Suspended from school- the ultimate sanction

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The Dairy of John-Boothroyd-Smythe-May 24th, 2016

(well, he is dyslexic: Editor)

 

Okay, Mum is going ballistic.  No one has a sense of humour

nowadays.  I only tied my old mobile to the pipes in the boys’

bogs for a laugh.  Mrs Fisher-Gyles should have recognised my

voice.  My Middle East accent isn’t that good and I said,’Dash‘,

instead of ‘Daesh.’

So now I am suspended- not literally, from the flagpole, but as

good as.

Snod wants to see me before Mum has to collect me, but the old

fart has flu.  Apparently it is the first time he has been off since

Rorke’s Drift, or something.

.

I hope I don’t catch something from him- apart from an ability

to memorise Latin verb tables, which could prove handy for

GCSE.

May 25th, 2016

Had to hand in an overdue essay to Mr Milford-Haven on the

subject: Does Art imitate Life, or vice versa?

How should I know?  I haven’t lived long enough to work it out.

Except, there was something weirdly familiar when I went up

to have my interrogation with Old Snod.  I mean, we had just

been reading ‘Catcher in the Rye‘ in English- I mean in class- and

the whole episode was a bit of a re-run of Chapter 2, when

Holden goes to call on his old History teacher who has the grippe,

but who still finds the strength to grip his student’s metaphorical

collar in a headlock manoeuvre.

The minute I knocked on his door, I wanted to leave.

He barked: Come in boy! and started to cough.

Snod was propped up on some old sofa, with his horrible white feet

with their yellow soles, right in my line of vision.

I mean, in some cultures it is rude to show the soles of your feet.

I wondered if I should tell him, but he just scowled: Sit Down! and

started coughing again.

If I catch this lurgy I am going to get my parents to sue the school,

but technically I might not be a pupil at the moment.  It depends when

the suspension- or, is it expulsion?- dates from.

I had to move a box of Kleenex off a stool before I could sit down.  There

was no hand sanitiser around, and I was getting worried, as I probably

don’t have immunity to all the shit these old guys got in their long-

distant youth.  Bubonic plague and stuff.  Lot of it about in Natal back

then.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the monogram, logo thing on his manky old

towelling dressing gown.  Sad!  It was the school crest.  It must have been

a thousand years since any of that nightwear shit was regulation uniform.

He probably nicked it from Lost Property a millennium ago.

So, you finally got the axe?  was all he said.

I was a bit taken aback, as I was sure this was a re-enactment of the

Holden interview- and I don’t mean Amanda.  I mean, he has probably

never heard of her.  Even Dad hasn’t.

HoldenLondon.jpg

(Holden in London, 2014.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/photoday 2008/15537332380/)

 

I’m talking to you, boy!

Yes, sir!

What was your game?

Just larking around, sir!

Snod trumpeted into a Kleenex and examined the effluent.  Gross! 

(Mental note: Avoid shaking hands with him at the termination of the

interview.)

He threw the rolled up tissue across the room and hit the waste paper

basket, demonstrating his famed skills as a bowler, which I personally

witnessed at last year’s Staff v Pupils match.  We still won, though.

Good aim, sir!

Snod sat bolt upright and chucked a copy of The Classics Quarterly- the

boring magazine he always tries to add to our end-of-term bills for

Extras’ –off his bed thingy and onto the floor.

And what exactly is your aim in life, boy?

I looked rather blank.

Because I have had to fail you on so many occasions for not making the

slightest attempt to learn any of the conjugation tables.  Amavi…he

commanded.

Eh, amavisti, amavit…

So you’re not quite as stupid as you look, he said.

I don’t think they’re allowed to say things like that now, but I took

it as I kinda respect the old buffer.  He tells it like it is.

Fetch me your mock paper!  It’s on the davenport.

I didn’t have a clue what a davenport was, so I just followed

his gaze.

Bloody h… He had looked out all my past papers, since

Transitus A.

Thirty eight percent.  What was going through that brain of yours?

I couldn’t help it, sir.  It was all the drawings.  They distracted me.

What drawings?  Do you mean the illustrations in your textbook?

Yes, sir.  I learn visually. I really liked that drawing of the retired

guy who left his plough and came back to govern after he’d retired.

