The Tower of Pisa

la torre non pendente di pisa

The Tower of Pisa

I know we love it as a symbol –
Hubris, cheap materials and failure,
While locals soak up tourist-dollars
Selling canting paraphernalia.
The crowds all prop it up in photos
Loving that its old and broke –
While laughing at the locals,
Who are all in on the joke.

And now the authorities
Have had to underpin the base,
While taking care to keep the tilt
That underpins their public face.
I guess we do not get to choose
What piques our int’rest, makes us smile –
But here’s a tower full of piquant int’rest
By the mile !

I think I am alone in wishing
That they’d take it down and start again.
I just want my cathedrals
To inspire me, not amuse me, in the main.
But here is a belfry
Far too weak for its bells and gravity’s demands –
It’s just a shell, a cynic’s dream
Who’s only wonder is how it still stands.

Ah, listen to me, what misery !
Just moaning off my sunstroke.
Can’t I shrug and let them be,
And maybe even get the joke ?
I guess we do not get to choose
What gets remembered, anyway –
But this one’s sure to loom in mind,
And hold us in its sway.

Witnesses

these are tees not crosses
The Cursed Field by Fyodor Bronnikov

 

Witnesses

“Tell me, Roman, what’s the plan
To execute this convict man ?
Of all the ways to make him dead,
Why hold up high with arms outspread ?
Seeing him now crucified
Just makes a martyr, gives him pride,
It lets the martyr die with pride,
So hero-like, so dignified.”

“But you are wrong.  Now look again:
The loincloth with its urine stain,
The drooling lips, the bloodshot eyes,
The excrement that cakes his thighs.
To hang for days in agony –
Now look again and show to me,
Just look up there and show to me,
The slightest shred of dignity.”

“Ah yes, I see the lolling head,
And yet…who cares once he is dead ?
And history may not recall
His wails and jerking fits at all.
Despite what we right here may find,
The crowd are of a diff’rent mind –
And what they see within their mind
Is all that you will leave behind.”

“Perhaps you’re right, and time will tell –
But who can say he’s dying well ?
And in three days, he lingers on
For no-one, once the crowd has gone.
Any execution can
Create a martyr from a man –
Yet here, we see he’s
just a man
And
that is why this Roman plan.”

 

 

Bringing Juvenilia Week to a close with a typically iconoclastic poke at religion with some Real Science.  Originally just the first two verses, it lacked the necessary back-and-forth to be the dialogue it wanted to be, so the latter two are new, though just as naff as a homage to the original.

Now, the perfect poem to follow with tomorrow would be this one, but it has already been posted.

 

 

Journeyman

aerial view of road between green grass field
Photo by TruShotz on Pexels.com

 

Journeyman

First I took the high road, then I took the low road,
(But I found the middle of the road ain’t worth a mention.)
I hit and hogged and kicked-the-can upon the long and winding road
That’s sometimes paved with yellow bricks, and sometimes good-intentions.

Yet how many must a man walk down before they make him ?
This hard road to Damascus is a lonely trial of tears.
Please don’t lead to Rome again, but to the road not taken,
For the golden road to Samarkand begins at Wigan Pier.

 

 

Ah idioms, where would language be without jargon ?  This poem is so early, I was still allowing myself to slip in post-rhyme esses (tearS and pier), which I’m much stricter about these days, although they do still crop up where to avoid them would make the syntax tortured (though usually in the also-rhyme position [lines 1 and 3], with a cleaner pairing on the prime-rhymes).

 

 

Propersome Grammar

north america book and toke book
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

 

Propersome Grammar

To take the example of gotten,
Grammaticists so much malign
This useful past participle
Whose use was once most rife and fine.
Crossing oceans, forth it went,
Yet back at home its usage fell
A shorter version came in vogue
That was but little used till now.
And yet these language experts
Who tell us how to speak forthhence
Forget this evolution,
Forget that English is not French.
They try to stop the creeping changes,
Battle hard against the rot.
“If we don’t keep our English pure,
Well, what then have we got ?”

 

 

Language has long fascinated me, and here’s an early attempt of spinning some obscure lingual trivia into half a page, a useful fallback still when Mr Block comes to call.  The bit about English not being French is a reference to l’Académie Française, (that’s right, Immortals, I capitalised the adjective – deal with it !)  I heartily hope that the average Francophone ignores them with rigour.  I’m sure an English equivalent would simply hate ‘forthhence’, though maybe with good reason on this occasion.

 

 

Blown on the Windrush

 

tilbury here we come

 

Blown on the Windrush

Oh London, my London !  Forever so fond,
Yet I heard of the rumours of places beyond –
For further than ring roads and suburban stations
Apparently lies there a wealth of far nations.
How greatly I dreamed of the boat and the train
And the tropical sun, now washed out by your rain.
For my riches are poorly, my cupboards are bare,
My travelling stalled upon your thoroughfare.

Oh London, my London !  You felt my distress.
And pitied my yearnings to quit your address.
For penned by your broadways, I longed to escape –
So you widened my cage from the Steppes to the Cape,
From Hong Kong to Lisbon, from Cairo to Cork,
From L.A. to Delhi, from Auckland to York.
With bright lights and glamours, and chiming Bow Bell,
You brought me the world, and their families as well !

