Friday, 30 August 2019

Late August in Sommières

Late August in Sommières,
the air outside like a lazy oven,
and I’m torn between, on the one hand, doing nothing,
and, on the other, doing absolutely sod all.

It’s a real dilemma (isn’t it?)
when you find yourself impossibly torn
between two momentous decisions.

I wonder what the Butterfly of Chaos
would have to say about it all.

‘Well, Ferg, if, on the one hand, you do nothing,
two fires in the Amazonian Rainforest
will rage for slightly less time,

preserving an as yet undiscovered plant
which would otherwise become extinct,
and within which hides the cure for, among other things,

insurance scams, kleptomania, and road rage –
yeah, man, that plant’s a real doozy;

on the other hand, if you do absolutely sod all,’
he continues, ‘GDP in Somalia
is going to grow an extra 0.7 percent in the next quarter.

Of course, you could continue to write this poem,
if you can call it a poem,
but that would totally mess with the street value of cocaine
in North Humberside.’

All of this surprises me; I had assumed that
Butterfly’s arcane knowledge was restricted to
matters meteorological.

‘Life’s full of surprises,’ he says,
as if he had been reading my thoughts.

‘There’s no as if about it,’ says Butterfly.
‘I was totally reading your thoughts.’
And, with a flap of his wings,
he vanishes.

Alone with my thoughts again,
I wonder how the cokeheads of North Humberside
are going to take the news.


So, there I was, innovating my new karate move,
Owl Double Scissor Attack in the Face,
when I found myself, as so often I do,
in a parallel universe,
standing, bloody-handed and breathless,
in front of an actual owl,
with two actual pairs of scissors
sticking out of its actual face,
looking like some sort of spectacled owl whimsy,
(if you can imagine the scene
without all of the horrific carnage, that is),
when who should walk in but the sewing maid,
and, call it coincidence, or serendipity,
or even synchronicity (if you’re a fan of Carl Jung),
but just the previous day I’d been working on
Scissor the Sewing Maid in the Back While You’re At It,
a fiendishly complex manoeuvre
involving scissors, a sewing maid, and a back,
and I just had to see if it worked –
which, as you can see, it did, officer.

Spectacled Owl Whimsy

   for Slim

Some phrases you read are more splendid than most,
   ‘Best words in best order’ they certainly show.
I recently found, on a friend’s Facebook post,
   A striking example which made me think, ‘Oh!
   It’s into a poem that you need to go!’
Robust and amusing, and not the least flimsy,
Three words, to wit*: spectacled, owl and whimsy.

These words, I expect, never met up before,
   (The whimsy of owls wearing glasses is rare),
But put them together? They’re hard to ignore,
   Like elephant, trousers and everywhere,
   Or, ornithological, cheesecake and hair.
Put spectacled owl whimsy onto the list,
Of phrases which really ought not to be missed.

You may now be wondering, ‘Why is he writing,
   Such silly, nonsensical stuff – is he high?’
The reason is simple, and not so exciting:
   I enjoy finding odd things which exemplify,
   The daftness of life, and this caught my eye.
Yes, I like to find phrases uniquely expressed,
And spectacled owl whimsy’s one of the best!

(*to woo)

Wednesday, 28 August 2019


Ah, here we go again:
the bleedin’, blindingly, bloody obvious
etymology of a word

falling out of its invisible box,
revealing itself shamelessly
without so much as an OED.

‘Ta-da! What took you so long, by the way?’
it laughs, good-naturedly,
while I resort to the slapping of a forehead (mine),
astonished at my
s  l  o  w  n  e  s  s.

I question the audacity of calling myself ‘poet’.
Pnnfff! Poet?
Do you even know what that means?
(Checks Dictionary of Etymology;
reframes answer as, ‘Yes’;
inwardly adds, ‘At least, I do now.’)

‘Le Chateau Fort,’ Gemma said,
leafing through a tourist leaflet.
(Can you leaf through a leaflet?
Perhaps I’d better check.)
‘The strong Chateau.’

