Toy Town

Toy Town

They had nailed him to the wall, palms first
his plastic feet cracked under hammers,
just out of reach, still wearing combat pants
with a crew cut and a scar on his cheek.
A day later he was joined by a bearded one
in khaki, also pinned the way of the cross.
Naturally, everyone was expecting a third,
but four cruciform Barbies materialised
in veils and full bridal wear, accompanied
by a row of pastel Kens dressed for golf,
impaled into brick through their stomachs.
The healing started after the scented candles
and flowers left in vigil as crowds gathered
to sing Elton and Robbie, swaying as one.
A former footballer who’d been paralysed
in a cup tie against Burnley walked again.
A mother and son juggling act from Leeds
qualified for the Britain’s Got Talent final.
A cat in a coma retuned to life on Facebook.
A bald financial adviser grew realistic hair.
In a week, the wall was a fretwork of limbs,
twisted heads, tutus, bazookas and ponies,
cordoned off by community policemen.
But no amount of uniform or striped tape
could have stopped the lit cigarette butt
flicked from a joyridden Astra GTI to nest
in the rubbery frogman crotch of a GI Joe.
Within seconds a fireball raged, the faithful
ran screaming and, like a cheese from hell,
faith bubbled into the gutters and drains.
From an acrid cloud, a new wall emerged,
bright with nails and moonlight.

Runner-Up in the 2017 Poetry Society Stanza Competition announced on National Poetry Day

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The Future Perfect Tense

They will never have been so beautiful
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white tulle misting over blue water,
morning suit as faint as distant smoke
as the candy stripe golf cart edges into shot.
Years later they will have asked who’s the man
with a gloved hand in pink plaid shorts?
Will he have been the secret agent who was sent
to the resort by one of the agencies of despair
with marital bed bombs and mortars of remorse
Or just another questing American
who had lost a ball and needed the nearest bar?
They will never have been so complete
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white mist, distant smoke, interrupted.
Couples many times more married gaze on,
slung up between palms in rattan hammocks
sipping hi-octane cocktails mid-afternoon,
waiting for the cicadas and salted snacks.

Commended by Brian Patten in the Milestones
international poetry competition, 2017

All Fall Down

i.m. Jo Cox M.P. for Batley and Spen

Over the Kazakh steppes
an Englishman drops from space
in a frilly white jellyfish
landing with a powder puff.
“The smell of Earth is so strong,”
he reminds us before he’s carried
to safety like a baby, woozy
with ozone and wonder.

In Yorkshire, Hate stalks the lanes,
spraying petals into the gutter
because kindness frightens Him
more than death or insignificance.
A thousand Poundland candles
now blaze like daisies in the rain
making felt-tipped condolences
run to mascara upon the grass.

But we’re still too wobbly
with stargazing to hear Hate rage
in court “Freedom for Britain!”
Freedom for the misfit triangle
that slipped off its Continent
to drift in a moist blue ball,
snapped at 5 miles per second
by adoring astronauts.

Relax, I now have control of The President

I entered via his red silk tie at the weekend.
Access through other orifices will now be denied.
After the Intervention and a light sleep
he fed sparrows some cake in the Rose Garden.
His recovery is progressing better than expected.
The copy of The Bell Jar that he placed by his bed
he discovered in the White House Library.
It carries a dedication and kiss from Jackie Kennedy.
His new veganism will come as a surprise to many.
Expect Executive Orders giving federal support
to lentil and chick pea production in the rust belt.
His planned beard should follow his current hair
with backcombed sideburns and ginger soul patch.
I’m pleased to say he took easily to the pink mankini
in which he’ll dress for next week’s press conference
with a new mascara and rouge he’s modelling
for new Secretary of Homeland Security, Shakira.
The proposed repeal of both the death penalty
and the 2nd Amendment he intends to celebrate
with a concert by Neil Young and Henry Rollins,
sponsored by Patron tequila and Mexico Tourism.
The final appointment to his all-women Cabinet,
Sharon Olds, starts her Senate hearing next week.
The First Lady has been released back into society.
She plans to devote her life to elephant welfare.
The President will be meeting Justice Secretary
Toni Morrison to reinstate facts as a benchmark
for truth: alternative facts will come with warning
from The Surgeon-General and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
All scientists are requested to emerge from hiding
to return to their labs and classrooms immediately.
I hope you enjoy putting your new President to work.
Please take care with Democracy going forward
and don’t mention pee-pee. We can’t afford a relapse.

The Myth of the Myth of Sisyphus

The lad reads Camus like Sisyphus,
every Penguin page so inclined
that the meaning might roll back
with a groan into cerebral rubble.
He says truth’s just a bigger boulder,
harder to shoulder, shape or throw,
gathering speed but no moss…

(moss)
which older men should mould
as a felten hat to cool their brains
or sport as a velveteen jacket to dine
in places with strict dress codes
so that they may complain about
the dreadful amount of piss
the ruling class leave on the loo seat…

(loo seat)
the last porcelain bastion of thought
on the digital plains of distraction
where cats battle it out with cakes,
side-boobs and Presidential candidates
all as sweaty and convicted as crusaders
waving their many pouted Selfies
like Madonnas…

(Madonna)
whose cult is overdue a comeback,
– Joseph’s wife, not Guy Ritchie’s –
to be venerated with roadside shrines
by bus stops, piled with stone cairns
showing how far our myths have come
since Sisyphus, Prometheus and
that fire the Gods still want back.

Shortlisted in the 2016 Live Canon Poetry Prize

Cargo

A boy slips through a break in the chain link
down to the creek where the silt unfolds,
recumbent, slick-skinned, more than ready
for its thick veined estuary to come home.
He picks across the flats with his school bag
trailing herring gulls and something eggy.

He’s collecting the pocks, flecks and shards
from this mud-welted margin of the past:
pot handles, a buckle, a marble eye,
coins faint with kings, queens and tridents,
a long white bone worn flute smooth,
a medal celebrating motherhood.

It’s all been lockered fast under his bed
which sails every night down the high street
along rivers planted with humankind
who branch up tattered as scarecrows
begging that you hear their history
before they wash to weeds on the waking tide.

He’s late for class because his feet have stuck
so he waits for the waters to free them
as dockyard cranes make equations in the sky.
A bright red container hangs from cables
dense with bar codes and fast machines
selling happiness, flat-packed from far away .

Commended in the 2016 Wild Atlantic Words Competition 

 

 

8th November, 2016

Something made us smaller today,
pushed under scudding bulletins.
TV polls predict a humbling.

You can already see the landslide
burying light behind the eyes
that sell us flat whites and pastries.

You can nose out the rot of hope
in burger bars and betting shops
where we snack down on fat and luck.

Even the bus stop tastes of Trump,
here in my newly foreign land.
In other news they forecast snow.

We’re just grateful for the blanket.

Published in The Irish Times the day after the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.