“River, Wound, Kiss” and “Getting My Act Together”

After a month of drought comes a deluge of rain. It’s been like that with my writing: a barren April, followed by a torrent of frantic scribbling in May. This has included 2 very different poems: a commission (a first!) for a silver wedding anniversary (“Camilla Meets her Matt-ch”); and a short reaction to the death of the Moors murderer, Ian Brady, both of which I may share later. In the meantime, on Saturday, Cheshire poet, John Lindley, ran a very successful and stimulating free workshop at the Lion Salt Works near Northwich. A score of enthusiasts came up with an impressive range of reactions to John’s themes. The warm-up took the form of 3 prompts, followed by writing on something which has always puzzled us.

Look out for opportunities to join John in a workshop or a “Poets and Pints” (The next one is at the Red Lion, Goostrey on Wednesday, 7th. June).

River, Wound, Kiss

From the gash, the Life blood flowed,

ebbing away what breath bestowed.

Red river seeping from the wound,

an end to what had been cocooned.

And what was gone no-one would miss

except the one who shared that kiss.

Getting My Act Together

I watch James May dismantle

the turntable with a mixture

of childish wonder and dis-may.

The myriad, intricate entrails

lie exposed in orderly patterns, dismembered,

like with like, ready to reassemble

in a precise, logical way I know is beyond me.

 

My inner D-I-Y-er “d-i-y-ed”, still born,

miscarried, ectopic, unnourished,

the three ply wires, green and yellow, brown and blue,

an umbilical cord strangling the nascent desire

to get back in the groove,

to see a Phoenix rise,

to hear music rattle the rafters.

 

Bang to Rights: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Here’s a little more detail about the ageing head-banger’s accident.

Best wishes to everyone on May Day (This is the kind of “poling” day I prefer).

Bang to Rights: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Each of us lives a reality soap

and daily we follow the script.

We stride right along a treacherous slope

in which misadventures are slipped.

 

There’s one of these tales that I want to relate.

You may think that I’ve lost the plot.

It happened in March (I’ve forgotten the date)

after into hot water I got.

 

At the allotment. I’d worked up a sweat.

To come clean, I needed that shower.

Whilst I’m not the sprucest that you’ve ever met,

still “Cometh the Man, comes the hour”.

 

I’d washed and I’d rinsed and was ready to go.

I’d scrubbed up gleaming, right proper.

I was drying the walls so fungi don’t grow.

It was then that I came a cropper.

 

I reached to my left. My feet slid to the right.

I must have leant over too far.

A bike on black ice is a similar plight

– though not ending under a car.

 

My head struck the side of the bath with a bang.

A right blinking wallop it gave me.

I didn’t see stars, but bells echoing rang;

no chance to put hands out to save me.

 

It’s had some ad-verse effects, you might say.

My eyesight has deteriorated,

but for a whole month, with words I couldn’t play,

which folk may think should be fêted.

 

It’s said that each cloud has a lining “argent”.

From each mishap we ought to learn.

But what lesson there is from a head with a dent,

I’m buggered if I can discern!

Lifelines

March and April may have seen the resurgence of Life from its winter sleep, but they have also produced a sudden crop of 5 funerals: 3 ex-colleagues (Brian Newbould, Tony Platt and Norman Elmore); Joan Kensdale (the mother of Mady’s ex); and Wendy Mellor, a friend from my Nottinghamshire adolescence.

Tony’s funeral was on March 7th, which coincided with the date my Dad died in 1978. It gave rise to “Lifelines”, which is also the working title of an embryonic, third collection of poems, though I seem to have entered a writing “man-o-pause” after a fall in the bath (yes, I do) towards the end of March. And I thought head-banging went out with punk or heavy metal.

NB. The first round of the French Presidential elections is tomorrow and June 8th. will be on us before we can say, “Oh, no!” Remember the old saying, “Cast not a clout until May’s out.” (Some hope, but fingers tightly crossed for both!).

Lifelines: Crossing Words with Death

Dedicated to the memory of John Anthony “Tony” Platt (“Platty”)

24th. September, 1944 to 24th. February, 2017

 

I stand at the back of the chapel,

peering over the heads of those filling the pews,

your soberly clad family and friends, neighbours and workmates.