 I can imagine you doing that, sir.  I thought a bit of flattery might

distract him.  I continued to gabble:  And I liked the guy who put

his hand in the fire and kept it there.  And all those guys who put baby

foxes down their togas and let them gnaw at their vitals– I said ‘vitals

as I wasn’t sure if ‘privates‘ was a term to use in front of one’s

Senior Master.

Zeno of Citium pushkin.jpg

(Zeno of Citium, Stoic school.  Shakko-own work

pushkin.jpg ; Jan 2008. Pushkin Museum cast. Original: Naples)

 

Stoics, boy!  And it wouldn’t harm you to develop some discipline.

And perseverance, endurance…

He always goes on about that when it’s his turn to take Assembly.

Even I know he pinched it from the Apostle Paul telling everyone

that, even if you have a shitty time, it is good for you- ultimately.

Fruits of the Spirit they are called, I think. Fruits of the loom are on

a t-shirt logo and I think they represent a cornucopia.  See, I’m not

that bad at vocab.

Guys still put ferrets down their trousers, I ventured.

Nothing to do with it!  he snorted.  What I am saying is that even

when philosophers did apparently stupid things, they had some

methodology to their behaviour.

Madness, I interrupted.  Method in their madness.

He looked as if he was going to explode, but it was maybe just his

high temperature.

No.  I am wondering why you never seem to have any rationale to

your acts of random folly.

I didn’t know if this was a declarative or an interrogative.  I wondered

if I should ask him and he might be pleased that I had been listening

in English Language.

Sir?

Forethought!

Never heard of it.  Foreskin, maybe.  Hoped this wasn’t going to

become a sex talk about pubes and shit like that.

These ancient stalwarts of the Classical World did not go around playing

silly games with mobile phones, he splurted.

That was only because they didn’t have the technology, sir.

I thought he’d be pleased that I was aware of anachronism.  That

was another thing we learned in English recently.

He swallowed one Paracetamol after another, in rapid succession.

I was going to tell him that taking too many can give you liver

failure, but I reckoned his liver was probably on its way out anyway.

Do you think we all enjoy seeing you fail?

Not a lot, sir, I suppose.

The army.  That’s where you’d do well. Knock the insubordination

out of you.  Might be the making of you.  I’ll suggest the cadets to

your mother.  Bomb disposal.  Hmmm.  You might enjoy that.  You

certainly have a nerve, if not the nerve for it.

Thank you, sir.

I think the old boy still has the intuition in Career Advice.  He’s

not too wide of the mark.  I hope Mum agrees.  Dad will be pleased

that someone has an idea of what to do with me.

And it can’t be more dangerous than being in a stuffy room,

breathing in the same fug as a viral schoolmaster.

I stood up and forgot to avoid shaking his hand.  Yuck. Where’s the

nearest sanitiser?  But at least I had my revenge by touching the whole

banister and every door handle on the way down.  Biological warfare.

Revenge is sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sestina for Spideog Mhuire

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Spideog Mhuire means robin of (Virgin) Mary

 

(image from The Sherborne Missal, c1400)

 

At Eucharist a robin, with its song,

drowns out the Gloria and brings to life

a sermon.  The Spatzenmasse, miracle

of Mozart, somehow cannot bless

the congregation more than this small bird,

who had significance in the lives of saints.

 

Kentigern and Servanus were the saints:

the former (Mungo) restored a robin’s song,

after his peers tortured and killed the bird.

The bishop had mourned its loss of life.

Some other holy men had cause to bless

robins.  In Brittany, a miracle

 

occurred when monks needed a miracle;

a robin brought a sheaf of wheat to saints,

who’d ploughed, hoping that Nature would then bless

them with a harvest.  They’d brought no seed. Song

reminded them there would have been no life,

nor church for them, by Autumn, save for that bird.

 

At the Nativity, one little bird

shielded the Christ child, in a miracle,

preserving from immolation His life

and singeing its own breast.  Honoured by saints

for perching on the cross, singing its song,

removing thorns, thus being pierced.  We bless

 

it for blushing in deference.  To bless

The Holy Family’s footsteps, this tiny bird

covered their tracks, filling their Flight with song:

their salvation a kind of miracle.

And when it warbles with the choir, saints

sense affirmation of eternal life.

 

God’s holy men-the robin and wren-give life

to small beginnings; prosper and bless;

cheer in dark days of winter all the saints,

past and present, and the fall of one bird

is known to the Divine.  The miracle

of creation imbues its warbling song.

