Wednesday, 19 October 2016

That which cannot be measured

That which cannot be measured does not exist:
your staring out of the window, your daydreaming
your jack in the box ‘imagination’ –  a will of the wisp.
All are unproductive. Ergo, you have failed the test

There are no metaphors on a balance sheet.
Your ‘creativity’ is as elusive as the Eucharist.
It is, as best, a faded scroll, a mere palimpsest.
That which cannot be measured does not exist.

Unwind your spring, do not construct analogies
or let your restless mind concatenate.
Let this Excel spreadsheet record you
noting, merely, your presence, your absences.

All of that time, you could have been elsewhere
writing your poetry and your symphonies.
To the ghost in the machine, I am the exorcist.
That which cannot be measured does not exist.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


For weeks as the sharp cold tightens his skin
he hunches over the lexicographical machine.
Each sheet is laced with streams of graphite
like a desiccated spider. Tap tap tap. Cough.
More blood. Likely his death sentence: a haemorrhage.

He ventures out only to watch the slate grey sea and the gliding of fulmars:
movement without purpose. This strange world – an infinity of grey.
Hunchbacked, in the cold kitchen
he puffs on his hand-rolled muse like a true proletarian.
On the white page he can engrave
the gold of Valencia, the crimson banners of the dead.

With his coloured plates he illustrates
sadistic commissars, the idiocy of ideologies.
To make them mean more, a novel.
His eyes narrow down a wrong-way telescope
on slogans, burial pits and victory parades.
A whole century was betrayed.

He sees the overflowing sink. He touches his bullet wound.
Puff puff puff. Tap tap tap. Wrong-way telescope. Century betrayed.
Should he smoke? Of course.
He will finish this cigarette and thousands  more.
Milk in, blood out.
And the book? He chipped it out from granite
with his bare hands. He could do no more.

London welcomes its hero with a glass colonnade
The pages go to proofs then plates.
His stained fingers are as orange as cinnamon.
They run off the first books when he is in hospital
in his wedding bed, shortly before his funeral.
On his melancholy face is a faint smile.
He did not stop. He finished it.

From each small death he built a larger one.
He did not stop. From Jura granite he chipped it out
from stone to paper, paper to stone.
The final book his adamantine memorial.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Partisan's song

Nothing ever happened round here.
We passed our dull lives invisibly.
We lived on luncheon meat and gassy beer
in drab suburban conformity.

Their advanced forces approached stealthily.
Quietly, they moved from street to street
as their prim curtains twitched digitally:
a new web page, a Facebook post, a tweet.

They brought a gluten-free economy
in which coffee was drunk openly
a cheese shop, a microbrewery:
the food fads of the almost wealthy.

Soon, they opened a cozy bistro
where folk singers strummed on guitars
and people ate goats’cheese and prosciutto.
Buggies came and muffins on our bars!

When Zumba arrives, estate agents follow.
Our cheap lager was a fading memory.
The boozer’s gone; it’s Foxtons now.
There is nowhere to be sullen and lonely.

The wine tasting classes were the last straw.
We established a bridgehead at Poundland.
We wanted our lives back, as before.
But it was too late. There was nothing to defend

Friday, 23 September 2016

Ye Tudor Tower Blocke

Made from finest English yew and oak
Standing tall, her quality bespoke

Her fifty floors are smoothed with daub and wattle
She rises proud and slender as a bottle

Ivy-covered and topped with thatch
Home to summer swallow and nuthatch

She is higher than the tallest tree
The shining jewel of London’s liberty

For pilgrim, knight or royal VIP
A priceless gift: peace and security

For wealthy merchant, squire or nobleman
A slice of London glamour, bought off plan

Here the cool and fashionable invest
For who would not desire an eagle's nest

Exotic pleasures follow from with their lease
The nightly chatter of Winchester geese

Turning his wooden crank, the spit rotator
Will hoist you upwards in the elevator

Enjoy the city spreading out below
The sparkling river Thames and Shakespeare’s O

We have the perfect place to meet and greet
So raise your tankard in the Marlow suite

For those who wish to keep their bodies trim
The building has a jousting mini gym

Before you leave, we hope that you will stop
To fill your trencher in Ye Turnip Shoppe

