One Small Step

Alas, I have been unable to find out anything about who the artist is.

One Small Step

Stella Starbuck steps out from her capsule
Onto the surface of the dry, cold Moon,
Or even Europa, or Mercury, perhaps,
But definitely on a Sunday afternoon.
If she can only focus on her giant leap,
She might ignore the droning of the cars –
If she can make a rocketship out of her tepee,
She knows she can bravely conquer Mars.
It’s not, she notes, as red as she expected,
But rather a barren desert lawn of green.
With her life-support given one last check,
It’s time to boldly go where no man has been.
But what’s that ?  Over there !  An alien !
Quickly !  Should she hide, or should she hail ?
Too late !  She’d under attack, yet agen,
As lasers shoot from its wagging Martian tail.
Luckily, her pure-wool spacesuit is armoured.
She picks up a ball from the regolith
And throws it up – so high, so far ! –
But then, her gravity is only a fifth.
All alone now, that’s when the voice comes
Comes over the comms-link, into her thoughts –
“Looks like you made it – isn’t that something ?
The onward footprints of astronauts.
But then that’s humans – always climbing,
Striding and striving, proving your steel.
You know, this doesn’t have to end at tea-time –
One day, you could be standing here for real…”
After a moment, another voice calls her –
Ground Control, to bring her back home.
But just before she blasts off, she stalls
To admire the view from the cosmic dome.

The Only Lefty in Poundbury

Cottages in Poundbury by Chris Ison

The Only Lefty in Poundbury

She sits on her first floor balcony,
Overlooking Casterbridge Square,
She sits and sips her cup of tea
In the light West Country air –
Here in her true-blue toytown
Like a tolerated pet,
Her flat dressed-up and she dressed-down,
As she joins the Georgian set.
Dorchester is hard on Hardy –
Thomas, yes, but never Keir,
And the local Labour party
Is about to disappear.
But the class-struggle can still advance
With the taste of the elites –
Should not all workers get the chance
To live in pleasant streets ?
And yes, she’s aware of their breeze-block hearts,
And their ceilings lacking height,
And don’t get her started on glazing bars !
But all-in-all, it does alright.
Developers on best behaviour,
Showing that they can play nice –
But oh, the cost for a little flavour !
Beauty has its bogus price.

Of course, whenever HRH comes by,
She must lay low
As locals swoon and neighbours sigh
At the whole boot-licking show –
And even when it’s safe to leave
And stroll about the place,
The very streets still live and breathe
With his family’s air and grace.
She sees it in the names of roads,
The names of buildings, names of shops,
She hears it in the toady toads
Whose croaking never stops
But the sad fact is, its thanks to him
That there ever was this town –
It may be prim, but never grim,
As sparkly as a crown.
So yes, she knows, for all her gripes,
It’s thanks to him, her joy –
For were it left to lefty types
Then tower blocks ahoy !
She sits on her balcony under the sun
Over the flagstone square –
And curses the Tories, but knows they’ve won –
For she’d rather be here than there.

Ghost Town

Coventry architecture before and after images taken from Coventry Now & Then

Ghost Town

You sneer at Dresden’s quaint rebuilding
As oldè-world and fake –
Covering up the brutal past,
Denying us our wake.
But would you rather the concrete of Coventry,
Cancer choking its former bliss ?
For sure, we’ll never forget the War
In ugliness as ugly as this.
The Luftwaffe came and finished the job
That the Council already began,
And one of the prettiest towns in England
Was levelled in line with the Plan.
I hear that Dresden has too many tourists,
So why is there only one ?
It seems we have a ration of beauty,
But blandness will run and run.
The perfect place to film your dystopian nightmares
Or kitchen-sink soaps –
Was ever a town more grey and rain-stained ?,
As the concrete bullies and gropes.
It’s called ‘brutalist’ for a reason –
Cos it’s raw like a wound across the eyes.
And meanwhile Dresden is putting on her ballgown –
Enough masochism – let’s rise !

Coventry is UK City of Culture 2021.

Less Bohemian, More Czech

Less Bohemian, More Czech

All great Artists have a vice,
But I’m a tepid type –
I try to keep my manners nice
And give no cause for hype.
I’ll never be a rabble-rousing rebel,
Nor a cad,
Just knocking back the trebles
On my way to going mad,
With my pockets full of pebbles
And a need for worship bad
I’m much more pipe-and-slippers (less the pipe).
I guess I am a Larkin or an Eliot at heart
Than a Dylan or a Kingsley with a passion full of art –
I mean, I have a mongrel and a mortgage for a start !
And I always found Romantics over-ripe.
I guess I’m not an Artist-capital-A,
But that’s okay.
(And it really ain’t my mode, that way.)
I’m hardly a conspiracist, eccentric and uncouth,
I’m not a Goth or horny toad, or tender, tortured youth,
Or rainbow-dressed consumptive who is dying for some Truth –
That’s just a load of self-obsessing tripe !

