Karagöl

This shortening life,
This thickening life,
This blink of an eye
Left on a continental shelf
Life, (devoid of the I
Which ego contrived
And relies upon having hatched
Like a blind hag-matriarch,
And who underneath our
Inexplicable surfaces
Survives and thrives
While my egg-timer soul
Is turned over again),
I felt my sense of self
Not to reside inside me
But externally derived –
Fermented and distilled
Across our guarded borders,
Lifelong out-of-body experiences
And my many other disorders,
Then the near-death experiences,
Lifelong too, (my witness,
Who is a pawnbroker
Of disasters and also
Fathers, who sold
Ink perpetually
To stain my sinking skin,
Told me this is so),
It is well-written
With strange hieroglyphs
Throughout, ever present,
Every sallow thanklessly
Tantalising day
Behind my harrowing eyelids,
That clear and imprinted
Rendition of my deep,
Impending gallows.

Majorca

This government of mine
Has mastered a post-modern
Political and Sophic arts
Of fuckwittery,
Omnishambles,
Clusterfucking, and
Chicanery, as though
Ambling ineptitude
Was newly in fashion,
As if it was a finest
Prensal Blanc from
That sun-blessed island.
Swearing during the pandemic
Like so much hot air
And so much in the ashes of
Public money and taxes
Is uprising.

Why did we lose our hard earned money
As though we were those robbed blind
Homeless wayside token folk
Within a certain scripture,
To those mountain-dwelling raiders
Who did nothing for us,
Who we never befriended or even met
And yet they depreciated
And were depraved;
From our place and our markers
We watched as they built
Majorcan mansions and plazas
Using the future depths of our
Self-dug graves.


I don’t usually provide a narrative to my poems. I prefer the words to speak alone, and I like to think the reader will also find their own meanings and interpretations, if I am using metaphors or allegories. This poem is a little more direct, perhaps, and yet ironically justifies an explanation. I also do not tend to swear, not illiberally, yet the italicised words I use at the top of the poem are some of my current favourites – so descriptive and with currency. I like lists. I have a list ongoing of my favourite words – there are currently 1654 words on the list. I also started keeping a list this year of issues concerning probity and conduct in government. I don’t know why particularly, I suppose it was a constant cause of frustration; the lack of accountability and transparency. It is only from one news source, the UK Guardian online; so many news sources I find difficult to read due to ownership and bias and political leanings. Here is my list so far, though I know that I will have missed a lot. It is just for my own record. Also, a recent study in the UK has shown that swearing during the pandemic has, apparently, increased. Is it little wonder?

(Oh, and as an aside, I travelled to Majorca many times on holiday in the 2000s and it is the most beautiful island, with wonderful people and places. My reference to it in this poem is I suppose the juxtaposition of an ideal, which can become changed by something, but it is not a comment of any sort on Majorca itself – or if it is, it is only positive about that European neighbour – and it was only my poetic licence. Plus, I like the island’s name for the title).

List:

28/02/20 The EU launches its first joint procurement of £1.2m worth of gloves and gowns/overalls. The UK is not one of the 20 member states involved. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
24/03/20 No 10 says it has not joined EU procurement schemes as the UK is not in the EU and is “making our own efforts”. The government later U-turns to say it failed to receive an email inviting it to be part of the initiative. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
26/03/20 The government says it has 8,175 ventilators, but turns to British industry to help produce 30,000 in a matter of weeks. The engineering company Dyson reveals plans for an entirely new medical ventilator working to specifications set down by the government. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
11/04/20 Payment was guaranteed for 3.5m antibody kits designed to show who was immune but they later proved wildly inaccurate https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/11/reveal-cost-of-35m-unusable-covid-19-tests-health-chiefs-told
18/06/20 The government has been forced to abandon a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app after spending three months and millions of pounds on technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/18/uk-poised-to-abandon-coronavirus-app-in-favour-of-apple-and-google-models
11/08/20 The government has been urged to demonstrate there was no favouritism at play in awarding Serco a contact-tracing contract worth £108m, as a leaked memo revealed the outsourcing firm was enlisted to help with the Covid-19 response as early as January. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/11/uk-government-serco-contact-tracing-contract-leaked-memo
12/01/21 Lockdown rules in England have been changed at least 64 times by the government since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a human rights barrister has calculated, amid growing calls for clearer guidance for the public. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/12/england-covid-lockdown-rules-have-changed-64-times-says-barrister
16/01/21 Priti Patel faces growing pressure over deletion of police records https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/16/priti-patel-faces-increasing-pressure-over-deletion-of-police-records
16/01/21 Priti Patel faces growing pressure over deletion of police records https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/16/priti-patel-faces-increasing-pressure-over-deletion-of-police-records
19/01/21 Crossrail 2: more than £115m spent before project mothballed https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/18/crossrail-2-more-than-115m-spent-before-project-mothballed
22/01/21 Ministers criticised for plans to create 500 new UK prison places for women https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/23/ministers-criticised-for-plans-to-create-500-new-uk-prison-places-for-women
23/01/21 Minister under fire for ‘shameful’ virus spread as staff told to work on with more than 500 cases at agency in Swansea. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/23/minister-faces-fury-over-mass-covid-outbreak-at-top-government-agency
23/01/21 Set up shop in Europe, government advisers tell Brexit-hit businesses https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/23/brexit-hit-firms-advised-government-officials-set-up-shop-in-eu
26/01/21 Former Tory MP’s posting as UK ambassador to Cuba raises fresh cronyism claims https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/26/former-tory-mps-posting-as-uk-ambassador-to-cuba-raises-fresh-cronyism-claims
28/01/21 How UK spent £800m on controversial Covid tests for Dominic Cummings scheme https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/28/how-uk-spent-800m-on-controversial-covid-tests-for-dominic-cummings-scheme
10/03/21 No evidence £22bn test-and-trace scheme cut Covid rates in England, say MPs https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/10/no-evidence-22bn-test-and-trace-scheme-cut-covid-rates-in-england-say-mps
25/03/21 Liverpool council may have squandered up to £100m of public money https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/25/liverpool-council-may-have-squandered-up-to-100m-public-money
02/04/21 Tory donor lobbied minister to speed up his £65m PPE deal https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/01/tory-donor-lobbied-minister-to-speed-up-his-65m-ppe-deal
31/03/21 No 10’s race report widely condemned as ‘divisive’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/31/deeply-cynical-no-10-report-criticises-use-of-institutional-racism
21/04/21 Boris Johnson is ‘constantly lobbied’ by text, sources admit https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/21/business-leaders-and-politicians-regularly-text-boris-johnson-sources-admit
22/04/21 Fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags for possible corruption’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/22/fifth-of-uk-covid-contracts-raised-red-flags-for-possible-corruption
25/04/21 Labour calls for Electoral Commission inquiry into PM’s flat refurbishment https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/25/labour-calls-for-electoral-commission-inquiry-pm-flat-refurbishment-downning-street
25/04/21 Boris Johnson urged to reveal if he endorsed Super League plans https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/apr/25/boris-johnson-urged-reveal-if-endorsed-european-super-league-plans
26/04/21 Johnson denies saying he would rather see ‘bodies piled high’ than third Covid lockdown. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/minister-denies-boris-johnson-said-thousands-more-covid-deaths-better-than-another-lockdown
30/04/21 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/30/scandal-charge-sheet-johnson-wallpaper-lying
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/12/boris-johnson-faces-court-judgment-over-535-unpaid-debt
17/05/21 Home Office letter wrongly tells British citizens to apply for settled status https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/17/immigration-letter-sent-to-long-term-british-citizens-causes-alarm
25/05/21 Tory Islamophobia report criticises Boris Johnson over burqa remarks https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/may/25/tory-islamophobia-report-criticises-boris-johnson-over-burqa-remarks
02/06/21 No 10 advisers who have quit Boris Johnson’s government https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/02/no-10-advisers-who-have-quit-boris-johnsons-government
16/06/21 Cummings texts show Boris Johnson calling Matt Hancock ‘totally hopeless’. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/16/cummings-texts-show-boris-johnson-calling-matt-hancock-totally-hopeless?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

La Ville Rose

Switching from black next
Into pink-red ink,
I wrote to you
On a postcard
From a cruise ship
In Tolosa, a city you know
As Tolouse.
Strange how dreams
Shift and slip
And casually blend,
For you and I know well
It’s a few hours drive,
Through foothill climbs
And Alpine screes
With views, O such scenery!
Bridging rivers in spate
And by old Limoux,
To reach the sea
Though give if fifty years
Or perhaps fifty two,
And Toulouse could be
A Venice anew.

