Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Monday, 9 November 2009
And let them come
With their whining wings
And I killed them one by one
With a slap on the wrist.
I laid out their little bodies
All rigid delicate legs and probosces
On an orange groundsheet.
And I counted eighty-one, before I though I oughter
Call a halt to the slaughter.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
He came out onto the road to do his doggy duty:
To bark at me as I came past.
But this dog came without the urgency
That some dogs display:
The ones who bark and really mean it;
The ones whose bites may be worse
Than their barks.
This dog, it seemed to me, was only
Going through the motions.
His barking was neither angry, nor particularly loud,
In the manner of one who understands,
Deep down, that this barking is merely a convention;
That the passer-by will likely continue his passing-by
Bark, or no bark.
It was a four-wheel-drive, big, red, fast, that got him.
A moment after I had passed
I heard the sound,
Heavy, soft and wet,
And understood immediately what had happened.
The driver, of course, did not stop.
The dog, and his bark, simply disappeared.
I felt a warm fleck on my cheek.
And, looking down,
Saw my clothes spattered
With something unspeakable.
Down below the dirt road,
Three vultures, pecking at a dead sheep,
Left off their pecking momentarily
To watch me pass, and then
Resumed their pecking,
Hopping awkwardly through wet snow.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Sat with its doorless door-frame painted blue
On a small island in a shallow lake
Under a yellowing weeping willow
Surrounded by tramped mud
And the gentle smell of decay
Sunday, 11 October 2009
In a shop
Off the A23
"Are you going far?"
Asked the man at the till.
To China, I answered,
And felt foolish, but still.
"Well have a good trip then,"
The shopkeeper nodded.
But later, recounting our meeting, he added:
"Third bloody one
Friday, 9 October 2009
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Thursday, 8 October 2009
In sad reply to soaring strings came horns to wail and grieve;
And clarinet, with mournful sigh, lent
Plangent tone to quaver, crotchet, minim, semi-breve.
(The rests were silent.)
The first half's done. As from a dream
We wake, and leave the concert-den.
And after scoffing ice-cream
We troop back in again.
Vivace themes in silver'd streams came trembling, tumbling out
From piccolo, viola and cor anglais. Then, we spied
(His baton flailing wildly as he lurched in his redoubt)
The conductor tumbling off the stage - "Too many notes!" he cried.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Lines Composed on Using for the First Time a Sheepskin Cycle Seat Cover Received as a Christmas Present from my Sister Emily
As the first grey light of morning revealed an icy dawn,
I climbed upon my bicycle: its tyres and brakes well-worn,
But a brand-new woollen cosy I placed upon my seat
To keep at bay the wintry air, and help keep in the heat.
Oh wondrous manufacture! Ingenious idea!
A stylish saddle-cover to insulate my rear!
No more the frosty blasts feared I; no more the arctic weather
Would be a cause, however foul, to hinder my endeavour.
So off I set, astride my steed, and straight away I knew
However low the temperature, my lips however blue,
That my buttocks were protected, besat upon this fleece
And never more would frost-nipped cheeks my ped'ling cause to cease.
Away! And down the hill I flew, the fields all white around;
And white steam rose from a herd of deer, and crows pecked frozen ground.
I set my course toward the West, across the 505,
And though all about was frozen still, I felt the warmest man alive.
The frost it gripped the earth all day, the sun it never shone,
But never once I grumbled while my backside perched upon
This miraculous invention, this draw-string'd, snug device:
Let the weather do its worst to me, the wind let it blow twice
As strong and fierce and bitter, still its penetrating chill,
As I pedalled 'cross the country, to my rump could do no ill:
Through Herts and Cambs and Beds and Warks, West Midlands and Northants -
The warmest parts within me were the parts within my pants.
The honest folk at Ashwell, each still warmly wrapped in bed,
Had they woken would have marvelled as through their little town I sped
Past their gables hung with icicles, their step-stoned pond iced o'er,
To see me still unfrozen, as the mercury sank lower.
