Friday, 31 May 2013

Confessions of a Sniffer Dog

Woof. Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof. Woof woof, woof woof woof; woof woof. Woof woof woof!
   “Woof woof woof woof woof woof …?” woof woof woof, woof woof.
   “Woof woof!” woof woof.
   Woof woof, woof woof woof woof. Woof?
   Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof. WOOF! Woof woof: woof woof woof woof; woof, woof, woof-woof. Woof. Woof woof, woof woof woof woof woof. Woof woof, woof woof woof; woof woof. Woof woof woof!
  “WOOF-WOOF!!! Woof woof woof woof woof, woof woof woof? Woof woof,” woof woof.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

4/7 of a Cow’s Worth of Rain

I walk down the track to talk to my good friends the sky and the fields, and notice that it has just started to rain, but only slightly. How much rain is ‘only slightly’?  I do not know. What would I say to a pushy pedant who might ask, “How much rain is ‘only slightly’?” I don’t know. It scares me that I would not know what to say to a pushy pedant about the amount of rain; he might think I’m being stupid or evasive.
   I walk past a field, still worried. There are seven cows in the field. Remembering that cows lie down when it is raining, I am impressed to see that while four of the cows are lying down, three remain standing. Relieved that I can rely on such a scientific basis for a calculation about the amount of rain which is currently falling, I no longer feel scared. The next time I meet a pushy pedant who wants to know exactly what I mean by ‘only slightly’ (with regard to rain), I can confidently assert, “What do I mean by ‘only slightly’? I mean that it was precisely 4/7 of a cow’s worth of rain.”

Confessions of a Secret Service Agent

We all know that most waiters and waitresses are out of work actors; well, it’s the same with us black-suited, earpiece-wearing, Ray Ban-adorned secret service agents.
   We stand in close proximity to our charges, talking into our cuffs (for no good reason, it turns out), pressing an index finger into an ear (the one with the curly wire dangling out of it), always on the lookout for what concerns us most: glass-fronted buildings. Once we have identified such a building we walk past it slowly, faces impassive, carrying out the most important part of our jobs: checking that we are looking sufficiently secret-service-y in our costumes.
  People are happy to buy into the myth of “secret agents”. This is despite the truth that there is no major threat to the Royal Families, Presidents or celeb VIPs of this world. However, such people don’t feel important or special enough unless they live inside a bubble of perpetual paranoia where every crowd has a lone gunman, every smiling well-wisher is a potential assassin, and they, by virtue of their extreme importance, are the target.
   “But what about JFK?” I hear you ask. Yes, well, what people don’t know is that he’d eaten a hand-grenade salad for lunch and, instead of exploding harmlessly inside his bomb-proof arse, JFK accidentally sneezed (he was allergic to Texans) sending his Fabergé hand grenade straight up to his cerebellum where it got lodged in a memory about tight dresses, and exploded.
   The official coroner’s verdict was “death by hand-grenade salad misadventure”, but all of the actors in the Secret Service Actors Guild thought that it would be much better for business if we pretended that he’d been shot.

Next Week: Confessions of a Sniffer Dog

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Mad Shouty Bastard

Mad Shouty Bastard has been quiet for a few days. It is peaceful without his voice inside my head, as he comes out with all sorts of Mad Shouty Bastard rubbish.

Of course, he’s not a real Mad Shouty Bastard, any more than watching a sunset is real, or singing a song is real; he is a metaphorical Mad Shouty Bastard.

One can’t surgically remove metaphorical Mad Shouty Bastards and then kill them and have a Mad Shouty Bastard funeral where I give an insincere eulogy in a church about all of Mad Shouty Bastard’s many achievements and how we will all miss Mad Shouty Bastard, even though no-one knew of his existence until a few lines ago.

For some reason, Mad Shouty Bastards always live in heads; I suppose that’s why some people shoot themselves in the head (a good way to silence the Mad Shouty Bastard). They don’t live in feet, or else some people would go around shooting themselves in the foot (literally, not figuratively).

