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Poems - The Flip Side

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Four Small Poems



We came, swimming

amid the sound of mermaid tails

and elders chanting - the tales they gave

of ancient drowning murmured across

rhythms of whale song

the whole sea hymning




Into the clouds we came

and lost ourselves

the sound of hills growing

as they gave back the gift of rain

stilled us as the heaven moved across

our consciousness

as known, just as unseen




Out of the core we came

dragons of old old story

spoke with the sound of flame

courted the heroes’ swords

they gave us an evil name

robbed us and maimed us sorely

yet we remain the same

guards of the golden hoards




We came in secret

from our deep mole-homes

in the blinding dark

the sound of grass growing

of worm feeding

gave us direction, tunnelling across

nobody else’s vision






I wandered, lonely, as a cloud

Of loose balloons above the fair

Carried the colours of the crowd

Into the blue and steamy air;

The crush, the smells, the shrieking rides

Swamping the town between the tides.


The folks out foraging for fun

Saw no-one watching by the queue,

Merely a shadow in the sun

Only a breath away from you;

Your onions flavouring my nose,

Your ice-cream dripping on my toes.


The chilly girls, the loud parade

Dispersed to hot dogs on the pier,

Counting the money they had made -

The same routine as every year.

The rattled bucket caught a pound

I picked up on the rugby ground.


That’s all I had. I hope it went

To folks in institutions, or

To help some other indigent

Hungry as me, whose feet were sore,

No dog for comfort, no guitar,

Curled up where all the dustbins are.


I wander, lonely. As a cloud

Of pungent steam rolls up the town

Enveloping me like a shroud

Your lights wink on, my sun goes down.

May-Day, May-Day by the sea;

Tears at bedtime - none for me.





I wandered, lonely as a cloud

Of smoke outside a cancer ward

Where cigarettes are not allowed,

And wondered where the drugs were stored.

Inside that safe? Behind this door?

I’d never cased the joint before.


I sauntered through the coffee shop,

Down disinfected corridors,

On past the sluices, man with mop

(I wonder if he ever scores)

Averted gaze from turning heads

In rows of most un-private beds.


At last I found the pharmacy.

“Hallo my love!” the lady smiled.

“Who is it that you’ve come to see?

Your Mum? Your Dad? Another child?”

Behind her, stacked on every shelf

The stash I needed for myself -


Barbiturates, and methadone,

And other stuff that I could sell.

(I couldn’t pull this job alone;

I’d have to bring a mate as well.)

I would impress her. I’m no fool!

“I’m learning medicine at school.


I’ve done the body, done the brain;

I’ve started on prescribing now.

I really need your help to train -

Miss said the doctors would allow

Me in your store to make a list

So I can be a specialist.”


I don’t know why she rang the bell

Or why the docs and coppers came.

My spiel was going really well

Until she asked me for my name.

At dawn they raided my old crowd...

I wander lonely in my cloud.






Spawned in a constellation

Deep in the heart of space

A wayward alien nation

Grew to a master race.

Trapped on a wasted planet,

Damned by a raging star,

They built their craft; but to man it

Took them a step too far.

They picked all the politicians,

The cream of the world’s elite,

Great scientists, skilled clinicians -

But nobody off the street.

They left the poor and the sickly

With barely a month’s supplies

And left for the stars too quickly

To see the shock in their eyes.

Silence came to the planet.

A billion souls had died.

Gone were the fools who ran it;

Now the survivors tried.

Gentle with plant and creature,

Braving the Polar sun,

They followed an ancient teacher

In treating all life as one.

Rain came back to the furrow,

Fruit returned to the tree;

New eyes blinked in the burrow,

New fins flashed in the sea.

The star in its violent cycle

Moved on to a blissful calm,

Promising men like Michael

Hope for a struggling farm.

Communities met and traded

And centuries had gone by.

Even the folklore faded

Of the great escape to the sky.

Heading for home one twilight

After his flocks were fed

Michael’s thoughts were of firelight,

A welcoming wife, and bed.


Nothing prepared him for drama,

The scream of metal in air,

And searing the eyes of the farmer

A light no human could bear.

