One Size Fails All

One Size Fails All

Office chairs with starfish bases,
Wobbly levers, sofa wheels –
They never fit quite right, most cases –
Either leaving swinging heels,
Or bunched-up knees and hunched-down shoulders,
Wimpy pistons full of slack.
But still, a useful perch for folders
Till the backside needs it back.

Plough Monday

Plough Monday

Put away the tinsel and put on a sober tie,
It’s time to all resume the working world –
Another year has started, another passed us by,
So it’s onwards to the future with a brand-new hue-and-cry
(While already planning holidays to sunshine in July)
And so into the cauldron we are swirled.
On the 7:22 with the paper on our thigh,
Or page 1 of the diary, with a hope or with a sigh,
There’s no escaping progress – tomorrow’s never shy –
And so into the New Year we are hurled.

Conjure-Less

Conjure-Less

Hogwarts is a trade school –
Its graduates are magic-wise, but culture-poor.
Their basic maths and science tools
Are lacking, from their focus on excessive lore.
So who will pioneer the medicines ?
It won’t be Harry.
So who the next Brunels and Edisons ?
Don’t look to Harry.
And who will score the soundtracks to our lives ?
Or teach us how to exercise,
And thrust and parry ?
Just who will study bees and save the hives ?
Or write, exposing greed and lies ?
Or help us marry ?
Your world of Latin, nods, and shadows,
Operates clandestinely –
But will it save the climate ?  Who knows ?
We’ve no time to tarry.
So who will help us muggles take control
Of our own destiny ?
And who will feed the intellectual soul
That we all carry ?
And who will tell me I can be
Whatever I might wish to be ?
No Sorting Hat’s the boss of me !
Hey, Harry ?

I find it bizarre that a self-confessed lefty wrote about a super-powered elite secretly saving running the world. Poor Harry, having to suffer growing up with thise working class oiks until he was restored to his true destiny as the golden child.

At the Sign of ‘The Manger’

caravansary
Caravanserai by Francis Hoyland

At the Sign of ‘The Manger’

Innkeeping’s an hon’rable trade,
Whatever they say –
We’re a welcome light at the end-of-day –
We’re a dry roof and roaring fire
That’s safe from the wolf and the bandit’s blade
When legs begin to tire –
And ev’ryone can call us home
Who come from Babylon to Rome,
Or pilgrims to Jerusalem –
You won’t catch us refusing them,
As long as we get paid.
Or caravans from out the East,
Or shepherds after one last feast
Before they spend their weeks upon the hills.
Our stable yard is filled with strangers –
Merchants, rabbis, farmers, rangers –
And the horses, camels, asses
Of the ever-moving masses,
Who seek shelter from the season’s chills.

But last month, after years of this life,
Of seeing it all – I saw a first.
A man leading a donkey bearing his wife
Who was bearing his child –
Poor beast !  I mean, what a load !
She was so big, fit to burst.
I tell you, it fair got me riled, my friend,
To make her travel so close to her end
On such a bumpy road.
And busy too, this time of year,
With wanderers from far and near
All passing through and moving on,
Who all descend upon our rooms –
It’s boomtime for the hostelries,
We’re busier than bees.

So when they banged upon my door,
I knew I hadn’t even got
A patch of floor to offer them –
Not even room to fit a cot.
Now don’t condemn –
When I, my wife and staff, the lot,
Had long since given up our beds
For other needful, weary heads.
And yet…how could we leave them out to rot ?
Maybe they were on the run,
I wonder what they’ve done ?  But you know what ?
We still could not, and so instead,
We offered them the cattle shed, for what it’s worth.

The place was red with afterbirth
Before the rising of the sun.
Between the ox-cart and the ploughs,
She laid the kid upon the hay
That otherwise would feed the cows.
And when we could, we brought a tray
And kept an eye that all was well –
She understood, but truth to tell
We’d fifty other guests to serve each day.
And they were on their way before I knew it,
After just a week or two –
Heading home or onto somewhere new.
I guess I wish them well and all,
And maybe someday years from now
The child will come around to call,
And maybe make it big somehow.
They were the stranger sort of strangers, sure enough,
In all they did,
But still, they didn’t lack for love to pass down to their kid.

Ah well, better air the rooms and see the beds get made,
Then pop down to the well to draw some water.
But don’t you see, an innkeeper’s a good and honest trade ?
Just ask that couple and their newborn daughter.

Quarter Days

book of hours
detail of December from the Très Riches Heures by the Brothers Limbourg

Quarter Days

In March the Ladies have their day,
In June, the Summer’s mid,
And Mickel holds his mass, they say,
In late September, come what may,
Just as he always did.
And then we get to Christmas…
That well known day for paying rents,
And hiring staff, and starting school,
And other secular events
That prove there’s nothing new, alas,
In monetising Yule.

Sleeping with the Armoured Fishes

Model of Dunkleosteus terrelli, photographed by James St. John. I have been unable to uncover who made the model.

