Crisp Pages

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Crisp Pages

I borrowed the book from the library, years ago,
From a casual glance.
I fell in love with her title, I had to know
What on Earth she meant.
She promised me adventure, she promised me grit,
And an epic romance.
And over a sleepless week I devoured her wit
Till my lust was spent.

I stroked her crackled spine and embossing,
And tried to read her all again,
But couldn’t concentrate my brain –
Until my mum returned her, unawares.
In later months, whenever I was browsing,
I hoped to chance upon her between the heavyweights,
And see how many readers had stamped her with their dates,
But someone had purloined her, made her theirs.

I sought a copy later, long out of print,
For a foolhardy sum –
She sits on my bookcase still, and perfectly mint,
If gone a little brown.
But it’s good to know that she’s always there, close by,
For a time yet to come.
Though to tell the truth, I’m terrified to try –
For what if she lets me down ?

Is she quite as good as I remember ?
I just recall her basic plot,
And ev’ry year there’s more forgot –
But that, I always say, just makes her better…
Can she be as thrilling and as tender ?
Can all of her details make a striking whole ?
For that’s where the Devil lurks, and so does her soul.
I think I’d rather lose her all than regret her…

The Modernist Manifesto

Matisse’s Niece by Cesar Santos

The Modernist Manifesto

Painting’s hard, with all those tiny strokes,
And poem are endless rhymes,
And anyway, they’re the preserve of snooty folks
And so behind the times.
And architecture’s super-hard to build
With all that carving and stuff
I mean, who’s got the time to be that skilled ?
Let’s keep it brutally rough.
And music’s hard, not worth the perk
To learn an instrument –
Just sample other people’s work,
And pay them not a cent

Creating beauty’s hard, we can’t be arsed,
We’re far too lazy –
But critics dig our arsey arts,
And worship us like crazy.
Make it ugly, hard to parse,
This public-funded junk –
The future finds it vain and sparse,
Agog at how we’ve shrunk.
We’re sinkholes in the bedrock karst,
And ev’ryone knows we’re farces.
Amazing how we can’t be arsed,
And yet we’re up-our-own-arses.

Font-Fodder

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Font-Fodder

My parents named me wrong, of course,
But ev’ry parent does, no doubt –
They have no way of knowing
How their offspring will turn out.
That balance between the int’resting and sensible
Can be so thin –
There’s something to be said, while growing-up,
For blending-in.
But when we come-of-age, we need our names
To do a diff’rent job –
So Sallys sometimes change to Sarahs,
Bobbys change to Robs.
But some will chafe at their very stems,
Their unloved exonyms won’t do –
They think they need to shed their skins,
And make themselves anew.

So why do we eye these braver ones
Who take control of their brand, as fake ?
Why must they always bear their parents’
Well-meaning mistake ?
Like letting their mums still buy their clothes,
And letting their dads still pick their roles –
They must grow up and find their style
With which to dress their souls.
But I did the same with my own kids,
I made a guess and made a hope –
And got it wrong, of course I did,
But still, they seem to cope.
Because, we have to name the tykes,
And yes, project ourselves a bit –
But let’s not take offense if they
Have found a better fit.

Tell Me Four Times

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Tell Me Four Times

The purpose of my villanelle was saying something true,
I had no time for discipline, for form and getting-rid –
I tried to be original, and thought I’d cracked it, too !

Yet the more I tried rebelling, so the less my lines would skew,
They would fall into a pattern that I vainly would forbid –
The purpose of my villanelle was lacking derring-do.

But poems are for grown-up, once native wits accrue,
And I guess I wasn’t ready, I was just a little kid –
I tried to be original, but nothing ever flew.

I didn’t understand that the point I should pursue
Is to use the same lines over, determined on a grid –
The purpose of a villanelle is lexographic glue.

The formula was founded to re-frame our point-of-view,
When focused on the emphasis, and how the meaning slid –
I tried to be original, but couldn’t follow-through.

The purpose of my villanelle was saying something new,
But the lines kept on repeating, no matter what I did.
I tried to be original, but hadn’t got a clue !

Catkins & Conkers

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Catkins & Conkers

The thing about trees is,
Trees are big,
But ev’ry trunk
Begins a twig –
They’re building height
From light and air,
Just add a little rain,
And there !
They’re springing-up,
Each rapid-grower –
Mushroom-like,
But much, much slower.
Eat the sunshine,
Drink the breeze –
They’re timber-making
Factories.

The thing about trees is,
Trees are tall,
They stretch and tower
Over all.
But that has made them
Litter bugs –
With petals, pollen,
Seeds, and slugs,
It all comes down,
And blows about –
From fresh air in,
To dandruff out.
These trees are yobs
And carbon thieves !
And come the Autumn,
Come the leaves…

Why Are Trees Trees ?

