Friday, July 30, 2004

Tense Haiku

Rats play on the lawn.
A bird of prey swoops. Takes one.
Rat plays on the lawn.

The Boar Dream

In my dream we bought a big boar. It was wearing a rough, grey greatcoat.
We set it loose in a muddy field that soaked up the meagre light.
It seemed friendly enough despite its reputation.
Until it head butted a cow.
Then it had to go.

Ripples Do Their Thing

This blog thing. Throw a blog into the cybersea and the ripples dislodge all sorts of artistic barnacles from the bottom of life's boats. As old mailart acquaintances begin to show up I can see I'm going to have to either start a second art and music oriented blog or widen this one to include my other lives. But do I really have time for yet another displacement activity? I've got this children's book to write by the end of August. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Leap Second

 The Earth is slowing down. One second here. Another there. To keep our watches and computers and calendars on the button, every few years we add a second at New Year’s Eve. I guess we add it there because most people are too drunk to notice. Soon, as the Earth continues to slow, we will be adding the second every year.
Why is the Earth is slowing down?
The rise and fall of tides. The drag of winds blowing on mountains. The reluctance of the human heart.

Train Poem (5)

Empty Platform
As the train pulls in
To the empty platform
It seems to underscore
Life's loneliness

Then I see
An old couple
On a bench

In a single new
Bright -blue scarf

More About Foxes

Thanks to foxhunting there are very few foxes left in the British countryside, save one or two masquerading as badgers. Most foxes have moved to the town. And so the Hunt is having to adapt. Their plan is to abandon horses and instead ride Lambrettas. Soon it could become a common site to hear the beep beep of the hunting hooter and see twenty or so hunters on shiny red and black motor scooters whizzing over your lawn.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


It’s a wonder how you squeezed
Into this haiku

Travels of a Poet (5)

I’m talking to a teacher. A child runs up, breathless.

“I’ve got a message. I… it’s… well, you know… um…”

Who sent you? The teacher asks.

“Miss… er… Miss… you know… she’s got the big wart.”

Miss Temper?

“I think so. Anyway could you… er… it’s um…”

Could you go and ask your teacher to write it down?

“Yes, no, well… okay but it’s Mark and he’s… so she said… er… I think it was… anyway Miss says it’s urgent.”

Monday, July 26, 2004


Death by level crossing
Not hit by a train
But crushed beneath the gate

Death by poisoning
Not rat killer or agent orange
Read the sell-by date too late

Death by chocolate
Not the cocoa content or overeating
Slipped on a choc-ice at the match
And landed badly on some metal seating

Death by drowning
Not in waves a hundred meters high
But in the hundred tears I wept
When you said,
Bugger off.

Don’t come back.
Don’t phone.

You’re just a pathetic loser.

Diary on a Cold Un-summer's Day

Summer’s here and no school visits for a few weeks. Time to get down to the children’s novel that I’m writing. It’s based on an idea I had several years ago. Only now is it becoming a real story. It’s slow going, though.
One reason is discovering this blog malarkey. A tailor-made displacement activity if ever there was one.
Had a look at some other blogs this morning. Found one good poetry based one. At some point I’ll try and work out how the link system works.
And how do you advertise blogs – to find other like-minded bloggers?
Must get on. Get some writing done. I’m trying to write one chapter a day, to get it finished before the school holidays are over. We're off for a week in France soon. Hopefully get some writing done there as well.
Had an e-mail from someone who used to contribute to my children's site - The Poetry Zone. His new (grown-up) site is very good. Some good writing, stories, reviews. Looks very promising. I'll add it to my links when I've worked out how to set them up. Meanwhile it's at

Travels of a Poet (5)

It was the simplest thing. Crossing the Menai Strait to the island. You hardly knew you were on the bridge. Turn right. Stop to read the map. It’s dark. Make my way into the small town and soon I’m in what looks like an industrial area. Find myself on a winding road. Menacing shapes loom in corners. Above and to my left a steep hill. The sky is full of black. An archway. The bottom of a winding path leading up winding steps to the back door of the Victoria Hotel.
Try again, more twisty roads, the high street, aha – there it is. Grand and imposing. Built overlooking the strait.
Shabby Victorian.
I’m greeted suspiciously, like the hotel's not used to poets. Which is odd in Wales. But the receptionist warms up as we chat.
I imagine the pride of the hotel’s first manager, looking out over the Menai Strait, the sun on the water, a glass of champagne in his hand.

