Saturday, 25 April 2020

Catch as Catch Can

Catch as Catch Can

We’re out here now, playing games on Primrose Hill,

giddy gambolling lambs in sunshine, chasing thrills,

racing breathless with each other to pluck daffodils

as Wordsworth’s clouds gather in old Jack and Jill.

Ray croons sons asleep, old Waterloo underground

lullabies of soft swept rivers by bright banks bound.

They sickle skywards, coasting, clean city and town,

murmur half a sixpence is better than half a crown.

Penny Lane’s pretty nurse sews cinnabar poppies

by Threadneedle Street, thumbs silk-mask glossy

pages, cover to cover, scanning copy for fine print

dashing away with a smoothing iron to press lint.

Peter Pan flies above Kensington begging for claps

from Neverland’s bright young things; doffs cap,

still believes in his Tinkerbell, she’ll yawn, stretch,

smile at Autumn chills, wink, then flicker and fetch

her book of spells. And we won’t get fooled again,

still it's time to play, Nana, sip sweet champagne,

it was the lark not the nightingale, but which tune

resonates with her setting suns or rising moons?

Hide or seek, ladders or snakes, maybe sardines,

pressed up tight together with no room to breathe,

hearts pounding in black’s silent muffled shadows

quietly tense, musn’t be caught; it grows, it grows.

Pepper strikes up when the end is getting very near;

 we’re out here still, all singing, all dancing, years

of in and out the dusty bluebells, all rings of roses

with a shout, puffed out, it please someone choose

catch as catch can. Silence weeps for she does know

when such a lovely audience will surely have to go.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

If It Be That

If It Be That

If they actually wanted to be somewhere near,
they’d write messages that you’d want to hear.
Tweet like birds some loving words:
Sorry, forgive me sweet stuff
without you, life’s not enough.

If they truly loved you as much as they claim,
it’d somehow be written with drops of rain,
words that streak down windowpanes
like: ‘oh, matron’, ‘cor, blimey’,
‘get away’ and ‘twice nightly’.

If they craved your company they’d lately lost,
they’d whittle icicle nibs to compose on frost
songs that smack like a heavyweight.
Revolvers that shoot pepper
while Father writes sad letters.

If they missed you more each passing hour,
their minds would blossom bright flowers.
Ideas that shake, with echoes quake,
Avon not believing Blake
bring cataclysmic heartache.

If they’d really reach out, huh, and I’ll be there,
they’d switch tumble driers up to maximum care
to scrutinise all those revolutions
when sloppy X marked the spot
where love’s tongue tied its knots.

If they'd weep and miss your going out to play,
they’d suck froth and foam from steamy latte
with no regard for burning mouths.
Become a purring tigress,
spreading legs like a virus.

If now passion honestly drives a burning need  
for all-nighters, lusting as wild animal greed
devours bursting sacks of spilling seed,
why then this long pregnant pause
at hearing Brutus too had cause?

If they wished to see your face this side of hell,
they’d speedboat sorcerers to wishing wells,
watch spray shape love’s eroded shores,
recall all hard pebbles cast
ripples that return the past.

So sad but true, we’ve some better things to do
than answer, yes fool, I could make time for you
if these riddling titles you explained full too.
We might sit back, grin and clap,
Iago…yes, but only if it be that.

Saturday, 11 April 2020



Lovely, oh yes, standing freshly drenched,
dripping warm water, wet on freckled skin
gift wrapped in only the smallest towel,
nearly knee length, interlocking patterns
falling forward, overtopping fine breasts
with so little covering most of the rest.

Beautiful woman I know so very intimately
of course, taller than me, but for all that
our spirits were level in grace; entwined
close and our minds sang in tessellations
before the fall, and in duets our smiles
shared sinful melodies under sunbeams.

Secret love, you’re quite here but slipping;
uncoalescing, flickering off vision, drifting
away on vapor sway of hot sauna steams.
Frowning at misty shadows that glisten,
blink, unsure if you can trust your sight,
shy smiling, come step forwards into light.

Beautiful and move me like heavy breathing,
stroke our damp towel, with fingers feeling
old heart linked contours bring soothing rains
writing our names in sand’s million grains
like these shapes drawn on your mirror now
in hope that you can glimpse me somehow.

