Poems

Where Candlenights Flicker

(for Arkwright’s Cotton Mill, Derbyshire)

 

Imagine the valley before the mill,

the river’s rush with its own free will.

Here comes the wheel, here come the people.

 

A nightshirt glows under a calico moon;

a man sings Constant Employment, a new tune

weaves a poor village a utopian dream.

 

A school, and dancing, ale and enjoyment,

your needs looked after and holiday laughter –

the rest of the year, work hard and be sober.

 

Six hundred candle-nights flicker, and fall,

the call of the mill-bell, the new money spell,

the turn of the wheel that never stands still.

 

Imagine a mill he built like a castle,

throb of its thumb, hum of its leather,

bobbin and spindle, whirring and clatter.

 

Raindrops fall in a valley monsoon

on a yellow sari in the Indian sun,

where hot cotton sleeps in clouds of blossom.

 

Cotton dust cloud at four in the morning,

children and women, roving and reeling,

shuttle calling …the future, the future, the future…

On Shakespeare receiving the Evaluation Forms after the First Performance of King Lear

 

For Shakespeare’s brows knitted fiery tempests

when he was handed the evaluation forms

by his Arts Development Officer.

“Some of them disquieted? Upset?” he howled,

“Forsooth, am I writing the fen-sucked Archers?

Are these players strutting wild on this heath

as meat to merely titillate the vultures?

See here, sir – ‘How did you find the venue?’

Why, full of sawdust and spit and raged upon

by a poor, bare, forked animal.

‘Was the publicity easy to read?’

Ay, easy as the mind of a demented king.

No, no, no, no – no more of this.

Zounds, already my mind dreads and frets

upon the Health and Safety discussion

concerning Exit, pursued by a Bear.

Will this mountain kingdom of paper

truly change our state for better?

Will you still not offer me these boards,

this empty space, this naked stage

without the usurious stench of market?

Ay, for I challenge you, most noble officer,

tick your own boxes with your own honest answers –

agree, strongly disagree, don’t mind too much,

don’t care one way or another.

Swan

“I will not fall in love, I will

not fall in love” he keeps saying,

remembering all his yesterdays,

his eyes like sad clouds,

and he lets her warm kisses

slip off his back, tries zen

and the art of letting her smiling eyes go;

 

but slowly, swan feathers appear all over him,

as if it is a hidden part of this nature,

and within a week or two he is flying

with no idea of where he is going to land.

With no idea of how he is going to land.

“I am not in love,” he keeps saying,

“I am just flying, having a look from up here.”

Oxfam Diary versus Android

Busy professionals, we play it happily

(professionals, is that more irony?)

scrolling down and flicking speedily,

papyrus versus lean technology.

Now your big fingers are looking clumsy

as I race through the weeks more quickly.

We show subtly we’re oh so busy.

Have either of us got a day that’s empty?

I glance inside the Oxfam diary –

if the world were a village of 100 people,

every day 60 go to bed hungry.

Can we both do lunch on Monday?

Sky's Daughter

If you walk into mist a story begins

If you eat snow snowmen appear in your dreams

If you see a whale in a pond it’s time to wake up

Falling in streams brings you good luck

These are the laws of water, sky’s daughter

 

If you watch a river too long you start to feel old

One cup of water is worth two buckets of gold

If you look at clouds long enough a dragon appears

Icicles don’t grow on my grandfather’s beard

These are the laws of water, sky’s daughter

 

If you watch the wild sea you start to grow wise

If you leave a tap running a cactus plant cries

At the centre of whirlpools devils make plans

Goblins hide in watering-cans

These are the laws of water, sky’s daughter

 

If you stand in puddles it will help you grow tall

If you watch the tides turn you sometimes feel small

Sleeping lakes dream of fish falling through air

Waterfalls are rivers washing their hair

These are the laws of water, sky’s daughter

Toast

 

Golden slices of tastey toast

White toast, Marmite toast

Always tastes just right toast

Toast for you

To come home to

 

Toast that’s dripping

With butter that’s slipping

Between your lips

Onto your hips

 

In times of global economic crisis

I find what’s nice is

A simple bit of toast

In times of arguments and family tension

Sometimes the best solution

Is to make tea and toast

 

Put the toast on, Ma

Put the toast in, Pa

Toast goes pop

Marge on top

Slip it in your gob

Just the job

 

After a long day’s shopping or an exhausting day on your feet

I find it’s hard to beat

A quick round of toast

After a long night’s sleep when I wake in the morning

In fact even when I’m yawning

I can still eat toast

 

Whether you’re eight or eighty,

Man, boy, girl or lady

I bet the Queen loves toast

English, Australian, Jamaican or Asian

I bet every nation loves toast

 

Golden slices of tastey toast

Toast, toast, toast, toast –

Cheese!