 

 

Growing up in the boring countryside, I’ve always liked the idea of immigration – not for myself, far too lazy, but for the rest of the world to do the hard work of coming to me.  Though I guess I am a kind-of immigrant into London, and this was written soon after my arrival as I was still marvelling.  Looking back, it’s a bit dum-de-dum, but that pretty much summed-up my provincial output at the time.  What my poems needed was a splash of colour, and London was just the place for that.

Wearing the Clothes of Emperors

Lady Godiva
Lady Godiva by John Collier

 

And They Shall Wear the Clothes of Emperors

Oh People of Coventry, turn not away !
For not only Thomas should view this display.

Oh People of Coventry, look not in shame,
She canters so proudly, erect in her frame.

Oh People of Coventry, unshield your eyes !
She wants us to watch her, to join her, to rise.

Oh People of Coventry, protest exudes,
So cast off your shackles, your breeches, your prudes.

 

 

The story is based on a real woman – Godgifu, Countess of Mercia, who survived her husband Leofric and died soon before the Domesday survey of 1086 (which lists her former lands).  The bareback ride doesn’t appear until the Flores Historiarum collected and retold by Roger of Wendover in the early HE 11200s (early 1200s AD), and Peeping Tom didn’t get a look-in until 11600-700s.

As for the poem, I wrote this so long ago that it feels almost as old as the legend.  Strange I was trying to channel socialist values through a protest over lower taxes !

 

 

Vanity by Numbers

there's nothing new in vanity
Doctor Syntax & Bookseller by Thomas Rowlandson

 

Vanity by Numbers

I sent in some poems, a varied selection,
And each was admitted with not one rejection,
Included within this exclusive collection,
And mine for just twenty-nine pounds ninety-nine.

I thought of the public enjoying my writing,
In thousands of copies, on my words alighting –
Yet only those featured received the inviting
To purchase this volume, exclusive and fine.

It came and I read my first masterworks printed,
And turned not to one of the other fresh-minted
New authors, who each in their turn would have squinted,
At only their own words, and never at mine.

 

 

Amongst my first forays into promoting my poetry was poetry.com (since sold, so party on, current owners).  They invited submissions for competitions that I now suspect were never actually won by anyone – instead, I received congratulations and offers be included in an anthology, which as a participant could be mine for a reduced price, how many copies did I wish to order ?  I allowed my work to be entered, but never bought the volumes.  After two or three times, I stopped even allowing the use of, and cursed myself for once again wasting my stamps.

Another vanity outfit with which I had a dalliance were the Forward Press of Peterborough (who I later discovered were definitely not connected to the Forward Poetry Prize).  Again, I avoided sending them any actual money, though I did allow them to use a couple of my poems in their magazine.  I even won a £10 cheque for the best poem, which caused me to order the issue in question.  Alas, they went bust before it arrived, but I did get to download the electronic version (though that has been lost on an abandoned hard-drive long ago).  I distinctly remember which poem won, because it was the weakest of the ones I sent them, which in itself inspired another poem along with this one.

 

 

Epitaph

selective focus photography of tombstone
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 

Epitaph

It’s time I understood
My verses that I thought were good
May just be that, and nothing more shall ever be.
It’s time I realise
That they shall never change the lives
Of anyone who reads them, even me.

It’s time that I admit
That I shall never be the poet
That I used to think that I was meant to be.
It’s time that I accept
That they shall ever be my secret,
That they too shall die along with me.

Ah, but isn’t that the way for most of us,
Doing what we’re doing cos it better than not-doing it ?
Getting on with getting on without a fuss,
Rooting out a suitable pursuit and then pursuing it.
But still, it would be nice to make it,
Still it would be nice to change the world.
Wake it up and shake it up,
And find the perfect rhyme for ‘world’.

It’s time that I admit
That they will never turn a profit,
But at least I wrote them, however unread they may be.
It’s time I understood
My verses that I thought were good,
They are damn good – at least they are to me.

 

 

The first half is a poem from my early days of writing, and really mopey.  I think I wrote it after getting rejected from numerous magazines, and looking back now I’m not surprised they did.  The second half is newly written to snap myself out of it.

 

 

Welcome to Juvenilia Week

Recently, I’ve been digging through some of my earliest poems from twenty years ago (I’ve written for longer, but it’s only since then that I decided they were worth keeping).  I have ignored them upto now because they are rather, well, rubbish…and yet, I was proud of them at the time, and were an important step onto better work.  Were they not salvageable, with some judicious edits and rewrites ?  Honestly…sort of.  They’re still not great, but just about make it over the threshold of what I’ll accept to be published, as long as they get a fair wind and sympathetic readership.

So, for this week, I shall be presenting some of my not-best works, as an encouragement to my twenty-year younger self.  Enjoy.  Or, at least, don’t wince too harshly, the wind might change and you’ll be stuck that way.

So, here they are:

Epitaph

Vanity by Numbers

Wearing the Clothes of Emperors

Blown on the Windrush

Propersome Grammar

Journeyman

Witnesses