 

May the miracle of this bird’s song,

chirruping in garden, or in hallowed space, bless

and give life to all dejected saints.

 

 

 

Slightly Stewed

(Photo: Mendhak  http://www.flickr.com/photos/69135870@NOO/3402)

 

I’m not sure we should have asked her about Mr C, said Diana

hesitantly.

Well, if you don’t ask…, replied Virginia, sipping her tea which

was slightly stewed.  Do you think Mr C is definitely deceased?

Hmmm, I remember her saying that men were only good for two

things and, when everything is over, including the shouting, at least

you get to sleep in the middle of the bed.

So, you think ‘over’ might mean he’s popped his brogues? 

Virginia considered this melancholy thought and then

brightened: What was the other thing men were good for?

In Mrs C’s book, reaching items from high shelves in the kitchen,

laughed Diana.  Wheesht!  Here she comes with clouds descending

But it was a false alarm.

I wonder where our blokes have got to? remarked Virginia, looking

at the old railway clock, which Murgatroyd had purchased for a

song when Dr Beecham was doing his worst in the Borders.

On cue, the duo appeared, looking rather sheepish.

Oh, we wanted to discuss the piper’s tunes with you, Diana stated

with a slight reprimand in her vocal tone. We’ve vetoed ‘Highland

Cathedral’ -too vulgar-and, for obvious reasons, we ruled out ‘For All

Those Endearing Young Charms’ and ‘The Cradle Song.’  I suppose

Dru might like them, however.  Nigel said he likes ‘The Maid I adore’

or ‘Cailin Mo Ruinsa.’

The chaps joined them round the table.

Gus smiled:  The latter sounds like a presagement of disaster.

Well, make some suggestions then, Virginia expostulated.

How about ‘Colin’s Cattle?’  He had obviously done his homework,

like the conscientious schoolmaster he had always been- since the

cradle.

Isn’t that a tad too…bovine? Diana asked.

It’s a very good retreat march, supplied Snod.

Murgatroyd laughed.  Where’s the tea?

Mrs C now appeared on cue, carrying a heavy tray.

Whit aboot ‘Cock O’ The North? she winked, spilling some tea.

Diana raised her eyebrows.

‘Once bitten; Twice Shy’ is another good one, Mrs C continued,

plopping four sugar cubes in a cup and handing the Diabetes

Type-1 inducing brew to Gus with a wink.

He who pays the piper calls the tune, Mrs C, nodded Snod.

And, for my money- and I believe I have agreed to take the music

expenses on myself- I have decided on ‘When The Battle’s O’er.’

So, that’s that then? queried Diana, pushing the stewed cuppa to

one side.

I think we can all agree on the semantic content of the preposition

‘over,’ Snod said, magisterially.  Now, where are those bannocks? 

Murgatroyd and I are famished.

You are not at school now, Gus! Virginia rebuked him, but everyone

knew he was never elsewhere, at least in mental terms.

So be it, Murgatroyd stood up.  I’m off to get the cheese knife. 

Then we men can fall on it, laughed Gus.  Seriously, though, it’s a

rousing tune.

Aye, and some of you need a’ the rousin’ ye can get, commented

Mrs C, who had noticed that her brew was largely under-

appreciated.

Mrs C!  I think something’s burning in the kitchen.

Och aye, that’ll be the bannocks.  She set off at her usual pace-

to wit, unhurried.

Diana shrugged:  You can’t get the staff nowadays!

It’s the same in schools, agreed Snod, downing his mugful in

one.  It was exactly as he liked tea, down to the quadruple sweeteners.

But I think she does well for her age.  She remembers how many

sugars I take.

Oh yes, Virginia butted in. And I don’t?  Is that it?

How many then? Snod  couldn’t resist an impromptu test.

Too many, replied Virginia tersely.

They all laughed.

 

 

Pokey hats

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Strawberry ice cream cone (5076899310).jpg

(strawberry ice cream cone, 2010

TheCulinaryGeek from Chicago, uploaded by Mindmatrix)

 

 

The guys hadn’t returned and so the wedding preparation discussions

continued.

Ice cream bike, or not?

Virginia had suggested the latter, but Diana mixed up the tricycle concept

with a chocolate teapot.

Won’t it melt? she asked.

No, it is a bike with a fridge thingy attached to it and people can have…

Pokey hats! enthused Mrs C.

