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(Catherine the Great’s statue is removed from its place in Odesa following an on-line poll)


To pacify our much-bombarded town,

Catherine’s statue has been taken down:

A nod to the invader’s former might,

Now banished from the population’s sight.

Some will object – ‘let history remain’,

But others think of violence and pain,

With all that this construction represents,


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Plea to the Warriors

If you cry out loud that you favour peace,

A lot of people look at you and smile

And mark you as naïve and pat your head.

Yet surely peace should be the normal way;

Backers of war should justify their stance,

The four-star pundits, dealing arms of death,

Indoctrinating young (and mostly) men

To jump to commands and to kill each other

And all who block their path. The road t...

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Service Provider


I fight your battles when you want,

Patrolling the darkness of your mind.

I perform dirty deeds that you shun

And expect my recompense in kind.


I fire your guns and launch grenades;

I land your missiles on the spot.

I lay out bodies in neat rows

To leave in unnumbered holes to rot.


Though I’m rough-edged and cynical,

I carry out the work you ask.

I tidy...

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It used to be the highlight of our year;

Big dipper rides plunged down into a void,

For just one moment blanking out the world,

With all its boredom and unuttered cares.

Among the larks and games and candy floss,

The funfair has a feeling of escape.

At first, war seemed the same: a chance to swap

The daily skin for something bright and new.

So here we are, but no one wants ...

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Ukraine poetry book published

As you may know, I have just published a collection of poems on the war in Ukraine, entitled 'The Shape of Ukraine'. There are forty poems in the book, many of which have been shared with WOL readers, and WOL was kind enough to feature a news item on the collection.

In many ways it was sad to have to write these poems, but ...

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No More War!

The generals fry in their fat,

The spokesman spouts his usual junk;

The sergeant’s barking will fall flat,

The new recruit has trashed his bunk.


The rumpus at the front is still;

Noise of mortal combat ceases.

Exhausted soldiers, trained to kill,

Break their weapons into pieces.


They hug their foes and swap their hopes

Of lives soon filled with joy and art;


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The Lowest of the Low

In a way, it reminds me of my brother,

Who lived for seven days in nineteen forty-eight.

A young life was snuffed out, barely begun,

And Mum and Dad’s heartbreak never really healed.

George. I still have his birth certificate.

Medicine was less advanced back then

But everyone involved did their level best

To keep him in this world. No one was to blame.

Unlike in today’s new...

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A missile fell on to this Polish place;

The media rushed to report the case.

We screamed: ‘Help! Article Five! We are doomed!’

The end of our selfish existence loomed.

But this has turned out as a false alarm,

And none of us this end will come to harm,

Unlike two poor devils who are no more;

The latest victims of this evil war.

Collateral damage their final lot,

They pai...

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Mykolaiv Zoo

Species from all around the globe:

An elephant, a polar bear,

And here, an unexploded bomb.

Hang about, what’s that doing there?


A tranquil spot during the week;

The animals make not a sound.

But the tail end of a rocket,

Protruding coldly from the ground,


Reveals the darker side to truth,

As people pass with bike and pram.

An enemy would like us dead;


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A Song for Ukraine

I wanted to write a song for Ukraine,

But I gave up almost straight away.

An expert was required, ideally

Someone who would burrow into corners;

Go beneath the surface to smell the soil,

Who would press wounded flesh and procreate

And clasp lost strangers to their belly’s bulge.

But how could I find a person like this?

Advertising? Perhaps. But in real life,

I knew I had...

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There was a misunderstanding.

Some words were exchanged,

Translation errors, perhaps;

And then it happened.

A mistake, I suppose.


A pity really, we were doing all right.

A few problems, of course,

But nothing terminal.

Until now.


Just before it landed,

The man next door reminded me

That tomorrow is his birthday.


Looking out, not much going on;


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Brass Monkeys

That’s what I thought, arriving in Kyiv.

It was December and minus fifteen.

‘This is nothing,’ said the driver. It felt

Like something. Hat, gloves and scarf were no use.

The hotel was marvellously porous,

Rooms glacial, the restaurant shivered

Behind flapping Perspex windows. The wind

Reached all protected parts. The next morning,

To the lecture. Everyone double-wrapped,


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Foot Soldiers

Just like the bodies, plucked and sacrificed

In dirty factories and down in mines,

Like frightened masses, banished to the dark,

Or the timebound terror of the trenches,

Here come the foot soldiers, their destinies

Already marked. Convenient agents

In the hands of the men who know better.

