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Christophe's Story Armel's Revenge
Lines in the Sand Wow 366 Give me Shelter
Just for kids


PIGEON TOES

I scrunched up my toes, I crept up real close,
but that pig of a pigeon
had flown!

I hid from its sight, and I lurked to the right
but that beast of a bird
had blown!

I crept up behind in the hope it was blind,
but the feathery freak
rose aloft.

By now I was mad, and my toes clenched so bad,
do those pestilent fowls
think I'm soft?

Toes in a cluster, heart all of a fluster,
I tracked many birds
as they rose,

but each time I lost, and I found to my cost
when I took off my socks,
pigeon toes!


LIGHTWEIGHT WHITEBAIT

Have you ever seen a white bait
That is utterly alone,
That has left the shoal behind it
And is swimming on its own?

White bait are such lightweight fish,
They group themselves in dozens;
Gregarious and sociable,
They're always finding cousins.

They follow blindly one by one
In nose to tail formation;
And shake their fins from side to side
In perfect syncopation.

In the singular or plural,
The noun is never changed:
They swim in shoals; they're cooked en masse
And on a plate arranged.

So who leads little white bait,
What directs the corporate mind,
What determines their direction,
And what keeps them quite so blind?


PACKAGED THOUGHT

The Rhino's armour-plated skin
Lets nothing penetrate within;
Impassive while you have your say,
Continues on its rampant way
Its course unaltered by your speech,
All fears and feelings out of reach.
It's organised by packaged thought;
Efficiency is all that's sought,
Effectiveness it cannot see.
It thrives in a bureaucracy.


CONFUSED LEOPARD

The Leopard looked down at the ground
and was much intrigued to see
beneath his body were four feet;
four, when he thought there were three.

"It's obvious, I suppose
that I balance better on four.
I wasn't so graceful on three feet
I'm delighted to have more.

I'm really no different now
from that which I was before
It's the way that I see it that's changed;
I see now I've always had four.

They say that my spots never change
but how can they be so sure?
If it's four legs I have and not three,
that's thirty-three* percent more!"

* and a third, strictly speaking


OSTRICH BUREAUCRATS

Strut, strut, strutting,
they take you for a ride
through rules and regulations
behind which they hide.

Busy, bustling bureaucrats:
can't look you in the eye!
Procedures and penalties
are all they can supply.

Challenge them or question them,
criticise what's planned;
ostrich or bureaucrat,
head goes in the sand!


WHO AM I?

I can't stop now,
I've got to dash,
I must keep on the run;
I might miss something if I don't;
I'm sure
life should be fun...

I know what's gone
is gone for good;
I can't live in the past;
I want a future desperately;
that's why
I run
so fast.

I really don't know
what to do
to find the future me.
I try so hard,
but still I find
I'm just
about
to be!


AGONY AUNT

O sloppy Hippopotamus,
Beloved of us all,
Our worldly cares sink bottomless
Into your fleshy wall.

The lushly padded layers
Are designed for insulation,
Protecting tender hippos
From uncomfortable sensation.


PITY, O PITY, THE BABY BABOON!

Pity, O pity, the baby baboon,
so avidly sucking abreast of his mother,
greedily clasping the treasure he's found
when his wandering eyes see another!

A wondrous sight, this mountain of milk,
a prize that is his for the grasping!
The milk that he has turns sour in his mouth,
he is left high and dry, he is gasping.

Impulsively grabbing, he lands on the prize
and applies lips and limbs with great vigour,
only to find that it's not what it seems,
for the one that he's left now looks bigger.

Pity, O pity, the baby baboon!
It's a thing that is bound to confuse.
Indecision will dog him the rest of his life,
he's so frightened by what he will lose!


KEEPING OUT OF TROUBLE

Giraffes preserve their distance;
they speak of people's rights,
yet keep a safe detachment
from squalid human fights.

They speculate amusingly,
they split semantic hairs
but keep a long neck's length away
from other people's cares.


ON GUARD AGAINST LIFE

If you nose, poke and pry, a wood louse is found,
hidden in hollows and close to the ground.
It curls itself up as if under attack,
and sleeps with its armour rolled tight round its back.
It curls up in fear of the pain that may come:
it's on guard against life and prefers to stay numb.
There's so many wood lice and so much they miss,
what could have happened to make them like this?


