
And stop us in our tracks again.
If I Hear
If I hear anybody else talk about the royal baby
I will personally rearrange their features with a
Or stick a drain plunger in their Christmas
Oh yes I will
Oh yes I will
Well I might
Well I could do
It’s a possibility.
There was a young feller called Trump
Who gave everyone round him the hump
They looked for a noun to describe this sad clown
But they just couldn’t find one they couldn’t.
I’m gonna build a big wall’s what he said
Cos them Mexicans made him see red
Though he ranted and raved at the Mexican wave
He’d got a Mexican wave on his head.
With that overcoat down by his heel
He’s a gunslinger ready to kill
But with his tie hanging just twixt his knees and his nuts
It’s hard not to laugh, ain’t it just?
Put a Stetson on top of his head
He’s a cowboy right through born and bred
Don’t give him no lip or he’ll shoot from the hip
And fill o all you fuckers with lead
When he sticks out that low bottom jaw
And his mouth opens up like a door
You can tell from the crap that comes out of his trap
He ain’t got much of a cerebral core.
Now the world’s being run by two clowns
Now that Johnson and Trump are in town
They won’t heed the warning about global warming
They’ll just sit there and watch us all drown.
So consider this, will you my friends
When your belly’s all swollen with wind.
You scream with relief, when that fart is released
‘Cos a Trump’s better out than kept in!
Among a billion trilbies, top hats, flat caps, handbags,
satchels, briefcases, belts, Buddha’s, silk scarves,
candles, joss sticks, prints and paintings,
The one thing that really stood out for me
Was this bloke,
With his back to the wall,
Sitting amongst the heavy throng,
A can of Special Brew and a half empty miniature of
Bells next to him on the ground.
He was dozing off.
He seemed to sum up the sheer pointlessness of it all.
A sea of humanity gorging on Mammon.
He’s long and tender
Deliberate and attentive.
A foil to the fat football of Harry’s spewing words.
A fountain of ideas and pain
A brick shithouse
He’ll flatten you with each sentence
A steamroller on the raz
Uncontrolled and flying.
A vessel, he takes on our dithering and spews it out
A tirade of fears rolling down the alley
He surely will not wobble into the gutter.
He doesn’t need those safety guards.
Bull-like he’ll crash head first into the melee.
Pick up the pieces later.
I like him though
Me I Scarpered
They were playing a world snooker final on what
appeared to be an old chaise longue.
It was deeply quilted.
Covered with a winceyette sheet stretched over
Nobody seemed to notice
Till the Hurricane missed a sitter from six inches.
The ball jumped out of the pocket and turned into an onion
Then it kicked off.
There was a priest garbed, cassocked and fish-hatted
His arms folded behind.
Welded into his clerics garb,
He looked like a skittle or a small milk bottle.
Suddenly he began to move
Click clocking towards me down the stairs
As though he’d been wound up.
I like the idea of pinching salt.
Not stealing it.
Sprinkling it on the supper
Much more satisfying than a mill or some such other dispenser
Though I will admit
The mill’s grinding is a pleasure
But still not as good as a pinch
It’s like posh people slumming it.
Makes you feel like a 3-star Michelin chef when you’re doing it.
People watching probably think.
“Hey I bet he could slice a cucumber into a 1,000 slithers
without even batting an eyelid or chopping a finger off.”
The pie funnel or chimney.
Now that’s another matter altogether.
It’s a heat release or a thing to let out water.
I dunno, but it’s high end working class.
Rabbits and pigeon pie stuff.
Two fingers up to the governor.
I leave it out to show people I’ve got one.
What a poser.
The devilled kidney dish thing
Eh, what a winner that is.
Like a hot water bottle on the table
Or worse a bedpan
But it keeps your nosh hot
And people know you’re loaded if you’ve got one.
I say to the wife
Pass the gravy boat.
I say it loudly.
Then more pianissimo
I call for the salt.
Unfortunately it’s still in the salt cellar
Therefore still not up to scratch.
I remind her
It’s time we pinched instead of grinding.
She looks relieved.
Ode to a Spode
Of my lovely cup
Now only shards remain.
Porcelain knife-like petals, they huddle in the bowl.
Angry and detached they want to stab.
This fine bone china once conveyed my coffee and added
something special to the brew.
A delicate addition but hard to specify.
The handle, now no longer handle, has become a squiggle
or a Van Gogh ear
Or perhaps the letter ‘j’
And it’s exquisite symmetry still conveys the essence of the
bowl that it once shouldered.
Now that it’s great soul has been released
I honour this fine cup with these poor lines.
Though, without a pyre
I toss it in the bin.
She can’t get up.
Bent almost double, she creaks from the single bed.
I want to die
I want to die
Her voice catching.
Thin stalks of legs poke beneath her nightie.
She sits down on the sofa,
The tiny flat cocoons her,
The bed downstairs now.
She’s lived here all her life
And she’s so very old.
False teeth slipping,
She sips her tea.
Eyes, though, behind the bonkers glasses
Perching on her nose
As bright as stars twinkling
When she is distracted.
Thinking about her and Archie doing the jitterbug.
Wouldn’t ‘ave no other bloke
Allers trying it on.
Know what I mean.
I ain’t that sort of gal.
Ain’t having none of that,
But me and Archie
Me and Archie
Then drifting off
A deep and velvety giggle lights up her lovely
Mates come in to clean things up a bit
Strong, hard, loving, lovely women.
“’Ello Connie, how you doin’?
“Want a cuppa?”
“Corse I do, corse I do”
Pulls her robe around her.
Tightens up the belt.
Her feet in socks and slippers.
She’s got so little
Around her tiny flat
The scrapers grow
They’re on the march
It is as if they’re munching up on Hoxton Street
The Shard, a giant rocket
And round it
The high-risers seem to march,
Sell for millions.
Verandas scouring the city parks and the river.
Giants they gobble
Muscling out the old, the poor
Closing down the old pubs, the old shops
The old trades.
The old ways.
They gleam with coffee shops and galleries
And with indifference they sprawl.
Her neighbours, poor, tired, bewildered, powerless,
They strut and mutter.
But Connie doesn’t grumble.
It’s the future.
She just wants to die.
Could have been your favourite uncle.
Probably was somebody’s.
Not surprising really.
Cap clamped firmly on his head.
Long grey hair sticking out,
A woollen overcoat,
Tied at the waist.
Old grey flannels, not that untidy.
Maybe the trainers were the giveaway,
Not really an old folks choice
White Nikies, the sole flapping.
Stuck out like a sore thumb,
But out of necessity!
He legged it over the fence by the bridge,
Behind him under the concrete arch lay his home
Stuffed with duvets
And other things.
Later that day he came back,
Climbed back down,
His stuff was burned.
Everything the lot.
The last I saw of him
He’d rolled a ciggy.
Sat smoking it as he looked out at the
Poking out of the Thames Embankment.
It was raining,
Ping-ponging on the river.
Just like a postcard.