27 September 2010

The Norse Mystery

The Swedish bloodline passes down
Each man is his father's son.
Anders, Lars, Erik, Karl
Where have all the Vikings gone?

Your forbears' longships ploughed the sea
Importing death to Saxon shores
Today you send us Volvos, Saabs
Billy bookshelves, hardwood floors.

Raiding parties, rape and pillage,
Axes that cleft skulls in two
Replaced by mild mannered Borg
And Abba singing Waterloo.

Where's the Viking spirit gone?
Does time dilute your bloodline Sven?
Ikea, Abba, Volvo, Saab
Are all that's left of Viking men.

13 February 2010

The Funeral

The Funeral
“'Crossing is not as hard as you might think.'
I had not thought that it would be like this.”

I waited outside the Norman country church
with the pallbearers, standing under the yew trees
unwarmed by the low sun, chilled by the hoar frost.

Stamping their feet on the frozen ground
their breath hanging on the wintry breeze,
they paid me no attention;  I ached with cold.

They shouldered the heavy, oak coffin
slow marched step by deliberate step, knees
bent to enter under the ancient stone arch.  

I went with them, hoping to slip in
but as they paused in the doorway
the crowd of heads turned to stare,

Reproachful, tearful.  I made slow process
Down the aisle to the sole empty place
Reserved for me.

Words of welcome from the priest; a hymn
half-sung half-mumbled, a poem, a eulogy
from a friend described a man I did not know.

Another mangled hymn, the blessing,
we filed out into the bitter morning gathered
in supportive groups around the grave.

I watched from afar.  I had already departed.

8 November 2009



I am the same person now as I was at 18

In name only.

Every single cell has died and been renewed.

Each hair, once black now grey,

Has grown, been cut, and grown again.

Nails too.  Bitten. Cut. Blackened. Regenerated.

Emotionally weathered by time.

More confident, but less certain.

Outlooks broadened. Waistline too.

Taller. Older. More experienced. 

But wiser?

Only the name remains the same.

And the eyes.

The eyes never change.

A thread through time.

Linking two different people

Who share my name.

17 October 2009

The Passenger

The Passenger

Driving at night
down a country lane
no moon, no stars, clouds
mile after mile after mile
only my thoughts
and the radio for company.

Suddenly I feel your presence
          Next to me,
As real as the rain
the road, the wind.
I turn to see your smile,
the light in your eyes
And am alone again
With thoughts of you.

25 August 2009

Not A Patch

Not a Patch

The anthem of today’s bored youth
pulsates to the beat of disco drums.
Boy soldiers slouch in silence before
the salient of the computer screen,
fighting online battles
with comrades in armchairs.
Enlivened by this false adrenaline
their roll of honour the high score board.

In their busy lives they have no time
for the straight backed old men
at the thousand cenotaphs
with medals, berets, wreaths
and memories of last moments, vivid as yesterday,
of comrades who died in arms and lived real lives,
their anthem the Last Post
played to the beat of the funeral drum.

Wilfred, Siegfried, Rupert
Wrote the poetry and died.
But late in life Harry spoke the truth
“Too many died. War isn’t worth one life”.

10 June 2009

Streets of Berlin

Streets of Berlin

No matter how hard you scrub
Some stains cannot be removed.

The pavements are immaculately clean.
Litter is not tolerated. The parks are
Carefully manicured. The public buildings
Rebuilt, modelled in the modern style.

A memorial marks the place where books
Were burnt. The Gestapo headquarters
Are now a museum. The flags of Europe
Hang where Swastikas once flew.

Cars throng the wide open boulevards
Where endless ranks of soldiers marched
And row after row after row of
Tanks rolled past the silent and awestruck.

But the dead still twitch the curtains
At their apartment windows and peer
Nervously into the street. They wait
For the knock on the door.

They stand, unseen, in long shuffling
Lines at railway stations to board
Trains clutching their suitcases and
Their children's hands and one-way tickets.

The Wall is down and fragments sold
To eager tourists. But a scar runs across
The city's memory and white crosses
Mark where hope died in search of freedom.

Berlin. A living memorial to men's inhumanity
To Man. The cross still glistens on the radio tower.

But some stains cannot be removed
No matter how hard you scrub.

5 April 2009

The London Tourist Guide

Picture by Caroline

I have been fascinated by Postman’s Park which is a memorial tucked away in the heart of the City of London. There is an excellent blog describing it here. There are also interesting pieces on it here and here. This is my attempt to describe it, written (with apologies) in the style of one of my favourite poems.

The London Tourist Guide

“And here, ladies and gentlemen, only a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s

Is Postman’s Park. On two sides of this grassy strip the towering walls

Of City offices eclipse the sun. The winding path, the ferns and trees,

Stray tombstones like scattered rocks, echo a silent valley floor. Please

Shall we sit and rest a moment? Over to your right you’ll see

The memorial for which this place is known. Fifty three

Victorian ceramic tablets, crafted by Royal Doulton, plain in design,

Immortalising forgotten acts of self-sacrifice. They combine

To tell stories of selfless courage, a registry of heroic acts,

Each plaque detailing with brutal simplicity the facts

Of how one person gave their life to save another.

Harry Sisley of Kilburn, aged 10, drowned in attempting to save his brother

After he himself had just been rescued.” In those few words one cannot tell

The full story of the tragedy, the living hell

Of parents who on the same day lost two small boys

Drowned in each other’s arms. But Harry Sisley’s name lives on

Fired in clay for all to see, and still will be, when you and I are gone

And forgotten. Where are our modern heroes? The ice still cracks.

The fires still burn. Deep water still claims young lives. But would we act?

Or in our indecision simply call for help if faced with tragedy?

Enough. We must move on. Next on our tour we’ll discover the Old Bailey ….”