Attacat

signal box
Yeovil Pen Mill Cat & Signal Box by Tim Jones

 

Attacat

There is a cat who watches trains
And makes his home in signal boxes,
Lives beneath the weathered gables,
Catches rats who chew the cables.
Grey, he is, with smoky grains
That fleck his coat the way of foxes,
’Cept the tramlines down his back
Which earn his name of Clickerclack.
They shine out silver, brow to rump
They even bear the marks for sleepers;
Branded thus, his fate assured
His working for the Railways Board.
So where a plague of rodents clump
Within the homes of signal-keepers –
Unannounced by midnight freight
Comes Clickerclack to extirpate.
He bites, he claws, he chews in half
And shreds them into vermicelli –
Drives them out and leaves his scent
To fright them off resettlement.
And when his work is done, the staff
Will feed him fish and rub his belly.
Then it’s off to boxes new
Aboard the 07:22.

 

 

The Blobfish

blobfish
Sketch of a blobfish in its natural environment by Alan Riverstone McCulloch

 

The Blobfish

Clearly a fish,
Clearly a blob:
Big of hooter,
Wide of gob,
Beady eyes and bloated head,
And very, very dead.

We trawled the net to rake the murky depths,
And up your mugshot popped –
For once, an ugly bugger who’s unplugged,
And not the usual “cropped & ’shopped”.

But wait.
No, this feels too easy –
All too gawpy, snide and cheesy,
Facts and heckles both unchecked.

But what can we expect, hey ?
We snatch you out from miles-deep
And leave you rotting on a slab
Where density is not so steep –
No wonder, then, you’re looking drab !
Gelatinous skin is just the thing to help you float –
But do we care ?
Oh, how we grin and how we gloat,
As you bloat in our low-pressure air.

But away from such shallows,
Away from our narrow lies –
Deep down and dense,
Where you raise your callow fry,
So you suddenly make sense
Amid sea-pig and anglerfish and barreleye.

 

 

 

Aves Rupulica

bird birds usa raven
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Aves Rupulica

We all know what will happen
If these ravens quit the Tower;
Strange to think these scavengers
Should hold such royal power –
To keep the crown from toppleing,
They’re crippled in one wing,
To fawn and clown for punters,
(All still peasants of the king.)

But you should be flying, Raven,
You should have flown,
For what cares a raven for propping-up thrones ?
Be mightier, Raven, than magpie or rook –
For the higher you fly, so the smaller we look.

We all know what will happen
If these ravens quit the Tower –
So much like us, they’re savaged
Just to keep the nobs in power.
They’re victim of Victorians,
They’re prisoners to lore –
If only they could bring them down,
And goad them “Nevermore !”

For you should be soaring, Raven,
You should be gone,
For what cares a raven for owners of swans ?
Be mighty, oh Raven, and help us stand tall –
For the higher you fly, so the further they fall.

 

The whole myth only started in Victorian times, and to this day these magnificaent birds are denied their natural instinct to fly for the sake of tourist pounds.

And Saw That It Was Good

Haeckel
Aspidonia by Ernst Haeckel

 

And Saw That It Was Good

Life, it seems, is ev’rywhere,
An opportunist spiv:
And ev’ry nettle, ev’ry rat,
And ev’ry spider, ev’ry gnat,
And ev’ry roach and snake and bat,
Is one more proof of nature’s flair
Through evolution’s sieve.
So love each thriving organism:
Dandelion, botulism,
Dry-rot, fly-bot, feral pigeon;
Life, it seems, is ev’rywhere,
It cannot help but live.

 

 

A Malady of Arms

Swatch
The Arms of Sir Swatch of Wristwatch

 

A Malady of Arms

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight:
His scale-mail always polished bright,
Charging headlong into battle,
Stalling left and swooping right
To circle round and dive again –
His wind-filled cloak, his flying mane,
His sword as sharp as any talon,
Raining over foes with death
To make their sabres rattle.
He also had a fiery breath
From quaffing claret by the gallon.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Yet his coat of arms would dishonour a sergeant:
Not for him a griffon argent,
Nor a wyvern passant gules
His blazon, rather, came a cropper,
Listing not a battle-stopper,
But a shield befitting fools:
‘Azure, a mallard with head vert,
Naiant contourny proper’.
Oh, how that blazon hurt !
A green-headed duck upon a blue ground,
Swimming the wrong-way round.

