Sonnet of the Portuguese



Sonnet of the Portuguese

They’re coming !  Raise the alarm on the dockside !
They’re swarming, and pushing us out of the sea !
Their billowing sails, from Pembroke to Leigh,
Are storming our beaches, invading our sands !
Their cargo is toxic, their ballast monoxide –
These by-the-wind sailors, these rafts of medusa.
Mohican’d above, while their dreadlocks hang looser –
All laces and ruffles, and hooks ’stead of hands !
On the hottest of days, when the skies are clear blue,
And the southerlies breeze off the sea to the shore,
This deadly armada with venomous crew
Are planting their colonies right at our door…
These silent bluejackets are coming for you –
These unthinking killers, these seamen o’ war.



Hounslow Fast & Hounslow Slow

Early 20th Century views of Hounslow High Street


Hounslow Fast & Hounslow Slow

All the stages came through Hounslow,
All the coaches heading West:
Driving on to Staines and Windsor,
Bristol, Plymouth, and the rest.
All the coaches came through Hounslow,
From each Western vale and down,
Stretching legs and changing horses
For the final push to town.

They all knew Hounslow then:
The drovers, grooms and highwaymen.
But nothing stays the same –
And so one day the railway came.

Only three miles north of Hounslow,
Yet those three miles meant a lot:
Steaming on to Slough and Reading,
Faster than a horse can trot.
All the West once came through Hounslow,
Then the bypass passed you by –
And little mark is left to show
From when this High Street lived so high.

There’s nobody to blame,
For nothing ever stays the same –
The world still comes your way,
But now they do not leave, and so they stay.



Put out to Pasture

Bringing up the Guns by Harold Power


Put out to Pasture

Once a time, horses were ev’rywhere:
Carrying knights on their scoutings and charges,
Galloping messengers, lancers in battle,
Winding our winches and towing our barges,
Trekking our caravans, herding our cattle,
Ploughing our fields and pulling our drays,
Hauling our minecarts, waggons and hearses,
The Hansom and omnibus, stagecoach and chaise
Were drawn with a mixture of carrots and curses.
Chestnuts and roans and brindles and bays,
Black beauties, piebalds and fleabitten greys.
Rocking our children and hobbying fairs,
Stuffing our cushions and gluing our chairs.

So where are they now ?
They all got replaced by machines in the end,
That can do their jobs better and do their jobs faster –
They’re cheaper to build and are quicker to mend,
And don’t need reminding just who is their master.
The horses can only be worked to the bone,
They try hard, but haven’t the means.
They’ve all been replaced, through no fault of their own –
For who can compete with machines ?
In hindsight, of course, it is always the case:
When a horse must compete with the new iron horse,
Then it’s always a one-horse race.

These day, humans are ev’rywhere –
Building our furniture, stitching our clothes,
Driving our buses and stacking our shelves.
Doing the jobs the majority loathes,
For who else could do it for us but ourselves ?
Builders and farmers and doctors and tutors –
Of course they need humans !  Whyever d’you ask ?
You can’t leave the it down to machines and computers –
It’s not like there’s robots for every task.
We’ll be here for donkey’s years, my dears,
Despite such market forces –
So close up the stable door once more,
We’re all safe as horses !


Adle Strop



Adle Strop

Yes, I remember the poet’s train
That pulled up one afternoon,
And waited by my bare platform
Unwontedly.  Was it late June ?

I had been whitless-still in fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky,
Listening to a blackbird sing
Of meadowsweet and haycocks dry,

When the express-train drew up there.
No-one left and no-one came.
The only thing they even saw
Were platform boards which bore my name.

And then they went, and took their noise,
Their hissing steam and flashing brass,
And left me once again in peace
With willow, willow-herb and grass.



Vexillologically Vexed

A couple of proposed Russian flags in recent years by William Pokhlyobkin and Andrew Khlobystin

Vexillologically Vexed

Born in revolution was the Tricolour,
And suitably to radical design –
Oh sure, there were tripartite flags before,
Yet nothing like this latest Paris line.
And afterwards, we’ve trickies by the score,
As flagginess itself is redefined –
Back then, it showed a total break with lore,
By genius or accident of mind.
Felicity, simplicity,
Tradition would no limit be !
Their senses jarred by disregard
For all chromatic symmetry.
And so, unlike the world before,
You favoured grand to bear your brand –
Your tricolour said France for evermore !

Look on, you Russians, look and see,
The repercussions flying free –
For even in your own domain,
Napoleon has come again.
You took his classic of its type
And switched the order of each stripe –
And not content, we now discern,
You flipped his flag a quarter-turn.
I know, your old one had to go,
The flag that evry’body knew –
It still may shine in pure design,
But there was nothing pure on show.
And so, like Germany before,
You eschewed grand for safe yet bland –
And tricolours are great for that, for sure !


picket line
The Picket Line by Max Ginsburg



Voltaire never said it,
But that matters not a mite –
He meant it, to his credit,
And he calls on us to fight.

The words may change, but we all know them,
Paraphrased through many pleas –
When times are tough, it’s time to show them,
‘Speshly to our enemies –

“I cannot stand the crap you spew,
I find you ignorant and vile –
But I will pitch my life for you,
To keep you free to spread your bile.”

We do not have to like it,
But by deuce! we must allow it !
Let us strike at those who’d strike it,
Vow to never disavow it.

(Except perhaps when it’s horrific
Vi’lence that’s incited there –
But then those times must be specific,
And they must be bloody rare !)

So however hard they’re hitting,
We must build our hearts of granite –
Though we’re still, of course, permitting
Ev’ry speech that calls to ban it.

Rights aren’t only for the nice,
Or those with better words and clout –
So come on now and tell us twice,
And we shall smile and tune you out.

So say it with me, all of you,
And say it always, come what may –
So Voltaire never said it, true,
But we shall say it, ev’ry day !



Not saying I think strikers are ‘ignorant and vile’ – I just like the painting’s mood of conflict and speech.



Paley Ontology

time clock silver stone
Photo by Pixabay on


Paley Ontology

William Paley,
(Still quoted daily)
Chanced upon a timepiece while out walking on the dale.
Pondering its presence,
Mulling on its essence,
He saw it was a Made Thing, and all that must entail:
Here there were no surplus parts, no way to make it less dense;
If this must have a Maker – why, then Man must likewise hail !

Grand Mr Paley,
Postulating gaily,
Never knew the fossils that were lurking in the shale.
So too have the watches
Seen their share of botches:
Dodgy trains and axles who have never found a sale.
Cruel is such selection as inflicts their cogs with notches,
And calling time on any found irregular or frail.

Poor Mr Paley,
Breaches in his bailey,
Holes in his hypothesis, all bigger than a whale.
Thermal compensation
And grand complication
Have grown in watches gradu’ly, and clearly leave their trail.
So tick evolves to tock with ev’ry not-quite-iteration,
In the coiling of the spring as in the spiral of the snail.