If Only I'd Made the Team

                                      I could have 
had a career in the media. I could be 
hanging out with Hannah Woods, 
talking about eyebrows, about
the time Twitter went mad for hers,
the time when Paxman lifted his
because I’d spotted Mahler’s third
from only one note. I could have 
Roger Tilling’s number. There would be
YouTube clips of him saying 
Leeds, Williams! as I jump in fo...

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Hot or Not?

The weather report says it’s hot,
but some people online say it’s not,
and we’re all snowflake pussy woke pricks.
“In the summer of ’76,”
says Steve034459,
“it was hotter than this, we were fine!!!!!”
It’s hard to know who to believe.
The Met Office boffins, or Steve?

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I Saw Prince Andrew in Pizza Express

I saw Prince Andrew in Pizza Express
at the Metro Centre in Gateshead.
He had the Pollo Forza, with an extra topping
of Kobe beef and oysters,
and a side order of foie gras
lightly dusted in saffron,
washed down with a bottle of Château d’Yquem,
and for dessert,
truffles rolled in the finest Italian chocolate.
By the time he’d finished he was 
sweating profusely.
The waiter said it was ...

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Throwing Eggs at Thatcher

I threw an egg at Thatcher.
Not the real one, but the statue
they put up in Grantham,
which is the closest you can get
since she's been ding dong dead.
Afterwards, I felt guilty.
I could have given that egg
to a food bank. But then
if it hadn't been for Thatcher
we might not need food banks
in the world's fifth richest country.
Just one of the many reasons why
I threw an egg at Thatche...

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Limerick #18

I wonder what kind of inventor
was first to invent a placenta,
and which did decide
it is best when it’s fried,
with a side of delicious polenta.



One for #NationalLimerickDay :)

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Nana's House

My sister says she’d always refuse
to give us any biscuits.
It still annoys her now.
But I don’t remember that.

On her own since ’79,
when Grandad fell, fractured his skull.
One way to end a party.
I don’t remember that.

We bonded over puzzle books,
Wordsearch and Logic Problems.
If there was anything else we shared,
I don’t remember that.

In her sitting room, in ’83,
Thorburn s...

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5 April, 1902
Scotland one
England one
Match unfinished

9 March, 1946
Bolton Wanderers nil
Stoke City nil
Bolton win two nil on aggregate

2 January, 1971
Rangers one
Celtic one

11 May, 1985
Bradford City nil
Lincoln City nil
Match abandoned after forty-two minutes

29 May, 1985
Juventus one
Liverpool nil
Juventus win the European Cup

15 April, 1989
Liverpool nil

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Shadow Puppets

We cast shadow puppets 
on the bedroom wall, 
in the circle of light we’ve made, 
the lamp angled up so it beams across 
the single mattress, and us. 

I can manage an adequate rabbit, 
and a Homer Simpson that’s good, 
or bad, enough to make her laugh. 

Like this, she says, feathering my palms, 
turning me into an eagle. 

Together, four-handed, 
we figure out ways 
to create fant...

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The space race was not enough.
The war could not be won
by Laika, or Yuri, or Neil.

So Spassky and Fischer
were sent to the front line,
reluctant troops in Reykjavik,
playing to save the world.

The Soviet’s revenge
was on the basketball court,
an arena as unlikely
as a miracle on ice.

Americans never
marched in Moscow,
nor Russians in LA.
Better a boycott
than a Bay of Pigs,

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A Normal Christmas

“For all of the people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas, I think that’s where we’ll be, if we just keep playing our part.” - Sajid Javid, 25 October 2021

All we want is a normal Christmas,
not like it was last year.
One where we won’t have to choose 
between the people we love to see.
Won’t have to save a place at the table
for a logged-in laptop screen,
and may...

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It Started With a Kiss (for Nicola Adams)

Your fist, her chin,
in the ring that never before
let the likes of you in.

Did you think about that 
as you laid those blows, about
those who knocked you down
for a hundred and sixteen years?

They marked your gold
at the art gallery.
Outside, not in.

There are some fights
you are yet to win.


