From many places, speaking truth
and making magic happen. Celebrating language.

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The Great War / Gaudier Brzeska A Lesson with Mr. Menticulture The Way of the Tourist
Towers of Chun Modern Moment The Sapphrie Coast
London / San Francisco 10/10/01 Noir Over Kettle Bay
The Wow School The Beige Decade Zombies from the Waves
Two Drizzlers Afternoon Man
At Saunton Sands
Clubland Heroes Plucky Bastard
Never Said a Bad Word
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The Great War / Gaudier Brzeska

Gaudier, do you
hear the klaxon blast?
Down your brush,
drop your chisel,
men are marching
into the vortex.

This priceless abstract
bullets, fire and bombs,
Blitzkrieg into Armageddon,
relentless, inevitable.
Look up!
Above the trees,
the storm of steel.

Vegetarian dolts, Blavatsky's fools,
did you think you would live forever?
It has come at last,
something worth dying for.

A Lesson with Mr. Menticulture

The pupil says: -

'Please Mr. Menticulture,
can you teach me
to live without worry
and fear
and, like, fast?'

Mr. Menticulture replies: -

'Yes. Consider, if it is possible
to, like, get rid of fear and worry,
why is it necessary
to have them at all?'

The pupil says: -
'I get it.
I, like, totally get it.'

(Leaves room.)

The Way of the Tourist

Take the funicular railway,
kiss the Blarney Stone
walk the Boboli Gardens,
ride the London Eye.
This is what we do
while we are alive.

Up the Eiffel Tower,
down the Blue Grotto
round the Coliseum,
onwards to Angkor Wat
back through Cumberland Gap
always best as a tourist
with camera, phrase book, and map.

Ignore experts,
go where everyone goes,
surrender willingly
to the way of the tourist.

Swim in the Med,
drink the local brew,
visit Elvis's grave.
This is what we do
while we are alive.

Towers of Chun

Uncle Max knows the towers of Chun
And remembers how their exterior
Resembles a cliff face.

Even the most advanced aircraft
Cannot discover his hiding place.

He is there now
Writing nonsense
In faultless terza rima.

Modern Moment

I was sitting in Peet's cafe in Frisco
(as they dont like you to call it)
talking online with a cloned genius
Einstein Turing Turbo 7,
as he likes to be called.
My virtual handmaiden Zelda Fitz 6,
was, as always, at my side.
Suddenly just as I was feeling peckish,
my old pal Didier teleported himself
in from Paris - the Boul' Mich
(another no-no nomenclature)
with a fabulously fresh baguette
baked just 15 minutes before in
the 23rd arondissement.
Quite a modern moment.

The Sapphire Coast

No one cares where we went on holiday

The beaches we lay on

The cracked patio, the parks and pools,

The broken boogie board, the colony of cats,

Hula girls dancing in warm rain

Spy jets in the canyons.

Forgotten by everyone but us

We two, sunglassed and suntanned

With our separate, selective memories.

And it doesn't matter,

And it doesn't matter that it doesn't matter.

No need for the crying room,

Forgetting needs no practice.

We're going closer to the Equator next time,

A beach house on the Sapphire Coast,

If you want to know,

And you don't.

London / San Francisco 10/10/01

Looking down on these risen clouds
like the top of a clean explosion
appearing frozen and still
as we cross the Faroe Islands,
about 300 miles north of Lockerbie.

The steward, reassuringly gay,
brings fat nuts and champagne.
Below us the beauty of the Orcadian world,
above us the Northern Gods,
ahead Greenland, the Hudson Strait
and a soft landing by the bay.


A war hero kills his roundheel bride,
in ocean winds under glistening palms.
Rain falls on her body,
darkens her dark dress,
draws blood along her black hair.

Lightning reveals the stoic face
of a shamus sleuthing in a hotel garden,
his scarred jaw, his laconic teeth.

At a night club in the bay hills,
singers wear slinky dresses
with sparkle and sheen and have long hair
and dark glowing eyes like Veronica Lake.
Lust and longing perfume the air,
where the svelte girls torch-sing about lost love
and the utter impossibility of happiness.

A lot depends on a heartsick gangster
driving down a dark mountain road
in a long white Lincoln.