THE PANIC OF A SMALL CREATURE
in a
LARGE WORLD


I bet you've never seen an Ant
That isn't in a hurry!
The work she does so busily
Conceals a constant worry.
You see, her journey must be made,
Her burden on her back,
Although she knows a giant foot
Is poised above her track!


THE BLIND SPOTS OF THE GROUNDHOG

Groundhogs move in ponderous ways,
and superciliously raise
matters of important kind,
but still they're arrogantly blind!
Busily they root around,
but hardly penetrate the ground.
Holding forth they obfuscate,
thinking that they'll educate:
weightily they make remark,
but still they leave us in the dark!


EXCLUSIVE BEHAVIOUR

They met,
thirty-nine people from France, Germany
and the Kingdom that calls itself "United",
to talk about racism,
inclusion and exclusion
(and any other isms they could find),
with a shared conviction
that all such isms
had to be discovered,
dissected and dismantled,
for the good of humankind.

They met,
thirty-nine people of different ages
and different persuasions
(with regard to religion and sex),
different individuals
of different colours,
each with their own
individual identity,
shakily constructed
from deeply held beliefs
holding them together
as they began their journey
with the language of respect.

No one could say how the disrespect began
or how the first word was hurled;
no one knew how defence became attack,
and they mirrored the schisms of the world.
With rising indignation
they demanded tolerance,
and clamoured for respect
whilst they hammered on the doors
of each other's beliefs,
shaking the structures of self-respect.
In a babble of confusion
they recreated Babel
and pretty soon departed from the language of respect.

In the middle of the muddle
a little voice said,
"Why do we have to agree?
Isn't it better if we don't think the same?"
"Who said that?" they asked each other.
"Was it man or woman? German or French?
Or even from the UK?
What's their religion? What's their age?
And what was the colour of their skin?"
"What's so important about that?" said the voice.
"Why, these things help us to judge what is said,
and whether or not to agree!"
"But why do you want to agree?" said the voice,
"What sort of world is that?
There'll be no new thinking if we all think the same!
Difference is precious, dissent is needed,
why aren't we happy to disagree?"

Thus Reason spoke,
and they all heard its words
calling them back from the war:
but its still, small voice was drowned by the sound
of Fear setting up its stall.
Like a call to prayer,
it echoed through the air,
saying, "Save your skin while you can!
One on his own is all alone:
the only thing that matters
is which gang to join!"
" Must you gang up against?"
Reason said sadly,
"Can't you gang up together
to help each other?"
But nobody listened,
they were so full of fear.


Hopeless Agender

They say 'a woman on her own
is not a thing that's meant.
She's probably upon her own,
because she's plain or bent.'

They say 'a woman's far too weak
for life's tempestuous trials!
She needs a strong protective bloke
to keep her on the rails.'

He must forgo his hurt and fear
and thus a bargain's made,
for if he bravely shoulders her,
she'll let herself be laid.

On each of us the myths are piled,
linguistically contrived,
and thus each unsuspecting child,
is gendered and deprived.

A woman who denies she can
is half what she might be;
a man is only half a man,
who looks but will not see.

You say you'll change these uncool ways;
with knowledge, you've the means;
but have you thought, deluded fool,
It may be in your genes?


MISSING SELF

I did as I was told,
not once did I complain:
when they said, "aren't you clever!"
I did it all again!

Now I can't seem to do it how I did it before;
I think something's wrong, but I can't be sure.

I seem to have forgotten
all the things I used to know.
My legs weigh a ton
and I can't make them go.
There's an emptiness inside
that food can't fill.
My head's gone fuzzy.
I wonder if I'm ill?
I'm like a clockwork mouse
that has lost its key;
I seem to have lost
an essential part of me.
I had it to begin with,
but I lost it on the way;
somehow or other,
I let it slip away.

I wonder
if I lost it
when I didn't complain?
When I did
what they wanted
again
and
again?


Sun on Old Stone

Sun on old stone,
light in the air,
warmth on my skin
spreading through me;
limbs warmed with loving
I stretch in the sunlight,
sprawling and spreading
I reach out around me,
febrile and fervent
I melt with the moment;
skin-loose and radiant
I welcome the day

Leaden my footsteps
on days that are clouded;
cancerous anger
a threat to my life.
Choked up and choking
I creep into corners,
stifled and shaking
I hide behind shadows;
dense is the air,
and dull beats my heart:
heavy the silence
and weight of the night

But out of the blue
comes a day that is shining,
a gift without reason
and wondrously free.
Out in the open
the rooftops are glowing,
colours and shadows
all sharply defined.
The day is before me,
the day is within me;
how eager, how open

I welcome that day!


