Poetry Blog by Stephen Gospage

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Big Dave Diff


Big Dave Diff was a local bloke;

He liked a laugh, a risky joke;

When no one watched, he cadged a smoke.

One day he told us he was broke.


Though usually a blow to pride,

He seemed to take it in his stride,

But soon great chasms, acres wide,

Would open up on every side.


His savings short, surviving thanks

To social credits and food banks,

Dave’s loan sha...

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What she remembered was the sound of seagulls,

Not the burning eyes of the eager boy

She had come away with for a dare.

Harold. Yes, that was his name.

She could see he had it all planned out.

‘I’ve brought some,’ were his first words.


Frinton. She had gone there because that was where

Mum and Dad had spent their honeymoon.

Where she was conceived, almost certainl...

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I remember him all those years ago,

Ploughing through the sleet and the mushy snow

One late December night at Upton Park,

Where pre-Christmas fixtures lit up the dark.


He made his move in his late middle age,

Flaunting his body on the public stage.

Far from Charles Atlas but certainly male,

Folds set to wobble and skin turning pale.


I recall the cold steamed ...

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The Little Book of Love


They needed a short paperback on love:

‘A hundred pages,’ explained the letter,

‘Airport stuff, a Christmas stocking filler.’

Simple enough, I thought: a poem or two,

A few choice quotes from the usual suspects,

A photo of a couple by the Seine,

Plus memories of passions at first sight,

Delirious summer days of pleasure.


‘The Little Book of Love’, I shall call it.


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Come out today!


Come out today! Come out today!

To see this first of June display!

The pinks, the whites, the blues, the reds,

Emblazoned on well-tended beds.

Fuelled by spring rain, still in the soil,

The fruits of nature’s ceaseless toil,

They preen themselves till summer’s heat

Brings shrivelling and sure defeat.

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A drifter rides into the town,

Soft-spoken and quite roughly dressed;

His smile and manner win him friends,

Three others are far less impressed.


While he relaxes at the bar,

They gather, spoiling for a fight.

The plain folk start to peel away;

This is a match of wrong and right.


He swigs his drink and spins around;

He picks off one from either side.


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UK Nul Points

An uninspired singer,

A rather plodding song:

Zero voters can't  be wrong.


No offence, mind;

I'm sure they did their best.

I just wanted

To get it off my chest.

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First sight


Your loveliness faded with the morning.

At first sight, this may seem strange. Why should it?

The daybreak, with its blaring rays of sun,

Perturbed, with its sudden glare, our idyll:

The twilight just before impatient dawn,

When your beauty had attained perfection.

Illumination disarranged the mix,

Removing the refinement of the dark.

Will we see again this rare conjun...

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At the time of colours, no one came here.

The sea-red sand, compacted, stained the floor

Of the yellow valley. Some way above,

Off-duty mountains in teardrops of blue

Topped hedgehog browns in bark of trees. At dusk,

Venus shone, white as glass. No one came here.

Alleged sightings of a stagecoach, a cart,

Or a bicycle, easily disproved,

Confirm this truth, with proof t...

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As he looks out past prison bars,

He magnifies the unkempt world:

Sees leftovers for Sunday lunch,

Dry sandwiches, with corners curled.


The paint is peeling off the doors;

The once-thumbed books are brown and frayed.

Through windowpanes, opaque with grime,

Lie bills piled high, as yet unpaid.


Most words recede in faded ink;

All vivid colours dim with age,


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What Matters


Now is not important;

Nothing really matters.

Your latest wheeze in shreds,

A whole month’s work in tatters.

This is not what matters.

Your ego is the thing

Controlling this charade,

And in a cowbell’s ring,

Lines spoken by a bard

Or low skies dappled red,

All timelessness is stored.

While close by, in the head,

A devil’s dreams are moored.

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Detective Stories


The college master lurks behind the screen;

The innocent young student is his prey.

‘My experiment!’, he cries, triumphant.

Inside a church, remorseful priests clench hands;

Dog-tired wives can stand their fate no more.

Jealousy tears the fabric of their dreams.


Slow-witted boys are beaten to the punch;

An old man’s lust awakens from the dead.

Ambitious workers sl...

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Mister Larkin



Poems, deep on many levels,

May end up nowhere near enough.

At such a time, we should give thanks

That Mister Larkin did his stuff.


It’s true he had a gloomy side

And used the odd indecent word,

But nobody would claim his work

Would better be unseen or heard.


He wrote about the everyday,

Of unspent childhood, wedding feasts,

Sullied posters, non-co...

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Sell-By Date


We ordered him to write a verse.

The poet laboured night and day,

With little rest and with no pay,

And penned the best he could muster.

But as time passed, we feared the worse;

Now his ode has lost its lustre.


Its shiny eloquence has gone,

Its bounce and pace is weighted down

And, like a fading seaside town,

The content has slipped out of date.

There is an ...

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From her balcony, she scrutinised

A man’s strong hairy leg below.

“A very impressive one”, she purred.

