Verse & Worse

ON THE OBSOLETE RECORD-PLAYER IN MY SHED.
(First published in the New Statesman)
The Dansette in the lounge has been supplanted
And I am inconsolable, resentful , disenchanted.
The C.D. on the sideboard mocks sardonically
And loads with surgical precision and ironically
Some digital delight to thrill,
And yet within me something’s ill
At ease. What is this ? A synthetic lute
With silicon soloist on sampled flute ?

I long for records, “warps and all”,
To see once more that stacked black plastic
Cataract of singles fall
Chaotically on to the undulating rubber
And watch the skating stylus dance
Destructively across the crackling tracks
Splintering the brittle vinyl.
Would it be the Shadows next or not ?

That was the question!
It always was impossible to know,
For three or four dropped at one go
And seldom did they stay intact,
No matter how they had been stacked
The seventy-eights were always cracked.
Was this not aleatory art?
That pole in the middle played no part
In ordering slipped discs.

But once it served…
To stab my stepmother in the arse
Just as, drunk, she chanced to pass
Not altogether stably by
And that, I’m afraid , is sadly why
My lovely Dansette plays no more.
She threw you in the shed, the sow,
But she is on her death bed now.

We had to create 12 line poems composed from borrowed lines:

(First published in the New Statesman)

Competition no. 3450

Grape is my mulatto mother
Her dry shanks twitch at Paris ‘ mumbled name
My father moved through theys of we
And then the forest told it in a dream.
Into the dangerous world I leapt
And sucked the lovers of all time
Je suis le veuf , le ténébreux , l’inconsolé
When I behold the violet past prime !
They fuck you up your mum and dad
In secret riding through the air they come
So I whips out a toughish end of yarn
And with it wipe my bum !

********************************

When my love swears that she is made of truth
How large a leg and what a lusty thigh
Under what torments inwardly I groan
Stark naked as she stands before my eye ,
Lest, as our words fall dumb on windless noons ,
Her toes grow big and black as balloons !
We could have both blown England open , now alone
I am , yet what I am who cares or knows?
Awaiting her complete with boils and warts ?
The dong with the luminous nose !
Hélas ! I lament the dull abusèd brain
Such things have no delight for worried men.
Devizes to Westminster Day One.
A Supporter’s View.
(First published in “Tears in the Fence”)

Night.
As tempests strafe
Now howling shires
And surf transforms
Once still canals
Waiting waters
Race,
Expectant,
Over nervous beds,
Wait,
But cannot rest.
Nature trembles in anticipation,
Pricked and torn
Into spring quickness
By the quickthorn storm.

The race !
Be up at four !
Till then, John Moore,
In liquefactive sleep
Inspired by aeolian ale
And charmed by scented melodies
From a flageolet of beans,
Snore and wait !
Wrestle with time and the wind !
Your paddle flagellant
Splashes and lashes out
Common time,
A dolorist’s metronome
On the treadmill waves.
At fifty-four,
Steeled by a painful habit of resolve,
One hundred and twenty-five miles
And seventy-six locks
Seem little against a span of life
And your little-fat-wife.

II

In the whipped darkness
Boys dream.
All dream.
Kayaks,
Struggling against restrainers
On a minibus ,
Dream
Of wandering wild
Over the shooting weirs
And cataracts of frantic time,
Of Newbury,
Of Westminster Bridge,
The great North Sea
And the adventurous playground
Of the ocean,
Of the liquid love
Of motion.

Dawn adorns the sky of Devizes,
Here are competitors paddling for prizes.
A gasp of a fag and a scowl and a cough,
Nine-thirty-three and the kayaks are off !
We are aquiferous avid supporters,
Peripheral bearers of vivific waters,
Thwarting incipient waterborne ructions
By heeding Katrina’s pacific instructions.

Lurking beneath bridges
Like affectionate bandits
Ironically poised
To dispense refreshment.

Graceful strangers race before us
Cut through the quick-slime and ignore us.
I am told to clear the scum
Before the Bryanston kayaks come.

We encode our encouragement
In privately decipherable cries
As…

At Horton Chain Bridge all cruise past
The first of our kayaks , second and last.

Matthew and Mark,
John and John,
David and David ,
On and on …

III

Now the world flows,
Flashes impacting randomly
On memory and the inner eye,
As on we race
In a trance of solidarity
Forgotten by the isolates
Of modern suburbia
To Honey Street and Bristow Bridge,
Past chalk horses on the greenboard hills,
High above the abuse of the petty-respectable
Stalled impatient in platitudinous Volvos
In the inventive twists of the reeling lanes ;
Algal dust dances in our cups
Beside the singing locks of Wootton ;
A genius of courage hops jubilantly past
On his one leg ;
Katrina boasts of a score of supporting glories,
Basking in the radiance of the past
To palliate the wind…
“I’ll take the chill off the water, boys,
And pour it into your veins.”
Such pains…
The penitent paddlers’
Dolorous strokes
Wrestle with time and the wind !
Wrestle with locks !
Wrestle and laugh!
Ha! Ha!
Succulent nature!
Fragrant spring!
Of all the hours that pass to wound
None shall kill to-day !

