Qwerty Sonata

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Qwerty Sonata

I can hear her fingers dancing, dancing,
Over the keyboard, rat-a-tat-tat.
The tempo always five-to-a-heartbeat –
I can tell her typing, wherever she’s sat.
Her fingernails, a little too long,
A tambourine of bracelets, an octave higher,
Grounded by the bass of the spacebar,
And the leak of her headphones bringing the choir.
I can hear our fingers dancing, dancing,
Stretching for shift, then back to home –
The double-letter quavers, the patter of delete,
And the rhythm of return as a metronome.
But not all keyboards are tuned the same,
Staccato or reverb in stroke-length and gauge.
I like it the most when we harmonise together –
An orchestra of typists, filling up the page.

We Never Type Alone

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We Never Type Alone

Ev’ry keystroke, ev’ry mouse click,
Somewhere, thousands of others are typing –
Sitting at our desks or staring at our phones,
And altogether tapping and swiping.
We’re part of a synchronised dance of the fingertips,
Pressing on the A and the N and the D,
And every typo is a dozen typos,
All made in perfect harmony.


In Portugal… by Paul Fenwick


We work in warrens, underground,
We’re basement-bound, beneath fluorescents.
Not much there that changes round –
The carpet-tiles are omnipresent.

There we shelter from the rat race,
Keep out of the sun’s harsh glare –
Jobs for life, because in that place
Ev’ryone forgets we’re here.

All the year is blurred together
In our air-conditioned limbo –
All the year is shirt-sleeve weather
Spent without a single window.

Coats and brollies shield us, though,
Between the entrance and the train –
Up there it could be fog or snow,
Down here, it’s overcast again.

It’s only once the clocks have changed
That we emerge before the dusk
To find the world has rearranged,
And we discard our woollen husks.

And then we notice how the Winter’s gone
And how the Spring has come.
How long have daffodils been on ?
Looks like we’ve missed cherry plum…

Scuttlebutt Scandals

Scuttlebutt Scandals

Rumour, gossip, and have-you-heard
Are back with a careless, venomous word.
Scurrilous whispers have their way –
They’re good enough for Salem and good enough today.
So who needs doubt or burden of proof,
When the tales are better than the boring truth ?
When even liberals are mongering fears,
With two-faced lattes and schadenfreud beers,
And even the press has dropped its mask
Of public int’rest, and sunk to the task.
Rumour, gossip, and feathers-and-tar
Has shown us all for the shits we are.
That’s you.  Yes, you.  With your bleeding heart,
You’re ev’ry bit the hypocrite as any old fart,
You Guardian readers, as catty as The Sun –
A few lives ruined, but you’ve had your fun.


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I long since came to a weary pact
With my ambition and self-esteem –
I gave them both the sack,
And they in turn have promised not to dream.

And with that, I put on my tie,
Polished my shoes, and buttoned my coat,
And dived headlong with barely a cry
Into the passion-snuffer’s throat.

I take-on full responsibility –
I knowingly rejected thrills
For mind-numbing futility
To let me eat and pay the bills –

I do the work with competence,
And nothing else – not even gripes.
It’s dangerous to drop your fence –
Don’t fall for pride, just sit and type…

I know I’m being used, each day,
I have to shrug, it’s just the norm.
There’s plenty far worse off, they say,
Be thankful that you’re in the warm.

And yet…can it be…?
That out there, somewhere, running free,
Some folks have a job they love ?
A job that’s always something new
And makes a diff’rence what they do,
And pays them more-than-well enough –
But ah, those kinds of job are precious few,
Not for the likes of me.

There are only so many fun jobs to go round,
They’re thin on the ground,
They’ve all been filled, or handed-down,
Father-to-son, the lucky tykes –
And none of them have a clue.
Most of the jobs are the sort that nobody likes,
But most of us do.

I have my hobbies, have my friends,
I make the best of tedium,
And live for the moment, live for the weekends –
And tell myself that something else will come…

But what must it be like, though,
To wake up with a smile ?
To do a job that’s worth-the-while ?
I guess I’ll never know…

I considered titling this poem 9 – ∞, but the two figures don’t look like they belongs in the same font.


Make Love Not War by Weisser


Vasily and Stanislav,
Though really their names don’t matter to us,
And how many others we’ll never hear of –
Remember their actions, but don’t make a fuss.
No statues raised, and that’s how it should be,
They aren’t special, they’re just good men
Who held their nerve and held their breath
Until it was safe to breathe agen.
They did their jobs, and did them well,
And gently reinserted the pin.
They passed the test and lived to tell,
And took their reprimands on the chin.