Neither Virginia nor Diana had heard of these delicacies, but Mrs C

laughed and explained that they were cones, with or without the addition

of a Cadbury’s ‘Flake.’

You mean like a ’99’? asked Virginia.

Aye, they always remind me of a Stanley Baxter joke about a young lad going

up to the ice cream van on his housing estate and hoarsely asking for a pokey

hat.

The vendor smiles and says:  Raspberry sauce, son?

Aye, the wee lad responds enthusiastically, wi’ a voice like sandpaper.

Flake?

Oh, aye!  He sounds really gravelly.

Crushed nuts?

Naw, laryngitis.

Mrs C, do remember that we are trying to be ladylike, reprimanded

Diana, who had noticed that Virginia did not really approve of such

ribaldry.

Changing the subject, Virginia broke in, where did you get married Mrs C?

Oh, St Cuthbert’s,  Lindisfarne, the housekeeper replied.  That was a long,

long time ago.

What made you choose that church?  Diana asked.  Mind you, it must have

lots of history.

Och weel, there was a line fae Burns that Ah learnt at school and it has aye

stuck wi’ me:  ‘Nae man can tether time nor tide.’  Ah didnae want himself

thinkin’ that he could tether me, so Ah suggested a wild, unpredictable place,

beyond the causeway of the normal mainland and subject tae the vagaries o’

the tides, tae tie the nuptial knot.

The causeway? Virginia was puzzled as she was not au fait with the

coastal geography of the region, never having been a fan of Neil Oliver.

Aye, Ah thought crossing the causeway fae wan world tae anither was kinda

symbolic o’ traversin’ the matrimonial threshold from spinster tae married

wumman, ken?

Very metaphysical, murmured Virginia.

Weel, better that than onything physical developin’, fur Ah thocht that if

he put a foot wrong in the crossing, he’d be swept aff tae sea and he widnae

hae found me rowin’ aff tae rescue him, like wan o’ they Grace Darlin’-type

wummen.

Mmm, Virginia pondered, Mrs C was definitely a ‘sink or swim’ kind of

female.

And did he ever put a foot wrong- then- or subsequently? Diana dared

to ask.

Nae mair questions the day, Mrs C replied and went off to fill the

teapot, which was very definitely not made of chocolate.

Portrait of Grace Darling by Thos Musgrave Joy)

 

Marriage Preparation

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( Image: Postdlf, Aug 2010)

Diana Fotheringay, Virginia and Mrs Connolly, the housekeeper,

sat round the kitchen table to discuss all things matrimonial.

Dru should have been present, but she was in Tenerife at

the time, given that it was the Easter break.

It was Virginia’s holiday time too, but she did not like to encounter

school children and she and Snod had reckoned that the pele tower

in the Borders constituted as good a bastion as they could find-

except perhaps Camp Bastion, and they hadn’t reckoned on Afghanistan

as being terribly relaxing.  In some ways it might have reminded them

of their day jobs, except that at times, St Birinus Middle could be regarded

as being marginally more stressful.

Mind you, Snod was not finding marriage preparations terribly relaxing

either. That was why he was doing some male bonding with Murgatroyd

and was heading off to the nearest hostelry, in the company of The Rev.

Finlay Armstrong, who had just visited to discuss banns, registers and

orders of service.  ‘The Rev’ had never conducted a triple ceremony before,

but he felt that there was a sound Trinitarian basis and so had agreed.

Nigel, Dru’s fiance, had gone to Tenerife too, which had further infuriated

his mother, since she had been let down by yet another decorator and

her apron strings were developing an elasticity which no longer

seemed to exert any tension on her son.  In short, he was now switching

his submission to a different female.  And some say that that is what

distinguishes a married man from a bachelor.

(Image by Forest and Kim Starr

flickr.com/photos/starr- environmental)

Tenerife had not been his first choice.  He had suggested The Canary

Islands to Dru, who had looked at him in a funny way, before informing

him that they were one and the same.

Shall I take the binoculars? he asked, trying to cover his faux pas by a

forced interest in ornithology.

Why? asked Dru and then the penny dropped.  No, they’ve got nothing to

do with canaries.

Oh.

She wasn’t the daughter of a Classics teacher for nowt.  The etymology is

to do with dogs.  Canis, as in Dog Star, par example.  And don’t ask if you

should take your retractable telescope.