Something the size of a nightmare

Exploded through field and grain;

Michael lay shaking in fright there,

His soul and body all pain.

How could he know what landed

Was full of women and men

Who, hopeless, lonely and stranded

In space, had come home again?

Time had warped on the voyage;

The ship crashed into an Earth

Struggling into the new age

Bringing itself to birth.

How could he know the wonders

That under the hull were sealed?

The plans, the dreams and the blunders

That ended in Michael’s field?

How could he hear the crying

Or know that before his eyes

The last of his kind were dying

Who conquered the earth and skies? ...

Their final act of destruction

The crater that was his farm,

Its years of scanty production

Aborted; destroyed its charm.

After the conflagration

Villagers came to stare

At the grave of an ancient nation

That nobody knew was there.

In time they gathered the metal

Strewn over Michael’s soil,

Learned how to work and fettle

For tool and girder and coil.

And metal became a token,

Contending came with the skill.

Ambition and fear were woken.

Their future awaits them still ...

* * * * * * * * * *


What a boom!

Crack of doom -

Every room

Is quaking

And shaking

Things breaking

From the club

from the pub

village hub

running feet

people meet

in the street

as they stare

at the flare

in the air

Any light

in the night

is too bright

To ignore

and they saw

more and more

In the sky

flashing by

very high -

Did a shock

shatter rock

and unlock

Living light

green & white

on the night?

Did a star

fall too far

leave a scar?

Or a craft?

Don't be daft

they all laughed

Was the fire

in a gyre

something's pyre?


Sent the cream

Of their team

Men in suits

Shiny boots

In cahoots

With Whitehall

Had a ball

With it all -

What a joke!

Harried folk

Never spoke

In the drama

One farmer

Stayed calmer

Took a swig

Slew a pig

Cut a twig

From the boughs

That allows

You to dowse

(With a fork)

Took a walk

With the pork

In the night

To the site

Of the fright

By an orch-

ard his torch

hit a scorch

And he found

Something round

In the ground

On the hill

Farmer Bill

Lit a grill

Oh the smell

On the fell

wrought well -

Only then

Nine or ten

Tiny men

With noses

Like hoses

On roses

Guts grumbling

Feet stumbling

Came tumbling

To feast

On the Beast


Bill’s bacon

Was taken


He set

His net

For a bet

Purple eyes

Silver thighs

Were the prize

But the farmer

Sans armour

Had karma -

Raw meat

Was a treat

Razor jaw

Silver claw

Simply tore    

At the mesh

And the fresh

Human flesh

How he bled

As they fed

On his head

Not a stain

Of his brain

Would remain

Not a hair

Of him there

Anywhere ...

The police

found a piece

Of his fleece

It was day-

Light so they

Got away

No-one knows

What still goes

On in those

Silent fells

No-one yells

No-one tells

But each year

People here


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Ballad of Uncle George


Uncle George was very smelly,

Bright of eye and vast of belly,

Moving like a mighty jelly

Through the sea of our surprise.

Rolling on to pass a hundred,

‘Why is he alive?’ we wondered,

Wincing as his bowels thundered,

Covering our furtive eyes.

Was he ever pink and tiny?

Helped to paddle in the briny?

School-excited, birthday-shiny?

How did Uncle George begin?

The baker’s wife, a trifle tipsy,

Broke her vows and jumped a gipsy.

Weathered finger to his lips, he

Sowed a secret in her skin.

Forty weeks of floaty dressing

Hid the sin at last confessing.

If it were a curse or blessing

Not an angel came to tell!

Daisy’s brat was strange and skinny,

Lost behind his mother’s pinny.

When he sang, his tone was tinny

Like a tiny cracking bell.

He could make the horses whinny,

Fondle foxes in the spinney;

All the furry things and finny

Knew the baby, knew the boy.

Coaxing some bewildered creature

Into school to meet his teacher,

Up to church to hear the preacher,

Was his mission and his joy.

All the local dogs adored him -

Ran to him and smiled and pawed him.

Human children really bored him.

