Nudging the Thing-a-ma-jig

Photo by Skitterphoto on

Nudgeing the Thing-ama-jig

                    (in response to Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap)

Finally, ticked it off the list –
So easy to put it off for another year,
A must-see show that can be missed
Because it’s always here.

Pretty much what I expected –
Dialogue from my grandparent’s day,
Archetypes who’re all suspected –
But that’s the fun of the play.

For entertainment, purely,
To be mesmerised by the whole ordeal –
Cheesy, sure, but surely
On a spike of cunning steel.

Alas, for an author so attuned
To clever plots as tight as a snare –
This one has holes like a gaping wound,
And simply doesn’t care.

Was it because it’s a play, not a book,
That undid the wit of the Queen of Crime ?
Did she dash it off, no second look,
Then order a gin and lime ?

The set was creaking, the policeman botching,
And the killer was inconsistently planned,
Conning when only the audience were watching –
It just feels a tad underhand.

So by the end, I was scratching my head,
As they raised the dead for their final bow,
And the killer stepped up – here we go, I said,
Here comes the solemn vow –

They begged us, before they let us go,
To not let on who done the deed –
And decade after decade, wouldn’t you know,
Their pleas, it seems, succeed.

But I’m not sure they’ve earned our hush –
The plot’s phoned-in, then they cut the line.
And if we were all to bust their flush,
They’d close in double-quick time.

I can’t even give you a walkthrough
To show how the plot just doesn’t gel –
The trouble is, who can I talk to,
About the play that we must not tell ?

The most middle-class of secrets,
For woe betide who blabs the second act –
And here I am, despite my regrets,
Obeying the unspoken pact.

But I guess they’re breaking even,
Even after all these cynical years.
So maybe I should stop my peeving –
Clearly they’re shrugging off the sneers.

And after all, I still had fun –
(And even more when I got to complain).
So on it goes on its endless run
Just off St Martin’s Lane.

And yet, I can’t help feeling
That a redraft could make it a thing of joy,
Like a cat that sends the punters squealing
As it plays with its startled toy.

They need to build a better Mousetrap,
Up the tension in the spring,
Or else the rats waltz through the gap
Before the jaws can swing.

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Gather ye Rosebuds While ye May by John Waterhouse

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Here’s rosemary – for memory, some say,
But here I offer it up for aches,
And for the colic, here’s caraway,
And there, valerian for shakes.
I have the wisest sage for the eyes,
And columbine for fevered brows,
And lavender, to drive off the flies,
And camomile daisies to help you drowse.
Some fennel to keep you regular, back there,
And thyme to rid the worms,
Here’s rue for you, but it scalds in the sun – take care,
Use St John’s wort for the burns.
And for the maidens, I’ve violet and pansy,
To keep your flowerhead free from weeds.
And if these fail, there’s purgative tansy –
Restoring your bloom, not going to seed.

I know, I know, I’ve rhymed worms with burns. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a leaf from hip-hop’s lyric sheet and roll with ‘close enough’.

Neater by the Dozen

Neater by the Dozen

Disciples or Olympians,
They always come in dozens,
Keeping in the families
With brothers, sons, and cousins.
Add in Tribes of Israel,
And Knights about the table,
And clearly stories love their twelves
As various yet stable.
But always, there’s a glut of candidates
From which to choose,
And no two-tellings can agree
On which ones win or lose –
Oh sure, there’s half-a-dozen, maybe eight,
All guaranteed –
But for the rest, it’s anybody’s guess
Who will succeed…
They’re heroes of the second-tiers,
The extras at the feast,
Without a story of their own,
But name-checked still, at least.
A pool of six to eight will form
As random plot devices –
A few more names to fill the ranks
As redshirt sacrifices.
A handful get the nod this time,
The rest stay on the bench –
And of the lucky ones, we know
These men are strictly ‘hench’.
So two or three are left out in the cold,
Cos here’s the rub –
You’re clique is nothing special
If there’s fourteen in your club.

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 ?

Disposable Fiancé

Photo by Sami Anas on

Disposable Fiancé

Miss Haversham or Jilted John,
With no clue what’s been going on –
That’s me.
When the hero comes bursting into the church
To win back his one true love,
Then I’m the one who’s stood at the altar.
I’m the one who’s always left in the lurch,
Who only exists to get the shove,
Because my name is Chester or Walter.

(Hiring the organist, ballroom, and tails –
The invites and rings and the horse-drawn chaise,
Flying my folks in from New South Wales,
For untaken photos and uneaten canapés.)

Forever Paris or Rosalind,
Traded-in for the chisel-chinned –
That’s me.
I’m the one who isn’t famous or pouty,
I’m the wimp who’s got no soul,
The banker or techie or wonk who’s bland and nice.
You’ll all have quite forgotten about me
By the time the credits roll
I’m just another shallow plot device.

(I won’t be getting out of here for hours –
Shaking their hands, and arranging their lifts,
And someone still has to clear out the flowers,
And cancel the band, and return all the gifts.)



