Monday, November 30, 2009

History is bunk!



I spit
on the history of cities,
constructed
with sword and skulls,
myths created
by torturers,
architects of slaughter.
Ranged along broad streets,
( firepaths on their secret plans ),
statues of these butchers abound.

And in their hushed libraries,
mouldering books
clutter each shelf,
economical catalogues
of facts chosen
to perpetuate the deadly toll
of profit and loss.
Let sleeping books lie.

Nature knows
their every secret
and shits on their smug faces,
slowly erodes
each self-satisfied smile,
wipes carved stone
clean.

This poem has been lying around for long enough. It didn't take much dusting down.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Sleeping Child



The moon stutters through
a shredded curtain,
hanging where a door once stood,
to shut the bad world out.

In a patch of weary light,
she lies on the neighbour's floor,
curled up, tight as a comma,
coughing and twitching all night long.



Dreams disturbed
by whirling blades,
slow burning of lungs, the red
stickiness between her fingers.

A scrawny kitten licks her
savaged face, in delight
at finding unexpected warmth.
The girl's eyes flick wide open.

Yet she sees only that same sight,
half her brother's face grinning back
out of the black crater
they once called home.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To the Lighthouse!


The ocean is a fickle bride,
wild waters swim before our eyes,
but surely that's a light
twinkling on the distant side.

We have sailed so far together,
long into the everlasting night.
Even the seas of stars
have long since disappeared from sight.

We have held fast together,
lost in swathes of fog, then
hurled from home by storm.
Who knows where we'll land, or when?

Now, though eyes may be failing,
to the east see the gloom start paling.
Silhouetted against a rose red sky,
we sense the lighthouse looming high..

This picture shows what remains of the Nineteenth |Century cast iron lighthouse at Whitford Point on Gower. This and part of the sound track of 'The Motorcycle Diaries' were the starting point of this my 62nd birthday poem.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Unmasked


The glass does not lie.
The face that she sees
is her face, smoothed white,
the red, moist lips
are hers, the eye
that fixes her is her own,
steady in the quivering
morning light. Her maids
have done their work
and this is the very image
of the Virgin Queen,
red hair alight, precious
to her finger tips, ready
to turn history's next page.

Is this the same vision
Norfolk stumbled on
unannounced? She had her back to him
and the evening light was weary and dim,
so for a moment he did not realise
whose was the crooked spine,
the wrinkled skin,
the short grey hair,
but then he caught her eye
and knew that all was wrecked,
felt, for the first time
the axeman's foetid breath
on the back of his neck.

Just like buses...you wait for one for ages then two come along.

Press Pack


The dogs are circling with intent.
Once, when your table was overflowing,
they were content to feed
on left-overs, but now
nights are drawing in
and all signs point
to the table soon being bare
and dogs know all too well
where the next meal will come from.
On lazy, sunny days
they were always willing
to roll on their backs and play dead,
just to humour you, but
had you been really wise,
you would have noticed
the keen redness of their eyes,
observed how every now and then
they would slink off
after some other wounded prey,
but now, it is you who limps
and shivers with the cold.
It is your trail of blood they track
growing steadily more bold.

I hate to be biblical but as you sow so shall you reap! Thanks to my Macedonian correspondant for pointing out my schoolboy error!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A feminist poet, prior to howling


She-wolf speaks softly,
not snarling, no growls
as you might expect,
the sibilance instead
of that one who had you
expelled from Eden,
no restless padding
back and forth, red eyed
tongue hanging,
she hides her teeth
behind soft phrases.
The compulsory expletive
comes and goes
as if by accident
with a knowing twinkle of the eye,
a subtle shift of hips,
swift licking of the lips.
A neat metaphor is punctuated
with a deep sigh
and a heaving of breasts.
Somewhere, out of sight,
a pair of twins hang
on her every word,
whilst we, like unsuspecting lambs
struggle to remember
the warning we just heard.

