Written in 2014 after attending and taking part in a performance poetry evening in Cambridge and seeing ‘George the Poet’ do a set. He was so angry, so exciting and inspiring. I went away and wrote this within days. Written to be performed menacingly in different characters. In ‘All Bottled Up’ anthology.
Some have called me some names.
But I am rattus rattus
Perfectly adapted me to live off human detritus detritus.
I spend my life running around at a scamper scampus,
I like my life damp dirty and smelly sewers and drains… suit’s us, suit’s us.
Has made us a bit unpopular.
After all, it’s not our fault
That we can litter so many young…
They say that I have introduced so many diseases.
Well… let me introduce you to three…
“Hello, I’m black death.
Just a bubonic plague I was
Spread by fleas on rats because, well, because
That’s where they live.
I’m not as strong as I used to be.
I used to have such influence.. oh, yes, people
Lived and died in my name.. with blackened swellings and pain.
I struck fear in hearts and minds.
My… they were such amazing times!
In the poverty and squalor
‘Bring out your dead!’
They would holler.
But those days are gone..
Or are they?
Because beware; I am not.”
“Hello, yes.. it’s me.
Relax. Let me put you at ease
I am Weil’s disease.
And I am here today. Leptirospirosis they say.
Spread by rat wee and poo,
Be careful what you touch for you
Could go jaundice yellow, and bleed..
I’m a nasty fellow indeed…”
“Rodents spread diseases; you’ve got to admire us
I’m just such a rotten one, hello!! I’m Hantivirus.
Sweating sickness they used to call me.
You won’t be able to breathe, you’ll get renal failure
And if that don’t get you
The bleeding will slay-yer.
Yes! It’s me. I’m horrid and evil, I flourish in grime
And if you want to, you’ll catch me from rat urine and slime”
So. What do you think of the pestilence three?
All spread far and abroad by little-old-me.
Tapeworms, typhus, Justinian plague,
Rat-bite-fever, salmonella.. now don’t let’s be vague…
Hah! Dirty whiskers! I have you believes
I can still bring you all down on your knees
The way I lovingly spread my disease.
I was brought up in London Colney in a house right at the far end of the high street.
This little poem is about a journey I undertook to reminisce about those innocent days.
The poem was written in 2011 and was in part two of ‘Brain Glue’.
The view would stretch
All the way down the busy High Street,
To distant fields.
Through the village I knew so well.
My eye would always be caught.. by a tree.
A lonely solitary tree
On the horizon, on a hill miles away.
I made a casual promise to myself
At those times I stood and looked.
One day I would go and find that tree.
I’m sure it must have been my bedroom.
But I really don’t remember.
It certainly was Tom’s and Bob’s
And sometimes Mum and Dad’s.
At 400 end terrace (we used to live at 402)
Sometimes I would stand at the far window.
In that bedroom.
And look at the view.
Over the Crescent and Marconi’s
Down the High Street, London Colney.
Past the shops: Millie’s or Morhill’s.
And Kingsley’s (they made my teeth bad)
…They aren’t around any more.
I would imagine myself standing under that tree.
Looking back and trying to see.
From all those miles away
My bedroom window
(Or sometimes Tom’s or Bob’s or Mum and Dad’s
…they aren’t around any more)
Trudging up a muddy bridleway.
Three hours I have been walking.
Under M25 twice,
On me way to Salisbury Hall.
It’s on the ordnance survey map.
Sometimes drizzle, packed lunch over my shoulder.
The image is as clear as ever.
It is just a walk, not a pilgrimage.
Just another of my daft-as-a-brush ideas.
Nostalgic me.. maybe.
And did I find it?
Well, of course.
I have just made 60.
Forty-five to fifty years ago at home.
Mum and Dad, Bob at work.
Tom out somewhere, (who cares where)
And occasionally me… standing there
Looking out of a window at a tree.
Hey, hallo me!
I made it to the tree on the hill!
And 60. Ain’t bad.
Written in the late 1970’s after my first solo adventure to Inverness. Seems a bit innocent and outdated now but is still fun nevertheless. Included in ‘Brain Glue’ 1981 section.
At last I was nearly there.
I scrambled up the last few yards to the top and sat down, breathing heavily.
A breeze blew fresh in my face.
The view was well worth the climb.
