Saturday, December 22, 2007
A drop of oil
paints bright siren rainbows
on the canvas of the streets.
scattered at my feet
slicing every step.
A drop of blood
blossoms on the crazy paving
in empty cities.
One bead of sweat
in preparation for a great flood.
One teardrop slides
from the deep reservoir
I struggle to keep inside.
The first soft drop of rain
caresses my fear
promising a fresh start.
I know, I know. Can't do seasonal and that bishop has got me marked as an 'atheist fundamentalist' so there's no hope is there? Anyway, Welcome to our new readers in Thailand!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Though everywhere we search in vain
We find their sullen armies crawl,
The wall must fall.
Though cruel citadels rise up,
Grow powerful and tall,
Their walls must fall.
See even solid concrete screams
A wild graffiti call,
This wall must fall.
And every rock and ocean
Ripples with just one call,
The wall must fall.
And while this voice seems still so pitiful and small,
The wall must fall,
When all our voices blend as one,
Welsh lilt, New World drawl,
The wall must fall.
One land, one justice,
Out of the rubble of a broken wall.
CHECK OUT THE LINK TO 'YOUTUBE' with the previous poem and you'll find out where this one came from.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
For my benefit Mr. Kite
came out to play today,
tumbling, like a giddy clown
out of a cold sky
tantalizing territorial crows
with one flick of the tail,
leaving them flailing
at an empty patch of blue,
where just a fraction before,
he had hung out in air,
while I had watched his show,
dumb as stone, no sound
ringing in my ears,
stripped of all my pride,
feet firmly anchored on the ground,
eyes filling with tears.
Thirty years ago, my friend Colin and I would go off in search of the elusive Red KIte. At that time there were only 30 breeding pairs in Wales. Now, thanks to a brilliant campaign to protect these magnificent birds from farmers who poisoned and shot them they are widespread and I can even enjoy them from my own front garden in Glais. Welcome to my Iranian readers!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The hens all slaughtered themselves!
I heard it first on Fox News,
Hot off the press,
Penned by Lunchtime O’Booze.
Devotees of Asian cuisine,
Whales queue off the Japanese coast,
Amber grist to the mill, all
In a frenzy to add to their sushi on toast.
No longer hurling themselves from cliffs,
Lemmings have learnt to have fun,
Achieving the same heights of pleasure
From daily abuse in The Sun.
The more cultured creatures,
Who shun puns and rhymes,
Turn for chastisement
To the wise words of The Times.
When I was a puppy, I used to feel sick,
Bellyful – Dandelion and Burdock.
Strange how I now suffer the exact same reaction
On hearing that name - Rupert Murdoch.
Feeling very frivolous. It's Sunday. Haven't had time to read the papers. Oh joy!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Time stands still
As the slow bus from Sienna
Crawls up the stolid hill.
Drowsy wheels purr
Across sweating tarmac,
Babel in my ears,
One memory blurs
Into another, on the endless journey back.
A chorus line of chirpy nuns
Flutters across the Palio, delirious in the sun.
A pair of working girls mouth sweet nothings into mobiles.
Business is booming in their worn out smiles.
In hot pursuit a grizzled column of Texans
Grumbles forward and in a voice designed to deafen
One announces, ‘Carmine just sent me a text –
They’re going on to do Venice next.’
Through the glass bleakly, something quite absurd –
A beaten up sparrow with a long, long face
Struggles to make her cracked voice heard.
Out of tune, out of luck, out of place.
This has been simmering away since our visit to Italy. We had a lovely week, but Sienna was overwhelmed with tourists even that late in the year.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
For you, a stranger, a neighbour, a friend, for his Wales
He’d run through granite walls,
The first to answer any call,
The first to dive in for the fifty-fifty ball,
The first to raise you up, if you should fall,
Who made the greatest challenge seem so small,
The one to make you feel more than ten feet tall.
He wouldn’t do with all this doom and gloom.
