Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Mornings with AJ

The radio tells us of sun and showers.
It talks of the Yazidi genocide –
a kaleidoscope of global powers
and a famous comedian’s suicide.
Reflecting upon ‘British values’
I cross the giant’s kingdom of Sainsbury’s
to buy your Snickers and vinegar fries.
It’s a dilemma. What on earth are they?
When should we act and when turn aside?
You are far more interested in toys
than the slaughter on a mountainside
or the tortured comedian’s woes.
To the bipolar blink of light and dark
we wake and sleep. We walk across the car park.

The feather and the drum

For Jon

They served their county Frank and Tom
With gun and mortar, plank and bomb
Frank joined first, the infantry
Although his trade was carpentry
He had a daughter and a wife
He bid farewell to his old life
And went to his batallion

With army boots upon their feet
They left their home in Tamworth Street
It was a plan that could not fail
The final push at Passchendaele

An empty place now he was gone
It was the turn of brother Tom
To follow in that bloody year
A sapper in the Engineers
They were not born for smoke and mud
For shrapnel or for fields of blood
A butcher’s war extinguished them

With army boots upon their feet
They left their home in Tamworth Street
It was a plan that could not fail
The final push at Passchendaele

To fill the shoes of dying men
Bullies and the lies of crowds
Used the feather and the drum
To take their lives and blow them out
They were not born to kill or fight
Soldier Frank and Sapper Tom
They died at Ypres and Pilckem

With army boots upon their feet
They left their home in Tamworth Street
It was a plan that could not fail
The final push at Passchendaele

The challenge. Set this song to chords. Prize for best!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The function of suburbia

They marked their boundaries
with privet and Leylandii 
they strimmed and mowed regularly –
nothing happened for centuries.
Decades passed them by
in the comparison of flower beds.
Jealously, they tamed the wild wood
with each trimmed lawn and neat rockery.
Careful not to be too friendly
they observed with furrowed brows
the ambition of neighbours’ sheds
the rows of imprisoned begonias.
The function of suburbia
to push back its silent terror.

Thursday, 17 July 2014




Because an Archduke was killed.
they were called on to serve their country.
Frank joined first – the infantry
then brother Tom, an engineer.
They watched their comrades pass by
blown to atoms, drowned in mud
in a colossal sacrifice of blood
to stuttering machine gun and artillery.
Artisans, they were not born to fight.
The Lichfield sons were ordinary.
The lies of crowds took their history.
Hague’s plan for the salient blew them out.
Frank died first, then sapper Tom
from wounds sustained at Ypres and Pilckem.

Note: two relatives, on my father’s side, Frank and Tom Hatchett, brothers from Lichfield in Staffordshire served in the First World War. Frank was a private in the 16th battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), Tom was a sapper in the Royal Engineers. They both died during the Third Battle of Ypres, in 1917. Frank on the 20th of September and Tom on the 10th of October

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A sense of danger


We must warn you of the estuary
of its deep water and savage tides
there are perils here, abundantly
we are the guardians of the outside.
In informing you that there might be
the violence of a sudden squall
we are only doing our duty.
You could slip. The sky might fall.
Imagine your anxiety
trapped alone, in the dark, on the mud.
We must warn you of the estuary –
there might be a flash flood
a freak storm could wash you away.
Danger is only one step from beauty.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

World Cup 2014

We’ll patch up some half-baked side
and impose upon bemused strangers
the delusion of our national pride.
As if in some latter-day crusade
to shore up our failed imperium
we’ll hitch up our beer bellies and tattoos
and mount a futile campaign.
We never win. We know we’ll lose.
With our polite lies and cucumbers
we say that winning does not count
when the game goes to penalties
But we are only lying to ourselves.
We’ll watch our dream soar over the bar.
It’s losing that shows us who we are.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Fire, air, earth, water

Just like you to find the sweet spot –
the warmest place is the windowsill.
You lie in the sun, stretch and kill.
You are never troubled by regret.
You are almost divine: there and not there.
You track my steps in a zig-zag ritual
and charm me for your next meal.
Like a spell, you melt into the air.
You live in the present. You do not fret
about what might happen tomorrow.
You follow me around like a shadow.
I should be happy but I am not.
You occupy a circle of now
as you flex and curl. I envy you.

The wind tickles the damselfly –
with one bright flick it is gone.
It paints the sky with imagery
we are what we have done.
The wind rattles the ash trees.
It troubles water. It strips the leaves.
The wind erases your stories.
It takes them away, one by one.
Gently the wind touches your hair.
Now that your time is over
it is returning your life to air.
It’s a shame that we cannot recover
what we have thought, what we have seen.
To restore memory, touch card to screen.

Each day I walk past a cemetery
a neat white sign over a log cabin
R. Gray and Son Monumental Mason –
stacked stones waiting for judgment day. 
While I sit in the shelter at the bus stop
my feet are washed by cemetery run-off
and, as if this wasn’t bad enough
they have eviscerated the chip shop.
They have spilled its guts across the pavement –
old brown carpets and chewed-up clay
in a lonely spot at the edge of town
without ritual or sacrament.
I had to stand there today
slowly, the elements are breaking down.

You could tempt me to go too far
with your promise of adventure.
Your mood could change in heartbeat
you could harm me – you have done before.
There is always a journey
a line that grows on the horizon
the tug of the moon on the tide
an island to plant my flag on.
You are pulling me like a memory.
You could charm me, you always do
onto some miniature Odyssey
from Ithaca, in my canoe.
The lure of your Sirens’ song
a journey from which I may not return.