Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

GIVING HIM THE ELBA

I have an elderly acquaintance whom I bump into occasionally, usually when my social antenna fails me and I’m slow to take avoiding action.
Rather like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, he fixes me with a beady eye and proceeds to talk at, rather than with, me.
He, for He is this gentleman’s sole topic, would seem to have, or have had, a life more vibrant and enthralling than any other, including my own quiet and unremarkable one.
I find his bragging insufferably tedious and tend to flee at the first opportunity.
He bears a remarkable similarity to Napoleon’s Horse. 




NAPOLEON’S HORSE

Napoleon’s horse is out to grass
and riles his fellow quadrupeds
with endless tales of derring-do ...
at his approach, they turn their heads
and quickly find something elsewhere
to seem to do till he departs.
Such boastful words exasperate
those whose career was pulling carts.

Friday, 24 February 2017

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

I was abroad last year when an abortive coup took place in Turkey and for a couple of glorious days it looked as though the dastardly Erdogan might be overthrown.
I wrote this poem, not based on the events in Turkey but instead, about the chaos that usually accompanies events of that kind. 
















THE COUP

Since the coup all roles are reversed:
the high are brought low and complain
that prison conditions are grim;
they are missing their daily Champagne
so their thirst, now their bubble has burst,
stays unslaked and their prospects are slim.

Now the torturers, to their chagrin,
are tortured with pliers and shocks
and the State executioners’ heads,  
one by one, incline on the blocks.
Prison guards, now imprisoned, begin
long sentences. Mutiny spreads

through government offices, grey,
where clerks smash their ledgers and flee
to canteens with laughter and cheers,
where the tea-ladies poison the tea,
while out in the street banners sway
and homeless men crouch over beers.

The populace gathers in knots
on street corners and city squares
but nobody speaks of the past
or the future, for nobody dares.
The sound of occasional shots
rings out. The sky grows overcast

and thudding of rotors above
brings black helicopters with guns
while distant explosions illume
the sky like additional suns.
The city has no place for love,
for love has no place in a tomb.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

POET'S DAY

W.H.Auden, poet, author, playwright and leading literary figure of the 20th Century, was born today, 21 February 1907.


Here, in celebration, is one of his better known poems.


FUNERAL BLUES
 
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.



Click here to hear John Hannah reciting Funeral Blues in the film Four Weddings And A Funeral
 


Friday, 17 February 2017

MUSCLING IN

Here’s a short vignette from an embryo collection of circus poems, one of which, Contortionist, appeared in a post last month. 
It’s also an opportunity to share a couple of wonderful vintage images of circus characters from long ago.



STRONGMAN

He chalks his leather palms, pumps biceps up,
admires scenes tattooed on his flexing arms,
scratches his beard, stubs out a small cheroot.
He reeks of liniment, greasepaint and sweat,
maleness, tobacco, a hint of rum,
and calls this dingy caravan his home,
parked beside tightrope act and clowns.
Between shows, Evening and Matinee,
he pays court to Mermaid Woman, Joan,
shyly, with a dish of cherries,
though Joan would rather have had fish.




Wednesday, 15 February 2017

CATASTROPHE

I submitted this poem to a UK magazine a few years ago and had it rejected. The email that followed explained that the editorial team were all cat-lovers who were mildly offended by my poem.
I’ve become something of a cat-lover myself in the years since then and am currently besotted with a Burmese called Charlie, an affectionate little bundle of coffee-coloured loveliness.

Nevertheless I remain fiercely protective of our small birds and therefore continue to discourage unwanted feline visitors from our garden.













CYCLE

There’s a cat on the shed roof
and I’m looking for a stone.

I find one, pitch it halfheartedly,
not meaning to hit or hurt.

The cat pirouettes,
spills from the roof like laughter.

It’s been going on for years, this melodrama.
We both know our roles.

Tomorrow it will be back and I
will be reaching for another stone.
 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

JANE'S TRAIN

I often mention my wife, Jane, in this blog but seldom her writing, despite my admiration for her undoubted talent in that sphere.
Over the years, she’s written a significant number of excellent poems, as well as prose in the form of articles and stories.
Her work has frequently appeared in magazines and public-art venues and her impact on the local arts scene has been considerable.
Jane’s a frequent guest on BBC radio where her humorous verse, in particular, has proved extremely popular.
When not involved in lace-making, genealogy, research or one of her other, many passions, she writes evocative poems like the one below.  



















 
TRAIN JOURNEY

Hereford,
home three years now.
Patch-worked by hop-fields,
scented by cider-apples,
pink-chipped cathedral,
lady of stone.

Worcester.
Fat boy sunbathing
in his white
pop-buttoned-shirt.
Embarrassed by the
suddenrushofspectators,
pops another button
and sidles back into the house
to caress
his blushes.

From hay-stack
to chimney-stack
the Morandi
still-life midlands.
Bottled cooling-towers,
cemeteries of scrap-metal
no-armed bandits,
spin-driers
rusting.

Wheels clatter
past
gas-works
sewage-works
brick-works and water-works
where no man works ...

York.
White-walled city,
wedding-cake cathedral,
cobbled with memories
of school-girl days.

Newcastle.
Brown ale and brass bands,
pigeons and pit-heaps.
A cathedral and childhood
carved from coal.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

WINGS OF A DOVE

This curious poem turned up during a recent spring-clean: I had thought it lost forever.
I recall that when I wrote it I struggled to find a title and finally settled for Yellow.

The alternative choice was Dorothy, the name of the character played by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy is also the name of the sister of William Wordsworth, with whom the poet lived at Dove Cottage in the Lake District.
In the poem, I imagined the two Dorothys being, briefly, one person.
















YELLOW

A great wind ripped the cottage from its moorings,
hurled it, spinning,
upwards and away

then released it
spinning earthwards
to somewhere that wasn’t Kansas.

She stumbled outdoors
into
Technicolor!!!
 

acquired a pair of ruby slippers,
skipped down the Yellow-Brick Road
with Scarecrow, 
Tin-Man
and the Cowardly Lion,
to find the Emerald City

then, 

grown homesick,
Dorothy clicked heels three times.

Awoke.

She found the day turned monochrome,
the beds unmade, no supper ready for her brother.

William burst in: he noticed nothing.

I’ve seen a host of daffodils, he cried. I think I’ll use them in a poem.







Sunday, 5 February 2017

JUMPING TO CONCUSSIONS

Spring has arrived in Guernsey and with it the urge to tidy and reorganise drawers and cupboards.
In doing so, I discovered a cache of lighthearted poems written years ago for a pamphlet entitled Beasts that I sold to raise funds for an animal charity.
Amongst the many odd or exotic creatures that lurked between its covers were lemmings, widely and incorrectly, believed to commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs.



LEMMINGS

Frantic lemmings, out of breath,
scurry to communal death:
though incapable of flight,
yet from vertiginous height,
hapless creatures, with abandon,
leap, but who knows what they’ll land on!