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Ward Ten Peace

April 3, 2016
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See how tenderly she eases his pain

That sacred touch of empathy

That hand on that hand which knows

Barely discernable outside the pair

These two are one

And damage to one

Is joint and several.

Nurse arrives to steady him

And both are restored

But only her care is good enough

Nurse departs

She gently soothes and is enriched

By his internal purr

The engine tuned

Another mile on the old clock

Love prevails


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Earworms of Sammy Joe

February 11, 2016
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Earworms sometimes plague the normal day
Snippets from another time and place
Annoyingly embedded in our thoughts
Forcing out when thinking slows its pace
A melody in the amygdala
A hippocampus hip-hop on repeat
This one is an anthem ‘cross the world
Famous words that chime in with the beat
This one is familiar from somewhere
Eluding attribution to the mind
Quizzing friends and family is hard
It’s one that only Internet will find

But this one… this one rattles in my head
Not a tune that I could track and seek
This one is a voice I’ve often felt
Stroking the waves we breathe, in trough and peak
Here the nuances that strain to show
Internalised experience of another age
Boldly written in the margin’s rim
Hid beneath the folded, dog-eared page.
This voice has a timbre all its own
That nestles so obliquely in my brain
Attached to words, the master of us all,
Speaking of a joy, a laugh, a pain.

And when she heard her voice recordings back
“OMG! I sound so posh!”, she shouts.
Pasted in my mind, a comfort, rosie scene
Dining table craftwork, homework, grins, and pouts.
A thousand messages, social media bound
Have faded as the random tweets of birds.
However, I still hold, as do we all,
Those meanings and that love, once pressed in words
Friends have said they’ll never more again
Hear her words in her sound – sung or said
But I can hear her now – she does remain
Perpetually hiding in my head.

Lodged inside a chapel on a hill,
Dressed in wood and coloured out in white,
She wasn’t there to hear the sullen tones
In eulogy to what she was, or might
Have once become, had living saved her mind
And fixed the broken web that shaped her pains.
Intelligence wrapped in enslaving shroud,
She took herself away. Her shell remains
But briefly, as the teardrops on our cheeks
That wipe away in discard handkerchief.
But her voice in my memory still speaks –
In earworms she reminds me of my grief.


Pillow Case Study

January 3, 2016
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I tried to imagine you dead;
How it might feel to be you-less;
What magic was wrenched from within me;
How large the factor of missingness.
What sorrow could I now conjure
From your complete disappearance?

It’s easier, much, to imagine
A vision of something not seen,
Impossibly hard to expunge
What fills every moment of being
With intertwined considerations
And amalgamations of dreams.

And parts of my heart had bled
Their watery life lubrication
And parts of my mind had shed
Their confident sure expectation
That love is the ultimate prize
And fear is the ultimate sin

I tried to imagine my loss
Not having, not holding, not keeping
As you lay beside me in slumber
Your flickering wakefulness seeping
And that is the reason you found my tears
In the tissue in which I’d been weeping


Eurostar Carpark Travelling

October 4, 2015
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Sitting in a car stuffed with us and our survival
In a submarine train like a long yellow worm,
Tunnelling in its own right
Shedding its own light
Darting between the threads of two worlds

There’s no indication of velocity
Nothing discernible, no visual clue
As the tunnel sides whizz
The sounds are muffled
Gravity and G-force incomprehensible
We merely sit, parked
At great invisible speed.

We could be in Nova Scotia
Or Honolulu or Saskatchewan,
Inside Mont Blanc
Or Al Barz in Iran
The way could be blocked
In both directions
And we could be lost forever

In a tunnel, below an ocean,
Under a busy sea lane.
Not in a country but a no-man’s underworld
Neptune on the other side of a concrete tube
A tube train with no stations
Only termini.
Heading for France

 


Love New Labour’s Lost

September 14, 2015
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Back in the fold, the white sheep stare,

chewing the cud that they always chew,

warm in the wool that they always share,

bleating of goats next door, as they do.

 

Goats are the winners.  Don’t ask for fair

kind of treatment, just bleatment and butting at you.

They’ve very hard horns and devour what’s spare

and sheep have to keep to the back of the queue.
Hang on a mo!  This is goatland nightmare!

A ram that butts back with its own point of view?

Rams cannot lead – they’re a danger.  Beware!

We’re in it together. Goats have told you.

Keep him at the back, we can laugh at him there.
Hell knows he’ll turn sheep into mincemeat or stew.

Don’t listen to him, he is far too aware.

But…

from where has this crowd of rams come into view?


Ein Warmer Rheingold

August 10, 2015
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On a blistering day as hot as blood
We coursed through veins of German towns
Rubber rolling, rolling on roaring roads
Encased in a speeding metal Ford,
A name denoting water on the aching wheels.

The Rhein waters wend their way beneath,
Echoing our bottled refreshment for our boiled bodies,
On a longer journey to larger lakes and far-off seas.
It leaves us in its wake as we press on
Alighting, swelled and roasted red
To arms of Darmstadt friends and warming company
And memories no mere waters can enjoy.


