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.

The Sins of the Fathers

The Sins of the Fathers

It wasn’t our hands
Which pressed the button, pulled the lever,
Signed the warrant, wrung the neck,
Or delivered the commands.

It wasn’t our hands
Which pointed the gun, swung the cleaver,
Stiffled a yawn, cleaned the fleck
Of bloodstain off our bands.

No, those were our fathers,
Our monsters, whose surnames we bare –
Names that echo everywhere,
Our shameful brands.

But we are not our fathers,
Despite all that we share.
We carry still their genes, their glands –
But not their hands.

If we had been where they were,
Would we have acted the same ?
Do they run deeper than their name,
Through our hinterlands ?

We’ll never know, though we prefer
To think that we would not have killed.
But we are here, our future in our hands –
Let’s use them now to build.

The Inner Demon

Inner Demons by AConstantBother

The Inner Demon

Think right, say right,
Keep it careful, keep it kind –
Keep a clean and healthy mind
That wants no truck with spite.
And yet, that inner voice
Who always loves its little games,
Who always knows the nasty names,
Will whisper up its choice.
It knows they’re wrong, and that’s the point,
It’s daring us to shout them out
Because they’re wrong and still have clout
Because they’re out-of-joint.
It’s bating us to say the word –
It wants to make us take the blame
For ev’ry hurtful hateful name
We’ve ever heard.
But these are not our whole –
These shall not define or break us,
Just stray thoughts and troublemakers –
We are in control.
It only loathes itself, infact,
But we can still refuse to sink –
Let’s judge us not in what we think,
But how we act.


The Pont Neuf, Paris by Baptiste Androuet du Cerceau & Guillaume Marchand, with a proposed parasite on top by Stephane Malka.


When I talk with my lefty friends
On art and architecture,
They all are oh-so-modern in their taste.
And so I have to talk to them
On anything but architecture,
All to keep things sweet, if rather chaste.

So what’s this style that they’ve embraced ?
A smashing of the ruling class ?
A break with endless cut-and-paste, debased
In choc’late-boxy quaintness ?
So is a love for steel and glass
A love for unconstraint-ness ?

But when I talk with the lovers of
The column and the arch,
We have to keep the topic to the stones,
For stray to social policy,
And progress on the march,
And I quickly learn they’re Tories to their bones.

So what’s this style they’ve seen replaced ?
A harking back to Empire ?
Of seeing Albion defaced, disgraced,
Encased in brutalism ?
So is a love for dome and spire
A love for old-time feudalism ?

On one side are better lives in ugly buildings –
On the other – palaces, but for the rich.
And yet the latter need what brother-artisans are skilled in –
Frescos, gargoyles, heraldry – the very things we’re told are kitsch.
But have we really got no use for them ?
Can we not have our peace and rights and social care,
And still have ornament to spare
To build our new Jerusalem ?


The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals


Blockbusting, balls-walling, entrepreneur,
Overman-achieving and Sorbonne-viveur,
Moving-and-shaking and never-make mistaking –
God, I could never be so bold !

I’m the one who failed to get to know you,
I’m the one it’s easy to say no to,
Nobody’s enemy, nobody’s go-to,
And always the last one to be told.

I know that you work hard, but always with results,
You go the extra yard, but you don’t do nuts-and-bolts
It’s down to me to tidy up and lock the doors at night,
While you’re off making masterplans to set the town alight.

I’m not like you, off to change the world again,
The hero of the story, the driver of the train,
The leader and infallible, the oysters and champagne,
The charismatic marvel to behold !

We cannot all be actors, we cannot all be confident,
We cannot all ignore the inner voice that never gives consent.
I guess I don’t blame you, when your talents are so rife –
And when even I would toss aside the novel of my life.

You’re the exception, but you think that you’re the mean,
It’s only for your eyes that the world is bright and keen,
While I’m drowning in the wake of wherever you have been –
But hey, that’s just the way the dice were rolled.

What Have We Learned ?

Hope by George Watts

What Have We Learned ?

I know it doesn’t feel like it,
Especially on the news,
But the world is getting safer all the same.
Wars are killing fewer,
Though it’s hard to spot the clues
In the endless rounds of jingo, spin and blame.
But there, buried in statistics,
Proof is waiting to be found
That murder, rape and violence are down.
We’ve never had a world so good
As this world here, right now –
Better than our hope could dare allow.

It never was forgone,
It’s taken so much hard work to achieve –
Work we never knew that we could do,
Was going on.
So ev’ry time we heave,
It seems we get a little calmer,
And we get a little kinder,
Though we need the odd reminder to believe.

