Sunday, 28 December 2014

On Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Birthday, Cheerfulness Taught by Reason Revisited.

Alas, we're still too ready to complain,
To think too much about our selfish needs,
To see the sunlit garden full of weeds.
Reciting grievances, we don't refrain;
The catechism of our woes seems vain,
Demands attention constantly and seeds
Yet further mournfulness, and then our deeds
Can't help us, we are victims and so must remain.
Oh pusillanimous hearts be comforted;
We all of us our destinies can shape;
Can all determine on a course instead
Of bowing to our 'fate'.  We can escape,
Free ourselves from fashion's tyranny, tread
The path of cheerfulness, wrapped in reason's cape.

A Farewell Do (rondeau redoublé)

Because this is the end, a celebration
Not rejoicing in finality, just a line,
To show the clear demarcation
Between the person you were once and the fine
One you are now, with hindsight; to combine
Reality with memory and fiction. The restoration
Of you as the person whom we define,
Because this is the end, a celebration,
By all things positive. Appreciation
Of real good and good intention.  We pine
For you now you've left. This declaration,
Not rejoicing in finality, just a line
Or two to point out your achievements must align
The truth with the ideal version.  By implication
This illustrates our need always to refine,
To show the clear demarcation
Between messy reality and idealisation.
It's not a funeral, none of us is grave, the wine
Flows freely. We rejoice in positive simplification.
Between the person you were once and the fine
One we say you are now, is a sign.
It reads "Accept and remember without question,
Do not towards the gritty truth incline,
Because this is the end."

Advice When Renewing a Passport Photo

Look straight ahead
And let your jowls sag.
Open wide your strangely wonky eyes.
Don't smile, you're a miserable old bag.
Make sure your hair is flat
Don't try and tread
The fine line
Between seriousness and merriment
By making your eyes shine,
This is a document, not an experiment
In how to appear secretly happy.
You're meant to look crappy,
As you would at 4am,
Straight off the plane or the ferry.
Look as if you worry
That you aren't quite right;
You don't want to confuse
Anyone who views
Your picture by being confident.
Don't look pretty or even pretty-ish
Look a bit of a fright.
Then everyone will know you're British.


I am become a dappled thing,
A spotted, freckled melanin
Of speckle, spattered aging skin,
Which wrinkled too and growing thin
And slightly wispy round the chin,
Is really quite revolting.
Glory be to Man for makeup in
A slappy, slathered lathering
Of sloppy cream, concealing
Such blotchy, patchy withering.

Thoughts occurring while sitting on a cold hard pew, in a cold church...Sitting on the Aga

To warm one's arse upon the Aga's domes
Makes winter bearable by heating well
One's fat. Cheeks as cold as death in homes
Devoid of stoves with perching space, tell
The story of this absence in the face
Of ladies who must bear their stately piles
As best they might. Though warmth redeems a place
From all its failings; direct heat brings smiles
Of comfort and of ease which radiate
And warms the hearts in turn of those who in receipt
Do not recoil, do not repudiate
As in ignorance of the true source of this
Benev'lent glance believe themselves the cause.
For so much joy and comfort, so much bliss
Derives from warmth come from behind; the laws
Of nature which evolved through many a year
Adapt.  Fundamentally pleasing things bring cheer!

Evidence of Old Age

Is there any evidence more depressing,
Of the nature of old age, so fast progressing,
Than the discovery, when standing cold and bare,
Of a singular albino pubic hair?
Is it right to try and pluck it out?
And what if the children hear your shout,
Because it hurts,
And come running? What should you do?
And what if, as is rumoured to be true,
Removing hair results in exponential growth,
In little spurts,
How would you cope then, when you are loathe
As it is to admit you're over the hill?
Should you resort to dye,
Or apply
To start with until you are a
Total greybush?
Or is it better still,
To put it out of your mind,
And not to look,
Because, after all, nobody will know,
Unless you write about it on Facebook?

I Don't Want to Plug in Your Charger

I don't want to plug in your charger,
I only plugged it in yesterday.
Why do you live so precariously,
Always about to die?
The fact that you want plugging in again
Seems like a metaphor.  I have eaten a custard cream.
Make do with that, vicariously
I am at least as tired as you.
I am not going to expend more energy
Going up stairs, anyway,
I don't like the way you imply
I use up all yours, wasting the day,
Getting fat,
Sitting about Googling
Don't shut down or I will scream;
You have 4% remaining,
But you never ask what % have I.


Statistically I suppose, the loonies one meets
Online, are not representative of the population.
Yet, one cannot avoid the feeling that the streets
Of cyberspace are rather crowded with 'em.  Frustration
With reality leaves those, lacking in any originality,
To revert to repeating any age old, worn out idea,
Questioning nothing.  A frugality
Of imagination cannot be compensated
For by verbal diarrhoea.
Yet such is the nature of these discussions
That any verbosity, as long as it's fashionable, over stated,
Becomes acceptable.  But cheer up!
The repercussions
Of being rude with brevity aren't too severe.

Closet Bastards (rondeau)

The closet bastards are to blame
they hide their thoughts as if a game
of hide and seek is what we need
when judging people. And indeed
we cannot find them wanting. Shame!
How dare they! They should speak and name
their dreadful thoughts. They're all the same!
and yet they carry on, succeed:
the closet bastards.
They act quite nicely, seem quite tame,
they're bastards though, although they're lame.
We know they're thinking's wrong and bleed
for those they harm. Are they a breed
camouflaged in niceness?  Let's frame
the closet bastards!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Approaching the Winter Equinox

The days grow short, the spirits seem to sink.
Sun sets at half past three, leaving a grey
dark drabness of the mind. To try and think
and act with cheerfulness, portray
good will and make a seasonal display
of Christmas jollity, requires one to make a link
between one's endless chores and play.
The days grow short the spirits seem to sink
and one's positive emotions veer towards the brink
and tumble headlong off the cliff and drift away.
The inverse of the shadows, one feels the soul shrink.
Sun sets at half past three, leaving a grey,
dull moodiness which must betray
one's falsity, seeping, as it does, from every chink
in one's facade.  All is disarray,
dark drabness of the mind.  To try and think
in rational terms is hard.  Yet when the long pink
fingers of the sun reach out and show the day
has been a wasted one, we must rethink
and act for all we're worth with cheerfulness. Today
is not the time for self indulgence anyway.
Life's over in a blink.
Pretend at happiness, lead misery astray:
the days grow short.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Self Determination.(Sestina)

Ideas occur inside each person's head,
and then we act according to our will.
We might express our thoughts about the way
that circumstance has influenced our choice,
but nonetheless we act because we're free
to make decisions in our minds. Yet still
we wish to abdicate, and try distil
a life and its experience inside our head
into a force which over-rules so we're not free,
but merely puppets, pulled by nature's will;
or by some habit of society, to limit choice,
so we conclude there is no other way.

