Poetry Blog by Greg Freeman
on The oak tree (Sun, 28 Apr 2019 11:53 am)
After three days of arguing the armistice was signed
in the French general’s private train
at a siding in the forest of Compiegne.
The Kaiser left for exile in Holland.
The military, unwilling to admit defeat,
still surrendered guns and planes.
No one told the people how bad things were.
A German corporal, recovering
after being gassed the month before,
a misfit who...
Sunday 10th November 2019 11:55 am
i.m Caroline Jones
Today’s special: Toulouse sausages
and mash, or pumpkin ravioli.
Quizzical rhinoceros head peers
from wall papered with celebrities.
WC Fields behind the bar. Poster
of Chet Baker, should be Bobby Moore.
A stopped clock. Coals glow
in the grate, warm, darkening gloom
of a wintry weekday afternoon.
It’s time for rum. There’s no one
Thursday 14th February 2019 2:44 pm
After Craiglockhart he returned to the front line.
In October the officer wrote home:
‘My senses are charred. I don’t take
the cigarette out of my mouth
when I write Deceased over their letters.’
After four years of war that transformed his verse
the Allies were making swift advances
but talk of peace was premature. He wrote
to Sassoon: ‘The new soldiers cheer
Tuesday 25th September 2018 9:52 am
It seemed like another of my mother’s
mad missions. We left at the crack of dawn,
caught a snorting steam engine
at Boulogne, the like I’d never seen before,
cleaned our teeth under a tap
on the platform at Abbeville.
Boarded another train for Le Treport,
a train that stopped everywhere.
The taxi driver said: ‘Which cemetery?
There are two.’ We struck lucky, found...
Tuesday 11th September 2018 10:20 am
Feels like we’ve won the league. Yet
I get so angry I want to smash things.
You know that feeling? When people
sneer on the telly, or you talk
to someone who’s been to university.
You see their lip curl, when they think
you’re not looking. Take back control!
Ain’t just the weather, I’m always hot
under the collar. Say what we think
on the buses, down the tube. Tell ...
Monday 6th August 2018 11:19 pm
You’ve come from somewhere;
you’re going somewhere else.
On a wall in this minster of stations
is a map of the North Eastern Railway
around 1900. Lines criss-crossing
North Yorkshire: Coxwold, Ampleforth,
Helmsley, Hovingham, Slingsby,
Memorials to that railway chancer
George Hudson. Puffed-...
Tuesday 16th January 2018 7:49 pm
A misshapen old man
that barred our way to school.
We would sidle past, caps over our eyes,
the aged oak in Greenfield Avenue,
so wide the path went round it;
startling, lurid growths
broke away from its crevices,
crumbling at a touch.
Aware of beauty, we gathered
cobwebs, glistening with dew
and sunlight, netting them as gleaming fish
in rock pools, with bent...
Sunday 31st December 2017 11:53 am
bear children and overweight parents
around the streets on New Year's Eve.
At work they see nothing
but the cart in front, face their fate
in blinkered silence. Tethered
in stalls, their braying
roars through the town.
Pale-haired twins twirl
each other with ghostly smiles;
Marbella square awash with people,
music as midnight nears.
Our daughter doles out the ...
Tuesday 3rd January 2017 11:27 am
He turned up pissed, fresh
from the pub: glazed face,
breathing beer, gazed at the boy
in the front desk, stroked
his blond shock of hair.
It was all such a hoot.
About him flew books,
duffel bags, hockey boots.
The ale wore off, he growled
for quiet; clutched
with nicotine fingers the Penguin
book of contemporary verse,
decades out of date.
He coughed a...
Monday 12th September 2016 11:20 am
Pimms in the palace gardens
before the concert, sun soaking
the evening crowd, reluctant
to leave their picnics
and champagne for the music.
One half of a famous duo, the one
that arranged the harmonies
but didn’t write the songs.
Great reception, nevertheless.