It was ever thus. Some are dead, others

Beyond hope, the rest numbered and dated.


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Day after Day

Day after day we watch Ukraine,

And feel the anger and the pain;

We feel the pity and the sorrow,

The fear of what may come tomorrow.


We wonder what the next months hold,

As people fight the winter cold;

We wish that we could end by magic

This wretched mess, insane and tragic,


And turn to silence every gun,

Which shoots beneath the chilly sun,

Wipe off the b...

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It’s strange how we view war from far away.

Distance lends itself to rage and anger,

To dollops of easy indignation,

Fuelled by being powerless, I suppose.

For those on the spot, it’s the practical,

The workaday, which occupies the mind:

Filling in the forms, feeding survivors,

Visiting hospital, booking the hearse.

The task of clearing out dead neighbours’ homes

Damps d...

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Apartment Block

I didn’t deserve the love that you gave:

I didn’t deserve your extinguished heart.

I wish I had been the one to behave

That last time before fate tore us apart.


As one young child is pulled from the rubble,

I realise that you were crushed beneath.

Another search is not worth the trouble;

I’ll find a still spot to lay down my wreath.


I hear the sirens and look to t...

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Here and There

There is no rubble in my street,

No bombs, no shells and no rockets.

The people have their fill to eat,

Cash is bulging in their pockets.


Down our way the lights are shining

And the windows remain unsmashed.

Our access to fun’s not declining;

No hopes for the future are dashed.


All sick and injured are treated,

Not shot and abandoned for dead.

Our wealth is ...

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Small Print

It’s the rifle-butt nature of all this:

Sit down, shut up, sign here, do as you’re told.

We talk about land grabs, but this is, well,

An extortion, of dignity and heart.

There’s a bash for the scammers in the North,

And jobs for the boys. Lot’s of them, no doubt.

Imagine this: ‘Yes, I’d love to be ruled

By the people who blew this place to bits

And killed or maimed our frie...

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What should be a simple counting of heads

Is here a pratfall buried with the bones

Dumped near the fenced-off railway sheds.


For freedom’s optimistic tidings

Are out of fashion in these parts,

Their wagons mothballed in the sidings.


In place of a future based on trust,

The polished tracks will soon become

A instrument of power’s grasping lust.


This will no...

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I knew this one. In different times

She could have led so many lives:

Doctor, artist, mother, teacher,

One of a band of merry wives.


A guess, of course. She was so young,

And now is hauled out of this pit.

Laid out for ever in a shroud;

Deprived of all her charm and wit.


This place concealed a tragic tale;

A savage tumult oozing waste.

Like her, each one had...

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High Season (Our Village Liberated)

They’ve done a runner; thank goodness they’re gone.

Let’s face it, they were a pain, all summer:

Every morning, their ugly mugs on view.

We remembered their sort from holidays:

Stripped to the waist, with their lobster tans,

Letting off steam until the small hours

And dumping all their rubbish when they left.

They puffed on stinking fags and terrorised

The local girls, wher...

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The Big Men


The Big Men limber up for war,

Showing off their guns and rockets;

The Big Men strut around the town,

Looted cash stuffed in their pockets.


The Big Men are toning their muscles,

To beat their captives into shape;

The Big Men snigger at reports

Of instances of wartime rape.


The Big Men hide behind the lines,

To dodge the other side’s attack;

The Big Men’...

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A Quiet Little Man

A quiet little man,

Lurking in the corner;

Keeps all his powder dry,

Looks no one in the eye.


A quiet little man,

Is pacing up and down,

Dying to go public

On the next big subject.


A quiet little man,

Projects his tiny voice;

Points his jabbing finger

At victims of his choice.


A quiet little man

Deals from his wily pack.

He smiles upon his f...

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'Write Something'

Late one evening, not doing much,

I glimpse the latest news on screen.

Soldiers from Ukraine, dismembered

At the front, battle to insert

The cold stumps of their missing legs

Into new replacement hollows:

Each faltering step agony,

Their cries the rage of raw courage.

All hanker to re-join the fight

And kick the cheap destroyer out.

Anger swells, somewhere. They shoul...

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Afternoon Stroll

We strolled down the streets of Kyiv

One balmy August afternoon,

Past burned-out skeletons of tanks,

Which might as well live on the moon.


We understand this rough display,

To boost a noble people’s mood,

But battles rage not far away,

Where wrecks like this are caked in blood.


