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He waddled his way to the Kremlin

As some kind of honest broker,

But anyone watching the horror show

Viewed him as one sick joker.


With his huff-puff of lies and flannel,

He claimed that he came in peace;

If only Kyiv would listen,

The bloody destruction would cease.


Then just a few days later,

Ukraine suffered thirty-plus dead;

Idiots can sometimes be usefu...

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Some people say home’s where the heart is found;

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the being there,

The rooted opposite of somewhere else.

Fond memories may have tipped the scales

In favour of this slow, contented place:

The local shops, the chatter’s usual sound,

The morning stroll to coffee on the square,

The precious banality of passers-by,

Though each slab of this ecosphere wi...

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‘Look at the big picture,’

Cried the man in the suit.

So I took his advice

And ignored the sniper,

The stiff, the nightly raid,

The trivia of grief.

I turned to the summit,

Its polished chandeliers,

Its underarm hygiene,

Its on-tap refreshment,

(‘Still or sparkling, Madam?),

While, in the dregs of war,

The uninvited crouch

And hope the shells will miss.

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I remember the old dictum

About having to break some eggs,

But don’t recall the guided bombs,

Great cities beaten to a pulp,

Or blowing off somebody’s legs.

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Magnet (Kharkiv, 25 May 2024)

A magnet hung in the big, bright store,

Between the household and the sport,

When down came a pair of guided bombs

And more innocent lives were cut short.


Far away across the border,

Pampered strategists play chess;

They do not know the victims,

And are bothered even less.


This is the new reality

Of war devoid of shame,

Where women, men and children


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The Naughty Little Boy

The naughty little boy:

He likes to roam around,

Invading foreign ground.

Harsh methods he’ll employ,

The naughty little boy:

He measures out the soil

That he intends to spoil

Or preferably destroy,

The naughty little boy:

A foe who stands alone

Is butchered by a drone:

His brand-new, shiny toy,

The naughty little boy:

No opposition views

Are broadcast on ...

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Eurovision 2024

We have become defined by war.

Two years ago, we had the love.

Builders played and danced to our tune,

This fantasy world embraced us:

Plucky sorts, hung out for applause.

Now we are just part of the kitsch.

Since that time – more dead, injured and burned,

But not only that. Deeper marks

Have eaten into Free Ukraine:

The tears of a vanished childhood,

The shame of shr...

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The Old Smoothie

There’s the old smoothie, turning on the charm.

Hunched behind his desk, far away from harm.

He doesn’t seem to care or give a toss

About the lives that he condemns to loss.


There’s the old smoothie, targeting Ukraine.

Oblivious to death, amused by pain,

He knows the masses have nowhere to hide

And are fair game if they live on that side.


There’s the old smoothie,...

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Draft Dodger

Are we allowed to be afraid?

Is it compulsory to fight?

Many would choose to be elsewhere

When faced with a foe and its might.


Are we a traitor if we leave,

Or a patriot if we stay?

It is no shame to show contempt

For warfare, and to keep away.


And ‘pacifist’, that grubby word

That hardly dares to speak its name?

Why should we join the ranks of hate

Or pl...

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Still Life with Massacre


It’s clever how they’ve set this up:

A bowl of fruit,

A jar,

A china dog,

An iron bar (an iron bar?)


Behind – some crumpled remains,

The stench of rotting heaps

Of defenceless women and men.

Still, no one can see or smell this,

So that’s all right then.

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Guess Who?

He won’t give a penny to help Ukraine;

He won’t lift a finger or part with change.

He wants his America ‘great again’

And thinks that such places are foreign and strange.


He won’t give a penny to help Ukraine;

He prefers to do favours for his mates:

Like jailbirds whose crimes are far from mundane,

And heads of authoritarian states.


He won’t give a penny to help U...

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Ukrainewho knows?

Words from Bucha (April 2024)

Two years ago, we had no words,

Because words seemed superfluous.

Branded upon our consciousness,

All we needed was the image:

Each scorched mark would remind us

Of newly discovered horror.

But, in the end, the words returned;

Our memories demanded them.

A less reliable record,

Yet devastating for all that:

Shifting, changing, containing tears

As well as anger. Tha...