‘Like a fort,’ I add,
looking around to see if there’s an Alleluia chorus
to mark the before/after border
between linguistic darkness and light.

Fort. Strong. Of course!

Forte. Fortissimo. Fortitude.
Fortress (now considering if this is a female fort).
How could fort’s true meaning
have stayed hidden for so long?

And every time this happens, I wonder:
how many more times?;
how many more words?

Words are stones, I think, getting all poety again,
and sometimes we need an OED
to crack them open; to reveal their hidden fossils.

Other times, there the fossils are, for everyone to see:
as obvious as a strong on top of a hill.

In Absentia

    for Miranda

You remember being taken
to the art gallery in Paisley
where you would stare up at
Dali’s Christ of St John.

I, in my parallel universe,
would stare up at
its copy,
on a bedroom wall.

And I like to think of us,
in our respective childhoods,
just once,
staring at the same picture –

you at the real thing, me at the reproduction –
at precisely the same moment,
with the same sense of awe,
invisibly connected.

Like a Ladder Nailed to the Floor

   ‘You can’t easily rob language of its utility,
   and if you did – where would you put it?’

I have a machine to drain language of meaning;
to denude the outer surface of linguistic purpose.

The surface area of truth;
the square-root of a square being a pair of parallel lines.

Symphony for castanets and hummus sandwiches.
Gift-wrapped monkey boulevard.

Symphony for car-horn and assault rifle.
Concerto for flute and woodpecker.

Cosmonaut ballet.
The importance of not being important.

Rome Still Burned

Rome burned, while the Emperor Nero,
being an Emperor,
decided to play the violin,
a miraculous endeavour,
considering the lack of violins available
until the classical music era;
but then, he was a self-proclaimed deity,
so that explains that little anomaly.

If you’re a God, though,
for whom time is no obstacle
to your choice of musical accompaniment
to the infernal destruction
of your Empire’s capital,
why choose the wretched violin?

‘What’s Nero up to now?’
He’s playing his anachronistic violin again.
‘Are you sure that isn’t just a cat
burning in the flames?’

In one of the infinity of parallel universes,
Nero is a rocking on a Fender strat.
‘Purple haze that, you bastards!’
he roars at the advancing flames
over the Satanic tones of his distorted wah-wah.

In other elsewheres,
he is ripping up some funky bass lines;
improvising a jazz solo
on the only saxophone currently on planet Earth;
dropping a piano from the top floor
of his Emperor’s penthouse
in an avant-garde experiment;
singing along to a karaoke backing track
of ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’.

Which, incidentally,
is the tune which he was playing on his violin
in our reality’s version of events.

The Go Between Opening Line (Take Two)

The past is like a conference for people who do things differently: they do things differently there.

A Bang to the Head

Where are we now? We do not know.
We bang our heads in unison.
We ask in vain, ‘Hello? Hello?
Where are we now? We do not know.’
Be watchful how and where you go,
For life’s a heathen hooligan.
Where are we now? We do not know.
We bang our heads in unison.


You wanted all those things
which lead to recognition from strangers
in supermarkets.

And so, headlines, Twitter trends,
and money,
all gobbled up by a ravenous ego,

never satisfied,

until, inevitably, another fatality to fame,
as obvious as landfill.

People do stupid things
every day of their lives.

Board Games

Cats are not very good at taking turns,
and this is why they are very bad at board games
(well, one of the reasons).

Their method of dice-rolling is particularly eccentric.
‘I will only roll the dice if you put it on the edge of the table,
allowing me to bat it to the floor,
but I shall do this only two or three times,’ says the Cat.

Yes, she’ll do it only two or three times,
because cats have a very low boredom threshold;
and this is another reason why they are so very bad at board games.

Their ability to jump on a table
or to walk along a narrow fence,
while impressive,

are not transferrable skills which can be used to their advantage
when invading Kamchatka during a 3-day Risk marathon.

I could spend the rest of this day
analysing the many reasons
why the cat is such an incompetent opponent

in a game of Monopoly, or Cluedo,
or even Frustration.