After a fine evening dedicated mostly to female poets, one performance stuck in the mind for all the wrong reasons. You could say this was all in the mind, but there were mainly women in the audience and I’m confident that they would recognise this picture.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mother Gaza



She refuses to die.
Neither slow asphyxiation,
nor ordeal by fire
can dim the fierceness of her eye.
No toxin purge,
no surgical strike
can darken the promise of the sky
and though crows gather
beating their wings like blades,
away frustrated carrion fly,
back to roost in stolen groves,
beneath blue, twisted stars,
knowing the future is not theirs.
Oh yes, she bears the scars,
but the harvest is also hers,
her sons and daughters
and all their seed.
Red anemones will rise
where once was weed.

I have never repeated a poem in this way, but Ben Heine kindly sent me the cartoon and suggested that the two might go together. I think the idea speaks for itself!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mother Gaza



She refuses to die.
Neither slow asphyxiation,
nor ordeal by fire
can dim the fierceness of her eye.
No toxin purge,
no surgical strike
can darken the promise of the sky
and though crows gather
beating their wings like blades,
away frustrated carrion fly,
back to roost in stolen groves,
beneath blue, twisted stars,
knowing the future is not theirs.
Oh yes, she bears the scars,
but the harvest is also hers,
her sons and daughters
and all their seed.
Red anemones will rise
where once was weed.

Great news about the TUC vote to begin the boycott of Israeli goods and campaign for the end of arms supplies to the Zionist state. Of course, it does not go far enough, but every journey begins with one small step.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dawn, Mumbles Ward




It's that time of the morning
when clocks stand still
and every sound booms
around your ears like the final warning.

Norman's gone walkabout,
searching for his other half.
She was with him just a moment ago.
Where's she gone? He's desperate to know.

The nurses gather him up,
lead him back to his bed
moved from the ward
to the safety of the nurses' station,
where his hand can be held
and soft words restrain
his mind's constant wandering.

Ella would have smiled
to watch him work his charm.
He always was a bugger
for a girl in uniform.

Thanks to Mr. Ashour and his team. Thanks especially to Leslie, Boothi, Paul, Sam and all the others who took care of me. Thanks to all of you for your support. Thanks to the new friends I made on the Mumbles Ward. I'm still up and running. Long live the NHS!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

AN-ABADENN-DAÑS ( The Wedding Dance )


Someone else's party.
Someone else's girl.
What was I doing there
waiting on the edge of the world?

One shove was all it took,
then we were locked together
at the epi-centre of the whirl.
I just had time to say,
I don't need pushing,
before it took hold
and we were swept away,
I need holding back
left redundant on the air,
beyond all reason,
torn out of time, past care,
lost in the frantic rhythm of one breath,
music made by eyes meeting.

Sweet madness we forged,
so wild, so strong.
Our dance once started still
salsas on.

The title for this is taken from The Chieftains' 1998 recording 'Celtic Wedding', which features Breton music. Unusually for me, this poem is completely auto-biographical.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One Night in Tiree


Out of the sky blue
bus we flocked,
where eagles soared
and corncrakes mocked,
where white sands fled
the broken hour glass,
a bold, flirtatious sea
frilled into ribbons
of blue and ultra marine,
surf caressed Balephuil's
glistening crescent clean,
clover scented machair
cushioned each footfall so,
when we looked back,
we could not even see,
the place where we had been.

As if waking from a dream,
we queued on the jetty
and watched The Clansman seem
to grow out of a glassy sea.
While we still clung to memory,
mobiles began to chirp,
searching for a signal,
searching for another world,
round the clock coverage,
the death of a superstar,
a media monster rising
unbidden from the deep.

With such tentacles reaching everywhere,
who could blame the ones who could not see
what we still see, nor understand our yearning
for just one more night on Tiree.