From 'The Taking Part': https://joewilliams.co.uk/publication/the-taking-part/


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Penalty Shootout in Zero Gravity

It was Barry’s idea, so

he only has himself to blame.

For all the thrill of orbital flight,

of seeing the Earth from space,

those journeys are so damn boring.


I admit to sneaking the ball in,

and that Barry was winding me up.

The running commentary didn’t help,

calling me Gareth Southgate,

him being Andreas Köpke.


No one could have predicted

the ball woul...

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Portugal 3, Spain 3

Knowing I’d be with you,

I’ve been practising your language,

so when he scores the penalty,

instead of Fuck off, cheating shit,

I have something more poetic:

Que te folle un pez!


You equalise, but he scores again,

so I stand, shout at the screen,

Hijo de las mil putas!

in revenge for 2006.


When you take the lead,

I realise that I’m unprepared,


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Four Seasons Total Landscaping is Now Available for Venue Hire

It’s been a tough year, so

we’ve decided to diversify.

The State Room, over the road,

were doing a roaring trade.


We don’t have a bar, or a ballroom,

or a grand piano, like they do, but

we have a car park out the back,

and some very long cables.


We can’t do in-house catering,

but Sharkey’s Grill & Ale House

are on the next block.

We’re working on a partne...

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(Never Going) Back Again

She likes this one.
I can see it’s perked her up.
She was bored at the bar
on a Monday afternoon,
but now she’s dancing.
She doesn’t need to use her feet,
just hips, shoulders, 
and a smile.

If it was later I might tell her
I prefer Peter Green
to Lindsey Buckingham,
but I’m still sober enough
to know better.

Instead I say
I’ll have another pint,
though she’s already pulling it

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Je Ne Regrette Rien

Ricky Wilson pushed the button 
that turned his chair around.
He was surprised to see,
standing on the stage before him,
a chimpanzee 
in a tight, bright yellow dress.

He thought it unlikely 
that this could be the source 
of the beautiful rendition 
of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien 
that he’d heard moments earlier, 
but the stage was otherwise empty, 
so it seemed this must be the case.


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A Truck Full of Turnips

Grandma used to tell this story, how she drove a truck into a wall,

in the war, when she was in the Land Army, a truck full of turnips,

knocked down a wall, and Grandad said he saw his mate die on a

boat, right next to him, shot stone dead, right there, right next to him,

just like that, right there.            And I tell you about how, in the 80s,

the shops couldn’t open on a Sunda...

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Urban Pedestrian

The urban pedestrian knows all the tricks.
Every ginnel, every back street, every right of way,
knows how to shave a minute
and exchange monoxide main road
for a park or a lazy canal.

The urban pedestrian knows what it takes.
He’ll be there in exactly thirty-two minutes.
No traffic jams can spoil his plans,
no two star Uber drivers,
no buses lost to suburban Bermuda triangles.

The ur...

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A Song for Europe

In fifteen eighty eight the Spanish navy came to fight,

to claim the crown King Philip thought was his god-given right.

Now millions of us fly to Spanish islands in the sun.

The wars are long forgotten, the Armada is long gone.


So sing for Europe, sing for peace, and sing to make amends.

Let’s raise a glass of sangria to all our Spanish friends.


The French are nearer ne...

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The place where we landed seemed good.
There was water, and food, and air,

but others were there before us,
and they told us we couldn’t stay.

There’s no room here, they said.
We can’t help you.

So we,
the last humans,
went back to our ship
and continued our search
for a home.


(From the pamphlet 'Kiling the Piano', published by Half Moon Books)

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Bloke Walks Into a Pub

Is this the place for the poetry night?
Is it you that’s in charge?
Can you put me down for a spot on the open mic?
It’s Publius, but I use the stage name Virgil.
Can you put me on early?
I’m a little bit nervous.
I haven’t read for two thousand years.
Three minutes, is that all?
I was hoping to do a longer one.
It’s called The Aeneid.
I’ll just do book two.
There’s a good bit ...