Past Crofton Crossing
Cursing Beeching
“Beware of Trains!”
His worthless teaching.

Here mountain bikes are stripped of mud
By immersion in the holy flood
And elegant ladies paddle through tears
Seeking relief from the passage of years.

“No nomads in Little Bedwyn
But us kay-omani-aks!”

Porky and Hannah encounter us here
But we haven’t a second to stop for a beer.

Onward , onward to Cobbler’s Lock,
Wrestling the ineluctable clock,
Never failing but always falling
Behind.

IV

Find another thermos. Jump !
Race across that meadow , lump !

Matthew and Mark,
John and John,
David and Goliath
On and on…
Redshaw takes chocolate,
Thoughts of eating
Waste him twenty seconds. Fleeting
Time waits for us
None and all !

Newbury.
Rest for the restless.
Wounds are bandaged,
Fags drawn, bodies showered,
Jokes cracked, curses uttered,
Hopes are raised, ambitions muttered.
Oh the false finality of the first phase finished…
For frantic time denies respite
And with the death of day comes night,
And only a nervous dream away
Are the thirty-six miles of the second day
And the third and the fourth with many a lock
Await those who paddle to battle the clock
And toil on the treadmill waters
Wrestling with time and the wind!

 

“Aux Trois Clefs”, Goxwiller, Bas-Rhinimg_3048

Beneath St. Odile, gently kissed
By an eastward, wayward-wandering  mist
There’s a man with a golden glass in his fist
Aux Trois Clefs.

Above, a nun’s own spoon-hewn tomb
Extends a blessing on that room
Where Munster cheese dispels all gloom
Aux Trois Clefs.

In Goxwiller, where flowers  adorn
Mediaeval wells by fields of corn,
A man drinks Klevener until dawn
Aux Trois Clefs.

There’s a Stammtisch there where flaming tarts
Will thrill through gastronomic hearts
And fill with fire your intestinal parts
Aux Trois Clefs.

Watchmaker, teacher, builder, saint,
The strong, quick, feeble and the faint,
They all are there, save those who ain’t
Aux Trois Clefs.

In a corner there, sweet vineyards weep,
Through the eyes of those who never sleep,
For a thought to be shared can never keep
Aux Trois Clefs.

There is a home there better than most,
Frequented too by the Holy Ghost
And open to all who will drink a toast
“Aux Trois Clefs!”

IMG_1394
He loves to drink and think and smoke
And  smile and sing and share a joke
And squeeze and please and prod and poke
Aux Trois Clefs.

At dawn he leaves! Yet she who waits
Consumed by sweet impatient states
For her man escorted by the Fates
Aux Trois Clefs

Knows well that he will once again
Before the sunset floods the plain
And bathes the vine that soothes the brain
Aux Trois Clefs

In the shadow of a mountain kissed
By a westward, homeward-wandering mist
Aux Trois Clefs, where the patron’s pissed,
Return before the dark!

And many will laugh and some will cry
And others sing and mothers sigh
When they come to drown his last goodbye
Aux Trois Clefs.

 

The Tea Trolley From Hell.

This is the servery in Modern Languages,
Tea-trolleys leave here with biscuits and sandwiches,
Tea for our breakfast, tea for our lunch,
Tea for elevenses, tea for brunch
Biscuits, biscuits, sandwiches, tea ,
Tea at suppertime, tea for tea!

Down our corridor clashes the service,
Making the staff and the students nervous,
Clattering crockery noisily passes
Punch-drunk pupils sat on their asses,
Teachers tremble, the trolley appears,
Blundering, thundering, sundering ears,
Students’ enquiries, normally laudable,
Pass into nothingness, simply inaudible,
And what’s learnt in Brassens? No-one can tell.
What can they hear there? The trolley from Hell!

From Modern Languages the trolley emerges.
Down the polished corridors
Of the fuming community
Of whirring and wax
It surges, inexorable,
Towards the bursary, coffee-urns gleaming,
Thundering onward, tea-pots steaming,
Tom and his secretaries aren’t immune
To the hell-trolley-siren’s cacophonous tune.
The whole school waits for her rattle;
In the Jeffreys room, in Joan’s lonely typing den,
In the avernal depths of Room 17,
Teachers dream … of tea.