Conflict is a harsh performance;

You enemy is marked as bad.

But truth, uncomfort...

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Dawn in Ukraine

Dawn is another day, we say;

It has to be a time of hope,

The vanquishing of night,

The promise of the new,

The turning of a page,

An exit from our dreams.

But is that really what it means?


The start of the day, in some way,

Does nothing but confirm our fears.

It is proof that nothing changes,

That night cannot be chased away,

That dread and cunning stalk our...

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It is a brutal game, this war,

But certain lines you do not cross.

Conventions have to be maintained;

It’s difficult to say much more.


When you see this, when you see this –

You know damned well of what I speak –

No human souls should be hung out

Unclaimed and near to the abyss.


Someone will try to wriggle out

Of these evil exhibitions,

Claim force majeure o...

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Through the spectral quiet

Of this deserted place,

The tanks go rolling by

In their odd little race.


It’s hardly a surprise

That they proceed so fast;

There’s nothing here to see,

Since that almighty blast.


So as they disappear

Along the dusty road,

The silence will renew

Its dark, despondent load.

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‘Come see my new blockbuster’,

The film director smiled.

‘It’s about a sinner

And all those he defiled.


It’s about the cities,

Reduced to smithereens;

It’s about the soldiers,

Cut down in their teens.


It’s about the people,

Running for their lives;

It’s about an exodus

Of children and of wives.


It’s about the cowards

Who fire long range shells;


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(On 21 July 2022, it was reported that 15,000 Russians have died in Ukraine and 45,000 have been wounded).


Fifteen thousand Russians dead in Ukraine;

Innocents, for the most part, made guilty

By the vicious vanity of old men,

Using the war like a wild young lover,

To prove they can do it, still get it up.

In their pointless, far-off rumpus, blood spills

As one hundre...

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The Shape of Ukraine

Though every nation’s shape must be unique,

The outline of Ukraine attracts our gaze.

A sense of the vulnerable protrudes

From this quiet space, once so short on hate.

This is where fear comes in; borders store

Culture, landscape, language and traditions,

Encircling the rich plains of history.

More than that, they preserve our memories,

Of sunny dreams, glistening on water.


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Fancy Names

Let’s consider this, just for a moment:

Hundreds are slaughtered in attacks on schools,

On apartment blocks, or shopping centres.

Yet still we call it this fancy name: War.

We hand out medals, salute the stupid,

And march up and down wearing silly clothes.

If I sent bombs towards civilians,

I should go down as a mass murderer;

But in this mad world, I am a hero,

Doused w...

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Dying in Ukraine

They’re dying every minute in Ukraine.

They die up at the front and in the towns,

Cheered on by generals and circus clowns,

Who push the envelope to entertain

With their own brand of tragedy and pain.


They’re dying every minute in Ukraine.

Lives may be swapped for twenty feet of land,

Transactions nobody can understand,

Fought out in summer heat or pouring rain.

It ...

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A New Life

Sometimes, in villages, you hear old men

Who tut that things are not how they should be.

They knew the boy. It had been a close call.

A few months before, he was still at school,

A cheeky sort, though decent in the round,

But one morning, flaunting teenage stubble,

He joined the beards and testosterone.

The bullet was not long coming. Alex,

Known as ‘tree trunk’, once the l...

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The war does not discriminate;

Fists clenched, it grits decaying teeth

And laughs its cocky, cackling laugh

Before the tanks and missiles strike.

Onlookers trawl chunks of horror

From the ocean of public grief,

Where treasured souvenirs are crushed

And no one can identify

The charred remains in plastic bags.

Yet those round here whisper a name:

A woman, a teacher by t...

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Trollies in Kremenchuk

I curse the bloody things sometimes.

Last Monday at the Shopping Mall

I grabbed one but a wheel was jammed.

The next one veered off to the right

And the last trolley in the row

Simply collapsed before my eyes.

I went outside to the car park

And spotted a shiny model

In the far corner. Just the job,

I thought, and marched off to claim it.

Light and mobile, it was perfe...

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At the Front

Close now. I think. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

War takes away perspective with its taste

Of danger, its relentless jabs of fear.

Yes, we can see them. Just across the field,

Behind the trees but not quite out range.

Easy prey for our telescopic sights.

They’ll probably never know what hit them;

Two of them are down, the rest run away.


Bloody cowards, just like we wou...

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Splendid Youth


The war is sucking up our splendid youth.