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The Dinosaur Who Came to Play

You think I’d be impressed because a tiger came to tea?
I’ll have you know, a stegosaurus came to visit me.
He rang the doorbell yesterday, at twenty five past four.
I couldn’t let him in - he wouldn’t fit through our front door.
I put my shoes and coat on and we went to play outside.
He wasn’t bad at seek, but he was terrible at hide.
He played quite well in goal, although he couldn’t kick ...

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The Town That Was Murdered

They shut the pits down long before
they closed the shipyard doors.
The steel that we were promised never came.

Then they said they’d dock our dole,
because we weren’t at home,
available for work that wasn’t there.

For twenty-seven days we marched,
just trying to be heard,
but government can only hear the rich.

Three hundred miles and all for nowt.
We might have bloody known.

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American Girl

I love you, American girl, even though
          you can’t spell aluminium,
          or colour, foetus, sanitise,
          you don’t know what a biscuit is,
          or how to use a roundabout.
American girl, I know it’s hard,
to change your ways, to let go of the past.
I love you, American girl, even though
          your portions are all super-sized,
          you’re sugar spooned...

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The Headingley Taps

Another fourteen boys,
another fourteen pints
set down on another wooden table
on another busy day.

Another brood of hens,
another fairy bride,
drinking halfs and bottles
of I can’t decide,
and I’d better take it easy,
we’ll have cocktails later,
and no, I’ll get these.

There’ll be hundreds today
just like them.
Hop-licked strollers
on a big day out
that might be once in a lifet...

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Limerick #8

Said the chicken, ‘Dear egg, I have toiled
with that question in which we’re embroiled,
as to which of us two
was the first, me or you.’
The egg remained mute. It was boiled.

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I rehearse in my mind
the words I have to say.
I’ve written your lines too
to sit between mine,
in the hope that you won’t
stray too far off-script.

I need to tell you something.

Perhaps you’ve worked it out,
though you haven’t said a word
about the new shirts,
the late nights at work,
or the weekend away
with friends I’d never mentioned.

No, you don’t know her.

Maybe you’ll ...

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Aggie's Legacy

Great Aunt Aggie always insisted
she didn’t want a fuss for her funeral.
‘Just chuck me in a skip,’ she’d say,
so when she died, peacefully at home
at the age of ninety-two,
that’s what we did.

Disposing of a body in this way
is frowned on by the authorities,
as we discovered two days later,
when the law came knocking at the door,
asking questions.

‘We’ve nothing to hide,’ we said.

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I am the fisherman
who plucked you from your bed,
an oyster in its shell,
closed up against the world.

There is darkness in you,
a single grain of sand
that broke in long ago
and burrowed deep inside.

I do not know whether
you took that intruder
and sculpted it, shaped it
into a perfect pearl.

Or chose to ignore it,
denied its existence,
allowed it to remain
untreated, infecte...

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I'm In Love With Keeley Donovan

I’m in love with Keeley Donovan,

weathergirl extraordinaire.

I love her figure-hugging dresses,

cheeky smile and silky hair.

I love the way she can’t stand still,

rocks back and forth, sways side to side.

I love the fact she’s just a very

tiny little bit cross-eyed.


I’m in love with Keeley Donovan.

I hate it when Paul Hudson’s on.

I’ve sat through half a boring h...

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Killing the Piano

We tried to save you with small ads.

Free to good home, must collect

but nobody called.


We tried schools and churches,

community centres,

but none were prepared to accommodate you.

No room for the past,

no use for tradition,

and each back turned

was another key condemned.


Once we dragged you a hundred miles north,

and later a hundred back,

my faithful ...

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Street Food

When the new restaurant opened its doors,

the words on the window read Street Food.


I asked if the food was cooked in the street.

They said, ‘No, it is cooked in a kitchen.’


I asked if the food was served in the street.

They said, ‘No, it is served at a table.’


I asked in what way, could they say, this was street food.

They said, ‘Get out of my restaurant.’



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Making Rome Great Again

‘If you make me Emperor,’ Hadrian declared,
‘I will build a wall in Britain,
from the west coast to the east,
to keep out those marauding Scots
who come to steal our sheep.’

