Sharing poems from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’
Miss Lottie’s Last Chance.
She sets the brim of her straw hat
at what she hopes is a rakish angle
brushes bits of twig from her brown
cotton skirt, pulls the arms of her holey
cardie closer like a hopeful hug.
She climbs on a stool and places
bits of stray string into a rusty tin,
wipes secateurs with an oily rag,
seals half-opened seed packets, placing
them into an obliging array of jars.
She takes a swig of a brandy from a bottle
marked for emergencies, while a grumpy owl
painted on a shopping bag glares.
She makes short shrift of him shaking the bag
upside down to dislodge lurking spiders.
From the corner of her eye she catches
sight of her old black wellies, blushes
at the memory of sitting, only yesterday
on her bench, near to tears, her limbs
too soggy with fatigue to pull them off.
How lucky that an old gent on his bike
was passing and joined in the tussle.
Today she slips out of her old gardening shoes,
watches a flock of rogue cockatiels
spreading their wings and taking flight.
A Valiant Brood
Prolonged wintry weather savaged the bees
despite honey stocks and bee fondant
wind rain and snow penetrated
their sturdy wooden hive.
Now they lie in tiny icy cocoons
clustered around their queen
a valiant brood
that did all it could
to stay alive.
The Puppeteer’s Daughter
The Mad Hatter’s eyes
in rubber sockets,
no longer rolling, and minus
his mad mutinous expression
greet mine. His stout top hat,
crimson jacket, silk cravat
and tough rubber boots
challenge my decision.
Come on he pleads.
I’m old and homeless:
Am I really to be abandoned
to a Yellow box storage unit?
‘Give them bread and circuses’
But now I bury the circus in boxes.
Charlie the clown
with his bumptious greeting,
Nicky with gentle manner
always one step behind the logic,
his butterfly net never actually
trapping the colourful wings.
Popov based on a real Russian
clown walked a tight-rope,
his antics created a common
No sense left in the caterpillar now
his scales have disintegrated.
How I choked when for the last
time, I took an unfamiliar drag
breathed smoke down the tiny tube
“So who are you” he groaned.
He may well ask.
In the kitchen
Let’s draw daffodils
and talk about compassion,
capture papery parcels
that hold the tightly packed
buds still green in their pods.
Let our pencils trace
the shapes of ambitious petals
intent on jumping the gun,
reaching out to the world
before their traditional season.
Let’s fill in the details
on their frilly faces
add a few shadows,
for they had no say in the matter
like us simply here in this kitchen
at this particular time.
Everyone helped on Christmas eve, the children in the living room
trusted to make neat crosses on sprouts bottoms,
peel potatoes and prod the hot chestnuts
We’d laugh at my mother’s story of corn beef roast during the war.
Now a few years on it was a roast chicken killed by Grandma
out in the garden and hung in the scullery for two days
Grandpa staggered up the hill from the underground at eight
with apples, pears and nuts from our greengrocers in Goodge Street,
gifts from fellow shop keepers, glace fruits being our absolute favourite
Grandmother insisted all through the war there would be no black market;
her Methodist her beliefs could not sanction anything dishonourable.
“Pity”, said Uncle Jack in later years, “we could have had butter, eggs,
The old Adana
never stopped clanging
virgin paper fed its jaws.
Nearby large drawers held
sets of single letters in
Garamond or Dorchester
for straight talking
Venetian Gothic, curvy
sheets destined to be
hand fed between rubber rollers
emerge in sticky black ink
publicity flyers, leaflets
programmes, plays for
all laid out on every
available space to dry.
We did everything ourselves
to cut costs.
A hundred years ago
TJ Cobden-Sanderson threw
all the type from Dove Press
into the Thames when he fell out
with his partner.
Three Poems from ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’
He was a magician to us
weaving spells with wood and clay.
Other people’s dads went to work
and reappeared for supper.
Ours spent his days
and most nights
in his cluttered workshop.
He was always engrossed
kneading clay or carving wood,
the music of Glen Miller blaring
from a battered radio.
We would clink through the chaos
with mother’s homemade cakes,
the smell mingling with the stench of glue
boiling on an ancient cooker.
Our faces shone with shy smiles
as his hand took the teacup.
He had been whisked away to war,
we barely knew him.
We lived at Gran’s
and discovered him one day
in the hallway
with a battered trunk.
in a coarse khaki uniform,
a clarinet in a case
and chocolate in his pockets.
Don’t Throw Away The Daisies
Thank you for passing the time with me,
It’s so lonely waiting to die.
Can’t tell you how angry I felt
when you first appeared
with fruit and flowers
wittering on about sun and the seasons?
I wanted to scream at you ‘I’m dying.’
Have you got the colouring book?
One of your slightly better ideas.
Silly really but I love doing them,
reminds me of being little,
using every crayon in the box.
Mother and me at the kitchen table.
Now when you do the flowers,
please don’t throw away the daisies,
although I know they are past their best.
Could you do my nails?
