Mongers

Playing Marbles and Rag & Bone Man by Steven Scholes

Mongers

We used to be just simple merchants –
Iron, fish, and cheese,
And jack-of-produce costermen –
Traders in the bare necessities.
But now we’re only spoken off
As rumour, scare, and war –
We’re jack-the-lads shadowmen,
Hawking abstract concepts door-to-door.

Pollarding

pollard

Pollarding

Last Autumn, all your leaves came down –
Just like they must each year.
But seeing them when dead and brown,
And unlike all the rest in town,
Is just too late, I fear.
I should have seen them all when green !
But now I wondered – what tree had we here ?

Big, they were, the largest, broadest leaves
In all this urban wood
And finger-lobed, for holding-up the eaves,
And poking now from gutter-sleeves
About the neighbourhood.
My thought was fig, with leaves that big,
Yet far too gropey to do Eve much good.

But I, alas, might never even know,
For once your leaves were shed –
The shears came out and brought you low,
As all your branches had to go
And left your trunk for dead.
No tree could sleep with cuts so deep –
You surely won’t be rising out of bed…

April was well underway before
Your twigs began to sprout.
And then, such tiny hands they bore,
As ev’ry day a couple more
To prove you yet were stout.
At this rate Fall would claim them all
Ere half the sun-grab hands were even out !

But then I looked a little lower,
Where some suckers crowd the roots –
While your wounds may heal the slower,
Round your foot you’re still a grower
Shooting out a dozen shoots.
Succour feeders, weed succeeders,
Sucking sunshine into fruits.

May saw plenty spindly upper twigs –
A hedgehog on each bough,
To carry leaves, so close, so big,
As if they’d snap right off the rig,
But seemed to cling on anyhow.
As June grew late, they put on weight
As fleshy forearms now.

By summer, something stirred in me,
A memory about the bumps
That swell no larger than a pea –
They’re really next’s year’s fruits-to-be.
But here, of course, there were no lumps –
For what life stirred was secateured
Down to your barest stumps.

So will I have to wait another year
To see your fruits in Fall ?
I wonder if I’ll still be here…
You will, of course, that much is clear –
You’re bursting branches big and small.
Unless your twigs are lacking figs
Because you never were a fig at all…

Suburban Antares

opposite of mars
Image crested in Stellarium

Suburban Antares

Right at the bottom of the Zodiac, he lies –
At the bottom of the garden, at the bottom of the sky –
Barely rising high enough above the privet hedges,
As he’s hugging the horizon – just a hello and goodbye.
Battling through the light-infested night (plus those long evenings),
Peeking out from skies that are perpetually grey –
From the top floor of a tower block, I bet he looks a treat,
But for us, he’s always hidden by the roofs across the way.

Cucumber Time

pile of cucumbers
Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

 

Cucumber Time

Summer days, ah Summer days,
When the world is out-of-town.
The Commons and Courts are resting,
And the news is old and brown.
When gherkins are smooth and longer,
And the sunbeams are making them glow,
Then just ask Ernest and Algernon
How quick the sandwiches go !

 

 

Blown on the Windrush

tilbury here we come

Blown on the Windrush

Oh London, my London !  Forever so fond,
Yet I heard of the rumours of places beyond –
For further than ring roads and suburban stations
Apparently lies there a wealth of far nations.
How greatly I dreamed of the boat and the train
And the tropical sun, now washed out by your rain.
For my riches are poorly, my cupboards are bare,
My travelling stalled upon your thoroughfare.

Oh London, my London !  You felt my distress.
And pitied my yearnings to quit your address.
For penned by your broadways, I longed to escape –
So you widened my cage from the Steppes to the Cape,
From Hong Kong to Lisbon, from Cairo to Cork,
From L.A. to Delhi, from Auckland to York.
With bright lights and glamours, and chiming Bow Bell,
You brought me the world, and their families as well !

Growing up in the boring countryside, I’ve always liked the idea of immigration – not for myself, far too lazy, but for the rest of the world to do the hard work of coming to me.  Though I guess I am a kind-of immigrant into London, and this was written soon after my arrival as I was still marvelling.  Looking back, it’s a bit dum-de-dum, but that pretty much summed-up my provincial output at the time.  What my poems needed was a splash of colour, and London was just the place for that.

Barrow Bird

what a star
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) by hape662

 

Barrow Bird

I saw a bird in town today,
Pecking round the outdoor cafe tables –
Plucking up the crumbs astray,
Then flitting off to perch atop the gables.
I only saw a smidgeon,
Of a flash of green upon the fowl –
So not the usual pigeon,
Nor a bully blackbird on the prowl.
I thought I saw some speckles,
But it surely couldn’t be a thrush ?
I’d wager seven shekels
That they’d never brave this market crush.

So, it’s not a mavis, then –
Too small and bright for crow or rook, I’d say,
Too big for sparrow or a wren,
And far too dark for chaffinch or a jay.
A parakeet ?  Baloney !
And even I know magpies from a robin !
That leaves the starling only –
But then, just where were all the others mobbing ?
I sacrificed a sandwich prawn
To tempt it down, my enigmatic bird –
And yes, it took my proffered pawn
And yes !, a starling straggled from the herd.

Don’t you have meadows to pirouette over ?
Don’t you have siblings all missing their rover ?
Are you an orphan, or outcast, or rebel
They taught to caw bass, but who wants to sing treble ?
Or are you a mute who can
not hold a ditty,
Now seeking your fortune within the big city ?
I’m much the same, really, I came for the glory –
So here, have a peanut, and tell me your story.

 

 

The Travelcard Shuffle

photo of train
Photo by Lucas Prado on Pexels.com

 

The Travelcard Shuffle

Every morning, all Summer long,
We shirtsleeve masses struggle aboard
The dawdling trains in the hungry platforms,
Like some suburban zombie horde.
Then staring out at rusty sidings,
Ragged lots, and the empty sweltering sky,
As the weaving rails must dance and join,
And the shapeless buddleia bushes go by.

 

 

Summer Guest

an oak bush-cricket, i think

 

Summer Guest

A miniature cricket, or maybe a ’hopper,
Has found its way into my flat.
I thought that the spiders would send it a-cropper,
But they’re having nothing of that !
It could be a locust, but that would be holier –
Easy to spot though – bright green on magnolia !

I feared it was munching my windowsill cactus,
But I see no evidence there.
I guess the poor thing must be fasting in practice –
My ceiling-top cupboards are bare !
It doesn’t have wings, so it’s still just a young –
It’s legs are un-hopped, and its song is unsung.

 

 

Poster Apocalypse

old torn poster placed on shabby wall
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

 

Poster Apocalypse

The urban billboards haven’t been updated now for weeks,
Still enticing us to salons, bars, and holidays in Rome,
Or advertising musicals that never got to open
Or for services from businesses where nobody is home.

I always used to hate these hoardings, snapping at my eyeballs –
But now they seem so innocent, with cheery friendliness.
Their absence feels more communist, without their bourgeois mindwash,
Replaced by public notices to queues and cleanliness.

 

 

Brutalism

photo of brown red and white buildings
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

 

Brutalism

The rich live in houses, the poor in cells,
This is how classes are classed –
From Kensington Gore to Tunbridge Wells
The best were designed in the past.
The poor get newer and concreted hells
That are decomposing fast.
Of course, the new could be just like the old,
But then they would all get far too bold –
So keep them ugly, keep them cold,
And build them not to last.