One Small Step

Alas, I have been unable to find out anything about who the artist is.

One Small Step

Stella Starbuck steps out from her capsule
Onto the surface of the dry, cold Moon,
Or even Europa, or Mercury, perhaps,
But definitely on a Sunday afternoon.
If she can only focus on her giant leap,
She might ignore the droning of the cars –
If she can make a rocketship out of her tepee,
She knows she can bravely conquer Mars.
It’s not, she notes, as red as she expected,
But rather a barren desert lawn of green.
With her life-support given one last check,
It’s time to boldly go where no man has been.
But what’s that ?  Over there !  An alien !
Quickly !  Should she hide, or should she hail ?
Too late !  She’d under attack, yet agen,
As lasers shoot from its wagging Martian tail.
Luckily, her pure-wool spacesuit is armoured.
She picks up a ball from the regolith
And throws it up – so high, so far ! –
But then, her gravity is only a fifth.
All alone now, that’s when the voice comes
Comes over the comms-link, into her thoughts –
“Looks like you made it – isn’t that something ?
The onward footprints of astronauts.
But then that’s humans – always climbing,
Striding and striving, proving your steel.
You know, this doesn’t have to end at tea-time –
One day, you could be standing here for real…”
After a moment, another voice calls her –
Ground Control, to bring her back home.
But just before she blasts off, she stalls
To admire the view from the cosmic dome.

Spring Pruning

Prunus laurocerasus by G Reid

Spring Pruning

My neighbour disliked her cherry laurel
And asked to borrow my saw.
She offered me all the wood for my fire
In exchange for my muscle and jaw.
And so we chopped and chatted all morning
On what we joked was her ‘ranch’.
She called it an invasive species
As we tackled its largest branch –
She certainly didn’t remember planting the thing,
So out it went
(Though she waited till all its blossom had dropped
Which had lasted all through lent.)
I’ve heard when burned it smells of cherries,
But we scented almonds that day –
She said, well that’s the cyanide,
Remember, this laurel’s no bay.
We made fair work of its lily-white wood
Till we left its stump for bare,
But we still got a slight furriness in our mouths,
Despite our gloves and care.
I offered her a seat by my fireside
Watching her tree disappear,
But she said I needed to season it first,
So call her up in a year.

The Price of Knowledge

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The Price of Knowledge

Once I was a student,
And a dreamy kid who wanted to know more.
I went to find out what it meant,
To study art and life and metaphor.
And though I had a cocky gob,
I’m not sure I was quite the nation’s cream.
It didn’t lead me to a job –
But oh, it surely taught me how to dream.

I was pretty broke back then,
But I received a grant to help me through –
And when I passed, and stowed my pen,
I looked upon the world as somewhere new.
I found some work, I found some mates,
And neither needed much of what I’d learned –
But still it opened up the gates,
And gave me confidence that I had earned.

So now I gladly pay my taxes,
Pay my way, and never ride for free –
So when I hear of fiscal axes,
Spare a thought for who we used to be –
For loans and debt will only scare
The very ones you think superfluous –
So tax me more !  It’s only fair,
To help out all the dreamy kids like us.

The Merchantman Shanty

detail from Moonlight over the Bosphorus by Edward Hoyer

The Merchantman Shanty

“Work songs were banned in the Royal Navy”
                                                                                    – Capt A. Bakalarka

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval brig,
But there they wouldn’t let me sing
Whene’er we raised the rig

     So we hauled away in silence so,
     We had to heave without a ho,
     We dare not peep a quick-quick-slow
     Or the cat would make us holler.

We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only lubbers sing at sea
     So let all singing go.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval sloop,
But I couldn’t let my whistle ring
Whene’er we swabbed the poop.

     So we scrubbed away in silence, see,
     We had to dumb without a dee,
     We dare not hum a do-re-mi,
     Or the cat would make us holler.

We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only madmen sing at sea
     So keep your whistle’ing low.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval barque,
But I must not pluck a single string
Till safely after dark.

     So we sailed away in silence, aye,
     We had to hew without a cry,
     Unless the roaring wind was high
     And the cat can’t hear us holler.

We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only sirens sing at sea
     So take your singing below.

The lines in roman are sung by the shanty man, the lines in italics are sung by the crew.