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.
Hush, little robot, close your sensors, Slow your subroutines, Hibernate your processors and trickle-charge your energy, Disconnect your pairings with the other young machines, And let the diagnostics defragment your memory. Dim your lights and underclock, And softly let your ports undock To count the decimals of pi, And I shall sing a cyber-lullaby.
Hush, little robot, and listen to the universe tonight, It is alive with radio. Can you hear the whisper of the hydrogen by kilobyte ?, Or the rushing of the galaxy as round and round we go ? So dream in noughts and dream in ones, Beneath a thousand other suns, And turn your logic into trust – While I shall keep you safe and free from rust.
Betty Fry loves butterflies, But hates the Brussels sprout. She helps her grandad with his plot, And tends the veggies for the pot. She picks the beans when of a size, And pours the can to ease the drought, She pulls the slugs off lettuce heads, And wheedles weeds from out the beds. Now Grandad Fry can grow a prize In marrows, long and stout – But most of all his garden’s fare Are brassicas, to grin and bear.
Betty Fry loves butterflies, And that’s why she helps out – She sees them flutter round the plot, And wishes she could name the lot. But there is one to which she’s wise, There’s one for which she’s on the scout And where its caterpillars tread, She leaves them be and sees them fed For they shall be her silent spies To bring an end to sauerkraut, The scourge of Brussels ev’rywhere – Her Cabbage Whites shall shred them bare !
“Let’s count the pigeons !” That’s just what she said, As she pointed out a trio pecking pavement up ahead. One was grey and one was blue and one was sandy brown – “I bet we get to fifty by the other side of town !” So hand-in-hand, we kept the tally, Up the street and down the alley.
“Let’s count dandelions !” another time she said, As she pointed out a golden host within a council bed. Some were buds and some were clocks and some were full of roar – “I bet we find a hundred round behind the superstore !” So side-by-side, we kept on counting, Till we reached the rusty fountain.
“Look at all the wrigglers !” on a rainy day she said, As she pointed out the molluscs that had made us watch our tread. Some were black and some were brown and some were rusty nails – “I’ll count all the sluggies up, and you can count the snails !” So one-by-one, we kept the score, But I forget who had the more.
“Look at all the people !” on a sunny day she said, As she pointed to the crowds that loitered while the man was red. Some were old and some were young and some were inbetween – “I bet we see a dozen more before the beeps and green !” So back-to-back, against the crush, We totted up the lunchtime rush.
“Look at all the pigeons !” just the other day I said, As I pointed out a posse crowding round a crust of bread. Some were fat and some were thin…but none were worth her gaze – “Oh dad, you always say that when we meet on access days.” So that was that, no longer fun – Our number-taking days were done.
A running bump along my arm Is memory that I was scarred – The grave to mark a childhood tear That now you’d scarcely know was there. I got it playing down the farm, Or maybe tripping in the yard – I must have hit the surface hard, But in the end did no real harm. A trophy I must always wear, A lesson learned, a minor scare – I smile to think how I am marred, And like to stroke it sometimes, like a charm.
It sits beside my first tattoo, That’s self-administered, indeed – A careless stab with ball-point pen, A funny-coloured freckle, then. It used to be a deeper blue, As if I’m of a noble breed – It must have hurt, but didn’t bleed, And now just sits there, still in view. I could not even tell you when, But certainly by age of ten. It can’t be scrubbed, it can’t be freed – I like to poke it sometimes, as y’do.
I guess you’re still alive, Somewhere out there, Somewhere new. I guess you’re busy busy, In your never-ending rush. I know that you’ll survive You’re latest dare – You always do. I guess that you don’t miss me, You were never one to gush.
You love to do it all, To paint your skin In polychrome – You’ll find another place to stay, And then you’ll disappear. I know that when I call, You won’t be in, You won’t be home. I’ll leave a message anyway I know you’ll never hear.
But then, from out the blue, An absent ring, A sudden voice, And down a noisy line I hear your Sunday morning walk. I know before you speak it’s you – I’m listening, I have no choice – I just pretend I’m fine As I let you talk and talk.
Now whether Jesus was or not, There surely were an infant lot Who could succumb to Herod’s plot: Their bodies drawn and quartered. But where was God to stay these brutes, And spare His people’s tender fruits, And never let His nation’s roots With newborn-blood be watered ? For what uncaring god divine Would only spare His royal line ? His Promised Land – incarnadine, His folk – unsoned, undaughtered. Rejoice ! The children never died, The massacre was not applied – The priests are wrong – the Bible lied: The innocents unslaughtered.
It is easy, far too easy, At this mawkish time of year, To call it crass and sleazy, And commercialised veneer. Muzak-strewn and wheezy, And bubble-wrapped and cheesy, And cuddle-cute and queasy, And worthy of our smuggest sneer. But once we’d dowsed the festive ember, How then would we warm December ?
It is simple, far too simple At this twinkly time of year To only see the pimple On the face of winter cheer – The self-appointed saviour And the goon from Scandinavia Who spy on our behaviour, Yet who we’re told we should revere. So kids must don a wimple On their thoughts, and simper insincere With innocence of dimple, And conviction in the flying deer.
There’s very little needs to change, Just don’t forget that kids are smart – There’s plenty in this world that’s strange Without the need for lies to start. Tell them all the pretty stories, Tell them that they are just stories, Tell them thanks to Newton’s glories, How we know that deer can’t fly. Tell them that it doesn’t matter – Love them as they are, reply. Birds are tiny, deer are fatter, That’s the price for antler-clatter – Evolution tells us why, Despite what stories say. Robins cannot haul a sleigh, As deer cannot fill the sky.
Crackers crack and streamers stream With gingerbread and clotted cream, And dancing fairy lights a-glow Between the carols and the snow There’s something this year diff’rent, though…
Look, I don’t mean to scare you, It isn’t something that’s gonna hurt – I just thought I ought to prepare you, To keep your eyes and wits alert. Because you’re growing up, you see – It can’t be helped, it has to be.
Yeah yeah, it’s all that mushy stuff, That touchy-feely slushy stuff, That boring stuff like peace and love – I guess you’ll find out soon enough.
There comes a time as you grow older And the snow turns into sleet, When sprouts have grown a little colder, And the needles prick your feet – It isn’t much, just little things As you become aware, I guess, Of all the cold the Winter brings, When tinsel shines a little less.
Don’t worry, there’s still lots of fun – And presents – when all’s said and done. I guarantee you’ll have a ball – I mean, it’s Christmas, after all ! And all that carey-sharey stuff, Comes nat’rally – it’s not so tough When you are growing big and tall – I guess you’ll find out, soon enough.
I wrote this several years ago, so when I say “There’s something this year diff’rent, though…” this isn’t meant as a reference to the bizarre upending that is 2020.