Be grateful you breathed the same air as him.
Now stand as one and make a nation of Gravs bloom!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
reading labels on bottles,
distinguishing patterns on wallpaper,
watching the smoke rise from the fire,
counting on somebody else,
reading new meanings into words,
distinguishing myself on a wall,
with a blunt pencil,
watching the smoke rise from the fire,
counting dead sheep,
reading pornography in the urinal,
distinguishing good from bad,
watching the smoke rise from the fires,
counting the dead,
reading the obituaries,
distinguishing the heroes from the cowards,
watching the smoke rise from the pyres,
counting the cost,
reading labels on bottles,
distinguishing the faces
and putting labels on them,
with names and numbers on the labels
and caked blood on the faces,
washing the salt from my eyes
and the blood from my hands,
leaving no traces.
First published poem from 1968.( in 'Dawn' ) I was taken aback by some of the prescient imagery. Chopped the last two lines from the original. Superfluous. Made one or two small changes. Pic. Anti-Vietnam War demonstration, US Embassy, Grosvenor Square. The time and place of my political birth!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
We were killing time when the Americans came back
That dazed morning, sunlight guttering outside
The slaughterhouse. Inside the half-track
They would have heard our futile muttering
Of prayers, then heard the whispers cease,
Give place to our lungs’ urgent pleading,
Long since driven to our knees,
Before one shot was fired, already bleeding.
Two lines of shadow deployed across the street,
No IEDs to snag their careless feet.
A Black Hawk hovered overhead.
GIs lined up eyes like gun sights,
Eyes blank with the terror of long nights,
Scoping both the living and half dead,
Sun scarred hands and arms made
For farmers, now each preparing one grenade.
Heaney’s original is ‘Anahorish 1944’ p7 in ‘District and Circle’ published by Faber & Faber 2006. The picture is of US troops engaged in a fire fight in a cemetery in An Najaf. A spokesman later claimed that when it was over 'many dead enemy combatants were discovered in the area'.
Friday, August 24, 2007
An exposed ribcage of trees, floating
On a crimson shroud of leaves, bathed
In a delusion of light, wiped clean
By air that whispers as it swiftly chokes
And rain that blisters into all consuming smoke.
Even the dark earth is melting underfoot,
Beneath it no green shoot, no tangled root,
No comforting stone,
A fresh eruption of bone.
This used to be one of my favourite Klimt landscapes until I visited the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna and saw the original. It was every bit as stunning as I expected, but it was the caption in German that shook me to the core - ‘Buchenwald’, Beech Wood. I can’t ever look at the painting without the German title superimposing itself.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
They called for you three times,
But you were long gone out of the trenches,
Into the field of blood,
Raw food for wire and bullets
To pluck from the drowning mud.
In the still of the marquee,
None could even dream
Of the roaring in your ears,
The blind surge forward
Towards an unseen enemy,
Or conjure into mind
The ghoulish scene that day
The two choirs streamed forward as one,
Only to discover the big guns’ singing,
The wicked descant of the falling shell,
The rising chorus of the invitation
To dissolve into a man made hell.
Those places where one man after another fell
They all had names – Pilckem Ridge,
Passchendaele and more
Than thirty thousand reasons
In just one day to remember them,
That day when two choirs
And one shepherd poet
Rose and fell as one
and of our boys but four survived
to witness the sinking of the sun.
They bear away the sword
And shroud your throne.
Too late they listen to your words,
Then take away the empty chair
Home to the whispering slate,
Where your fire is already cold,
Its spent wood charred.
Dark nights ahead and in the corner
Now stands carved black oak
For a newly crowned Black Bard.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Wake up! The war is over.
Peel your fingers from your ears.
There’s no more need to cover
Your eyes. See, the smoke has cleared.
Outside your window, the street is bare
Of soldiers. Even the sniper lurks no more,
No sign of your father’s killer anywhere.
He’s safe in the US, minding the local store.
