Normanisation

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Normanisation

We know who is the hero of the story
By their name,
Who overcomes the Pharaoh
And is master of the game.
They may be short and strong, like John,
Or florid, like Lysander.
But nobody can take the conn
When called by something blander.

Our names say who’s the hero,
Who’s the villain, who’s the fodder –
The latter, if they’re named at all,
Are given names which keep them small.
Who’s an agent of the Bureau ?,
Who’s a desk-bound plodder ?
Why do you even have to ask ?,
Their nametags clearly show their task.

We know who is the hero,
And the hero ain’t called Nigel
But when your name is Nero,
Then you’re Emperor of Rigel !
Nigels never save the day,
And clearly Richards have to lose,
The Mauds won’t steal our hearts away.
And Tracys never make the news.

Our names say who are heroes,
Standing-out from us bystanders.
The latter, if they get a shot,
Are only there to serve the plot.
There’s millions – so many zeroes –
Never Homer, always Flanders.
Yet still the parents set the stage
And give their children names of beige.

Job-Locked

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Job-Locked

It’s never been as easy as now
To apply for a brand new job –
A couple of clicks on the morning train
And your old boss’s loss is your new boss’s gain.
Except…you’re one of the millions now,
A lone CV in the mob –
And all those skills it took years to master,
The algorithm can reject ever faster.

We’re all sending pleas into the void,
Just begging for a happier lot
We’re bored and stressed in our current roles,
Our daily slog has poisoned our souls.
We grumble away with our hope destroyed,
As the years see our futures rot.
We know precisely what we want to do,
But the gods says ‘not for the likes of you’.

Untouchables

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Untouchables

Ev’ryone hates vultures,
Those ugly hulking things –
Bald-headed, blood-stained,
With undertakers’ wings.

Ev’ryone hates vultures,
Circling overhead –
Never flapping, always patient,
Preying on the dead –

Ev’ryone hates vultures,
With necks so long and kinked –
And thanks to us, the good news is
They’ll soon become extinct.

Ev’ryone hates pathogens,
And keeps their quarters fresh.
But once we’ve killed the vultures,
Who’ll clean-up their rotting flesh…?

Technovine

Do Androiods Dream of Electric Sheep by Cooper Hill

Technovine

When I first heard of what made androids dream,
I wanted to know much more –
Like where are the hordes of electric sheep
All under the crook of a cyber-Beau Peep ?
Yet ev’ry pasture dotted with white may teem
With robotic ewes by the score,
And so well made are these flocks of steel,
They bleat and follow just like real…
Do their eyeball glow with a laser beam
That the ravens quake before ?
Are their horns antennas, warning of fox ?
Does their wool discharge with electric shocks ?
I swear these sheep aren’t all they seem,
It’s folly to just ignore…
For the folds are filling with a new kind of lamb,
A bellwether seeking to upgrade their ram.

Reflections on the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Gallery

After a Push by Christopher Nevinson

Reflections on the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Gallery

Is the purpose of a museum
To tell a story or show-off its wares ?
Poking around the bowels of Bedlam,
I started to question theirs.
Crammed-in from a lack of space,
(A bit like the trenches, but only a bit),
I started to notice the absences,
The parts they couldn’t manage to fit –
The lack of horses, for instance,
Or the lack of Colonial troops in the ranks,
Or the life in the Jerry’s trenches,
Or even that much about the yanks.
It was, in the end, not a history,
But a series of stories of artefacts –
More could be added, but as modern props,
With the sense-of-fakeness this attracts.
The trouble, perhaps, was with the curators
One hundred-plus years ago,
Collecting what was seen as significant
So soon after the show.
We might now wish they’d chosen diff’rent,
The future might want diff’renter yet –
But if they ain’t got it, they cannot display it,
So this is the War that we get.

Menin Gate, 8pm

Menin Gate, Ypres by Chrostopher Martin

Menin Gate, 8pm

We, the onlookers, dressed for Summer,
Less of a troop and more of a pack.
Shins and forearms and heads uncovered –
Only the jackdaws are dressed in black.
Partly honouring, partly gawking,
English voices amiably talking,
Not many present are younger than fifty –
One or two pause to read the plaque.

Officials in blazers, though we’re well-behaved.
Squaddies’ fatigues, their shoulders say Dutch,
Though I swear their “left-right-left” is in English –
The crowd wear no medals – would that be too much ?
The towers of names are columns of debt,
Bearing down, by rank before alphabet,
In a random sample, I look for my own
In the Surreys and sappers and serjeants and such.

