Wednesday, 27 July 2016


I met a traveller from an antic land
who said: 'A solitary baseball cap
lies in the crater. Near it, on the ground,
the wreckage of a portrait lies, whose frown,
absurdist wig and perma-blasted tan
show that its painter caught well how grotesque
life has become, when such unlifelike things,
mocked as they were, beguiled us to elect
this squamous filth which fattens on our fear.
The psychopath we welcomed as our King
brought ruin to his kingdom in a year,
and with it went the world. No things remain:
on every side the line of sight lies bare.
Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair.'

(after Percy Bysshe Shelley, fairly obviously)

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Second Coming (2016)

(fairly obviously after W.B. Yeats )

Turning and turning in the media cycle's
Discordant broadcast vortex,
things fall apart; the centre has to fold;
evil banality at large within the world,
the Trumpblessed tide unleashed, and everywhere  
the sometime sense of decency  is drowned:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
a shape with sealion body, head of man,  
gaze blank and pitiless as the Sun,  
is moving his slow thighs, while all about him
reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
that twelvescore years of mission creep
were hexed in primetime by a Shepard’s fable:
What rowdy zeitgeist, des Zeit nun gekommen
Kreucht, um geboren zu werden, Bethlehem zu?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

At War with a Waltish World

Time was, a fella knew he knew the score:
knew what was kosher, spotted what was bobbins.
but who's to say what’s Waltish anymore,

now kids hold phones out, trying to catch monsters
and graduate to flying robot bombers,
pushing buttons, racking up high scores

for killing human beings, not orcs and goblins?
One click, one kill, the birds can have the bodies.
Who’s to say what’s Waltish anymore,

when toffs write figures on the side of buses,
then, smiling, say they never meant those numbers?
Tap your nose, make out you know the score,

then learn new steps to dance to what that score is.
The word they use is sprezzatura. Nonces.
There isn’t time for thinking anymore.

Be used for what they use you for down here,
Where sellouts prosper, and the good are punished.
Time was, a fella knew he knew the score:
Now, who's to say what’s Waltish anymore?

           *           *         *

A lot of slang comes from the military: some crosses over into general usage, some doesn't.  The UK military coinage 'Waltish', meaning unbelievable, dodgy, etc (think Mitty), while being a phrase I'm fond of, hasn't.

I've been experimenting, over on Incidents of Trespass, with writing in different voices. With the release of the Chilcot report I began thinking about military registers,  and had the idea of writing something somewhat after Kipling, a barrack room ballad for an era of endemic duplicity. From then it was only a short step to the notion of Waltishness and hence the poem you just read. Something of an oddity in my output, but I had fun writing it anyway. It's good to experiment!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Bastille Day, Nice

We were building perfect prisons while pretending we were free.
We were making boys fuck German Shepherds for democracy.
We all voted for the man who said he’d close Guantanamo:
we were suckers for a winning smile, a poster captioned HOPE.

We were killing from the comfort of a luxury hotel,
paid for on the credit card. Don’t ask and never tell
was how it worked. Submitting our unitemised receipts:
everyone was doing it. We ought to have a piece

of all the new prosperity, the end of boom and bust.
History had ended: in the Market we would trust.
The few who might object would catch a bullet from our drones:
we’d tut and say ‘the future, eh?’ Then back to Game of Thrones.

It never would have lasted. For a while we thought it would.
We took their money, did their work, pretended we were good.
From the Southbank Centre balcony we’d look across the Thames
and see a world that worked. We will not see that world again.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

PTS Been There, Done That

‘[Bank of England governor Mark Carney…] discussed uncertainty and what he termed “economic post-traumatic stress disorder” among households and businesses.’ The Guardian, 30/06/2016

Why do you complain? You were always ahead of the game:
if the whole world is yearning to go down the hole
that you’re only emerging from now, why complain?

When they suggest the gestalt’s in traumatic paralysis,
unable to act while compulsive analysis grips it,
accept: you were always ahead of the game,

if they’re going where you’ve been since August
last year, if you shudder to know all that
they’ll have to fear, then why do you complain?

You’re in on the ground floor, already embedded:
you know that it only hurts when you let it,
but you know they will, because you’re ahead of the game.

You know the flashbacks are hard to resist.
You’ve scratched calendars into the back of your wrists.
You know nobody sane’s looking forward to this,
but you know you’re no longer what they would call sane:
so why would you complain? You were always ahead of the game. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Referendum Poem

You cheered when you saw the news today,
so glad to have your country back at last.
You did it! But it won’t be you who’ll pay.

Two years, at least, before we break away:
by then your better days will be long past.
You cheered when you saw the news today

because, for you, so little seems at stake,
so why not nail your colours to the mast?
You did. But it will not be you who’ll pay:

your children and their children have to face
the consequences, while your cackling ghost
recalls the cheer with which it hailed the news that day,

Great Britain once more great again! Hooray!
Your children and their children didn’t laugh.
You did. But it will not be you who’ll pay:

the young will be hurt most, denied their say,
will live the longest with what you unleashed.
You cheered when you saw the news today:

we didn’t. We know far too well who’ll pay.