Saturday, 14 January 2017

For Syria - Bashticleer and the West

This poem took a long time to write. Not surprising, I guess, since it's 40 verses long. It was inspired by recent events and it's form is based on Robert Henrysoun's The Taill of Schir Chanticleir and the Foxe. You may see the first two verses draw heavily on Henrysoun's poem, and thereafter, I've continued in the same vein, using the form and structure of his moral fable, although I've departed from his narrative i.e., this isn't a modern rendition of that fable. It is, however, a modern fable, intended as an antidote to the fake news in the mainstream media, and using a wee sprinkling of anthropomorphism and personification. Here then is my tale of Bashticleer and the West. I hope you make it all the way to the end.  

Bashticleer and the West


Most all our beasts are lacking rationale,
having nothing but instinct as their guide.
But you might find that truth ironical
when thinking of those on the other side
of the evolutional divide: the Bear;
the Bulldog, famous for jowls and fight;
the Eagle, who knows that it's always right.

They are so different in their qualities,
each with its own degree of might or plight.
But still they have their similarities,
most all of which you'd spot with your insight.
And so my friends, I'll just jot down this tale
that made the news on telly all this year,
involving Dogs and war, and Bashticleer.

Once, there was a Desert Eagle country
that thrived in peace and earned itself esteem.
Despite its neighbours' wars, if you ask me,
it was a pleasant place, but then the theme
of rising spring was broached and brought a stir.
That led to calls for Bashticleer to go
and proud, the Rooster loudly crowed his No!

Now, his country was on a list of foes,
compiled by agents in the Eagle's nest.
You may ask why. Well that's the way it goes.
You know the minds of Eagles from the west.
To be a listed foe was shaky grounds
for goading insurrection overseas,
but Eagles don't observe the legalities.

One year in spring, some demonstrations held
against and for bold Bashticleer the Cock
were just 'me too' events until propelled,
by erstwhile allies who would turn the clock
a thousand years or more way back in time,
to armed attacks by snipers toting guns
they'd stored inside the Mosque of Noble Sons.

With wile and guile and vain contemptuous sneer,
the Horse cried, Neigh, it wasn't me, I gave
no weapons to those Snakes, dear Bashticleer.
At which the Cock, severe of mien and brave,
said, You can torch our towns and kill our kin
but know you this; you all will rue the day
you armed fifth columnists and looked away.

It's clear they sought to stitch him up with news
of brutal means employed to still dissent.
The papers 'round the world all aired their views,
prejudged in line with partisan intent.
The red-tops and the broadsheets told their lies.
The noose they thought they'd stretch around his neck
instead fell short, their allied plan a wreck.

I am my father's heir, cried Bashticleer,
and whomsoever follows me shall be
the choice of Gallus birds. Cowards here
demanding change – Chickens all – fail to see
through hooded eyes, I shall not be removed.
By those who rose in arms against their kin,
his message wasn't heard; they'd roused the Djinn.

And so the rebel Chickens gained their arms
as gifts from hostile beasts who'd sue for war.
The Foul next door, the Eagle, signed the forms,
signed up with all the Curs who formed a corps
of foes you'd never need with 'friends' like those.
A civil war ensued and Bashticleer
resolved to do-or-die. Give in? No fear!

The treacherous Redwings still had more to do.
By turning blind eyes on the border line,
they aided Dogs of War in passing through,
so freelance foreign fighters made the spine
of proxy rebel units gun by gun.
The funding of the Dogs, their arms, supplies,
was public knowledge undisguised by lies.

The war intensified and rebels took
control of many points. They thought they'd won.
The western press rejoiced with headlines, look:
RÉGIME IS DONE. They never had such fun.
But Bashticleer was not for giving in.
He stood his corner, fought and made his gains.
The price, too many Cockerels' bloody stains.

In time, the rebels' sponsors' wounded pride,
that pride of vital nation's vices worst,
gave rise to sneaky nods and winks, and tried
and tested means against the one they'd cursed.
They smuggled in a load of sarin gas
that rebels willy-nilly fired and blamed
on Bashticleer. Such Dogs would ne'er be tamed.

The case against poor Bashticleer was fraud:
he'd fired upon his own in city merged
with elsewhere's gas taboo. Both claims flawed.
Despite their 'evidence' the facts emerged,
but all the mainstream press ignored the truth.
The propaganda war was fuelled by views
expressed by allied states to spread #fakenews.