As you might gather, a magical, restful week island hopping in the West of Scotland in the warm and generous company of Ann and Julian. We took in Luing, Mull and Tiree and had the advantage of a midge free week of blazing sunshine. Scenery and wildlife extraordinary.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Angels ( a poem for many voices )


This is the one
whetting the blade of the stilleto
long past midnight.

This was the one
perched grinning over the entrance
to Dachau.

This is the one
who waits patiently
on the grassy knoll.

This was the one
who cast the napalm net
over My Lai.

This is the one
who lines prisoners up on the edge
of a pit of lies.

This was the one
who spread his wings
across Halabja.

This is the one,
a pregnant woman in his cross hairs, whispering,
'One bullet - two hits.'


This was the one
who breathed a veil of phosphorus
through Jabilya.

This is the one
whose intricate mind fashions
the IED.

This was the one
with a baseball bat, steel toecaps
and a Rangers scarf.

This is the one
sitting in an office, estimating the profit
on each individual shell.

This was the one
we never saw
coming.

This is the one
with a bony finger poised
over a button.

The picture is of a war memorial (!) in a park
in the centre of Shrewsbury.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Away Day



The rains fail in Powys.
No leaves on the line.
No landslides frustrate us.
The train runs on time.
We set off ecstatic.
No cloud in the sky.
We sit as if stunned
as the landscape slides by,
the smudge of a forest,
the flash of a stream,
the scythe that was swift
sweep by in a dream,
Cnwclas and Dolau,
Cilmeri and Garth,
Llanwrda, Llangadog,
Llandeilo, Ffairfach,
the drone of the diesel,
the rhythm of the rails,
the gossip, the stories,
sleepwalking Wales.

This was written on the train on
the Heart of Wales line as members
of the Brynamman based writers'
group, 'ScribesRus', returned from
a day trip to Shrewsbury. Colin Jones
wanted a poem that used the rhythm
of the train a la 'Night Mail' and also
the names of the stations en route.
The original title was 'Away from it all',
but Beryl Henshaw came up with the
much snappier 'Away Day'.

There's one further context you should
bear in mind. This was the day before
the big elections on June 4 and we had
been talking about the mess that
confronted us. No one knew what
could be done. Nobody knew who they
could vote for. So in a sense, our day
out was an escape from an ever pressing
reality.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

'Smiddy'



The driving morning rain blinded
but if, at first, we could not see the way ahead,
we surely found it come the end of day.

The tears we held at bay
were selfish tears,
for all the missing years,
for chances gone astray.

With one bright square of blue sky,
he repelled all grey,
smiled, reached out his hand
knowing death could never take him,
for to each and every one of us
he had long since gifted himself away.

For John Smiddy, an inspiration to all who knew him and for Jane, Jack, Ed, Alice and all the other countless keepers of the flame.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Careering Downhill



I could have been a journalist
and told you porky pies.
I could have been a copper,
when the self same skill applies.
I could have been an odd job man
with my tendency to skimp.
I could have been a porn star,
but my excuse is always limp.
I could have driven taxis.
choosing most circuitous routes.
I could have been a con man
with my natty line in suits.
I could have been a teacher,
but I knew I'd never cope.
I could have been a dealer
with my fondness for all dope.
I could have been a doctor
and dished out bitter pills.
I could have turned to magic,
but I lacked those little skills.
I could have been that priest,
who heard you all confess.
I could have been a therapist,
but I couldn't handle stress.
I settled for the easy life
as you can surely see,
two jobs, two homes, two faces,
absolutely fabulous for me,
thanks to all of you who voted
for your good friend and local M.P.

It would be funny if it wasn't true!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Colossus



Tributes fill my coffers
Like manna from on high.
My banners fill the horizons.
Their blue stars flame in my eye.
My armour is impenetrable.
My beard of razor wire.
My wrath cannot be measured.
My breath is as white fire.
My mighty sword is poised
To scythe down from the sky.
My voice causes the very earth to quake.
Those who bend not to my will
Must most surely break.