Travels of the Poet (4)

The difference between a 2 star and a 3 star hotel is measured in the quality of the food.
A melancholy bowl of rice and duck in plum sauce scores over a sad fillet of over-cooked nameless fish and tasteless fries.

Travels of a Poet (3)

Specs (after John Hegley)

I forgot my specs at breakfast.
I couldn’t see the toast.
I ate by touch and taste alone.
I enjoyed the tablemats the most.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Train Poem (4)

The phenomenon of apparent movement

There are three parallel lines of trees
The front line appears to move to the left
The back line appears to move to the right
And the middle line stays more or less stationary

Chimneys with aerials do it too

International Apologies

Such a fuss.
It was a mistake anyone could have made
When the soccer hooligans
Rampaged through the shopping centre
After losing the International two – one
And we shot every last one dead

A simple clerical error, that’s all
Reading rubber bullets for live ammunition
Easily done, when you think about it
You’ve probably done the same thing yourself.Bought a chicken
When you meant to buy a mop.
That sort of thing.


A Delivery of Bones

 Could work as the title of a book?

Dead Fox Incident

Coming back from the station. A dead fox in a pool of blood. I stop the car and move the fox into the hedge. The double bend and then our cottage, signal, turn. Stop.
But you are so far away. Speeding to London.
I park the car, walk past the newly planted lavender, unlock the door. I wash my hands, pick up the phone to call you.
I’m thinking of the fox.
One moment living, breathing, running - there.
The next dead, lying in a pool of blood.
The next a poem in my head.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Grassy Nell

Who was she? Any ideas?

Travels of a Poet (2)

I wonder if the tiny black seeds covering my bread roll would grow if I planted them on a wet flannel?

Train Poem (3)

Do not touch
The live rail



I saw the raven
Through the bathroom window
Just after dawn
Blacker than dark thought
As large as a cat
On the lawn

At first
He was shy
Unlike hedge sparrows and chaffinches
Who are anybody’s
The slightest movement
And the raven would be gone

But we slowly became acquainted
And I asked him about his image
The grim associations with death
The fall of the tower
And all that quothing

It can be tiresome, he said.
When all you ask for is a quiet life.
A nest below a granite brow
A mountain view
That’s all I need.
Or a newly raked garden
And some seed

Friday, July 23, 2004

Travels of a Poet (1)

Driving through the wet dark February evening looking for Hadrian’s Lodge Hotel.
Roll through the damp Tyne Toll Tunnel and out along the shipyards.
The room in the one star hotel is tiny with an awkward edge at head height, designed to make a trip to the loo in the middle of the night more interesting.
The room is more used to a half-corpsed hen night or stag night than an anxious poet.
Or does it all boil down to the same thing? That which a poet might dwell upon. The detrius of an inebriated evening. Bedclothes scattered like recriminations?
The left-over words that only make the bin.
And on the tiny TV there’s no football. Only the story of a disaster waiting to happen.

Blood Jazz and the Havoc Kid

Might work as a title. What do you think? Poem? Story?

Train Poem (2)


We pass a village called Newington
where I misspelt my youf.
There we formed our first band.
There I met Marilyn, my first girlfriend
My best friend Paul lived there, too
Later, when we were older
but not very much wiser,
Paul died in a moped accident.
His mum died there a few years later
of a broken heart

Overheard Poem

It’s the sort of jazz
Where they play a melody
And then each take turns
To make a mess of it.

The Deserted Village Dream

In my dream the village was built in the centre of a large circular green which was, in turn, surrounded by a wood. From outside there was no way you could tell that there was a village in the wood. But from the village it was possible to see passers by through the trees.
But then I realised that the village was deserted and so I left it.