Hand Grenade Salad

A hand grenade salad arrives at his table for one. It is not what he ordered. He is worried that the hand grenade salad might give him indigestion, or a bad case of exploding internal organs, but he gives it a go anyway.
   Hand grenades are smaller than you might think, especially this one, which is a Fabergé hand grenade, but getting them down the oesophagus is still problematical; however, it presents no difficulty to a man who used to swallow boulders in the circus.
   Passing a Fabergé hand grenade stool is uncomfortable, and the process activates its exploding mechanism. This is not fatal for the man, though, as he has a bomb-proof arse.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A for Effort

Today the poem will be weak,
There isn’t much to say,
Apart from, “I have run right out of steam.”
The disappearance of my mind
Has left my inner self quite blind:
He cannot see what’s real and what’s a dream.

But onward I will persevere,
With these faint, airy thoughts
(One has to make an effort on such days).
The lines are varied in their length,
Which gives the thing a certain strength;
The rhyme scheme’s sound, though doesn’t much amaze.

Some days one can’t be arsed to write,
Some days the words won’t stop,
Some days one has to force the lines to breathe.
So even when the poem’s tat,
You’ll edit ‘til you’re certain that
The poem’s done, and then you’re free to leave.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


For Joanella

Together we shall walk
And be awake
To nature’s pristine lines.
I stop and lean
Upon your outstretched arm.
Your hand is warm
Against my too-cold skin.
Because we can –
Because there is no rush
To leave the wish
Of silence which we feel –
We stay here, still,
For just a moment more
Before we move.

And in that second’s pause,
We see each piece
Of nature’s strange design:
Fierce, mystic sun;
Colossal, open skies;
And Earth, whose human scars
Will one day heal
Themselves. “We are made whole,”
You say, and as
You speak, I see what is.
Words break the spell;
And so, time spills
Towards us, having stopped.
We take a step.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bidding Prayers for a Lapsed Congregation

Before I can read, I think that God’s name is Peter. This is based on nothing more than saying the response “Thank, Peter God,” to various prayers every Sunday for the first few years of my life.

My nine-year-old son confides in me that every other week, when there is a whole school mass, the sight of the stained-glass windows makes him want to stand up and shout, “Burglar!” at the top of his voice.

Aged 15, I secretly change the words of The Lord’s Prayer so that I openly blaspheme during the twice-daily house prayers and the weekly school mass: “Our father, who never listens...” but it’s not just God I’m mocking.

My room-mate tells me he has a vocation to be a Roman Catholic priest. At a school reunion twenty-two years later, I meet my former room-mate; he is a Roman Catholic priest, and the only person out of nearly ninety who has come in work clothes. I have one conversation with him where he is scathing about the poor and the needy (as Jesus would have called them) feckless, scrounging underclass (as he calls them) of his parish.

Whatever Fancy Takes You

Come sinners all! Come everyone!
Come burn your fancies in the sun!
Upon a shore of mile-high flames,
We’ll play our fancy-burning games,
   ‘Til day is done.

Forsooth! Foretell! For what will be!
Come drown your fancies in the sea!
When ev’ryone has had enough
Of drowning in the waters rough,
   We’ll break for tea.

For fear they yet may make a sound,
Inter your fancies underground.
And when we’re done with this endeavour,
We’ll dance with fancies, aye, forever,
   When Death comes round.

EU Directive No. 38, 379

Having “nearly run out of things to ban”, the latest direct from the EU concerns poetry. “ ‘Poetry’, especially ‘bad’ poetry, which is to say ‘most poetry’, is a natural consequence of global warming and represents the latest health crisis to afflict the EU; the spread of it could present a catastrophic epidemic to the people of Europe. We must work hard to eradicate it now, before the oceans swallow us up.”

In a bid to reduce the harmful effects of poetry, all poetry books are to come in plain packaging and will contain one of the following Health Warnings:

Poetry kills.

Poetry is highly addictive: Don’t start.

Poetry can lead to a slow and painful death.

Poets die younger.

Protect children: don’t make them listen to your poetry.

Poems contain benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

Poetry may reduce the blood flow and causes impotence.

Warning: poems are addictive.

Poetry clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes.

Quitting will improve your health.

Poetry will be banned in 2017, after a referendum in which the people voted with their pencils.

Partners in Crime

A boys’ own adventure, in blank verse.