Forgetting to keep
My writing hand removed
From a postcard’s edge,
I smudged the ink
And forgot what to do.
Though I had not seen my
Friends for half that time,
There they were travelling too
On our erstwhile cruise.
I could not find my shoes,
And so they disembarked
With cheery ‘see you soons’,
À bientôt!
With dreaming ways
Approximating every day
You moved away from the group,
Grabbed my hand, urgently said:
Retrouvez-nous au bureau de poste
Sur la place de la ville
And though the memory
Is firmly impressed,
You did not speak French
And our meeting proposed
Did not take place,
But blew away
Like seeds escaped
From a dandelion’s tooth.

On the postcard
I wrote about
A dream preceding that very
Same night; I felt this need
To communicate its birth,
Its bald and blind occurrence.
We were back at that bungalow
Our grandmother built
And owned; after death,
The parcel of land
Divided up, small acre
Made unhindered by
Childhood imagination,
Where once we played
But do not any more,
We drank lemonade and
A home-made sponge,
Harvested peas and
Mowed the lawn,
Buried now beside
All future capability
To cope.
Well, a revolting mogul
Bought that land and soon
Demolished our home of hope,
With apartments compressed
Where once we roamed,
I entered his bleak building site
As if the shift in ownership
Remained unknown, observing
With deeply absymal passivity
His carpentry, in the hall
Where we shared a meal
At Adventide and Easter,
He crafted four ingenious stairs
Around a trunk revolving,
Other rooms – tarpaulins smothered,
And I realised an awful truth,
And ran as fast as I could
To the family car,
Outside that place
Upon an unadopted road.

And so I relayed this dream,
This apparition, on a card
In a dream that followed;
A card I did not
Otherwise post,
I woke in sweat,
Somewhat soaked,
Desperately attempting to
Achieve a meaning in
Those hollows, and finding
Nothing instead but sadness
For those unborn forms
A waking morning swallowed.

Pawprints In Snow

Snowfall,
Incorruptible,
Unpreventable
Flurries in melodies
Of white so composed.
I have no further claim
To a snowdrop’s name,
In damson-greys
A pre-dawn light,
For the sight of your
Unfolding
Spindling
Quintessence
Is the same feeling inside
The Roman frontiersman
With bones and sinew of ice
And the kindling world
Which is capricious when it comes
To obsolescence,
And her calcified husband
Have ever since felt
Under sandals
And Mercury’s frozen brogues
Also in caducean whiteness.
Bald white, furrows of white,
Cathedrals of trees
And choirs of sprites,
Unfurling burrs of fern-fronds
Have their cowls bowed down
In homage to such heathen genius
Of seasons long lost;
Icicles for arms,
A tetrahedral white,
And penuries of frost.

All things start with love,
For much like the snow
There are hundreds of words.
A crust of slush-smothered snow
Collapses from a rusty Lada’s
Rear window.
Snowfall, a sky-bound
Unicorn’s fleece untossed
Onto holly, and spiraea,
Mint and sage and mosses;
Chicken-wire befuddled and bent
In the shapes of dead clementine drunks
Observed from Moscow
Across to the Khanate of Kazan
Guarding crystal-lined Urals,
From St Petersburg to
The opulent gems of Tashkent,
The meanderings of memory,
A time that roared and went
Into spent exhaustions of
The walkable Volga.
Pawprints and clawprints,
Adipose and strange,
A chasing of tails,
A lifetime spent in shadows
Yet adamant for this existence
Did happen,
Did take place,
Much like a thought
In the cavernous yawns of today,
From where fell one or two fathoms
Destined to thaw, retreat
Down a chasm’s wake,
A singular, ever-unique
Snowflake.

Melt Like Butter

Butter on its own
Isn’t much to write home about,
But melted in the middle
Of a croissant, on a
Crescent-shaped plate,
At a hotel morning room
In the early fabled light
Only found in Istanbul,
Is transcendental.

