The Rose & The Nightingale

a bit like the flag of japan


The Rose & The Nightingale

(after Oscar Wilde)

Poor little student, moping for a girl,
He yearns to have a crimson rose to give her –
“Shucks !” thinks a nightingale, heart in a whirl,
“I’ll plead with the rose-bush to deliver !
But woe, all its blossoms are white as a pearl…
…Unless I thorn my breast and sing a-quiver.”

Thus the little nightingale gives her life for beauty,
As nothing but a lacky to a human.
Raising future nightingales – that should be her duty !
At this rate, extinction’s surely looming !
The rose, though, is delighted with this unexpected booty –
With birdie’s rotting body, times are blooming !

Lonely in her dying breath, as atoms fall apart,
She thinks this makes a handy metaphor –
The poor romantic soul who bares her tender heart
For the callous world to savagely ignore.
(Like artists ev’rywhere, she demands we love her art,
And buy into her struggles and her lore.)

As for the student, he plucks the crimson rose
(Denying for this bud to spread its seed),
And seeks out his classmate with the pretty nose –
But she looks less than happy with his weed.
“But don’t you see ?  This blossom is a mutant !  I propose
To splice its genes and follow where they lead.”

“Pah!” says his paramour, crushing all his dreams,
“I’m bored with ev’ry rose and phlox and crocus !
For I’m in love with rubies, sparkling in the sun-beams –
I want to find a way to make them focus…”
The student is crushed – as is the crimson rose, it seems –
He’s had enough of love and hocus-pocus !



One Billion Bullets

aerial view clouds nasa satellite
Photo by SpaceX on


One Billion Bullets

Strange to think, how satellites would watch us from above,
Back when they flew –
Sometimes sinister, I guess, but mostly were benign enough –
And what a view !
They photographed our towns, and all the towns across the Earth
We’d never see –
They let us zoom in anywhere, from Minsk to Bogota to Perth
And all for free !
They beamed our television down, they watched the clouds and rain,
They showed us Mars –
They navigated us around, then brought us safely home again,
And shone like stars –
Before their orbitals were filled with shrapnel, deadly fast,
That took them out –
The age of satellites became the age when flying junk amassed –
It’s all about !
So now, of course, we’re trapped upon the Earth, trapped in the past
Without those eyes,
For years – until the tug of friction rains them down at last,
And clears the skies.



Trust Nobody

backlit black and white dark indoors
Photo by Vojtech Okenka on


Trust Nobody

There’s no-one who knows you like you do,
Though there’s plenty who’ll pretend –
They’ll tell you what you’re sure to love,
With the well-meant failure of a friend.
They’ll assume their taste is universal,
For who could ever disagree ?
But never trust anyone else with your choices,
And that includes even me.



Harvest Traffic

that's one way to trim the nedges


Harvest Traffic

Country roads in Summertime,
Tractors bar the way –
Trailers towering with loads
Astride the hedged-in roads, all long-the-day.

Gathering the harvest in,
Kicking up the dust,
Making ev’rybody late –
Because the corn won’t wait, and so we must.

Scattering a constant shower,
Unintended sacrifice –
Stripped from golden fields,
Their yields are fattening the harvest mice.

And we shall gobble up the rest,
The bread and beer and morning flakes –
So patience, as we fume to pass,
And thank them by the glass and loaf and cake.

For that’s the price of country living,
Farmers have to move their grains –
They fuel, with slow agronomy,
The whole rural economy down twisty country lanes.




brown concrete mid rise buildings
Photo by Mohammed Ajwad on



The clouds refuse to play their part,
The air is wet but isn’t draining –
Lazy rain that will not start,
A rainy day without the raining.

The mercury, though getting low,
Has further yet to drop,
And windscreen wipers do not know
If they should go or stop.

Our coats are misted, but are dry,
The downpour still delays its visit.
Palms are upturned to the sky –
It’s not yet worth a brolly, is it ?

The moisture cannot tap its power,
But glowers ‘coming soon’ –
We’re thirty seconds from a shower
All the afternoon.







Highwaymen are looting on the roads beneath the Pyranees,
As abbots tend their gardens in the misty Marin breeze,
While knights are walled in cities with their castles, shields and shrines,
And farmers lie in fields while the sunshine grows the vines.
And the River Aude is rolling down
From mountain pass to coastal town,
And from the peaks we see for miles
The chequerboard of tiles.




pink castle
Cathars being Expelled from Carcassonne in 1209 by the Workshop of the Boucicaut Master



“Kill them all – the Lord will know his own.”
Now there’s an brutal, pithy epitaph
That any poet would be proud to hone
To horribly describes the aftermath
Of the one and loving Church when rampant,
Laying siege to the souls of heretics –
This is the cost of faith triumphant,
Policy and zeal allowed to mix.
We like to tell ourselves those days have gone,
But only thanks to disbelief and village schools –
The moral, true from Mecca, Rome and Carcasonne
Is to never trust a priest to write the rules.
For the fatal fallibility of pope and prayer
Will delegate to God the need to even care.



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.



Hickory Sticks

broken drumstick close up dark dirty
Photo by abednego ago on


Hickory Sticks

Why do I hate Phil Collins ?
Well, I try not to hate anymore
But why do I so dislike Phil Collins ?
Do I ?  I’m not so sure.
I still think Air Tonight is a classic,
At least, till the kit kicks in –
The rest, I mostly could leave ’em,
But if you dig ’em, I guess you win.

No, the reason I hate…no, never hate,
But maybe biting my thumbs,
Is all because he single-handed killed the 80s
With his drums –
His thudding, crushing, reverb-hushing,
Stop-and-starty gated drums !
His all-commanding, corp’rate-branding,
Undecaying zombie drums !

It’s not all of Phil Collins’s fault, of course,
He only rubbed the lamp,
And soon the genius was loose
To spread itself through desk and amp –
Producers loved its soulless beats
That never swing or soothe,
And ev’ry engineer beheld
The emperor’s new groove.

It took us all the decade to wake up,
Ten years too late,
To suss the subtleties we’d lost
When drumskins don’t vibrate.
How many tunes that now sound dated,
Could instead have sounded great ?
So this is why I curse Phil Collins –
Cos he opened up the gate !

But what do I know, and what does he care ?
He’s loved by thousands ev’ry day –
So he’s the famous millionaire,
And I’m just the whinging, self-smug square
Who cannot even play.
So I don’t like his drums ?  So what ?
Is that the best I’ve got
To think that I can moan away ?

You know what I hate about Phil Collins ?
I hate how he makes me hate.
How all of my petty ugliness
Is rising to the bait.
He lets me let myself off the hook
And lets my mouth run free –
As if my taste is the only taste,
And I dare you to disagree.

So sing it, Phil !
Sing it inspite of me,
Sing it to frighten me,
Out of my combative them-and-us cry.
Ignore my stridency,
Forgive my overkill,
Try to enlighten me –
Live and let live till we die.

I guess this is where the toms come in,
The final chorus beckons, I see.
Could we just let them ring out for once, do you reckon,
Just for me ?
Ungate my heart, take me out of the 80s,
And into a decade of long decay –
Or else let’s part, and never be haters.
Bang the drum – not fade away.