Stephen Gospage, who sometimes writes under the name of Charly Bishop, is an enthusiastic writer of poetry and short stories. He was born in West Ham, London, in 1953, but has spent most of his working life in Brussels and is proud to call himself a citizen of Europe. His 2019 poetry collection “Bedside Days” is published by Lulu and is available on Amazon. He has recently published a new poetry book entitled "The Shape of the Trees, Poems for 2020" which includes poems about Life, Brexit and the Pandemic. Some of the poems in the book have been shared on the WOL blog and a sample poem "Memory Tax" is included below. Several of his poems have been published in the 'New European' newspaper, including "Brexit Happy Hour" from 2018 and "The pavements of Europe" from 2019, both of which are reproduced here. This profile also includes "Climate Change and us", which highlights concerns about the overwhelming issue of our time.
The pavements of Europe
In years like nineteen eighty-five, The pavements, through their long, nocturnal sleep, Were viewed at all times with distrust. Dawn: soles of freezing workers clatter past, To jump aboard the belching queues Of buses, lined up ten or twenty deep. A brave new world stirred, some years on, Stuffed with gold teeth and overpriced flash cars. Once more the pavements stole the show. They sprouted worlds with tall chairs stacked outside, Within which, furred and fast-tracked, lounged A rising class with merchandise in tow. In certain disinfected spots Sidewalks could play host to gala dinners. But much foul footfall had passed here, Which gave the rich too many tales to tell. For all the loudly touted boom, The poor had just their roadside wares to sell. Somewhere on the edge of Europe, On warm nights, pavements, bloated with excess, Drew veils to cover up their faults. First light brought women, trading in stale loaves (From gaudy kitchen towels unpacked); Soon heading home, their fondest dreams intact.
Each time he climbed another mountain peak, He took a slice home as a souvenir; Nothing too big, just a vanishing scrape. One day, on cue, he heard the mountain speak, And through dawn’s modest light, it shed a tear At such a violation of its shape. This act would likely finish his career.
A dying breed
He was one of a cultured few; We never guessed how much he knew. He told us why there’s hot and cold, Explained the aches of Great Aunt Jill, The nature of the spots of mould Encrusted on the windowsill. He knew his Wagner from his Brahms; Devoured Housman’s hills and farms. And as for paintings, he preferred Impressionists to modern stuff; His wrath could sometimes be incurred By poems written off the cuff. His sporting greats were in the past, With reputations built to last. He aced Von Cramm before the war. With Hogan he once practised drives; Reached distances not seen before. We smiled sometimes, but he touched lives.
Land of opportunity
They talk a lot about the level playing field; But who exactly is playing on it? Am I? Are you? No. So what’s new?
The tax on memory will be increased, Effective from next Saturday at ten. An extra five per cent will be applied To every word remembered after then. Stuff from the past will weigh our system down; We’ll give a rebate for your future thoughts. Provided they conform to what we like, Your polished teeth may feature in reports. Don’t think that we can promise, though; we can’t. Our fiscal line depends upon supply Of out-of-date ideas to bring in cash And punters having other fish to fry. And in the end, does it really matter? Our archives will be slimmed down to a dearth. Memories in time attain their limit, Once their possessors lie beneath the earth.
Brexit Happy Hour
‘I don’t recognise my country!’ Say men around the bar, While just next door a world awakes In time zones near and far. ‘We have to bring back Empire!’ Cry men behind their glass, As groups amassed in camps are told To keep clear of the grass. ‘We must respect the people’s will!’ Shout men propped up on stools, Haranguing loudly on their phones Those who clean out their pools. ‘This is our independence day!’ Men spit from their punch bowl; Outside, long queues of surplus staff Prepare to join the dole. ‘We’re free at last from foreigners!’ Men splutter through their beer; There’s talent all around the world, But it’s not wanted here. ‘Take back the pound, take back control!’ The men have made their pitch. They grab the wheel, take bends too fast And end up in a ditch.
Do you remember the human race? They used to look quite nice. Now they float in outer space, Entombed in blocks of ice. Do you remember ten pin bowling? It used to be quite fun. Now the odd-shaped heads are rolling From the barrel of a gun. Do you remember all your friends? You used to play together. Now they forecast global trends And blame changes in the weather. Do you remember Brenda King? You used to chase her in the park. Now she’s frozen to the swing From morning until dark. Do you remember Mum and Dad? They lived across the street. Now their house is all day clad In a swathe of rubber sheet. Do you remember anyone? If not, why should you care? All that’s left is a hot-cross bun And a lock of someone’s hair.
Climate Change (and us?)
Climate Change (and us?) The planet turns, the planet turns; The adults fiddle while Rome burns. And children yet to be conceived Have every right to feel aggrieved. And us? We plunder wealth from mines And join the back of frantic lines In shirtsleeved January sales, Pursued by ever-warming gales. Exhausts and power stations spout Unheeded warnings all about. But politicians must pretend That nothing need change in the end. And us? We like to say we care, But still demand our swollen share Of space and luxuries consumed. If we go on like this, we’re doomed. The strongmen plan to reach their goal By felling trees and burning coal. This fragile membrane’s tinderbox Reverberates with ticking clocks. And us? Our thirst for wealth and stuff Will decimate this world enough To make sure nothing will remain. And there’s no time to start again. In nature’s misery and drought, What was ‘in store’ is now about; Faced with the force of our attack, The atmosphere is hitting back. And us? We slap our footprint down And roam all night around the town, Hoovering up the last clean air To trade with at the morning fair. As long as opportunist suits Crush progress with size fifteen boots, The sole repositories of truth Are howls of idealistic youth. For summertimes of storm and flood Are swathed in carnage and in blood; This is no future far away, It’s happening to us today.
All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.
Strange Times (05/01/2022)
She danced (02/01/2022)
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