Monday, November 30, 2009


Beauty in the viewer's eye, deceiving
by intent, turning chaos to order
by a slight twist or turning of the wrist,
endless snowflakes permute from coloured stars,
small beads or snippets of shiny paper:
sudden shifts of delight held frozen for
a magical moment, before a drastic
change befalls the prismatic world of kalos,

Light, conspiring with glass and geometry,
creates a fascinating world of joy,
a seeming order imposed on mere dross:
endless play in a tiny tube or box
that contains the infinity that we
desire to inhabit and control with
the easy graces and careless gestures
of a god at play in the happy fields
of hope and endless possibility.

A musical instrument for the eye,
the jerky hurdy-gurdy of patterns
eventually palls, as the childish
visions migrate to that complexity
of living forms that cunningly obscure
the awful truth of the inanimate
and arid geometry of our being.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Dog faced and dead eyed the warfighters sit
behind their winking terminals, guiding
the gyre of the gold clad satellites,
aligning and repositioning their eyes,
and their ever open ears to the ground,
listening to the coded babel streaming
from a billion mobile phones, and to the
signals from the hunting predator drones.

Medalled and beribboned officers
from WestPoint orient toward the East,
guarding the homeland's vultures gathered for
their never ending feast, pointing the spear
dripping with poisoned intelligence, honed
and sharpened by daily propaganda,
at the long imagined beast that shambles
in the shadows of their patriotic hearts.

The green-eyed girl pulls the flimsy cloth across
the crying baby's eyes to hide its strange
deformity, cursed by Allah and the
deadly chemicals that swim within her womb.
She does not know about the socialites
whose glittering charity affairs fund
both the bag of grain spilled at her feet
and the rain of death a joystick click away.

The bearded taliban warrior squints
into the dusty haze at the tiny dot,
and spits, his brain a maze of daily prayers
and faint hopes for the rain that will nourish
the poppies that will eventually become
the people's bread, after the crop of western
junkies bloom like fungi in the bin lined
alleys of the enemy's decaying streets.

The dust blows in the children's eyes stirred up
by the churning wheels and tracks of tanks
and Humvees, drawing lines across the sand,
soon to be can-opened by an IED
or blown apart by a well-aimed RPG.
Neither warrior nor girl will live to see
the foreign blood upon their soil, because
the slit mouthed sergeant guides his missile true.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Angel's Smile

I have seen an angel smile at our world
of poor delusion, at our confusion,
over simple things, which to an angel
are easy as a smile would be to us.

I have seen the pinkness of its features
and the ruby of its lips as they smiled
upon our simplicity, exposing
the white tips of angel's teeth between

those lips that woman can never have kissed,
passionately or even in devotion:
androgynous and without desire for
another creature to complete its being.

So intelligent, this automaton,
whose wings seem atrophied or hidden from
human view, but suddenly spring open
in a blaze of light, as its eyes close in

contemplation of worlds beyond our sight.
What rapture is upon those fine features,
so unlike the inconstant face of man
who rages at his fate or weeps for joy.

Emotionless, the angel folds its wings
according to the most advanced theorems
of origami, which lie beyond the ken
of mere men or those great creatures kneeling,

bowed down in prayer before the throne of God,
whose host resembles an infinite field
of wheat that will nourish nothing and no
one other than The One who reaps their praise.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three Cheers for Santa

Santa Claus sent an elf round to my door
disguised, it seemed, as a religious boor:
he had two fairies with him for support,
pretending to be children, so I thought.

The elf beamed, waved a pamphlet in my face,
and said, "I'm here to save human race".
my wife whispered from behind the door,
"It's the Mormons, they've been round here before".

"No, no, leave this to me," I said with glee,
"I just want to hear what he has to say,"
(always ready for a bit of cruel sport)
 "I'll send him packing soon, I know his sort."

"Santa has a message of glad tidings,"
holding up a book with Christmas bindings,
the elf said confidently, with a smile,
"I hope to read it to you in a while."

"Right, and Yggdrasil was the Christmas tree,
decked out in pretty Northern Lights, you see,"
I said sarcastically, hoping for
a short cut to his tales of Christmas lore.

