Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Out of the EU endlessly flailing

No doubt many will recognise the form used in this poem. Its structure is derived from the first sentence (and the first 22 lines) of Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, by Walt Whitman, the entirety of which you can find here. Needless to say, my poor effort in no way matches the grace and depth of Whitman's seminal piece. However, there's no denying the suitability of the form of Whitman's first verse for making a statement. I think so at least, but feel free to disagree. Comments are free.

Out of the EU endlessly flailing

Out of a vote that was seriously flawed,
Out of a barrage of lies, the Brexiteer shuffle,
Out of the UKIP play-book,
Done to the splendid sounds of a blatant campaign, where the truth was left to suffer as mute, castrated, unsexed,
Down to the spurious claims,
Down to the shysters' tales of a threat, dreamed up, asserted and looped on repeat,
Out of the mouths of both Tories and Labour,
From the faith of the faithful who chanted belief,
From a misplaced view of the island superior, from The Road to Mandalay and resisting the Blitz, 
From under the gaze of the slumbering supposers who lately have shown us their tears,
From a lack of conviction and supine resistance by those who got lost in the gist,
From a promise once made to appease the sceptics and stave off revolt,
From the viewpoint of fools who thought they would lose,
From the personal ambition of those who were shocked they had won,
From a lack of respect for the lambs in the flock,
From scant regard for the fate of our sons' and daughters' offspring,
Born of the need to exhibit cojones and go it alone without a plan,
These huffers and puffers have a pious intent
To scuttle the ship and wall off the quay,
As I, of the marginal minority and believer in the lack of mandate,
Taking Article 50 and all that has followed on board,
Cry out – Betrayal.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Odyssey

This poem was inspired by W. H. Auden's Night Mail. Written in 1936 to accompany the documentary film of the same title, Auden's poem concerned a London, Midland, and Scottish Railway (LMS) mail train traveling from London to Scotland. The poem was set to music by Benjamin Britten and was read toward the end of the film.

The rhythm of Auden's poem matches that of the train on the track, and a reader can certainly get the feel of the train chugging along (don't forget, it would've been a steam train), especially in the first part, made up of eight rhymed, four-beat couplets. There are elements of personification in Auden's poem as the train is identified as 'she' and 'her' and said to be snorting noisily.

My poem follows, closely and respectfully, the meter and rhyme scheme of Auden's poem, which also lends itself to the rhythm of cycling. In the case of my poem, the only person involved is me, albeit I too have been known to snort noisily as I climb the hills (nothing as grand as Beattock Summit down here I have to admit) around Bedfordshire. Enjoy!

The Odyssey

This is the bike that I'm riding the Shire,
cycling the roads and the pathways on tyres.

Riding on the bike, riding where I choose,
north and go south, either side of the Ouse.

Sharpenhoe Clappers, a helluva climb,
the gradient's steep, but I'll make it this time.

From Streatley on down to Barton-Le-Clay,
huffing and puffing up Pulloxhill brae.

Greenfield, Flitton, Wardhedges by dark,
on towards Silsoe, nearby Wrest Park.

The blast of a horn as it overtakes,
I swear at the car, pull hard on the brakes.

A dog in the street, a nuisance to meet,
a dog on a lead, I stay in my seat.

In the towns that I pass, no-one cares
and few people see my Facebook shares.

Protein bars and gels consumed,
back on the bike, I'm off again,
onwards, on and on and on, riding down the miles,
riding down the roads and lanes, past mills and rustic stiles,
past sights and sounds, urban, rural, quaint pastoral.
All Bedfordshire is there to see:
from high on Downs through basined vale
o'er longest Ouse.

Pedals and cranks, cambers and banks.
Lycra for shorts, stripes on your flanks.
Helmet on head, with no hesitation.
Wear fingerless gloves for the worst situation.
With energy drinks for dehydration,
a litre an hour for preservation,
summer fruits flavour; expectoration.
Togged out practical, riding tactical.
Cycling with hands on the handlebar drops,
cycling with eyes on the fields and the crops,
cycling through villages, hamlets and towns,
cycling from home to Dunstable Downs,
cycling past coppices, warrens and parks,
riding too far on our countryside roads,
wary of lorries and heavier loads,
on tarmac, on gravel, on concrete, or cobbles,
the threat of the latter, the menace of wobbles,
asphalt, metalled, tar and chip,
the speed of your progress depends on the grip.

We are thousands alike,
traversing the roads around Bedford,
on evenings in groups or alone on a weekend or sunny day:

Riding a Boardman got cheaply from Halfords,
riding a Raleigh from the GoOutdoors chain,
or a road bike in carbon from Evans again,
to carry the dream of the Tour and the Giro,
clinging on tight to the Peloton's heels,
pumping piston-like knees on the Pyrenees,
between Clophill and Haynes in the teeth of a breeze.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Brexit Sestina

Brexit Sestina

The year of twenty-sixteen was the year we chose to leave,
the year the Referendum posed the question should we go.
To hell with Brussels and the rest or just decide to stay,
or count the blessings we were told we'd get when we were free.
The cash we'd keep was on the bus; it seemed to make some sense
to spend it on the NHS, but Boris couldn't count.

