For Harry, England and St. George and World Cup Sucker

I’ve not been writing much of late, but, unsurprisingly, here are a couple of poems related to the present obsession and which require posting before the 3 pm (BST)deadline! The one written today is first and they pretty much cover the options!

So, “Come on, my bonnies” (as one of the Mansfield Town supporters used to shout at Field Mill back in the 60s).

For Harry, England and St. George

The banners are flying, the pundits installed.

Could this be the year that the Lions don’t get mauled?

We’ve laid the old spectre of failure to rest:

those penalty shootouts with us second best.

We hover twixt gloom and wild optimism

Oh, for a clairvoyant’s crystal ball prism.

The vagaries of fortune, the chance of success,

seem stacked in our favour – well, more or less –

since Germany’s out and no Brazil or Spain.

Uruguay, Argentina can’t win again,

though “Old Enemy”, France, still lurks in the wings.

As long as Sweden don’t run round us in rings,

England’s boys will be men through History’s lens.

(Fingers George crossed it won’t end up with pens.)

The excitement is bubbling to fever pitch.

A bloke in the pub claimed there won’t be a hitch.

Here’s hoping we’ll all be glued to the screen

and dreaming of glory for 2018.

 

World Cup Sucker

Switch on the TV at the set or remote.

Whatever the channel, we’re in the same boat.

What have we in store and what will it usher?

It’s World Cup Football wall to wall from Russia.

 

The flags are out flying from roofs and high places.

They’re even painted on kids’ and grown-ups’ faces.

Whether cross of St. George or Union Jack;

bright French tricolore; (none of them is black);

 

a rising sun from Japan; Swiss cross white on red;

lots of other countries’ flags, I can’t get in my head.

We’ll wave them forever and loudly cheer, no doubt.

Well, maybe not forever, just until we’ve been knocked out!

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No Hoper

At the Creative Writing Group a week or so ago, Beryl led a workshop on the plight of the homeless, starting with a word association exercise to try to get our heads round the problem. We each then tried to encapsulate it in a short prose piece or a poem. If I didn’t quite hit the sympathetic note I was aiming for, mea culpa.

No Hoper

You wouldn’t believe that I had a good job.

I was in with the in crowd, but I was a knob.

Now I’m down on my luck and need a few bob.

Yeah, walk right on past me. I’m not your prob.

 

I drank for England. I smoked dodgy snout.

I’d snort lines of coke. Any laws I would flout.

I pushed it too far and my boss kicked me out.

I was out of control. Now my Life’s up the spout.

 

My girlfriend, supportive, I pushed her too far.

She coaxed me and pleaded. She was really a star,

but I just got plastered and smashed up the car.

My family said, “That’s it” and that’s where we are.

 

So, here in my doorway, with blankets for heat,

head down, out of trouble, on a kind copper’s beat,

I’m cold and I’m hungry, so little to eat

and bugger all chance to start a clean sheet.

 

So, whilst you ignore me, down and out on my luck,

I’m in a quandary for here I am stuck

and you who don’t know me and don’t give a fuck,

you might be surprised just how little it took.

West Park

The incredible show of blossom in West Park has been a constant source of pleasure on my recent, sunbathed, circuits as convalescent and eventually led to the following lines, written with one eye to a submission for Margaret Holbrook’s forthcoming collection, “Landscapes”.  Once I had this poem on the computer screen, I remembered that, back in December, 2015, I’d written a quite different account of the park, one frothing over with metaphor. It’s called “Christmas Eva, Christmas Rhos” and can be found posted on the blog 3 years ago. My vocabulary palette of colours seems to have shrivelled and drooped post-op.!

West Park

Flames leap from the azalea’s burning bush,

whilst rhododendrons’ more subtle blooms

smoulder, pale alba, pink and red,

and hint at long forgotten, distant,

snow-capped Himalayan peaks,

not Shuttlingsloe.

 

The whites and purples of the crocuses are a memory

and the daffodils have brazened and blazed where now

their dead heads shrivel and droop, but it’s time for

pink blossom confetti to carpet the park’s paths,

tempting the dog walker and the toddler, the jogger

and the convalescent to scuff and shuffle a shoe

or scoop whole handfuls and hurl them skywards

to celebrate the marriage of the seasons.