Patience even when he craved
our indulgence to read a few
so-so ‘prose poems’. Now in his 70s,
Friday 24th June 2016 9:42 pm
A sad little station
on the Hampton Court line,
the place where the fast
slowed down for Surbiton.
It overlooked a sewage farm
we’d cycle past, a short cut.
Lower Marsh Lane
more or less summed it up.
Sad? Not for us.
John and I would trainspot there,
watching the Merchant Navys
and Battle of Britains
round the bend and thunder
towards us, while listenin...
Monday 28th September 2015 3:43 pm
The empire called for more men, and they came.
Shipped from sub-continent
to western front,
Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, East Africa,
largest volunteer army in the world.
They weren’t ready for the cold;
couldn’t understand new officers
when theirs were slain.
Some wounded, shipped to England,
died and were buried
in a corner of a foreign wood
with Muslim honours...
Tuesday 7th July 2015 4:14 pm
Rome lays bare its bones,
a body dissected for sightseers:
in a corner of the square, the spot in 44 BC
where the Senate met and Caesar fell.
Pillars, ruined temples, marble lavs
uncovered, for the cats to colonise.
gnash their teeth in vain.
In the nearby shadows of a back street
small shrine to politician Aldo Moro,
found in the boot of a...
Wednesday 27th May 2015 5:23 pm
Mature English Blonde lady
offers no rush massage.
Old postcards wanted
by private collector.
pads, briefs, accessories.
Wanted: Dinky toys, model trains.
Underwear by post.
Continental lady offers
to discerning gentlemen
in discreet Marylebone surroundings.
Sunday 8th March 2015 10:08 am
Looking back, we remark upon another year
crammed with readings,
poetry festivals, am dram rehearsals.
The illustrations? Jaunty railway
posters, preferably from the 1930s,
views of promenade and coast for you,
moors and uplands for me,
awash with confident colours.
Life begins at 60? Too true!
Looking forward, an older woman,
us before too long,
checks her ...
Tuesday 9th December 2014 2:00 pm
I hope these help to keep you safe.
Are you lonely at the front?
You have your pals, along the trenches.
And we have ours, inside the factory.
The laughs we have, us girls.
I didn’t mean, that kind of lonely.
That’s why I’m slipping my note
inside this box of ammo,
which, I hope, protects you.
It’s funny. Though we’ve never met
and maybe never will, I often
Tuesday 8th April 2014 6:02 pm
You mourn old photographs:
‘I was pretty then, and I never knew it.’
I’ve just filled an album
with our last pieces of paper
before digital took over:
It includes my mother’s 80th birthday
(she just missed out on 90).
A fabulous, tearful, joyous Sikh wedding,
dancing to the bhangra boy’s beat,
the marriage lasting little more
than a year. That holiday in Sorrento...
Monday 27th January 2014 9:22 am
By Frank Jaye
You’ll get no Valentine from me; I’m not the type,
Pallid daffodils prematurely delivered – all that transatlantic hype.
I am not easy with love, be it concept, verb or noun,
My sentiments are more mundane and wear a plainer crown,
Embellished with affection, encouragement, respect not least,
You moderate my temper, rising still like yeast.
Saturday 4th January 2014 1:37 pm
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
for Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty
“The only people f...
Monday 16th September 2013 9:01 am
Football over, mown grass,
heady scent. School photo,
squinting into sun.
on a blonde-haired girl
with snub nose and pudgy face.
Winners and losers.
Another girl, dark-haired,
stared moodily after me,
had I but known.
Dusty sang I Just Don’t Know
What To Do With Myself.
Thursday 18th July 2013 8:18 am
My first and only, indirect encounter with Margaret Thatcher was in 1971, at a demo outside a private girls’ school in Leamington. The “milk snatcher, union basher” – the then-education secretary had introduced some legislation about student unions, but I can’t remember the significance of it now - was handing out the prizes at speech day. Protesters gathered outside the school gates. I was ne...