No more unexploded shells in the square
Of a garden, only a row of untidy graves,
Your brother and two sisters lie there,
While a lost uncle chews his fists and raves,
Where Mother once searched for remains
Until the depleted uranium took firm hold
And she joined her family near the drains
Before you had time to wake and grow old.
There’s no need to cry. Can’t you see
Where once terror stalked your land,
Where once crooks and profiteers
Swarmed over oil polluted sand,
There’s a kind of silence now
and a new model of democracy?
Just heard some Brit neo con raving on about how nuclear weapons had kept the peace for over 50 years. What do they take so early in the day? Pic taken on the streets of Baghdad.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
this black, black chair
This isn't working on the page and to see the effect properly yourself, you need to copy the text, paste it, then centre it. Can't find reliable advice on how to to this on Blogspot, so if you know, please tell me!
Anyway, when Hedd Wyn won the Chair at the National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead in 1917, the carved oak chair stood on the stage and a sword was placed upon it. Then, when it was announced that Hedd Wyn was dead, the sword was removed and the chair draped in black. The picture shows Ray Gravelle, current Keeper of the Sword and a Welsh hero in many more ways than one.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
How many shepherds must be
Plucked from our hills,
So that the shallow graves gouged out
By deceivers may be filled?
How long before the unchecked lust for oil
Subsides, its quota of innocents fulfilled?
As much as he who coldly strikes in rage,
They, who stand by silent, also kill.
It’s not enough to rant and rave,
As precious ink across my blank page spills
Or with eyes downcast like common slaves
Tamely surrender up our very wills.
To write a different end in perfect peace,
Rise up! Rise up! There’s time to do it still!
Hedd Wyn was the bardic name given to Ellis Evans,
a shepherd poet from Merioneth. Literally it means
‘white peace’, but a better translation, I feel, is ‘perfect
peace’. Evans was called up for military service in 1917,
but before going to the front, he had time to complete
his entry for the National Eisteddfod held in
Birkenhead that year and somehow send it in spite of
military censorship. ‘Yr Arwr’ – ‘The Hero’ was
announced as the winner and the author was called three
times to stand. There was no response, because
Evans had been killed in the first assault at
Passchendaele. As this was announced, the bardic chair
was shrouded in black cloth, and was known from
that moment as ‘The Black Chair’.
The more I read about Evans, the more ideas force
their way into the open and I find myself constructing
a cycle of poems around them. You are getting them
as they are written and it is already evident that the final
order of the poems will have to be re-jigged when I am done.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The Black Chair
In the depths of our despair,
God is nowhere to be found
And men go hurtling in his wake,
Take on the hideous mantles of tyrant kings.
As God steals away,
Brother wields murderous sword against brother.
The syllables of slaughter fill our ears.
Death’s shadow swarms over the land.
The harps of old, the ones that used to sing,
Hang, choke on the branches of weeping trees.
The hot wind swells with the screams of our abandoned sons.
Sand commingles with their blood.
This is a radical re-working of a translation into English
of the prize winning poem by Hedd Wyn. No translation
into any language can match original rhythms and nuances.
This is especially true of translations from Welsh, but I have
gone beyond literal translation and its alternative, the attempt
to catch the essence of the original in a new form. Instead, I
have overturned the religious overtones of Ellis Evans’ poem
and introduced contemporary resonances whilst at the same
time relying heavily on much of Evans’ own imagery.
The original, in Welsh, is given after this and I would be
interested to discover what Welsh speakers might make
of the liberties I have taken. More of ‘The Black Chair’ is to
come, together with some history of the poet who set me off
on this track.
Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ô1 mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae sŵn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A 'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Hear me Lord,
God of the drought,
God of the flood,
God of the melting ice,
God of the rising seas,
God of the globe on heat.
Hear me Lord….
Nor all farmers
drive trailers full of sheep
into the night,
in search of disease and compensation.
Not all farmers
employ migrant labour,
keep them in worse conditions
than battery hens.
