Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lincolnshire shepherds count their sheep

Lincolnshire shepherds count their sheep
Preferably to be read in a Lincolnshire accent

When sheep were counted by the head ˗
the count kept in the shepherd’s head ˗
and the carrying of an abacus was abjured,
and the battery-charged electronic calculator was
still a twinkle in its creator’s eye, then
shepherds in Lincolnshire county counted
not in decimal, but vigesimally –
taking in fingers, thumbs and, it’s supposed, toes,
and producing the following dial-up-rhyme
to keep track of their woolly subjects crowns:

Yan tan tethera pethera pimp;
sethera lethera hovera covera dik;
yan-a-dik tan-a-dik
tethera-dik
pethera-dik
bumfit;
yan-a-bumfit
tan-a-bumfit
tethera-bumfit
pethera-bumfit
figgot.

Some words within the groups of five gained
easy traction - tethera, pethera - while
sethera, lethera, hovera, covera made only a
minor mark. And sad to say, pimp and figgot,
words surely on a par for originality with
bumfit and dik, got little room to breathe.

What would the English-speaking world give to
count thus: one, two, three, four,
pimp,
or sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,
figgot.
The humdrum of twenty stands abashed before
figgot, while five is a
simpleton fricative, cousin to
fünf, or fimf, or fimm,
having none of the former luxury of
pimp (now impoverished, playing a sleazy role).

Let us stand with the sheep and the
shepherds, baring our fingers and toes in the
cold, counting the dag-marked rain-soaked
fleeces, noting each vigesimal group with a
pebble, a notch on our crook, or a mark in the
mud-dank ground, with language that’s old, but proven:

Yan tan tethera pethera pimp;
sethera lethera hovera covera dik;
yan-a-dik tan-a-dik
tethera-dik
pethera-dik
bumfit;
yan-a-bumfit
tan-a-bumfit
tethera-bumfit
pethera-bumfit
figgot.

Coda:
Some women knitting, or counting their
stitches, followed the shepherds’ enumerations,
clicking their needles or twisting their wool,
sewing up jerkin sleeves, braiding men’s britches,
fashioning the gear for their rustic men’s bags of bones,
sewing while stirring hot broths in their iron pots ˗
let us join with the throng of them spread through the land,
wizened or comely or middle-aged matrons, all counting:

Yan tan tethera pethera pimp;
sethera lethera hovera covera dik;
yan-a-dik tan-a-dik
tethera-dik
pethera-dik
bumfit;
yan-a-bumfit
tan-a-bumfit
tethera-bumfit
pethera-bumfit

figgot.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Another small dog poem

We breathe the same fresh air,
my dog and I, or breathe it stale;
we sigh the same, the difference
only being in the size of sighs;
we walk the same hard road, the
road is ours, not his or mine;
and when I take a nap, and on the
couch lie long, he lies beside, and
fits himself behind my knees,
warming me, or maybe I warm him. 

When God made the fly

Since flies find their way in
But not out again,

I’d like to know why
When God made the fly

He couldn’t have added
Something that mattered:

A form of reverse.




A short poem that's been hanging around for a long time. I might finally have sorted out what seemed to have been a problem with it. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Responding in kind to Mark Halliday

When Mark Halliday decided to become a poet
he should have given more consideration to the fact
that his name is not poetic, offers no immediate sense that
here we have a poet of degree, a poet of quality.

Wordsworth, on the other hand, strikes the poetic mind
from the outset: if Wordsworth hadn’t been called
Wordsworth he’d have had to change his name to
something more apt, like Lord Byron (whose name
always struck me as odd until I realised Lord wasn’t his
Christian name). Lord Byron immediately tells us that
here we have a poet willing to rage amongst the ladies,
to fight in real live battles with a sword, ˗ or maybe a gun
if he was lucky; to swim the Hellespont, or some equally
improbable water. (Though not to die of as miserable a
thing as a cold, and it wasn’t even caught in the
Hellespont.) Those are the sorts of things
aroused by the poetic name, Lord Byron: a true poet.

Robert Louis Stevenson, though he has the
advantage of a triple-barrelled cognomen, used the word
nice in one of his poems, so I discovered yesterday;
this rather undercuts his literary integrity.
Rudyard Kipling, on the other hand, could have
written what he liked (and used nice) and we would have
continued to read his poetry simply on the basis of his name.
See what I mean, Mark Halliday? The only
notorious thing your name reminds me of is Doc
Holliday, the whisky-slurping, gun-toting, gambling dentist (yes,
dentist!), the sidekick of Wyatt Earp ˗ another man who could
have taken up a career as a poet if he hadn’t had the poor
judgement to have several brothers who plainly desired more
strongly to appear in the Darwin Awards than to savour life,
marriage, family and a bunch of cattle on a largish ranch.