And now I’m writing home,
Meditation on its own
Won’t fill letters from heaven,
But meditation on a lotus
In the eye of the dharma elevates
The breath and the floating moment
Into something translucent
As I meditate, alone,
On a parcel of butter.

Ode To Rhodes

Littoral landing strip,
A Dodecanese feature
Where you’re never more
Than a mile or four
From the Mediterranean.
You used to take your life
In your hands
When runways
Were little more than
Extensions of beaches,
Where sand swirled around
The slowing propellors
Like a sarong around
Euros’s daughter’s hips
As they saved Sparta
From a routing.

We avoided the bland
Concrete carcasses
Where anodyne hotels
Made mockeries of myths
And air-conditioned coaches
Turned in circles like
Steel moths regurgitating
Flocks of tourists.
An embarrassment of
Englishmen splashed on the
Melting macadam
Display still to this day
An art-form
Of complaints to
Patient pencil-moustached
Fluent majordomos,
And competitive pool-side
Societal traits.
We left our luggage in the room
Of a traditional taverna
On the hill across from
The old town, the heat
Of the evening reverberating
Like gecko veins,
The soft distant hum
From ferry engines,
You wore navy blue shorts
And I thought that your hair
Would cascade over your shoulders
Forever, as long as our hearts
Beat with iambic blood,
With the scent of sea salt
And blue sun-lotion bottles,
You wore the torc and
A bracelet bought from
A shop in the shade of
A side street in Kos.

We learnt a few Greek phrases,
We praised the waiters
Who danced the syrtaki
And later served
Tumblers of ouzo on ice,
A meze of tzatziki,
Goats cheese and
Flatbreads with rice.
I dreamt that night of
Sailing with you to Kiribati
On a balsa raft, and when
I retraced the possible
Meanings from my sleeping
Subconscious travels
You laughed, the sweetest
Feelings ever reaching my ears
Before or since, we
Embraced and kissed.
You said you loved
My unabashed romanticism,
Unwrapping the towel which hid
The book you stowed all that way
To surprise me.

The following week we flew
To Instanbul, then Baku,
Then through lush valleys and
Chasms beyond to Kabul,
Where nothing since
Nor with memory’s bonds
Could transcend or refocus
Seven days of sandy bliss,
The bones of my mind return
With heavy loads
Across the sun-browned
Mountain-tops, through
Secret coves
And olive groves,
To insights of a timeless love,
Within a timeless Rhodes.

An Elegy

The fallen ones do return, Marina,
With many roads to death, one exit;
Restored in rosemary and verbena,
They’d laugh at Pandemics and Brexit.

You see, nothing will change or fade,
Wheelwright’s brand humanity,
Where only wheels were ever made
For conveying misery.

Your golden hair was poet’s fire,
Verses like arson, exploding malpractice;
I could not disrobe the clothing of liars
The way you exposed them, a female Atlas

Condemned to bear a crate
Of man’s rotting apples, the weight
And the shape of a globe. Your gate
Wanted oiling, your river in spate.

So I thought again of my childhood,
Suppression is more than state-welded;
It spores like moss and ferns in the wood
Until darkness and sunlight are melded.

I rode a bike like a horse into battle,
The driveway my Sevastopol,
My pen’s an unsheathed sabre’s rattle,
Through fields of rye for alcohol

Fermented, how adulthood lamented
For the limits and shackles it made itself;
Carefully the state had creatives cemented;
Two decades later, your book’s on the shelf.

I am blessed, I could escape as matter stands,
I hope to never know the pressures
Which exist in the mind and the hands
Of wheat in the wake of the threshers.

Use powerful words to sentence strife,
Fly me, poets, to Yelabuga; 1941;
Let’s bring a poet back to life,
Let’s fill old age with her song.

 

The Diplomat

What exodus, the great
Denialist said to himself,
As he tore up carrots
From the soil with his mouth.

A barren wasteland,
Émigré brides,
They sit in their bars
And revere this weird pride.

Even flowers of plastic
He brought home for his wife,
And left in the bathroom
Had suddenly died.

Lost conversations,
And misplaced files,
Diplomatic communiques,
Men gathered in crowds

To inspect, solemn and wise,
Forlorn fields of crops in shale,
And miles of stray dogs,
Chasing their tails.