New Pieces

                    Urban Legends

If one day I’m sitting on the loo

And a crocodile that’s come up from the sewer

Bites my willy off-

That will probably be the end of writing poems about love.


And then, if while I’m asleep an earwig crawls

Into my ear and starts to eat my brain

It will no longer matter that the crocodile ate my balls-

There’ll be no more poems, no love, ’cause I’ll be insane


                                       100 Harvests

               And they are no longer there and are still there

Lamb’s Succory is Swine’s chicory is Dwarf Nipplewort is Arnoseris Minima is

a cornfield weed of no note

Interrupted Brome is Bromus Interruptus is

a weedy grass of farmland

Small Bur-Parsley is Caucalis Platycarpos is Hedgehog Parsley

Its habitats are arable fields and waste places

Downy hemp-nettle is Galeopsis Segetum is

a weed

Thoroughwax is Hare’s Ear is Through Leaf is

beautiful and grows amongst the corn


A hundred harvests left unless…

A hundred harvests left unless

We choose another path to destruction


Arnoseris Minima                    ora pro nobis

Bromus Interruptus                ora pro nobis

Caucalis Platycarpos               ora pro nobis

Galeopsis Segetum                  ora pro nobis

Hare’s Ear, Thoroughwax      pray for us








They’re anti-war…

They’re anti-war, my lot:

Remembrance Day’s an establishment plot;

But they keep on displaying their photographs

Of Uncle Ralph

When he was in the RAF

In uniform, with his cigarette,

His young man’s grin, the slick

Of Brylcreem.

               He died before I was born;

               He is inscrutable.

They tell no tales against or for him;

Of booze, or women, or of heroics

In tight spots;

Just of their loss when he was shot

Down over Belgium;

And of his burial place being found

After the war,

And his name carved on white stone

With other words

From some dead civilisation


Inscrutable now, as then.

            Now there’s a memorial in the park:

            Anonymous Brylcreem-ed boys grin in the face;

            Their mothers proud now, no longer afraid

            Of death, which is only a moment of burned breath,

            Fried flesh, before the short spin down and then the crash.

Geoffrey Hill


Sir Geoffrey Hill , the poet, died last Thursday. RIP.

(So. Farewell

Then, Geoffrey


as E.J.Thribb would have begun.)

He was a difficult poet, who had no interest in not being difficult. (“Impenetrable”;”more and more oblique”, I read in his obituary.) He scoffed at the criticism that he should be more ‘accessible’: “The word accessible is fine its place; that is to say, public toilets should be accessible to people in wheelchairs”; but it was not a word to be applied to poetry.

Years ago I went to see him at the National Theatre. He looked puzzled, even disturbed, that there should be an audience, listening to him, applauding him; bewildered.

He was from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire; the first place I lived in after leaving home at the age of 18.

The other Bromsgrove poet is A.E.Housman. I think that he, too, was puzzled to find himself a popular poet; but his work is quite different, mostly using simple words in simple forms. Despite (because of?) its pessimism his work struck a chord, and soldiers carried A Shropshire Lad to the Boer War and to the battlefields of the Great War.


On Poetry Being Difficult

Imagine you’re a physicist

Working on the Hadron Collider;

Trying to explain tetraquarks:

X(4140), X(4274), X(4500), X(4700)

Each one containing a unique combination

Of two charm quarks and two strange quarks;

The first four-quark particles found to be composed

entirely of heavy quarks.

(And now- Gee! – pentaquarks.)

You’d have to be an insider

Using a language the rest of us don’t understand.

We’re just not in the same ballpark.

Accessibility comes later; if at all;

But you’re still a kind of hero.

So it is with poetry.

Why should anyone care, these days,

About the Plantagenet Kings?

And, if we do, why should we care

That the poet tangles his thoughts into sonnet-form?

We like it served plain:

26,000 men were killed at Towton.

The blood of the slain lay caked with snow.

When the snow melted, the blood flowed

Along the furrows and the ditches

For a distance of two to three miles;

Or, if you prefer, 6,400 to 9,600 metres.


Housmanesque Epitaph on Geoffrey Hill

He, in the days when poets were striving

To make their work obscure, unread,

Contrived to make a decent living;

Took his wages, and is dead.

He, thinking of Europe’s tragic histories,

Dipped his pen in fire, in blood;

Wrote of the forgotten; wrote of mysteries:

Several great works; a few duds.