Perfect statuesque, blind gazing right past
us, for true that’s all for everyone at last
where loving fun becomes one lost chance,
our band strikes up for one long last dance,
clinch in one pattern, locked in one waltz,
coupled step by step our one pas de deux.

Gorgeous blush frowning, brooding worry,
something has gone, searchlight memories
see figures dimming, impressions of steam
whirls, delicate mosaics swirling in dreams,
tongue-tipped tasted, remains unbound,
almost grasped stays noise without sound.

Beautiful, now you ghost walk right through
our two dancing phantoms, who once knew
how passionate the montage cross-faded
into a perfect finished cut, until time traded
love for disdain, bartered trust for treason,
showered snow across all warm reasons.

Fetching forms just out of focus, blurred,
as my voice screamed, it cannot be heard,
will never be, only unjigsaw puzzles remain
weak imprinting soft lines into softer skin,
where sunset falls on vanished emotions
sand tessellations are washed by oceans.

Friday, 10 April 2020



Provider of words to wiser than us, repent of leisure

charmed to forward on these fucklets with pleasure,

a beaming faced, sweat patch snorter of cheeky grin,

this Robin Reliable, latent all-nighter, countless chins,

multi voiced perforators of forty two-ply arse-paper,

fat twin yolker, chain smoker, serialised see you later

yoo-hoo, all see through stuffed black bra and bag,

mufti, tufty, roughty and plumper, flapping tits sag,

with freebie degree in nothing useless, stack heeled

military misstep, eight-some reel fat snatch and feel

broom stick it up her stiff back, twister, could crack

full frog throated one-two coughdrop, drip snot hack

pouter, lippy flouter, geisha sack-slack slipper shuffler,

phoned in dressage twin mirror, full length pose hustler

kiss-kiss, bang-bang, ah come here, pussy pussy pussy,

dinkie-doo strap-on handbag, bushy black and pushy,

slick shoe tongued specs, baccarat ham spanked spiv,

took decades to spunk up this towering inferno quiff,

Joe 90 minus eighty-nine squared, framed white light

caught out, caught in, weak grin gob-smacked fright,

pimpled, pink thousand island dressing skin disease,

wallpaper gumboil pasted mattress if you don’t please,

off the peg sicknotes, photocopied his piles, brave look,

Kellogg’s crispy sunshine skin-flakes on tables shook,

in scabies corner, Old Nick in shape of woman, whips

hate for breakfast, hate for lunch, hubble-bubbles shit

storms over Avalon, over anywhere, plots in piss-pots

taking notes, sharing quotes, scans those envious snot

green bustle-bottom eyes on what had been overlooked,

forgotten, unsigned, filed, datestamped; gathers to cook

plots, energetic work-avoidance schemes, sees it linger

from beneath her sheets; stirs it, stirs it with her finger.

Call them back, take them home, with recommendation:

fickle fuckwits our true testament to all fallen nations.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Look, don’t touch

Look, don’t touch

Since the barber shut, I grew a dank mop of dull, grey hair.

No, not a mop, a tangled skein. A vicious wiry spiral, resistant to any attempts by the hairbrush to tame it after restless tussles with half bitten pillow slips.

Sleep doesn’t come easy.

A yawn. Erase half remembered dreams of smiling face and ghost caresses.

Pad in bare feet, over to the laptop, slopping hot coffee down jeans, resisting the urge to rub bloodshot eyes because touching is forbidden. They feel sore, a cat o nine tails, all lashes and flashes.

Let’s shoot off a couple of Tweets. Blank bullets - less warning shots across bows; more distress flares.

Woken up at 4. Answered a couple of messages and I was touched, thought about it then no, and now it's 7.30. Derek will be thinking porridge's been cancelled.

E Mail. Spam Tray. Amazon - Payment declined, like yes of course I'll send all my credit card details but please later and phish off, bye.

Maybe a wry smirk shadows my face as they wing intangible around the globe. Featherlight. Will anyone like? Retweet? Respond? The whole world is watching. Looking but not touching.

Shock. Boris is in hospital. No, don’t think that.

Somewhere in the background, the Al Jazeera, recording, reporting. Locked down, locked in, single, solitary hearts, peering at us through screens, like they were windows into our souls. And the soothing psychologist with her prognosis of ‘without touching, we fall apart’ because it releases a chemical you see? Oh, don’t ask me about the Science, I deal in spellings. Some sort of witches’ brew; like that solution we slop onto our wrists and palms every time we remember.