And thus we are reduced and throw away
the chances that we have, to seize the day, and still
we undermine our agency with fear. Our choice
seems somehow more acceptable inside our head
diminished, seen opaquely through the swill
of various constraints which mean we are not free.

And so it is we live a compromise, not free
spirits with responsibility, our way
is that of the apologist, lest our will
should run a course that's counter to the norm. For still
it is opinion occurring in another's head,
which might be negative, by which we test our choice.

Because we would presume to know another's mind, we're free
to choose the manner of our limitations. Our choice?
There is none, just action born of expectation. Ahead
uncertainty and all its dangers strew the way
and so decisions must be well disguised. We must instil
a sense in those around us that our will
has had no part to play.  And yet free will
is God's great gift to man, and we are truly free.

And what is more the waters which run still
and deep within the mind, our consciences, know choice
is always there, suggesting that there is another way
and that uncertainty lies every way ahead.
So know your will is yours and others' theirs, we're free,
there is no fate, we cannot blame away our choice.

Be still, take charge, don't abdicate, you determine what's ahead.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

What is the Opposite of Aubade?

The tapping of your toenails on the floor,
then silence where the runner lies along the corridor,
then over Turkey carpet at full speed
and through the air to land beside me where
I lie anticipating this ritual, this need
to bond again and to establish once more
that we belong to each other, as we did before.
Before the darkness closed our eyes
drooping my lids over sandy and tearless spheres
dried by the fire and brilliant screen
and my absence sent you to your basket
and our souls inhabited different worlds in dreams.

Like breaking fast this routine is necessity, indeed,
it is the foundation of our understanding,
not just our love but something deeper,
a telepathic link between our minds.
But it starts with this greeting, this physical connection:
your wet nose in my neck, the curve of your head,
your silky ears against my face, this convention
of  reunification after separation,
this greatly joyful meeting, which I adore.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Love of Dog

There is a dog place in my heart that feels like love,
not real love such as one feels for one's offspring,
not friendship though, it 's something more.
It's like romantic love without the sex part,
similar in how it seems a mad obsession.
There is a dog place in my heart which seems like summer,
full of warmth and ease and joy and gladness,
that sets the image of a long white nose and two big ears
above so many other things I care for.

There is a dog place in my head and there my thoughts turn.
And in my mind I see the beautiful expression
of two round eyes which seem so full of kindness
and of tenderness and humorous ideas.
And I know that it is really a reflection
a mirror showing what I want to see.
And I know I might sometimes see, also, sadness,
but it's only there because it's a projection,
a belief the dog's in sympathy with me.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


If God is love, He's in the graveyard buried,
out among the leaning stones, moss covered
and underneath the brambles making hedges
over ancient graves which now are wild waste.
But He is not Romantic in His presence,
He dwells too at the edges, by the field,
in new land divided neatly which seems smothered
by small graves of shiny black or speckled granite.
If God is love He dwells among the gaudy flowers,
far from the ancient yews, in open space
and in the shale and brightly coloured  gravel,
alien to the beauty of the place.
For love is not less love when it inhabits
the souls of those unsubtle in their taste.

In Praise of Rustic Brick

October light and sun's slant rays, and pink
and peach streaks in the west; elicit
from the fired clay a warm response
a glowing call, at end of day,
from russet, gold, marl, terracotta.
and if sun sinks into the earth
without a painting of the sky,
because the cloud strains every sinew
to hide the red behind the grey;
then still, at least, sun's heat 's implicit
in the rather duller colour
of the iron oxide, copper;
as if each day, brick might attest
to the existence of the fire
that changed it from the soft and plastic,
baked it hard and made it rigid.
So that we who gaze upon it
feel a happy reassurance
that the burning at the centre
of our life, our whole existence,
does for now, at least, continue.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

What to do About Mrs Houston

Is she the better part of me,
Like valour, the discretion
And if that' s so, how can it be?
What benefit repression?
Though valour isn't Ali' s thing
She just likes having fun;
Mrs H. must always bring
A cloud to hide the sun.
And quench the flames of silliness
With sober, grown up thought
And cool things down with chilliness,
Or, as a last resort,
Switch Ali off, keep her inside,
Imprisoned for weeks on end,
And make her cower down and hide,
And never recommend
Her for parole; its always her decision,
But when at last
She' s free again, then Ali goes doolally
And makes herself a target for general derision.
So in steps Mrs Houston,
Who calms things down and yet,
She's never really beaten Ali:
At least she hasn' t yet.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

'It is Only a Very Shallow Person Who Does Not Judge By Appearances' Oscar Wilde

Your eyes, which are your soul,
Made manifest, unfathomable,
Defying scientific explanation;
Express in pools of blue or brown,
Round, moist with brilliance,
And fragments of reflected light,
Your very essence:  your whole.
To find a gaze impenetrable
Is merely to avoid confrontation,
There is no fleeting thought so quickly flown,
That leaves no evidence
Of its flight,
No trace residual in the coal
Black depths of pupils. For each inimitable,
Unique and transient manifestation
Of thought is known,
Finding its mirror in the onlooker, whose excellence,
Whose skill in guessing right
Your emotion, is illimitable.
And thus your eyes are by definition
The second person singular, a pronoun
Made physical in the face, speaking in silence
The language of consciousness: insight.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


The only pure white that’s left,
Now the snow has gone,
A single egret,
A colder shade of pale,
The colour of the word bereft,
Or absence, or the word alone,
Then, suddenly, rising up from beside the river,
As if their sole purpose were to dispel such negativity,
Five roe, thin leg’d and frail,
Momentarily dancing the stiffness from their limbs,
As if before King Solomon the prophet,
Then, as is their proclivity,
Disappearing, arrows from a quiver.