So before you decide to write any more poems, Mark ˗
if I can take advantage of our mutual poetic status ˗ I
suggest you consider rebranding yourself. Mark isn’t
too bad (Mark Antony springs to mind, a verbose man
capable of considerable blank verse) but Halliday is
too close to holiday, as in relaxed, I can’t be bothered,
I’m doing well just lying on the beach, speaking malarkey,
thanks very much. No one wants to read a poet whose
name bespeaks vacation, relaxation, can’t be botheredliness,
the mundane. Our immediate assumption, on seeing a
poem by Mark Halliday, is, well, he won’t have anything
to say ˗ just look at his name. It’ll be all malarkey
and wine biscuits, plain arrowroot, Graham crackers
(I included those since you’re a North American and
they’ll mean something to you even if they don’t mean
a thing to me, a person from the South Pacific,
where people go crackers, but don’t eat them with the
seeming obsessiveness of the average American).

See, this is what happens, Mark, when I read your
poetry and try to respond in kind. I find myself
meandering, unable to stick to the point, bringing in
beaches and Byron and a bunch of bogus baloney.
Instead of interaction between two poetic minds, it
becomes All Me, barely A Kind of Reply.



Written around August 2015

The sun has shifted

The sun has shifted


When your father leaves,
no umbrella will protect you;
it rains day and night.

When your father leaves,
you find yourself walking in mud;
your mother despises your boots.

When your father leaves,
you try to excuse him,
hating his foibles, loathing his qualities.

When your father leaves,
no matter your age,
you must become Father.

When your father leaves,
the day’s filled with thunder,
the sun blacks out.

When your father leaves,
he eats up your childhood,
leaves you starving.

When your father leaves,
you beat the world with a club
and smash up the sun.


When your father leaves,
your sun shifts forever;
you stumble in your own shadow.


* Written around September 2015, as a result of reading Der-Hovanessian's poem. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Banana

Banana

Inside the browned and mottled skin,
the banana’s creamy-white with the merest
hint of haematoma. The taste is still delight:
thick liquid in solid state; that neatly
round, boomerang shape, fitting the hand,
redolent of bawdiness; the skin so easily
squished beneath blank-faced comedians’
feet slipping in the street, slipping and
toppling in silent movie humour.

A yellow bucket left in the road

A yellow bucket left in the road, as if a
warden intended to preserve a parking space.

Not the yellow of dandelions, or daisies,
of daffodils, or buttercups. Not the

yellow, either, of some pale almost green
leaves on various bushes, related but not

alike. Not the colour of the large torch in the
hall, more like the Pak-n-Save plastic bag, though

without the bag’s flexibility, a bucket that
will survive innumerable droppings and

throwings, and will only succumb to
continual weathering, which will bring

cracks, and an eventual all-round
deterioration, at which point the

bucket will head for the tip via the
Envirowaste bin. In the meantime, the

daisies, and daffodils, and dandelions, and
buttercups will have long gone, being

much more environmentally-friendly,

biodegradable, and much more short-lived. 

A small dog considers being rubbed

Just in time for National Poetry Day, which is tomorrow, the 26th August, 2016. A poem written some while ago...

A small dog considers being rubbed

Oh, I can be rubbed until the
veritable cows come home,
those large dociles not of my
own ancestry.

I can lie on my back while you
massage my tummy
(infantile word)
as though I had no organs inside
excepting one organ, a
heart already pulsating
fast, pulsating
faster at every stroke of
your rough hand.

I can have my ears mangled and tangled
around my head as though my
brain barely knew anything beyond the
scratching and rubbing, though
if the need arose, alert
would be my first instinct ˗
if I could choose between
alert and rubbing.

I can have that monstrosity of a
tail, that appendage which is in
reality a curled sausage,
one found after being
left the pantry too long,
that hanger-on covered in
fine fur flailing, a
peacock’s tail, though of course it
lacks some degree of iridescence; I
can, as I say, have it flicked and
fluttered by you without
ignominy.

It is your touch I crave, not
respectability, not honour, not
pride in the self that I am through
God’s own design; I acquire such a
deep intensity through your touch that
all I am as Dog is affirmed.

Food I can fast from; walks can wait
(though not indefinitely);
sleep is pleasant but never the
ultimate necessity. There is only one
necessity: that when I sit snuggled beside you,
or lean my chin on your knee, or
push my head between your shins
like those aforesaid cows calmed before any
possible storm by heads enclosed in a
padded containment; or stand on your
lap, front paws on your chest where the
beat pulsates at a rate
slower, heavier, than mine,
snout to nose, greatly tempted to
lick you, the necessity is
only to be stroked.

Sweep my fur back to front,
I will love you.
Clean gunk around my eyes,
I’ll love you.
Thrust me in a bath and wash my bum,
I’ll love you.
Take me frantic to the Vet’s,
I will love you,
Unconditionally.
Perhaps that’s putting
something too
fine of a point on it:
I will love you

if you rub me. 