Another one for Elfish Mover

Whilst walking on the promenade at Hythe –
it’s 6.15 a.m., the middle of
the summer break, and I’m determined
to beat the sunrise every day we’re here –
arrives upon my phone a message from
my dear old friend and former sparring partner
(guitars), who must remain anonymous
for legal reasons soon to be revealed,
proclaiming that he’s crashing for the night
at Johnny Marr’s, and is there anything
that I would like for him to photograph
(in secret) while he’s there. I laugh out loud.
He isn’t being serious (I hope).
“Unlikely as it seems...” his text had started.
“Unlikely as it seems...” I start with my
reply, and then a madness grips my soul.
Without a thought for any consequence,
ignoring all the danger which I’m just
about to put my friend in (wait and see) –
please bear in mind that I’ve bought each record
or compact disc that Johnny Marr has ever
graced with his presence (Girls Aloud excepted);
and thus it is that I convince myself
that I am quite entitled to at least
a teaspoon (a teaspoon? At least a teaspoon) –
I send a text requesting that he take
(in absent-mindedness, of course) a teaspoon.
The text which next he sends informs me that
the custom-built guitar that Johnny has
designed with Fender has arrived. “What  colour?
I hope it’s white like my new strat” I text.
“I wouldn’t know – it’s in its box” he says.
I get on with my walk and wonder what
our teenage selves would think: it’s thirty years
since we first met, and yet we’re still in touch;
we’re both still mad about guitars; and, oddly,
my manic-like obsession when it comes
to Johnny Marr – is still intact! Far out!
(the pseudo-hippy teenage self would say).

A few days later, back at home, a package
arrives. Inside the bubble-wrap, a note
instructs me how to use the thing enclosed
(a teaspoon, property of Johnny Marr):
“First, make a pot of tea, then pour from pot
to cup and stir with this ‘ere magic spoon.
Whilst drinking tea bestirred by magic spoon,
pick up your strat and write some magic tunes,
then put them on a tape and send to me.”
The hand that wrote this note once strummed some chords
to which I added teenage words, and bonds
like that? They never break (I guess, ‘though sometimes
they get mislaid for several years). I laugh
out loud. I dance around the room. I laugh
out loud again. I laugh so hard that tears
start running down my cheeks. I shriek and dance
and shout, “I’ve got a magic teaspoon – look!
A teaspoon, property of Johnny Marr!”
My children start to laugh as well, and I
explain the story. So it is that they
discover that their dad’s great friend is now
a burglar (at their father’s instigation),
and Dad is now apparently quite cool
about receiving stolen goods (as long
as it’s a teaspoon, formerly belonging
to England’s finest songsmith: Johnny Marr).

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Secrets of Love My Arse

for AO

“Secrets of Love My Arse”

Or “A Bold Adventure in the New Poetic”

A Book of Poems

By Stan & Ann O’Nymous


1 Love My Arse
2 57 Rhymes for Love (icl. ‘above’)
3 I Love My Glove
4 I Love My Dove
5 What I Love (see above)
6 Ode on a Node

Sonnet Sequence:

(i)                Love, Part 1
(ii)             Love, Part 2
(iii)           Love, Part 4
(iv)            Love, Part 67
(v)              Love, Particle
(vi)            Love, Part 6 (‘Back on Track’)
(vii)         Love, Partially Blinded by
(viii)       Love, Partition Wall 8
(ix)            Love, Part Part
(x)              Love, Party

Secrets, a Sequence:

(i)                Secret 1: I Love My Arse
(ii)             Secret 2: Love? My Foot
(iii)           Secret 3: Love Rhymes with Shove
(iv)            Secret 4: I am an Poet

Longer Poem: “Why Does Nobody Love My Poetry Apart From Me?”

Published by “Poetry Books Which Nobody Reads”

Friday, 17 May 2013


Where do our thoughts go if we do not write
them down? Do they evaporate like raindrops,
which splash upon the surface of the sand?
Or will they melt like snow? Perhaps they freeze,
and leave a crystal pattern in your mind.

Where do our thoughts go if we do not find them?
Do they escape, like plants which break the surface
to try and face the sun? Or will they be
forgotten, like an unexamined life?
I try and catch my thoughts. I write them down. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Last Birthday Cake

The Last Birthday Cake sat in silence on the kitchen table, as birthday cakes are wont to do.
   In the midnight dark of birthday eve expectations, The Last Birthday Cake waited, motionless and silent, like his friend, Ninja Birthday Cake (dec’d), except with less martial arts training and fewer lethal instincts.
   The Last Birthday Cake: like the Last Mohican, only with more candles and a hairstyle which conformed.