Tea for Australians, tea for Americans,
Tea drunk from mugs, jugs, beakers and jerrycans,
Chocolate biscuits for lab. technicians,
Sandwiches beckoning mathematicians,
Caramel bars sustaining our force,
The three-thirty trolley from hell is on course
With coffee, coffee, coffee, why not?
It floods from the urn infernally hot,
But first it menaces as it passes
Timorous students trembling in classes,
Interrupting the notes they‘re taking
With ear-shattering clattering, brain-aching quaking
And head-aches, head-aches, head-aches for me,
As I teach in a mind-storm of thundering tea.
Onward, onward the hell trolley rocks,
A satanic cargo of jostling crocks,
Disdainfully scorning the study of languages,
Bearing its burden of afternoon sandwiches,
Striking as students prepare to do well,
The thundering, blundering trolley from H-E-LL!

Yet teachers dream on,
They daydream on,
Oblivious of the crocks of doom,
They revel in Darjeeling reverie
Amidst test-tubes, half-rats, clauses, equations,
Serums and theorems and plane tessellations,
Icosahedra, trapezia, parameters,
Quantum mechanics, iambic pentameters,
The whole waking world of knowledge,
Waits for tea.
And none will taste that reviving brew
Without a quickening of the heart,

Yet who can bear to hear that sodding trolley?

Capability Brown Nose

I’m Capability Brown Nose and I’m rocket hot and keen
My countdown call alerts the Head to tell her that I’ve been

As busy as an atom in a hydrogen balloon
That carries young debaters in a basket to the moon

I soar to school.com each day, a bag upon my back,
And fizz around as if my fuel were eighty grammes of crack

My colleagues trace an orbit round the course of my volition
Attracted by my stellar magnitudinous ambition

And as I rise through firmaments of interstellar dreams
And lose myself in visonary futuristic schemes

I spread my luminosity, release a vapour cloud
And loop the loop, I’m cock-a-hoop, I’m trendy and I’m loud

I’m Capability Brown Nose and I’ll light your starless skies
Yet people read in Brown Nose more of “Earnest” than of “Wise”

And though my name suggests that I am probing, questing, curious,
Observers with a keen eye hold my course to be quite spurious

For as I soar up through the mists that cloud their telescope
Above the crowned heads of the world, archbishops and the Pope

They see me disappear from sight beyond their looking glass
Just past the Nebula of Crabs and up my boss’ arse.

HOVIS THE MARTYR

Chloe B******* runs out of logs and attempts to use a lump of stale bread as fuel…

Home! A homely wholemeal fire
Awaits you there. Come home! Your stove’s
Aglow, so stoke the ardent pyre
And torch those desiccated loaves!

Hovis, heretically aflame
Protesting vainly in the embers
Wriggles; it’s a merry game
Imagining those writhing members.

Can Hovis then create a glow
An Albigensian might dread?
A Ridley or a Foxe should know
Or others baked well until dead,

Bevilacqua, Badby, Hus,
Jerome of Prague, St. Joan of Arc,
And we are glad it wasn’t us
Those churchmen toasted for a lark

Robert Ferrar, Paolo Rappi,
Thomas Cranmer, Pakingham,
Burned to keep the clergy happy,
Ah! The joy in baking’em!

Belibasta, Jan de Bakker,
William Tyndale, Jakob Hutter,
Went up like a fire cracker,
So did Bentinck’s bread and butter.

Hovis, used instead of coal,
Toasted in the conflagration,
Calls to mind the martyr’s soul
Thus, by transubstantiation

IMG_3835

The Clocks Go Back on Jean Burt’s Birthday

As night still shrouds this howling house
At six a.m. (?), the wild wind scowls
And blasts the sparrow’s fart back in,
Blind chickens clasp the rasping dark;
All nature hesitates to face
The strafing daylight’s first embrace.

The clocks recoil and beat retreat,
It’s five a.m.! An extra hour (!)
In North Lodge (where scheme-dreaming stoats
Await a chicken-murdering dawn)
Allows me time before the light
To let my thought drift where it might.

I stir and one thought comes to me,
And no one holds the key to this,
The first thought stirring in the mind
Eludes our comprehension, but
October twenty-sixth must mean
All thought returns to Auntie Jean

For Auntie Jean is sixty now,
She stirs in Ansty, smiles and yawns
And plans her picnic, though the wind
Says no, yet winds will not prevail;
Her smile conveys a flawless hope,
How else would friends and colleagues cope?

I should have set this down before,
But Bryanston’s a timeless zone,
Tutorial pupils suck in hours,
Assignments clog the minutes, but
The thought was there, as people say,
Now I’ve an hour before to-day

And Auntie Jean is sixty now,
If angels count their days in years,
I wish that clocks might stop for good
And time stand still, lest we advance
Too fast. Let birthdays come and go
And time stand still, though wild winds blow.

