Caveat

While I applaud your ardour,
there’s just one thing I would say:
When you pull the trigger,
could you face the other way?


 

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Nothing personal

Let’s see if Lefty Lomax
can take a jolly jape:
Let’s seal his lips together
with elastic binding tape,
then tie his hands and feet
and cast him to the deep,
with a friendly rock to keep him company.

I’m sure he’ll see the lighter side,
and join in all the fun.
It’s just  piece of business
that we’d do to anyone.


 

School poetry remembered

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
the forests of the night.
As yet the early rising sun’s
not really burning bright.

Gazing where the lilies blow,
athwart the surging tide,
the music in my heart I bore
— the dog it was that died.

I listened, motionless and still,
and when I counted up the till,
the money in a cart I bore
to Alfie’s place beside the shore.

And still they gazed
and still the wonder grew,
how one small flower could blossom
on the grave of mad Carew.

What immortal hand or eye
can frame the sylvan cot?
Some kinds of education
are better left forgot.

— ‘What’s the poet’s  theme, young man?
Why is he disturbed?’

— ‘The poet’s feeling sad, Sir,
cos he wants to be a bird.’


 

Action plan

I’d be better off back inside. Three meals a day, warm bed every night, company. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to eat.

The thing about jail is… you get used to it. Most people don’t understand that. Am I supposed to get used to living under the bridge, getting kicked by teenagers and fucked by everyone else? Perish the thought, old bean!

So… action plan: hammer, crowbar, balaclava (one likes to look the part), nip round to C Block and effect a seamless entry. The prodigal son returns! Big hug from the warden (‘My boy! you’ve come back!’), welcoming smiles from all and sundry, welcoming smell of bleach from the laundry. Home.


 

Lovers’ Chase

Let’s see if Gilbert Ormeau
has the balls to show his face
after spurning Wilma Cresslaw
in the yearly Lovers’ Chase.

Wilma is a dog, of course,
but that’s no earthly reason,
to treat her like a carthorse
or a mule that’s out of season.

Poor Wilma’s heart is broken
— a pox on you, Ormeau! —
she has taken to her box
with a bottle of Bordeaux.


 

The standoff

— Stick with us, Bukowski,
don’t wander off the path.
There’s bears and ‘coons and all sorts
that’ll bite ye in the ass.

— I smoaked your plot a ways back,
I know your cunning game.
Don’t try to stop me, Tandy,
or this day will end in shame.

— Stop right there, Bukowski,
don’t move another foot.
So help me, I’ll shoot ye down,
if ye shift yer spineless butt.

And so the standoff started,
Bukowski and the goy.
They’ve been glaring at each other
since Adam was a boy.


Boneyard

A shinbone from Al Capone
comes up for sale today.
There should be lots of interest,
but how much would you pay?

A jawbone from Sly Stallone
would fetch a handsome fee,
but not as much as molars
from the gob of Kiki Dee.

How about a femur,
as worn by Woody Guthrie,
or the sesamoid bones of Davy Jones,
the pretty one from the Monkees?

Roll up, roll up, don’t miss this chance,
be sure to stake your claim
— your very own piece of history
from the boneyard of fame.


 

The poet’s breakfast

Something wrong with Twemlow’s cornflakes?
Is the milk not warm enough?
Would he like some buttered muffins
to beguile his morning oeuf?

Does he ever stop complaining,
that thankless little toad?
Give him bread and water,
then tell him ‘Hit the road’.

Ingratitude is hard to bear,
more so at breakfast time,
when all a humble poet seeks
is marmalade and rhyme.


 

Trade wars

Considine the catchpole
is coming round today.
He’ll have as much luck getting cash
as the pope of getting laid.

I won’t wait in line for Considine,
I will not bow & scrape,
to give my hard-earned lucre
to a leering jackanapes.

Fie upon thee, catchpole,
a noisome, noxious trade.
Why can’t you sell sweet mangos
or home-made lemonade?

Make the world a better place
with mangos and a glass.
Instead of which you’re getting rich
collecting income tax.