“But I have two,” was his insistent reply.

Peeping downwards, he panicked, rose,

Unexpectedly lost his balance

And rummaged through the undergrowth.

She leaned over and waved something;

Enticing him up with the prospect.

“Is this what you were looking for?”

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I want a revolution now;

I want to smash the state.

I want a new society

To end this cruel stalemate.

I want to stop the lockdown,

Some lines of police to knock down;

The walls are going to tumble,

The edifice will crumble.


Hang on, they’ve opened up the pubs!

Oh well, mustn’t grumble.

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Enemy Losses


They’re lying at the bottom of the hill;

Not destined to climb back up to the top.

Face down in mud, their bodies stiff and still;

Their untold stories blasted to a stop.


We knew them once, as neighbours and as friends;

Their crime was being on the other side.

Once peace arrives, we’ll try to make amends,

But there’s no bringing back the ones who died.


For on...

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Upstairs, Downstairs


Below the stairs is where I want to be;

The people up above are too consumed

And sickly in their self-congratulation.

The air downstairs is pungent yet perfumed.

No rueful, unrequited love dwells here;

This place is where our follies are exhumed.


There’s no plush carpet like they have up top,

Just dingy crumbling concrete on the floor.

Some tenants may be flawed o...

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The first man in space


In that one orbit of the Earth,

He must have understood far more

That any human mind alive.

Think about it. Not just the view,

But actually being there:

Above the trifles, the low plod

Of puffed-up order, the slow deaths

In crowds pressed against shop windows.

Above the bile, the pious chat,

The mush of mediocrity.

Above the relevance of air.


Seeing all t...

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Glad to belong to the mainstream;

Delighted that my boats are burned.

I’ve joined the crowd life passes by,

The columns of the unconcerned.


My friends will never admit it,

But we are all set up just fine.

The ink, still drying on the page,

Initials with gusto each line.


There is now no way back for us;

The contract is sealed, like our fate.

And what is ...

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The cynics are the enemies of love;

Though cheats and low deceivers have their faults,

A part of them is driven by their heart.

The cynics know the fickle candle’s flame,

The ravages of time, the wilderness,

The unaccomplished ventures of our dreams.

But isn’t it delightful when they’re wrong

And one condemned liaison turns out long?

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As soon as they cast eyes upon

Our muddy shoes and soaking socks,

The other kids and parents knew

That we were from the unmade roads.


Of the school’s catchment area,

The fraction we made up was small.

Reputed brutish, we compared

Badly to the pounded pavements.


In truth, I think that they envied

Our potholes and rough traditions:

Card schools, brisk tra...

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Sons and Lovers



The horny-handed sons of toil

Roll up their sleeves and till the soil.

They function as a perfect foil

For lovers, hidden in the trees,

Who cool with pleasure in the breeze,

In huddles which nobody sees.


They wander later back to home,

Each one tired from their labours;

Here they will subsist as neighbours,

Friends, dispensing valued favours,

Gossips, s...

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Third Wave in Europe


The blossom sparkles on the trees,

And now spring time is here.

This should be a new beginning,

But it is not, I fear.


For infections rocket upwards,

The situation’s tense.

It’s as though someone is having

A laugh at our expense.

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Last night


Last night

I walked upon the water.

I really walked

Upon the water.

You who do not believe me,

Come back tomorrow and

I will tell you

That last night

I did it again.

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Sounds of the Seventies (or 'Those weren't the days')


Our centre forward, just before the game,

Downed quantities which put us all to shame.

The dressing room was strewn with girlie mags

And at half-time we puffed on full-strength fags.


A few jars at the club then down the town,

Towards steak joints and strip clubs of renown.

Back then you could stagger to your motor

And fiddle overtime on the rota.


Those were t...

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Public Schools



Let’s give three cheers for public schools;

They fill the country full of fools,

Whose birthright is to make the rules.

In places not displayed on maps,

The locals queue to doff their caps

And show support for these fine chaps.


The playing fields, the blazered crowd,

The exhortations shouted loud,

The offside goal not disallowed,

Space reserved for each re...

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Chewing the fat

It’s such a waste when people who

Spend half their lives engrossed in chat

Perceive that they are having fun,

With pallid mates, all underdone,

Or hangers-on. They chew the fat

Until there’s no fat left to chew.


The world spins round

And time goes by

And then they die;


Once they are safely in the ground

We wonder what they could have done –

What they woul...

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Land of plenty

(As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, the theme of this poem from March 2020 may still be familiar)


At six o’clock, the hour strikes;

The fragrance of the flowers still remains.

The man about town stays home for dinner

And churches are closed to every sinner.

This March twenty-twenty,

In the land of plenty.


At eight o’clock, the hour strikes;

The ...

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Cash in hand

If you pay me,

I’ll say daylight is black,

I’ll say the sun is blue,

The moon’s held up with glue.

If you pay me.


If you pay me,

I’ll say the square is round,

Your friend fell through a crack,

The world is safe and sound.

If you pay me.


