Strange Bedfellows

white and black mattress fronting the mountain
Photo by wayX on


Strange Bedfellows

I know the temptation – any stick to diss them,
Any ally welcome, any grudge a friend –
Any note of caution is abject criticism,
Any mediation is weakness to the trend.
But surely we are judged by the company we keep,
Regardless why we keep such clientele –
The rival of my enemy might sometimes be a creep
Who should really be my enemy as well.
Real politic with an opportune autocracy
Is just another way to say hypocrisy.




Threefold Commandments

brother jonathan
Jonathan Edwards by Joseph Badger


Threefold Commandments

Hear me now, for this is wisdom,
Handed down the generations:
This is where the rule is from
That founds all laws and inspirations.
Thrice they spake a noble precept,
Thus salvation’s road is three-stepped.

Firsly: be a better neighbour
Loving all the world as brothers.
Second: we must welcome labour –
Work is virtue like no others.
Thirdly comes a code most shapely
(Though just what, I own, escapes me.)

Therefore, speak unto all fellows
Honest words – no slanders mutter.
Never shirk to work the bellows,
Turn the earth, or churn the butter.
And that other thing: pursue it –
(What it says to do . . . well, do it.)

So behold: three schemes for living;
Three the ways to languor foil
First there’s love, respect, forgiving;
Next there’s graft, provision, toil –
Third comes…what ?  Oh, saints preserve me !
(But I’m sure it’s mighty worthy.)



The Providence Plot

Password (detail) by Cesar Santos


The Providence Plot

Do not hunt out conspiracies, my friends –
There’s no-one out to get us,
For we do not greatly matter.
There’s no-one’s jailed for heresies, my friends –
Though they sometimes read our letters,
They will find there only chatter.
Yes, corruption still exists,
We can be sure,
And lord, its presence in our midst
Is not a thing we should ignore –
But none of it is organised
By an elite beneath a gorgan
(Or a lizard), plotting dooms
In panelled dark and smoky rooms.

My friends, I know !  It feels so wrong
To only shrug and move along –
What answer is coincidence ?
It makes no sense
To pattern-seeking minds.
If there is any agency (of either kind)
Within the noise of daily life,
We’d barely know amidst the strife
Of multiple false-positives.
I urge, there’s nothing causative
In most of what we’d swear is true –
I know, because I’d swear it too.

But do not hunt conspiracies, my friends –
When cock-ups happen all the time,
And secrets are so rarely kept.
The thing about most tyrannies, my friends,
Is just how public is their crime –
To rule by fear, your subjects must be prepped.
Their heavy-handed propaganda
Never gets mistook for candour,
And their unofficial action is their very public policy.
See, evolution gifted us
An urge to talk and share, and thus
The covert are the daily news, and secrets know no modesty.
For ev’ry extra spy who lurks behind the scenes
Is just another pair of lips to spill the beans.

My friends – beware conspiracies.
Beware their never-sated thirst –
For surely it is better yet to hope the best than fear the worst.
And if sometimes we’re taken in,
At least we don’t let fear win !
And be prepared to be surprised
By happenstance in pattered guise –
The tin-foil cannot block it,
Nor computers plot its dance –
So keep your Occam in your pocket
For the vagaries of chance.



A point is all that you can score

Clash of the Titans by Lukas Panzarin


A point is all that you can score

These days, too many folks I know
At odds with the government,
Are praying for a time of woe
To piss into their tent.

Alas, folks like you, my friend,
So smug and all a-twitter –
Tribal to the bitter end,
And boy, are both sides bitter.

You long for power grids to fail,
For supermarket shelves to clear –
How joyfully you scoff and wail
That Armageddon’s here.

You cheer on the elderly to die
To make the balance tip,
And never stop to question why
You need such brinkmanship.

When did you become such arseholes ?
When did you become such bores ?
If we’re descending into farce,
Then the fault is equally yours.

Look, I don’t like the Government either,
But there they are, by public vote.
And someone has to break this fever,
While the others point and gloat.

If times get hard, as you prophesise,
Will you come down to help us through ?
Can you still be a friend who tries
To douse the flames and build anew ?

And I’m sorry I called you an arsehole –
We neither side is right or wrong.
So can we keep our self control,
And compromise to get along ?



Chief Mousers to the Cabinet Office

Larry, the incumbent.  I wonder what his collar tag says ?


Chief Mousers to the Cabinet Office

Since days of Wolsey, there we’ve been,
Lurking beneath the throne –
The éminence grise, or tabby, or brown,
The whiskered presence behind the crown.
Each light-footed tom and dagger-clawed queen
Has worked their paws to the bone,
Keeping our ministers free from vermin,
Keeping the rodents from nesting in ermine.

For we are civil servants too,
Patrolling halls of power –
Wherever the traitors skulk and plot,
We’re here to pounce upon the lot.
For mouse or magpie, rat or shrew,
We’ll make those riff-raff cower !
While members jeer and speakers spout,
We’ll keep the rebel squeakers out.

Secular Commandments

Neo-Babylonian tablet about Epilepsy at the British Museum, c. 9375 – 9462 HE


Secular Commandments

And Thou Shalt Not Murder, nor needlessly kill –
Thy life is too fleeting to shorten yet still.

And Thou Shalt Not Steal, nor undue extort –
Not objects, nor glories, nor notions bethought.

And Thou Shalt Not Greeding, nor proud eversuch –
As glutton-, or miser-, or tyrant-too-much.

And Thou Shalt Deceive Not, nor mislead by choice –
For whether by action, or absence, or voice.

And Thou Hypocrise Shan’t, nor thyself betray –
Believe not thy pretext, nor look t’other way.

And Thou Shalt Not Hatred, nor baseless decry –
Nor, even the guilty, redemption deny.

And Thou Shalt Respect Due, all those who doth earn –
Then labour thyself for esteem in return.

One Shalt and six Shalt Nots, one life to apply –
So can we achieve them, and can we not try ?



Moving the Goalposts



Moving the Goalposts

So much emotion invested
In teams over which we have little control;
So many loyalties tested,
Where happiness hangs on a single damn goal.
We buy into brands and we swear that we’re theirs,
But we’ve nothing to offer ’cept hoping and prayers;
So they win or they lose – and at least someone cares,
Though we act like it cost us our soul.

But all of that devotion
For an empty sporting rite
Must leaves no spare emotion
To our fellow humans’ plight:
There’s torture to be ending, and forests to be saving,
There’s justice to be tending, and freedom to be braving;
There’s too much needs defending to waste our flags with waving,
Let’s get our passions working here instead.
We need to get ignited for the good of all the blighted,
Regardless if they’re wearing blue or red.