The great flat plain of Ging Gang Goole,
Draped in mist at winter’s fag end,
Gives the lie to this fanciful notion,
Gives the lie and will not bend.
Grey’s not a colour, but an emotion,
With an intrinsic desire to offend,
And to crush all hope and worthwhile intention,
With tiny drips, and then recommend,
Another dose of the same tomorrow,
One shade of grey and resistless sorrow.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Touch Screen

Little migraine auras litter you,
Rainbow, smudges, glitter you,
As, in the evening light, you catch some ray
Of golden brightness gone astray.
And then the words beneath your rigid glass,
Are secondary to patterns, pink, green, blue,
Which, greasy finger tips have slid
And tapped and swiped, in childish dances.
You don't catch coal dust in between your keys,
And grime, but only little specks and motes.
You shine yourself from underneath,
Pale, butter yellow, when I'm making notes.
But it's in the unexpected brilliance
Which glances on your surface suddenly
That shows the popularity of places.
The zed and ex bear barely any grease,
The smiley face and exclamation mark,
Show hardly a trace of poking, but the space
Bar is quicksilvered in the dark,
A veritable oil slick; so the chances
Of mistyping, adding unexpected gaps, increase.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My Church Going (written 5 years before I was confirmed)

A church of ancient stone and handmade brick,
Above a fertile plain, upon a hill,
Surrounded by gold crops: barley, wheat,
(Whose scent upon the summer air
In intense heat, is like the scent of heaven
When the old oak door is opened)
Sets the scene
For so much that made England what it was,
And, against the odds, is still.
And just because it's precious, quaint, serene,
Does not imply it stands for all that's wrong.
The wheezing of the organ in its loft
Of 18th century flaking, greyish green,
Accompanies the singing of the flock,
Contraltos fruit cake rich and quavery men,
Mostly white haired, but farming stock,
So there are young ones too, who come along,
And take communion, say the Nicene Creed,
And love their neighbours as themselves;
Knowing Christ and knowing how to act
To make this mean
Something real within their daily lives.
And every week it's always just the same,
With different hymns to wash the message down,
'Amazing Grace', is loved by all,
And sung with feeling
By these farmers and their offspring and their wives,
Whose upper lips are stiff, and who would frown
At any mention one might feel moved.
And Handel at the end to round things off,
Restores us to neutrality, concealing
Any sense that prayer or bread of life or sermon
Might have caused us, standing, sitting, kneeling,
Any deeper pause for thought.
And yet I came here, for years, rejecting
The central tenets of the Christian faith,
Moved only by its history and tradition.
Partly as enlightenment and philosophical wisdom,
Albeit that they grew in opposition
Were rooted in this same need to stand outside ourselves;
To seek out and discover
Some meaning in the human condition.
And yet, this too has had its season,
And science has itself become religion.
And so perhaps we need to hear again the old ideas,
Not with the arrogance of hindsight,
But really listen with new ears,
Because when wise words aren't spoken,
Heard, dwelt on,
How can there be wiser contradiction?

So every week I hear that God,
Is not responsible for man's misdeeds,
And every week I say the words Christ taught,
Asking that I might resist temptation.
And though I only ponder these things vaguely,
Because my mind is turning on roast dinners,
I comprehend man has his freedom:
Reason, choice, also his lesser instinct, intuition.
And despite redemption and salvation
I feel rather glad we're fallen sinners.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Maternal Love

Maternal love grows stronger as it hides.
The love for helpless infants we expose
to all the the world because it's general, glows
in shining eyes. It's recognised. Those tides,
that kept us joyful, happy, were besides
the means of gaining sympathy. But those
first feelings were merely the start. We chose
to let the world rejoice with us. The strides
the infant made, becoming an adult
we named and shared, but it was in between,
in ordinary hours that the swell
grew high. The peaks and troughs did not result
in longing for an end. And yet the scene
must shift: love sets its object free and bids farewell.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Her hair is burgundy it's true,
But that is not enough, alone,
To spell the c word, nor the blue
And green of her exposed tattoo.
It's something bred within the bone,
A coarseness in the countenance,
Which speaks, before the voice
To prove, refinement cannot be a choice.

It's something in the maintenance
Of her relentless narkiness,
That tells of no embarrassment
At how she is perceived.

She seems within her element
In shouty, mardy, argument,
Her hide like a rhinoceros
Both physical and metaphor.
And there's a kind of hopelessness
That hangs about her family.
And yet the youngest of her brood
Seems different in her happy mood,
As if she is a throwback, who
Conjured from some other place
Has all the cheerfulness and grace
Of any happy little child, a winning smile,
A carefree, nature and a face
Which tells us that her quietness,
Would soften any heart. But for the while
I sit and watch, it seems to have not that effect,
But rather works against her.

I think that in her mother's view
There's evidence of alien genes,
They must be from the father's side,
Because they make her mother mean,
With extra special emphasis.
I leave the scene,
And wonder if this helpless child
Will grow into another lout,
Or keep essential gentleness,
And prove that nature overcomes
The hard harshness of common mums.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Crane Fly

The crane fly sits beside the bog,
I wish he wouldn't do it,
He doesn't have a cud you see,
And so he cannot chew it.
And yet he seems to ruminate, and meditate.
"And yoga?"
He's really good at it
And likes to sit and prove it.
For though the
Daddy Long Legs is a rather silly creature,
He has a spiritual side,
His one redeeming feature.
And yet one wishes he'd desist,
For there's nothing less like Nietzsche
Than a crane fly by the lavatory
Who aspires to be a preacher,
And cares not for your point of view
Or transcendence beyond structure.
His appetite for mindfulness is nought if not prodigious
But how can life be re affirmed
By something you've just squished?
Because there's nothing left to do,
When bugs become religious.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