Monday 15th April 2013 8:43 am
Once his nose was fixed
a sex bomb was launched
from the valleys all the way
to Vegas. Gospel truth.
Blazened out cheesey ballads,
brazen hips met with
rapid fire of knickers.
With age came self-mockery.
Always more to Jones the voice;
not quite ready to be put out to grass.
Rediscovered soul, became
hip with old and young.
Now he roared abo...
Friday 12th April 2013 11:24 pm
Always blew like hell beside the Winter Gardens,
playing havoc with the wives’ hairdos.
Sunny Jim Callaghan and his silly song,
fishermen's tales about catches and the EU.
A little arm-twisting, word in the right ear;
the workers, united, will never be defeated.
Late-night curries and composite motions.
Flying pickets, tactics; that wasn’t my department....
Friday 12th April 2013 12:00 am
That Google thrill;
seeing your name overtake
drain clearers, garage owners,
estate agents, even playwrights.
Habit had to be fed,
became second nature.
Alarmingly easy. Just change
a location, you’re on to a winner.
Imitation built a growing
offers to publish
a first collection. That
MA in creative writing.
Monday 28th January 2013 9:13 am
There were flags, and a few maps.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
A soldier and wife, with haggard look.
The convict, and boy with violin.
The river’s level drifting breadth began.
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
Letters of thanks, letters from banks.
And for that minute a blackbird sang.
Sunday 11th November 2012 9:02 am
The walls of life are closing in;
her world reduced to one room
covered in pictures that sometimes
jog memories, but more often
questions, like: ‘Who is that man?
I don’t know him.’
‘That’s Dad, Mum.’
Wednesday 12th September 2012 11:46 am
Hotel in a stranded coastal town.
Locals are trained in evacuation;
TV station's webcam is watching,
awaiting the volcano.
The volcano is overdue.
The tour guide does not mention this.
Alien terrain stretches to the horizon,
moss-cushioned lava, misshapen limbs,
battlefield of broken trolls. Deserts
of black s...
Saturday 1st September 2012 8:19 pm
In the subway they’re cleaning the graffiti;
new mural with torch / jubilee theme.
Railway bridges receive fresh coats of paint.
Down-at-heel England attempting to gleam.
The schoolkids have made willow sculptures
of cyclists leading the way. At the park
where teenagers drink wine all night,
the beer tent is open all day.
The Olympics are coming to ...
Wednesday 11th July 2012 9:51 am
Attend the church summer fete;
tombola and a silver band,
lucky dip and discarded books.
Bike along the restored canal.
Nurture your own, make do and mend;
hark again to the vinyl.
Sell the car, return to Scarborough,
watch cricket on the green,
Wander aimlessly in the garden
as leaves swirl about in the wind.
For all the money is gone;
life won't be the same...
Sunday 17th June 2012 10:04 am
Two ladies, late eighties: one flicking
the pages of Majesty magazine
to pass the time, but still a believer;
the other preparing to sail down
the Thames in a royal barge.
Yachts, palaces, castles, state visits,
breakfast cereal in Tupperware cartons.
Happy holidays in the Isles of Scilly,
bereavement, confusion, incontinence.
One paid her care home fees by se...
Tuesday 22nd May 2012 9:26 am
I never really knew my mother’s father.
All I remember: tuft of nostril hair,
spied from sitting on his knee; and a hoard
of half-hidden threepenny pieces
slipped into a sandpit outside the lido.
In pictures he looks a kind, fair man.
Worked for his only firm from 16 to 61.
Received a wedding cruet set in 1922,
inscribed "from members and friends" at ...
Sunday 26th February 2012 10:37 am
The worst of the front was that trickle of rain
down the neck. Wet through, it felt like liberation.
And lice. Home on leave, people shunned him in trains.
Walled, hilltop village of his childhood:
as another war came, he returned to Barga.