Why then, does your hand still shake?
Why does your mind writhe
With thoughts so bleak and so appalling?
Why this helpless sense of falling?
What is your answer
When the naked light of day
Reveals your wretched feet of clay?

Aaronovich bites the dust big time. The UK envoy to the UN shoots himself in the foot in public. The faithful friends of Israel are not so self assured.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pro Deo, Regina at Patria



Blows rained down
monotonous as a metronome.
Each fist, each boot,
each rifle butt struck home.
A coil of agony bloomed
on cowering flesh and bone
and, should he dare to moan
the rain came down again until
he lay as still and silent as the stone.

And did those bloodied boots
march in perfect time
through some fast fading garrison town
where dizzy patriots lined the route
to welcome home their own
and did the fanfare of brass drown
each gnawing doubt?

Each night you watch his body
Twist and toss and turn
As through the lonely hours
You trace his memories burn
Across a ruined face.

Can’t transport you back to that place.
The walls and the floor of the cell
long since sanitised, hosed clean.
No one with the stomach to tell
what happened there.
All evidence of hell expunged
save for this trampled soil,
just one more unmarked grave.

Latin scholars come to my aid! Not sure of my title gramatically speaking, so corrections welcome. I think it is important to set these homecoming parades in context. They are designed as sops to the serving troops who will soon be forgotten and left to rot, suffering from the stress caused by what they have seen and done and of course they also serve to airbrush out all the civilian victims of military action. We all know about attrocities committed by the British Army, but name me some soldiers who have been brought to justice for committing them.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Warning Signs



On green benches MPs doze.
The PM strikes a confident pose.
Deceptively the canker grows.

Speculators cut and run.
Where did all our money go? Who knows?
Unchecked the canker grows.

Crooked bankers’ personal profits soar.
Ruined banks rush like lemmings to foreclose.
Greedily the canker grows.

Supermarkets shuttered.
Unsold cars parade in rows.
Silently the canker grows.

Steelworks rust and groan.
Pits and factories close.
Swiftly now the canker grows.

The broken city bleeds,
Its children food for crows.
Merciless the canker grows.

The lark falls from the sky.
The oily river overflows.
Unbridled the canker grows.

Deserts expand. The oceans rise.
Whichever way the hot wind blows,
Relentlessly the canker grows.

Deception, destruction, disaster, death
Follow each other like falling dominoes.
How openly the canker grows.

No use your bitter words.
The comfort of ignorance is what you chose.
Too late now to understand how canker grows.

Who was it that posed the question... Socialism or Barbarism?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Off the record briefing



You shade your eyes in vain.
Your thoughts are plain for us to see
And as the colours seem to drain
From all your words, we
Note the well worn artifice,
The carefully crafted, chiselled phrase,
The way you’ve learnt to splice
Each lie with truth in order to amaze,
Bewilder, turn logic upside down,
Each subtle pause, intake of breath,
Each pout and tut and frown,
The perfect timing of your stealth,
Your craft, your wit, your expertise,
How easily unwary minds take in,
Absorb each word you please,
As if to doubt were mortal sin.

Like bindweed, all your thoughts take hold,
Choke questions just before they germinate
So, surely all senses grow both dull and cold.
Men lose the will to contemplate.
‘This must be so,’ you hear them chime
Whilst in their heads neat headlines form.
In such a way, before you know it, time
Has slipped away and a warm, warm
Sense of certainty becomes the norm.

In such a way,
The very air becomes corrupt,
Crops wither, the light palls,
Mass graves yawn open,
Whole peoples disappear
And civilisation falls.

Even Kafka could not have come up with the idea that 'It's a good day to bury bad news.' Only out of the mouth of a spin doctor .....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lawrnorder


All police leave has been cancelled.
The armed response unit is on standby.
Loudspeaker vans are touring the neighbourhoods
Warning law abiding citizens to watch out -
Tesco deals in stolen goods!