Not all farmers
by hosing the mud from former secretaries.
Not all farmers
are unrepentant drunks,
beat their wives, or fondle their own daughters.
Not all farmers
poison kites, gas badgers,
or give their loved ones both barrels.
Not all farmers
hunt the fox in packs,
pointing flatulent arses at the sky.
Not all farmers
drive four by fours like tanks.
Not all farmers
keep fields free of crops
just for the subsidy.
Not all farmers
are inbred, genetically modified,
miserly, misogynistic, melancholic.
Lord hear me.
on those honest farmers.
You might think this a strange poem to come from
the pen of an atheist, but it seemed too good a chance
to observe some of the ironies involved in this story
and to put it bluntly I just got pissed off at the queues
of farmers at the Royal Welsh Show, all keen to share
their misery with the Skanda Vale Community and
mock the idea of a bullock as sacred?. Is
that any stranger than wearing a celice under your
skirt and trotting off once a week to taste the flesh and
drink the blood of the Son of God? Is it any crazier than
believing that a former member of the Hitler Youth is
infallible? Is it more harmful than forcing Palestinians
from their land, then starving them to death with your
only justification that you belong to God’s chosen
people? Is it as ‘uncivilised’ as stoning adultresses to death,
or cutting the hands from common thieves?
Sunday, July 08, 2007
We went to war, they said,
to make our world a safer place.
Now everywhere I go,
the bombers are lurking in my head.
Not even in the shadows,
but in plain sight,
in every supermarket queue,
defying the light,
pushing through the scrum
outside the rugby club,
mingling with the locals by the pub,
waiting dogged, patiently
with the walking wounded
lining up in Casualty.
I tried to flee from the maddening crowd,
along a winding coastal path,
beneath a sky where not one cloud
could cross my thoughts,
where not one soul came into view,
and I could watch the sea roll in
at leisure, feel the rise and swell within,
at one with the nature of the blue.
But no, they followed me even here,
spiteful beyond each quivering of grass,
behind each fluttering of wings,
beneath the scornful snorting of a horse,
with unexploded stonechats,
ticking in the gorse.
Picture adapted from 'The Field Guide to the Birds of Britain & Ireland' by John Gooders published by Kingfisher
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
When one career comes to an end,
It’s good to have a friend
Or two or four to see you through
Make sure there’s something useful for you to do.
Now the Bliar is heading Middle East
With a healing touch to soothe the savage beast,
Thoughts turn to others and the part
They might have played
If only one’s imagination had strayed
Attila the peacemaker
Would surely have known the way to break a
Knock a head or two together
With the help of Genghis Khan,
His roving ambassador,
A paragon of sensitive diplomacy,
Noted for his wit and bonhomie,
And matched only in this by Paisley,
Newly appointed Vatican emissary.
You surely would not have turned up
The chance to visit Fred West, sex therapist ,
Or Dracula, trainee phlebotomist
And with a marriage on the rocks
Drop in on Bluebeard, relationship counsellor,
Aided and abetted by Crookback and Huntley,
Both seasoned and well practised childminders
Or Mengele, the house-trained social worker.
This list could have gone on for ever. I'm sure you will have a few of your own favourites to add. I got the idea ( and Attila the Peacemaker ) from a great two line letter in the Independent.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
A ghastly footnote
in the history of Oh No! Theatre,
with the neat, red hole
in her left temple
and the tell-tale trickle
of theatrical blood on her Oh So
George Lazenby, small fry,
Oh No Seven eyes glazed,
mumbling his lines
for a long gone audience.
The camera lurches back,
revealing the silver-grey Aston Martin,
pristine, intact on a lonely road.
Louis Armstrong begins to growl …
There is always a place for the frivolous as long as we remember that it's there to distract us from reality!
Monday, June 11, 2007
A sparrow on the terracotta wall
Picks listlessly at stone fruit,
Waiting for the black sky to fall.
