A Poet to His Surgeon

two person doing surgery inside room
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A Poet to His Surgeon

You know me much closer and touch me much deeper
Than any could ever before –
You bring to your table this soundest of sleepers,
And open me up to explore.
You rend me asunder with gentleest plunder,
To survey my hintermost-lands;
You ease my distress with your tender caress,
With my life firmly held in your hands.



The Gods of Melodrama

light people white black
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The Gods of Melodrama

I swore I’d never once again be fool
For the lies of actors.
To open up like that, it’s all too cruel,
To be only actors.
But when they looked at me with such a look,
Like we’re likeminded;
And yet the stalls were dark, and I mistook,
We both were blinded.
And yes, I know, I know, I’ve always known,
Yet fooled I always am;
They make me feel and feel in ways
Alone in life I never can.




detail from Sistine Madonna by Raphael



There isn’t enough to do today,
There isn’t enough to do.
It isn’t as though I enjoy what I do,
The tiresome woe they employ me to do;
But wouldn’t you know, but my tedium grew
As soon as work withered away.
I’ve finished the paper, the internet’s gone,
I have to pretend that I’ve got something on,
I’m barely awake and I’m boozy-lunch tight,
I’m sharpening pencils with nothing to write.




assorted color button pin on brown surface
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Seamstresses, it seems to me,
Have played us for a mug
In their wares we wear and buy –
The clothes in which we’re dressed
Are not so snug
In button, toggle, hook and eye,
When all can fall to pieces
Through a simple bug
In how they hem each cuff and fly:
It only takes a hanging thread
And gentle tug,
To show how lockstitch is a lie.



The Knockers

Stained glass at Frieburg Cathedral, 1330


The Knockers

Buckled-up backbones and crippled-up lungs,
Slag-covered faces and slag-covered tongues,
A long social ladder with negative rungs:
Who’d want to be a miner ?

The pit-pony sappers and donkey-work crews,
Collapses, explosions, and cancerous ooze,
Loyally coughing up union dues:
Who’d want to be a miner ?

Better to sweat in a mill or a diner,
Why, even the farmhands live finer !

Who wants to trudge out for an hour each way,
For a pitch-black and unpaid damn hour each way –
Well, maybe for Orwell, but hardly today,
For much has got better since then:

There’s gadgets that monitor gases, you know,
There’s baths at the pit-head, there’s lights down below,
And children were banished a lifetime ago.
So much has got better since then.

Of course, I’m just an outsider,
So what can I say ?
And yes, I see all of your pride
In your hard-digging day;
But is this your hopes for your kids
When it’s their turn to play ?
From Maerdy to Maltby, from Pittsburgh to Perth:
The sweatshops of Hell in the bowels of the earth.

Much has got better, but much is the same:
It’s ev’ry bit deadly and harsh as they claim,
And given the choice, who would stay in this game ?
Who’d want to be a miner ?

They’re breaking their backs as they’re earning their brass,
And working the hardest of all working class,
To lose out to the North Sea and natural gas.
Who’d want to be a miner ?

Ton after ton till your body is done,
And when will you next see the sun ?

Jet-black the spade-men – yet shining, their eyes,
From the guts of the planet they’re grubbing their prize,
In filthy conditions and filthier skies,
Let’s bring them back into the light.

They’re digging-up carbon from safe in its berth,
They’re warming our hearths as they’re warming our earth,
They don’t need to kill us to show us their worth.
Let’s bring them back into the light.

Of course, I’m just an outsider,
So what do I know ?
And yes, I see all of the pride
That your town has to show;
And were all the pits to close down,
Well then, where would it go ?
For deep underground there lies captured your soul,
With nothing left topside ’cept bleakness and dole.


I wrote this a few days after Margaret Thatcher died.  As one of the first politicians to take climate change seriously, can we imagine her destruction of the UK coal industry was all to save the planet ?  It certainly didn’t save the communities.

The knockers of the title were spirits in the mines who would knock the walls ominously just before a cave-in.



A Great British Tradition



A Great British Tradition

The banks all held a holiday, with ev’ryone invited:
These pin-striped bowler-hatted gents were thoroughly delighted
To paddle in the briny sea with crowds of day-trip workers,
And hike the green and pleasant hills and join the mansion-lurkers.
They greeted bakers, plumbers, teachers, ev’ryone from ev’ry measure;
Watched the doctors, taxmen, postmen, ev’ryone about their leisure.
’Cept for those, of course, who had no need for such a lazy day,
Because these reckless banker shits had stolen all their jobs away.