A high-rise chapel offers benediction
Except to those of Papist disposition

Or, in ceaseless prayer from morn to night
To save your soul, a private anchorite

Just as man is host to flea and louse
Your animals are welcome in this house

A well-swept stall for stallion and mare
The freshest straw, because out ostlers care

Ye South Banke is now a national treasure
A favoured spot for tourism and leisure

Here from far and wide the people flock
To see a show or fighting bear or cock

To raise the roof, or fornicate or drink
And hear the groaning prisoners in the Clink

Pause here to freshen up and change your ruffle
Before enjoying theatre or brothel

Whether you dine on venison or pottage
We know that you will like our aerial cottage!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Numbers or words

Although numbers do not tell stories
as graphically as words do
both can murder efficiently –
Both numbers and words can kill you.
Behind the tyrant on the balcony
sits an unsmiling accountant
listening to his oratory
with the cold heart of the merely numerate.
His story may be less colourful
a narrative that only he can see
but death is hiding in his ledgers
he can subtract you from history.
If evil does not requires empathy
he is a true master of infamy.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Ballad of Labour

This chequered history is us
So climb aboard the battle bus

Welsh orator and fiery Scott
Labour’s history has the lot

Noble lord and miner’s son
Hard drinker and puritan

Stafford Cripps was of that ilk
He dined on oats and sour milk

But Harold Wilson’s pal, George Brown
Was the biggest drunk in town

The mighty shipyards turned to rust
The General Strike, Keir Hardie’s dust

James Maxton and ‘Red Clydeside’
The Jarrow marchers, all inside

Heroes, when the war was won
Bevan, Silkin, Morrison

Bevin from the TUC
Hugh Dalton and Clem Attlee

Labour’s women linger still
Like Dr Edith Summerskill

Feisty Castle, Bessie Braddock
Pioneering Diane Abbott

Ruddock from the CND
Shirley Williams, SDP

Jowell, Harman, Hodge and Walley
And in bright scarlet Follett, golly!

Also from New Labour’s years
Yvette Cooper and Hazel Blears

Rebels mark our history
Like Poplar’s mayor, George Lansbury

There is nothing new to war
The party has been here before

Warrior of pacifist
Each can be a socialist!

Lost leaders are written here
The tarnished king, MacDonald’s heir

The thief of Baghdad, Tony Blair
(Now a lonely millionaire)

And heroes lost to history
John Smith died young, a tragedy

Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook
Their names are written in the book

Tony Crosland’s heart gave out
Or he would have had a shout

Whose this come to join the show?
The Welsh firebrand, Kinnochio

He might have won, but for that night
When he swaggered – ‘Well alright!’

And if your taste runs to the bland
There was young Ed Miliband

Read the diaries of great men
Dick Crossman and Tony Benn

Some dodgy geezers got the sack
Stephen Byers and ‘Junket Jack’

Labour is a mosaic still
Of wealthy men, like Hugh Gaitskell

Heroes from the lower strata
Prescott, with his chipolata

And others who are far from grand–
Alan Johnson and his band

From council hall and union
Heffer, Dobson, Livingstone

(Once against an ‘EU state’
Now he is an apostate)

Economics brought us down
Before the days of Balls and Brown

Healey at the IMF
The crash of sterling, what a mess!

The right wing press’s ill intent
The dead unburied, discontent

To cope with strikes a master plan
‘In place of strife’, James Callaghan

From public school and tough estate
Each new pretender at the gate

To win the race must learn to fight
Trim to the left or back to right

New Labour, well their day is done
Blunkett, Straw and Mandelson

But will the tribe of Jeremy
Learn from Labour’s history?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fly fishing in Bromley

for Adam

The lake pulls my nerves taut
like a mirror of my heart –
a reflection of hidden jeopardy.

I cast my line and draw it tight
Darkness is falling. Why would I
plant my best shoes in the mud

to test a half-forgotten skill
against an unseen enemy
if not tugged by an ancient memory?

For it is not normal to kill.
It is as if something in me
is seeking to stop time itself.

The cruel world below
is slimy and bestial.
Man eats pike, pike eats minnow.

Perhaps it is just evolution.
Bigger fish are tormenting me
and so, in staring into this mirror

I am merely passing hurt down the line
although I have no need to –
to inflict pain on an invisible foe.