 

Casting off

H.M.S. Mayfly set sail from Dartmouth on June 17th, 1774, to begin the long journey to the Promised Land. In command was Captain Brigham Tandy, a veteran of the South Seas and the Bering Strait, now in semi-retirement on the north Atlantic route.

Just before casting off, the Captain was in his cabin with Chief Purser  Abel Dawkins and ship’s surgeon Dr William Monteith, brought together to take part in one of Captain Tandy’s little ceremonies, the ‘Raising of the Glass’, his term for drinking to the success of the forthcoming voyage. All being well, these three gentlemen would re-assemble here at voyage end, for the corresponding ‘Lowering of the Glass’.

A few words were in order: ‘Gentlemen, good health and stout hearts, fair winds and stout timbers, clear skies and comely seas.’ Then all three; ‘Long live the Mayfly!’, and they downed their Amontillados. Then Captain Tandy: ‘Now, gentlemen: on deck!’, which was a bit like saying ‘How about we open the Gates of Hell?’

On a sailing ship, the constant baleful creaking of the timbers, struts and stanchions echoes and quivers along the ropes and lines of sails, through the spars and hawsers and down, deep down, into the cavernous hold below, from where it rises again like the clamorous calling of the dead.

That was the sound that greeted the Captain when he went on deck to oversee the casting off, the heaving-ho, and the heaving-to. ‘Full sail abaft’, he bellowed, and startled 14-year-old cabin boy Edwin Smart, who slipped on the wet rigging and caught his neck in a hauling rope, which tightened in a trice and strangled him.

Master Smart had dreamed of chasing sea-monsters in the Andaman Sea, of finding buried treasure in the Malaccas, and of wallowing in filth in the sweats and stews of Calcutta. They were still close enough to shore to offload his body and give it to his mother, who had travelled from Manchester to wish her son God speed on his first voyage.

Sailors are an ignorant, superstitious lot, so they saw the boy’s death as a bad omen, a harbinger of worse to come. Rabbits’ feet and lucky pennies were touched, rubbed, implored, from bow to stern, but in every case, furtively. ’Not for meself, like, but for the good of the ship’.

Twemlow, too, witnessed the strangulation, from his position near the mainmast. In fact, he took a very keen interest in it. ‘New sights, new sounds already’, he thought, as he watched the boyish features turning purple, the thin, flailing legs. And he heard the dry, desperate rasping from the narrow neck narrowing further. ‘Mayfly’, he smiled to himself, as he turned to look towards the horizon.


 

Sunday morning memories

A tousled beldam at the bar, taking snuff and ale,
belching like a bullfrog and leering at the swains
who come to swill their liquor after church.

‘Does your mammy know you’re here?’ says the beldam with a sneer,
to a youthful churl who orders rum and coke.

The churl turns vivid scarlet and looks the other way,
while the beldam cackles hoarsely and orders up a tray
of inky pints of Guinness and two drams.

Everywhere you go, grey stone walls and graveyards,
and everywhere you look, the Virgin Mary.
Farmers’ sons and stone-cold nuns, as mad as Tipperary.


 

Ickle nation

See how the pumpernickel
tickles pickles in the dish?
But does it tickle pickles
in the manner we would wish?

There’s a lot of pickle tickling
that goes way beyond the fact,
leaving fickle pickle ticklers
too much leeway in their act.

We must rein in pickle tickling,
with some cast-iron legislation,
before rabid pickle ticklers
over-run our ickle nation.


 

Sophistication

I wish I was sophisticated, like those people in the adverts who drink Campari and have spotless, airy kitchens with Nespresso machines, and cycle on cobbled streets, grinning at each other like demented mannequins.

Perfect couples, two blond kids
(always one of each)
hand-in-hand at sunset,
walking on the beach.

Clothes they’ve never worn before
and never will again.
‘Don’t wander off, One of Each,
we’re dining at The Pen.’

‘Hurrah for top-class dining!
Shall we have Perrier?
We so enjoy the bubbles,
don’t we, sibling dear?’

‘Time to go now, Perfect Kids,
to sample more rewards,
thanks to mother’s air-miles
and my platinum credit cards.’

Instead of which, my life’s a bitch
and I sit here all alone,
in the dark sophistication
of my leaky mobile home.