They’re racing to the front; they won’t come back.

Each town and village starts to empty out,

As friends and classmates go on the attack.

They’re fighting for our dignity and state

Of freedom and of happiness pursued,

But consequences, each one plainly knows,

Could be unmentionably vile and rude.

In these now quiet streets the ...

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I wonder if those who lay the mines down

Stay put and wait for victims to approach,

Or, with a surreptitious grin, retreat.

As for the victims, no imagining

The horror of their plight will bring them back.

The miner and mined have done their duty.

In moral terms, they seem so far apart:

One bad, one innocent. But consider.

They are both under orders not to think:


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A Hundred Days

A hundred days have passed since it began.

So anyone who came of age since then

Will know of nothing but this raging war,

Impardonably thrust into our lives.

Are all attempts to look beyond such days,

Anonymously scribbled on the wall,

A futile antidote to these cruel ways?

Or something sinister which may recall

A game which every canny person plays:

To test how far the ...

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The look on Mum’s face told its own story;

Our dad’s weekly letter had failed to arrive.

In its place, as sombre as a scarecrow,

Was a black-bordered missive from the state.

When we left, it seemed like an adventure:

Hugs and backslaps and putting on a smile.

Then the train rides, through cold nights and long days.

I don’t know where we are. They all seem nice

But they spea...

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They’re performing a foxtrot in Davos,

The great and the good are crossing the floor;

While deep in Ukraine, with little to gain,

The dance is wilder than ever before.


The movers and shakers are out in force,

They move their careers and their buyback bids;

While near to Kyiv, with little to give,

Old jackets are shaken to feed the kids.


Designer shoppers and vegan...

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City Tour

Good afternoon, you’ve come from far and wide;

In Mariupol, I shall be your guide.

Do not believe the lying foreign press,

Who will pretend this place is one big mess.

Just look at the improvements we have made:

All that extra space, if a bit less shade.

(And any minor damage has been done

By outside agents who have cut and run).

You see that souvenir shop with its flags?


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Many here will go to heaven,

Though some of us will go to hell.

These places stand on worlds apart,

But who does badly? Who does well?


We think that sinners should be sent

To purgatory down below,

But in a war all lines are blurred;

Good people may not even know


That they deserve an afterlife

Of peace and comfort and of joy,

While devils rise in our esteem


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Day 82


You wake again in dawn’s reluctant light;

The neighbour’s wife and youngster have both fled.

He shivers as he clings hold of his gun

And, unrefreshed, falls on his lonely bed.


War, looking back, can be a lucky break.

Men who once cleaned up a factory floor,

When it is over, build a better life;

At present, it’s a terrifying chore


Of trembling hands, impending...

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My Enemy

I felt a numbness after the event:

A single shot, and this was just a boy,

Barely out of school. He lay, open-mouthed,

And I thought of his family and friends,

His teenage passions, posters on the wall,

His portrait of pride, hanging in the hall.

Suddenly, my mates were surrounding me -

We had blown a hole in enemy lines -

Slapping my back, but I was now alone.

One may a...

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Anger Management

We should not yield to anger,

Nor trespass upon kindness.

There are other ways to staunch the boiling blood.

The sight of yesterday’s Victory parade,

With its wind-up, flat-pack military,

Its gross salutes and guns and strut,

Its little man made out of wax,

Talking for ages through his nut,

Made me grimace at the waste

And at the tragic, pointless load

Of fresh-dead b...

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I thought he would be giving us a wave,

But no. An old gent, looking quite cheesed off.

As an individual, he had good points,

But I don’t want his statue in this town.

He has too much baggage; I’m short on tact.

Anyway, we do not need more clutter.

These damned edifices are everywhere:

Footballers, dogs, forgotten men in wigs.

In some spots you can hardly move for them.


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I once passed a little village

Where locals met and chatted in the square;

Some, most withdrawn, played cards and smoked.

The place was poor but free from fear or care.


When required, the work was done;

Winters were hard but held a certain charm.

Then all too soon the tanks rolled in;

There was no time to ring out the alarm.


Now, though the buildings are long gone...

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Stop. Go back to your make-believe,

For what is real is hard to bear.

In normal times we take a stroll

And look around and sniff the air,

But now imagination rules,

No entertainment lives out there.


Three heroes in their sailor suits

Dance to the tunes of ‘On the Town’,

While outside bombs and missiles land

And innocence comes crashing down.


The burned-out s...

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