Not much news on Qatar. What’s what with Doha?

And the sunlight shanks black shadowy bars through the webbed curtains, running its fingers through your grey as it rises on another day.

But, look, now, here’s life!

Picture by picture in manic dream pixels, faces appear, square by square until the screen resembles some sort of flashing pinball chessboard.

Let battle commence.

But wait. Just a quick rewind, here.

When I was told to teach via video, I had reservations. Well, you know, I always have reservations.

Oh, there was hue and cry across the teaching community. Wailing and gnashing. Unprecedented. Simply not possible. Virtual teaching? Virtually impossible.

Strange how resentment builds like a virus, isn’t it? A resistance to change, a herd immunity to originality, spark or thought, seasoned professionals using only the reptile part of the brain. Fight or flight. Understandable, though. Some of us faced this before – don’t die of ignorance, icebergs and all that.

But when the children disappeared, the classrooms emptied, and our school became now a vast, reverberating cavern where the only sound was the slight echo of footfall on tiled flooring. A sad note, that.

Or so I thought.

But here’s Rafan, grinning, all teeth and curls, peering impudently at me through the screen. That shy fellow there? Oh, that’s Muhammed Ali, ready for a twelve round dust up with metaphors; look there’s his mate, Abdullah. Nice fellah, Abdullah, quiet but excellent sense of humour – ah, yes, this one? Well, Abdelaziz of course, hasn’t even brushed his teeth by the look of him. His hair is as bedraggled as mine.

“All, right lads?” I cry in my faux cockney. It slips. My dialect and accent, I mean. Mostly I can manage a passable Standard English, with a serious tone and semi-formal register but I have been known to lapse into black country or even stray north of the border to Scotland. Well, it knows no frontiers, does it?

No, not that - dialects, accents, peoples – we’re all one, jammed together inside virtual squares, a template, looking at each other. Qatari, Indian, Lebanese, Egyptian…yes, even British.

“Yes, Mister, yes, Sir, yes, yes, yes.”

I clear my throat, “Now, lads, I’ll do the register later, I don’t know how, but we’ll muddle through it, eh? Now I must tell you, there has been…er…how can I say…some complaints about the use of the chat room. Some boys have been writing unflattering comments about our Principal, Doctor Wycherley…”

“Sir! I know who it was, sir!”

I try to look grave, but we were all young once, weren’t we? In my day, there were blackboards - big rolling screeds of chalk that the teacher would yank down with much huffing and puffing only to discover, too late and in dismay, some wag had written ‘wobble-bottom’ on the reverse side in multi coloured capitals.

I raise my eyebrows for quiet. I can do that, you know, they’re pretty impressive. Hush descends across the city. “We all know who it was, Sherlock,” I rumble, trying not to titter, “because the chat displays your name, doesn’t it?”

They hadn’t considered that.

I continue. “Now, see here. Any repetition of such rambunctious revelry and I will not only disable the chat function from my end but…” pause for effect…”bring down upon your heads such punishments that have even yet to be devised, so awful will they be.”

The silence is thunderous.

“So…let’s continue with exploring this very exciting poem, ‘IF’ by Mr Kipling.”

A square flash which indicates that someone wants to speak - Camren. Clever boy; sometimes works at the tennis during the Doha Open. “Sir? Sir?”

“Yes, Camren.”

“Doesn’t he make cakes, Sir?”

“No Camren. He does not make cakes.”

“He does, Sir. Fondant Fancies. My mum buys them.”

“That’s an entirely different Mr Kipling, Camren.”

Now here’s another flashing square and some grinning teeth. “I’ve been thinking, Sir,” says Ahmed. “If the punishment has yet to be even devised, it’s not much of one is it?”

“Not much of one what?” I sigh, rumbled by a keener mind than my own.

“Punishment, sir. Basically, it’s like saying ‘if you do this thing, then you’ll be punished with something that doesn’t exist’, Sir. Invisible.”

“Well, that may be true, but it’ll be terrible, anyway, and are you prepared to risk it?”

Well, yes, it seems. And now they’re all at the chat screen again, fighting over it, because they do like a struggle if truth be told. Shooting hoops, kicking footballs, jostling joyously, bundling over park greenery, piling on top of one another, screaming and kicking. Kings of each and every castle where a virtual scrap is better than none. It’s called growing up.

