Tuesday, 30 April 2013

New poem: Vanessa

The finishing line! 30 days, 30 poems! Thank to those who have followed the blog and made kind comments.

A little challenge with poem. Is it a true story or merely made up?

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x


Vanessa
 
She is the girl
my mother warned me about.
Her kisses whisper songs stolen
from other lovers’ lips.
 
She walks with a sway
of relaxed assurance and
dangerous grace,
an assassin in dancer’s shoes.
 
She never left town
or settled down
and calls the hotel bar
her second home.
 
She didn’t recognise me,
the years casting camouflage
and the South has softened
once sharp vowels.
 
I’m amused she stops at my table,
the boy she never knew existed
back in the day. Later I will ask myself:
compliment or a lowering of standards?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Poem: Auto Pilot

So nearly there for NaPoWriMo!  Day 29/30 and it's nearly over.

Today's poem has a sombre background. I'm not one for long backstories to poems feeling they should speak for themselves. However, a little context here may be helpful.

I was driving back from closing the Cheltenham Poetry Festival late last night and keen to get home, I put my foot down. This reminded me of the many late night  journeys a couple of years ago when Dad was ill. I made the journey from Scarborough to home in Milton Keynes (about 200 miles) many times during the weeks before he slipped away. Travelling late at night meant clear roads and it's strange but I remember one journey when I had a moment of clarity; that one day that drive would be the subject of a poem. I'm ready now, so here it is.

Best, Mark x


Auto Pilot.
 
I am driving.
I am driving fast,
in the dark.
I am driving fast in the dark.
Cat’s eyes like dropped diamonds,
sparks from the stars
speeding
quick, quick, quick.
 
Driving like they do in films
scorching a line on a map.
Driving to home, from home
in that strange way we do,
caught between the two
Who am I?
Where is home?
Don’t think just drive.
 
I am a bullet from a gun
I am tracer fire
in war-torn skies
I am driving from death
from grief,
from a future without him.
Don’t think, just drive.
Drive, drive, drive.
 
I am arrow
straight, narrow.
I am speed on speed
driving on steroids
fully leaded
double espresso
I am a bullet from a gun
I am bullet
 
Before the caffeine wears off
before thoughts kick in.
Road bends, the earth curves
light bends
I am getaway car
with no escape
so drive, drive, drive.
Bullet from a gun.

Bullet,
bullet,
bullet.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A singer wakes and writes

I sing with a small choir and we performed a concert last night. We had a great time and helped raise money for a local good cause. They say write about what you know, so this what I know this morning.

Mark x

Singer wakes.
 
The morning after
the concert before.
The primary thought,
the throat is SORE!
Like swallowed sandpaper
then gargling chilli sauce.
 
Next, that satisfied afterglow
only performers know
of a show well sung
and the memory of applause
hung in the air, as if
invisible cherry blossom.
 
Then, the slow, slow splashdown,
a sense of deflation
as elation dissipates and
the cold air chisels at your resolve.
You’ve slept in, the heating is off
so you do the mental coin flip.
 
Bed wins, so you snuggle in
making yourself hedgehog,
gripping the duvet to keep reality out.
Residual heat keeps you warm as do dreams,
ripe with the promise of the next audience
and their cherry blossom.

 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Two triplet poems. Day 27 NaPoWriMo

These two poems are triplets. Poems of three stanzas of three lines of three words. I write a coople because just one felt like cheating. They explore a single thought or moment, very much like a haiku.

I hope you like them and give the form a go yourself

Mark x

 
Cocoon
 
Let my arms
be cotton wool;
safety and comfort,
 
protection and security.
Your own cocoon
for hibernation until
 
you wake, ready
to stand tall
in the world.
 

The first time
 
That first look,
when eyes locked
and something connected
 
is the look
you always wear
in my dreams.
 
Now we share
each morning, making
our dreams true.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Day 26 The things we do for love

A little poem inspired by a story I heard of someone who wanted to surprise his girlfriend with a quirky expression of love.