Was that a double entendre?

Nigel wasn’t very good at picking these up, as his classes knew all too

well.  He smiled anyway, but not too broadly.

Oh, like The Isle of Dogs? He continued to dig his own grave.

Just don’t go there- okay! replied Dru, who sometimes wondered what she

was hitching up to ….But, no… Nigel was really sweet.  Really.

Mrs Connolly rose and poured some tea.  It’s awfie nice that yon Mr Poskett

has agreed to play the kist o’ whistles fur ye, she commented.

Oh no, replied Virginia.  We are having a bagpiper to greet us in the morning,

like an aubade.  I don’t think Mr Poskett is acquainted with the chanter.

Naw, Ah’m referring to our church organ, Mrs Fisher-Gyles.  Ah ken fine that

Ken is playing fur ye earlier oan in the day.

It’s guid that Mr Snodbury’s friend will do the musical honours at the kirk,

as old Mr MacPhee’s no’ sae reliable nooadays.  Not efter that episode at the

cremmie.

Cremmie?  Virginia was not completely au fait with the local patois.

Crematorium! laughed Diana.  Oh, Mrs C, tell us what happened.  It

never fails to make me laugh…

…till ye greet!  Och aye, weel, Mr Mac was playing at a service and there

was a delay, so he started improvising.  Always a dangerous activity, if ye

don’t mind me sayin’…

And? Diana was keen to force her to the point.

And…jist as he was runnin’ oot o’ tunes, he turned aroon as the corsage

had jist entered…

‘Cortege’, Mrs C!  You’re getting mixed up with wedding paraphernalia.

Aye, so Ah am.  But she looked a little put oot at having been corrected.

Go on! Diana encouraged her.

Weel, he looked ower his shooder and saw these twa wreaths on the

coffin.  He thought that the chrysanthemums spelled oot ‘Biggles.’

Wait for it, laughed Diana, whose shoulders were starting to shake.

He didn’t! expostulated Virginia.  Did he start playing The Dambusters?

He did just that. And Mrs C took a lace-edged hanky out of her sleeve and

started giggling like the teenager she had surely never been.

Aye, and it was only Big Les, the biggest crook this side o’ the Borders,

though he was well enough liked. They said he made his fortune at the

Glasgow Barrowland market.

Naw, ye can do withoot that kind o’ misunderstanding on your big day.

Mr Poskett is a professional, I understand? she queried.

Absolutely, said Virginia, who was used to supplying anxious parents with

such reassurances regarding the musical education of their precious

offspring.  He once appeared in an organathon with the great Carlo Curley.

(He had only turned the pages, if truth be told.): Editor.

Drink your tea.  Look, it’s gettin’ cold, cautioned Mrs C.

Virginia was dying to ask if there had been, or still was a Mr C, but one

somehow knew that one should not ‘go there‘, in modern parlance.

And, as for the boys, they were just explaining to The Rev, over a pint,

that Murgatroyd and Diana were actually just renewing their vows,

whereas Snod and Nigel were first-timers, or novices in the realm of

Hymen.

Virgins! smiled The Rev.  I’ll drink to that!  At least no one is saying they are

non-binary, or anything too complicated for my form.  We have had to add

some boxes recently on the request of The Registrar, but in our neck of the

woods, we hadn’t come across some of the categories – at least not

consciously- and so we weren’t sure how to fill in their damn forms.  So,

‘virgins’- that’s easy peasy!

Shhh! Keep your voice down, blushed Snod.

It would be just his luck if some St Birinus parent had a second, or third

home in the neighbourhood and had made this hostelry his ‘local.’  He

looked around nervously, but, thankfully, it seemed to be populated by

Tam O’Shanter and Souter Johnnie extras from a Burns documentary for

BBC 4.

Non- binary?  Now that was a new one on him.  He thought binary was

something to do with codes and Bletchley Park.  Oh well, the whole birds

and bees business had always been an enigma to him.  And now he was

about to crack the code.  Hmm…

 

 

Cat Scan

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(Image: Louvre, 2004- Guillame Blanchard)

 

I have news for all you cat lovers:

apparently your pets want to kill you.

And this one keeps me under surveillance

as I water my host’s garden tonight.

Two gimlet eyes spy on me from the wall

which divides this property from next door’s.

