Above and beyond

Two tattoos and a mouth of  sinew

crashed through the wicker screen

separating bar from poetry.


Battle-black eyes

scrutinised the bardic hopefuls,

quivering pacifists,

gassed by the  grizzled newcomer's brewery breath;

each wondering

which poet

might tackle the intruder.


The giant swayed:

two steps forward, one back..

What's yous doin'?

The silence thundered.

What's yous doin'?


He looked impressed, in a rolling fashion,

reached into the stained pocket

of his lumberjack shirt,

withdrew a piece of paper,

crumpled as his bristled face,

and smoothed it out:

I'll read you a feckin' poem.

'bout the Falklands.

A' right?


Without waiting for the signal,

his words charged

into the no-man's land

of our stunned consensus.

The verse hesitated,

before darting forward in a swerving attack


Into our ears were lobbed

firecracker images:

death, fear and courage

blood, bile and bravado,

wave after wave,

above and beyond.

Then he stopped,

and stood

four-square to attention

before the back-room fireplace.

Staring out over our heads,

his eyes, suddenly focused

on a lonely lump of rock

in the grim, grey South Atlantic.


There was a death-hush,

somewhere between


and hold-your-fire-until-I-give-the-order.

Finally, a brave poet broke the silence,

our applause built into a staccato

of relief and appreciation.


Unsmiling, our assailant

refolded his dog-eared anthology,

nodded his salute,

and returned to his realm

of men and tattoos, leaving us

To get on with

the real business of poetry.

◄ Writing as suicide

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Thu 9th Jul 2020 10:23


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Greg Freeman

Fri 9th Mar 2012 09:35

I missed this during my sojourn in Spain first time around. I think this is superb, the 'real world' bursting into and among the "bardic hopefuls". It sums up so much about what we're at, what we should be striving for; a great, well-crafted poem - "attack / South Atlantic/ staccato" - about live performance, and "the real business of poetry". I look forward to seeing this in an important anthology somewhere, some day.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 17th Feb 2012 15:14

Excellent work, Julian. Apart from the compelling tale itself, and its presumed moral, the writing of this story shows topnotch skills of mood-setting, clear time and spatial sequencing, precise big and small action, evocative diction, intimate details, and scholarly syntax! And you've put it in poetry format - what a pleasure to read. I'm assuming the last line is a sardonic joke. It's a great ending.

<Deleted User> (6315)

Thu 16th Feb 2012 23:10

What a great read Julian, blimey WOL is almost in double figures huh?.

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Julian (Admin)

Thu 16th Feb 2012 17:24

You are right, Harry: you never can tell, unless and until you give people a forum in which they can express themselves in their own way, their own language register and their own style. Which is precisely what drives me, and is what Write Out Loud is all about: encouraging the creation of such fora for all.

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Harry O'Neill

Thu 16th Feb 2012 16:09

Some stranger guy came in to a a gig I was at recently and knocked us all sideways with his poem a bit like this...and walked away with the prize.

You never can tell, can you?

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Laura Taylor

Thu 16th Feb 2012 10:48

Wow - great story.

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Julian (Admin)

Wed 15th Feb 2012 17:41

Although only tangential to The Falklands, the anniversary has reminded me of this piece. it also reminds me that this was written of the place where I started reading, 10 years ago. This time next year Write Out Loud will be ten years old.

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