Sleeping with the Armoured Fishes

Ah lads, I love me a lonely building site,
But best be down to business – bring the rat.
It really is a calm if moonless night
And I’m in quite the mood to have a chat.
Yes, bring him here, and keep him gagged and bound.
So, let’s have a look at you – nothing to say ?
Ironic, given how you like to expound –
But then, I’m not the cops, and I don’t pay.
So pray, indulge me with a heart-to-heart.
You’re what, mid-twenties ?  Younger than I thought.
Are you a college boy ?  You think you’re smart ?
But not so brainy now that you’ve been caught.
Same age as my boy, infact, and just as raw.
When he went off to uni, I said “Son,
I don’t want you to study business or the law,
Don’t want you to follow in my footsteps none.
Go and find yourself in girls and books
And study something useless, something fun.”
“Alright dad,” he said, “goodbye to crooks,
And here’s to looking after number one.
And I know just the course for me –
It’s palaeontology !
Digging up the bones like any average Jones.”

So off he went to college with his hammer
Seeking out the placoderm and ammonite,
To live that student life in all its glamour –
Pasta, parties, politics and cram-all-night.
And now he even works for a museum,
Cataloguing shells and dating rocks –
He calls the place a fossil mausoleum,
Worshipping the dead, then seal them in a box.
But then one day, he’s telling me how rare
A fossil even is to ever find
When so much of the past ain’t even there,
We’re lucky that there’s any left behind.
And if we died, wiped out, in plague or war –
Well, when the dolphins rises, or super-ants,
In sixty-five-odd million years or more,
How would they know that we were smarty-pants ?
Now I know what you’re thinking of, young man,
Cos so was I, I thought I’d name that tune –
So don’t interrupt, (not that you can) –
But so I says “There’s footprints on the Moon !”
“Perhaps” he says, “but even these
Face meteorites and solar breeze,
And the Voyagers ? Okay, but so very far away.”

Steel structures ?  Not a chance, he said –
Rusted, melted, eaten, and the trail is cold.
The same with plastic, silicon, or lead –
The only stable currency is gold.
But not out here, where wind and rain can bite,
And bring the highest mountains down to sand –
But locked up in the Earth, well out of sight,
With pottery and diamonds shaped by hand.
And as for bones, we do ourselves no favours,
By burying just six-feet deep in loam,
And never mind cremation !  But our saviours
Are those who drowned a mile beneath the foam –
Sunk in shifting silt with little oxygen, ahoy !
Or in summat tough and clearly fake and littered by the score –
And here’s where we finally come to you, old boy –
It’s concrete !  Especially with rebar through its core.
And when it’s in the pilings of a bridge,
Then it’s already buried, safe as houses !
Okay lads, over here a smidge…and down he goes…
A rat, I suppose, to join the future mighty mouses.
I hope he makes it big some day –
How fitting for his feet of clay
To join a concrete shroud – my son would be so proud !

Barrow Boy

Stonehenge in Winter, possibly by Walter Williams

Barrow Boy

Got yer lovely tumuluses,
Wattled daubs and timber trusses –
These will last for ages, stone or bronze.
Got yer long-house, got yer round,
I’ve got yer sacrificial mound,
I got concentric rings without the cons.
I got yer sarsens, got yer blues,
I got yer job-lot Sutton Hoos,
I got yer axe-heads – copper, flint or chert.
I’m good for grave-goods, beads and torcs –
So find me where the old roads forks
For tons of rolling earthworks, cheap as dirt.

Fingerfluffs

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Fingerfluffs

Ev’ryone makes typos,
Where a silly misspelled rush of prose
Is hiccupped in its fluency –
Careless hands work careless labours,
Jumping cases, catching neighbours,
Letters standing in for others,
Covering their brothers’ truancy.

For as our fingers run and leap
And waltz and peck,
Too busy to go back and check,
So in the errors creep.
Too quick they ran, too soon they leapt,
And where our eyes should intercept,
They’re mesmerized by finger-dances,
Only sparing random glances
At the all-important screen.
Or else they stare out straight ahead
To read instead the words unseen,
That float midair, as thick as flies –
The copytext behind the eyes.
But if we’re lucky, underlines in red
Will warn us what we’ve said
And give us chance to clean.
But otherwise, each error cries unheard,
Each mangled word and un-snipped thread
Is slurred by digits over-keen.

So ev’ryone makes typos,
Where our textual flows get bent and dented,
Letters get disoriented,
Weakening intent –
They may look careless and inept,
But these days we’re all quite adept
At reading what was really meant.

Dig

God Speed the Plough by Henry Gawthorne

Dig

Turning the soil is Autumn work,
Ploughing, forking, hoeing the loam,
Breaking it up before it freezes,
Driving the moles from their home.
Airing the worms out, harvesting stones,
And mining the black to bury the brown,
Dredging the roots up, combing the waves in,
Leaving the fields quite upside-down.

Flying the Flag

Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

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.