The partisan crowd roared in approval,
but the left wing press were less enamoured
of this charismatic campaigner.
He came, he saw, he’s bonkers!
was the headline in the Mercury,
while the Herald ran with Emperor M...

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The Prettiest Girl in the Co-op

You were the prettiest girl in the Co-op.

You said it yourself, to the lad on the other till,
when I was in the queue.
You were just messing around, of course,
flirting a little, perhaps,
but it was true.

You asked me once, as you scanned my sausages,
if the sun had gone down yet.
You said you were starving.
I told you it hadn’t, and knew what it meant -
that a couple of drinks in th...

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Mrs Sorensen Said

Mrs Sorensen said

Ruby’s not here today

and asked if we’d seen her

since yesterday home time

or knew where she’d gone.

We talked about how

it is very important

to tell a teacher

if something is wrong.

We talked about how

keeping a secret

is sometimes the wrong thing to do.


Mrs Sorensen said

Ruby’s not coming back

because she has died

and if we are...

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Your Revolution

Whatever happened to your revolution?

You’re working for Barclays, you’re up for promotion.

Back in the eighties you’d rage against Thatcher.

This time next month you’ll be regional manager.

Congratulations, you’ve made it in banking.

You’re queen of the high street, your CV’s outstanding.

How does it feel to be part of the team,

in the faceless, exploitative, corporate machin...

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Black Ball

‘He’s won it already,’ Dad had said

the previous afternoon.

He’d always hated him.

‘Boring ginger git,’ he’d said,

as the score went seven nil.

It hadn’t helped that in eighty-three,

the one time he’d had tickets,

the ginger had finished Thorburn

before he’d even got to the theatre,

and all he got to see

was Reardon playing Spencer

for nothing but beer money.



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The Poet Won't Buy You a Drink

The poet won’t buy you a drink

Don’t request it

Don’t suggest it

Because the poet won’t buy you a drink


It’s not that he wants to refuse

If he could do

He would love to

But the poet won’t buy you a drink


It’s not personal, please understand

Don’t feel rejected

Or neglected

If the poet doesn’t buy you a drink


The problem is purely financial


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InterCity 125

I didn’t foresee

That carriage B

Would alter my life

In such curious fashion


And who even knew

That the 10:52

Could ever have been

The scene of such passion?


We entered the station

To great consternation

Our deeds were the subject

Of much speculation


But I don’t regret

And I’ll never forget

The good times we had

Before privatisation

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Old Fred

They know what he drinks

and that he likes it in a glass with a handle.


They know he never comes in on Tuesdays.


They know where he sits,

and how all of his stories

have changed over the years.


They know his kids and grandkids,

although they’ve never met,

and on the day that he doesn’t show up

they know who to call.



(Originally published in t...

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drinkinghalf moonpubs

Haiku #220

Close the door slowly
Be quiet as you’re leaving
And turn out the lights

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haikunew year2016

A Song for Europe

In fifteen eighty eight the Spanish navy came to fight

To claim the crown King Philip thought was his god-given right

Now millions of us fly to Spanish islands in the sun

The wars are long forgotten, the Armada is long gone


So sing for Europe, sing for peace, and sing to make amends

Let’s raise a glass of sangria to all our Spanish friends


The French are nearer neighbou...

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Brontosaurus, welcome back

When young I thought you were long dead

But later heard you’d never lived

That was what the experts said

Thunder lizard, once you roamed

Jurassic ground beneath your feet

Then gone, removed from history

Written out, obsolete

Now they say that Marsh was right

And your position is restored

The bones are yours and yours alone

No more a mere ...

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joe williamsdinosaurbrontosaurusbonesarchaeology

Four Limericks

As it is National Limerick Day, here are four limericks of mine.


Limerick #1

I murdered a woman named Stella

Her body is kept in the cellar

My alibi

Says I wasn't nearby

So it must have been some other fella


Limerick #2

A marathon runner named Mark

Went out for a jog in the park

He tripped on a log

And fell on a dog

Whose bite turned out worse than its...

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