I remember Sunday afternoons
And watching classic black-and-whites,
Though not so much for giant apes,
Or top hats, kanes or men in tights –
But all my fascination fell
On the opening seconds-worth,
Wond’ring at that giant mast,
And where its feet made earth –
Novaya Zemlya first, for one,
And Svalbard, I concluded, next,
Then Ellesmere Island for the third,
But the last one had me vexed…
There’s nothing there but shifting ice,
Though far more then than left today –
It’s just as well they’d long gone bust
Before the ice gave way.

Matinee Angels

Hollywood’s Golden Era by Dick Bobnick

Matinee Angels

Who’s afraid of Jimmy Stewart ?
Nobody, that’s who.
Sometimes catty, sometimes moody,
But he still comes through.
And Gary Cooper isn’t bad,
He’s just misunderstood –
And John Wayne is a good old boy
Who’s on the side of good.
They may have had to play it rough
Before they made their name,
But once above the title
Then they’re quite above all blame.
So Cary Grant is Cary Grant –
How could he be a thug ?
And Frank Sinatra’s golden charm
Will counter any drug.
They may be hapless bandits,
But we’re rooting for them still –
They never do much real harm,
They never shoot to kill.
Henry Fonda is as steadfast
As is David Niven suave –
Not for them the sleezy gangster
Or the commie Yugoslav.
Until, at last, late in the day,
Wanting credibility,
They finally might play with fire
And versatility.
Their haloes have been hocked
And their goody two-shoes put away –
But too late, guys, too late,
To find your feet in feet of clay.
We longed to see your dark side shining through
Throughout your height,
Here and there, a sneer, a snare,
An unpredicted fright –
We watched, we hoped, for menace
From an unexpected place,
Or a cold and soulless stare
Within a warm and handsome face.
The poisoned glass of milk
That did not sour by the end –
The evil that men do lives on
When done by leading men.
Like seeing Peter Lorre be gentle,
It’s the shock we need.
Make ’em laugh and make ’em swoon –
But sometime, make ’em bleed.

Actually, Peter Lorre did play a gentle and likeable character in The Mask of Dimitrios, and boy is it refreshing ! And surprisingly, Jimmy Stewart has played the bad guy three times, so best warn your spoils: firstly, pre fame, in After The Thin Man, and thirdly as by far the nicest of the outlaws in Bandolero.  But it was his second trip to the dark side that was his best – as all round shit Alfred Kralik in The Shop Around The Corner.  In it, he’s petty, vindictive and physically abusived to a man he sacks for no other reason that he doesn’t like him – what a brillant portrail of a Tory !

A Waste of a Good Violin

Untitled by Katie Kurkjy

A Waste of a Good Violin

               (In response to Trevor Griffith’s Comedians)

There’s a thousand kinds of comedy, Gethin,
But you, son, you are doing none of them.
There’s punchlines, shocklines,
Character and cringe lines,
But you, Gethin, you ain’t got a-one of them.

Shouting at the audience is not being edgy,
It’s just being lazy, when you don’t have a joke.
The Guardian may love you,
But the punters shrug and yawn –
Cos you, Gethin, you just ain’t a very funny bloke.

Unless I’m missing something, you’re not even trying,
It isn’t that your gags are falling flat –
You’re miming and ranting,
And smirking up your sleeve,
But Gethin, you’ll have to try damn harder than all that !

Yet who the hell am I to tell what’s funny ?
But I don’t get it, and I won’t come back
I hope you’ll find an audience,
But Gethin, don’t forget –
It’s fine to make ’em think, but you’ve gotta make ’em crack…

The Critic’s Lament

detail from The Art Critic by Norman Rockwell

The Critic’s Lament

If you don’t like this then you’re a moron,
If you do like that then you’re a lout,
If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own –
For even when the way is shown,
You’d rather do without.

If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin,
If you do like that then you’re a square –
Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse,
So you masses never have to choose,
It’s like you just don’t care

How can you reject my spotless taste
In favour of your own ?
Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste
Despite my megaphone ?
For who will sing the praises of the chosen
That they’ve scarcely earned,
And who will prick the egos of the posers
Once their backs are turned ?

So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen,
And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks –
For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars,
I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars –
Yet still I get no thanks !

Heroic Verse

Viking Axe by Lexx

Heroic Verse

Bloodaxe Books are publishers of poetry –
And what a name !
As though these are the sagas of berserkers
Seeking Thor and fame,
For telling down the trestles of the feasting hall
From lord to knight,
Or singing by the troubadours to mistresses
By candlelight.
Odes to ale and hymns to war,
And saucy wenches by the score –
To lustily recount and roar,
And ready for a fight.
Or razor-sharp in their attacks,
From broadside blasts to cutting hacks –
Their impish imprint swings the axe
To let their verses bite.

All my teenage years I sought
For such a name –
Till, furnace-wrought, it came !

Not for them, one conjures, the namby-pamby
Hearts on sleeves –
Nor whinging confessionals,
Or whimsies to the Autumn leaves –
No, these are the words of men of action,
And dames of destiny,
To stir my loins and quick my heart
And never rest in me.
Yet much of what they print is dry –
Their blade is dull, their name a lie –
A rubber-and-ketchup alibi
That’s sorely testing me.
So spare me flabby free-verse faff,
And mopey milksops full of chaff –
I need good craic to blow the gaff
And hone the best of me.

I guess what they do has its place,
But all the same,
It’s such a waste of a name…