To be discontinued…

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Raelistic’s Fables: The Ant and the Grasshopper

Smug Ant worked hard all day long. Work, work, work, he diligently laboured, carrying objects many times his own weight. Smug Ant was permanently knackered and he never had time to pursue his hobby (still-life drawing).
   Meanwhile, Feckless Grasshopper arsed about all day long having fun with grass. Despite suffering from borderline personality disorder, he managed as full and carefree an existence as was possible (for an insect with an undiagnosed psychotic complaint). But work? Never.
   Soon, the day came when the cruel winds of winter blew in, and Feckless Grasshopper, who had never bothered to collect and store any food, died. However, this was because Feckless Grasshopper’s life-expectancy, like all grasshoppers, was only about thirty days. His death was not a result of any decadent lifestyle choices.
   Similarly, Smug Ant had long since become Dead Ant, on account of his life expectancy being only about fifty days.

And the moral of the story is: If only Smug Ant had known, eh?

And Now

The sun will only shine when we’re asleep,
And smiles will be replaced by tears we weep.

For all the clouds which used to pass away,
Decided on a whim to stop and stay.

And now our hearts will never skip a beat,
And all our dreams will never be complete.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

An Easy Mistake to Make

Veiled-in-Darkness Henchman was having a difficult day: the wasp voice inside his head just wouldn’t shut up. Moanmoanmoanmoanmoan it went. Oh, no, hang on. Was it not dronedronedronedrone? Wait a minute: that wasn’t the wasp voice droning and it wasn't inside his head. Too late!
   Veiled-in-Darkness Henchman’s world exploded in a violent bloom of bright orange, decorated at the outer edges with shrapnel and screams and the silence which only the dead experience.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Awkward Silence glues a Do Not Disturb sign to his face (the Do Not Disturb sign from the Beauchamp Hotel which he had put in his back pack by mistake). He learns that people are bad at reading Do Not Disturb signs from London hotels, even when they are glued to his face, so he removes it with the edge of a shopping trolley.

In its place, Awkward pins a Closed sign to his forehead (the Closed sign which he had accidentally borrowed from a barber shop in Kent). He learns that people are bad at reading Closed signs from Kentish barber shops, even when they are pinned to his forehead. He removes it with the back of an envelope.

Awkward Silence steals a much larger sign. It covers his whole face. It is attached to a pole. Golf Sale Today it says.

At last, people ignore him.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


for Jon

I am running in terror from a voice which is calling my name.

I see a door, I open it, and find myself in a room. I start putting up pictures of David Soul on the walls. I cover the walls, ceiling and floors with pictures of David Soul and, after 18 months, I am tired and fall asleep. I wake up in darkness. A voice calls my name.

I run out of the room and run and run and run. I see another door. I open it and find myself in a different room. In the corner is the most beautiful and amazing object that I have ever seen. I pick up the object and start to play with it. It is a guitar. I can hardly believe its power. I sit there and play the guitar for years and years and years. Eventually, I am tired and I fall asleep.

I wake up in darkness. A voice calls my name. In all of the music, I had forgotten about the voice.

I run out of the room, and run and run and run. How could I have forgotten the voice? I run and run and run until, at last, I see another door.

I open the door, and inside is another room, with a table, a lamp, and a chair. On the table is a notebook and a pencil.

I sit at the table and I start to write. I write and I write and I write. I write the story of my life in 47,000 words. I write stories about a superhero who acquires his powers after falling down the stairs into a bath full of custard, and whose nemesis is a master of disguise called Devious Dave. I write about a land of friendly dinosaurs and lemonade streams and ice-cream trees and the five brothers who have magical adventures there. I write about the Wee Banny Doodle. But after years, I am tired of writing stories for my children and, instead, I start to write for myself. Poems are what I like best, so I write poems.

I write hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of poems, about everything, even guitars and David Soul. After years of writing, I grow even more tired. But this time, I have not forgotten about the voice calling my name.

I look at all of the poems which I have written and, one by one, I start to learn them. I pace around my room reading them out loud, again and again and again, in a funny, loud, mad voice which make me laugh. I imagine that I am walking around fields reciting my poetry to an audience of sheep and subterranean potatoes.