Posted in Reviews

Dances With Selves

April 23, 2015
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It’s in your head, the prejudice of machismo mistakes

Passed down, like table manners, father to white paper children

This is what we believe and think and do in this right way.
Eager, in their ocean, to fit with the way that fish swim,

Eschewing the pain of bad vibes and scouring glances,

Fearful of spikes from carelessly thrown harpoon words

That push in their backward direction of prejudice,

You move in their awkward manner in their right way.
Until you reveal it to yourself, unwrap who you are

Like a pass-the-parcel party game, removing layers.

Then turn to face the pains, the scrapes, the lacerations

From those who cannot bear you to be different

Skin thickens round your being, comforts the senses.

Doing and being you feels good again in your right way.
You learn that pain is a barrier to overcome

That each of us has strength to simply be, unled by shoals

That head obliviously to the narrowing net.

Ballet dancing is too tough for macho men to take
Terpsichore is not in the heads of fish who move with fish

And only we who are true to self can be sublime.


Posted in Reviews

My Mum and Me

March 16, 2015
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It was a chilly evening in November

We walked through Greenwich street, my mum and me,

Our toes and fingers frozen, I remember.

The Cutty Sark is what we’d been to see.

It was quite a day as I recall.

We’d stood, one foot in East and one in West

And seen the standard measures on the wall,

And so many telescopes impressed.

We looked out from the hill across the river,

Passed through dwindling crowds as we descended.

The icy wind caught crinkled leaves together,

Now and then to fade, its force expended.

Our coats pulled tightly round our back,

Arms linked in unity, we strode

To chance upon a brazier, glowing black

Beside a scruffy trader of the road.

Pink digits poking from his woolly mitts,

He raked the embers on their bed of slag,

His voice directed to the empty street,

“Hot chestnuts? ­ Six pennyworth a bag!”

Our eyes glowed bright, mouths leaking inward willing.

A stiff­necked, half­glanced smile we gave to us.

“Two bags, please!” she said, extending shilling.

Hot chestnuts, hand­rolled, gave in with no fuss

And warmed us, waiting homeward for the bus.


A Small Presage

March 2, 2015
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A text arrived and didn’t wave its own importance

and I waived its significance in my ignorance.

Geoff – ‘so sorry to be out of touch’

A normal text. I didn’t have to think about it much

I know Geoff and how he is – few words on mobile screens

Not sartorially elegant, just a jumper and old jeans

An afterthought-sign-off comment added, litotes laden

‘Waiting ECG, etc’ didn’t scare – no iron maiden

So I waited, too, for our normal pint and literary chat

chewing a late breakfast as we used to chew poetic fat,

at table sixteen in The Bellwether supping a trial brew

of real ale that I probably didn’t but he usually knew.

Creations in the head of Geoff surprise, provoke, cheer and delight

Advice he gave to poets always leading them into the light

Rejections to Purple Patch’s poets kindly written to assist

Hours spent on dingy evenings, every word fresh-kissed.

Regularity of issues of Purple Patch for thirty five long years

Honed an editorial skill second to none of his erstwhile peers

His gossip columns, ‘bests of year’ in Purple Patch had stood

the test of time. To Geoff they were as islands in the blood.

December brought me illness. I coughed the month away

assuming meanwhile Geoff was quiet at home with family

barely on my urban landscape in his purple patch

plotting his purple year ahead as eggs of publications hatch.

But the poet clock had stopped, too soon, before his grandest year,

sinking his ship in still waters as that island dream grew near.

At long, long last his latest book arrived, without fanfare,

and sang his life of darkened rooms and troubled dreams and care. 

Spouting forth in the village pubs, and rooms that weren’t so choice,

memories of readings in the timbre of Geoff’s Black Country voice

and in a thousand magazines published all around the globe

a thousand Geoff Stevens poems sit just waiting to disrobe

A thousand thousand gentle thoughts of poetry and purple prose

simmer sights and sizzle sounds and breakfast aromas to the nose

are conjured by Geoff Stevens infiltrating, in their frying pan,

to poetribes who came across this giant-of-the-small-press gentleman.


Posted in Reviews

Drawing Lines

January 1, 2015
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You cannot travel far without a line
Thicker than a voyage
Sweet as a daisychain
Ground into the seas by stars
Joined dots on high
Which lead the way
With certain faith
As time predicts

We make boundaries
Out of thin air
Lines of difference
That separate us
Make us enemies.
These lines of foolishness
Lines of belief, emotion
Power and property
Harden in the synapses
and heartstrings

Our disappointments
We craft from lines
Of hope and supposition
But real lines
Lie in our palms

Calendars
In stapled moments
With stapled mountains
Meet each night
With mirrors
To discuss our life.
Together they transfer
Grid-lined days
To morning-time reflections


Posted in Reviews
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