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What is evil

What now, what is evil?

I’m sure we can agree

if killing just one child is awful,

thousands more must be

evil’s outright apogee.

No problem pegging evil.

 

But how to deal with evil?

Find the men (we know

it’s mainly men). Pronounce those people

lowest of the low.

Blazon what they did, and show

those men to be pure evil.

 

Now, certain who is evil,

you’...

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wargood and evilIsrael. Gaza

Treble’s going

“Look to! Treble’s going…she’s gone.”

I’d cry the time-honoured words when I was young,

my voice a boyish chirrup. Everyone

 

around me on the belfry floor where hung

the bell-ropes were grown-ups, so it was grand

to lead-off when the peal of church bells swung

 

to clattering action with the six-strong band

following after, letting fly our ropes,

those woolly sallies...

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bell ringingcampanologyreligion

Loch Garten volunteer

“The birds will wake you up!” they said.

I’d doubted that, but yes, it’s true -

no sooner have the stars all fled

than osprey cries come piercing through

the speaker in the wooden shed

that guards the tree where they have bred

for many years, successfully bred.

 

This week I’ve more than filled my quota

of opening up the eyes of tourists.

Last night was my slot on the...

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birdsosprey

Teapot

What to do with the silver plated teapot?

A battered Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll survivor,

its etchings oxidised and pocked with milk spots.

I’ve checked eBay - be blessed if it fetched a fiver.

I leaf Mum’s wedding photos, thumbed and musted.

Here’s her and Dad - their faces, split with pleasure, 

are mirrored in this gift’s felicitous lustre

as if they’ve just unwrapped some genie’...

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wedding photoswedding memories familyWedding

The price of coal

What is the price of coal?

The web has sites that quote 

a market rate, but if you scroll

all through the list you won’t

see figures with the least, remote

affinity to price of coal.

 

What is the price of coal?

A mine roof caving in?

The dread Black Lung Disease that stole

the lives of countless men?

The destitution of their kin?

Is that the price of coal?

 

...

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coalcoal miningfossil fuels

How long will we have to wait?

How long will we have to wait?

We line the cliff top path.

Below, the breakers resonate   

and jubilant kittiwakes laugh.

We question one of the volunteer staff, 

“How long will we have to wait?”

 

“How long will you have to wait?”

She smiles and makes it clear:

yesterday it was ten to eight,

Thursday, not here -

or so they think - it didn’t appear!

“How long ca...

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albatrossbirdsbirdwatchingBempton Cliffsseabirds

Failing the people

I’m baffled how world leaders find the nerve 

to sign a pledge, then right before our eyes

fail the people they pretend to serve.

 

They know the price of oil but never swerve

from drilling more while greenhouse gases rise.

I’m baffled how world leaders find that nerve!

 

They buy the myth of endless growth, the oeuvre 

of economic frauds who feed them lies,

and fail ...

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climate changeoil

My fantasy bird table

I’m putting out some food on my fantasy bird table 

hoping to attract my all-time favourite birds.

The first to arrive are the ones that used my first table:

robins, tits, and blackbirds that nested in the woods.

 

The flock that follows them are the best I’ve seen in Britain:

a ptarmigan, an osprey, a dotterel and a smew,

a bearded tit, a peregrine, a puffin and a bittern 

...

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birds

Beneath the skin

Beneath the skin of the city

its vital organs function:

not the ones you think I mean,

the staff whose manual actions

 

keep human beings hearty -

supplying power and food,

sweeping roads and pavements clean,

arresting fire or flood -

 

no, not those, I speak 

of parks and lawns and leaves,

of blossom flossed on trees like frost

that licence us to breathe:

...

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wildlifeurban wildlifecity

Pause!

Flags and placards round Big Ben

say 

PAUSE! PAUSE!

Shouts and chants of Waddawewant?

PAUSE! PAUSE!

We call a pause on oil and then

we all lie down. We stand up again.

We shout demands at Parliament 

to 

PAUSE! PAUSE!

 

No new gas! No new oil!

PAUSE! PAUSE!

One point five degrees soon gone.

PAUSE! PAUSE!

