The First Purple Penumbra

June 27, 2012
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The Barlow Theatre, otherwise known as Oldbury Rep, sits gently in a cul-de-sac close to a couple of excellent pubs and a variegated row of shops and food purveyors.

It is a charming little theatre with an almost continuous run of plays and musicals and it sports a fine bar with a cosy atmosphere, where poetry events can and have taken place for many years.  Spouting Forth used it some years ago with a membership that included several who were later Birmingham Poets Laureate and Geoff Stevens who resurrected the venue’s poetic content with his  Purple Patch magazine events and a National Small Press Publishers’ Convention stretching to three days.
Unfortunately, Geoff died in February, but a group of us decided to continue to promote his legacy as well as his Barlow meetings.  Purple Penumbra is the first, supported, as ever, by the good offices of JohnUpton who opened the theatre bar for us poets in his usual generous tradition.
Attendees included a Wolverhampton University Course Leader in Creative and Professional Writing (himself a published poet and novelist), the Secretary of Bilston Community Association, Walsall’s current Poet Laureate, some old friends and some new young poets, all eager to read or perform their own or Geoff’s work.
With the Queen’s Jubilee celebration still in our short-term memory, Eileen Ward-Birch started us off with a timely, humorous poem about when the Queen was ‘coronated’, as if she was but a child.  
Someone I’ve only ‘met’ on Facebook as Photo Giraffe, who hadn’t intended to read, gave us a very moving and beautiful picture, from memory, of Jeff Buckley, the US singer-songwriter.  Strange connection here – Jeff Buckley posthumously had a hit record with ‘Hallelujah’, a song played at the funeral of Geoff Stevens.  
Shabz Ahmed gave us an intelligent piece which for me served to highlight cultural connections as well as differences of mankind.  Ian Henery regaled us with his Olympic poem and, particularly for Eileen, one called “We Are Wolverhampton”.  Greg Stokes read from his book a couple of hilarious passages – a local spy story and one that confused me as to whether it was a casino or a brothel… someone was cashing in on the former but were they on the latter?  
For me, the highlight of the evening was Dr Paul McDonald who had a couple of superb semi-autobiographical poems and one about Walt Whitman, also a favourite of his good friend, Geoff Stevens, and a tale of Geoff’s pre-eminent knowledge of sausages and housebricks.  Sue Hulse told us a tale of two grandfathers, incredible stories, too surrounding the poetry.
For most of us who knew Geoff, I believe that this was a little cathartic.  We read his poems remembering him, and I’m sure he would be pleased to find in his shadow a burgeoning purple penumbra.

No Difference

April 28, 2012
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Makes no difference
Do what you wish
The outcome will be the same –
Worry, fret, agitate, anger
It has no effect in the end
He said
Not realising that
The flap of a butterfly’s wing
In Rhyl
May lead to a storm
In the Azores
No difference to the butterfly, still.

Out of Words

April 24, 2012

I’m running out of words,
My word-bag’s nearly empty
I used to have a plethora
I used to have so… plenty

The words would tumble out of me
I’d carpet rooms and halls
With baskets full of verbiage
And paste them on the walls

But life can play some rotten tricks
You wake up one fine day
And all your words have leaked out
And they’ve up and run away

I used them on the Internet
And filled up stacks of floppies
I can’t get floppies on this thing
They’re dead.
I’ll scatter poppies.

It Shows

April 22, 2012
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I could buy you a mansion, or big diamond rings,
a trip to a worldful of fabulous things
I could take you to places where big money flows
but if I don’t know you then it shows.

Two dozen roses may sweeten your heart
to think that I’m smitten, this may be the start
of a great big affair I’m the one that you chose
but if I don’t cherish your wishes it shows.

I’ll say that I love you with big demonstrations
forgetting a birthday or some celebration
that means a great deal. That’s the value of woes.
For if I don’t make you number one, then it shows.

The MP and the Banker

April 21, 2012
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The MP and the banker were walking close at hand
They wept in happiness to see the systems work so grand
If this were messed about, they said, we’d cream it, if we planned.

If seven lords and seven profs studied it half a year
Do you suppose,’ the PM said, ‘They’d render it unclear?’
‘I’ll work it out,’ the banker said, and had another beer.

‘O voters, come and vote for us!’ the MP did beseech.
A pleasant talk, a voting slip, and you can hear my speech
We’ll start with all the smarter ones to indoctrinate – er – teach.

