Friday, 25 January 2013

Of all other men / But five and twenty

For Frank Mayne 1955-2008, A lovely man who I didn't get to know enough.

From Halidon Hill to the far Pyrenees,
We bring kingdoms and emperors down to their knees
And all across Europe, we march, we bring fear
For God and for Harry, for loot, and for beer.

This bow may seem simple, a toy or a trifle,
But in our hands, it's as good as a rifle,
And with the right training, with years of persistence,
We're the best in the world, dealing death from a distance.

So if you're a Frenchman, a Scot, or a Breton,
Meet us in the field – one thing you can bet on:
With this sword and this buckler, this bow, and this mallet,
We'll shoot through your armour and fuck up your sallet.

Our birth may be low – no breeding have we –
But we'll still pluck the flowers of your chivalry
And strew them on fields, all bleeding and messy,
At Agincourt, Poitiers, Dupplin and Creçy.

And when there's no foreigners willing to fight,
We'll battle for York, or for Lancaster's right
And slaughter each other all day by the thousand
At Bosworth, St Albans, at Losecoat and Towton.

And centuries later, when fighting in Spain,
Be thankful that Wellington called us in vain,
'Cos we'd have made sure that old Boney was beaten
Without going near the fields of Eton.

So shove all your cannon and guns up your arse – 
Remember the battles we won in the past:
The glorious victories, stamped on the years
As the Devil's harp-music still rings in your ears. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Badger

For RJT and the thousands who don't have his willpower =)

As I woke, in pain and bleary, with a stench so foul and beery,
I wrestled with this query: How’d I end up here once more?
Indistinctly I remember, I’d been on a vodka bender –
Now I lay with head so tender on the clammy kitchen floor:
                                    This I knew, but nothing more.

Well, it’s lucky no one found me with those bottles all around me,
Staring, anxious and astounded through an open cupboard door.
’Cos there under the sink was what I’d clearly had to drink –
Nestled next the box of Persil was a bottle of Lenor.
                                    Fabric softener called Lenor.

Now in my younger years, I drank many kinds of beers;
Wines and spirits; alcoholic drinks galore;
But I’ve never been so ‘punk’ that fabric softener’s been drunk,
However low I’ve sunk when I’m really fucking poor.
                                    And I’m often very poor.

What the hell had I been thinking in the midst of all that drinking –
That I needed subtle hints of lemon freshness at my core?
And why even stop there when there’s plenty of Fairy
Liquid, Daz, and Ariel for a nightcap I could pour?
                                    (Or, in the case of washing powder, snort)

So I’m lying there in bits, belly full of beer shits,
And a loathing of myself which I have clearly earned, I’m sure.
When like fearsome thunder clapping, there arose a noisome tapping –
Only Michael Winner rapping could annoy me any more.
                                    Michael Winner. What a whore.

Then as the sound began to rise, just like the pain behind my eyes,
I quite slowly realised I was on my own no more -
For as far as I could gather, at my feet there sat a Badger,
His face dripping and all spattered, blood red in tooth and claw:
                                    Evil Badger, drenched in gore.

The Badger sat there grinning, like the ghost of all my sinning,
Only grinning, always grinning, with a smirk upon his jaw.
Has he come here to confuse me, to torment me and abuse me?
It cannot be to soothe me with that blood upon his paw –
                                    Oh Badger! Whyfor?

Still he sits, and shows no motion, nor no flicker of emotion,
Or any kind of notion as to what he’s come here for;
Just sitting in the gloom, emanating clouds of doom
That filled my chilly room with a glimpse of what’s in store
                                    For the fool who drank Lenor.
And still there is this crashing, like fifty cymbals clashing
In my head with heated passion – how much more could I endure?
My senses all were routed, and my sanity I doubted
As desperate, I shouted with all the strength that I could draw
                                    At the Badger on the floor:

“Oh, why do you annoy me? Were you sent here to destroy me,
Being so loud and noisy when my head’s so very sore?
Why, you black and stripey bastard! Don’t you know that I got plastered
And last night, while I was wasted, drank this bottle of Lenor?”
                                    Quoth the Badger, “Shut yer maw.”

