Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Monday, 26 February 2018


The theme of this month's Guernsey Open Mic Poetry evening is "Words" which seems an appropriate, if unimaginative, subject for a poetry event.
An infant's first words provoke jubilation in the parent and there are few among us who are not curious to learn of the famous last words of the great and good.
In between life's bookends lies a massive accumulation of words, significant or otherwise, many of which we may well regret having spoken.
As a child, I was drawn to words and, indeed verse, by means of nursery rhymes.
It's surprising how many of those tales were downbeat. Jack and Jill's unfortunate tumble, Humpty Dumpty's premature demise and poor Little Miss Muffet's traumatic encounter with a spider: these gloomy tales created a decidedly negative impression of the world that awaited me beyond the safety of the family home.


If words were worms that warmly went
from A to B beneath our feet
in worthy earth, absorbed, content,
through coffin-wood to winding-sheet
they might diminish, as they fed,
the boredom of the lonely dead

who surely must find wearisome
that endless nothingness, their lot:
unmoving lips, tongues rendered dumb.
Were words, like worms, to breach each cot
then pale flesh might become a page
on which to document their rage.

Friday, 23 February 2018


What better way to celebrate my wife Jane's birthday than to welcome the arrival of the first batch of copies of her forthcoming book, Guernsey Legends, a collection of poems and paintings inspired by island folklore.
The creative partnership between Jane and local painter, Frances Lemmon, evokes the magic of an unseen world of witchcraft, love potions and fairies through vibrant images and evocative poetry that celebrate the ancient mysteries of our beautiful island.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


It's easy to be pessimistic nowadays: indeed, gloom seems to be the default setting for many of us, and I am no exception. 
What a pleasure, then, to discover this long-lost villanelle tucked away in a bundle of lost poems that resurfaced recently.
Whilst it's not one of my better efforts, its theme is refreshingly upbeat.


The world stops turning then begins again
and suddenly, abruptly, change has come.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Rain-forests rise, reach heavenwards, attain
full grandeur, scorn the chainsaw’s hum.
The world stops turning then begins again.

The bare ravine becomes a verdant glen.
Trees blush with fruit. Famine is overcome.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Bright birds repopulate a blighted fen.
Fish spawn in rivers where there once were none.
The world stops turning then begins again.

Returning life reclaims its lost terrain,
a verdant place beneath an orange sun.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Old men grow young, straight-backed, forget their pain:
they shrug off leaden years, so burdensome.
The world stops turning then begins again.
Blooms burst in deserts fresh with gentle rain.

Thursday, 15 February 2018


At the risk of sounding like Sir John Betjeman on a bad day, I'd like, today, to celebrate a childhood teddy-bear called Dan, who disappeared from my life nearly seventy years ago but haunts my memories still. 
Unlike most teddy bears, Dan was not a rotund, roly-poly fellow but, instead, rather a scrawny chap whose resemblance to a bear was approximate at best. 
His arms and legs were unnaturally long and his face wore a permanently worried look.
As I recall, he was clad in navy corduroy dungarees and, even in his youthful days, looked decidedly scruffy. 
I doubt he was a hand-me-down, since I was the eldest child in my family, although perhaps I inherited him from an older cousin.
Whatever his provenance, he was very dear to me.
Sadly, no images of Dan exist. The photograph below is of a rather over-weight Dan-lookalike.





That old plaid shirt with ragged sleeve,
scarred work boots like a tomcat’s nose,
the ragged blue jeans, worse for wear,
and straw-hat with its missing straws,
are dearer to me, I believe,
than wardrobes full of brand-new clothes:
the perfect-new does not compare
to things we love despite their flaws.

Sunday, 11 February 2018


This rhyming poem is taken from the stock of lost verses that I recently rediscovered.
Written just over ten years ago, it already feels quite archaic for, much to my regret, rhyme in poetry is out of fashion nowadays.


The hawk that rips the sparrow from the air
does so without conscience or care:
it kills the sparrow because it is there.

The hand that misdirects the moving pen
destroys a precious nationhood of men
yet signs the treaty time and time again.

The word that sends ten thousand men to war
debases life and chooses to ignore
the human cost that decent men abhor.

The one that wounds the thing that he holds dear
is not a hawk whose conscience is clear:
instead, guilt will consume him year by year.

A soul that seeks to rally to the light
is like an eye that opens with delight,
defying darkness, valiantly bright.

The eye that counts each sparrow as it flies;
the ear that heeds each dying sparrow’s cries;
on such as these the Universe relies.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, is reputed to have remarked: Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man, and it’s certainly true that early influences leave their mark for better or worse.
The writer, Philip Larkin, was more rather succinct in his much-quoted poem, This Be The Verse, when he wrote: They fuck you up, your mum and dad./ They may not mean to, but they do.  

Back in the nineteen forties and early fifties, when I was growing up in Presbyterian East Belfast, the power of the church was absolute and God-fearing parents, with the best of intentions, indoctrinated their hapless offspring into the concept of guilt and of Heaven and Hell: the latter with its unquenchable flames in which sinners would burn for eternity. 


Catechism came with porridge
on Sunday mornings, then. 
and Answer. 
What is man’s chief end?
A lifetime later, adult, grown,
I have the forthright answer still:
To glorify our God, amen.

How those morning pictures linger.

With hair slicked down and parting straight,
scrubbed knees, nails free of grime, clean hands,
in Sunday Best, fresh underpants
and vest, black brogues with Bible shine,
I went with hymn-book to the church,

then into Sunday School we trooped  
like little soldiers off to war,
while parents stayed for Hell-Fire words  
and promises of Satan’s wrath
that they, in turn, would promise us.

Grey were the Sundays of my youth:  
shut shops, shut faces, shuttered hearts.
A football kicked would damn to Hell. 
A comic read, a careless laugh, 
would be recorded in God’s book.
Guilt was instilled and mortal fear.
I haven’t yet got off the hook.

Thursday, 1 February 2018


Does some form of consciousness exist after death? If so, what form does it take? And do the dead know they’re dead? 
We ask these sort of questions when we're very young and probably ask them again when very old. 
In between these two life-stages, there are other questions, with answers that affect our daily lives, which seem infinitely more important.
This rhyming story is a bit of fun based on those first questions.



I read the sign and climb a stair.
The office door is smokey glass. Inside a radio plays jazz. I go in. He points to a chair. 

He’s shabby but he don’t look dumb. His voice is booze and cigarettes: a weary voice, full of regrets. A gumshoe, laid back, chewing gum.
I say: Man, you’re a Psychic Eye. I got a problem, something’s changed. It’s like the whole world’s rearranged, gone crazy but I don’t know why.
When joshing with my buddy, Pat, there was a mishap with a gun: the pistol was a loaded one. Things turned peculiar after that.
Down at the pool room, I’m ignored. Guys talk and laugh like I’m not there: goddam invisible, I swear.
I was their pal once: now they’re bored. I crack a joke. They look elsewhere.  I shout: Hey Guys! They just don’t hear. I ask for whiskey or a beer: the bar-keep gives me a blank stare.

The Psychic nods.
I tell him this. I visited my gal today: she looked right through me, turned away when I leaned forward for a kiss.
He lights a smoke, says: Some survive a bullet from a careless gun, a lucky few, but you’re not one.
Man, you’re a ghost. You ain’t alive. 

I’m psychic so I see a bit ... the gumshoe tells me ... Just a peek. For you, the future’s looking bleak.
You’re dead. You gotta live with it.