Have a great weekend everyone

Mark x

The things we do for love
 
You’d call the police
thinking him burglar or madman,
at the neighbour’s door with
a suspicious-looking canister.
In these hyper-vigilant days
“terrorist” might even ghost into your mind.
Yet this is love and genius
in equal measures.
 
The gas is helium and
that man,  love-struck extremist
that he is, is saying it with balloons
making a rainbow for her in the hall
one floating, fragile egg at a time
posted and inflated through the letterbox.
This is dedication, sideways thought and whimsy
in delicious and glorious technicolour.
 
He’s taking risks, turning “I love you”
from plagiarism back to original thought.
This is fever and lunacy, thankfulness and joyous abandon
tinged with barely acceptable levels of fear,
just like all love. He waits for her reaction;
hopefully, laughter and wonder and not
a future as short-lived
as those of the balloons.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The ticket. An open letter to Maria Miller about Arts Cuts

Sorry, it's a rant, but god do I feel better! I might try and record this one.

“The Ticket”  Or
“An open letter to Maria Miller on the subject of Prove Your Worth”.
 
Dear Mrs Miller,
 
I couldn’t help notice your speech recently
How the arts should “Prove their Worth”
And any decently-minded person
Knows in times of austerity
The lack of prosperity
Means sacrifices have to be made
But the carcass of the arts has been skinned and flayed
too many times for there to be anything left to cut.
However, in the face of your ifs and buts
Let me be gracious and bigger
And do your job for you with a few facts and figures.
 
Last year our town held a summer of culture
Costing £1.2 million pounds
But it wasn’t just niche artistic vultures
Who turned up for the sights and sounds
But punters from far and wide
Came to venues outdoors and inside
And gross income was £6.4 million
Over five times as much
And it seems to me such
An obvious conclusion to draw
You don’t need to be smart
But here’s what happens
when you buy a ticket for the arts.
 
Firstly the event needs to come to your attention
So marketing companies use their invention
Design a campaign and put the message out
By poster, adverts, brochures and spout
On the air and social media,
Telling you everything you need t' know
So that’s marketing, print and media industries grown.

You book a ticket by phone
So the phone people make money
Pay a fee to the agency
(Make sure they’re legit and not funny)
That’s yet more business supported by the Arts net
And you haven’t even left home yet
 
Take public transport and you're filling their coffers
But if they don’t have any special offers
You can drive your own car
For which you’ve paid insurance tax and road duty
And the biggest expense by far, (this is a beauty).
Is fuel of which the lion’s share is tax.
And we still haven’t got there
But you settle down and relax.
 
Because time’s getting on and you need to eat
So find a restaurant or bar to put up your feet
Spend your hard-earned on a meal and a drink
This all boosts the economy without having to think
 
And finally, finally, you get to the show
And when you get there, what do you know?
Money for programmes, drinks at half time
Ice-creams, souvenirs and the point of this rhyme
Is that there are so many industries relying in part
On that one ticket you bought for the arts.
 
The industry this philistine government is slowly choking
So please Mrs Miller are you teasing or joking
When trying to keep this argument alive
Every pound spend on the arts generates another four or five  
Mrs Miller, please come to your senses
Politicians love creative writing
I mean look at MP’s expenses
 
I’m going to finish this message
With a line that isn’t meant to be funny
Quote Bob Geldof to the Treasury and
“Give us your BLEEPing money”.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

New Poem: "Free Hugs (Terms and Conditions Apply)"

24 out 30 NaPoWriMo poems done but today's was not just an exercise.

This poem is for one particular friend for whom life over the last 12 months has been a long domino topple series of distressing, painful, unfair tragic loses. I want them to know someone cares and to make them smile and hopefully look to a time when tears will not be the norm.

If you have friends that could do with a lift or to let them know you care, I hope this poem will help do just that. Feel free to share.

Love, Mark x


Free Hugs (Terms and conditions apply)
A poem with bullet points and foot notes and how often does that happen?
 
I promise to pay the bearer
of this poem on demand,
a meaningful hug suitable for most purposes,
wherever* and whenever** needed.
 
