Thursday, 5 March 2015

Patron demon scribblings

Having seen David Robinson performing a series of poems about writing and its associated joys/non-joys, I felt the rumblings of inspiration and this popped into my head - Titivillus is/was the patron demon of scribes, calligraphers etc, blamed for causing errors of penmanship. Hopefully the beastie stayed away while I penned this...

On Titivillus

That most mischievous, knavish
imp of the scriptorium,
tugs at precious vellum, nudges inkwells
to smudge the oak-gall,
smear the costly gold and finest lapis lazuli,
for, a beast of shadows, he hates illumination.

The Master of Novices,
blind to such minor devils,
brings down his birch
upon the crooked knuckles of poor scribes,
holy chastisement for errors of the quill.
But they know where the blame lies,
a fie upon the fiend,
so grumble in scratched black marginalia –
“how cold my hands, how harsh the rod and rule”,
“how miserly the abbot with his coal and candles”;

St. Catherine, look down upon your scriveners,
and deliver them from parchment pricking
scripture copy, dim-lit alcoves,
hard, eye-pinching toil.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Absurdity and Anatidae

Sometimes, I have deeply emotional discussions with poets, sometimes I natter with Helen Ivory and this happens...

Painting waterfowl

If you’re sloppy with your brushes
by the lakeside rushes,
rein in that compulsion
to daub dabchicks with emulsion,
‘cos slapping Dulux onto ducks,
turns quacks into clucks,
teal into chickens,
makes wigeon into pigeons,
and the smew begin to coo,
for when you smear the hydrophilic
birds with wet acrylic
you’ll feel Attenborough’s rage
for each mandarin now beige
and though oiliness of feathers
keeps fowl safe in all weathers,
and though we know that mallards
are gang-bang sexual blaggards,
keep it on the canvas,
not on Anas platyrhynchos,
‘cos it doesn’t mean that you
can slap on Prussian Blue,
or slather geese in scarlet
like aquatic avian harlots
and the swans all plumaged white
don’t need wing and tail highlights,
so hold tight to your gouache,
egg tempura, inky wash
when you’re by the pond or river
and a grebe sends spinal shivers –
for a challenge with your easel,
why not try to paint a weasel?

Friday, 30 January 2015

Setting a benchmark

A work-in-progress... I'm mostly happy with it, but not sure about the last line. Should it end at 'replace' I wonder?

Exclusion principle

who, so the small plaque says,
loved this spot,
you could not have sat here,
for the seat was placed in your memory,
greatly missed by some friend or relative.
Did they share your view
over scrubby downs
and patchy woodland where coppicemen,
smelters and charcoal-burners
once fed those
hungry for iron.

I choose not to sit,
but stay to watch a hornet
scrape pulp for her nest,
taking papier-mâché mouthfuls
of you
from oak slat and upright.

If I return in a ten-year,
will weather, fungus, woodworm,
or vandals at play,
have done their work,
leaving just a level patch of grass
where council employees
tossed your remains into a flatbed,
for it is policy to neither repair
nor replace
deaths marked by furniture.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The positivity of migration

UKIP and others who whine about migrants are tiresome - here's the first draft of a piece about my own, more positive, observations about Polish people ('Polacy') in Southampton

Polacy w Southampton


Big man, crew-cut blonde,
baby in a biceps cradle,
gentle gorilla-father;
a second child plants conkers
in a newly tilled municipal flower-bed.


Zesty girl on the school bus,
alpha of her Year 8 peers,
climbing rails like they are monkey-bars,
open-mouthed surprise when I ask
‘excuse me please’ –
proszę, przepraszam
in English-accent Polish.


One of so many languages
spoken here and mingling in mid-air –
by workmen crowded onto lunchtime public benches,
discussing football, cars, sandwich fillings,
by gaggles of much-preened teens
gossiping between texts,
by students, shop-assistants,
phone-box users sharing news,
by friends and poets,
by people of the city –
multicultural and working,
the opportunity for something new.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

That which remains to be seen

A short observational piece to start 2015, based on a word seen from the bus, so it's found poetry in a way - more works-in-progress coming soon...


A threadbare wine-red curtain,
rail hung inexplicably low
crosses the window,
leaves a square of glass where
a fingertip has written
‘STRADIVARIUS’ backwards
in condensation,
skin-greasepainted letters persist.