The Pillars of the Earth

Purbeck Marble


The Pillars of the Earth

What is this power
That holds up cathedrals ?
That bring in the pilgrims,
And keeps out the gales ?
It isn’t lord Jesus,
Nor bishops and beadles,
It isn’t the faithful,
Nor relics and grails.
Forget all the masons
With stone tetrahedrals,
Forget all their chisels,
And braces and nails –
The answer is columns !
Those load-bearing needles,
Those orderly uprights,
Those masts without sails.
And the finest of columns,
So stately and regal,
Use marble from Purbeck
In multiple scales.

Now, wildlife in Purbeck,
From roe-deer to seagulls,
From rabbits to lizards,
From fishes to whales,
Are nothing compared
To her beasts without equal –
But who are these heroes ?
Well, there hang some tales…
For hidden in hedgerows,
There lurk her great people:
Like bees in her fields,
And yeasts in her ales –
But her mightiest creatures
Have built ev’ry steeple:
The lime in the limestone
That polish unveils –
For marble from Purbeck
That holds up cathedrals,
Is held up in turn
By the shells of her snails.

Halal Hammer

image by Feriel Kolli


Halal Hammer

“The young of North Africa are increasingly finding an outlet in home-grown heavy metal.”
                                                                                                                      – The Independent Times

The veils hide the mascara,
The crimson lips and purple hair,
And even through a burqa’s slit
The cat-eye contacts stare.
The tats are mostly stick-ons
And the piercings come right out
These rebel yells are smart enough
To know when not to shout.

The Imams don’t approve, of course,
They fear the Devil (or the Norse !)
Has led the youth astray.
But many a goth, a mosher or geek
Is still a good Muslim the rest of the week
Whatever the papers may say.
No souls have been sold, no Faustian deal,
Just amps and guitars and a grunt and a squeal.

There’s probably others more doubtful,
But music is not the cause –
For would they still be faithful
In the Taliban’s harsh laws ?
The Great Satan’s power-chords
Do not ‘corrupt’ alone,
For censor foreign songs, and they
Will simply write their own.

The Imams don’t approve, of course,
But grumpy teachers hold no force
To tempt the children back.
For ev’ry skull, and cross, and vamp,
Is less Satanic, more high-camp,
And who doesn’t love to dress in black ?
So, headbanging hedonists: hairy kids or heretics ?
Either way, the thrashers come to give them forty licks.



Dwarf Planet

Pluto 2
Pluto: Ice Mountain Climbing by Derek Anderson & Joel Anderson


Dwarf Planet

Of course he’s not a planet !
That shouldn’t be disputable.
That shouldn’t make him any less the beautiful,
That shouldn’t make him any less –
His surface is so mutable,
And not the long-expected pockered granite
Of our Earth-restricted guess –
But plains and ridges run instead,
In shades of red,
Across which canyons slice.
And we were right about the ice,
But not the mountains that it forms !
Mountains that could melt away,
Except he never warms at all –
His crystal peaks that should reflect the sun’s weak glow,
Except they’re covered by the nitrogen that falls as snow.

Dwarf perhaps is too pejorative,
But then, if you’ll forgive, he’s not the same,
And after all, it’s just a name.
There is no magic line
Where we can suddenly define
The class of planets from the dwarfs at just below his size –
To let him cling to planet-hood,
But sorry, Eris, all you other guys are just a might too small.
It’s hardly wise to be so arbit’ry in what should get the planet’s call –
It also shows that gravity is quite misunderstood:
For lack of mass is why he swings
In tilted rings around the sun,
And why he’s kept at bay by Neptune’s sway,
In the long, long run:
So no, he’s not a planet, he’s a diff’rent kind of thing –
We know because we’ve seen him: he’s the cosmic Kuiper king.



Out in the Styx

Pluto 1
Charon & Pluto by NASA


Out in the Styx

Pluto – the solar system’s Greenland,
Cold and remote, an inbetween land,
As way beyond the horizon he lies.
Infact they are a similar size –
And Charon is Baffin – who watches him sleep,
While facing each other across the deep.
An arctic fox and a polar bear
Of the Kuiper Belt, that pair.
If planets are continents, these two are islands:
So icy and ancient, yet teasingly shy lands.

Their names and status are pure propaganda
The truth, of course, is both lesser and grander –
Fascinating for their own sake,
Despite the islets that clutter their wake.
But here, their orbits must diverge:
As Greenland enters its warming surge,
While his long summer cannot last –
His perihelion has passed.
So into the Hadean depths once more,
Upon the night’s Plutonian shore.



Paley Ontology

time clock silver stone
Photo by Pixabay on


Paley Ontology

William Paley,
(Still quoted daily)
Chanced upon a timepiece while out walking on the dale.
Pondering its presence,
Mulling on its essence,
He saw it was a Made Thing, and all that must entail:
Here there were no surplus parts, no way to make it less dense;
If this must have a Maker – why, then Man must likewise hail !

Grand Mr Paley,
Postulating gaily,
Never knew the fossils that were lurking in the shale.
So too have the watches
Seen their share of botches:
Dodgy trains and axles who have never found a sale.
Cruel is such selection as inflicts their cogs with notches,
And calling time on any found irregular or frail.

Poor Mr Paley,
Breaches in his bailey,
Holes in his hypothesis, all bigger than a whale.
Thermal compensation
And grand complication
Have grown in watches gradu’ly, and clearly leave their trail.
So tick evolves to tock with ev’ry not-quite-iteration,
In the coiling of the spring as in the spiral of the snail.



More than a Footnote

Terry Pratchett by Kevin Nixon


More than a Footnote

The dawn light is welling in the dams –
Hold it back a little longer.
The thunder is rehearsing for its roll –
Don’t give the cue, don’t let it blow.
The dragons on the moon are all asleep –
Let them dream, let them hunger.
The gargoyles are watching from above,
As are the dwarves from down below.

If we can only stop the Disc from spinning,
Maybe we can stop the ever-grinning-one
From winning,
Do you reckon ?
No, I know, that isn’t how it works,
And none escape from he-who-never-shirks,
Come the beckon.

And so the Disc must turn,
The dawn must gleam,
The lives must flow,
The turtle swim.
It isn’t fair, we scream,
Because we know:
It isn’t fair, it’s only him.

So cuckoos are winding their clocks up,
And pine trees are counting the years,
And you, who saw it all, yet laughed at seers:
You are not there, you are gone –
Yet still it goes on.

You know, some say that no-one truly dies
If someone else remembers them in once-a-while.
My friend, I think you’ll live on in disguise
However long that we can read, and we can smile.