Arctic in meltdown, blood on the boil,

w...

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climate changeextinctionprotestdemonstrations

Rolling down to London

Rolling down to london on a train,

the taught and shining buds

of Spring are bursting on the trees.

Wharfedale’s misted in a bluish haze,

but heaps of plastic refuse in the woods

on the drab periphery of Leeds

descend my mood from buoyancy to pain.

 

Rolling forwards now, the rape fields blaze

and blackthorns bloom with pearls,

resplendent in the boundary hedges

we...

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Trainstrain travelLondonclimate change

Tank or tailpipe?

There was a man lived down my street

who felt unease about pollution.

Ashamed to see his car excrete

bad air, he found an odd solution.

Others who had thought thus far 

used bicycles, or electric cars

 

but my neighbour’s mate was the man who sold

the fuel his thirsty motor drank.

He was fearful this friend’s business might fold 

if he stopped putting petrol in the ta...

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climate changePollutioncars

Bike

It looked a very sporty piece of kit

and useful, when I bought my hybrid bike

to get me where I’m going and keep me fit,

 

but that was years ago and now it sits

beside the bins as if it’s gone on strike

from serving as a sporty piece of kit.

 

I often would, but find obliged to quit.

Big tools or bulky shopping, or suchlike,

prevent me getting there while keeping fit...

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Bicycle

What will you miss the most?

So when we shoot past two degrees

and all the land is toast

and skies are black from the burning trees

what will you miss the most?

 

Me, I’ll miss the song of birds

that welcomed in the day:

those heart-rending, incoherent words

that had so much to say.

 

And when the heating of the ocean

flays the coral reefs,

will you temper your emotion?

Modulate your gri...

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climate change

The wasted wind

The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind  -  Bob Dylan

 

What force can power the years ahead?

Now the age of oil is dead

we wait for industry to heed 

the whisper of the wasted wind,

the whisper of the wasted wind.

 

A pivotal crisis is upon us

and ready or not we shoulder the onus. 

We must make good or else be goners,

be dust dispersed by the wasted wind,

...

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windwind turbinesWind Powerrenewablesclimate change

My life on track

My early life relied so much on trains,

to catch just one to write about’s a problem!

Too many have been subject to delays 

or cancelled altogether, to applaud them:

 

the “bogs” I took to school were crammed and smelly;

my backpacker travels, the aura no more fresh;

a record seven hour wait once, in New Delhi;

I almost got killed on the Tangier-Marrakesh…

 

But overa...

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Trains

Falling short

What hope remains while politicians skirt

around the crisis, pledging they will shut

a few polluting plants but token cuts

in fossil fuel extraction fall so short?

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climate changeCOP26fossil fuels

The River Fleet

I think I only walked down Fleet Street once,

my grubwork year in London. Not much wowed,

not like I’d heard - most rags no more ensconced

but fled to Docklands - the street name but a label          

for billionaire media magnates trumpeting loud

reactionary taunts and celebrity libel.

I had an inkling then: there was a proud

historic river, sadly much polluted,            

...

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fleet streetnewspaperrivers

The lure

Looping round till it’s a blur 

the falconer swings the weighted lure

beneath the bird, enticing her

to go into a stoop.

 

With hooking bill and crookéd claw 

and plunging like a meteor

she swipes the fakery to the floor

with a vicious slap of feathers.

 

Around the crowd, a communal gasp.

The predator’s grappling in its clasp       

the prize, but is the bird a...

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Peregrine Falconsfalconfalconrybirds

Peregrination

A boisterous assortment of martins, swifts and swallows 

is swirling above the lushly forested hills

of West Amanga, a scatter of soft green pillows.

Wherever a radiant splash

of morning sunlight spills

 

out through an open window in the cloud,

the canopy emits a plume of steam

and bird calls resound: the rattle of wrens; the loud

cracks of whipbirds; squawks

of parr...

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Peregrine Falcons

A change of frame

They’re like some alien culture’s hieroglyphs

these utility quotes, scrolling down my screen.

Fixed price or variable? TV and broadband scheme?