So onward I to Hinxworth, up and over the A1
And down again the other side to Langford - Oh, the fun
Of racing on my bicycle between the hoary trees
Off the ridge to Cardington, my legs a blur of knees
Pumping, piston-like, my pedals, leaving Bedford in my wake
Heading northward now, through Bromham, and on my right, a lake
Upon whose frozen surface the geese ungainly slid
But my woollen mat beneath me kept me warm as 'twere a lid.
Easton Maudit, Castle Ashby, the villages slipped by
Then Cogenhoe and Houghton and Northampton seemed to fly
Past my wheels, shrouded still in wisps of white
Fog and ice that now, at noon, had long outlived the night.
I stopped to eat my picnic lunch - my strength from hunger waning -
Now as I munched my frozen sandwiches my buttocks were complaining,
For my trusty bottom-warmer coddled still my cycle's seat
And the iron bench I lunched upon drew out too fast the heat.
So I wolfed my vittles quickly as cold numbness seeped to bone,
And soon through Daventry's broad avenues I rushed on fleecy throne,
And I pedalled through the still chill air, my feeling now restored
Past Industry's great bastions: Rail Freight Terminal, and Ford.
Then to Staverton and Shuckburgh, and Napton-on-the-Hill,
Long Itchington and Offchurch, up to Leamington, until
My journey's end at last drew near, as the brief day's light was fading,
And the darkness of another night my icy road was shading.
Yet past Kenilworth to Beausale the last long miles stretched out,
And as the cold wind blew through Dorridge, I knew beyond a doubt
That without this soft and warming rug to place beneath my bum
On such a day I never would have made it home to Brum.
So glory be to Stella, who invented this delight!
And glory be to Emily G, who correctly guessed it might
Make the perfect Christmas present to invert the chilly cyclist's frown.
What's more: my bike in sheepswool clad 's now the smartest one in town.
Saturday, 3 January 2009
Lines Composed on Using for the First Time an Electric Spaghetti Winding-Fork Received as a Christmas Present from my Dear Mama
O deprived, benighted British diners! Still fed up
With this life-changing gadget now on foreign pasta you will sup,
Yes! Come see! Our new, unique and patented device!
Will bedevil your attempts to eat alternatives to rice:
Buy now! And soon you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
It’s practical, hygienic, and, what's more – we’re proud to shout - it
The instructions are quite simple: insert in bowl your fork
Now (ignore the flicking flecks of gravy) carefully adjust the torque,
There’s never been a better time to join this latest craze!
With their Electric Spaghetti Winding-forks, in a hundred different ways,
Monday, 20 March 2006
Friday, 9 December 2005
that you are going downhill very fast on a bicycle,
through rain and
with the wind behind you.
that it is steep and the mountain you are coming off
is very high, with the road cut into it, with sheer cliffs either side,
one rising (on your right side)
the other (on your left)
(as you fly down the slope)
dropping deep and
straight into the clouds.
that you are going at about forty miles an hour, which
on a laden bike feels very fast indeed.
you feel the wind whipping your face,
the mist licking your hair
and the rough road pounding your backside through the saddle.
imagine you cannot stop.
Imagine you cannot stop,
because your brakes are gone.
Imagine you squeeze those levers and, expecting
the soft squeal of rubberised friction, get only the scrape
of metal on metal.
Imagine you are now a slave to gravity. Imagine
you see a bend ahead, and imagine
you know that if around that bend there is
a truck or
or a man with a wheelbarrow, or
a tree, or
a pile of rocks
you will, if you succeed in
not going over the cliff,
hit the truck
or the cow
or the man with the wheelbarrow
or the tree
or the pile of rocks,
and likely be killed,
in the case of the man with the wheelbarrow,
quite possibly kill him too.