This morning they were merely shadows,
Racing on the curtains, as the day grew bright.
Soundless, black, familiar patterns against light;
Not quite the real thing but just their echoes.
At noon they're screeching out among the sparrows
And the wood pigeons whose great delight
Is randy flapping, clapping, mating, in spite
Of  balancing on fragile saplings. Swallows,
Which are altogether calmer, are, this year,
Noticeable by their absence. Only swifts
Against the shoals of mackerel now appear,
Tiny darts of darkness over drifts
Of fluffy flowers.  Madly they career,
Then vanish where the cloud's in rents and rifts.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

First Hot Day of the Year

Pastel dress over
Mountains of flesh,
Peach, pink, blotched,
Rashed. See through -
Knicker showing.
Bingo wings,
Billowing pillows,
Rippling, flowing
Folds of lard,
All squashed
Into a yard
Of cotton jersey,
Pale blue.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Speak Simply on the Internet

Speak simply on the internet
and do not curb your views.
all round with caveats.  Forget
your audience and speak your mind. Refuse
to edit and to hedge because we know you use
complicated phrases to conceal the truth and yet
we see it still. Complexity and truth you never must confuse.
Speak simply on the internet
because you may as well. We do not vet
your script because to do so would abuse
your right to be yourself. So don't be wet
and do not curb your views.
Speak about ideas as you would tell your news.
Forget the thought police, their threat
makes them reality. One who plainly speaks never strews
all round with caveats. Forget
whom you address, it's mostly just yourself, to set
your mind. Nothing's gained by being diffuse
it can't be helped if you upset
your audience, don't think of them unless you're trying to amuse.
If all our words are going to live forever we owe a debt
to history of honesty. Circumlocution is no use
to the future. So don't sweat:
speak simply.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Now Is The Glorious Summer of Miss Jean Brodie

We'll bully them: each impressionable child
when young, so they'll be ours for life.  We say
make them conform, in youth and let no wild
spirit, no independent thought betray
the catechism, the instruction. Play
upon the unformed mind with fear, but styled
as wisdom; be doctrinaire and they won't stray.
We'll bully them: each impressionable child,
for each is father of the man.  Defiled
in youth the spirit withers away.
Yes, take an eager, susceptible child
when young and they'll be ours for life.  We say
teach them to ask questions everyday,
but only those that are allowed.  Beguiled
by our immediate knowledge, they'll go our way.
Make them conform in youth and let no wild
new, ideas of freedom influence.  Praise the mild
obedient ones, who mirror and obey.
and never offer hope to the exiled
spirit.  No independent thought betray,
which might be seized upon by eager children. Weigh
every word.  Those who object must be reviled;
teach names with which we might insult them; who are they
to question this great plan we have compiled?
We'll bully them!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

An Argument In Favour of Tolerance, Liberty and Reasoned Argument. (Sestina)

When Tolerance meets Liberty she bows
in recognition of an equal force
and steps aside, gives way, because she knows
the enemy they fight is the same one.
Though Tolerance might seem weaker she's not less
powerful. She is acceptance
without question; that takes strength. Acceptance
of all that Liberty allows weighs heavy; Tolerance bows
and sometimes needs must set aside the less
lovely aspects of her burden. For this, the force
of Reasoned Judgement she must call upon, none
but she can say what Tolerance can't bear.  She knows
that Liberty tests Tolerance beyond her strength, knows
tolerance needs the help of Courage. Acceptance
without discrimination squashes Tolerance. Alone
Tolerance is just a fragile thing. She bows,
turns the other cheek.  Forgiveness is the counter force
to Reasoned Judgement, Forgiveness nonetheless
walks in Reasoned Judgement's wake, less
certain of herself. Without the help of Courage she knows
that Tolerance might turn to dust.  No force
but Liberty walks alone, Tolerance has an entourage: Acceptance,
Courage, Reasoned Judgement, Forgiveness. She bows
to Liberty as to an equal force but no stone
that Liberty places on her shoulders can she bear alone.
And this is why Reasoned Judgement must not be valued less
than Tolerance. Liberty passes - Reasoned Judgement, bows
in recognition of an equal force.  Liberty knows
that she only walks at all because Acceptance
and Reasoned Judgement support the force
of Tolerance.  Perforce
Reasoned Judgement can be taken for one
who discriminates too harshly, Acceptance
Without question and Forgiveness nonetheless
help Tolerance when she bows
too low - forgetful of the enemy she knows.
Tolerance walks less alone than Liberty
But Liberty knows Acceptance and before Reasoned Judgement bows.

Friday, 2 May 2014


Never perfect until death we understand
a little more of who we are each day,
not really metacognitive. Unplanned
we grope our way
towards the being who we call ourselves; play
at being finished in each moment. The sand
of time still trickles through but does not run away.
Never perfect until death we understand
but very little of who we might become, and
yet can look back at those golden grains and say
that part of myself was also me. Thus we command
a little more of who we are each day
but only what is past.  We cannot stray
from any beaten path, we beat our own, demand
acceptance of our present state and thus portray,
(not really metacognitive - unplanned)
a version of ourselves which others can identify. And
the truth of who we are is on display
seen passing in the movement of the second hand.
We grope our way
in opposition to our former self, this might cause dismay
to those who knew us once, in seeing us again, the stand
we take at any given time is made to weigh
as part of us, but we're both finifugal and unplanned, 
never perfect until death.

The Chemicals of Self Doubt and Certainty (sestina)

A fear which is in essence chemical,
between the ending of my dream and wakefulness,
comes flooding in among the crevices
of matter,  white and grey, within my head.
And so I rise to consciousness in panic
and feel I must un-say all that I've said.
I don't know why it's all that I have said,
which is the focus of this chemical
attack, but in the early morning in this panic,
I must expunge myself; in wakefulness,
or something like it, some sense within my head
wants to take back evidence,  from crevices
and places less well hidden. Crevices
are figments; the internet has none. I've said
I want to take things back, but in my head
there is no reason, just some chemical
which causes me to act, in wakefulness,
according to an incoherent  panic.

