Get out there and win the war, you slackers!
You’ve had tons of weapons from your backers.
They’re no excuse: defences, mines and tanks;
You’ve all you need to break enemy ranks.
Casualties? That’s just collateral stuff;
You mean you don’t know that war will be rough?
You know what they say: you can’t take the heat?
Vacate the kitchen and stare at defeat.
We’ve stumped up t...
Thursday 28th September 2023 7:53 am
Last night, I met somebody from Ukraine;
He told me Mykolaiv was his town.
‘Oh, I’ve heard of it,’ I said. ‘In the East.’
‘Not really,’ he replied. ‘Near Odesa.’
Embarrassed, I had to apologise:
‘I got it confused with Mariupol.’
Although, of course, I realised my gaffe,
This exchange exposed the danger of war
As big-headlines and the superficial:
‘Starts with M, four sy...
Wednesday 13th September 2023 5:23 pm
They say we are in it for the long haul,
But the long haul is a poor existence.
Your options become rather limited:
Eat, sleep, work, fight, and live on subsistence.
I’ve driven lorries long haul to the West
And been to Asia on a long-haul flight,
But never put my neighbour in his grave,
Nor hid in shelters half way through the night.
Long haul relationships can b...
Saturday 9th September 2023 6:48 am
You cannot see me,
But I can see you.
That’s how the war goes.
As you cross the road
Or jump on a bus,
I will destroy you
With minimum fuss.
But if you did spot me,
You would be amazed:
I’m no great colossus.
You’d miss me in the street,
As I have grown so small,
And, under the radar,
Hardly exist. At all.
Wednesday 6th September 2023 7:48 am
The midnight attack got him. He swept floors
For forty years. Ordinary, no frills,
He carried on his work throughout the raids,
While cautious types like us would hunker down.
Close to retirement, he always swore
The cowards would not stop his night’s routine.
‘He’s as daft as his brush,’ some people said.
He made his choice, of course, as we made ours,
And he has paid the ...
Saturday 2nd September 2023 9:41 am
The pride of our town,
Its mortar and bricks
Now crumble to dust,
In heaps of destruction
And mollified lust.
Out there men are laughing
And punching the air;
They deal in high fives,
When hitting their mark
And ending more lives.
Tuesday 29th August 2023 7:29 am
(On August 13, 2023, a 23-day old baby girl was killed by Russian shelling in the Ukrainian village of Shiroka Balka. Six other people were killed in the attack.)
There’s an old saying: ‘live for the day’.
I managed to do that. Twenty-three times.
And then – you probably know what happened.
You may ask the question: ‘am I angry?’
'For missing out on the next eighty years?'
Sunday 20th August 2023 8:47 am
Here comes my son, the soldier boy;
He’ll always be my pride and joy.
I was so proud they would deploy
Someone so young, someone so young.
His face seemed hardly out of school;
Though he was kind and broke no rule,
They knew he was nobody’s fool,
For one so young, for one so young.
A picture in his uniform,
A buttoned coat to keep him warm,
He raced towards ...
Tuesday 15th August 2023 9:32 am
(Russian missiles have recently struck pizza restaurants in Kramatorsk and Pokrovsk in Ukraine, killing men, women and children)
Why do you hate our pizzerias?
Why do you target tomato and cheese?
What have you got against pepperoni?
Are our four seasons failing to please?
We pride ourselves on our ingredients;
Our service is rated second to none.
But your depraved s...
Wednesday 9th August 2023 9:03 am
Politics lurks everywhere we look:
Politics of dithering and backtrack,
Of scaremongers and big-boy nostalgia.
Nowhere to hide. In the US of A,
Blusterman is lying through his teeth.
Meanwhile, the same old suspects starve,
Or steal to fill their bellies or their habit,
While, next door to this, others lead their lives,
Trying honesty to round off each year’s end.
Saturday 5th August 2023 5:00 pm
It has been quiet here so far;
The trick is getting through the day:
Ticking off hours, counting clouds,
Throwing pebbles into the lake.
I’m just one of the backroom boys,
I scrub up and write the labels.
It’s soldiers I feel sorry for;
Christ, there goes one, then another.
Poor bastard, sent flying towards
No-man’s land. I suppose that he’s….
That’s number five this ...
Tuesday 25th July 2023 8:30 pm
I will not shake her hand;
Surely you understand?
My people, every day,
Will shake the hand of death.
Her kinsmen’s uncouth plan
Inflicts its pain and hurt
Across my native land,
Where bodies lie in dirt
Days after their last breath.
I was told I must play;
She is allowed to stand
And face me at the net.
