The Travelcard Shuffle

photo of train
Photo by Lucas Prado on


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


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.




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



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.




low angle photo of flatiron building
Photo by PixaSquare on



For most of the people who live in a city,
They’re not in the city at all –
They’re out on the suburbs, a bus-ride away,
In the bland and the ugly and small.
But anyone’s free to enter the city,
Though nothing is free once you’re there –
There’s beauty and splendour for those who can stay,
And a curfew for those who just stare.
For only the richest can live in the city,
The rest are the visiting poor,
Who traipse-in to work there for day-after-day,
And in through the tradesman’s back-door.
They’re cleaning the crap off the streets of the city,
They’re polishing egos and chrome,
And serving up coffee for minimum pay,
Then taking the final bus home.



Longhold Tenancy

6 cats


Longhold Tenancy

A neighbour, it was, who alerted us,
Alerted himself by the muffles within –
Apologising for making a fuss,
“I’m no busybody, and she’s hardly kin,
That’s why it took me this long to call –
If only I knew my neighbours at all.”

I worked for the landlord’s agent, so
I grabbed my coat and signed-out keys
And hopped on a passing 220
To Fulham, above the Cantonese,
Lift not working, second floor,
With a gentle tap upon the door –

No reply, except some mewing –
So I rapped again, then risked the lock,
Announcing myself and what I was doing –
Sudden guest can be quite a shock.
Nobody home (though the stench was strong) –
It turned out I was very wrong.

She sat upon her sofa, asleep,
With two cats guarding her, agitated,
The kitchen another three cats deep,
And a sixth who snuck in while I waited,
Calico, Siamese, blacks and tawny,
Most of them hissing, all of them scrawny.

I knelt down beside the tenant then,
Gently touched the back of her hand –
The coldness a jolt, but I touched her agen,
And all I could think of was all I’d got planned
For that afternoon – all now postponed,
While windows were opened and constables phoned.

The cats were making ev’rything harder,
They’d made a mess, and were clearly starving –
I found some tins of food in the larder,
The way they fell upon it was jarring.
Flies aplenty upon the ceilings,
I fought down all my nauseous feelings.

The undertakers had taken her
By six, so careful and so unblinking.
I stayed away in the kitchen, shaken,
Stroking the cats to stop from thinking.
The PCs left the place to me,
The neighbour popped-in with a cup of tea.

“I don’t think she had family, really,
Kept herself alone, poor mite,
Except her cats, she loved them dearly –
What’ll become of them, tonight ?”
I scooped one up to work her charms,
Into his unexpecting arms.

Another neighbour took another,
I badgered the landlord to take a brace,
And one to my less-than-happy mother,
And as for the last, she’s at my place –
This job, right down to its chromosomes,
Is all about providing homes.



Vaguely Georgian

identikit avenue


Vaguely Georgian

When I rail against the bland sterility of modern style,
Then this is not the antidote I seek !
These cut-and-pasted noddy-boxes miss the measure by a mile,
With all the mumbled sorries of the meek.
Sure, their bricks are red, their roofs are pitched, their gables high and wide,
But rooms are small and low, whose renders flake.
Windows (though they’re never sashed) may these days keep the warmth inside,
But why must all their glazing bars be fake ?
Of course, compared with houses of the past, they have a lot to offer –
Plumbing, carpets, wires and insulation –
But still they’re easy prey for ev’ry Brutalist and Bauhaus scoffer,
As these clones have spawned across the nation.
But worst of all, these mega-builders have the blueprints on their books
Of many variations on the theme –
And yet, in any field, they seem so terrified to mix the looks
Incase there’s fewer profits left to cream.
And oversighting councillors, with targets jacked and budgets slashed,
Are powerless or spineless to allay.
And so this new Jerusalem is jerry-built and pebble-dashed –
And yet, still beats a high-rise any day !



Breakfast in the Ruins

post apocalypse

Breakfast in the Ruins

This !  This is the time I’ve been waiting for,
When the cars leave the street and the planes leave the sky
And only the zombies are joining my morning,
While sensible people are waiting to die.

And I – I am a rare survivor,
Finally special – finally alone –
Scrabbling the rubble of civilisation
Shaking off every habit I’ve known.

I never said my fantasies were pleasant,
Wiping out humanity with barely a shrug –
But there they lurk, just itching for apocalypse –
Not some ugly famine, but a quick and silent bug.

Do I feel bad, now something is happening,
Finally happening !, to strangers I never knew ?
I’ve wished far worse in my many listless hours,
But wishing them does nothing to make them come true.

I can tell myself that this is all coincidence –
Out of my hands to cause it, or repair –
So I might as well relish the sudden upheaval
If this is our doom, then I’ll guess I’ll see you there.

But of course, thanks to the efforts of nicer folk,
We’ll probably survive this, and probably forget.
And I will be just one more drudge on the treadmill,
Still dreaming disaster to spin the roulette.




girl with towers
Finding Myself by Cassia Arellano



Skyla McLeod, her parents named her,
Hoped to shoot her to the top –
Alas, the ev’ryday has claimed her,
Clipped her wings and let her drop.
She’s just a loser in the sky,
Although she knows it’s all a mock –
For now she only reaches high
By living in a tower block.

Skyla McLeod in her fairy-tower,
Watching the tiny people go,
Pretending that she has the power
To interrupt their to and fro.
But still, her life is not so grim,
When comes her prince, at the end of his shift –
Then she’ll let down her hair for him,
And he’ll ascend (though in the lift).



Bottom of the Barrel

organ grinder
The Organ Grinder by Vasily Perov


Bottom of the Barrel

I saw an organ grinder and his capuchin the other day –
He made an awful racket, and the monkey didn’t want to play,
And no surprise !, the poor bedraggled creature looked a broken thing,
Half-starved and half-exhausted, on a short and fraying string.
The organist was little better – no musician with a skill –
He simply turned the handle to produce the loud and flat and shrill.

I ought to add, this wasn’t in a smart and swanky part of town,
Because the rich have constables to move them on and shut them down.
Instead, they haunt the humble in the poorest, foulest thoroughfare,
In begging half a penny from the folks who haven’t one to spare.
But still I stopped, and watched that doleful monkey, as his master hawked,
And wondered what he might have dreamt of, if he only could have talked…

“I’d rather be a monkey than an organ grinder, any day –
We monkeys gets to leap and dance, and gen’rally to have our way,
And sport a hand-made uniform, and all the grapes that we can eat,
And always plays to cheering crowds from Berkeley Square to Gower Street.
And yet the world is quick to view me as a lackey or buffoon –
But grinders only get to grind, and grind, and grind all afternoon.”

I saw an organ grinder and his capuchin the other day –
And shared a knowing look, we three, of how they’d soon be swept away.