If you pay me,

I’ll give you the nod,

Get you in the squad,

Make room up on the stack.

If you pay me.



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The widowed queen


Awake at dawn, with almond eyes,

The queen is seated on her throne;

Confronted, under leaden skies

With prospects of a life alone.


The taste of young and tender shoots

Was too soon soured by the storm,

And crushed by soles of marching boots

Which flaunt their predatory form.


In some far field his buried feet,

Anonymous, lie, like the rest.

The one who m...

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Old Trousers


In sunny times outdoors,

They will drag down the tone;

But when the weather’s foul,

They come into their own.


They keep at bay the mud

And swallow up the rain;

They fight the bitter wind

And, best, they don’t complain.


(From "The Shape of the Trees"). For all gluttons for punishment, this book is available free on kindle (Amazon) from Friday 26 -Sunday 28 Feb...

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Vacuum cleaners at twenty paces


So, it has come to this, I hear:

The total sum of human existence,

The very germ that led to our creation.

Don’t give me that, I’m a busy man;


I can’t be bothered with such things.

What I have to do is resolve

This argument over who can fill, or empty,

The dust bag in the fastest time.


Let battle commence:

The referee checks his watch,

The seconds are r...

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Listen to the spring: arriving

Discreetly, like a masterpiece

Of understatement, noticed when

The chilly air melts in our hands.

Then longer days of time relax

And pass their message to the world.

This is no moment to forget

But, by nature of reminder,

A step upon the path we tread

Towards our better selves and lives.

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Listening to Tippett


That’s not me standing there;

It’s not my face I see.

The music is so beautiful

And I yearn to be so free.


I want to float up on those notes,

So sweet and gently lilting;

I want to sail in heaven’s boats

And feel the blue sky tilting.


Never more will I feel this way;

A unique moment has now passed.

He has nourished my perfect day;

Banality now seems ...

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The Red Marriage


During their sixty years, it was him:

Always the one thinking big, dreaming

Of contour maps of the shires,

The rapid spread of forest fires,

Views of the moon, magnified,

Deserts, stretching far and wide.

How the diamonds glinted

And his projects hinted

At non-stop, love-soaked fun,

At daring days blessed with sun.


While she focused on the miniature:


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In the woods


In the woods, unkind glances cascade down;

Corpses howl as they dangle from the trees.

Bored beasts run wild and roar at every pass;

Trespassers beg for life upon their knees.

The night-time tunes of childish thirst for blood

Make matters worse by willingness to please.

The rain drips through and drenches body parts,

As errant spouses plead outside and freeze.

Armed hu...

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I was born in Essex,

But I never really lived there.

In truth, nobody does.

The county, like its cricket grounds,

Gets up each day and does the rounds.


On one hand, there’s Basildon:

‘A Taxi Town’.

On the other, Kelvedon Hatch,

Where next door’s son or daughter

Is ‘something of a catch’.


Misplaced commuters, left to roam,

Walk streets near Hornchurch...

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Don’t you just hate it when that happens?


Those socks that Dad gets at Christmas,

Sellotaped in packets of three.


The monosyllabic young man

That your daughter brings home for tea.


The fair to middling result

Of your son’s prestigious degree.


The mediocre performance

Friends and family had come to see.


The soufflé which for once falls flat,

Reminding one of molten brie.


The putt ...

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Behind the door


Behind the door, true love awaits,

But not like any love we know.

It is a feeling stronger than

A star-crossed tango, taken slow.


The peak of amorous delights

Lies beating in air mountain-thin.

The wordless, unrepentant act

Sinks deep beneath our shedding skin.


This is a force beyond control

Of any stable, settled mind.

Obsession is a gentle term


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The mysterious case of the hole in the trousers


It began when a man discovered a hole in his trousers.


A bullet, a burn, an assault? The police were baffled;

They had no answers, only theories.

A suspect was arrested, then released.

Discontent rumbled in the town.

The victim made a tearful public appeal.

Vigilante groups were mobilised.

Journalists probed, going door to door;

An on-line team led a large-scale e...

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My perfect day

My perfect day

Begins imperfect, flawed,

Even downright miserable,

But becomes a little less so

With the passing of the hours,

Until the sentinels of sleep,

Calling from above their towers,

Say : 'This, in its unlikely way,

Has turned into your perfect day.'

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We dash around and do

The things we should not do,

And then enjoy our fun

To countervail the pain

Of races we have run

And will run once again.

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Somewhere out there exists a voice,

Distinctive and unique as yours,

Which shuns the norms of rise and fall

And spits out harsh staccato roars.


Though issued from another place,

It soon seeps through inside your skin,

And, once you bolt too late the doors,

Invades your conscience from within.


At first you notice minor traits:

You say things that you do not...

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Inadequate Translation


One dark Sunday afternoon in the gallery,

We watched the people stream out of the theatre.

I remember the men, identical,

All dressed in sharp, grey suits;

And one sparkling woman of a thousand kisses,

Trying, with inadequate translation,

To explain each one.



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