THAT CAT
(with apologies to Raymond Carver's "My Car")

The cat that was my cat's kitten.
The cat that my daughter asked me to keep.
The cat that my daughter left behind.
The cat that my daughter didn't want.
The cat that I didn't want.
The cat that I had to keep.
The cat that was jealous.
The cat that pushed its mother off my lap.
The cat that had to be top cat.
The cat that my daughter didn't want.
The cat that my cat didn't want.
The cat that I didn't want.
The cat that nobody wanted.
The cat that I stroked.

The cat that purred when her mother died.
The cat that was top cat.
The cat that guarded my lap.
The cat that I didn't want.
The cat that I didn't like.
The cat that liked attention.

The cat that wouldn't be ignored.
The cat that I stroked.

The cat that wouldn't eat its food.
The cat that I took to the vet.
The cat with a diagnosis.
The cat with a label.
The cat with IBS.
The neurotic cat.
My cat.
The cat that I stroked.
The cat I didn't want.

The ageing cat.
The cat with hallucinations.
The cat that smelt mice that weren't there.
The cat with illusions.
The bloodhound cat.
The cat with an obsession, sniffing the skirting-board.
The mad cat.
The neurotic cat.
The psychotic cat.
The cat with labels.The cat I didn't want.
The cat that made the vet rich.
The cat who sickened.
The cat that was put down.
The cat that I miss.
That cat.


THOSE FINAL DAYS

My mother,
ever tidy,
had a place
for everything.

Beside her bed
she kept her pills,
and every day
a clean white hankie she'd unfold
and with her shaky hands
she'd take
each gift-wrapped card of sugared pills,
and push,
and push,
and persevere,
until she'd popped
the day's supply
upon the pristine
surface of the cloth.

Spiritol,
Four a day,
Parmexiphene,
One after lunch,
Bastopolene upon the hour,
Infestiline
(if pains increase)
and Mexilene to help her through the night,

This ritual took her
half-an-hour.
Then, through the day,
there came
the lesser punctuation
of the pills
conveyed
from cloth
to mouth
with trembling care.

And as she gulped
each sugared pill
did she imagine
it would ward off
pain
and death?

Or was it
the only way she knew,
to pass the time,
and last those hours,
those final hours,
and do it
tidily?


DOLMADES
This is a retelling of an Armenian joke. Dolmades (rice and meat mix wrapped up in vine leaves) are a favourite dish for many ceremonial occasions.

On his bed he lay,
almost defunct,
lost to sound and sight,
yet he could savour
drifting up from the room below
the smell of dolmades'

(Small wonder that taste and smell were the last to go!
He had lived, breathed and eaten
more food than most,
earning his living
[and his splendid waistline]
by writing about risotto,
paella and puddings,
figs and foie gras,
champagne and caviare,
and the best fish soup
to be found in the region;
but of them all,
his favourite was dolmades;
indeed, it was for her skill
in making dolmades
that he had married his wife!)

Subtly at first,
and then less subtly,
the aroma of the dolma
drifted up the stairs
into the dying nostrils
of the man in the room above.

Heaving himself up,
he half-fell, half-dragged himself
from his bed
over the floor
and down the stairs.

There they were,
laid out in the kitchen,
delectable dolmades,
nesting side by side.

Mouth watering,
he inched forward,
stretched out his hand,
willing it to reach,
and as he did so,
he felt a sharp smack on his knuckles!

"Hands off!" said his wife. "That's for the funeral!"


A Lived-in Face

There's no hiding in a child
till it learns to lie:
and in a life-time of learning,
a life-time of lies pile up,
till there are so many hidden secrets in the face
that it's a wonder
that a head is big enough
to store them all!

What if you are hungry?

When you are hungry,
eat!
Eat till you are full,
then stop!
Be satisfied,
and live the passing hours with joy
till appetite revives,
and then
it's time to eat again!

But what if you're hungry
and you've no food?
If your hunger gnaws at your gut
till acid rises in your gorge
in a sour, savage storm of hope and despair:
a lull, a pause
then the storm returns,
lightning crashes round your head
and hunger is back?

What if the rain falls
but there's no rain for you?
If your thirst makes of your mouth
a parched field,
nothing but dried earth to eat
and stones to suck?
What if your veins dry up
and your bones are laid bare:
and the world doesn't care?