I could turn the hose on my stalker, but

today I have been at the NGV*

to view how Ai Wei Wei celebrates cats.

He has over forty in his compound,

but, curiously, only one of them

makes an attempt to open doors.  This puss

looks like she could deal in execution.

Like Bastet, she has the soul of Isis.

Maybe she is trying to work out why

I am cultivating the flowers here,

in this inner city terrace’s  yard.

Where is the missing person I’ve replaced?

As Wei Wei replenished his bike’s basket

with a new floral tribute every day,

to give the cameras something to record,

I confess that I like to perplex her.

Under the kumquat tree she remains still-

a furry camouflaged CCTV,

unmoving as a mummified votive.

Will she spring to life and sink her needles

into my neck, for not being the one

who conforms to feline expectation?

Are there easier targets to pounce on,

with unsheathed claws, scattering the petals?

Maybe she is an opener of doors

and has succeeded in her freedom bid

and, though human, I am the one who is trapped,

because I accept that we are all watched

and that someone is trying to decode

the hieroglyphic details of our lives,

so that we feel that we are never alone

and inscrutable eye slits follow us.

 

  • NGV National Gallery, Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totus Mundus Agit Histrionem

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Forgot about this poem which appeared in the Spring Issue of

Poetry Life magazine, 1998.  It was printed on the back cover and

the front cover had a picture of Don Paterson who had just won the

TS Eliot Prize.  So, I was in good company!

With the current Shakespeare celebrations taking place, I thought

I’d better give it another airing.

It was written in July, 1997.

 

TOTUS MUNDUS AGIT HISTRIONEM*

 

(The Globe, July 1997)

 

No kite-picked, severed heads on London Bridge;

no barge with poop of beaten gold, or sails

of purple on the River Thames.  No screams

of baited bears at Bankside, nor whipped whores,

nor the crude cackling of Winchester geese**

by Southwark Bridge- perhaps the stink of drains.

No risk from rat flea plague.  No sign of swans.

But there’s that octagon, that wooden O,

with its fantastic gates and bearded thatch.

I cannot see that flag with Hercules

bearing the world upon his able back.

But, no doubt it is there, or it will be.

No Spaniards landing on the Isle of Wight,

and another Elizabeth still reigns.

It is required that we awake our faith,

for, down below, I see the lineaments

of that first audience, now in Reeboks,

sporting bum bags: a modern cod-piece? No?

It is the heretic that burns the fire;

not she that burns in it, Hermione

instructs the crowd who hears the Irish news.

Helicopters whirr and obscure some lines,

while programme sellers interrupt: Two pounds!

where a penny once secured standing room.

Thousands will trample Jeffrey Archer’s name;

his stone his hope of immortality.

The selfsame sun that shines upon his court

shines on our cottage, but now the dampness

releases the strong smell of new hewn oak.

I think I sense Will’s ghost behind my bench

and trace his footsteps in the dried blood sand.

There’s laughter at the antics of Sir Smile:

hundreds have the disease and feel it not.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust ,

but, as ever, mostly on the groundlings,

who hide their peccadilloes under macs;

on the surface, behave impeccably,

while the elevated in the tarrass

miss the jokes and fall asleep in Act 4,

proving that all is as it was before.

 

*All the world’s a stage

** Prostitutes associated with the area around Winchester

Palace, near The Globe

 

Shakespeare.jpg

 

Projection

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So now you are publishing poems without quoting me in a

narrative framing device? moaned Brassica.

Only because some of these are very old poems, I tried to

assure her.  I still value your comments.

Right, she replied.  I might take a look at your latest,

if I have time.

But it’s not my latest, as I have explained…

You can’t win with Brassie.  She never listens.

Here is a poem that I read at Ripe, Sussex, about twenty years ago.

It had won a prize in a Malcolm Lowry poetry festival.  See what

you think and ignore Brassie.  She just likes to be the centre of

attention and, if she doesn’t get her own way, it feels as if you

are living under the volcano, as it were…

 

PROJECTION

 

The agent late, and she alone possessing keys,

I wander round the garden, to view elevation and perspective;

inspect the fabric’s pointing, paintwork, lead around the chimneys-

imagine why they’ve left; use the skills of a detective.

 

My son and daughter shriek from bush to shrub: to them it’s

an adventure

They clamber on a rusty climbing frame-

already they’ve assumed the tenure.

So, why, crossing the threshold, do I feel a sense of shame?