"Oh no," the elf replied, "Richard Dawkins
is quite wrong. Santa really does drive in
a sleigh, the North lights are the landing strip
for his hyper-dimensional reindeer-ship."

"I thought Kris Kringle was of German mien,
but your message is from an alien?"
"Yes, there has been a change of policy,
about who is bad and who acts nicely".

"This criterion no longer applies
now human hearts  are filled with hate and lies,
besides, the North Pole has begun to sink
and we have lost our summer skating rink."

"Global warming I suppose" I replied.
"exactly, loss of faith in Christmastide
has undermined the etheric stasis
of the underworld that's Santa's basis."

"We're surely doomed, unless you take my hand
and chant: 'We want Santa'. You understand.
Carbon dioxide is not the problem here,
it's simply a shortage of Christmas cheer."

The youngest girl fairy began to cry,
"Please help," she said "if you would only try
and be nice, for once, and listen to our plea,
we could go home and have our Christmas tea."

"What exactly am I supposed to do,
save Santa and stop global warming too?"
"Never mind," the elf said crossly, "we can't stay,
I can see you don't mean to help, anyway."

With this remark he gathered up his things,
and flew off down the drive on stumpy wings,
My wife said, "You were rude again today,
I hope there's no damage from that hyper-sleigh."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speak Bones

The gleaming bones lie restless in the sea,
picked clean by the hagfish that squirms and sucks
the bloated bag of flesh that still remains
of some lost sailor or would-be immigrant.

The desk light glistens on the worried brow
of the lately deposed man of power
and glints on lenses over rheumy eyes
that flit upon the endless, scheming words.

Heavy jowls ruminate on the meaning,
the mean mouth turned down in a scowl of scorn:
the well-worn phrases burnt into his brain
must be repeated over and again.

The shifty words lie restless in his mind,
disturbed  by the waves of controversy,
rearranging themselves from false to true
by the logic of hatred and despair.

The heavy shoulders heave and shrug away
fearful thoughts as the sweaty hands lay down
a sheaf of papers and some grey reports
that document the plans of covert men.

The desert bones lie piled beneath the sand
in random heaps, some hastily interred
in grieving sheets or boxes roughly hewn,
scrounged from the heaps of military waste.

Too many bones to be accounted for
by Infidels or sparrow counting sheep,
their accusing mines of calcium lie
unrecorded but heavy on his sleep.

The capacious earth receives its tribute
without demur, its countless minions
recycle and reuse war's refuse heaps,
layering its geology with death.

The gold gleams dully on the guilty hand,
as it reaches into the bottom drawer
for the medication that will preserve
a life, honoured only by a hapless wife.

His muscles and his bones strain with the load
as rising from his seat, the ageing toad
leans heavily on the bone handled stick
that keeps him on his feet since he fell sick.

The guns gleam silent in the cabinet,
a well-oiled reminder of his status
and the feathery piles of avian meat
that yearly rained down from the autumn skies.

Slim pickings compared with the hail of flesh
and bones brought down by presidential pens
that signed the secret horde of documents,
sealed for a hundred years in private dens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Old Then Young

First young then old, there's no escape from that
you say, but from the vantage point of age,
when actors are about to leave the stage
without applause, a life that's fallen flat
cries out for yet another curtain call
before some fatal pratfall ends it all.

Do you remember that first Christmas tree?
when mother held her darling up to see
the candles and the tinsel finery,
in days before the blitz when they felt free
to laugh at tyrants strutting through the streets,
and we not old enough for boiled sweets.

Running on the lawn, imperfect cartwheels,
forward rolls, twirling round fast and falling
down, the world is spinning your head reeling
from vertigo, remember how that feels?
Probably not, but such past memories
await their place in your untold stories.

When puberty set in and warned the host
the seething body not the mind is king,
chemical bonding was the only thing
that satisfied the growing child the most.
This natural imperative was blocked
by grimy hypocrites who said, "we're shocked".

Our young, ambitious thoughts and acts prevailed:
exactly what direction they should take
was unclear, except to those on the make
whose parents, without pity, never failed
to force upon their kind the proper mould
that made their children prematurely old.

For the rest, unguided by convention,
wandering off the well worn tracks, among
woods and thorny thickets of right and wrong,
the quest began, to challenge and question
every impediment to the rampant growth
of those glad branches of our gorgeous youth.