Warrants have been issued.
Evidence gathered for public display
That with no regard for people’s livelihoods
No shred of human decency
Tesco deals in stolen goods!

The learned judge is dusting off his wig.
Barristers rehearse complex argument.
You’d surely do anything you could
To uphold our laws and stop
Tesco selling stolen goods!

I must be dreaming, or suffering from shock
The wrong person is standing in the dock.
Instead of profiteers from theft, murder, falsehoods
The honest citizen is charged, while
Tesco carry on selling stolen goods.

Surely now justice must prevail
Twelve jurors must not fail
To send a message that is understood
One law for all is what we’re fighting for so
Punish Tesco for selling stolen goods!

The Tesco 2, Dee Murphy and Greg Wilkinson went into Tesco and filled up their trolleys with goods labelled as ‘Produce of the West Bank’, in reality produced by the illegal Israeli settlements which have driven Palestinians, at gunpoint, from their own lands. They then walked out of the store, tipped the trolleys up and waited to be arrested. Dee has been charged. Greg has not, even though he stood up in court and demanded to be arrested, as he had done exactly what she had done. He was ejected from court for his pains. Trial pending. Let’s hear it for the Tesco 2 turning words into action!

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Listeners



( long after Walter De La Mare )

‘Is there anybody there?’ asked the poet,
Knocking on the poem’s door
And his thoughts in the silence
Like paper balls scattered over the floor,
But one thought flew out,
Spun out of the poet’s head
And he battered the door a second time,
‘Is there anyone there?’ he said.
But no one answered his question,
No stranger emerged from thin air
To stare into his dark brown eyes
And explain who they were and where
A host of phantom listeners
Gathered in a dark brown room
To sit listening to each twitch of the air,
Disembodied voices from the world of men
On curious networks everywhere
And that one who sat in a world of his own
Until shaken by some words from a poem,
The lonely poet’s desperate call,
Who felt in his own heart the strangeness,
The hopelessness of his cry,
Born of sights and thoughts too dark
For a good man to ask himself why?
So the poet yet again banged on the poem’s door
And his words grew more strident,
‘Tell them I spoke and no one listened!’
The listener made a brief note
Of each word the poor poet abused,
Though each word the poet wrote
Fell echoing on stony ground.
Then the only listener left awake
Quit his post without a sound
As the soft thud of words on stone
Let the silence fill the spaces around
With thoughts abandoned, all alone.

I have a close friend in Cheltenham and I know she reads the blog from time to time, but I cannot believe the sudden surge of interest in that area can be her alone. I suspect some computer has picked out some ‘dangerous’ words and now I have my own dedicated little cyber spy in GCHQ hanging on my every word, poor sod! So this is especially for you my friend. I hope it makes you smile in the middle of the night.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Planting a hedge in Tuar Mhic Éadaigh



I planted my heel
In the thin black earth,
Struggling for a firm hold,
Then drove the blade down,
Felt it bite on stone,
Jar my back to the bone.

Frail twigs dropped
Into v-shaped slots,
Tamped in place,
Left to face the west wind,
The drawing of the lots.

Work done, I walked
Along the lough side,
Oblivious of those
Who walked beside me,
More bowed with every step,
Dumb with exhaustion,
Eyes fixed on feet,
Cut to ribbons by the sleet.

The hillside, bare-ribbed,
Barren, dispassionate,
Observed the wretched trail
Dwindle with each incoming wave,
The bay yawn into an open grave

While the colonel and the captain
Sat before a roaring fire in Delphi Lodge,
Taking their port at leisure
And though the wind vainly
Rattled the window panes,
Nothing could spoil this simple pleasure.

The hedge has grown tall.
Strong tendrils reach deep down,
Grasping the bone beneath.
After all these years,
New life is still firmly rooted
In death.