Suddenly, a hush, an announcement by speaker,
Telling we must not talk or applaud.
A trio of buglers – was that the Last Post ?
Then a soldier steps up, a little over-awed.
“They shall grow not old” he reads,
His accent heavy, and yet succeeds
To draw from us a shared Amen:
“We shall remember them”, these Brits abroad.

The bugles again, and wreaths are laid,
The squad march off in the evening sun,
And suddenly ev’rything melts into chatter –
We mill for a while, but the service is done.
The road reopens, the traffic drives through,
We pose for a final selfie or two,
But we’ve far too many atrocities to remember,
To focus on only one.

Monikers

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Monikers

Nicknames are exonyms,
Imposed against our will.
Based on biases and whims
They think that we fulfil.
They’re oh so unoriginal,
Yet cannot be withstood –
And once we’re dubbed-additional,
We’re stuck with them for good !

Nicknames are exonyms,
We cannot choose our own.
They may be simple Bobs and Jims
That set our names in stone,
Or adjectives that prove too strong
To yield to any protest.
I guess we’ll have to play along –
At least they mean we’re noticed.

Careers Advice

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Careers Advice

I’ve worked too long in a job that’s wrong,
That’s never suited me –
I don’t enjoy my long employ,
But now I can’t break free !

To pay the bills, I’ve built up skills
That aren’t of use elsewhere –
But if I quit, my face won’t fit,
My peg is far too square.

I’d have to start to learn an art
From back on the fact’ry floor –
It could take years of rent arrears,
Till my payslips aren’t so poor.

So kids, choose wise which bunch of guys
You wish to call your own –
For once you’ve gone a decade on,
Your path is set in stone.

Office Shrub

Office Shrub 

I saw the plant through the window of the meeting room
A bedraggled thing –
Clearly wilted, but not yet quite in the waterless tomb –
Determined to cling.
But every time I passed, the space was fulfilling its mission,
Hosting a crowd –
I hadn’t a hope of providing the patient a little nutrition,
Or sparing the shroud.
Not unless I fancied talking of paradigm shifts
And stakeholder rights,
Or talking shop about new regulations and faulty lifts
Between doughnut bites.
Until, at last, while walking by on my way to the train,
And a forlorn glance –
The lights were out, but the hallway fluorescents leaked through the pane…
I took my chance.
I had just a drop in my water bottle, to break the drought
With barely a stream –
But I saw some dregs in the coffee cups that were strewn about
And a pot of cream.
And a leak in the corner of the room had collected on the window sill –
And that was its lot.
Then I never found that room so empty again, till a fire drill
Gave me a shot.
The rest of the time, I’d pass the window and flick my eyes,
To check its state,
But through endless workshops preaching the need to synergise,
It didn’t look great.
Yet when I finally proffered my notice, on my very last day,
I was glad to see,
That that poor and bedraggled little bit of green in amongst the grey
Was outlasting me.

Godless Devilry

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Godless Devilry

One day, I’ll be dead as a parrot,
I’ll feed the worms, I’ll buy the farm –
With neurons in my brain at peace,
As ev’rything I am shall cease.
One day – in my lonely garret,
Or else within my lovers’ arms –
But either way, when all is said,
They’ll tuck me in my final bed,
One day –
Aye, but not this day,
For this is the Day of the Dead !

So grab your tridents, grab your horns,
Your furry paws and crowns of thorns,
Tonight, there’s no-one weeps or mourns,
Unless it’s out of fright !
For this is a time to be alive,
In overdrive, till our veins run red –
There’s just no time to die tonight,
There’s a long long way to go before we’re dead.
At this time of year,
When entropy is near – let’s keep it light,
And laugh at our inescapable fate instead.

One day, I’ll be nothing but a past tense –
And that fact lurks at the back of my mind.
Ev’ry road will lead me to the grave,
With no prayer to pray and no soul to save.
It all makes simple, terrifying sense –
So I’ve learned to leave such thoughts behind.
For either way, come joy or dread,
They’ll close my eyes and shroud my head.
One day –
But not now, I say !
For this is the Day of the Dead.

So grab your accents, grab your cloaks,
Let’s haunt this technicolour hoax !
We’re just your av’rage mortal folks
Who laugh in the face of blight.
For this is a time to be alive,
Let’s joke and jive wherever we tread –
Who cares if we must die some night,
Let’s worry about dying once we’re dead.
At this time of year,
When existential fear is at its height –
Let’s laugh in the face of the mirthless void instead.

I cannot take any credit for the opening line. I just wish I could remember where I first heard it.