A child curled tightly in a ball,
Lovers entwined mute,
Beneath a sparrow on the terracotta wall.
Deaf to the strident warning call,
Insensitive to the subtle scent of soot,
Not knowing how the black sky would fall,
They found oblivion, when they thought they had it all,
That inner wealth beyond dispute,
The painted sparrow on the terracotta wall.
Now ashes form their funeral pall.
They lie amid abandoned loot
Lost at the moment the black sky began to fall.
No matter how sweet the song of the flute,
When you smell burning, face the truth
Or share the fate of the sparrow on the terracotta wall
Lost in time when the black sky began to fall.
First post for a while. The picture is from a fresco at the Villa Oplontis, near Pompeii.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Red one in the royal park,
Trailing her brush,
Snout down, sniffing a path
Across lush, cropped grass.
A glancing blow of light bounces
Off the distant walls of glass.
The ghost of a shadow flashes blindly past.
A sullen siren moans
Behind manicured brick.
She pricks up her ears,
One foot in mid air.
Pin-striped city pigeons pause,
Shuffle together nervously,
Weigh up all the risks involved
In hoovering up a paltry offering
Of discarded tourist crumbs.
A green slick of parakeets
Swarms into the high branches
Cackling insults, out of reach,
Impervious, ruffling in a sudden breeze.
I will wander where I please
And long after I am gone
Out of the tapestry of crystal and steel,
In your minds, I will shimmer,
This one is for Abi and Jason to thank them for showing us Greenwich Park and sharing our little adventure in 'the smoke'.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
My collection of poems inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt is now available from Lulu.com or directly from me for £7 + postage and packing [ just send your order via snail mail to Klimtotmania Garth House, 2 School Road, Glais, SWANSEA SA7 9EY, UK.
For those of you who don't know Lulu.com, I must put in a big recommendation. Take a look at the site!
Friday, March 23, 2007
Get your glad hand out.
It’s that time of year again.
Time to put yourself about,
Show your face and then
Brush up on the promises you made
Last time. Tart them up a bit.
Find a new angle, a fresh approach.,
One that doesn’t seem so staid,
Many sizes but one fit
For purpose, that will not encroach
On your ability to do just what you will.
Think about the next photo shoot –
A hospital, a school, somewhere cute
With a child that doesn’t answer back,
Or a photogenic mutt for all the waiting hacks.
Tone down the suntan. After all
You are a hardworking man of the masses,
Always busy, concerned, on the ball
With a fistful of handouts and free passes,
Behind a ready, easy winner’s smile or
When cameras call for it, a concerned style,
One that shows you’re always listening,
Undistracted by thoughts of all the glistening
Prizes, beyond this vote, just out of reach,
The endless summer on some pop star’s beach
Away from it all, where you can really relax,
While some other mug is paying your income tax.
"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss!"
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
See how each passing civilisation
Leaves it footprint on the face
Of the human psyche….
Romans were notable for their love
Of wholesome family entertainment,
Gawping high above
As lions gorged themselves, or gladiators
Refined new skills
And on leaving the glory of their Coliseum
Admiring the geometry of the kills,
One crucifixion every hundred paces,
On each side of mathematically perfect roads.
The Spanish Inquisition
Developed human fascination
With scientific precision,
The art of extracting screams,
Within the sanctity of the confessional,
The fascination for ritual coupling with
The immaculate thrill of ecstatic dreams.
To the history of human abuse,
Were concentration camps,
Boers for the use of?
Dealing with terror
By way a very British pragmatic solution.
The Czars harnessed nature,
Mother Russia’s essence
And Uncle Joseph,
Never one for neglecting
Someone else’s bright idea,
Made a conveyor belt from kangeroo court,
To Gulag, where the cleansing properties of asbestos
Kept the cells free.
Germans introduced efficiency on an industrial scale,
Combined with scientific zeal
To waste nothing, not the slightest peel
Of skin, not a single gold filling.