This poem has been a long time coming. I can’t believe that almost eight years have past since Kath and I went with our dear friend Rebecca to plant that hedge. I didn’t know then, about the events at Louisburgh and Delphi Lodge, although they occurred within a day’s journey of where we were staying. Nor did I know of Colonel Hogrove and Captain Primrose and of the four hundred bodies washed up along the coast of Killary and I didn’t have a chance to visit the monument to this act of genocide in Doolough Valley which bears the words of Ghandi, “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?” You do not have to dig very deep to uncover the most bestial acts of savagery and it seems that we will never learn. This picture was taken on the annual ‘Famine Walk’ to commemorate not only the Doolough massacre, but the two million who perished in those years and as you can see I was not the first to make a connection.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BANNED DEC GAZA APPEAL

No words - just take action brothers and sisters!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Festival of Lights



I could scarcely believe my eyes
Watching the evening news
Gathered on the hillside
A line of Hassidic Jews
Enjoying the smoke
Rising from Gaza City
Greeting each impact
With applause instead of pity,
Delirious as the F16’s work was done
As it lit its phosphorous candles, one by one.

A white candle for the school,
A white candle for the mosque,
A white candle for the market place,
A white candle for the hospital,
A white candle for TV station
A white candle for the doctor’s surgery
A white candle for the UN store,
A white candle for my daughter’s hair.

Truth is much crueller than fiction. Poster by Latuff. Other images provided by Zionism in action.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This morning a Qassam exploded



This morning a Qassam exploded
In our garden in Ashkelon.
I watched a stranger in a yarmulke
Brandish its twisted metal
For the benefit of yawning cameras,
Lyrically describing his fears
For the safety of his family.
Then, there they were, filling the screen,
Laden with bags of shopping,
Rushing back and forth
Between the BMW and bunker.

Tonight I’ll play the hopeless fool,
Crawling through the rubble of Jibaliya,
Where the flesh of my father still lies,
Near the blazing market square,
Where the last traces of air
Soughed from the lungs of my wife,
Past the ruined school
Where two daughters learned to die,
And there, beneath the starless skies,
I will take careful aim,
Towards our garden in Ashkelon
And let another Qassam fly.

“You can’t be an enlightened, intelligent, involved human being on this earth without at the same time being full of despair.”
Karin Fossum ‘He Who Fears the Wolf’

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Shoes



One man threw his shoe. The President shook
Now shoes blossom wherever you look.

One voice raised in rage. Our story
makes it's mark on history's page.

One child threw a stone
but now he's not alone.

One fist reaches for the sky.
A forest of fists rises up in reply.

It goes to show you can never underestimate the power of your own actions!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Gaza Story



Nothing was left to chance.
Look at these close up satellite images.
A pilotless drone filmed the whole scene
As it circled lazily above the road.
Trained military spotters watched every moment
From the safety of bunkers just across the border.

There could be no mistake.
The donkey cart was in plain view.
It was clearly a suspicious animal
With furtive ears. It even looked nervous.
Nobody was fooled by the two little sisters
Tagging along for the ride, there to give cover,
As guilty as the flea-bitten creature itself.

And so the brave soldiers called the F16 in.
The pilot waved, gave his usual cheeky chappy grin,
Then released the GBU - 39,
The kind of intelligent bomb
You can land on the head of a pin.
Have no fear.
There was no pilot error here.

The tabloid editor downed his whisky, still smoking -
A girl of four and her eleven year old sister
Killed searching for food -
An ‘unfortunate accident’,
No interest to our kind of reader.
Forget all about it.
Drop the dead donkey.
A front page story? You must be joking!

This comes from reading Kawther Salam’s account on Palestine Think Tank and the following “The nation of Israel is pure and the Arabs are a nation of donkeys.” Rabbi David Batzri, head of the Magen David Yeshiva in Jerusalem, quoted in the Haaretz, March 21st 2006.