 

And the fragrance, delicate, almond-tinged,

its source elusive, bathes our senses

just feet away from bustling, busy roads.

White clad bowlers launch their ovals across the pristine green

towards that target jack, half watched, half-ignored,

by clumps of youngsters, ice-cream cones a-drip.

Sumer is icumen in. Lhude sing cuccu.*.

 

*Mid-thirteenth century round, author unknown.

Muguet (Lily of the Valley)

May Day is here and I couldn’t let it pass without poking my post-operative nose above the parapet, figuratively speaking. My double bypass at the BMI Alexandra was on April 15th., went well and, duly grateful to Mr. Balacumaraswami, I am back home after just a week and concentrating on the road to recovery.

For our neighbours south of Dover sprigs of “muguet” (lily of the valley) are offered for sale by the roadside on May 1st., a sign of the imminence of summer. The precocity of their seasons over ours is also reflected in showers being associated with the month of March, “les giboulées de mars”, rather than April. Whilst one swallow may not make a summer here, for the French its arrival does not make it Spring.  All this is a prelude to the offering of a post-op. 17 syllable “haiku”, whilst I try to tie in the Home Office Windrush scandal (red light for Amber Rudd and no May Poll dancing for the PM) into some form of verse. (I may spare you this as poetry muse still confined to bed).

green shawl bell tower,

lily of the valley peal

peeks out on May Day

Version II maybe mixes less metaphors

green walled bell tower

lily of the valley peal

rings out on May Day

 

Last Post?

This time next week, all being well, I should be at the base camp of the route to recovery. Not being one who can leave a pun languishing, I wrote the following  catheter-in-situ poem when the operation was first scheduled. Back soon.

Last Post?

I’m hors de combat, side-lined, indisposed,

about to pass a day with eyelids closed,

whilst teams of surgeons saw and sow and graft

and demonstrate their wondrous healing craft.

 

I’m in their hands and so with hand on heart,

my cardio-thoracic period will start.

Perhaps I should have stayed with 5 a day.

That’s pills of course, not fruit, I stuff away.

 

A cornet’s plangent, melancholy note

sounds in my inner ear, sticks in my throat.

That’s natural (a call of Nature, Bertie?),

but I digress. Quick, back to keyboard QWERTY.

 

Here’s to successful op. If not, I’m toast.

They’ll do their best and this won’t be Last Post!

 

 

Snuggling up to John Betjeman

When recently indisposed due to a bad attack of Man. Utd. (not uncommon these days), I was unable to make Margaret Holbrook’s March “Spoken Word” at Poynton’s Ubagene wine bar, so I asked her if she would read 2 poems for me from “Seconds Out”: “Character 4” (about my Mum) and “Character 1” (about my Dad), both of whom had died in the month of March. Her throwaway, comforting remark sparked the following verse:

Snuggling up to John Betjeman

The first day of Spring and I wax almost lyrical,

not like me at all. I’m more often satirical.

You might go so far as to say it’s a miracle.

or not say a word. That’s entirely empirical.

 

These thoughts come from those casual comments you dropped.

I’d said your “Seconds Out” had been charity shopped.

“Not at all,” you replied. In my tracks I was stopped.

“Next to John Betjeman on my shelf it is propped.”

 

Next to my hero! I was flattered and flustered

and saw straightway on my face was egg custard.

What in life could be better than to be clustered

and snuggled up next to JB! Done and dusted.

Keeping Mum

Mother’s Day in 1988 was Sunday, 13th. March and has a particular significance, because it was the day that “our Mam” died in the Queen’s Hospital in Nottingham, so I was keen to write something on this 30th. anniversary. Rhyming poetry is my preferred form, but I thought I’d see if I could write a poem with half-rhymes as line endings as it’s less intrusive and perhaps more serious than my usual stuff. Wilfred Owen’s World War I poem, “Strange Meeting”, is a brilliant example.