 

No sale

Why are poems always sad?
Dads are sad when kids grow up,
the kids are sad when summer ends,
Mom got married far too young
and is sucking down the valium.

Youth’s a thing that will not last
(did I just make that up?),
autumn leaves are nice but sad
Grandma’s sad but nice,
but not as nice as sad.

It’s nearly always raining,
in the little town of Wistful
(sidewalks paved with wist),
where the poet spent a happy youth
but now he just gets pissed
(I mean inspired).

The everyday, the dread,
the drive to work
the drive to school
the drive to Beachy Head.

Then the sucker punch
— the love-bag —
the bleeding human heart.

And always somewhere, not far off,
some soppy funeral bell.
Is it really any wonder
that poetry doesn’t sell?


 

In the end

To some extent a horse
can never be one’s own.
They like to keep a distance
and they seldom use a phone.

I had a horse at one time,
but she just wandered off,
caught a train to Denver,
then a flight to Kalinov.

Last I heard she had a role
in some docudrama,
and was advertising biscuits
for Twemlow & Obama.

So get a horse, by all means,
but don’t expect a friend.
Like all adoring lovers,
she’ll leave you in the end.


 

Bolly review

The long journey from hinterland Punjab to the sweltering metropolis of Mumbai is nobly depicted, as it mirrors the hero Anjar’s journey from naive boychild to loving husband and father. Along the way, there is much mischief for all concerned. The scene where Anjar meets his future bride near the walls of the old city, will surely have you in swoon. Neetha Bedi is glorious in the role of Shilpa.

— It is very fine. Times of India

— You will experience glee. Mumbai Times


 

Manifesto

There are many reasons why horses don’t ride bicycles, but chief among them must be fear of public ridicule. But why should a cycling horse be subjected to ridicule? Is there something inherently comic in such a sight? Is it more or less ridiculous than the sight of you (distinguished voters) running in the Grand National at Aintree? Why should horses be deprived of the pleasures of cycling, based simply on some ill-founded theory of humour? It just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in the twenty-first century. We should be breaking down barriers, not building them, and working towards social inclusion, not exclusion.

So I hereby promise that if elected, I will introduce a generous subsidy for the purchase of bicycles for horses. It would go a long way toward righting a cruel injustice. (Pause for applause)

By the same token, if you want to run in the Grand National, what’s to stop you? Go for it, and best of luck.


 

Refusal

‘I’ll have a tankard of your ale’,
says Joey ‘Squeezebox’ Dalton.
’No you won’t’, says Barkeep Bill,
‘This bar is not for haltin’.
You play your squeezebox far too loud,
you mingle with a nasty crowd,
your face is like a field that’s ploughed,
your ass would make your face feel proud,
so shift yer butt, young Dalton.
This bar is not for haltin’.


 

Appeal

I don’t normally suggest that people jump off tall cliffs (and with good reason), but there are times when it can help. For example, if you’re being chased by a ravening tiger (or other large cat), it can help to jump headlong from a cliff, since the animal may be disinclined to take such a drastic course.  And yet clear-thinking man will not give it a second thought — proof, if it were needed, of man’s superiority over the brute beast.

Now I’m not suggesting that we all start leaping off cliffs (Heaven forfend!), but I am saying that we should not be embarrassed to do so, if the need arises. So let’s take the stigma out of jumping off cliffs, and finally recognise the enormous contribution made every year by cliff-jumpers around the world.

Thank you for your time.


 

Stay tuned

— ‘Let’s see if Captain Cardew
has finished with the paper.
I’d like to read the details
of Twemlow’s latest caper.’

— ‘Hold your horses, Pilbeam,
I haven’t finished yet.
You’ll have it when I’ve read about
the Duc de Carcenet.’

A tense and anxious stand-off,
and one that we must watch:
the Cardew-Pilbeam axis
has shifted just a notch.

We must contain the conflict,
don’t suffer it to spread.
The peace of every nation
is hanging by a thread.

Wouldn’t you just know it
— that Twemlow would be there?
Skulking in the background,
a serpent in his lair.

That just leaves the Duc
— now who the hell is he?
Stayed tuned for more adventures
of dark deeds and mystery.