And yet when I review my thoughts, not panic,
but a sense that I was right floods crevices,
so self doubt starts to ebb in wakefulness
and, as what I have thought is what I've said,
in reading back I reinforce my views, another chemical?
A Certainty Etching Acid in my head?
And is this why I do it? Does my head
present me with this sense of awful panic
to make me question? Is the chemical
of fear really benignant, are crevices
flushed out  to be re- filled?  Who said
we were more sane in wakefulness
than sleep? I feel, in wakefulness
a need to reassure myself. My head,
requires encouragement because I've said
things years ago I disagree with. I panic,
lest I'm wrong now as I then was, crevices
in matter grey and white, contain the chemical
of doubt. In wakefulness, I  panic,
my head, no doubt, in crevices,
contains all I have said, and bathes it in this polarising chemical.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A pigeon in the Middle of the Road

The road has been a 'no through' one for weeks,
on Sunday, 6 am, it's not a road,
merely a silence of pale grey tarmac,
stretching round the bend.
A pigeon
sits camouflaged, in the middle,
keeping his colours to himself,
un-engrossed in discussion
with a neighbour,
not rising to the hooted incredulities,
just fixing his beady eye
and crooning non-committals, low in his chest;
soothing prevarications,
endless equivocations,
gently cooed tergiversation,
decent, quiet, unprincipled.

I Think of You in Sudden moments(sestina)

I think of you in sudden moments but you're here
in unexpected glimpses: in the light
at certain times of year, and in the scent
of yeast, and paraffin and when the air
is icy, in damp twigs and things I own
because they're yours.  I see you always now
as you were in middle age; I know
I'll see you suddenly but never where,
and when I try you don't appear; you're blown
straight in upon some sudden breeze, or slight
and barely noticeable change of air
and also when there's nothing reminiscent
to call you into mind. Evanescent
but always welcome sight, melting like snow
before you're truly seen, and leaving not despair,
but deeper understanding and somewhere
a better sense of who I am.  Your flight
into my world is meaningfully flown,
you come to show and leave me when you've shown,
if only you enlarge some nascent
thought, it will develop better in the light
which you have shed.  I wonder if by now
you're really you or my unconscious sphere
which needs must manifest itself in hair
and eyes, and smile, and clothes, and voice of fair
and reasoned argument in your form, my own
being too easily dismissed. I hear
you when I will not hear myself, you're sent
from myself unto me, that I might know
some deeper truth, not God's light,
perhaps eternal and maternal light
is what you are.  I breathe you in as air
and can as easily exhale, but now,
unlike the time you lived, I don't. I've known
my own intransigence was yours, dissent
part of who we are. But I adhere
to you, you're part of me: the light I own,
my air of certainty. I'm glad you're sent
I like to see you now, in sudden moments, here.

Ill Dog

He sits within his roomy cage
and looks much older than his age
some look expressed through tired eyes
conveys his sadness, no disguise
is worn, no mask, he'll not engage
in a pretence, he's not on stage.
He growls, does not suppress his rage
and it seems good he still defies.
He sits
quite still, it's hard to gauge
his suffering. I cannot wage
that he'll be well, his mood implies
dull pain, I call and he replies
in grunts. I write upon this page;
he sits.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Making Spoons

My body pressed against your back,
Making spoons for hot water bottle warmth,
My aching ovaries against your kidneys,
My nose deep in your fur; I seem to lose track
Of the passage of time. A wealth
Of images flood my mind and I start the journey
Back to sleep, breathing in your personal smell,
River water, mud,
Something slightly eggy, and a petrochemical taint
From the flea drops, comforting, though unwell
Scent.  And your heart beats thump your pulsing blood
Against my stomach, and the faint
Egginess becomes more sulphuric,
And you begin your insatiable licking,
First the velvet bedspread, short rhythmic
Strokes, then my hand and forearm, seeking
Saltiness.  And I doze and seem to lack
The will to pull away.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Consolations of Wikipedia

Today I've read de Beauvoir,
Hegel, Stirner, Spencer,
and decided on so many ways
of looking at the individual,
and said au revoir
to things greater and immenser,
like God and the state whose days
have always been numbered, but whose residual
traces until now remained as possibilities
inside my poor confused mind.
And now I feel that against all probabilities,
I have become what I always was,
the best version of my self.  The third state I find
is me, myself, my ego, but because
I am self effacing I had not hitherto
understood what I was, though in contradiction
I thought my ideas original, but there,
I am just a Spencerian,
radical feminist, egoist, but save your tears,
tomorrow I will read something more convincing,
or look again at Rousseau and read him without wincing.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

An Observation of a Crowd of Women - a Hen Night - Saturday Evening York

Vertiginous is the word most used
in reference to heels,
raising up the wearer
to Amazonian height.
These women, barer
than I would ever dare to be
on a hot August night,
on this chilly April evening, 6.15
working class, local, un-dressed in white,
not yet absolutely drunk, not staggering, confused,
still managing to teeter
along the narrow streets
weaving in between the bars,
colossal boobs in balconette bras,
trussed up, so as to elicit sighs.
Marvelous creatures from a seaside postcard,
buxom, confident, tarty and hard.
Haunches clad in Lycra, marbled, each splash
of colour appearing slapped on arses
curved and shapely; buns of steel,
with artistic and sculpturely appeal.
So many hens,
on the pull and on the lash.
Fake tan replacing tights, streaked on thighs,
whose muscularity,
visible all along the extra length,
weirdly reminiscent of masculinity,
emphasises squeezing, crushing strength.

Friday, 4 April 2014

After the Storm

Serenity inside my mind,
despite the traces left behind
of long and bitter argument,
egged on in self encouragement,
is rather odd, although I find
it's apt to last, as I unwind,
become quite dull and quite resigned;
a perfect, bland advertisement:
serenity inside!
Uncertainty, disparagement
of self, the groping, angry, blind
working towards settlement
is at an end. No more excitement;
I'm dull and boring, calm, refined:
serenity inside.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A New Breed of Narcissus

A brassy, gaudy trumpet glowing
neon orange for own blowing,
blasting out its self obsession,
tarted up and artificial,
built up body, bred for showing,
camping up its best impression
of a joyful thing of beauty,
on the verges municipal,
hanging round in crowds its duty.