The eldest voter looked at him, but never said a word:
The eldest voter eyed him up as if he were absurd
Meaning he’d fallen for that one, and thought he was a turd

But four young voters hurried up, all eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed, their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd – they had no cash to buy them on the street!

Four other voters followed them, and yet another four;
And thick and fast they came, (they hadn’t seen it all before)
All hopping through the metal chairs and scrambling ‘cross the floor.

The MP and the banker span their web an hour or so,
Then stopped for wine and canapés (allowed expense you know)
And all the little voters stood and went without, below.

The time has come,’ the banker said, for quantitative easing
You thought life would be easier, well… we were only teasing
It’s difficult, but pigs with wings won’t fly without some squeezing

A second home,’ the MP said, ‘is what we chiefly need:
Jobs for nobs and nepotism are very good indeed —
And somebody must pay for all this undisputed need.’

But please not us!’ the voters cried, turning a little blue.
‘After we gave you power, that’s a dismal thing to do!’
The cash is mine,’ the banker said. ‘I can loan it to you’.

It was so kind of you to vote, and you are very nice!’
And the MP said nothing but ‘Cut us in on your price:
We’ll drop your tax to forty-five percent, will that suffice?’

It seems a shame,’ the MP said, to play them such a trick,
After we’ve tempted them with lies, and made them look so thick!’
The banker didn’t say a word but ‘Don’t be such a prick!’

I weep for you,’ the MP said: ‘It’s not because we won,
But rioting will never do and striking is no fun
So bear with us, we’re doing what we knew when we begun.’

The Argument

April 18, 2012
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I am insufferable.
I am sure that’s what you think.
You know the valid truth of what you say
And how would I know different anyway?

I’m pig-headed.
The immovable object
That the irresistible force has failed to budge
To the truth in your superior knowledge.

I am a thorn.
I pricked your finger, made it bleed.
The sweet-smelling rosebush that looked so prim
Now tainted with the blood of your punctured skin

I will be slain.
The evidence you need, obtained
And held up for the modern world to see
How hideously wrong I’m proved to be.

But I care not!
You may be right or wrong.
The irrelevance of that is plainly visible.
Your reaction to my plain words is risible.

I weep inside.
I see your wrenching torment.
And understand much more than you can realise,
Your pain is deeper than you even yet surmise.

Life Is Like… Chocolate

April 17, 2012
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Every day comes wrapped in foil or loosely packed in plastic trays
Eyelids, forced to greet the waking moment, seize upon the opening box
Some will push away the tempting sight and smell and crinkling sound

Or take the sweet of least resistance that they always take and will always
Some will baulk at such variety, hard decisions pondered on like rocks
That may be slippery, jagged against tender skin, or hiding underground

But some will savour each description, every sensual moulded shape to graze
Taste the joy of taste before a finger-touch, certainty of taste avoiding shocks
Smiling from a deep fulfilled perception radiating to the universe around

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Stormy Tuesday

April 16, 2012
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They say tomorrow comes the storm.
Today – – – it’s warm.

It’s April and the wind is cool
but, sitting in the sun, I fool
the weatherman and nature’s breeze
by drinking tea and eating cheese-
on-toast and staying in the shelter
where my sun-drenched back may swelter.

April couldn’t be much better
Tomorrow – – – it’s wetter.

Marriage Forged in the Margin

April 15, 2012
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Marriage isn’t a walk in the park
Four legs in a bed making love in the dark
It isn’t for people just having a fling
It isn’t for joy or for getting a ring
It isn’t a way to get back your lost youth
Or a citizenship, evading the truth
It’s not just a union of two clans, it’s true
Though there’s plenty of those who have used it to do
It’s in no way a quickie to do overnight
It is neither a secular thing, nor a right

It is mainly religious for those who would strive
To live as a unit and keep love alive
As they join their two sexes, creating of babies,
Expanding the faith, no ifs, buts or maybes.
And bringing up children is part of the deal.
To stay faithful forever is what makes it real.
No perfectly good homosexuals can do it.
No lesbian couple can ever eschew it
That changing the meaning of ‘marriage’ will lose
All the meaning that gives us the right to not choose.

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Deadline – Oops!

April 15, 2012
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It’s a terrible, terrible thing that I’ve done.
I left it too late. I slept in the sun.
I’ve cheated the system.
I didn’t write this when
The NaPoWriMo says I ought to have done.

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