You should bear in mind, pun intended!
that these are not ordinary,
everyday, run-of-the-mill hugs.
I am the King*** of Hugs.
 
Hugs on offer include, but are not limited to:
 
·        The “I’m tired and really should be in bed” hug.
·        The public hug for purposes of validation.
·        The “Life is crap but you will get through it” hug.
·        The boisterous hug of celebration. May include lifting and swinging!
·        The “I’m sorry for your loss” hug.
·        The quick and quiet “I need this but I can’t appear weak” hug.
·        The “Why are you so cross?” hug.
·        The slow and tight “Love is on its way no matter how things seem bleak” hug.
·        The private hug for when you need to shed a tear.
·        The “I can be your place to hide” hug.
·        The “Walking into your place of work and talking with nothing but our eyes holding each other for an entire minute in full view of everyone to show your co-workers you have no fear” hug.
·        And many more reasons besides hug.
 
Terms and Conditions

1.      The hug must be collected in person by the hugee for their own personal use. No subterfuge such as “I’m only collecting it for a friend” allowed. The first step to your future is admitting you need a hug.

2.      Hugs must be for legitimate and legal reasons. For example, I won’t hug you to make your husband or boyfriend jealous, or as a diversion so your partner can rob a bank.

3.      Hugs will be freely offered at all gigs in the future but can also be delivered by appointment.

4.      Hugs cannot be sexual!

5.      Okay, they can be slightly sexual. (At my age, slightly sexual is the best you’re gonna get).

6.      Hugs must be passed on to at least three people within the next calendar month. By my calculation if I hug one person a day and that person then hugs three other people, by 2019 the world will be a better place. Except for Swindon.
 
 Footnotes

* “Wherever” Whilst I’m happy to give my hug time for free as an act of pure altruism, if I have to travel, reasonable expenses should be paid.
** “Whenever” Don’t wake me up or approach me in restrooms please. That’s just creepy.
*** I am not an actual King, but hopefully, hugs will make you feel like royalty.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

For Harry, England and St George

It's easy to be cynical about so much of modern society but there is still lots to celebrate about England today. Here's my take on it.

Mark x

For Harry, England and St George

I am for England.
Not the overblown Imperialism we sometimes
mistake for heritage
but the little, local lovelinesses
that make up real life.
 
I am for bacon sandwiches with brown sauce,
church bells over village greens,
Elgar, allotments and standing in queues.
I am for neighbours pulling together
when it really matters.
 
I am for Stonehenge, Glastonbury
and celebrating every season’s wonder
sometimes in the same day.
I am for snow in May, sunshine in November
lambs in fields and lambs in kebabs.
 
I am for calling neighbours “Incomers”
because they’ve only lived here for three generations.
I am for the sympathetic barmaid who hearing
today’s hard luck story,
shows a little extra cleavage.
 
I am for eternal optimism at football in spite of
mounting contrary evidence and when every fan can pick a better team.
I am for pubs with a back yard like a bomb site
putting out two chairs and an umbrella
and a sign saying “Beer Garden”.
 
I am for garden parties, cucumber sandwiches and cream teas
Pimms and G ‘n’ T s,
pork pies and mushy peas.
I am for our national dish;
Chicken Tikka Marsala.
 
I am for brass bands and being confused
by Morris Dancers.
I am for canals and boaters,
for Cumbria and Cornwall and
all points in between.
 
I am for the heart, for compassion
for pubs raising money for local children.
I am for the Women’s Institute,
Rotary Clubs, Inner Wheels and their quiet good works
I am for the England that shames the government into caring.
 
I am for the city, the village,
the town, the hamlet.
Oh! I am for the Royal Shakespeare Company,
Modern Shakespeares like Ian McMillian and John Hegley,
for nights in boozers with pints and poetry.
 
I am for James Bond, Harry Potter,
Miss Marple and Peter Pan.
I am for the Beatles, The Who,
The Stones, Adele and accepting we’ll
never again win the Eurovision Song Contest.
 
I am for the new England
made up of many nations.
Each different race and face
proof of the time we saw a need and opened the doors.
I am for forgetting differences except to celebrate them.
 