In the parks beside the highway,
symbolic of our age in growing
louder, cruder, more demanding,
always seeking our attention,
ignorant of apprehension,
shyness isn't here,
you won't un-earth it,
self doubt?  No, just egoism,
me, my self, because I'm worth it,
artifice and brash invention,
really, why would people question

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


The funny, happy woman who yesterday
inhabited this space, known as me,
has disappeared, cleared off, gone away
and left behind this tired wreck; the sea
of chemicals which has its high spring tides,
washes clean my eccentricity,
leaves me boring, dull on the inside.
And misery is muse.  Creativity
does not depend on happiness, but still,
humour makes a pleasant change; monotony
of mood does not help insight and the will
to see things clearly under a monopoly
of cloud is hampered. And yet "Be gone dull care",
you're only hormones, not despair!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Just a Load of Sweaty Kids

I'm like sitting in the armchair by the fire,
when my daughter strolled in, I'm like "Hiya!"
She'd been singing at Huddersfield Town Hall
I'm like " Celia, how was the other choir?"
I'm like " Were they as good as SCJC?"
But she just stood there looking vague and I could see
that she just didn't care at all,
I'm like, "Celia, how was the other choir?"
She's like Veronica Lake meets Garbo
channeling cool with a kind of retro
and then she turns to me
and she's like
"They were just a load of sweaty kids,
just a load of sweaty kids,"
I'm like "Celia!"
I'm like "in this context what does sweaty mean?"
hoping it wasn't something vaguely obscene,
she's like "Its like, kids that try hard,
just a load of sweaty kids,"
I'm like, "Did they sing in tune?
Did they have charisma?"
She's like, "No, and they had really bad posture"
I'm like, "What did  they sing, was it owt good?"
She's like "No, I thought I told you,
I thought you understood:
they were just a load of sweaty kids.

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Heap of Clothes

A messy tangle of weak tea tights,
like washed up seaweed on the shore;
belonging to she who doesn't care,
who doesn't give a damn anymore.
And other sorts of underwear,
in various stages of decay,
lying, tattered on the table top.
Tired jumpers, not put away
enfold in limp and twisted arms
skirts and blouses, bluey-grey,
a heap of garments whose strange charms,
once caught my heart and made me pay,
a price for an imagined day,
when I would wear them happily.
Their creases now, and scrumpledness,
their too big, too small uselessness,
pay homage to my vanity,
pay homage to my laziness,
and to the fantasy whose endlessness
in the shape of some new dress,
is sadly, really nothing less
than the will to carry on.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Strange Black Dog

This morning in the north west wind
which bent the bright green winter wheat
a strange black dog came running, fast.
as fast, as manic as the gale, which blew the grass,
all edged with brown,
and blew the dog, so small and neat,
across the field and up the bank,
one ear turned back and skin side out.
His fur was wet with sweat and dew, his feet,
so dainty, seemed too small.
His bright, sharp eyes were black and keen
pursuing something quite unseen,
chasing an idea, a scent.
His running seemed quite twice the speed,
of any dog I'd seen before.
When all at once he heard a call
and turned around and fleet as fox
retraced his steps across the mud,
until he was a speck once more,
a tiny, crazy thing so small,
and then he was invisible.
And as I gazed, entranced and stood
beside the willows in the wood,
I wondered was he physical,
or had I seen a metaphor.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Venn Diagram (intersectionality)

To represent humanity-
our common needs, our human dignity,
one might think it logical
to make a single circle,
encapsulating what we know to be self evident,
our need for food and love and liberty,
for shelter, warmth and tolerance,
to live without the interference
of those who'd do us harm.

I find this is sufficient,
since each of us is different,
to take these simple statements
and represent them clearly.

But just as an experiment
I took the counter argument
and started out to represent
ideas about identity.

I did not like the spiders web, the spirograph,
the tangled mess of specificity,
that tried to show complexity,
but reduced our great humanity
to segments, sociological.

For one thing it's impossible
to intersect all combinations,
which means one gives priority
to those fashion deems are relevant,
ignores the commonality
of all human experience,
ignores what is unique:
our individuality.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Julgans Nigra Circa 15th Century Hatfield Estate, Felled in storm 2014.

How small the compass of the matted roots,
protruding now above the ground, nest like.
How gnarled the limbs which horizontal lie,
reaching out along the grass beneath the sky
which, from the moment of emergence
from its squirrel-buried shell, fragile shoots
have gained their strength, increased, converting
sunlight into starch and growing lignified;
slowly turning seedling into walnut whip
and adding annually to shape and size,
so, after centuries, its stature
we regard as representative
of all that totaled, all that signified
ancient wisdom, knowledge - that which man holds good.
Some arms reach upwards still, seeking the sun;
three open orifices Bosch-like show,
somehow obscene, among the twisted branches,
crying out in prayer or pain, "I am undone".
We weep to see it thus reduced, a metaphor
for human age and death, but this facility
to always make connection to ourselves
is vanity and simplification.
Our trunks and limbs are here to serve our minds,
and though we must accept that death,
is fate, inevitability,
that flesh at last is frail
and all that is undignified,
though even brains must fail,
in life we are not fixed or rooted,
limited by things corporeal,
every human being can be free,
we are our spirits; man, not tree.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

17th Century Prosthetic Eyeball

Two hemispheres joined at the equator,
an odd and rather gruesome yo-yo,
made perhaps of marble or of soap stone,
designed to nestle in an empty socket.
Creamy yellow, hard and smooth, its maker
must have tried to match its partner, to show
his skill, though the sclera looks like bone
adjacent to the iris.
Leaf-like is this thing of beauty,
the eye itself,
of blue-grey-green the iris made of glass,
the surface is convincing in its richness,
and belies its nature, cold un-living.
It served its purpose well, it did its duty,
looking at the world but never seeing,
so much bounced off, did not pass through it,
it did not judge, nor was it unforgiving.
An encapsulation of a mind and soul,
blind and yet one reads its fixed expression,
implanted there by him who thought to make it,
moved by kindness, sympathy, compassion.