He was of another kind.


Many mocked him, found him frightening,

Palms and fingers full of lightning!

Tongues were wagging, knuckles whitening -

What help could a mother find?

Down the street there lived a lady

(House and reputation shady)

Known to all as Psychic Sadie.

George and Daisy went along.

Moons and stars hung from her ceiling.

Sadie said, “You should be healing!”

Told him that the fizzy feeling

Meant that there was something wrong,

Somebody in pain or sorrow

Needing urgently to borrow

George’s vital Chi. Tomorrow

Nobody would laugh at him.

This was quite a shock for Daisy

As her grasp of Chi was hazy.

Through her mind ran all the ways he

Might go haywire. This was grim!

George however was ecstatic;

Now his life would be dramatic.

Fasting in a rented attic

He prepared for God’s demands.

Word went out. At first a trickle

Came, of people in a pickle,

Throwing him their notes and nickel

For the magic in his hands.

Then the flood of people fighting

For a glimpse of this exciting

Youth; the cameras, the writing

In the red-tops, on the wall ...

Dicky backs and laryngitis,

Measles, migraine and phlebitis,

Scrapie, glanders and arthritis -

George took on and beat them all.

Farm and zoo had found a hero,

Infestations down to zero.

Local ponds and streams ran clear - oh,

Blessings rained on George’s Chi!

He could banish coughs and sneezes

And all kinds of weird diseases.

Some believed that George was Jesus.

He was a celebrity!

George’s soul was brightly burning;

Everything he touched was turning

To pure gold. But was he learning

Vital lessons? Would he fall?

Daisy watched him at a meeting.

She could see he wasn’t eating,

And the attic had no heating.

No, he wasn’t well at all.

All the healing, touring, courses

Took their toll on his resources.

“Puddings, sausages and sauces,”

Daisy thought, “build up a man.

But how to coax him home to feed him?

Steal him from the folk who need him?

Save my boy from those who bleed him?”

She devised a little plan.

Three strong lads in her employment

In her debt for past enjoyment

Would abduct him. For her boy meant

Utterly the world to her.

So poor shrivelled George was taken

In the wee small hours, to waken

In his old room - very shaken,

With a soaring temperature.

(You may ask, “Where’s Mr. Daisy?”

He was dull and frankly lazy;

Drove his wife and children crazy.

Waste of time and waste of space.

Once he had the ovens roaring

Any thought of work was boring.

Customers could hear him snoring

Through the hanky on his face.)

“Right,” said Daisy, “Now I’ve got you

I shall be in charge of what you

Eat. You’re running far too hot. You

Need to cool it, simmer down.

Now the Press know you adore them,

They will pester. Just ignore them.

They will see there’s nothing for them,

Find some other media clown.”

What a shock to George’s ego!

Most of us unwind when we go

Convalescing - how could he go

As The Greatest Healer, sick?

Daisy locked him in, protesting.

Thirty years she kept him resting,

Systematically divesting

George of all that made him tick.

Week by week his mother’s baking,

Buns and crumpets she was making,

Gorgeous cakes and pies, were taking

Captive George to supersize.

Garlic raw with every supper,

Drops of Rescue in his cuppa,

Guaranteed to balance up a

Life devoid of exercise.

Nothing now could harm the Healer.

Daisy died, but George could feel her

Close - and then she sent him Sheila

Who would let him out again.

So many years had passed! A giant

George, both nervous and compliant

Asked if he might see a client,

Help a person in their pain.

From the ether in a vision

Daisy whispered her permission;

Strictly on the one condition -

That it must be clandestine.

Every night as owls were flying

Once again the sick and dying

Came in secret, far from prying

Eyes and ears, and stood in line

Waiting for the magic fingers,

Murmuring the words that bring us

Still the holiness that lingers.

Yards away, they caught the smell ..

Ancient garlic sent them reeling;

Some would flee, but others feeling

Bold enough for George’s healing

Held their breath, and then were well.

And so was he. The Chi he gave them

Came from Paradise to save them.

Cameras? He ceased to crave them.

