The Sky is Full of Idols

The very un-Moorish Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo

The Sky is Full of Idols

The Renaissance artist loved two things:
Classical Greece, and boobs –
Yet Michelangelo must fit
His curves in the Sistine’s cubes.
The Old Testament’s full of beards,
And none of them are Zeus’s –
He needs to paint some younger flesh
To work-up papal juices.
He can’t rely on prudish Mary,
She won’t give much boost –
So thoroughly pagan, thoroughly female sibyls
Are introduced.
Said to prophesies Jesus,
Though we know the real reason –
They’re soft and pale, and keep just shy
Of heresy and treason.
There’s plenty of other supporting cast,
Presumbly cherubs and such –
There’s plenty of flesh to be bared up there,
All brushed with the master’s touch.
Yet these are merely window-dressing,
A choir of hangers-on –
But the sibyls command their panels with pride,
Content to be gazed upon.

Really, treason ? Well, surely in any theocracy like the Papal States, all heresy is treason…

But anyway, as everyone knows Michelangelo lay on his back for four years to paint the roof – but that didn’t stop him occassionally arsing around…

Turn the Other Cheek

God created the Sun on the ceiling,
To light up the Pope’s saloon.
And then he turned his back, revealing
How he created the Moon.

detail from The Creation of the Sun, Moon, & Planets by Michelangelo

Poetry No Thanks

BBC Microphone by Matt Brown

Poetry No Thanks

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse.
These days, all you have are poets –
Humourless, or ever worse…-
Picking po-faced prosy poems
With not a single rhyme,
So self-important now,
And yet won’t stand the test of time.

What happened to the punk sensibility
Of doing-it-yourself, and damn the rules ?
Now it’s a lit-fest for middle-class luvvies
With their tortured trochees taught in schools.
Your audience is tiny and shrinking,
With afternoon Sundays such a bore –
But you tick the boxes and fill the quotas,
And isn’t that what poetry’s for ?

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse,
But now your budget is slashed,
And your ambition must fit your purse.
They read them out in lilting whinges,
Full of I Me Mine –
Come on, Roger, cheer us up,
With a quick and witty line !


Blocks of flats, Lillie Road, Fulham by Malc McDonald is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0


The Victorians built with columns and arches and pride –
Constructed with confidence, gilded and polychrome,
Moulded with ornament makes for a jolly home,
Tailored by craftsmen on every side.
From terrace to semi, from basement to sky,
With hands on lapels and their chins held high.

The Post-War built with concrete and brutal and slab –
Constructed in anguish, subconsciously thinking
It’s all we deserve – the piss-stained and stinking,
In a hellscape of Marxists, the grim and the drab.
From Park Hill to Gorbals, from Mersey to Tyne, 
The more the cement, so the more the decline.


An early HE 11200s corbel in Bamberg Cathedral


Green men – as grey as stone,
All talking with their mouths full,
Look in any ancient church
And you may find a houseful.
Part of the grotesque gallery
To keep watch on us mortals –
Lurking round the capitals,
And hanging from the corbels.

Green men, as Pagan as they sound,
As yews and birches,
As nature-sprites whose temples got rebuilt
As parish churches.
Or are they jolly demons, greening Hell
And sprouting lies ?
They don’t look very evil, though –
But rather rustic-wise.

Green men, as vigorous as weeds
Where priests don’t mow –
Though Jesus doesn’t mind, it seems,
Content to let them grow.
So are they harvest gods of yore,
Or mistletoes in larches ?
Or are they merely hunkypunks,
To decorate the arches ?

Black Fives

Time Transfixed by Uli Mayer, after René Magritte

Black Fives

Puffing into Rugby,
But this loco’s not a pipe,
Shunting on to Inverness,
With giant apples, ripe.
Rolling out of Derby
When the trees are like a fern,
Let’s open up the fire-box,
And watch the tubas burn.
Pulling into Euston,
Where the bowler-hatted rain –
Then chuffing-up at Templecombe,
With clouds above the train
She’s right on time, in ivory black,
But never bright cerise –
The workhorse of the LMS,
From Crewe to mantlepiece.

Death of the Artist

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Death of the Artist

I don’t want to know
If my favourite writer
Served time for beating-up his wife.
I don’t want to care
If a star were a blighter
With an ego and a wasted life.
Their business is none
Of my goddammed business,
Their headlines are not worth my time.
Only their art is worthy of a greatness –
Anonymous, timeless, and sublime.

I don’t want to hear
If my favourite singer
Is a boorish, boozy bro.
I don’t want to learn
Who’s an avid right-winger
If their work doesn’t want to let it show.
Spare me their biography,
Just celebrate their movie,
Without the kiss-and-tell and dirty stains.
Only their art, not their story, can move me,
Masterpieces free of baggage trains.