(About the cow you are not quite certain.)
imagine that you do, though not without a struggle, and
not without cutting it very much finer than you care to remember afterwards,
get round that corner, and imagine
has decreed that there shall not be a truck,
or a cow,
or a man,
or a wheelbarrow,
or a pile of rocks
around this particular corner on this particular occasion
(unlike, you recall, the previous corner, and,
you subsequently discover, the next-but-one),
imagine, to cut a long story short, that you reach the
bottom of this mountain, and succeed somehow in bringing your bicycle
to a halt.
that you discover yourself, after an interval of
Sitting on the road,
And imagine, finally
that a man with a wheelbarrow, who
(the man, not the wheelbarrow) does not speak your language,
nor you his,
leaving his wheelbarrow behind,
comes and sits down beside you, and puts
on your shoulder.
Thursday, 1 July 2004
The clouds gathered and grew,
Swelling, like a dull ache
That could not quite break through,
Until, when the evening came, we could see it was very nearly upon us.
Blackness drew in blackness, swallowing
Almighty on the brink.
We ran ahead to find a place for the tents.
At five thousand feet vast distended globes of water
Began their precipitate descent. Fifteen seconds,
We had. Kit off, slung-flung
And as it came, the rain, we three danced
In a green-grass bowl between two small hills
A sodden ballet of poles, pegs and lines; leaping, splashing, sploshing
A flipping, flapping, flopping
Festival of tits and cocks and balls, illuminated intermittently
By the freeze-frame flashes of the lightning
As the late storm erupted, emptying itself upon us.
Monday, 19 April 2004
A wooden boat, upturned on the beach,
Its blue hull resting quietly
On the soft, pale sand,
Wavelets lapping the shore
As the sun slipped down
Across the mouth of the estuary
As, on the far shore,
The lighthouse winked slowly.
Thursday, 8 April 2004
(I offer it here in translation; the original
Serbian momentarily escapes me)
"This way -->".
So I followed, this way -->, and
On arrival, at the end of a track, at
A cluster of white-painted farm buildings,
Enquiring as to the possibility
Of an egg or two, I was greeted
By some men (who, as I recall, were mending a pump)
With a curious mixture of amusement and bemusement,
And was directed to Goran, who said,
No, we do not have any eggs, but
You are welcome to stay the night,
If you would like.
We sat outside together and drank beer
As evening slipped over the hill behind the Danube
And talked a little of the war.
His cousin had been in Novi Sad
When we bombed the bridges there.
And he had watched the bombarding of Belgrade
From his farmhouse, white on the hilltop,
With no eggs for sale, but a place for the night, if you'd like to stay.
And I said I was sorry, for what it was worth,
I had been against it from the start,
Another country up which we had messed
It's the politicians who are mad,
And Goran said Forget it, it's the best
Firework display we ever had.
Wednesday, 7 April 2004
Still-wintry forest from un-sprung marsh.
Cold; April the seventh -
My mother's birthday tomorrow.
The forest, and the marshes, both are mined.
On the road Bosnian truckers drive hard,
Barrelling diretissimo from die-hard habit, I imagine,
Of running Sarajevo snipers. Cyclist: make way.
From the border-guards, a stamp and a smile:
Welcome to Croatia. Good luck on your journey.
And then across the border
On the road that divides forest from marsh.
Marshes and forest, both are mined.
Good Christ, mined! Not in some far distant land, but
Here on our back door-step, mined.
And the fields of Beli Manastir - mined.
Mined, and marked by neat small signs: red triangles,
And a skull: danger, death, mines.
Good Christ, ten years on, these people
Cannot work their god-damned
Cannot graze their god-damned
Raging in the rain against the god-damned men who...
Friday, 5 March 2004
As I crossed the river
And climbed the road
Up onto the Common.
It was March and the days
Were still short.
Behind me, back down across the river,
The air was quiet and still.
When I had the tent up, it was dark.
A full moon came out, and I could see,
Out beyond the heather, the sea, far off.
In the cold tent, I ate bread,
Eight miles from home.
Saturday, 3 January 2004
"Are you sure?"
And my father said -
"Have you made a will?"
"Will you take a gun?"
And the girl said -
In fact I don't remember her saying anything at all.
She kept, as I recall, very quiet, as if
She did not quite believe, or understand,
What I was telling her.