Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Monuments Men

This is a Rondeau, the form in which Flanders Fields appears, except this is for those who wear the White Poppy.

The Monuments Men

They feel the cold beneath the sod,
the souls of sons who died for God,
and King and country in their droves,
mowed down by guns. It ill behoves
the rest of us to stand and nod.

If we succumb to martial rod
and follow blind and dumb paths trod
by kith and kin as fodder clothed,
we'll feel the cold.

Heed not the Blairite bugle's prod,
not prestitutes, the fake news squad,
nor Tory spivs, nor pin-striped coves
who march past monuments like doves.
The only thing they'd feel – och, what odds
they'd feel the cold?

Sunday, 30 September 2018

From a bicycle saddle

Here's a poem I wrote to celebrate my achievement of visiting every town, village and hamlet in Bedfordshire, on my bike. To record the odyssey, I photographed my bike propped against the signpost identifying each stop. There are a couple of hundred photos, but not everywhere has a signpost, so there's a few less than you'll find on lists of places in Bedfordshire, such as Lower Shelton, just up the road. I suspect it was removed when they built the new A421. The idea of cycling through every one of these places in Bedfordshire was to some extent inspired by a poem written by Frank Batt, which you can listen to here on YouTube. Frank wrote about cycling to Sandy along the Route 51 cycle path, in the style of W. H. Auden's The Night Mail, something I did myself here on Blogger a while back. Check out the video of the image above here.

From a bicycle saddle

Blurring past railings, blurring past fences,
edges and verges, cobbles and courses;
I'm cycling along like there's no time to waste,
on 'til I reach home, I'd better make haste:
all of the sights by the downs and the vales
fly past as quick as binders' flails;

see where I've been on Bedfordshire Clangers,
no energy gels for Sharpenhoe Clappers;
see where I stopped to stare in amaze
on the prow of the hill under sky ablaze!
Out on my bike I'm a man with no woes,
stuck to my pedals with cleats under toes;
up here and down there, and on by the Ouse;
a poem on the page thanks to the muse.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Dad's Army

Dad's Army

At ease, men.
White helmets discarded,
the men relax between shooting.
The scene awaits the umpteenth
take on a tried and tested diorama.
Cue white dust and ululations.
Cue the Long Run to the ambulance.
Don't panic! Don't panic!
Who's directing this fable?
Don't tell him, Ahmed.
Permission to speak,
I should like to volunteer
my child as the innocent victim.
Do you think that's wise, sir?
Stupid boy!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-daro

The Dancing Girl is a prehistoric bronze sculpture made around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilisation city of Mohenjo-daro, which was one of the earliest of the world's cities. The statue led to two important discoveries about the civilisation: first that they knew metal blending, the lost-wax casting technique, and other sophisticated methods, and secondly that entertainment, especially dance, was part of the culture.

This amazing cultural artefact is 4.1 inches tall, and is of a naked girl wearing a number of bangles, similar to a Banjara lady, and a necklace. She appears to have been holding something in her left hand. According to an archaeologist at Mohenjo-daro, depicts "a young girl, her hand on her hip in a half-impudent posture, and legs slightly forward as she beats time to the music with her legs and feet." Another archaeologist described her as, "the most captivating piece of art from an Indus site," and qualified the description of her as a dancer by stating that, "We may not be certain that she was a dancer, but she was good at what she did and she knew it."

Sonnet for a dancing girl

We know not who she was, this glimpse
of ancient days, of whom I dream. She sings,
her rhythmic dancing steps in tune with rings
that bounce in Dhamar Taal on arms of nymph.
O what silence in percussive air!
Outside encircling sounds of shuffling feet
and tabla drums that fill my head, Ti, Ti, Ka, Ti,
a thunderous stillness finds its heir.
Her bronzed and swaying body shapes a spell,
enchanting all, in Mohenjodaro’s hall
where night's dark canopy is all the more defined
by torches’ spluttering light from pillared citadel.
I fancy I would answer if she'd call,
this graceful, semi-naked Bronze Age doll.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

First they went

First they went

First they went for the Afghans, and we did not stop them – 
because we believed their lies.
Then they went for the Iraqis, and we did not stop them –
despite their lies.
Then they went for the Libyans, and we did not stop them –
because they were deaf to reason.
Now they have bombed the Syrians – and nothing is left of morals and justice.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Of a type...

Of a type...

He wrote of Smiley in some books
on spies and moles and Soviet spooks
and all his Cold War Communists,
unlike the outlaws stetsoned black,
wore shadow-grey and belted macs
and ran their double-agent lists.

He showed us villains in his plots
and spawned a genre sparse of shots
and running fights, for his Berlin
was black and white beneath the fog,
had cobbles wet with rain, not blood,
had nothing of a type developed in...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Portrait of the Artist after Death

Portrait of the Artist after Death

He wrote of startled birth and death's benign front door
And told us we must rage, rage for all we're worth
Against the porter’s hail, well met and fading at an age
When wanton whorls of worthy words should not fail
To guide and stir, be read aloud and make ears dirl.

He brought us under Milk Wood’s tract, to Rosie and Dai Bread
And bought a one-way ticket for a train that never slacked,
That was franked by Evans Death in his role as acting picket
(Ah, the undertaker baits with his shrouded coffin breath,
Under vows to veil the truth, feigning pity while he waits).

He was drowned by eggings-on, but in poems performed from youth
Until good night, there shines a master's gift. His dominion
Conquered death in bronze and brass and boundless books, in lines
And stanzas writ un-spancelled by the down-draught in his glass,
’Til the masthead on the floor was lowered, coughing, cancelled. 

Image attribution: By Ham - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Question Time

This poem was inspired by two things: a wonderful poem called Glasgow Empire by Keith Hutson; and a rather jaundiced view of the eponymous BBC programme. I'm afraid it draws heavily on Keith's excellent poem, in term of form and structure, and pales in comparison. Any resemblance to persons living or dead having made an appearance on the programme is purely coincidental.

Question Time

Sure, it's the programme where a non-partisan
audience posed questions
and challenged the panellists,

where the Minister's ego briefly shone
then flickered down to fragment when
Dicky Dimble said, I'll ask you once again!

Where else would Jeremy Khunt
be forced to admit a lie, Pierced Organ
have to recant forced opinion?

That time Daffy Davies collapsed
on a point of principle, the crowd's
mocking derision lasted a full five minutes.

Even in Maydenhead, inquisition
reigned and railed, accusing and sharp.
Nah! It's the programme where variety choked

and died in temporary seats
full of voters tuned to their script,
unaware of the revolution.