They claimed he shelled his own with sarin fuelled
Volcano rockets but – there was no fit
with what was found. And just because they willed
it true can not be grounds for guilt. The bit
they never told you was the reason why
results of tests were never publicized;
the Eagles simply can't admit they lied.

Things turned to worse when Carrion Crows appeared
in guise hirsute. A bearded Caliphate,
whose reading of the Prophet became feared
when oh so many met a halāl fate.
The Strutting Clucks soon filled a vacuum where
the guns of Bashticleer were not around
and those of rebels elsewhere to be found.

Now Bashticleer was fighting moderate rebels,
at least in theory if you read the news.
But tallied rebels in such numbers tells
you more about the counters and their views
...the numbers right, their motivation skewed.
Your mythic seventy thousand rebel stock
are terrorists and traitors, said the Cock.

The options for the Eagle in a huff,
if Carrion, poised to conquer far and wide,
became the ones to win, were clear enough.
They had to get involved to turn the tide,
to seem to be against the terrorists.
They turned from sending arms to flying planes
and blowing infrastructure up in flames.

The UN vetoed their request to act,
to get involved in-country on the ground.
So they resolved to just ignore that fact,
and send the planes to drop their bombs and pound
the bad guys with the beards, or so they said,
but truth to tell they dropped their bombs elsewhere
and made full sure the country was laid bare.

The Bulldog held a vote and got his way,
and joined in with the others flying planes.
They should have struck to make the Carrion pay
for selling oil to Redwings, but the pains
they took to look the other way were seen
to be contrived and far from free of guilt,
they were, each one, involved up to the hilt.

Those selfsame Redwings helped themselves to what
was used to drive industrial business growth.
They took machines from works and said, Ah but...
We're keeping safe your plant, they said on oath,
and sure we'll give it back, they promised too.
But what they did was plunder, pillage, steal
and capture all, against the commonweal.

They ganged up next, their indignation rife,
those beasts with morals high and pure and true,
and passed their sanctions, adding to the strife
that Bashticleer and his would suffer through.
The very ones whose covert acts began
the war were those who chose to blame it on
the guiltless through a mainstream media con.

In time the shit was seen to hit the fan
when rabid, fiendish zealots then appeared.
All deaf and heedless to the western plan,
they lopped off heads and laughed and sang and jeered
and said, Thanks very much. We'll fill the void
you've left with righteous zeal. Our Caliphate
will spread throughout the land with ire and hate.

Oh shit! they cried, that's such a bad result.
Rebellions call for change, but hey, guess what,
when proxies bail, it's all the master's fault.
They cannot steal our glory, so we'll shut
them down, the Eagle cried in feathered rage.
The protégés had shown their colours-true;
to bite the hand that feeds – a Carrion view.

So coalition planes took to the skies
and bombed their erstwhile allies; Hooded Crows.
But shortly, soon, quite quickly all their lies
became so plain to see. They reached new lows,
destroying infrastructure meant to bleed
resolve through pain from Bashticleer and hide
their real intent to barely stem the tide.

They launched their anti-Crow crusade abroad,
despite United Nations voting no.
Their claims to justify were nowt but fraud,
conjoint because their leader said, Let's go!
Avoiding trucks with oil on-route towards
the north and Redwing's borderline, they turned
their blind eyes to the ground. The truth was spurned.
 
It took the Bear, invited in to help,
to strike the convoys handling stolen crude
that made its way 'unseen' to Grey Wolf's whelp,
who sold it on with ease. You dare intrude?
the Wolf exclaimed and boxed its nose in rage.
We downed a plane, he cried out, fucking hell!
Oh big mistake. Oh deary me. Oh well!

The Bear, his head now sore, maintained his cool
and set about the task of clearing out
the proxy rebels used as Eagle's tool
for changing a regime. The Eagle's pout
was seen both far and wide on CNN,
while State Department stooges ranted, raved
and spoke of lines in red they should have braved.

The progress made then led to schemes and plans
to turn the tide of war in people's minds.
The propaganda war was waged by bands
of NGO reporters of all kinds.
In tweets and posts and videos from the hell
of cities under siege from terrorists,
they summoned tears on tap, and waved their fists.

In Oscar winning style, they filmed their acts,
in rescues bravely staged for mainstream news,
but failed to hide their glee when: here's a fact;
they posed with Carrion Crows. But those were clues
suppressed, denied, ignored by CNN.
Instead, it gave us views from deep inside
a council house in Bulldog's land supplied.