My eyes are stuffed but still I’m grudged to sniff

the tricks tucked in the tariffs and warily choose 

which deal might steer my budget round the reef.

My parents weren’t coerced to skirt such cliffs:

back then you’d pay flat rate for ...

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cost of living

The minstrel of the meadow

The balance of life and death

rests on a dot in the sky

whose frivolous shivering breath

rivals the moths in its quivering

rippling hovering, high

and triumphant amongst the cumulus,

the twin-piping syrinx delivering

an opus more complex, more tremulous

and vaporous than any cantata.

The minstrel of the meadow 

sees the grasshopper climbing,

sees the froghopper fal...

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birdsskylarkSkylark Song

To Robbie x

The day when you don’t kiss me I shall starve,

and if you should dismiss me I should starve.

If I wake one frozen dawn

to chilly winds and find you gone

I’ll lose the will to carry on.

I’ll curl up in my lonely bed and starve.

 

And if you didn’t care for me I’d starve.

And if you were not there for me I’d starve.

With you not doing what I don’t ask:

putting coffee in...

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The shock of silence

A colony of terns concedes no paucity

of energy: the strident racket rising

in steep vociferous steps

envelopes your whole mind as if by sorcery. 

But one event might strike you as surprising:

now and then - untold by any augury

and with no cause - it stops.

 

A rigid talon grips the atmosphere 

and sound shuts down, as though there’s been a sudden

resetting of the wi...

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birds

Anastasia rises

Her family home is blood-soaked rags and rubble

when Anastasia rises from her cot.

At first she’s pleased she’s suffered not one cut,

then shrieks: she wears an iridescent bubble

like those of the saints in Mama’s picture Bible

and the doorway to her life she finds slammed shut.

Though Mama won’t come now to quiet her shouts

she howls her anguish dry, then with the pliable 

...

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Green sheets

The fields are laundered sheets,

ironed and smoothed across the dale,

tucked under walls for the comfort of sheep,

clean green cloths that veil

the messiness of former days

when vetch outstretched untrammelled tendrils

randomly grappling floriferous sprays

of meadowsweet; when spangles 

of cuckoo-spit sparkled 

blobbish on stems of raggéd robin;

when there was miscell...

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Gestures

Morning gridlock, nose to tailpipe, can’t see a soul on foot or bike.

Not stuck in traffic - I’m the traffic! Going nowhere, engine turning,

and though I changed my ancient van last year for one that’s burning 

half the fuel, it still consumes much more than I would like.

 

It’s gestures, gestures.

 

I turn on the radio where a Greenpeace chap’s on mic and getting shirty.

T...

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No exit

Back when I was young I didn’t fear:

I knew the world could solve this situation.

We understood the cause, so the way out was clear:

a comprehensive pact between all nations 

to stop emitting CO2 

into the atmosphere.

 

Back then there seemed no need to march and shout,

to sit down in the road and press for truth.

We could not conceive of a climate up the spout.

In th...

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climate change

Today

Every gob of oil we suck today,

every turd of coal we flame resplendent,

every age-old species we erase 

is assault against our own descendants.

 

I stoop before the few that reach tomorrow:

striving to live, I understand how they

must curse us, dodging lethal hails of arrows   

we senselessly let fly today.

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climate change

Late

Shut my eyes on Sunday evening. 

Moments pass, the clock is screaming.

Flip my switch from dream to drowning 

in a sea of morning light.

 

Scoop the mucus from my lashes.

Splash my cheeks and scrub my gnashers.

Quell the bloating crush of pressure.

I’m already late!

 

Complacent men and placid women -

TV Breakfast hosts - sit grinning

at the fan-like big hand sp...

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morningMondaylatetime

Under cover of the night

Shufflings in the shrubbery,

leapings on the lawn,

furtive assignations and who knows what skullduggery,

surreptitious shadow shapes, sundown to dawn.

It’s my own familiar garden but it happens out of sight:

it’s all undercover

…under cover of the night.

 

Nighttime was a blank space, destitute of life,

a time I’d stop the clock and quit the world.

But then I bought a...

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AnimalshedgehogsnightRolling Stones

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