It’s not her fault, and yet
I will not shake her hand....
Thursday 13th July 2023 7:10 am
Five hundred days is far too long;
The war has come, good times have gone.
The chiefs talk tough, the bullets fly,
And combatants prepare to die.
The weak recoil before the strong,
Whose bells and whistles multiply
Into a dark, forbidding sky
And chill winds sing their mournful song.
Faced with this daily raid on time,
This awful pillage of our youth –
A hideous, demo...
Monday 10th July 2023 7:48 am
With every new obscenity,
We grope for the familiar
When we try to summarise death:
‘A trickle’, steady or constant,
Of civilian casualties.
Strange how we choose to illustrate
The rubbing out of human life.
Our terminology betrays
A culture ruled by quantities
And drip-drip measurements of loss,
Or, as likely, by the comfort,
Of images of gurgling streams,
Friday 7th July 2023 8:07 am
They’re coming for the writers now;
They’ll take out poets one by one.
These tellers of the awkward truths,
Who show them up for what they are,
Appear to constitute fair game
For slingshots scrounged from death’s bazaar.
(The Ukrainian writer and poet Victoria Amelina was killed in the missile strike on the pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk).
Monday 3rd July 2023 4:25 pm
What if we should try the left field option?
And wandered off message or ditched the script,
And shouted out loud: ‘Just stop the killing’.
To save the people, not yet dead, from those
Like themselves, but dressed in different garb.
Save the lives, save the years still to be lived,
Stop the anguish, the tragedy, the waste.
Turn force-fed anger into peace, disarm,
Roll back ...
Saturday 1st July 2023 9:10 am
Must we respect the niceties of war,
When enemies adhere to no such code?
Civility becomes a fatal flaw
Which adds some extra kilos to our load.
Our protocols are there for all to see,
And everyone agrees we must abide
By rules which are the price for living free,
Although they’re only honoured by one side.
Our foe abuses captives and denies
Their fundamental r...
Wednesday 28th June 2023 8:31 am
Sunday 25th June 2023 12:14 am
Doing the weekly supermarket shop,
He saw the cashier had just the one leg.
‘Landmine?’ he asked. ‘You’ve guessed it,’ she replied.
The man behind them pointed to his patch:
‘I was at the front. They shot out my eye.’
Still, mustn’t grumble. My friend and brother died.’
The queue went quiet; the scanner beeped on.
A woman entered, carrying a child,
Friday 23rd June 2023 6:36 am
The journalist asked nervously:
‘How many Russians have you shot?’
Juggling with his imprecision,
The marksman grunted ‘quite a lot.’
I suppose we should not be shocked,
Since he is fighting on our side,
But somehow you feel a shiver
When seeing how so many died.
You see them stalked like animals
By cold, nocturnal infra-red.
The night sight clicks; one pot,...
Tuesday 20th June 2023 5:55 pm
We took back a village today.
Not much going on:
A few broken windows,
A burned-out car or two,
And one poor sap of a teenage soldier,
Hands on his head, crying out for Mum and Dad.
A broken old man emerges,
Shaking his fist and shouting ‘Kill them all.’
Another sits thoughtfully by the stream,
Praying for a missing child.
Our flag, mounted on a...
Monday 12th June 2023 3:25 pm
It seems that everybody’s fair game now.
In the town of Dnipro the other day
Their missiles claimed a two-year-old girl’s life.
And so we still have the moral high ground,
Until such time our side does something worse.
I want to have faith, believe there’s a God,
But was a decent man nailed to the cross
To make way for this dung heap of a world,
This foul dominion of the ha...
Thursday 8th June 2023 8:15 am
We must have spoken far too soon;
I think we may have jumped the gun
When we waved patriotic flags
And romped around in blokey fun.
We thought that Bakhmut had caved in;
We thought that we would run the place,
But now it seems that victory
May bounce right back into our face.
We have lost thousands of our men,
Who we knew were expendable;
But we thought our ...
Wednesday 24th May 2023 7:50 am
We live close to the stars,
But closer by the days:
From times which have long gone
Till the dawning of tomorrow.
Consider, for one moment,
The stars and the days, piled high:
The tortured sky.
Saturday 20th May 2023 9:32 pm
Like a giant can of insect spray,
Or some demented farmer blitzing weeds,
The looming tank, vertiginously filmed,
Mows down a flock of soldiers in retreat.
Flushed out from their camouflage,
They scatter or they bite the dust.
Whose side were they on?
What does it matter?
You still have to step over them.
The military play their games,
The politicians giggle;
Friday 12th May 2023 5:15 pm
‘How many of you live here?’