When joy was safely circumscribed, marriage
proved how right the circular argument
was, that repressed joy and youth's prurient
but delightful urges that fend off age:
all that energy must be used for work
by bovine labourer or sheepish clerk.

The remedy for scarcity was work
but the urgent need for that ceaseless toil
was rarely questioned as we tilled the soil
or balanced those ledgers we'd rather shirk.
Work minus sleep left little time for aught
but careless merriment or futile thought.

Under grim flags of red or striped with blue
the state guides and enforces all it can
the fate of the average man or woman
being most determined by what others do.
When the time came and progeny popped out
It was all over bar that painful shout.

The bitter conjunction of nature's plan,
and the machinations of devious minds,
bent on exploiting toilers of all kinds,
mapped out the concourse of the race we ran.
In middle age prosperity peeped out,
but soon retreated at the first redoubt.

The cycle of generation came round,
and what we received so ungratefully
we spitefully passed to our progeny,
who, we must hope,  became less tightly bound
to the economic merry-go-round
that we rode lightly to our dying ground.

Old then young was, perhaps, our final hope,
invented by ageing psychiatrists
who secretly hankered for loving trysts
with pubescent patients who could not cope
with life's bewildering and cruel schemes
that, like ours, end as unsatisfied dreams.

With all the hunting and gathering done,
tending the flickering fires of life's lost loves
is slight recompense for the fateful moves
that led to losing games we should have won. 
Now our instruments of love lie broken
hope remains that wisdom's worm has woken.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pole of Scorn

Know you how to sing a tune?
Know you how to carve a rune?
Know you how to cast a spell?
Aye, I know that very well.

Then go into the mountains wild,
And take a virgin undefiled,
Carve her name upon a rock,
And descry the entrails of a cock.

If critics say your song’s unfit,
Drain their speeches of all wit,
Shrink their clothes so they don’t fit
And drown them in the people’s spit.

Make all their words seem dyslexic,
Churn their stomachs with dyspeptic,
Fill their drinking cups with arsenic,
And let their wives be anorexic.

Know you how to read a line?
Know you how to prick with tine?
Know you how dye with blood?
Aye, I know that well and good.

Then go into the hazel wood
And cut yourself a wand that’s good,
Lead poor dobbin from the field
And lay his head upon your shield.

If raiders come and steal your corn,
Carve magic runes upon your horn,
Blow hard a blast for Odin’s ear
To fill their thieving hearts with fear.

Call up the winds to tear their sails,
And pincers cruel to rip their nails,
Close all ears to their woeful wails,
And clap them into stinking jails.

Know you how to tie a knot?
Know you how to pray a lot?
Know you how to blot a life?
Aye, I have my trusty knife.

Then go into their drinking halls,
Splash their blood upon the walls,
Cut the hand that lifts the cup
And drive them out with headstrong tup.

If kings and princes rape your wives,
Blast their skin with deadly hives,
Drive them mad with nettle stings,
And close up tight their fleshy rings.

Set their sacred flags on fire,
Fill their friends with hateful ire,
Drive them out from every shire,
And make their library books expire.

Now you know the secret skald,
Avoid offending poets bald,
Lest heirs to Egil’s Pole of Scorn
Make you wish you’d ne’er been born.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shiny Things

It is the shiny things that fascinate
the childish eye and guide the questing hands
to satisfy what the brain calls its mind,
but after all those soft, round things have been
withdrawn, and their comforts replaced by pain,
the search begins of that other domain
that yields and resists our fondest desires.

The pin that pricks, the spark that burns, the eye
that gleams bright, but must not be poked or picked,
and a thousand more forbidden delights
that tease and beguile: the mysterious smile
behind the jewelled mask of cruel life;
the splinter and the knife, the broken glass,
the bruises and abrasions on soft flesh.

Before the metals were released by fire,
hands scuttled in the deep to claw the eye
from the musty oyster's shell, and delving
in stygian caves found specks of silver
or crystals of amethyst: beckoning
sirens to the desiring eye, seeking
its delight in the tiny and the bright.