I’m fascinated by the splendid, eco-friendly isolation

of your lily-laden, wicker coffin.

 

Here I am saying my goodbyes,

39 years to the day, since my Dad’s departure.

Thoughts turn past images of picnic hampers,

past laundry days to those distant, steam-powered

journeys his pigeons made in their baskets,

cooing their fear from crops, rhythmically nodding

from dowling barred apertures.

How apt it would have been to send Dad off

on his final chuck in one made to measure.

 

In the cellar, one of his pigeon baskets waits, ready.

Germinal: March 21st.

Way, way back in the mists of Time, somewhere between the Age of the Dinosaurs and the Early Beatles Years were the late 1950s when, in response to an English homework, I wrote my first line of poetry:

“Spring is the first season of the year”.

60 years later, I’m still at it.

Germinal: March 21st.

There’s a spring in my step, a sparkle in my eye.

Spare me half a minute and I’ll tell you just why.

I’m not the sort of bloke who yearly goes bonkers

for Autumn’s mellow yellows with chestnuts and conkers.

I might warm to the flame that fresh snow engenders

but it soon turns to slush, so I turn to “East Enders”.

 

I can just about cope with heat waves ‘cos they’re rare,

but not livid pink of that sun-scorched flesh bare.

With that, like today, back to March 21st.

If you’re still bearing with me, you’re over the worst,

for the gleam in my eye and the bounce in my gait

are caused by these wonders I’m about to relate:

 

Spring’s herald, the snow drop, first snaps into focus,

is very soon followed by gaudy, brash crocus.

Then tall, jaunty daff and self-conscious narcissus,

each nods its head skywards in frustrated kisses.

The catkins, precocious, lets dangle lambs’ tails

which toss to and fro in the blustering gales,

 

whilst shy pussy willows its pollen provides

to impoverished bees as they search the hedge-sides.

In neighbouring fields, frisky lambs in their pairs

bleat, run up to suckle once Mum’s checked they are hers.

It’s too soon for the round-bellied cows to give birth,

but it won’t be long now from the size of their girth.

 

The hawthorns are budding. There’s a faint haze of green.

Through the brown of the ploughed fields, winter corns not yet seen.

The dawn chorus is strengthened by migrants’ return,

yet deep in our hearts for the swallows we yearn.

One more week, now Spring’s here, we’ll put forward the clocks

and roll out a green carpet for vernal equinox!

Thank You, Phil

Stu’s a dab hand with rhyming couplets. Here’s his quick fire response to the above tribute:-

Thank You, Phil

Yes, still batting on, but been dropped twice

(Butterfingers paid the price)

And I’ve survived shouts of “Howzat?”,

Though some were plumb and missed the bat.

I could have been out for a duck,

but we all need a little luck.

That luck has to be wearing thin

and now the weather’s closing in.

So what I intend to do is

pin my hopes on Duckworth Lewis.

Stu’ Betts, Casual Angel*: 75 Not Out

I can’t let my mate, Stuart’s 75th. birthday, slip by unannounced. He sprang the news on me yesterday on my lightning visit to the Shire. Here’s the cheesy, wheezy, easy-peasy, teasy best I could come up with at short notice.

*We played for the Angel Casuals CC way back in the 60s and were exceptional – in that we wore bright yellow caps earning us the nickname of The Buttercups.

Stu’ Betts, Casual Angel: 75 Not Out

We rang and sang that song traditional,

sent birthday wishes unconditional,

then  squeezed in one verse additional.

Here ’tis.

We’ve been mates since our adolescence,

near Sherwood pit tips grey excrescence.

Now we’ve reached Major Oak’s senescence.

There ’tis.

But we’re that kind of Nottingham folk

who laughed a lot as we cracked a joke

which happened near every time we spoke,

that is.

So, our Stu’-pot, who’s tall, distinguished,

never, ever, his roots relinquished,

whose fire and wit can’t be extinguished.

It’s his

BIRTHDAY! MANY HAPPY RETURNS, STUART!