The man with the clipboard was asking.
Numbers are not my strong point
And I get a bit tongue-tied.
I reply, in a roundabout way:
‘Well, some, here and there;
Not many now;
Fewer than there used to be.’
‘Is that the best you can do?’
He snapped, looking peeved.
I slope off, inadequate,
Turning round, I see ...
Sunday 30th April 2023 5:22 pm
Folding up your kit,
Cleaning out your gun,
Marching side by side,
Writing home to Mum.
Lobbing a grenade,
Fingers in your ears,
Larking with your mates,
Sinking twenty beers.
Blow the bastards up,
Keep your powder dry,
Punch the freezing air
As you watch them die.
Paying off the tarts,
Clearing body parts,
Bullet in the head:
Tuesday 25th April 2023 8:42 am
We do not know the future tense round here,
But deal in possibilities and mays;
Learning hypotheticals and options
And other such conditional displays.
Predictions in our world remain unsafe;
Coming weeks and months are speculation.
We may be staying here or going home;
Others will decide our situation.
We say ‘good morning,’ ‘thank you for your help’:
Sunday 23rd April 2023 9:13 am
Another toddler has copped it today;
They dragged him from the mess but then he died.
Attacks could come with heaviness of heart;
Those in charge know full well what may happen,
And might express regret for dirty tasks.
But no, each life has now become fair game;
All are equal before the randomness,
The cheap terror of such vague precision.
Yes, the good die young, but the ...
Tuesday 18th April 2023 8:46 am
We think the only victims in a war
Are those with names engraved who rise no more.
But we should spare a thought for those who live,
Those damaged souls with so much more to give:
Exploits in the battle oft unspoken,
Hearts and minds decayed or simply broken.
So many of them suffer from a loss
And find it tough to put a smiling gloss
On situations which become so hard
Thursday 13th April 2023 7:52 am
These pictures look quite dated now,
Like all those old films that we see.
That’s you, returning on the bus,
And, picking up the kids, it’s me.
Back in the glory days of peace,
We lived together hand in glove.
Our future seemed mapped out in stone,
The present sparkled with our love.
Now that seems like another world;
Your letters from afar arrive,
Wednesday 5th April 2023 9:53 pm
You hear your mother's voice,
You hear your father's voice,
From beneath the rubble
Of the savaged building.
You dig with your bare hands
And cry out loud for help.
But none comes, nothing moves.
Real life, in guise of death,
Has stripped away the scales.
With its offending heart,
The cruel ventriloquist,
Yapping at your conscience,
Is put ...
Sunday 2nd April 2023 8:24 am
In the great tempest of eighty-seven,
Mum and Dad remembered milk bottles
Bouncing and blowing down their quiet street.
Incredibly, none of them were broken,
Though hordes of healthy trees were smashed to bits.
But soldiers do not escape so lightly:
One bullet shot is easily enough
To shatter for good their unprotected shield.
The broken glass has to be collected
Wednesday 29th March 2023 7:44 am
I've just found this recording of a little girl singing the Ukraine National Anthem.
I first heard her singing "Let it Go" whilst she was in a bunker in Kyiv, a while back.
This is heart-breaking to listen to.
My thoughts and prayers are for the people of Ukraine, and for the people of Russia, including journalists and other actvists who are doing what they can to stop this evil madness....
Sunday 26th March 2023 9:34 pm
Courtesy of lily-livered missiles
(Tactical? Strategic? Who on Earth cares?)
Ukrainians lose the rest of their lives,
While eating lunch or dinner in their flats.
My thoughts drift to twittish highland royals,
And double-barrelled toffs who hunt for stags,
Which bleed and stagger round for days on end
Before they die in bouts of howling pain.
It is all part of a continuum:...
Saturday 25th March 2023 8:54 am
Written in March 2023: one year on.
(...sees races, eras, dates, generations,
The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together"
Walt Whitman, Kosmos)
Only fragile glass
holds the cold
night's times at bay:
each star above the beech
owning its mo...
Friday 24th March 2023 11:37 am
Written in March 2022 in response to Simon Armitage's 'Resistance'
the horror that is war:
destruction... death... weeping...
children who do not understand
held in the arms of mothers
who do not understand
Monday 20th March 2023 11:25 am
When the old Soviet leaders
Went hunting for the day,
The animals were sedated
To make them easy prey.
Some decades in the future,
They send in droves to war
Minds numbed so much they do not know
What they are fighting for.
I guess there is a parallel;
It always has been thus.
Lemming and lamb go to their doom
With bare bones of a fuss.
Friday 10th March 2023 5:17 pm
This indescribable Hell.