Seeing History: The rise of spectacles in early modern Britain

Friday, 28 February 2014

Aurora Borealis

The Goddess of the Dawn in green light shows;
Aurora, the pleated chiffon curtain,
so rare beyond the Arctic circle.
We are transfixed by light which moves and glows
ethereal; these displays leave us uncertain.
this solar activity,
part of a cycle,
this plasma of charged particles,
whose effects we can't predict,
photons from nitrogen, ionic,
regaining electrons,
excited or grounded  by collision
of molecules magnetospheric
with solar wind,
funnelled, accelerated
in the heliospheric bubble.
Driven by currents, electric, erratic
each born from an eruption,
fast and furious,
leaping from the surface of the sun;
space weather, anything but static.
And yet we are ignorant, incurious,
mostly moved to 'Oh Wow!' We restrict
ourselves to quasi religious sentiment,
are lazy, even in the midst of knowledge.
For each person who'd know, there's another one,
no, perhaps a whole regiment,
satisfied with the linguistic limitation
of mere visual description.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Not much,
just short
of no breath.
A lack
of depth,
so air feels
now and then,
like a treat.
The lungs
not on strike,
but working to rule.
The chest
still goes up and down
but I yawn.
The room
seems to lack air.
I need sleep,
my eyes close.
I think
I might die
like this,
just cease;
sink into

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Hellebore (Rondeau)

The lenten rose with drooping head,
looks sadly at the flower bed
and sees the autumn debris there
and droops yet further in despair.
Her creamy face with speckles spread
of deep and damson purple red,
regarding death with fear and dread,
she represents the seasons care.
The lenten rose,
is simple, freckled and instead
of piercing thorns has palms widespread
and sometimes brown stigmata where
small punctures in her leather are.

More beautiful when highly bred:
The lenten rose.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Quiet Evening

The room is still
The gently snoring dog lies
where he should be, over by the door,
his body long in relaxation,
his pale pink nose beside his blackened paw.
The fire coals are glowing low
within the basket
and the common cat curls
purring in a chair.
The neighbours on the cantilever staircase
run up and down behind the plaster wall.
The old brass chandeliers are dully gleaming,
reflecting light from silken amber shades,
the candles slope lopsided in the sconces,
the wonky wirey arms of girandoles.
The feather cushions sag in resignation,
the bolsters snuggle down half out of sight,
the long case clock
adds pleasing punctuation,
to the slowly passing minutes
and my eyes
grow sandy, droop and sag
with concentration,
as I cast about in jaded observation
and view the room but do not turn around,
as I try and write about the silence,
made up of tiny, happy, unimportant sound.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Maggie Teyte

I love you Maggie Teyte:
I love your old-fashioned face,
designed to reverberate,
I love your beautiful voice,
which seems to resonate
with something in me,
that feels beyond desolate,
a strange and far away sadness,
from a time of innocence,
a gentle, lovely madness,
a thing to celebrate.
I love you Maggie Teyte:
your phrases with such tapering grace,
the way you seem to demonstrate
that life is beautiful in its transience.
Yet I don't want you to leave me,
not in this real place.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Reunion Dinner (Rondeau Redouble)

"God! They all looked so old,
pecking order hadn't changed,
creaking old bores, stagnant minds, growing mould,
Birkenshawe was almost gibbering, quite deranged.
Lord knows why the damned thing was arranged.
We none of us could really stand each other, I was told
it was fifty years since Monte was ordained.
God! They all looked so old,
Monte wasn't one of us, but we were shepherded into his fold,
probably his wife's idea, though she had feigned
a migraine, wasn't there.  I sat next to Leon Gold,
pecking order hadn't changed,
Beauchamp barely deigned
to speak to me, then he hit the brandy and grew bold,
asked me if I ever saw David, looked quite pained.
Creaking old bores, stagnant minds, growing mould,
David died in '83, I'm sure he knew.  Thompson had sold
his family estate, showed me a photo old and grained
of us all at some do.  Potter had an awful cold,
Birkenshawe was almost gibbering, quite deranged.
Don't know why they turned up. Smythe's suit was stained,
can't think why he'd crawled out of the woodwork. Strolled
round the grounds, beautiful! Thought of what remained,
of what we had been once, sobbed, quite uncontrolled;
God! They all looked so old."

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Pentameter of Questions About Infinity

I wrote this after hearing a programme on radio 4 about Georg Cantor, and looking up his Wikipedia entry.

An infinity of infinities,
how can we best describe uncertain kinds?
Transcendental numbers uncountable,
unimaginable to human minds.
Can logicians, too, feel the numinous?
Does mathematics mix with divinity,
for God is absolute infinity?
Infinite sets, nondenumerable,
infinity nonequinumerous.
There are more decimal numbers than whole
and so they are both innumerable,
but not equally so?  Might we know the rôle
that infinity plays in consciousness,
one day?  And will anyone find a simple way
to tell us? Why was it unorthodox
to accept 'actual infinity'
as the set of infinite entities?
Did it open the door to paradox,
or infinite sets of paradoxes?
Would you open the door to paradoxes?
How would you know their true identities,
if they were sealed up in cardboard boxes?