A Nobel Prize seemed once within their grasp,
but common sense prevailed and nonsense stopped.
The boldness of their claims would make you gasp,
yet folks believed; their intuition blocked
by brainwashed thinking it was true, because
they'd surely never lie on Channel Four.
All logic dies when truth is shown the door.

To win and then restore his land to peace
was Bashticleer's one wish. Defeat the foe
and then he'd talk about reform. To cease
the pain of war and have the rebels throw
their weapons down, no longer soldier on
with freelance fighting men who never tired
of waging war was much to be desired.

And when the writing on the wall began
to look as if old Bashticleer could win,
the Eagle played an ace and drove a plan
for talks about more talks on talks; a thin
disguise for time to resupply with arms
those blackguard Crows at bay in desperate dance,
and give the foreign Rooks a second chance.

They talked and talked, agreed a truce to last
for several days until the convoy came
with food and stuff they'd crave. Then came the blast
of shells from rebel held enclave. The blame
was tossed around, but who had most to gain;
the Eagles or the Bear and Bashticleer?
Who'd stall, delay, prolong the war? Oh dear!

And while they argued back and forth about
what sent the UN convoy up in flames,
the Eagle sneaked in planes, without a doubt,
to strafe the local forces. And his claims  
it was a misadventure fell like lies
as Crows began assault. Pure chance it seems.
But who'd believe such crap is lost in dreams.

A strike that lasted for an hour or more,
precision led and surgical we're told,
was hardly a mistake. When you'd set store
by pinpoint skill, the myth that we've been sold,
you'd disbelieve all claims they're error prone.
Oops! Sorry Bash. We didn't mean to kill
your guys. But hey, this shooter game 's a thrill.

When Bashticleer looked like he would retake
a major city from the Dogs and Crows,
the Eagles's best Psy-Ops began to make
their YouTube posts still more absurd. Who knows
if fake profiles and children's posts get viewed
by readers who are green or really dumb,
but reasoned thinkers fear they're simply numb.

With liberation nigh, they cast a cloak
of darkness over cause for untold joy
With tweets and monologues for Crows they croak
for lack of evidence. See through their ploy.
See how the mainstream media gets its 'truth'.
See how they spin Orwellian Psy-Op tales
of rebels under siege – beyond the pale.

Far from the myth of cute 'n' cuddly birds
rebelling at injustice under siege,
the Dogs and Crows are hardly short of words,
of hate-filled lies encouraged by their liege.
Those choppers-off of heads are glorified
by 'journalists' of fifteen minutes fame
who post 'exclusive' scoops. So who's to blame?

The syndicating bias against the truth
just demonstrates the depths to which they've plunged.
The mainstream media disregards the sleuth
whose stories fail to air as if expunged
from view like so much awkward background noise.
The crafted echo chamber just resounds
to what's uncensored by the Press Corps hounds.

And so my friends, I've written down enough
about the news of Bashticleer this year.
The winds of change have turned. With Eagles's bluff
annulled, it's clear the Bear and Bashticleer
are near to triumph now; to reinstate
the Cock-a-doodle-do and rid the coop
of Dogs and Crows and others of that troupe.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Bucket List

Here's a poem that appeared in Prole, Poetry and Prose, issue 11, back in August, 2013. It was inspired by a poem called Stations by Jim C. Wilson, which I read in a Happenstance pamphlet entitled Will I ever get to Minsk? It also contains a fond reminiscence of Fyfe Robertson, the idiosyncratic travel reporter on the BBC's Tonight programme in the 1960s, and his oft parodied catchphrase, "Hellooo, I'm standing here..."

The Bucket List


I always thought some day I'd go abroad,
imagination fired by places conjured up
from wireless shipping forecasts' fog-bound names,
South Utsire, Viking, Forties, German Bight,

to travelogues in mealy black and white;
Hel-ooo, I'm standing here... (while you're still there),
before a Colourmaster set revealed
Kampuchea, Vietnam and Communists.

I'd also read of lands, devoured in books,
that beckoned me from far beyond a north-east coast,
from mythic cities over chartless seas,
from Tír na nÓg and Rivendell to Shangri-La.

With itchy feet I felt compelled to go
and crossed the border on the train, all by myself,
but got no further than these foreign tongues,
Scouse and Cockney, Geordie, Brummie, migrant Strine.