Go ahead, describe it:
You are bound to come up short.
Those nearby can’t do the job;
To them it’s still neighbourhood,
And photographs, as we know,
Will never do it justice.
Perhaps this is the way Hell
Gets away with its nonsense;
Its mammoth violation
Too vast to get a grip on,
So that no one even tries.
A brief sun bursts through the...
Tuesday 7th March 2023 5:08 pm
Savour this warmth
Within me you see
For, what shall return
May no longer be me
That which these eyes
Have still yet to see
May make a small shell
Of all I could be
Though, I fear I may not
Come back at all
Lying still and alone
Wherever I fall
Show my daughter a photo
When her world feels small
The one where we're laughing
At nothing ...
Monday 6th March 2023 10:21 am
It’s only anonymity
Which makes us go to war;
When soldiers meet up face to face
They wonder what it’s for.
They talk of friends and relatives,
About whom they all care;
Discuss the beauty of the world,
Which they delight to share.
They do not bow to nation states
Or military types,
Whose mission is to keep them down
By tapping on their stripes.
Sunday 5th March 2023 9:08 am
The risk is there's nothing left but hate,
Or loathing and calls for revenge.
Should we prevail, one understands;
In battle, feelings are stripped down,
Until all that remains is raw,
Sensitive to the lightest touch
And far too easily provoked.
It’s simple, from many miles away,
To preach reconciliation
And call for offering of hands.
Less straightforward if family...
Friday 24th February 2023 7:43 am
We used to sit out in the Maidan Square
Before the war, and chat into the night;
Our arguments continued well past twelve.
We called ourselves the late show, like TV.
But now there is a late show every day:
Late husbands, brought back home in body bags;
Late wives, uncovered by a fire crew;
Late children, each identified by toys,
Beneath the expendable wrecks of schools....
Tuesday 21st February 2023 8:53 am
Tread softly, the poet said, on my dreams.
Ukraine: a girl with a hunger for life
Took a detour on her way to school
To pick some early snowdrops for the class,
And some as a present for the teacher.
Cowardice is not equal in a war:
If you run from fighting, you are punished,
But if you scarper after laying mines,
You are feted as a hero, adorned
With medals, as your unk...
Monday 13th February 2023 9:25 pm
The sky looked weary
Pale and colourless
As were we
I laid down my rifle
and thought of what I'd told her
I'd left it in the hollow of her mind
In the place where dreams ascend
So, when the day came
they could carry
all that grief & sorrow away
and feed it to the clouds
for when they felt like crying
And on that day
Laden with the burden of
Friday 10th February 2023 4:35 pm
It’s bizarre that Eurovision,
That riot of drivel and camp,
Became a combatant in war:
Builders bopped to the Ukraine song.
Politicians of every sort
Are decked out in blue and yellow.
Hollywood types, shocked in their awe,
Enlist and worship at the shrine.
Lottery winners in hard hats
View body bags through telescopes.
Pray silence for the giant screen.
Monday 6th February 2023 9:04 am
The theatre of war
Is two steps from your chair.
You watch it on the screen,
You calculate the odds
While weighing up the form
And placing your next bet
On where the bombs will fall.
Those in the know predict
That Kyiv is odds-on.
The news comes through at six:
Bulls-eye! Time to collect,
For your holiday cruise.
But please, gamble responsibly!
Thursday 2nd February 2023 4:56 pm
Wars are the usual bag of tricks:
Fought by the same class of suckers,
Straight out of factory or school,
Uncomplaining and scared to death.
Heads crammed with patriotic guff,
They squirm in trenches at the front
And finish dead or short of limbs.
Those who survive, when they return
To a country fit for heroes,
Are told, in no uncertain terms,
To shut up and to know t...
Tuesday 31st January 2023 8:50 am
I understand but don’t rejoice;
Steps may be both sad and vital.
In Prague in sixty-eight they said
That no one argues with a tank.
How right they were, although one man,
Brave as hell at Tiananmen,
Stood firm and stopped some in their tracks.
Now ministers of every hue
Queue up to mount these phallic toys,
The pitiless monsters of hate,
Murder machines for far-flung ...
Friday 27th January 2023 4:47 pm
Lone husbands shed tears at birthday greetings,
Texted by their wives, estranged in the West.
Today’s public face of chilly winter,
The old man shivers for the cameras.
Helpless, like a baby, he tries language,
But no one cares. The caravan has moved on
To the banter of fighters in the East,
Joshing weakly as they scoop up bodies.
Life stirs somehow beneath a bombed buildin...
Tuesday 24th January 2023 7:56 am