So, I disable it and continue. “Yes. If you do this thing, then this will happen boys. And, that’s what ‘IF’ is all about. It’s all conditionals. If you do this, then you’ll grow to be a man, my son.”

There is a pause and then a terrible thought. “Will we, Mister?” says a voice. “Will we grow up?”

And thirty sets of eyes look from the screen. Touching.

I’m sitting on the grey couch. Matches my hair. 

In front of me, the flatscreen and the Al Jazeera chant evening statistics in soothing susurrations like throat medicine; cool water on hot skin.

I chopped a salad earlier. Fresh tomato, cucumber, crisp lettuce and I seasoned it with rumours. If you eat garlic, if you munch raw onions, if, if, if.

Ah, what will be, will be. I’ll have mine with those sweet lamb chops from the Turkish butcher on Al Sadd Street, thank you. Some company would be nice but that would involve touch, lack of distancing when we’re locked in.

Check my tweets. Not much on the timeline, just an endless comfort chain ‘name your top ten books’ from around the globe and a message from an old friend I wish I’d spent more time with lately, but I hadn’t.

I don’t want to die here.

Tsk tsk. Ah, you’re not going to die, you nana. You’ll be fine. You’ve those two lads to bring up. Eat more garlic.

Does that work?

Halfway across the globe, pictures of Primrose Hill, London where people frolic like lambs and a grim reporter looks on, like a teacher. I shiver. Think of punishments so awful that have yet to even be devised. Invisible.

But look, here’s a young girl picking a flower in sheer joy at being out in the Spring sunshine, blossom of the new year, delighting in life and growth and renewal. And I’m reminded of somebody who said once, ‘for every flower that dies, a flower must surely grow.’

It won’t last forever.

The sun sets, taking with him his blank shadowy bars and as night falls, on television, our psychologist mutters something about getting in touch with ex partners, comfort and such.

So, alone, I tweet one final thought.

In times of crisis I want to touch my X, although maybe I should consider Y.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Time Enough

Time Enough

If broken hearts can kill
we stand accused still
attempted murder three
we are judge and jury
considering mitigation
suspended leniency
from far out to sea
cast off in brittle boats
keep heads above water
treading just afloat
self-isolated clutching
straw unable to touch.
Time sets questions now
inquires about home
are you coping alone
is your heart still stone
 done adequate stir
left sufficient seconds
for giggles together
kisses gathering us both
to enfold sugar in cream
enough time to dream.

Friday, 3 April 2020

and all our Angels...

and all our Angels...

…light love’s fools the way to dusty fugue

where we should have kissed, Louise,

clinched it on that doorstep, me and you

but, oh the eyes, gripped fast in a second,

mouths centimetred inches, lip to lipstick

so close, our breaths do freeze and frigid,

straight and narrow, hard and rigid.

Highway codes and all, our Angels susurrate

laying on of feint rolling muttered hands,

fingering napes, shivering skin, fiddling hair,

flitter follicle words of stick pricking comfort,

on each hard shoulder teach common sense,

leave you sat by the verge, gulping for air.

Should’ve had each other then and there,

bent two beast backs on unforgiving stairs

until the ply planks cracked, the rods bent

from carpet burns and bold love was spent.

Ripped open your blouse, see buttons fly,

now wave them goodbye, tear off brass zip,

slash sodden lace petticoat pink panties, slip

stiff upper lipped slit and cry abandon ship,

oh - double dare, all you who enter here.

Do you remember? But can you hear them,

all our Angels, mutter promises, dream thick

that polite boys and girls deserve favour,

good things for those who patient wait in line,

follow rules, learn by heart stopping distance

in wet weather. They’d say anything, bring rain,

sooth fevered brain, wild words passions tame,

stand long with you in sophistry and in blame.

Damned her vows, we’re damned by all pledges

to sand smooth my splinters and rough edges.

But, ah, that glitter in your eyes, I see it still,

hungry gaze, wet tongue, trembling mouth

and just one slip was all it would have took.

Too late to regret ones we should have kissed,

chances missed, take comfort you were wise,

listened to all the venom our angels hissed

in the name of deferred bliss: look at your face

older now, grained, moulded by passing years

from lust red brave to custard coward tears

as all our angels remember us in their prayers.