 

Divorce.  That’s why this house is up for sale-

the wife already chrysalised and living with another man.

The signs of family breakdown can be sensed as Braille

impressions in the rumpus of each room: an unflushed toilet pan;

no evidence of hausfrau pride;chaos and teen disorganisation-

the beds unmade; some slimy dishes slopping in the sink;

the very atmosphere fetid with stale accusation.

Sloughed socks strewn on the floor; the overflowing bin’s

unsavoury stink.

 

And, on the overgrown lawn, an upturned frisbee lay:

sun disc, reminiscent of a family laughing on a beach,

curving it from hand to hand, connections reinforced through play;

now shattered and forever out of reach.

 

For a quick sale, they would reduce their price,

but though they merely asked for thirty silver pieces,

to take possession seemed like grasping avarice;

to profit from another’s pain, insensitive by any exegesis.

(For parasites are those who feed on others’ painful scars.)

 

I wouldn’t let my children lay with that accursed plate,

for others, in halcyon days, circumscribed their little arcs;

the broken circles designating love and hate:

two aspects of a spectrum, whose hopeful rainbow never would conjoin.

The gilded counterfeit at their bow’s end had been a loaded coin:

whichever way they cast it, both sides ensured a loss.

 

We didn’t take the house, although the building, in itself, seemed sound.

For, unlike other viewers, I really gave a toss,

believing if that toy was thrown, my infrastructure would come

crashing to the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Matter of Trust

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Now I have got the hang of the sestina, I can’t stop!

 

 

Marriage was supposed to be based on trust.

When challenged, he had said it was nothing.

She hadn’t envisaged that he would cheat.

How she wished she hadn’t found that letter,

or the lipstick marks that were so suspect.

She felt that she was going up the wall.

 

And between them, there seemed to be a wall.

At the beginning, she had put her trust

in God, in him- little did she suspect

that she was a mere cipher; a nothing

to him.  Though compliant to the letter,

she’d never please one who would always cheat.

 

Was it a triviality to cheat;

a childish mis-demeanour, or a wall

of lies, crushing her heart?  And the letter,

addressed to one who had betrayed her trust:

it was an enormity; not nothing-

to have one’s self-esteem shattered; to suspect

 

that he did not view himself as suspect;

that he would blithely carry on, to cheat,

to tell his mistress his wife meant nothing

and, if she cried, to callously stonewall

her needs while she’d remain patient; would trust

that he would start proceedings by letter.

 

She came home from work.  There was the letter.

She knew it would come, but didn’t suspect

its impact.  The betrayal of her trust

overwhelmed her.  She had married a cheat:

the writing was well and truly on the wall.

So, she had pledged her troth for nothing.

 

Who was it said nothing would come of nothing?

Whoever had been right, to the letter.

And so now she was up against the wall.

Though she’d play fair, she could only suspect

he’d lie, mis-represent and try to cheat.

Oh, what a fool she’d been to ever trust!

 

But trust nothing again?  She was no cheat.

I suspect she’ll construct no wall of shame:

beyond the letter of the law lives trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Abreast

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Titans Take Part in Breast Cancer Awareness Month | SJJTitans.

Recently I have had three friends who have all contracted

breast cancer and they are all having individual programmes

of treatment.

About twenty years ago, I wrote this, in the persona of a

woman who had undergone surgery and who just wanted to get on

with her life, without having to encounter and put up with

everyone else’s  embarrassment and self-consciousness .

 

KEEPING ABREAST

After my mastectomy, I was duly asked,

One lump or two?…and then a pregnant pause ensued.

Swollen with deep embarrassment; glibness unmasked,

the hostess halted her outpouring; the tea stewed.

 

Actually, I have none. – Discomfiture again.

(My voice as brittle as her porcelain cup and plate.)

Then one misguided ‘friend’ tried to conceal my pain –

She’s on a diet and has lost a lot of weight.

 

Yes, I’ve just been picking up a new bikini.

I’ve thought of Monte Carlo for my autumn week.

 

Or bust! said a girl whose breasts were like zucchini.

(My silicon implants provoke a good deal of pique).

 

Well, Papua New Guinea sounds like fun, I quipped.

My wit was rising like some vast protuberance.

Let’s say I kept my cards close to my chest.

 

Tight-lipped, my hostess said,

We usually go to France.

 

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