The Bursar

Si monumentum requiris, then Paul Speakman is your man,
He’ll put the “pro-” in “project” and he’ll have things spick and span, Circumspice! With symmetry unmatched beneath the sun,
He’ll modernise not once but twice (yet leave us only one
[Where once stood two loos {hence the name “Toulouse” Lautrec}] urinal), In this and all nomenclature Paul Speakman’s word is final,
What’s in a name? He’ll dress our loos in modern drape so dapper That Lautrec will be the envy of the shade of Thomas Crapper.

Circumspice! As Bryanston assumes imposing shape,
Paul Speakman takes delight in making light work of red tape,

Transmogrifies the Jeffreys Room, erects a school of art,
Revamps, renews, regenerates, sustains us from the heart,
He builds with bricks and Mortimer, with millions wrought with faith

In architects, from banks, to please the judgement of the wraith

Of Shaw, who stalks et nova with et vetera in mind,
Circumspice! Such visions would bring comfort to the blind.
Our buildings pound their chests with the belief that Paul infuses, They multiply in size and shape, in functions, forms and uses,

An eloquent dumb waiter, hoisting venison and quail,
“Well illustrates” that if we raise our game we must prevail;
Our Café’s trendy locus draws such cool confederations,
Who slaver through the morning to ingurgitate collations,
Then tumble out through Traitors’ Gate towards the Dining Hall

To marvel at the Sanger Building, courtesy of Paul,
Where roving OB ghosts see science concretised in art,
And pray that future laureates will study with such heart,
Yet know that “youngsters” now and then, with undiminished glee,

Will make the most of buildings built with faith for you and me!

Circumspice! A Music School is itching to emerge,
Where CDT and science and Mnemosyne converge,
At Bryanston, we’ve built with balls of steel what’s set in stone,

We know that we’ve been “speakmanned” and are thrilled by what he’s done

The green men in the garden and the gateman in his hut,
Impeding undesirables, except when it is shut,
The sleeping speakmen on the drive, if only they could move,

Who guarantee the safety of this legacy of love,
The men who keep us sure and sound, Security, and all
Who constitute our Personnel will spare a thought for Paul
And dance around his bollards on the Bryanston estate,
And sing a song of Speakman who has brought us up to date!

Peighton Lark School
You will have noticed, year by year,
Headmasters talking through their rear,
Their anal trumpets held aloft
To give their notice; never soft
Or mute the tunes they crassly blast
As we indifferently stroll past.
Their notices are seldom read,
We’d rather dwell on Keats instead
Of those who ape Mcgonagall
And post their bollocks on our wall.
The pumped up, vapid trumping guff
To satisfy the self’s enough
To make you retch, when set in prose,
The self-congratulatory pose
Of monumental vanity
Shows seldom much of sanity,
But when the vapourings in verse
It sends us racing for a hearse
To lie inside an oaken box
And die; it’s better than the pox
That threatens us if we inhale
The vapours from their anal gale.
I must confess, I little care
Who Mr. Dunston is or where
He’s been or where he’s going now,
I’d rather interview a cow
Or lengthily interrogate
A sloth returning from a date.
I don’t care how much Dunston misses
Pastures old, or where his missus
Wants to found her last retreat
The man is talking through his seat,
I don’t care what the walrus said
Through oyster breath, but what I’ve read Of Mr. Dunstan’s bungled rhyme
Suggests indeed that it is time
That he retreated from his post
And let his verse give up the ghost.
So, Mr. Dunstan, bugger off,
We’ve read your farewell trouser cough.

Divine Omnipercipience Shit-House Lament.
[a metaphysical a posteriori inference]

There is a God in Heaven who
Beholds us when we’re on the loo,
Who, though it seems a shade absurd,
Defines the shape of every turd;
He knows our deepest secret thoughts,
Records them all in dark reports
And on the day of judgement he’ll
Reveal things that will make us reel,
Embarrass us before our wives
And show them that our phoney lives
Were spent in falsehood and deceit,
When he sits on the toilet seat
Of judgement on that dreadful day
And shits on us, he’ll make us pay
For all the women we have screwed,
For all the fun had in the nude,
For all the fags smoked under age,
For all the filth that’s on this page,
For every drink in every bar,
For every scrap and every scar,
For every time we think of cash,
For every time we have a slash
In someone else’s garden, He
Will make us rue the need to pee!
So don’t forget that there’s a God
Omniscient, a nosy plod,
Who watches us the whole day long
And notes the stirring in each dong.
He sits with us when on the bog
And shapes with care the falling log;
Lord omni-present-future-past,
He damns us when we can’t be arsed
To work our hardest day and night,
He drops us in eternal shite
And from the lofty toilet throne
Of judgement, where he dwells alone,
He thinks through every private thought,
And we shall know that we’ve been caught
If in that final shit-house court
We haven’t done the things we ought.

So when we sit upon the John
Without our pants and trousers on
Let’s not forget Almighty God:
The omni-percipient nosy plod.