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Odesa: 21 dead

They have made a mess of the house next door;

Mum, Dad, two kids and a cat are no more.

Can someone explain what they do this for?

Who knows? They just don’t like us, I suppose.


In years gone by, it was never like this;

We greeted, with a handshake or a kiss,

Our nearby friends. How has it gone amiss?

Who knows? They just don’t like us, I suppose.


It looks as thou...

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I saw

I saw 

The flare of the gun

Against the setting sun


My baby's smiling face

I kept within a lonely space


My wife's hand in mine

For one final time 


I saw

The blood from my chest

Sending my body to rest


The future I thought would be

Drift away to a blood red sea


The hands of Time slowly cease

Feeling a weary inner peace


I saw


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Two Years On - Poems on the War in Ukraine

As you may have seen on the News and Features page, I have compiled a selection of fifty poems to mark the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Some of these poems will be familiar to regular contributors, but a number have not yet featured on the WOL blog.

This is a private print and not available for general sale, but I would be pleased to send a free PDF copy by e-mail to anyb...

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Two Years On

Time, or what passes for time,

Is a culprit, most unkind,

Stealing what we find,

Emptying our mind.


Time should be the music

Which everybody plays,

Adding to our days

In unexpected ways.


But time is made of windows,

Shattered one by one in hate,

A commentary upon this state,

Where rescue parties come too late.


Time is the gun, time is the shell,


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Time Passes

‘Time passes,’ said the man at our table.

‘People want something new.’ I guess he’s right.

It's the prevailing theory round here.

‘The same old faces,’ opined another;

‘You know, Zelensky. Always wants money.’

And ‘here’ is anywhere, maybe everywhere.

Time passes. All of us know that feeling:

You turn a new page in a calendar

Or put away Christmas decorations.

At cricket...

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Bad News

A morning to freeze the spirits.

As they shiver in hollowed times,
Workers stamp and spit used breath.

At the corner I see two men:

Their eyes wet from today’s bad news.

‘You can always tell,’ says my guide;

'They both had sons where it happened.'

I try to do an interview:

Get short shrift. Understandably.

As we leave, one of them calls out:

‘Poetry is dead. Art is dead...

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The Closing Of The Red Sea


I saw the blood run down the walls

Within the children's tears

I heard the parliamentary halls

Resound with warring cheers


I felt the shock of bomb & gun 

Within gasps of anticipation 

I saw their prey run & run

From nation killing nation 


I drew my scythe & licked my lips

A hefty load to swallow 

I told the ferryman, he needed ships

For, they will b...

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A Genesis?


The world keeps shouting 

whilst, the quiet

sit in despair, witnessing 

the mould & rot spread

Trying not to Inhale 

greedy spores that rot hope

Exhaling a desperate,  empty foreboding 

‘Times they are a-changin’’

Echoes from an old radio somewhere 

A white flag drifts past, stained red

We rub our eyes

But, there's fire in the sky

And death all around. 

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We queued at the supermarket;

I saw that everyone was dead.

And yet they were still standing.

Out of defiance? Contempt?

Perhaps just out of habit.


We queued at the bakery,

And in the rows of cakes

We saw the faces of the fallen:

Unmoved, at last at peace.


We queued at the bus stop.

A passer-by called out to us

And we called back,

But no one was alive


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Musée des Beaux Arts (January 2024)

The war’s cold exclusion has stripped out love.

Two years on, I stroll among the Bruegels;

The pictures dazzle in their joyless way,

Reflecting life’s treadmill of chores, horrors,

Its accommodations and its intrigues,

Its little stratagems for making do,

Not forgetting massacres and revenge.

I’ve read about the gas used at the front

To flush out choking soldiers marked for...

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You can spot the signs:

They talk of ‘hard-earned cash’,

And ‘putting our people first.’

We know what’s coming next:

‘Yes, the invasion was wrong,

But do we really….?’

Or, ‘why can’t they get together

And sort the whole thing out?’

Fatuous bewilderment

Is hardly an excuse.

It is so damned easy to say:

‘We expected some light

At the end of the tunnel’

When you...

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