Later all the good and bad people
shoot one another in a dirty garage.

Over Kettle Bay

Late afternoon today
wispy clouds
over Kettle Bay.
Like the wings of a rib cage
puffed with pipe smoke.

Like I say,

I don't like the word,
it's not a word I'd choose,
too hackneyed, flat,
over used.

I reached to the sky
for another word,
yet nothing else got near,
wispy is what they were,
very, very wispy.

The Wow School

We were models
with high cheekbones,
goo goo dolls
with wide mouths and large eyes
set well apart.
We learned to say 'wow.'
Not to speak it,
but to mouth the word.
We didn't do much else
at the wow school.

The Beige Decade

At the moment I was half thinking

about my dad (1913 - 1995)

a man ran across the corner

of the window,

through a diagonal shower of coldish rain,

wearing a coat of exactly the kind

dad had worn for years.

A precious memory,

that rare shade of beige in gaberdene,

a colour and style from another age,

the beige decade.

Zombies from the Waves

Zombies are walking out of the waves

tonight in darkest Suffolk.

Fragments of the night incarnate,

dark denizens of the submerged streets,

closing in on a cosy seaview bungalow.

Within a beaming admiral sinks another gin,

and juts out his breakwater chin,

"nothing to fear" he shouts,

and shakes his angostura bitters

while the walking dead,

wreathed in glistened seaweed,

trample his antirrhinums.

Enter the slaughterers of Slaughden,

ghouls of the sunken village,

half expected all these years,

see their sullen malevolence,

hear their rasping jeers

as they tear off his raddled head

and drop kick it back into the dark sea.

Note: Slaughden is a village near me in Suffolk
that finally went under water in the late 1950s. There
is another submerged village in Suffolk at Dunwich which
inspired an M.R.James ghost story 'Whistle and I'll come to you'.
Oh, and angostura bitters is used for making pink gin - a
favourite drink of naval officers (but you knew that).

Two Drizzlers

You are the kind of person who will buy an olive oil drizzler.

I am the kind of person who wonders what kind of person

would even contemplate such a purchase.

He has contempt for the drizzler, for you and for me.

They couldn't care less.

On second thoughts I'll take one.

That's two drizzlers.

Afternoon Man

About to press the bell

at the ground floor flat,

I saw Lotte's body

through the forest of plants

that guarded the window.

Her body and another body,

rather too closely entwined.

Some morose afternoon man,

pigtailed around baldness.

I quietly absented myself.

There must be a German word,

for this feeling -

an equal measure

of jealousy and relief.

At Saunton Sands

The waves have broken

On this superb beach

For millions of years

Each one perfect.

Clubland Heroes 1960

'Im very, very bored' said Clovis.
'Who isn't ?' said Jasper.

Boodles club, deep armchairs
2 yawning toffs.

'Let's shoot somebody,'
Jasper muttered.

'Bloody sound notion
Sort of Leopold and Loeb, old bean,'
Opined Clovis.

'Bit existential, what?
Killing an Arab and all that,'
Hissed Jasper.

'I was thinking more of a frog,
Like that bastard Sartre,'
Clovis exclaimed,
Calling for a Ricard.

'Off we go to Paris
He dies, so that we can live,'
Spluttered Jasper,
Igniting a Gitane.

'Probably find him in Deux Magots,'
Thundered Clovis, slipping on a beret.

A Plucky Bastard

Bit of an old straw hat
and burgundy Jag.
Attempted to write a family history.
Plucky bastard.

Bit of an old straw hat.
Mayfly whiskers?
Attempted but failed,
but not afraid of failure.
Kept on writing.
Plucky, you see.

Always plucky,
sometimes chipper
but always plucky.
A plucky bastard.

Never Said a Bad Word

At the funerals of those who died too early,

well before their time (a short innings)

I usually hear the dead man described as

having 'never said a bad word about anyone'

and sometimes it is true.

I hear it so often that

it seems that saying bad words

about people is the secret of a long life.

Is it meekness or genuine niceness

that holds our dead man back?

Does he feel that if he put people down

they would do the same?

And why does he spend his afternoons in drinking clubs?