I don’t want to make
A god of my hero,
I don’t want a perfect polished shell –
But nor do I need
To make them a Nero –
I’d rather they were faceless, truth to tell.
Their interests are none
Of my goddammed interest,
Their privacy is vital – as is mine.
Only their art – for it shows them at their best –
As a stranger, neither devil nor divine.


Mentmore Towers by R~P~M (with help from Joseph Paxton & George Stokes who designed the house in the first place).

Mentmore Towers, a tower of a Rothschild –
Safeguarding the badlands of the Buckinghamshire wild.
You’ve never heard his name, but his face may look familiar –
A character performer and Hollywood’s new star –
Standing in for Chequers, Gotham City, or a pleasure dome.
He’s classical of ornament, though Gothic more than Rome,
His facade looking perfectly at home, as you do,
And always coming to a screen near you.
With O’s within his pediments we know we’ve seen before,
Yet we’re facing the unknown when we knock upon his door –
Butlers or rock stars or new-money wealth ?
He’s a Chilterns Vancouver, who plays ev’rybody but himself.



I never understood loopholes,
I mean understood it as an actual thing –
I get that they’re escapes from laws –
But are we then fenced-in by string ?
They might have referred to arrow-slits,
But they only fit an arrow’s stem.
They might be thinking of knotholes,
But only secrets can pass through them.
The breach in the wall of the castle of law
Would have to be a backdoor, or overhanging beams.
So I never understood why ‘loopholes’ –
Their meaning escapes my logic, it seems.


Photo by Jeffrey Czum on


Flat roofs belong to the Mediterranean,
Roofs for sun-decks, cheap to build,
For drying the laundry and gazing at stars,
Where the gutters have never spilled.
But Northern nations need their pitches,
Steep and tall and highly skilled.

Forget the tar, that won’t keep rain out,
That takes slate and tile and lead –
And don’t let snow accumulate,
It must be sheer enough to shed.
Maybe some dormers, maybe a Mansard,
Maybe even thatch instead.

But these days, and since the Georgians,
Fashions favour flat and low,
Yet walls get wet when eaves are dropped,
And the drainpipes overflow.
So ev’ry Winter spring the leaks
From rain with nowhere to go.




You think you’re it –
You think your charm enthrals,
You think you’re sharply dressed,
All cool unstressed –
But you ain’t to me.
You think you’re fit –
You think you’ve got the balls,
You think you’ve got the looks,
And the baited hooks –
But you ain’t got me.

You’re ev’rything masculine, powerful, and brutish,
Ev’rything blandly manly and disputish –
What you are is ev’rything wrong with the world,
Ev’rything murky with stealth.
You’re silent and strong and rigid and mutish,
You’re clumsy and loud and blunt and uncutish.
What I need is somebody saving the world,
By helping me to save it myself.

Is it too much to hope ?
Am I too naive and sucked-in ?
Can’t anybody save this world from self-destructing ?,
When not all of this world can be reached along the ducting,
Or humbled with instruction,
Or conquered with seduction –
We need a man who’s handy, not a grope.
And don’t think me too incessant
If I find the world more pleasant
When the other half is present, and can cope.
Is it really, really too much that I hope ?

You got the moves,
And you got the toys –
Karate and kendo,
And endless innuendo –
But you ain’t got me.
Cos all it proves
Is you’re naught but noise –
You’ve got no clout
Once your bang’s gone out –
You are so not me !

You’re ev’rything spying, lying, and deceitful,
Ev’rything crooked and counterfeit and cheatful –
What you are is ev’rything wrong with the world,
Ev’rything cocked and askew.
You’re ev’rything uncool and tepid and debacle,
Ev’rything Oxbridge and Tory patriarchal –
What I need is somebody saving the world –
Saving from someone like you.

Is it too much to ask ?
Am I being too demanding ?
Won’t anybody save this world by understanding ?,
When not all of this world is corrupt and underhanding,
Or divvied-up and branded,
Because of what the Man did,
As if it’s only men perform each task…
So I trust it’s not too queeny
To insist you do not deem me
Just a bird in a bikini or a basque.
Is it really, really too much that I ask ?

I need a geek –
Someone who ain’t so goddam macho,
Someone who ain’t so suave and chatshow,
Someone who doesn’t grasp and snatch so,
Someone who’s gentle without being meek.
Someone who can’t use force without balking,
Someone who knows his Kant from his Hawking,
Someone to save this world by just talking –
Someone to be my freak.

‘000’ should be pronounced as ‘double-oh zero’.