Bit of an unresolved ending I know. But dreams are a bit like that. Could be the setting for a story maybe. What do you think?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Mask Event

January 2004  Venice
Wear a mask whilst shopping fashioned from the vegetables you hope to buy
Wear a mask fashioned in your own likeness
Wear a cat mask and intimidate the owners of small dogs
Wear a dog mask and chase anyone wearing a cat mask
Wear a crab mask and talk out of the corner of your mouth
Imagine wearing a mask and then imagine what people who would not associate you with wearing a mask would think when they saw you in your imaginary mask for the first time
Wear a paper mask of an historical figure who is associated with water. Set fire to it.
Wear a mask in an inappropriate location.
Fall asleep behind a mask of studied alertness
Wear a mask that barely conceals your rage
Wear a mask of glass.
Wear a mask that raises questions about the nature of shopping
Wear a mask of uncertainty
Wear a mask of integrity
Wear a mask to instigate terror in the minds of confused pedestrians
Wear a mask in error
Wear a mask of concrete as though it were a mask of feathers
Wear a mask of tea leaves
Wear a mask of moon-rock by the light of the moon
Wear a mask that has been frozen with fear
Wear a mask of marzipan
Wear a mask studded with cloves
Wear a mask over your mask
Wear a mask that bemuses
Wear a mask that confuses
Wear a mask of excuses
Wear a mask like Tom Cruise’s
Wear the mask of the Plague Doctor’s nephew
Wear a mask of contrivances
Wear a mask decorated with a scene of your father’s
Wear a mechanical mask whose tiny figures dance to the carnival
Wear a mask that doubles as a mobile phone
Wear a body mask
Wear a mask that covers your aches and bruises and hurts and grazes
Wear your mask with pride
Wear a sorrowful mask joyfully
Wear a simple mask that smells of herbs, tarragon, sage and rosemary
Wear a mask in the bath
Wear a mirrored mask
Wear a mask made from shadows and suggestions
Wear a mask that is too tight in the shadow of an specially constructed apparatus to throw same
Wear a mask in the style of the Lone Ranger and fire a silver bullet
Wear a mask in the style of Zorro and challenge a stranger to a duel
Lend your mask to a telephone engineer
Wear a mask whenever the Nikkei index goes up
Wear a mask and interview another masked person for a job in a mask shop
Wear a bra for a mask and give your partner the slip
Wear a mask made from the cover of a Russian novel
Wear a mask made from a spider’s web gathered early in the morning
Wear a mask made from crazy string
Wear a mask made from long sentences spoken with an Italian accent
Wear a mask at breakfast and eat only soup
Wear a mask of toast decorated with marmalade
Wear a croissant and pretend it’s a mask
Wear a mask of vulnerability
Wear a trout mask replica
Cover your face with masking tape (Remember to leave small breathing holes)
Wear a mask of total invisibility
Wear a mask of ultimate responsibility
Wear a mask constructed of sound waves
Wear a mask that is a map of your heart and betrays your intentions
Wear a mask that’s a map of Venice showing the secret ways of the gondolier
Wear a mask that is water absorbent
Wear a mask that reacts to laughter by taking flight
When someone next asks you the time, put on a mask and talk gobbledegook
Wear a mask made of sausages and sell dud time shares
Remove a mask in the company of wolves
Make a bonfire of masks

Train Poem (1)

Dave Hill
Today on the train
We passed a small garage called
Dave Hill Motors
I wonder if that's the same Dave Hill
Who wore those dangly earrings
In Slade?
At the height of his fame
Dave Hill bought a big house
(as pop stars did in those days)
not realising
it was next door to a girl's school

Seeing Jack Round Corners (1)

I’m lying in bed on damp sheets
Thinking back forty years
Forty years!
And what am I doing forty years on?
It’s nineteen sixty five.
I slip from the bedroom.
Everywhere is too quiet.
The white tiles in the bathroom
And the strange light.
My half reflection is almost yellow.
My pee is almost orange.
Isn’t it neat the way it hits the water like that?
Listen, I am nine.
Nine year olds think like that.
At least I did.
Still do sometimes.
I wander into Mum’s room.
It’s empty.
The eiderdown is heaped on the floorboards.
The bed is bare.
In the centre of the white sheet is a pool of blood.
I think, you could hang the sheet from the window
Like the flag of a new country.
I’m nine.
That’s what I thought.
I’m in the kitchen.
It’s unusually tidy.
There are no crumbs on the table.
The back door is locked and there’s no sign of the key.
How did I feel?
Was I scared?
I can’t remember.
Maybe it was like a game.
I’m in the sitting room.
The ash trays are full.
The sun is streaming through the curtain crack
Like a cinema.
You can see the sunbeams.
You can see dust boats gliding along them.
My heart is thumping.
I sit and watch the thin strip of sunlight
And wonder what to do.
There’s a banging on the door.
I peek through the curtain crack.
Two policemen are standing on the step.
I go back into the bedroom and get dressed.
I wonder when I wet my pyjamas.
I put them in the linen basket in Mum’s room.
Then I sit on the bed and wait.