“Why don’t you quit your crying? Yes, you’re sick, and maybe dying –
It’s your own fault you are lying here upon the kitchen floor!
What the hell did you expect, pouring that shit down yer neck?”
Thus the Badger did reflect, oozing hate from every pore.
                                    I continued; I implored

“O Badger, I’ve been thinking – is this about my drinking?
Are you here to give an inkling I should think about a cure?
Please, Badger, say this visit is to rouse my drunken spirit!
The booze, O I can quit it! Help me, Badger I implore!
                                    Quoth the Badger, “Don’t be sure.”

“Did I neglect to mention that this ain’t an intervention,
Just a sign of the dementia in the brain that you forswore?
No way I’m here beside ya to help you out or guide ya,
But rather to deride ya: you’re a moron, to be sure!”
                                    Quoth the Badger with a roar.

Now we lie in the pre-dawn, heavy blinds and curtains drawn
And the Badger with a yawn, rests his head and starts to snore.
Yet the pounding in my skull says for him there’ll be no cull –
As my senses start to dull, I know it’s me that is no more.
                                    Thanks to drinking damned Lenor.

And the Badger still is napping – despite the tapping – still is napping,
(And occasionally crapping) on the clammy kitchen floor.
As my eyes begin to close, I feel him drooling on my toes;
For me, there’s no more shows, no returning, no encore…
                                    And I’ll go drinking nevermore.

Monday, 3 September 2012


It’s six o’clock and he’s slept enough and
no one’s watching as he tramps
past powerless neon and rainbows of vomit
and the hollow hill that he calls home
calls him home.
No crowds today to see his climb,
no choirs nor bells,
no flamelit circus cheers him on,
just dogs and rats, fighting like rats and dogs,
and the slumbrous dead eyes
of heavy-lidded houses and polystyrene pigeons
scrapping over frozen chips and pizza cheese
and nightly bile beans.
But fuck the darkness, fuck the torches – he’s got a Zippo
ping! and he sparks another joint.

It’s six o’clock and he’s smoked enough and
anyway, these things wear off over time.
For every blind old man that shows him an open door
ten more clang shut like secret cells
and the bicycles have chained themselves to railings again.
There’s a tremor in the sky but nothing in the streets
except the dull simoom of distant shuttle busses
queuing up to spend the day underground
and sit in neat little rows in painted boxes
and breathe monosmog and tarmac
and nightly bile beans.
He hears the news van coming
and the fumes catch in his throat.

It’s six o’clock and he’s choked enough and
a girl with broken wings
stares up at a sign from the past, and makes a long joke
and she’s younger than him.
How can she be younger than him?
Schoolboys run the firehouse now,
hosing their friends and laughing
and flicking Vs at the grownups
and teachers and nurses who tell them to stop.
They pepper spray his tears away
preen their uniforms and it’s their grey sky and
nightly bile beans keep you healthy, bright-eyed and slim!

It’s six o’clock and he’s slept enough and
smoked enough and choked enough and
cried enough and sometimes
spleen is not enough.
And the bicycles have chained themselves to railings again.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

There’s always the hot poop

This is what happens...

One of my
oft repeated mistakes
is getting suggestions
from off of my mates
for poems to write
when, just out of sight,
my muse has fucked off
and the blank page waits…

They write crap
on my Facebook wall
that makes little
or no sense at all –
ideas that are wacky,
or just downright tacky,
or so sick and twisted
they frankly appal.

“Imagine you wished
you were wearing no pants,
or the sun’s a tomato
that’s living in France!”
One guy on Twitter
wants an ode “up the shitter”,
which is far from Wordsworth’s
idea of romance.

“Oh, write about poetry,
that would be ‘meta’”
“No, something on fruit
would be lyrically better”
“Be a good son –
write a song for your mum,
or copy that Auden –
send Byron a letter!”

You would think
I’d get more sense from poets,
but they’re just as barking
and boy, do they know it:
“Blank verse on halloumi,
or something pantoum-y!
You could go villanelle,
or even rondeau it!”

These are just
a tungsten example
of some of their input –
I could give you ample.
So I sit in the sun
while Olympians run:
the page is still blank
and I’m hardly that thankful.

Though I love
them with all of my heart,
my friends are all clueless
when it comes to art.
So, thanks for your counsel –
your wisdom is doubtful –
and as for this poem,
I still
don’t know
where to...