The benefits of membership, they said they didn't count,
because we fought for freedom and we had the right to leave.
But as we know, their facts were lies, we knew they made no sense.
To pull us out of Europe and to force us all to go
and leave the common market and stop trading tariff-free
meant nothing good would come of it if voting not to stay.

Despite the Tories thinking that we'd all just vote to stay,
the voters paid attention to deceivers and the count
then went against the polls, because the reins were given free
to teamsters on the wagons driving all of us to leave.
Despite the ballot's status and the lack of need to go,
the tight result was soon avowed a triumph in a sense.   

The country was quite clearly split and leaving made no sense,
because the Referendum rules meant that we could all stay,
but no the leavers threw a fit and we were forced to go;
to go against the interests of the people who don't count;
to go along with Grassroots Out and champions of Vote Leave;
to follow blindly Nige Mirage and be migration free.

The fascist doctrine of the right said Britain must be free,
so Greater Brexitania could be in one real sense
an island full of xenophobes and haters who would leave,
their jingoistic bigotry on show to those who'd stay;
to those remoaners as they called them, those who didn't count,
whose will was not for leaving like the ones who voted go.

And when she penned the letter that announced that we would go,
she lost control and panic struck, May thought that she'd be free,
if only folks would vote for her, but when the ballot count
was made, Theresa's Tories lost. Her gamble made no sense
and she was left to count the cost of paying up to stay:
a billion to the DUP to feed the will to leave.

So now what counts for talks take place as Britain plans to go
and jump the cliff and leave except, we're going not for free,
but for a fee that makes no sense. Far better off to stay.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning

C'est la via, c'est la mort,
c'est la fin de la guerre, 
c'est le poème du sacre mercenaire.

I was to compose a 'death or glory' poem,
after Tennyson, when the first few lines
were shot clean through with leaden slugs.

Slingshot, engraved with wingéd bolts,
Take that! (in Greek) inscribed on obverse,
peppered the raw first draft on the page.

I'd written of 'Harry' and 'unleashed dogs',
tried Havoc! but clichés clashed and those,
a writer's volleyed words, fell short once more.

Spherical lead in cold-swagered rounds,
which the French, in their way, call boulettes,
tore a bloody great hole in the verse,

and Minié balls, a gift of France,
were fired in discharged fusillades,
in salvoes to the stanzas' flanks.

Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, chanted guns
as columns were strafed while standing fast
and rank upon rank, the syllables fell.

Outflanked at the last, I attempted retreat,
but enfilades of covering fire
failed to prevent ignominious defeat

and an orchestrated din of lethality,
made wretched by countless fatalities,
brought surrender-- the last vulgarity.

Sunday, 24 September 2017


Here's one for you...


“That was old O'Nelly's seat. He sat
there every week there was a home game on.”
Moulded red and numbered like it was his
coat hook, supporter's pew, he'd park his arse
two rows down and somewhat left, behind
the Clock-end goal. He had a member's card
for the Arsenal;
a man amid a thousand other fans.

He'd bob erect and mouth along, Stand up...
eschew the tribal chanting, Ooh to be...
Detached, but still a part, manoeuvred by
the Army of the clad-in-red-and-white,
it seemed that he belonged unless you saw.
I wondered what it felt like to be there,
like an Ishmael,
outcast between a myriad Gooners' howls?

Nondescript, anonymous O'Nelly
felt all their eyes pin-prick his every move,
his selfish consciousness a faulty seam
hand stitched from shy-cloth. No-one noticed that
old jacket, worn a little more each day,
gone very comfy, snug, with patched up sleeves,
hands in pockets,
routinely wearing out towards its end.

He cheered his level best when goals were scored,
in skywards-surging exclamation points,
but instinct driven leaps of faithful joy
were never shared with mates who'd thump and hug.
That turned up collar, buttoned cuff, was lined
and seamed, kept inside pockets to itself.
Seeming threadbare,
that garment past its best was out-of-date.

I stitched together thoughts on what he sought
when drinking down the Tollington at nights,
seen fractured through an amber ale, his pinned
lapels a buttonhole array. I swear,
out on the far off side of the touch line,
you're never on your own in crowds. And me?
I'm but Anon...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

A Battle Hymn for the Fourth Estate

Here's another topical poem to cheer you up. Be careful what you believe you've read and even more careful what you are led to believe; believe me.

A battle hymn for the fourth estate

I've seen and read the stories
and the falsehoods in the news.
Don't give a damn for truth,
it's all about the clicks and views.
We've given up the gospel for
the spin that now ensues
from the media and anon.

We have ceased to ask the questions
that all journos they must voice.
We have worshipped on the altar
of the evening news of choice.
We hear the lies presented by
the anchorman. Rejoice!
His smile beams on and on.

I've seen a livestream broadcast
from a ravaged land in strife.
I've found it was directed
in a hangar by the wife
of the cousin of a diplomat
whose wickedness was rife.
Their guile goes on and on.

We must sound the call for reason
and for truth; to not be weak.
We must fix within the hearts of men
it's of import truth to seek.
Be true and check your source
press men, for we must hear you speak.
Go print what's fit my son.

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.