I often had a manicure when I was working,
it seems important that God should see
I’ve tried my hardest.
I love the oils, the scent of lavender
challenging that mournful medical smell.
Hold my hand, I’m feeling so very tired.
Deep rhythms overwhelm me
creeping in on every side.
My eyelids are amazing rainbows,
how very strange.
Let’s say goodbye now – softly –
just in case I slip away.
Seeds take flight with the softest blow,
on dandelion clocks you know.
How long can that be?
And who’s in charge of time. Tell me?
Twin spirits drift and sometimes fly,
but cannot separate or die.
Distance is all in the mind,
a word for space I think you’ll find.
Alienation is a choice,
but takes an angry tone of voice.
Despite the walls, the gates, the locks,
think of the seeds around that clock.
They drift, they fly, they find some ground,
and safely grow until they’re found.
I was one of the poets on a two day residency run the The Poetry School as one of the poets for London Open Squares weekend in Postman’s Park in the City of London. 2015 and again in 2016. We wrote poetry and encouraged members of the public to be involved.
There were 16 poets were in different squares many not usually open to the public.
Poems inspired by the park.
On the path
I just avoid
stepping on a
I place him
on rain-sodden earth.
After all, anyone
The formal lawn
Full of tools
one wheelbarrow stands
forks, spades, brushes, stakes.
His mate kneels at one corner
carefully sifting soil, troweling edges
his head bent, intent on perfection.
A third man brings in a barrow
rich green turf, all three
in harmony, finely tuned.
The handkerchief tree
I sit under the loggia
and consider heroism
what it must take
to jump into the depths
of Highgate ponds
to save someone from drowning
to risk being crushed to death
by the weight of a runaway
to die on a burning stairway
trying to save your motherfrom a house on fire.
Is it all your gentle spirits turning
the leaves on the handkerchief tree
pure white in remembrance.
St Botolph’s Aldersgate (in memory of John Betjeman)
I hope this is the pew where the poet once sat
having enjoyed his breakfast of burnt toast
sitting in his morning chair looking out to the grave yard
where his great grandfather is buried
drafting a letter then leaving his acorn
papered eerie to saunter out of Cloth Fair
in his heavy coat and wide brimmed hat.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
listening to sacred music from the deep throated organ
wafting through ancient pillars up to the ornate ceiling
looking up at the famous alter painting stored in Wales during the war and now with the day light flickering
on the angel with the chalice in Gethsemane
offering strength and courage to The Son of God.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
next to the Wesley window that was not his favourite
but near the stone memorial for a much loved daughter
and not far from the detailed deliberations
of Dame Anne Packington, widow, who in her will
in 1595 tried to devise ways to ensure her estate
would help the poor in perpetuity.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
singing the hymns and half listening to the sermon
as thoughts of the letters he still had to write
and the women that he loved passed through his mind
having time to later wander to favourite memorial
where it implies that it is not a man’s ornate plague
but his good name and the deeds he accomplished.
In the summer of 2017 my third short residency as part of London’s Open Square weekend. These poems are just published on this blog.
Earls Court Square
untamed ivy creeps
into ancient urns
at night foxes run over
the roofs of parked cars
slide down the windscreens
drink from the waterfall
sunlight through plane trees
creates shadow puppets
on the grass
a shimmering globe
mirror of distortion
white space crumpled sky
a black cat raises havoc
with noisy parakeets
blackbirds and robins retreat
terraces red brick
symbols of Egyptian gods
sit in state
guarding the garden
their ears sadly
Eyre knows every flower
with shears he cuts
a bush into a neat ball
work in harmony
with the soil
Peggy Long’s roses
thrive next to
lily of the valley
near to George’s bench
not far from Californian lilac
a stone’s throw
from white viburnum
of Japanese anemones
and wary of racy newcomers
Two of my poems from ‘Grasshopper Cocktails’ 2017 An autumn anthology of poems by students attending John McCullough’s course at New Writing South. The pamphlet included poems by every member of the group and was the brain child of Lucy Cage a fellow poet who produced it!
Dreamt I was dancing along a lane in a pink petticoat
an old lady was picking apples when daylight intervened.
Half awake I was reminded of the anniversary of Aberfan
last year and the silhouette of a young girl with ribbons
of purple bubbles streaming from the open window and
Connie Yates painting bubbles over and over again.
From my bedroom window I can see the worn stone
paths I created in the garden. The pathway meandering
through the park leading to the sea where dog walkers
congregate every morning. Tiny paths threading their way
to Telscombe Tye and roads leading in and out of town.
Now blackbirds are back pecking the ground under
the wet brown flower heads, a robin sings on a leafless
Laburnum, a smart pigeon marches under the bird feeder
hoping careless sparrows will flick a few seeds his way
a tabby cat emerges just below the magpie’s nest.
But what I’m seeking is a new direction.
‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ the latest collection. Available in City Books at the Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean. On line with Lulu or on Amazon.
‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ came out six years ago.