Baby Maple by hedera.baltica

Why Are Trees Trees ?

The history of trees is that
The trees are not a clade –
They spring-up from the strangest places,
Evolution-made.
So beech and birch are boring,
All their family are so wooden,
But others have the oddest kin
And ev’ry one’s a good ’un.
They’ve found the same solution
Independently, you know –
When stretching for the sunlight, well,
There’s just one way to go.

So apple trees are strawberries
That built a sturdy trunk,
Yucca palms are bluebells
If a bluebell were a hunk.
Acacia trees are runner beans
That bolted in their teens,
While rubber trees are spurges
That have stretched beyond their means.
There’s only so much energy,
And trees don’t like to share –
They’re hungrier when taller,
But their mouths are ev’rywhere !

So linden limes are cottons
That have fluffed-up in the streets,
And oranges are really rue
Whose bitterness turned sweet.
Finest teak is peppermint,
That’s why it smells so nice –
And eucalyptus is a clove
That added too much spice.
The forest is a battleground,
And ev’ry plant must fight –
So trees is what you always get,
If what you get is height.

I’m not very good at identifying plants on sight, but I can thoroughly recommend the app PlantNet.

I’m also not very good at identifying crabs, which is hardly surprising.

Roadside Rodent

Roadside Rodent

Ship rat, far from sea,
Beached upon the pavement.
You do not twitch, you do not flee,
So why do you sit still for me ?
You’re not too fat, you’re not too thin,
You’re not held in enslavement –
And yet you crouch beside the bin,
And gently tremble in your skin.

Brown rat, are you asleep ?
You chose an awkward bed, friend.
Have you nowhere else to creep
Than on the tarmac in a heap ?
Fox or cat will find you prone,
And that will surely be your end.
Perhaps you’re dying, all alone,
Just waiting for your final groan.

The Sky is Full of Idols

The very un-Moorish Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo

The Sky is Full of Idols

The Renaissance artist loved two things:
Classical Greece, and boobs –
Yet Michelangelo must fit
His curves in the Sistine’s cubes.
The Old Testament’s full of beards,
And none of them are Zeus’s –
He needs to paint some younger flesh
To work-up papal juices.
He can’t rely on prudish Mary,
She won’t give much boost –
So thoroughly pagan, thoroughly female sibyls
Are introduced.
Said to prophesies Jesus,
Though we know the real reason –
They’re soft and pale, and keep just shy
Of heresy and treason.
There’s plenty of other supporting cast,
Presumbly cherubs and such –
There’s plenty of flesh to be bared up there,
All brushed with the master’s touch.
Yet these are merely window-dressing,
A choir of hangers-on –
But the sibyls command their panels with pride,
Content to be gazed upon.

Really, treason ? Well, surely in any theocracy like the Papal States, all heresy is treason…

But anyway, as everyone knows Michelangelo lay on his back for four years to paint the roof – but that didn’t stop him occassionally arsing around…

Turn the Other Cheek

God created the Sun on the ceiling,
To light up the Pope’s saloon.
And then he turned his back, revealing
How he created the Moon.

detail from The Creation of the Sun, Moon, & Planets by Michelangelo

The Fermi Neighbourhood

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The Fermi Neighbourhood

Do I believe in aliens ?
Statistic’ly, I should.
There’s far too many worlds out there,
There’s galaxy enough to share.
There surely must be aliens
To make the Drake come good,
But when we look to get a sight
We’re blinded by the speed of light.

The sky is full of aliens,
Because the sky’s immense –
And yet, for all we seek those boys,
We lose their voices in the noise.
No, not a shred of aliens
To make our odds make sense –
We chase their ghost, we haunt their wraith,
Yet all we have is maths and faith.

Poetry No Thanks

BBC Microphone by Matt Brown

Poetry No Thanks

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse.
These days, all you have are poets –
Humourless, or ever worse…-
Picking po-faced prosy poems
With not a single rhyme,
So self-important now,
And yet won’t stand the test of time.

What happened to the punk sensibility
Of doing-it-yourself, and damn the rules ?
Now it’s a lit-fest for middle-class luvvies
With their tortured trochees taught in schools.
Your audience is tiny and shrinking,
With afternoon Sundays such a bore –
But you tick the boxes and fill the quotas,
And isn’t that what poetry’s for ?

Once you had the finest actors
Reading the finest verse,
But now your budget is slashed,
And your ambition must fit your purse.
They read them out in lilting whinges,
Full of I Me Mine –
Come on, Roger, cheer us up,
With a quick and witty line !