Mine For Life

Mine For Life

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.


Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo


Hey, have you seen this ?  Chillis give us allergies !,
I watched it on The One Show and I read it in The Mail.
Never mind the experts – they claim our claims are fallacies,
Yet we know how we feel – and we’re feeling rather frail.

Hey, have you caught this ?  Cucumbers cause impotence !,
I found it on the internet – it’s all there if you dig.
So much for ‘mostly water’ !  That’s Big Salad’s influence,
They pump them full of chemicals – that’s how they grow so big !

Hey, have you scoped this ?  Sweetcorn gives us cancer !
I heard it at a coffee-shop, and in a waiting room.
So sure, go ahead, if you want to be a chancer,
But know I told you so when those yellow lumps bring doom.

Hey, have you shared this, at Waitrose or Pilates?
Let’s spread the word and spread the fad, and let our bodies heal.
Let’s get some trendy diets at the nation’s dinner parties,
Then maybe I won’t have to taste those bastards ev’ry meal !

“I want to say one word to you, Benjamin, just one word…”

Photo by Krizjohn Rosales on Pexels.com

“I want to say one word to you, Benjamin, just one word…”

Contact lenses, spectacles, disposable razors,
Medical heart-valves and pencil erasers,
Sterile packaging, gloss paints and superglues,
Motorcycle helmets, fibreglass canoes,
Polytunnel farming, gas- and gutter-piping,
Multicoloured buttons, and click-a-clacker typing,
Hygienic nappies, and vegan-friendly footwear,
And yes, all the litter that ev’rybody put there.

The truth is that we need it,
That we cannot live without it –
Except of course we did
Before we ever knew about it.
But look at all the progress that we’ve made –
Can we lose it all ?  I doubt it.

Self-healing polymers, handle-safe explosives,
Tin-can inner-linings to make contents less corrosive,
Lego bricks and credit cards, LPs that we cherish,
Electrical cables that will never fray or perish,
Damp proof courses, and cavity-foam walls,
Artificial limbs and teeth, table-tennis balls,
Satellite shielding, acoustic guitar strings,
Hyper-fibre optics, and a thousand other things.

The truth is that we need it,
That our lives are better for it –
We need to use it less,
But we surely can’t ignore it –
The future’s soft and flexible – be careful,
And we’ll all get to explore it.

Salisbury Cathedral Vaccination Centre

Christ Cleansing the Temple by Bernardino Mei

Salisbury Cathedral Vaccination Centre

Angels in the ceiling, salvation in the needles,
Organ practice in the air, the bishop looking proud –
Gone is the busyness of canons, deans, and beadles,
But the locked-up church can once again give welcome to the crowd.
Monks used to pray here, monks who ministered the sick –
But these days it is nurses who are rolling up the sleeves.
So what would Jesus say at their death-defying trick ?,
Their communion, regardless what each congregant believes.
Would he drive them out, back to their lab’ratories ?
Or would he get stuck-in with his newfound clientelle ?
Stained-glass in the windows, telling ancient stories –
Maybe in a thousand years, they’ll tell this one as well.

Margarita Time

detail from Banquet of Cleopatra by Geovanni Tiepolo

Margarita Time

Cleopatra dropped a pearl in vinegar
To win a bet,
And watched her bead dissolve away to nothing
Without one regret –
Although in truth it must have fizzed a day or two
Before it’s done
And in that time she’d lost her land and lost her life
And lost her son.
And Rome, while once her lover, saw her lustre tarnish
Bit by bit –
For strip away her cultured beauty,
And she’s just a speck of grit.



Poison and venom – the diff’rence between them
Is pedantry.
Biologists may take exception,
But only they should.
Most of the rest of us navigate life
Quite pleasantly
With a definition that’s still close-enough
To be good.

The Blacktop Jungle

Mulefa from The Amber Spyglass by JamesMargarum

The Blacktop Jungle

Evolution has no use for wheels –
Nature walks, it never rolls
Beyond a spider or tumbleweed
That the random wind controls.
For real life lacks our perfect strips
Of smooth and tarmacked roads,
These alien technologies,
These edges linking nodes.
Biology’s against it anyway,
Unless the wheels are dead –
For how can blood and nerves attach
To grow the spokes, repair the tread ?

