The Grammar School

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decades out of date.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...

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The poetry of Art Garfunkel

entry picture

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,


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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...

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A Foreign Wood

entry picture


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...

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Murder mile

entry picture


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.

Let developers

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...

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The Oldies


Mature English Blonde lady

offers no rush massage.

Old postcards wanted

by private collector.

Continence care:

bed protection,

pads, briefs, accessories.


Wanted: Dinky toys, model trains.

Underwear by post.

Understanding attractive

Continental lady offers

memorable massage

to discerning gentlemen

in discreet Marylebone surroundings.



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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 ...

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To My Unknown Soldier

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


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First world war


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...

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Plain Man's Valentine

entry picture

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.


Maturity has...

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Valentine poem


entry picture

“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...

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Jack KerouacOn the Road

The Eleven-Plus

entry picture

Football over, mown grass,

heady scent. School photo,

earnest expressions

squinting into sun.

Yearning, inexplicable,

unspoken crush

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.


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Margaret Thatcher: how I missed my moment

entry picture

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...

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Margaret Thatcher

Jones the Voice

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...

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Tom Jones

The Winter Gardens


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.


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The cat, the damselflies, and the deer

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

reputation; flattery,

offers to publish

a first collection. That

MA in creative writing.


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Cat Comp

Railways cento

entry picture

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.


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CentoWrite Out Loud November poetry exercise


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.’

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Waiting for the next one

entry picture

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...

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The bike race

entry picture

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 ...

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WOL Olympic Competition

Gentler pleasures

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...

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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...

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The show

I snapped you on my mobile phone

that Easter Saturday, beside the river,

framed by wisteria, finishing

your Pinot Grigio outside the theatre,


then watched you during the performance

whooping and hollering approval,

bitching and biting your tongue about colleagues,

embracing amigos at the interval.


Rehearsal tantrums and dressing-downs,

worth it fo...

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The cruet set


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 ...

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Family silver

Rooftops (for Bruno Cordati)

entry picture

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 ...

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ItalyPaintingsecond world war

The Clyde Paddle Steamers

entry picture

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,


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ClydePaddle steamers

Kicking and screaming

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 ...

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cut-upexperimentalmanchester evening news

Question 17

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/ ...

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entry picture


The nets are hung in the fishermen’s huts

at the old end of town, where the road runs out; 

the houses cling to east and west hills.

The wind fills his eyes with tears


The seaside was somewhere you escaped to;

candy floss, fairground rides, shrimps

in fresh pools; crunchy egg and eggshell sarnies,

sodden fish and chips, pier closed for repairs



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familynetsold ageseaside



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,...

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Something for Everyone


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 ...

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World Cup haiku

A vuvuzela

up Mark Lawrenson's backside;

it's what he deserves

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footballMark Lawrensonvuvuzela

What a Wonderful Game

(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 ...

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FootballWorld Cup

A time that glowed


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,

conductor breathless.

Running the last yards from the corner,

hammering at the ...

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northold agesouthyouth

The Reluctant Volunteer

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 ...

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Big Fish in Masvingo Lake

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


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  • 2009 - 2016 (36)


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