Thursday, October 12, 2017

Six characters in search of...

Six of them stood under a sky crackling with frequent lightning.

Five of them stared at the ramshackle framework of the novel from which they’d been excised.

‘What’s he going to do without a cheerful character?’ asked Shoat, a man in a heavy raincoat (it rained often in his country). ‘I was the best he had. That other bloke’s a villain.’

The woman to his right ignored his question, glared ahead. ‘I was coping with the sour, self-focused dialogue he gave me...’ She spat on the ground, to Shoat’s surprise. He’d thought her genteel. ‘But killing me off with cancer was the last straw. Before the book even started. Obliterating my name!’ She strode off amidst thunder, after sending a long, thick spittle at the building.

Bemused, the wizard Mukkeljugson half-heartedly cursed the framework.

It was oblivious to his magic, although it shivered. Its appearance altered continually.

Shoat’s enormous draught horse, Arnold, said nothing ˗ as you’d expect ˗ though he nodded in agreement with the others’ complaints. He nudged Mukkeljugson, who, not being familiar with horses, jumped back, unsure if it was a warning or an encouragement.

The last two, a middle-aged man and woman seemingly joined at the hip, scowled like souls lost, silent. Then the woman burst out at no one in particular, ‘The whole idea began with us, you fool!’ She hammered at her mild-mannered husband with her fists. He knew her anger was directed at the author.

The downpour began.


This story was originally published in Flash Frontier, November 2015.  The characters had all begun life in a children's fantasy I was writing at that time: The Disenchanted Wizard, and had all been cut from the finished novel. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Wellington: half-hot and half not

                    half super-smart and strutting-stuff, half scruff.

Found in one of my old diary entries, from May 1989 

Thursday, February 09, 2017



Each time I climb the stairs
the faded photo of the skinny boy
is leaning to the left again.

Smarten up, boy! I say.
He grins, salutes, and again
next time I climb, to the left

he leans. I'll inform your sergeant,
I state, but the boy's sergeant,
we both well know, is long gone. The

boy hooks his crooked cap rightwards,
to compensate for his lingering
leftward lean. Long dead, this

teenage, ageless soldier

grins, salutes. And leans again.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making Passes

Supposedly no one makes passes
at girls wearing rimless eyeglasses,
something my mind soon dismisses
when covering a face with quick kisses,
because a face wearing glasses amasses
resistance to no-glasses smart-asses.

Since my severe brimless eyeglasses
no girl sees as pains in the asses,
nor sees she the need to take classes
in lip-synching met-metastasis
I'll keep making numberless passes
at girls wearing rimless eyeglasses.

Read it with an English or American accent; it should still work...though I prefer the 'English' version, myself.

Originally published on one of my other blogs

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

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,
or sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,
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

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


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.