In between the wild hills and jagged peaks that reached for the dark moody clouds, was the loch. Mostly dark and rippled, it shimmered when the sunlight broke through.
The loch was long and wide and looked deep.
I clambered down to sit on a large, craggy rock.
Wild, yellow flowered gorse and purple, friendly heather grew on the slopes that fell away to the dark, murky shore.
For a while and more, for an hour – I’m not sure,
I sat and looked along, down and around.
The sky grew brighter, the clouds grew whiter and the sun shone.
It was quiet and peaceful and cool.
A couple of crows called as they flew, high above my perch, as I rested my still-tired legs.
But what was that?
Oh no, surely not! I strained my eyes.
It was, my God!
The water rippled, pushed aside – ever moving toward me.
She approached the shore and lifted a bony, knobbly, yet lordly head from the depths and looked around, surveying her domain. Raising her neck slowly out of the water, as if catching a scent on the wind – I could almost see the large reptilian eyes. And then, so soon, she was gone; with a silent splash and a gurgle.
I knew then, that I was one of the many,
Who had witnessed one of the few
That had survived the years.
They had held hands with extinction, longer than man has held hands with woman.
But would I ever tell a soul of what I saw?
No, not I.
Doesn’t everyone who visits Loch Ness pretend to have seen the lurking monster?
No, not I.
For the more that tell of seeing, the more that will come to see.
One day soon a scientist will come and prove Nessie is there, and then they will mount a full scale mission, with underwater vehicles and gadgets and probes and lures,
To try and save her.
And millions will come and look and to pollute.
And a zoo will want to show her off – for a pound! Come and see!
The sadness and loneliness in her eyes.
Go hide, reptile lady, in the depths of your home, in the silt and the peat and in peace.
I love the simplicity and fun of nonsense poetry. This is in ‘Alphabet April’, 30 poems, which were written entirely on a daily basis in April 2015 and prompted by NaPoWriMo.
Now, do I know my birds?...
Well, I can recognise a robin, a sparrow, a blackbird and blue tit too.
On your bird table.
That much I’m able.
And I love to see a kestrel or a kite
Hovering, gliding, eagle-like.
But I do not know which it is.
There’s something magic about hearing birdsong at dawn,
But I can’t say whether I can tell the difference
Between the blackbird call or skylark or the warbler.
Magpies are unlucky if you see only one.
The sound a woodpecker makes is very clear.
The first cuckoo of spring must be getting near.
That’s a thrush. That one I know.
But whether it’s mistle or songthrush
Or it could be a fieldfare or redstart.
That’s a finch. No probs, it’s a cinch.
But whether bull, chaff or haw... I wouldn’t know what I saw.
Greenfinch is probably green.
Goldfinch is probably gold.
But then apparently there are linnets and redpoll too
That’s enough to confuse you.
That’s a starling. Pigeons are pests.
Owls are beautiful but they won’t really go to-whit-too-woo..
(and let’s face it, neither would you...)
That’s a sparrow. Oh yes!
But then dunnock knows which one it is..
This poem was in ’66 Pick Up Sticks’ an anthology I published in 2019. It describes my ongoing fascination with science and science fiction and the endless possibilities of space exploration and mankind’s quest to search for alien life.
No, they will not come as a massed superior army
Of silver-glinting gold, invading, swarming, insect like.
Nor in sky darkening ships, defying gravity, floating
Defying belief in god-like silence gloating.
That is the romantic and wonderful,
Born in the 50’s 60’s science fiction pulp.
The realm of A and B rate movies. Gulp!
And Star Wars, Trek, Gate, Troopers true alien
Are not really scientifically salient.
Arthur C would have known,
And Isaac and Robert Anson.
They would have known.
Story-tellers all; they would have known the truth
Tampered by the burgeoning scientific youth.
Aliens, bug eyed; warp travel and wormholes...
Give it another millennia.
Of course Area 52 does not exist.
Well, it does; but not like that.
Messages from the other side of the galaxy?
Not for a long time yet.
The chances of there being alien intelligence are good
But the vastness of space involved are not.
There are too many noughts
On the end of miles distance mechanics.
To make it realistic or relevant yet to think of protoplanets and goldilocks zone dynamics.
There will be contact.
We shall meet alien life.
In my lifetime, inshallah.
No. Not Jodie or Sagan style.
But in just a little while.