The reference to the dog pushing his head between my shins and its connections to cows comes from Temple Grandin's research into cattle behaviour, where cows were made less stressed by being put into a device called a squeeze chute. At least that's how I remember it from the movie where Grandin used a smaller version of this to calm herself during anxiety attacks. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Okey-dokey

In silly celebration of a National Poetry Day in New Zealand...28th Aug, 2015

Okey-dokey

Okey-dokey, I don’t know whether
argy-bargy between us (or maybe
argle-bargle) will bring on a display of
hari-kari. That’s hardly super-duper
suitable for a namby-pamby,
wishy-washy, dilly-dallying,
shilly-shallying sort of
person who can never make up their
mind – I’m assuming the
indefinite gender here (unrelated to
my indefinite mind).

Indefinite, in itself, is a clear case of
zig-zaggying around a mumbo-jumbo
subject, the kind of subject only
some hoity-toity riff-raff,
some arty-farty ping-pong,
(or whiff-waff)-playing person,
heading helter-skelter,
higgeldy-piggedly into the
nitty-gritty hokey-pokey
hodge-podge, will manage to
make sense of. 

Jeepers-creepers, all you
lardy-dardy raggle-taggle,
you topsy-turvy-thinking
flim-flam fiddle-faddling
harum-scarums, you
fuzzy-wuzzy hobson-jobsons,
you hugger-muggers, you
see-sawing mish-mash of
pell-mells rushing nitty-
grittied into a chock-a-block
heebie-jeebied hocus-pocus
hubble-bubble willy-nilly:

why don’t you get up early?
Just a teensie-weensie, itsy-
bitsy little bit early?

That’d stop the hurly-burly. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

From a louse

The results of the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition were published in the Otago Daily Times this morning. The winning poems aren't in the online edition, though they did appear in the printed version today. I'd imagine they'll turn up on the Public Library website in due course.

Once again I didn't make the cut (out of a surprisingly small number of entries - only 32 in all) The three entries that did win their respective sections all went in for Scots dialect strongly (requiring translations alongside the originals!) and are quite lengthy. Mine has the merit of being short and mostly not using Scots dialect, apart from a couple of words. It's also not autobiographical, in case anyone thinks it might be.

From a louse

On reading Robbie’s To a Louse
(Preferring it to To a Mouse)
I stomp all sullen round the house
And strunt so rarely
I waken up my sleeping spouse
Who hits me squarely.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
Here from discerning spouses free us
With all their earthly power to see us
Clearly near and far;
Would enable us to safely be us
As we truly are.

Then in our smeddum we would strut,
(Pulling in our gut and butt)
And criticism out would shut
With deafened ears,
Cast off each unwanted smut
While downing beers.

We’d view ourselves forever young,
Climb safely up each corporate rung,
Fling curt bon mots from off our tongue,
Be never in a flap;
Each beauteous thought not seen as dung
Or spoken of as crap.

No longer louse to great giraffes
We’d climb up on the PowerPoint graphs
Fly far above our better halfs...
Yes, dreams are free,
And dear departed Robbie laughs:
O wad the giftie gie.


Dialect words:
Strunt: swagger
Smeddum: spirit


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#gigatowndunedin twibe goes to lunch launch

#gigatowndunedin twibe goes to lunch launch

Dedicated to @GigaKath

Tyre hits the kerb with a graunch,
shake my head, tell myself to stay staunch;
don’t know what’s bigger: the haunch,
or the paunch.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch.

From Twitter I’ve gleaned, had a hunch,
that a bunch have come for a munch
at this cafe, the Large Mouthful Crunch ˗
and some punch.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch. 

The twibe says we’re all going Dutch
though they know I’m a really soft touch;
I order Pie Peasgood NonSuch.
There’s too much.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch. 

Inside LMC there’s a stench
Not from a wench but a Mensch:
a zombie's come out of his trench ˗
for to quench.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch. 

And now there’s a hold-up, a hitch ˗
some tweeters say it’s a glitch ˗
the zombie has started to itch
and to twitch.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch.

I dive for the big serving hatch,
but its shape mine doesn’t quite match,
and the haunch and the paunch they both catch ˗
and attach.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch. 

The whole things a bit of a botch,
a regular Twitter hotch-potch
(there’s a terrible pain in my crotch)
Need a Scotch.

We’re meeting for a lunch launch
But we’re not launching a lunch. 

So Twitters who go out to dine
To keep things right on cloud nine.
Leave the zombies at home
And don’t let them roam ˗
If you want to avoid being the equivalent of a gastronomic land-mine gag-line.


This piece of nonsense is the result of a tweet written by @GigaKath amongst those using the hashtag gigatowndunedin which read: that's the time we're aiming 4 but I'll confirm as I'm trying to organise food as well for launch lunch