I am for Welsh England, Irish England, Scottish England
Jewish, Muslim, Sikh,
Christian and atheist England
I am for Black England, Asian England, Chinese England
Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgender England.
 
I am for equal rights to do or be
whatever-the-hell-you-want
as long as
you don’t hurt another person
or their rights.
 
England and chips,
England with a flake and raspberry sauce.
I am for a cup of tea and slice of cake
God, you’ve no idea how much
I am for a cup of tea and a slice of cake!
 
England,
England,
England,
England
I am for you.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Poem 22 "This Summer"

22/30 in the Poem a day challenge for April. We can only hope for a good summer given the lousy spring so far.

Mark


This summer
 
And we shall dance this summer
when the warm winds finally arrive
on nights when mischief takes a walk
and only the reckless survive.
 
And we will drink this summer
deep of the grape’s sweetest draught;
the rain, the terroir and sunshine,
nature’s alchemy and maker’s craft.
 
And we shall sing this summer,
in duets of treble and bass,
score written on hearts, not staves
in harmonies of bronze and lace.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Latest poem


So it's now 21 done out of 30 and the downhill stretch for NaPoWriMo. Today's is a nostalgic poem and as in so many cases, I'm not quite sure where this poem beamed in from.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x
 
Ten o’ clock in the seventies
 
When Dad was not on a later finish,
it was his ritual; cup of tea and
a taste of something sweet watching the news,
as if he needed the world’s worst problems
as well as his own to chase him to sleep.
 
I would have been ushered upstairs by then,
each night stretching bed time to breaking point.
Sometimes I’d break curfew, watching the news,
staying mouse quiet curled on the carpet
as fingers of fire massaged my back.
 
Inventor of bullet points, News at Ten
or so it seems to me with each Big Ben
BONG announcing the world’s next misery;
Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Wise man, Donne
to foresee that from the sixteen hundreds.
 
Most nights, I heard the distant E major
from bed, the dot of the bell, the dash of
the headlines indistinct through doors and brick.
This moment anchors me in time, in place,
in family, secure until morning.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Poem 20 Bad Head

For the first time in three years of doing NaPoWriMo, I've missed posting a poem on the day. This was due to one of those headaches coupled with nausea that laid me low all of yesterday. It's now 4am the following morning and they say write what you know and this is what I've known the last 24 hours. I hope your day was much better!
 

Bad Head
 
A baseball cap sewn from pain
A tumble dryer full of rocks
Neck vertebrae that no longer
Talk but agitate like North and South Korea
Skull demands more space than skin will allow
A full bowl of water and the slightest
Hint of motion slops it in arcs of ache
Heat, pressure, jangled nerves
A sudden enmity to sound and light
Horizontal is my homeland
Solitude and quiet my homestead
Sleep my doctor
But no appointments available

 

 

 

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Opposite of the Blues

So here's today poem. Why? I wish I knew, but that's poetry for you. It's nice to have a poem without misery once in a while.

Best, Mark.


The Opposite of the Blues
 
Perhaps magnetic north has shifted
or El NiƱo
is benevolent now.
 
It may be a solar flare
firing rogue positively
charged neutrinos
 
but optimism,
the natural prey of the English
keeps finding  toeholds.
 
The evidence is stacking up;
the car starts first time
and on some mornings, so do I.
 
I was called Sir without
sarcasm or malice,
won a raffle, the ticket bought with guilt.
 
I don’t know what it all means but  
know enough not to question, but savour
when winds of fortune change.
 
I’m trying not to panic,
to give any hint this is anything
less than normal
 
the good table by the window
an upgrade accepted with practised courtesy
dessert on the house.
 
Those close start to notice
but don’t say it straight out.
Hugs are tighter
 
and come with sound effects.
Your picture is central
on the mantelpiece,
 
you are this week’s
favourite uncle,
Dad thinks about the word “proud”.
 
Your best friend’s wife’s kiss
after years of landing on the cheek
meets you on the lips, and lingers.