Wikipedia - Georg Cantor

BBC - A Brief History of Mathematics

Playing Khachaturian in the Kitchen (sonnet)

The score, downloaded from the internet
and Sellotaped together in a train,
propped up by lentil jars, lest I forget
this tune I've loved so long, which might remain
with me in my head, but has a tendency
to elude my fingers, is slightly pink
in artificial light.  A redundancy
of rain has kept me in. I like to think
that this is why the dog decides to sing,
in order to express his gloominess,
to voice his soul's stirrings; my violin
speaks Russian rather well, with tenderness
(Appealing to all those who are discerning),
but the dog speaks with the greatest yearning.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Music Lesson, Jan Vermeer, Rondeau Redoublé

Light falls through transomed mullions at the side,
the leaded panes, slightly opaque, subdue,
giving chalky lime wash on the walls, pale and wide,
a soft and subtle texture, as we regard the view:
the music room. A block and baluster walnut chair upholstered in blue
lapis lazuli or Delft (denim)let down with white, placed at the divide,
the third, provides a break and contrasts with a bright vermilion hue.
Light falls through transomed mullions at the side
and sets the orange red on fire, and as our eyes slide
to the right, we see it echoed in the flush of a man's hands who
stands, waiting to sing, observing his bride?
The leaded panes slightly opaque, subdue
the colours of the virginals, who's fancy pen work is given a true
account, the painstaking detail miraculous, though only implied
on the lower lid.  The shine of mercury mirror glass, quite new,
giving chalky lime wash on the walls, pale and wide
extra authenticity, lifts our attention from the virginals'. Inside
the cushioned ebony frame, reflected, is a woman's face, we try to construe
its expression, concentration? Her blouse is silk, Vermeer has applied,
a soft and subtle texture. As we regard the view,
the interior scene, we wonder at the violone on the floor, who
has abandoned it?  Are we to be denied
the pleasure of hearing the bass line? The Persian carpet on the table is one of the few
real miracles of subtle detail, folds, fringing, pattern, the other, as I have implied:
the light.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Crap Thinking (rondeau)

Crap thinking, always prevalent,
immune to reasoned argument,
the power of human vanity
so strong that our capacity
to question, be intelligent,
seek only real enlightenment,
is put aside, development
stopped. Familiarity -
crap thinking-
(reciting) taking precedence
we are our own establishment
and thus, preferring certainty,
we're reduced by this inanity,
this cult of what is relevant:
crap thinking.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Fifty Shades of Grey (rondeau redouble)

Fifty shades of grey in winter weather,
not all eliciting resistless sorrow,
most beautiful of all the pigeon feather,
it's iridescence giving hope - tomorrow
will be bright, cheerful in greater measure
than this day's dreary hue;  look slant, see heather
violet, peacock blue; no pigment, it must borrow
fifty shades of grey in winter weather,
and make them modulate in incidental light, in turn together
amplify, attenuate and thus produce a rainbow.
Fifty shades, within a single treasure,
not all eliciting resistless sorrow,
and yet, having to find hope within the shadow
feeling one must search to find one's pleasure,
the colour in the endless chiaroscuro,
most beautiful of all the pigeon feather,
feels sometimes like a chore, and altogether
one wishes that the palette were less narrow
and one wonders at such beauty, whether,
it's iridescence giving hope - tomorrow
will be brighter, is false; might it wither?
Is this optimism,like the feather's shaft, quite hollow,
as there's beauty of a sort when storm clouds gather,
and who knows what's to follow -
Fifty shades of grey?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Darjeeling First Thing

There were sometimes mice
in the upstairs kitchen
and on occasion it was  difficult
to make the distinction,
between the evidence they left,
declaring their existence;
which was invariably their habit
on visiting
and the large black leaves,
scattering the surface
of the contemporary, Formica
teak effect  cabinet.

Faith was required,
a strong conviction,
that however odd the taste
that was the intention,
the nature of Assam , Earl Grey
or Lap sang,
not the accidental addition
of mouse excretion.
'Here's a cup of tea darlings,
we've run out of Typhoo,
so it's a cup of Darjeeling,
there's no milk, so its Carnation
and no sugar,
but thankfully necessity 's the mother of invention
so I've sweetened it with treacle.'

So we sat up in bed
and drank the strange concoction,
pale and weak
or strong and syrupy,
we daughters of invention,
grand daughters of necessity,
partly out of thirst, and partly out of duty
and partly out of a great curiosity
and partly with a hope that our mother's devotion
would mean she'd not allow us
to drink brewed mouse poo.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

This Morning For A Moment The Dog Caught A Hare.

A kestrel which swept low over the field,
a red gold brown in  brilliant winter sun,
alarmed a hare which startled then revealed
itself, not camouflaged against the dun
and lumpy plough, as it had been before
among the grasses at the fields edge.
In panic it ran back along the wire,
to where the irrigation drain with sedge
grown close prevented its escape.

And there the dog, just for a moment, stood,
and pinioned him, and I stood by agape,
until my sense returned, so that I could
shout a loud and Sergeant Majorish command
and watch the hare fly up and over land.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Dozing Off and Remembering Vegetable Stew With Cabbage.

Drifting into fireside armchair dreams
exhausted from the housework of the day,
I'm standing in the kitchen and I seem
to keep glancing down into a pan, the way
that children do, in charge of cooking.
And the pan's the pressure cooker full of stew,
and what I notice in my anxious looking,
is savoy, so I know that it was you
who made it, with pearl barley. And the scent
drifts up, of vegetable stock.

And then as I begin the slow ascent
to wakefulness, accompanied by the clock,
I feel a great nostalgia and the pain,
of knowing I'll not eat your stew again.

Thursday, 9 January 2014


Silent now, though never still,
Buteo Buteo, beautiful,
beside the boring bypass bridge
against the changing sky
wheeling raptor, prompting rapture,
out of some instinctive duty.
Above the scrubby bit of wood,
along the man made ridge
back above the sandy hollow,
rough and holey warren meadow,
you fly;
your wide wings spread
as if you would,
through sheer force of will,
above the alder and the willow
and the Drax clouds' pure white billow,
drive out rabbit, pheasant, hare,
and there above the muddy field,
chocolatey and lying fallow,
at the sudden point of capture,
your cruel talons wield.

Monstrous and dark brown shadow,
ravenous and wheeling raptor,
rapture at your strength and beauty
born of some poetic duty
seems to drive off care.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The Pruning of Apples and Pears by Renewal Methods

I have a first edition somewhere here,
filed with non-fiction alphabetically.
No dust jacket; a useful book, with clear
instructions given non poetically.
And yet how much of poetry is pruning,
how truly pruning makes a tree poetic,
a means of striking balance and fine tuning,
to gain a strong and simpler aesthetic.
And yet in cutting out the oldest wood,
criss crossing branches, timber inward growing,
we gain new growth, both vigorous and good,
succeed in improving what we had, showing
that when we cut, the branch, fed from the root,
regenerates to yield much finer fruit.