I learn as many poems as I can off-by-heart, for I have been awake for years and am very, very tired, and know that soon I will sleep, and that when I wake, the voice will frighten me so much that I might forget to take my poems with me. If they’re in my head, I can take them with me.

I lie my head on the table and fall asleep.

I wake up. Someone has switched off the lamp.

A voice calls my name. I check that my head is still full of poems, grab my notebook and pencil, and run for my life.

I run and I run and I run. I see a door. I open and slam it behind me.

The room is in total darkness. A voice calls my name.


I run out of the room. I run and I run and I run. I see a door, open it and then slam it behind me. A voice calls my name.


I run. I find a door. I open it to darkness. A voice calls my name.

I run and I run and I run. None of the doors are safe. I run and I run and I run, until I can run no more.

A door unlike all the other doors appears before me. I open it, and collapse into a chair. My heart is beating furiously and I am crying like a child. I feel as weak as a kitten. I look up from my chair.

Opposite me is a man. He starts to say my name, but I stay where I am. I am too exhausted to move. Too shocked. Too stunned. Too traumatized. Too upset.

Too ill.

“…Depression,” he says, as if it is the final word of a long explanation, an explanation which I didn’t quite catch, what with all the running and mania and fear and poetry and David Soul and guitars and monks who pulled my hair and beat me for no good reason (I didn’t write about that room; they locked me in and shouted my name at me for six years, but I escaped; I ESCAPED!). He gives me a print-out with the long explanation on it. He also gives me some pills.

I’m not too keen on taking pills, but then I remember a sentence from the explanation, a sentence about men in their 40s being more likely to kill themselves than anyone else, and I’m not too keen on that idea either.

I drive. I arrive at a house. I walk inside the house and go into one room after another. There is a room full of guitars which were once worshipped but are now neglected. There is a room with a very large box. I open up the box. It has dozens of notebooks inside. They are full of poems and stories, as is my head. And in another room, my retro-loving son’s bedroom, I search and search and search for something which I have not seen in years. It must be here in the massive collections of vinyl which he has inherited. The first album which I ever owned, with the last remaining picture of David Soul on its front, all the other pictures having been thrown away while I was in hospital, aged 9, recovering from septicaemia while my family moved house.

I look up to see my wife standing in the doorway. “How did it go at the doctor’s?” she asks.

And I tell her about this voice; this name.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

There is Nothing in the World Like an Avocado

I catch the 4.15 stiletto elephant slowcoach from Oxford to Destination. The trip is punctuated with incorrect semi-colons. I look up at the clichéd English blue sky with white clouds and wonder how many of the molecules of moisture inside these scattered nimbostratus once belonged to the streaks of tears running down my beautiful mother’s contorted face as she lay on her bed grieving for the baby she had just given away.

A hearse goes by my window.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

In the Moments before Turning out the Light

Last night’s reading material was King Lear which, I just remembered, was weakly punned by Morrissey for King Leer, a track from his transitional 1991 album, Kill Uncle.

Tonight, I am burying my head in Hamlet. I wrote a manic, slightly unsuccessful seven-minute adaptation for a comic revue ten years ago. I resurrected and rewrote it three years ago for a different comic revue; it worked far better the second time round.

Madness and the ghost of my father have preoccupied my thoughts the last few days, which may explain a subconscious decision to return to these plays, instead of finishing off the latest Terry Pratchett, or re-re-re-re-reading Michael Symmons Roberts’ brand new collection, Drysalter. If the prospect of discovering what’s inside poems with such titles as Hymn to a Rollercoaster, A Plate for a Face, What the Night Told Me, and The Fortune-Telling Rabbits of Istanbul doesn’t have you doing whatever it is you do when you are in a frenzy of anticipation... well, then.

Who’s there?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013



Encyclical (what does that even mean?)
Psychological (straying too far)

Manacle (now we’re back)

Reflecting on the sounds and meanings of words – especially in a nonsensical way – is rather like the “clear your mind/think of nothing” aspect of meditation.

Which led me this morning to think that a micycle is a mouse bicycle, and a tricycle  is a bicycle for someone with three legs, and a canticle  is a song for someone incapable of singing.

Frantical should be a back-formation of frantically.

The word mandible is henceforth banned for not conforming.

Ps McGonigal (so near, and yet so far).