In about 2028: the Clipper probe to Europa
Will pass through plumes of gas
And will find signs of basic life.
Then we will know.
If there is life there
It can be and is everywhere.
We are not alone.
Me trying to be clever, probably too clever. There is a hidden verse from Cat Stevens in there somewhere. And a story of me growing up in 1970 and being influenced by the music and books of that time.
Written in 2014 and in ‘All Bottled Up’
The mountain was just a mountain.
People called it Snowdon or locally Yr Wyddfa
Would be such a challenge to climb, and I thought to
Ride a train or two or three and more. Alone.
From London Colney to Wales; I was yet a child
Far, far from home. Then hours into a steady climb in mist
And looking up, the clouds clearing, I insist... I saw God.
Wide eyed, I looked up at the snow-covered peak. I was moved.
So, just when I thought I knew all the words,
Singing to ‘Good God Don’t Jump’ on Bridge with Paul:
I’d seek the lyrics and always sing, sing-along
When the words suddenly made new sense to me..
The words were not as they had seemed
And he was saying something… To me… Me.
Wonder spread over me, amazed. I was moved.
Reading books, I’ll say was always a preoccupation.
Something to tell others about maybe..
Like: ‘have you read Asimov?’.. trying to impress
It said everything I wanted to be. Clever, studious, thoughtful. Me.
Childhoods End, I’ve accepted since, changed me, it set me free
I suddenly learned to think. And I was awed. Book besotted. And I was moved.
It took ages. And 55 years of me. To find The Fitzwilliam.
Always had a love of pretty and perhaps art and sculpture;
But sometimes there is a realisation that pretty
Is not just all it is meant to be. There is much more. To explore and then hold in awe.
The colours that he used were so ahead of his time; he was ridiculed and loathed.
But what he said, what he meant by that paint was not understood. I was moved.
Another piece of silliness from 2017 and in ’66 Pick up Sticks’.
I always intended and wanted to visit Junior schools and perform poetry and introduce poetry to youngsters. When we were at school poetry seemed so boring and old fashioned…
it is so not!
There is on the African plain
A green giraffe with long legs, long neck. My, oh me!
Reaching up to the top leaves
Of a pink tree. So pretty.
There was a lion that was purple. I am sure it was.
Chasing a polka-dot grey gazelle
Amid the rainbow striped savannah... no, it was!
In the desert was the turquoise sand with
Striped gold and blue bushes and
Rich scarlet rocks tinged with hazy blue
You’ve gotta see the colour! It’s there for you.
I saw a bright glowing red whale
Swimming in a muddy orange deep sea
With pale pink porpoises dappled lilac and mint
Swimming in bright yellow waves, well, just a hint.
Don’t believe me?
The world is such a wonderfully colourful place
It is anyway.. in grey…
In chocolatey brown and rusty greeny shady hues
That he, our God above, did choose.
I’ll finish with two sonnets from ‘The Seven Crumpled Pillows of Wisdom’ an anthology of 7’s that I published in 2017. It is a combination of 49 short stories, poems, flash fictions etc.
The two sonnets are personal and meaningful and pure me.
Part of my heart aches, has for fifteen years.
Permanent partings are always so cruel (But I still feel)
There remains a warmth, a love about you,
That spreads a light on my life even now,
That yet does not dull after fifteen years.
In my mind you are 36 and I am thankful;
I give thanks, that I can still see you so clear:
Getting all dolled up. Just a bingo night,
Wavy hair, twinkling eyes, a beauty spot.
Playing plonkers, snakes and ladders; fire burning hot.
Spotty dick, onion pudding, treacle tart
A cosseted love that came from the heart.
Took it for granted. Now you are so not.
My life is more complete, richer and fuller,
It is filled with love, over and above the sum.
It is. What you gave me, Mum.
You were the prettiest 16 year old ever.
Your long, straight brown hair I’ll dream of forever
Dark eyes, innocent smile, quick laugh, petite.
You even liked me and called my sexy and sweet.
But I was so young, immature, confused
And in my teenage years; fraught and abused.
It wasn’t easy. But I do not complain.
But I’d love to play Marks and Spencer’s again.
They say a man does not forget his first kiss.
His first love, first time this and that and more
And fifty years on you can be sure...
I remember that work experience week; just us two:
(I had no experience)
But oh! How I longed for and wanted you.