Now, decades later, passport's bought at last!
Resolved, ahead of pension age, to travel far,
I'm reading Outback Trek and TripAdvisor--
it's Machu Pichu, Chichen Itza, then Tibet!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The History of Middle Earth


The History of Middle Earth


You can forget your Frodo and that ring.
It was just a tall tale trope. The truth
you'll see is alien to the trilogy.

Unrest begat emboldened Orcs whose ire
burst out inflamed when first insurgents
blew up ordnance under Barad-Dûr.

And guided by a coalition
of invisible insurrectionists
who'd slipped in unnoticed vowing aid,

they forged fresh weapons from the bowels
of the earth. Flying flags and fearless,
the rebels rose like Ringwraiths in the spring.

While the Times of Minas Tirith spun
their democratic right to take up arms,
the Mail in Bree ran a different headline.

Its 'Murder in Mordor' only seemed to goad
the thugs of Aragorn into flying sorties.
Wizard stuff at the gates of Isenmouthe.

And at the end, with Sauron ditched and dead,
a Queen Arwen was newly crowned
and crowed, We came, we saw, he died!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Capstan Full Strength

Here's one I wrote earlier. My Grandad used to smoke these in the years after the War. Even when he was forcibly told to stop, by the doctor, he used to sneak out to the shed for a sly drag. You could see the smoke crawling out through the holes in the shed roof.

Capstan Full Strength 

(or: Lines written on a cigarette packet)


If you drag out
the tray
of a packet of Capstan

Full Strength Navy
Cut Cigarettes and
(after disposing of the contents)

fold it flat,
you can draw
on your grievances

against W. D. & H. O. Wills.
As to the flavour
of 'General interest' cards,

instead of 1938's
'Air Raid Precautions'
why not offer a set of tips

beginning with 'Smokers
who feel strongly about taste
don't smoke.'

Friday, 10 June 2016

The Ballad of Killary Hilton

video
I guess this one speaks for itself.

The Ballad of Killary Hilton


She would’ve been an astronaut,
but then she couldn’t fly
as NASA said she really ought
to be to burst the sky.

She stood by Bill, her Peckerman,
who got away with lies
when once impeached for dirty tricks
and fondling Moni's thighs.

Exhorting selfsame Bill to launch
a bootleg Balkans war
and bomb the shit from old Belgrade,
she launched Esprit le Morte.

And Kosovo these days still breeds
enough Jihadi fiends
to terrorise the continent
where more are being weaned.

In two-oh-three she voted for
the second Iraq war,
which outcome led to ISIS' spread;
those guys we all abhor.

Iraq was just a preview of
the chaos that ensued
in Libya and in Syria too -
- and she sees that as good!

As Sec. of State, she was gung-ho,
which history will confirm
and looking back we'd all see that
the callous never squirm.

When Dubya's heirs an onslaught loosed
on Libya from the air,
she waved the NATO flag and sold
it to us fair and square.

On TV she was heard to gloat
We came, we saw, he died!
And listening to that devilish glee,
who knew of Libya cried.

That well-to-do and once proud state
is now a charnel house
that's full of gore. What's more it's not
what Libyans would espouse.

That ISIS now abounds in Sirte
was certain as could be,
and lessons that were never learned
are plain for all to see.

Her policies caused refugees
to try to cross the Med,
where still they die a-hundredfold
while she lies safe abed.

And when the CIA said change
al-Assad's own regime,
she bought into the myth of fast
and free, or so it seems.

Colluding with the CIA,
the Turks and Arab states,
they shipped their guns to Daesh brigades
and left it to the fates.

But quick and easy it was not,
and now it's even worse
as millions flee as refugees
and empty Europe's purse.

Compound the mayhem. That's the plan
as US debt still soars.
Still paying out for foreign wars
and treating us like whores.

And discontent, the shit goes on
as witness coup d’état
in Ukraine where they Had it glued
with Yats the guy – beat that!

Two weeks before the coup took place,
you'd hear it on YouTube.
Give praise to Hilton, Newland, plus
five thousand million lube.

And if that lapse was not enough,
we learned about her mails,
but so too did the FBI
and now she's biting nails.