A Man Runs For A Train

A man runs for a train at Etchingham, in East Sussex. The train starts as the man clambers aboard and tumbles into a seat. His fellow passengers applaud him and make encouraging remarks.
Minutes later a guard appears. His voice betrays his anger. He takes his job very seriously. Who jumped aboard the train at the station when the train was moving? he asks.
Everyone looks blank. Everyone shrugs. No one in this carriage, mate, says a man in a yellow jacket. You must have imagined it.
After the guard has gone the yellow-jacket man gives the late passenger a small badge. The print is tiny, though, and, what with the motion of the train, the lack of light and my poor eyesight, It’s impossible to read from where I’m sitting.

A Length of Wine

I like wine with a length on the finish. A furlong or two. Plummy
and spicy with a sweet lemon note, a quaver, maybe,
a demi-semi quaver.
And as it slides down the throat it might give a hint, a nudge
of grape.

Just the Ticket

I was composing a sonnet
In the ticket office queue
When she pushed past me
As rude people do
Hurry! She commanded
The ticket office man
A single to London
As fast as you can.

He slowed down a touch
A smidgeon, a wink,
Had a little scratch
Had a little think
She caught the fast train
Which hurtled out of town
At breakneck speed
Until it leapt with one bound
From the track at Hayward’s Heath
Singing, I am a plane
And buried itself
into a slow goods train
And we waited at the signals
And I sat and watched the rain
And turned my attention
To composing a quatrain

Top Five Poetry Books

1 Verse and Worse Ed. Arnold Silcock.
2 selected poems – e.e.cummings.
3 The Mersey Sound – McGough, Henri and Patten
4 Blue Coffee – Adrian Mitchell
5 Selected Poems – Simon Armitage

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Orange Band Dream

We are at school. Possibly college. It's a bit like a staff room.
A young woman has come back to see us.
We promise to visit her studio.

On the TV is a large band with thirty or so players.
They are playing jazz which is very blues influenced.
Low in the mix are trumpets and trombones.
The band are wearing bright orange uniforms.
The music is in the background of the dream.

Then they are playing a very long, bluesy, almost dirgy piece.

Someone wants to change the channel.
That's okay, I say.
Although I'm obviously watching and enjoying it.

The band finish playing. They get up and leave the room. The same room we are all in.
I am standing in the doorway and they shuffle past me.

The camera follows them
and they leave by the back of the building.
It looks like America. Possibly San Francisco in the 30s

It is a bus depot.

They are bus drivers.
The foreman hurries them on to buses, three at a time.

They drive away.

I'm incredibly moved and close to tears.

Blue Monk

As always we played late into the night
Exploring beats and rhythms
Cadences and silences
Harmonies and melodies
Running with the ball
The punters had long gone
A drunk slept in the corner
We hadn’t the heart to turf him out
Body draped across table
Sticky with drying beer
I’m off for an early night,
Said Del, the proprietor -
If you can call two-thirty early -
Lock up after
Set the alarm
We played on
Did we not have homes to go to?
Immersed in the rhythms of our own lives
Weaving strands of melody
Untangling knots
The exit door banged open
A chill breeze blew through
Scattering cigarette ends and beer mats
Rattling glasses and optics
Easing the heavy fog of stale cigarette smoke to one side
We were playing a slow song
Blue Monk
Idly following the familiar bluesy path
Sliding around the bass run and the drum pulse
Darting between the cluttered chords
She walked in as though it were daylight
As though she owned the place
And walked across to the sleeping drunk
She sat beside him
Like a mother’s shadow
We reprised the theme.
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah di
A last statement. A resolution.
A fond farewell to the happy minutes
We’d spent in Monk’s company.
Then, on the final drum beat
As the last low note faded
The man’s empty body slid from the table and hit the floor
The last few wisps of stale smoke dispersed
And the woman was gone