Though germs can grow their flagellates
Upon an axle, loosely bound –
And they can drive by swimming,
Just by spinning tendrils round and round.
So give a million years or ten,
And life may well adapt
To these ribbons of oil and gravel,
If they haven’t been buried or snapped.
But while terrain is bumpy
And a bogged-down caster cannot trot,
Then legs will always run the show –
The world may turn, but life does not.



Hogwarts is a trade school –
Its graduates are magic-wise, but culture-poor.
Their basic maths and science tools
Are lacking, from their focus on excessive lore.
So who will pioneer the medicines ?
It won’t be Harry.
So who the next Brunels and Edisons ?
Don’t look to Harry.
And who will score the soundtracks to our lives ?
Or teach us how to exercise,
And thrust and parry ?
Just who will study bees and save the hives ?
Or write, exposing greed and lies ?
Or help us marry ?
Your world of Latin, nods, and shadows,
Operates clandestinely –
But will it save the climate ?  Who knows ?
We’ve no time to tarry.
So who will help us muggles take control
Of our own destiny ?
And who will feed the intellectual soul
That we all carry ?
And who will tell me I can be
Whatever I might wish to be ?
No Sorting Hat’s the boss of me !
Hey, Harry ?

I find it bizarre that a self-confessed lefty wrote about a super-powered elite secretly running the world because the plebby muggles were incapable of doing it for themselves. And poor Harry, having to suffer growing up with those working class oiks until he was restored to his true destiny as the golden child.


brown deer
Photo by Sohel Patel on Pexels.com


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.

Sleeping with the Armoured Fishes

Model of Dunkleosteus terrelli, photographed by James St. John. I have been unable to uncover who made the model.

Sleeping with the Armoured Fishes

Ah lads, I love me a lonely building site,
But best be down to business – bring the rat.
It really is a calm if moonless night
And I’m in quite the mood to have a chat.
Yes, bring him here, and keep him gagged and bound.
So, let’s have a look at you – nothing to say ?
Ironic, given how you like to expound –
But then, I’m not the cops, and I don’t pay.
So pray, indulge me with a heart-to-heart.
You’re what, mid-twenties ?  Younger than I thought.
Are you a college boy ?  You think you’re smart ?
But not so brainy now that you’ve been caught.
Same age as my boy, infact, and just as raw.
When he went off to uni, I said “Son,
I don’t want you to study business or the law,
Don’t want you to follow in my footsteps none.
Go and find yourself in girls and books
And study something useless, something fun.”
“Alright dad,” he said, “goodbye to crooks,
And here’s to looking after number one.
And I know just the course for me –
It’s palaeontology !
Digging up the bones like any average Jones.”

So off he went to college with his hammer
Seeking out the placoderm and ammonite,
To live that student life in all its glamour –
Pasta, parties, politics and cram-all-night.
And now he even works for a museum,
Cataloguing shells and dating rocks –
He calls the place a fossil mausoleum,
Worshipping the dead, then seal them in a box.
But then one day, he’s telling me how rare
A fossil even is to ever find
When so much of the past ain’t even there,
We’re lucky that there’s any left behind.
And if we died, wiped out, in plague or war –
Well, when the dolphins rises, or super-ants,
In sixty-five-odd million years or more,
How would they know that we were smarty-pants ?
Now I know what you’re thinking of, young man,
Cos so was I, I thought I’d name that tune –
So don’t interrupt, (not that you can) –
But so I says “There’s footprints on the Moon !”
“Perhaps” he says, “but even these
Face meteorites and solar breeze,
And the Voyagers ? Okay, but so very far away.”

Steel structures ?  Not a chance, he said –
Rusted, melted, eaten, and the trail is cold.
The same with plastic, silicon, or lead –
The only stable currency is gold.
But not out here, where wind and rain can bite,
And bring the highest mountains down to sand –
But locked up in the Earth, well out of sight,
With pottery and diamonds shaped by hand.
And as for bones, we do ourselves no favours,
By burying just six-feet deep in loam,
And never mind cremation !  But our saviours
Are those who drowned a mile beneath the foam –
Sunk in shifting silt with little oxygen, ahoy !
Or in summat tough and clearly fake and littered by the score –
And here’s where we finally come to you, old boy –
It’s concrete !  Especially with rebar through its core.
And when it’s in the pilings of a bridge,
Then it’s already buried, safe as houses !
Okay lads, over here a smidge…and down he goes…
A rat, I suppose, to join the future mighty mouses.
I hope he makes it big some day –
How fitting for his feet of clay
To join a concrete shroud – my son would be so proud !