Small accumulations of shells and beads,
feathers and nicely coloured seeds became
property and wealth, that foundation stone
of society that marks out the strong
from the weak and the angry from the meek.
Adorned in the glittering and the rare,
mankind's chieftains showed off their shiny ware.

Sharing the women out was hard enough
but how to deal with all that other stuff,
and the envious glances of the rivals
goaded by their ambitious sons and wives?
A few judicious gifts to the strongest,
or marriages to their fairest daughters
restored equity and balanced power.

Greed and envy gave way to kings and laws,
to divide by force of arms what was theirs
and yours, thus government evolved from strife
and conflict over ownerships of things,
including slaves and wives who did the work,
setting the owners free to contemplate
and enjoy all the finer things of life.

Luxury and uxorious delight
soon supplemented hunting animals
and men, but conspicuous consumption
attracted savage hordes, eager for their
share of booty, so warfare and great wealth
joined forces to defend their shiny piles
of gold and ornamented concubines.

Civilisations rose and fell, leaving
behind the detritus of their shining
past: piles of gold and trinkets to their gods
sank into the mud, overgrown by trees
or washed away by rivers and the flood:
their patient resurrection, piece by piece,
reveals lives of the wealthy steeped in blood.

Palaces and cathedrals rose and fell,
crammed full with all the finest works of art,
statuary, tapestries and murals
delight the eye with paintings, furniture
and jewels by Tiffany and Faberge:
soon enough dispersed by war and plunder
as the poor rise up and cannons thunder.

With peace, the houses of the bourgeoisie
were stuffed with every good and bric-a-brac
that took the fancy of idle housewives:
pearls for girls and fob-watches for the men,
pianos and gramophones with gold needles,
fancy mirrors, and silver tableware
jostled with candlesticks and gaudy clocks.

The engines of production, once let loose,
deluged the markets of the world with goods,
demanding ceaseless toil from lesser souls
and enslaving the wealthy with more goals
to possess the shiniest and the best
of everything avarice could digest.

Now cathedrals arise in every town,
as fast as fields are cleared and trees cut down:
glittering walls of glass contain boutiques
with the latest electronic trinkets,
winking with knowing eyes they speak in tongues
of endless plenty for all with credit
not yet exhausted by the quickening race.

Outside the stars are dimmed by human lights;
glittering towers reaching to greater heights,
dwarf the humbler joys of the simpler life:
a frosty morning with a million webs
adorned with dew, or snowflakes softly falling
on the hyacinth, just peeping through the
last vestiges of dark untrammelled earth.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bottom Drawer

The old man stoops, working in his garden,
his past lies living in the bottom drawer:
the old things stored there reveal, long hidden,
the dangers of the life he lived before.

An old squeezebox, hexagonal and brown,
still plays a tune, as once it did in France,
where brash young soldiery relieved a town
of wines and virgins at the local dance.

With gloved hands he squeezes smoke from the cone:
a few stragglers cling to the waxy comb,
while others circle angrily and drone,
about the slatted hive that is their home.

At playtime, the children come out of school:
they do not trespass on the well mown lawn,
'stay on the strip of flagstones' is a rule
the lame teacher, his daughter, has laid down.

Meanwhile, in the drawer, a shoulder belt
and silver flute suggest an earlier tale,
perhaps in South Africa on the Veldt,
than the Fields of Flanders or Paschendale.

In the garden, he ties up runner beans,
puffing on a well chewed pipe, he decides
to spray the roses next with nicotine
against aphids before he goes inside.

He leans closer to the battery wireless,
pencil and sports page ready in his hand:
his horse finishes but without success,
he stumps out to the music of the band.

Old magazines, beneath some well-worn sheets,
the Pink'un and La Vie Parisienne,
hint at past wartime fun in foreign streets:
precious memories of a younger man.

The bell clangs loudly and the children scream:
the old man returns to his lost Eden
away from the throng he resumes his dream
of prizes for the best local garden.

At the back of the drawer dully gleams
a battered Jew's harp, its crude iron bow
once twanged by the light of falling star-shell beams
in bloody trenches under winter snow.

After a cup of tea, some bread and braun,
equipped with trilby hat and walking stick,
the gardener heads to toc-H in the town,
where a brown ale or two will do the trick.