And yet,
We know it doesn’t feel like it,
Especially on the news –
For all this peace, there’s not that much about.
We’re killing people daily,
And ev’ry time we do, we lose –
So war is down, but war is far from out.
Our angels may be better,
But our angels still fall short of best –
The world is getting good, but not yet blessed.
Our progress may be progress,
But it’s coming far too slow –
We cannot wait for fairer winds to blow.

It never is forgone,
And all this work could quickly fall apart –
The darkest days of our old ways
Could yet be set upon.
Let’s hope that we are smart –
We haven’t time for shock and awe,
We haven’t time to settle scores –
We need to stop the wars before they start.

Flying the Flag

Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on

Flying the Flag

Come and join the army,
Risk your life each day,
Occupying deserts
For below the av’rage pay.
Politicians praise us,
They’ve always got our backs,
But then they go and pay us all
Just 19k less tax.
Come and join the army,
Buzz off all your locks,
See the world, then shoot it,
And spread about the pox.
Tabloids love us, lefties hate us,
Locals gun us where we stand –
Hire us cut-price killers,
For a mere 19 grand.

Red Like the Poppies

poppy wallpaper by Maurice Verneuil

Red Like the Poppies

In 1911, in Britain, the dockers walked out –
And sailors and railwaymen too, across the nation.
Union membership soared, and so did the shout
For something more than this endless pent-up frustration.
A growing awareness had bloomed in the men –
They were no pack-mules who just bleat and cower.
These literate workers had realised then
That labouring hands now held all the power.
The following year, the miners struck –
A million men refused to duck
When facing-down bosses for pride in the pocket –
They wanted a minimum wage – and they got it !
What did they care of the Kaiser ?  Why did they go ?
Ev’ry November, I wonder.  I think I might know –

In 1914, in Britain, the soldiers marched out.
Many were raw volunteers – no draft had been called.
Some were patriotic’ly spurred, I’ve no doubt,
But shoring the empire must have left others appalled.
Yet the labourer’s life, while improving, was hard –
The same old drudging as yesterday.
Who wouldn’t swap for some public regard
In a smart uniform, with travel and regular pay ?
They trusted their orders and killed as commanded,
So can I be angry, if I must be candid ?
I don’t know.  It was lots of things bound-up together –
So either I wear the poppy, or the white feather,
And honour those scabs who refused to be naive or quailed.
Perhaps.  But why hadn’t they joined-up, those Glorious Jailed ?



The President is dead.
Who gets the nuclear code ?

“I” said the Vice,
“I am the next in line,
For the order is precise
And this is my time to shine
A cool head and a steady load.”

But now the Vice is dead.
Who gets the nuclear code ?

“I” said the Speaker,
“I am the next in line.
All other claims are weaker
And are junior to mine.
I get to tread the royal road.”

But now the Speaker’s dead.
Who gets the nuclear code ?

“I” said the head of the Senate,
“I am the next in line.
For that’s how the framers pen it –
And their penmanship is fine.
Let it be said, I am bestowed.”

So now the matter’s put to bed,
He gets the nuclear code.

“Wait !” said the new head of state
“Who now is next in line ?
I must appoint a running mate,
A brand new Vice to guard the shrine,
To rule instead if I explode.”

“But hang on, boss” the new Vice said,
“Hand over the nuclear code.

For you are still a Senator,
And only acting next-in-line.
I’m number two, you’re number four –
I clear outrank you, so resign !,
Before the Feds reach panic mode.”

So, now all logic’s fled,
Best hide the nuclear code.

America, We Need to Talk

It’s Time to Build a Stronger America by James Flagg

America, We Need to Talk

Look, we get it, you’re still young and brash
With passion and guile of a sort we remember
From out of our youth, from cutting a dash,
When the world was in Spring and our credit in cash,
And watching you now, we still feel an ember
From deep in our hearts that we thought were but ash.

For we are the empires who strutted before you,
Who drank the same honeydew now on your lips –
With vassals and tributes to praise and adore you,
And patience and prudence to hassle and bore you,
So manifest destiny festers and grips –
And no wonder it finds you when none can ignore you.

We’ve all been there – we British and Roman,
We Persian and Aztec, we Mongol and French –
We each were as mighty, who answered to no man,
From horseback and gunboat, with longsword and bowman,
And bloodlust and mistrust we never could quench,
And the cripple’ing burden of being the showman.

It never quite goes away, of course,
As our never-set suns stop their beaming –
The memories built up in temples and wars
Which we cherish in secret, still keeping the scores.
The dreams we’re still dreaming at twilight’s last gleaming,
So some day shall all this be yours.