Back Track

I could only make the second half of Jackie Spry’s workshop on rhythm and rhyme, exemplified by WH Auden’s “The Night Mail” and John Betjeman’s “Unmitigated England”. She then asked us to try our hand at a train journey memory after reading Edward Thomas’ “Adlestrop”. My thoughts turned to the rare pre-Beeching, family day trips of the early 1950s which somehow paralleled the chucks Dad’s pigeons had on race days.

Back Track

We were so excited, we didn’t sleep

a wink. Would morning never come and creep

through curtains’ dangling veil, so we could leap

from out constricting sheets and rush downstairs,

pulling on a rumpled shirt and odd sock pairs?

Would rain come spoil it all? Or shine? Our prayers

were answered: a timid sun; a patch of blue.

And Mam organised, unfussed, cried,” Use the loo”.

Time’s hurtling by and I can only find one shoe.

At last we’re ready, frothy little imps

and stare from platform’s edge to catch first glimpse

of steam train’s chuff to head for sand and shrimps.

 

From present day perspective, strange to confess

our day trip out to almost-seaside town, Skegness,

held for us the magic of the Orient Express.

Thought for Today

I was out cycling on a half-decent afternoon a couple of weeks ago with mind and machine both freewheeling, when the first 2 lines of yet another grumble about Trump (a Trumble?) reared their/its/his ugly head.

Thought for Today

Today I sat down in my chair with a thump

and thought I would twitter like President Trump.

Each nocturnal, 1 40 character burst

would end with the phrase, “America first”.

I’d smooth down my hair and curl up my lip

and give it out straight as I shoot from the hip.

I’d spit out invective and dollop out scorn

and make all those Muslims regret they were born.

I’d sign a decree to impose travel ban,

‘cos foreigners by birth are un-Am-erican.

I’d stab with my finger and screw up my eyes

and not even blink as I tell you more lies,

for lies don’t depend on what once was called “Truth”

and dissed by the liberal elite as uncouth.

If it’s black and white striped and smells like a skunk,

but fits with your credo, you know it’s not bunk.

Ladies, we love you, so don’t be a dope.

You know that it’s never for words that I grope.

Soon it’s quite clear for who(m) I am rootin’ :

first Donald J Trump, then Vladimir Putin.

I learned from my dad how to duck and to dive.

I’m 45th. President, Colt 45.

I’m all full of bile, xenophobia and hate.

Rally round, folks! Let’s make America great!

February 9th., 1929

At the Macclesfield Creative Writing Group workshop last Thursday (February 9th.), we started the session with a Valentine’s Day related theme and then moved on to one on “This day in History”.  What came out of the first part is classified “Top Secret” at the time of writing, but I thought I’d revisit the remarkable observation made in 1929 for the second topic.

February, 9th., 1929

If Sir Alexander Fleming had been a tidy worker

(and not sometimes stared out the lab., though he never was a shirker),

if he’d neatly cleared away all his piles of Petri dishes,

we wouldn’t have a drug to cure our epidermal fissures.

He left out his agar cultures which got cross contaminated

with a grey-green mould and this Gram + exterminated.

Round the mould the gel was clear, which struck him as quite thrillin’.

Staph. aureus was scuppered. Eureka! Penicillin!

Honor

The first Speakeasy of the year and the first at the new Park Tavern venue had “Honour” as the theme. This somehow took me back to the mid-1960s of “Goldfinger” and the Avengers.

Honor

Now Honor Blackman, who is she?

She once turned down a CBE.

In “Goldfinger”, she was Pussy

a self-assured and brazen hussy.

James Bond thus had Pussy Galore

(See what double entendre’s for?)

So,  is she Honor without honour?

She’s got principles. Good on her!

She says, “I’m a republican.

The Honours system I would can.

If you don’t quite see what I mean,

let’s just mention Sir Philip Green

or take the Beckhams, OBE.

Now there’s a fashion travesty.

Mick Jagger sings and Mo’ can run,

Knighthoods bestowed on anyone

who jiggles hips or hits a ball,

for me that makes no sense at all.

They already make a packet

kicking ball or swinging racket.

With money stashed offshore just right,

some wave the flag, are dubbed “Sir Knight”.”

Honor, I’ll join you, if I may.

in our Republic United K.