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
Though he bore much wit from his brothers-in-sword
Who rebuked his arms with much delight –
“It seems our Drake bethinks he a lord:
For look: Sir Luke, by his shield, is a Duc !”
Sir Lucas would curse “That’s just my luck,
To share a name with so artless a bird.
I’m one quack away from a chicken’s cluck !
What forebear had I who was so absurd
That such a pitiful nickname stuck ?
It should be a lion or a viper-snake,
Or a dragon – then they’d bloody quake !
But no, I’m a Drake – I’m a ruddy duck !”

 

 

A Malady of Arms – The Herald’s Cut

Sir Lucas Drake was a dragon of a knight,
But never one for courtly prattle.
Back at home, he spread his wings
Across his mountainous estate,
And hunted game and sheep and cattle,
Anything to fill his plate.
Never one for kissing rings,
Or hearing yet again the jest
The ladies made at his family crest,
So he’d retreat to his hilltop clouds
Away from kings and madding crowds.
Depressed, he’d often spend his days
Within his keep, atop his gold,
Asleep against the winter’s cold
As jealously he’d guard each chattel.

 

 

The second poem is an early verse which I had to cut, so I thought I’d include it here on the B-side.

Can I say how much I hate the language of heraldry – write in in English, or write it in French, but this weird Norman-middle English hybrid is…well, come to think of it, it’s the kind of snobbery we’d expect from people who still think that coats of arms matter. I love them for their history, but we’re not living in history.

The facing-right bit is rare. Since most knight were right handed, they held their shield in their left hand, so for the charge (animal) to be looking forwards, it has to face to the left. Fine for in battle, but otherwise looking like it’s facing backwards, and possibly retreating !

Aves Unblazoned

Shield
Shield of the Swifter family

 

Aves Unblazoned

There are many birds more beautiful
Than pigeons, ducks or crows,
But all these three are dutiful
In holding long their pose.
The kingfisher is but a blur,
The swift is like its name –
So why does heraldry prefer
The skittish to the tame ?

So lazy is the nightingale,
It sleeps the sun away –
Not like the busy hen or quail,
Who forage all the day.
And peacocks strut with tails shut
Yet still dress to the nines –
So why do seals all bear a glut
Of eagle-based designs ?

The dearth of birds, from rooks to crakes,
Is witness of malaise –
Instead, they turn to myths and fakes,
And let the phoenix blaze.
No herald’s crest shows blushing breast
Upon its unpecked field –
The cuckoos cannot reach this nest,
They’re all shooed off the shield.

The herring gull is widely known,
The puffin is a star,
An ostrich or a penguin shown
Would resonate afar,
There’s no excuse to make no use
Of all the vulture’s charms –
It’s time to loose the humble goose
Upon the coat of arms.

 

 

Ah heraldry, both endlessly fascinating and incredibly unimaginative.  The ‘seal’ in the second verse of course refers to a wax-based document authenticator, and not to a walrus, though full credit to Madeira for using a pair of monk seal supporters (it would be nice to think that one of them was female).

Also, honourable mention to Whitby for showing three ammonites, even if they did look more like Chelsea buns.  Alas, they were later changed to coiled snakes to tie in with the just-so story to explain the presence of the fossils, but coats of arms have always been appallingly bad at science.

 

 

 

Cuculus horologus

abstract art circle clockwork
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Cuculus horologus

I once had a clock,
Just an ordin’ry clock,
With its cogs that enmesh in a segue
Escape and endock,
With the whispering tock
Of the gentle·est metrical shower.
But a cuckoo took stock
Of my welcoming clock
And she chose it for hosting her egg-lay.
Imagine my shock
As her offspring would mock
At my tranquil repose, ev’ry hour.

That hatchling would knock
At the gears of the tock
And he’d suckle a share of their motion
He’d peck and he’d rock
Till their screws would unlock,
And he’d toss them aside for their power.
Yet still the old block,
Though it lost its own flock,
Was a parent of clockwork devotion.
It pandered this jock
With his swagger and cock
As he sang for his mate, ev’ry hour.