 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A poem about Friends

I have some great friends. Friends for whom the word friend, is inadequate. If you feel like that about someone, this poem is for you and them.

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x



To whom it may concern
(names have been expunged to protect the embarrassed).
 
You will read this and know who you are
“Friend” is too small a word
for what we have become;
 
not big enough
not good enough
not broad enough.
 
Google tells me there are at least
five Greek words for love
and this is none of them
 
by themselves.
“Friend” and “love” need to evolve
to catch up with today’s shades of meaning.
 
This is not a Hollywood kiss,
bedroom eyes and unfulfilled desire,
(you may now audibly exhale your relief)
 
this is fire of a different sphere where, belief
pride, thankfulness, good cheer and like minds
shakes into a perfect summer cocktail, like
 
the slight sigh a jigsaw piece yields
when pressed into
its proper place,
 
completing the big picture
as if there was a god
after all.
 
The British hardly acknowledge
this kind of love,
as if they haven’t been introduced
 
and saying hello
would be bad form.
So let’s just stick with “friends”
 
knowing we’re within
touching distance of “love”,
but keeping it our little secret.

 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Connected Poem 17/30 NaPoWriMo


 
This poem was inspired by a tweet on Sunday

“Go to BBC News, see Boston story. Click away in horror to UK news, see Lowestoft story. Rub eyes, hug son, make tea”.


Connected
 
You think you’re safe
with the BBC.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.
 
Being connected isn’t always the blessing
it seems to be.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.
 
The modern father’s duty
includes spam filter.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.
 
Going off grid isn’t that
off kilter.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.
 
Days like these are valuable
for reflection.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.
 
A reminder that family
is your one true connection.
Rub eyes, hug son, make tea.

Monday, 15 April 2013

I am a cheat ! Day 16, poem 16 Choir Mates

Okay, so this feels like a cheat in a few ways:

1. It's just after midnight in the UK so technically it's the 16th
2. Technically I wrote it on the 15th.
3. It is very light and frothy but then,  a lot of my stuff is.

In my defence, I have a very busy day tomorrow and if I didn't do it this way, it wouldn't get done. I'm busy with poetry stuff though: Running a school slam in MK and then jumping in my car to drive 100 miles to Hampshire for a gig. All good stuff though. Here's the poem then, inspired by being part of a choir.

Choir Mates
 
We stand so close so frequently
at rehearsal after rehearsal.
Has something changed in the air recently
Is it me, or universal?
 
Perhaps it’s the music working its spell,
It could be some sort of fever.
Induced by the talent I’ve come to love so well
Of basses, tenors, altos and divas.
 
But sparks fly as touches and glances
Have been exchanged discreetly,
I think I might just take my chances
If you continue to smile so sweetly.
 
The urge to kiss you has me in a whirl
I can’t hold on much longer,
And when I stand next to any of the girls
The feeling is even stronger.
 
(I told you it was light!)

Hillsborough - Sonnet for the Ninety-Six


A little context for this poem as I know NaPoWriMo poets and readers come from all over the world.

Today is the 24th anniversary of the worst football disaster in British history. At Hillsborough in Sheffield, 96 fans of Liverpool FC were crushed to death at a Cup semi-final. Police, politicians and the media blamed the fans for everything from causing the deaths to picking the pockets of the dead. Finally, justice was served, the fans cleared and the blame laid at the appropriate doors. You can read more here

All those who love football and their fans stand with the families and friends of the lost, no matter their own team allegiance and here is my poem for them.


Hillsborough - Sonnet for the Ninety-Six
 
Which takes longer to pass, justice or grief?
Impossible to tell in Liverpool.
Families stood firm in dignified belief,
their hollow reward; unmasked lies and fools.
Cops and government trust ripped at the seams,
the two-faced Sun will never shine again.
Guilty only of too much love for  team
shown in blood and billboards at Leppings Lane.
 
Waves of love and empathy flow towards
a city whose passion runs blue and red.
Two rival teams for once both sheath their swords
to pay respects to the now cleared dead.
And though words themselves can never atone
All teams’ crowds sing, “You’ll never walk alone”.