Is she the gal to lead the world?
Is she the real deal chief,
with nuclear codes and powdered nose?
As Snoopy said, Good grief! 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

R.I.P. George Martin (Sir)

This poem was written for a guy called Ron Renton, who made this sort of music genre his own. It was previously published on the Jottify website (now defunct), back in 2012 if I recall correctly. There are two things I know about Ron; he's from Leeds and he likes the Beatles. So there's at least one in every line; the title of a Beatles' hit single that is. There's not much of a narrative, but at least there's some rhyme. I called it...

The Ron Renton Song

There’s a Place, they call it Leeds, in the heart of the land
and it's home to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
and Ron grew up there with a little help from my friends;
why that’s a little lie, although it rhymes on the ends.

This boy who's now a man wasn't nobody's child
he ran with all the boys, but he wasn’t really wilde
I should have known better was ever in his head
and no, you can't do that, his Mother always said.

Off the long and winding road turning left by Penny Lane
skirting Strawberry Fields forever in the rain
the climate there's a misery it's raining cats and dogs.
Help! I am the walrus? No, it's just some toads and frogs.

A girl who drove his car said she was Eleanor Rigby
and you gotta take out some insurance on me, baby.
They used to go out dancing on a hard day's night;
she had something nice about her, like it lit the inner light.

He used to say I'm happy just to dance with you
and she said oh you're comfy, like an old brown shoe.
Instead of twist to open, well they both said twist and shout
and instead of gym at work they cried, we can work it out.

Paperback writer makes a line quite hard to say.
The DJ sings, da doo, Ron Ron, hey, hey, hey, hey
and then he cried out joyfully, ob-la-di, ob-la-da!
Oh, Julia! I thought she was back in the U.S.S.R?

It's her, he thought, on a day tripper ticket to ride.
There's a revolution stewing and sure, she's gotta hide.
She had to get back quickly now and here she's seeking shelter.
She got here only yesterday; back there it's helter skelter.

I saw her standing there he thought, don't pass me by!
Ask me why, he said, don't tell me why, hello, goodbye!
I don't want to spoil the party she rejoined, so let it be.
You know my name (look up the number), wait and see.

Don't let me down, she said to Ron, act naturally,
'cos where we're at is nowhere man, oh can't you see?
You say, I'm down, but take it man, from me to you,
it's just a day in the life and don't say love me do.

Hey Jude, do you want to know a secret? Ask away!
You don't need to fear the things we said today.
What goes on will come together one fine day,
when a yellow submarine drives down your way.

Slow down you must be crazy talking words like that.
I think I’ll get you seen to, jeez, Jehoshaphat!
But I feel fine he said and thought, oh ain't she sweet!
I really gotta thank you girl for this, eight days a week.

She said, that's for you Blue, oh yes it is it's true,
you sure can't buy me love, no P.S. I love you!
Don't say I want to hold your hand and throw a faint,
this ain't no chance roll over, Beethoven, get that straight.

The Saints won't bring you luck nor all my loving.
If all you need is love, you'll sure find something,
but not from Kansas City's own sweet Georgia Brown.
If you love me, baby, you just gotta put me down.

You're a girl from way over the ocean, my Bonnie
and I've got to get you into my life, said Ronnie,
you're such a lady Madonna, no more need be said
and if you won't please please me, then I'll cry instead.

It's long past if I fell and can't be stopped, you know
it's a bit like the ballad of John and Yoko, 
I dream all night and wake to cry for a shadow;
there's no light in my matchbox, cried poor Ron, oh no!

So please mister postman, won't you take her this letter
explaining from me she's a woman and i love her.
Let her say to me once, oh baby, you're a rich man.
Ah! Now she loves you. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! She's a big fan.



Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Song of the Featherer

Here's a poem that was previously published, back in October, 2015, on the Houseboat website, which you can find here. Let me know what you think...

The Song of the Featherer


On a library roof in Philadelphia there's a black bird loafing,
seemingly at ease, until he breaks the spell and waltzes,
stepping right – then left – left again – on rigid, stick-like legs,
movement the self-preserving alternative to falling over or merely
appearing delirious in the open air. It attempts to sing, perhaps
in celebration, but the white collar-flaw at its throat constricts
the flow of notes and stifles its song at source. Poised,
with beak aloft, it ponders for moments, warily,
before, abrupt, it bends – to drop and pick – drop and pick –
and hold aloft a scrap of green, and flout a trophy,
a cloth fragment from a spine of published verse whose leaves
are long since foxed. Twelve poems sent forth, coaxed
from author. Now their lesson grabs less attention.
Pored over by fowl, grubbing for morsels
between the leaves of grass.