Keeping Mum

It’s Mother’s Day; it’s Mothering Sunday

with shades of meaning for all and sundry:

a simple “Thank You”; a floral gesture;

recognition of beloved progenitor;

something heartfelt, sincere and tender

a gushy card or double entendre-

laden, red-cheeked, seaside-saucy (think McGill).

 

30 years ago, our bedside vigil,

with false alarms, drew softly to a close,

as if she offered us an unavoidable excuse.

Pauses stretched between her stertorous breaths

she, interminably becalmed in mini-deaths,

until that pallor once rouged cheeks imbued

and we each clasped a hand helpless by her bed,

 

her heart’s drum beating the retreat, then gone

and our era of memories began.

So Mother’s Day holds that added poignancy

when thoughts of Lucy come with frequency

and conjure bitter sweet “Remember when…”s

and send us to our keyboard or our pens.

Beware the almost Ides of March, my friend

when Death calls time and brings Life to its end.

March Madness: A Bridge Too Far

Before the memories of our Siberian winter interlude fade and the Beast from the East shrinks before the outrages of the Pest from the West* (guess who and I don’t mean Storm Emma), here’s a poem which testifies to the addictive nature of Bridge and the drive to get one’s “fix”.  As with the previous post, this piece began in a Macclesfield Creative Writing Group workshop, an inspired, last minute theme chosen by Alan Horne for the hardy souls who had braved the blizzard conditions.

* I’ve heard this phrase coined independently from 2 sources, poet John Lindley and my recent bridge partner Beryl Footman.

March Madness: A Bridge Too Far

It was madness.

15 minutes to skim away the Volvo’s white mantle,

remove the snow blindfold from its windows,

scrape, scrape, scrape away the ice cataracts,

release imprisoned wipers from screen’s tenacious grip,

prise open the doors fused to ice-box bodywork.

Tugs of desperation resisted, brute force

from red gloved hands, gloved red hands,

a screech of disapproval, refusal from the doors:

“We’re not going anywhere! You’re not going anywhere!”

 

Once inside, a stomp to unleash compacted snow

and a rush to generate that vital heat.

A tractor’s roar. The engine bursts into life.

We creep out onto the rink.

 

Declining Nude

The first task in Zoe Quinlan’s Macc Writers’ workshop on 1st. February was to sketch our neighbour, not with the customary words, but with pen, pencil, whatever we had to hand. We tentatively set to work in pairs, most of us managing some sort of credible likeness – providing they were viewed from the right distance! Here’s a bit of nonsense, the best I could do with an art-related writing exercise.

Declining Nude

With his eyes he caressed me, assessed me

and the gaze was disarming but lewd

and on canvas, possessed me, undressed me.

It was brazen and terribly rude,

so his portrait distressed me, obsessed me

when I thought how it might be construed.

 

I couldn’t handle the public scandal

as they flocked in to see it and queued.

Under the heading, next to T. Emin’s bedding:

“Still Live, Still Alive: Declining Nude”.

New Year’s Resolution: Mark My Words

Having just realised that the poem I posted a few minutes ago had already been on the website since mid-January, here is a replacement in which I doff my cap (yet again) to the talents of Macclesfield-based poet and friend, Mark Rawlins.

New Year’s Resolution: Mark My Words

My resolution’s write like Mark,

always rhythmic, often dark.

His politics are sharp and swingeing.

He has the Tory true blues cringing.

His words drill through you, never bore.

His skilful use of metaphor

and simile flash like the stars,

is red and shimmers, just like Mars;

alliteration boldly broaches,

our subconscious minds encroaches.

Adept with onomatopoeia:

clitter clatter, bing bang hear

and never once do his words clunk,

even when his subject’s punk.

Imagine Mark with hair in spikes

and bovver boots in place of Nikes,

kite high, crowd surfing to The Clash an’

studs and chains the height of fashion.

In Verse v Verse, his repetition

sees off all the competition,

sees off all the competition

(in my case, with expedition).

It’s so unfair. It ain’t half gallin’

Sod it! I’ll leave it to Mark Rawlins.