All in the name of higher culture,
The black and pristine vulture
Circled words of steel,
Arbeit Macht Frei
Etched across a smoke filled sky.
My memory is not so good now.
I forget now who first thought
Of the Diplock court,
Internment without trial,
H Blocks, gangs and counter gangs,
Shoot to kill.
I try to remember
And I know that one day it will
Come back to me.
Pinochet proved himself most creative
When faced with thirty thousand mouths to stop,
Converted a football Stadium into a mortuary
From whence corpses could disappear, flop
Into canals, refuse tips, foundations.
Today, watch Chileans in the street,
So careful where they place their feet.
Chinese lack subtlety,
In full view,
In a main square,
Under the full glare of TV lights,
Tanks crush bones.
Americans have brought it bang up to date.
Rendition, choice of short or long haul flight,
Secret locations, dead of night,
A selection of the best technicians,
Right off the shelf,
Egyptians incapable of pity,
South Americans skilled with electricity,
Serbs with patient razors,
German experts with lasers,
Romanian ex Stasi thugs,
East German specialists in the usage of drugs.
All with free orange jump suits thrown in
And mobile phones for all the boys
To send picture to Mom and the rest of the tribe
From Camp Delta, Guantanamo and Abu Graib.
Forget it all! That’s history!
Leave it where it belongs,
In the past,
Staggering down Wind Street bum half mast,
Flashing all her bits,
To make quite sure she’s not outclassed
By that tart of a receptionist,
Fresh from County Hall
Look at her. She’s so pissed
She’s sure she’s kissed
The Prince of Wales
Or Camilla, whatever,
But we know it was that Neanderthal,
The bouncer, the ex squaddie
With a skin like chain mail
And hands that went Walkabout.
Tomorrow the street cleaners might find her,
Sprawled in a halo of broken glass,
Breathing heavily behind a wheelie bin.
She’ll swallow a bitter morning after pill
She’ll have all day to kill
In her cave beneath the duvet,
Cocooned, cut off,
Oblivious. Not guilty.
Invisible. Free from sin.
This one has been a long time coming. Can't believe how busy I've been. Three capital cities in three weeks and hopefully 'Klimtomania' will be published soon. More of that later....
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Each evening, on the red and shifting sands,
they gather silently and wait,
for a boy to cup the sun in his hands.
They watch as the orb of fire shrinks,
paralysed, as it slowly sinks
towards a hungry, churning sea.
The boy’s master stands at his side.
Before the crisis comes, he threads
swiftly through the swaying throng,
collecting from each a fee,
in inverse proportion to their means.
To each he grants the right to witness, once,
the triumph of the night.
When, at last, the boy stretches out,
the silence thickens,
breath stops, the pulse quickens.
He takes it, drags it down
and before their very eyes
he makes it drown.
No voice is raised against his act.
As one, they turn and leave
the stone faced master to his counting,
the boy on his knees, wiping his tears on his sleeve.
I'm still here. The left wing poet didn't get me!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I met him at Hyde Park Corner,
leaning on a placard,
his black t-shirt ironed smooth,
each letter pristine, red
‘Not in my name’
is what the slogan said.
His beard was neatly trimmed.
The slight bulge above his belt
betrayed he’d recently slimmed.
He was deep in conversation
with a dark haired, dark eyed girl,
recounting his month on a kibbutz.
She, for her part, stifled a yawn,
fiddled with a stray curl,
watched the helicopters circle overhead.
‘It was socialism in the raw
and what is more, sexual
revolution in its purest form.’
He wafted a greeting in my direction,
without his eyes ever leaving
the swell of her breast,
without his losing the flow
Later, he gave a private reading,
as he’d always planned,
to a select group in the snug
of the Pindar of Wakefield,
wine glass in one hand,
slim volume in the other,
keffiyah arranged, artful
round his broad shoulders.
Happy New Year! Beware of false prophets! P.S. the poets on the poster are not my target!