Kosher Slaughter

In Anticipation of the Guests by The Dots

Kosher Slaughter

Why are there so many zombie films about these days ?
I would say they’re testament to our improving ways.
We have beaten violence, beggered hunger and disease,
And quarantined our lust for blood into our fantasies –
Shoot a Nazi, gas a pedo – harmless fun for kids to play,
Just regulation bogeymen without the shades of grey.
Squash pedestrians with trolleys,
No need to feel even sorry,
Killing humans sure is fun when there’s no guilt to pay !

Biblio Tech

Vintage Bookshelf Wallpaper by Young & Battaglia

Biblio Tech

Every gentleman fills up his library:
Every manor and palace and hall
Has a room full of shelving that’s crammed full of bindings,
All equally mannered and equally tall.
And nowhere is half a row empty,
And nowhere are bookstacks for want of a board.
Do gentlemen skim for as long as they’ve shelving,
Then quit once their volumes are suitably stored ?

Unsigned

Detail from a carved panel by Grinling Gibbons, originally in St Pauls, Covent Garden. Legend has it that he would sneak a peapod into every commision as a sort of signature, and would only carve it opened if he had been paid for the work, or is it that he would show a pea missing from inside if he’d received payment ? Probably neither.

Unsigned

She never signed her painting –
It always seemed a little vain
To have her name just floating there
Unnoticed by her sitter.
She’s didn’t want such tainting
To blemish with a boasting stain,
To clutter up her canvas square
With copperplated litter.

She always hoped her styling
Would clearly show who held the brush –
And if that didn’t tip the wink
Then hey ho, mum’s the word.
But she could not help smiling,
And sneaking-in (but keep it hush)
In ev’ry artwork, paint or ink,
A trademark ladybird.

It could be on a daffodil,
It could be woven on a dress,
Or scratched into a windowsill –
It’s anybody’s guess.
It could be jewelled into a brooch,
Or iced upon a currant bun –
Or yet emblazoned on a coach,
But definitely fun.

So whether pest or saintling,
Her beetles were her secret claim –
Some were bigger, others smaller,
Some were rather blurred.
She never signed her painting,
And history forgot her name –
So galleries must call her
The Lady Ladybird.

Portals

Some example wares of the London Door Company.

Portals

I’ve seen too many doors,
And they’re nothing much, just doors –
Just as expected.
I open them, I close them,
Or I pass them by unnoticed,
Disconnected.
I’ve turned too many knobs
And I’ve knocked too many knockers
In the gloom,
Yet never thought about them
Till I find I need a way
To leave the room.

I’ve seen too many doors,
Be they oaken, deal, or plywood,
Or cold steel.
I push them and I pull them,
Or I sometimes have to slide them
With a squeal.
I’ve crossed so many thresholds
And I’ve stepped on many stoops,
Both front and aft,
Yet never thought about them
Till I find I need a way
To stop the draught.

Fish & Physics

Amazonian Guaperva Fish by Francis Willughby (at least, I think he did his own illustrations).

Fish & Physics

Gentle Francis Willughby,
To best of his ability
Has written us a thriller – see,
The History of Fish !
Illustrated lib’rally,
Meticulous and jibber-free –
No charlatan or fibber, he,
But honest, if not swish.
The Royal-dubbed Society
Have praised his work most high and free,
And published with propriety
His dense and hearty dish –
Examining their parity
And countless similarity,
To classify with clarity
Each finble, scule and gish.
His work will lead inex’rably
To Karl Linné’s complexity
And Darwin’s sexy theory
That the bishops try to squish –
Yet mocked in perpetuity,
His book an incongruity,
For lacking the acuity
Of Newton’s masterpiece –
His grandiose Principia,
That makes the heavens trippier
And gravity much nippier,
Is straining for release.
But things are tight financially,
With profits down substantially
And Newton sees his chances flee
Despite the Fellows’ wish –
They cannot foot the bill, you see,
The budget’s blown on Willughby –
But don’t show Frank hostility,
He’s not so queer a fish.

Dürer’s-Rhino Syndrome

The Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer, though don’t ask me if it’s the right way round.

Dürer’s-Rhino Syndrome

Toothy-mawed pteranodon,
A stegosaur who drags its tail,
Old T-Rex with no feathers on,
Dimetrodon with a humpy sail –
However much they’re wrong,
At least they never hem or hedge –
They’re always big and bold and cutting edge !

Pity the paleo-artists
Who bring these skeletons to life,
Who are the public midwife
To a thousand playground dreams –
No sooner have they started,
When a fossil or a paper
Is transforming facts to vapour
And is picking at the seams.

One day, in a century,
They’ll laugh at our sauropods
For not swimming in the sea –
No wonder how they look so odd…
No matter how carefully
We draw iguanodon his thumb,
We are the Crystal Palace beasts to come.

Pity the paleo-artists,
Their work is only for today –
For if they don’t give way,
Then their errors just persist.
But don’t be brash or heartless –
Their legacy is in the seeds
That captures, stimulates, and feeds
Each future dino-tologist.

Crystal Palace Iguanadons, sculpted by Benjamin Hawkins, photographed by Jes