Saw himself as immobile, a tree spreading roots.
When the Germans briefly retook his village
one self-portrait was damaged. The ...
Saturday 21st January 2012 5:51 pm
Memory as clear as a perfect summer;
two-funnelled steamship, day trip
to Inverary. Pier to pier under fug
of smoke; going below
to watch engine cranks turn mesmerically;
on the way back people on deck
singing to an accordion band.
Most of the Clyde paddle steamers
scattered or scrapped. One lay berthed
on the Thames, lost. Just
the cash-strapped Waverley,
Saturday 30th July 2011 11:39 am
Breakfast is moving to Salford.
The giant polar bear will melt
in about five days. The landlord
has a firm, settled intention:
by night he dons all the sequins
and feathers, trawling hotspots,
on patrol. No deposit, ever.
What early trauma ...? Emergency lights:
cowering under a stool in the kitchen.
(Actona Dodgem Bar Stool on chrome base).
Did she ...
Sunday 3rd April 2011 10:48 pm
Question 17 on the census form “is left intentionally blank.”
Pull the other one: there was a question there once.
Do you surreptitiously pick your nose
when you think no one is looking?
Do you have trouble sleeping /
get up in the night at all hours,
worrying about things left undone,
or things you did, and shouldn’t have?
Are you happy in your job/ ...
Wednesday 30th March 2011 10:04 am
Bobbing in moonlight, pleasured by waves;
journeying through swell, under stars;
buffeted by wildness, first murmur, then roar;
smacked against rocks, the foam and the crack
Coasting on rollers, taken for a ride;
immersion, hope, exhilaration, surprise;
borne along on billows, swept up by joy;
directed where the tide decides
Chill dawn emerging,...
Thursday 19th August 2010 9:44 am
Seeds, sheets, plugs, paint; something of everything
if not much range. Pots, pencils, saucers, plates;
pocket-money treasures, find a present
for your gran. Towels, wrapping paper, pins.
Sometimes you came away with a bargain.
If only they didn’t keep moving the plants,
picture frames, toys, socks and sockets, sweets.
Times changed; you only called in now and ...
Saturday 3rd July 2010 10:58 am
up Mark Lawrenson's backside;
it's what he deserves
Monday 14th June 2010 5:52 pm
(This one's for Ray, and all the others out there)
Brazil in Mexico;
Bonetti’s blunder and Gazza’s tears;
Pele, Eusebio, Cruyff;
North Korea, when they were plucky, not dangerous and mad;
The often-absent Tartan army;
Beckenbauer’s grace and Zidane’s rage;
Argentina! Rattin’s dismissal, Maradona’s revenge;
Can Drogba carry Africa’s flag?
Wembley, the ...
Friday 11th June 2010 9:08 am
Once it was a time that glowed:
turned-up collar, hurrying through glistening, early 60s streets.
A kind of muddling, room at Odsal Top,
or summat like that;
steam train always whistling in the distance
Dashing for the bus; overcoats,
shopping bags, windows steamed up,
Running the last yards from the corner,
hammering at the ...
Thursday 29th April 2010 7:32 pm
My dad, no hero, didn't look
for punch-ups. When the call came
he signed for the pay corps.
But the look on his face
sometimes got him into bother.
He couldn't quite stomach the drilling,
or hide what he thought
of the shouts, the how's your father,
the moustache and tiny eyes,
the whole bloody rigmarole of the sergeant major.
One night in ...
Tuesday 23rd February 2010 8:37 pm
There’s a big fish at the bottom of Masvingo lake.
Old, fat, and ugly, it won’t be caught
I glimpsed it once, on the end of my hook;
Thought I had it, saw its cruel, fierce eyes
The fishing isn’t good in the lake.
The big old one has eaten almost all the others.
People still come to try and catch it
Maybe if the lake dries up
It will be found there at the bottom
Tuesday 15th December 2009 9:46 am