His reward was not to die

For twelve decades - enormous, smelly

Superstar without a telly.

Now the Bakery’s a Deli;

George a secret in the sky.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


( a metaphysickal sonet)

Whereas two appels sittynge on a gait
Do mounch eache othere, and do slyly mait,
Do I oft wyshe thatt wee more often coulde;
And synce wee cannot, I am verry wood.
I looke upp att the Moone; shee ful wel knowes,
Thy beauteous forme to mee shee sholde disclose,
And I sholde drynke the honey of thyne eyen,
And lie wyth thee, and mak thee wholly myne;
But synce the dayes must Tortoys-lyk crawle bye,
And nott lyk swyfte swallowës  y-flye,
Onn theyre harde bak moste paciount I must ryde,
My wyngës clipt, my povre tong y-tyed;
And wyth the swallowes sende my litel verse,
And numbely wate for thee upon myne erse.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Though I can be nobody else but me,
If I were not myself, how would it be?...
Myself  would serve the soul of someone other -
Not me - and I myself would rule another!

Yet if I occupied this other I,
I still would wonder how and where and why
This other person lived who wasn’t me ...
And so run on in circles endlessly!

There is some consolation in the thought
That someone somewhere equally is fraught
With puzzlement - since he alone is he,
Then how on earth can someone else be me???


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Does he think?
Too small to be real, bearing
A marked resemblance to the trousered rabbit;
Apparently knitted,
The only clear distinction between him and the thing with which
He holds communion being
The cap of golden fuzz over the ears
And definitely fingers.

Rabbit is an artifact, however.
Verily knitted.
Rabbit, flung, sprawls
Rabbit chewed
Is mercifully bloodless;
Inspected and abused, deserves
A medal for patience.

As for the other
Small cuniculomorph,
Agent of these ritual indignities
And muttered spells,
There is more behind the
Blue-bead eyes than bears question,
Far more than old nylon stockings and foam chips,
There is (and wonder at it)
Unto itself and still enough to spare
Of magic mind
Wherewith to gaze life into his woollen ally
So I could swear
The beast reciprocates the stare.
- And does he think??


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christmas Letters

Sue Robinson, Editor

Radio Times

80, Wood Lane


W12 0TT

November 16th 1996


Head of TV Drama’s New Year Sonnet

I promise to announce the start
At the beginning, and not part-
Way through the hour’s dramatic art.

I promise not to wreck the plot,
Parading its climactic shot
For weeks in every trailer slot.

I promise not to fray the nerves
Of those the Corporation serves
By throwing fancy camera curves.

I promise not to over-run,
Delaying what should have begun,
Spoiling the nation’s video fun;

And promise - after the Star’s Wardrobe and Stunts -
To credit the catchy theme music for once!

Yours sincerely,

pp the above-mentioned,

Rev. Pamela A. F. Crane


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



My husband had to come to see
How Pendle was - but minus me!
And here acquired the pleasant habit
Of sucking a Sarsaparilla Tablet.

A friendly, enterprising chap,
He dropped two packets in my lap
On his return, and watched my face
For signs of pleasure or grimace!

To cut a happy story short,
We soon were through the few he bought.
It will be miles and months before
We come back North and buy some more!

So, could you post to us in Kent
Enough to meet the cheque I’ve sent?...
To last till Pendle calls again?
Yours sincerely,
Pamela Crane.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Obsessed and upset by the inexplicable fact,
We live - a yellow sun between two darknesses
That shadow and touch it with something infinite there,
An Always inescapable where something precious is;
     But hidden under Time.

Oppressed and beset by the inner splitting of fact
We give a narrow - unforseen though hardness is -
And shadowy muchness of nothing definite there,
An all-ways inextricable and clumsy preciousness
     That isn't worth a dime.

     ( A bit of fun to rhyme!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Shouting between islands
How Are You
Signalling from peak to higher peak
I Love You - whensoever the mist may clear -
Shaking hands
With a fellow briefly in a passing plane
able to speak
to you
on several wavebands
Happy Birthday Dear
taking a turn as compère of the week
I say again

I wish you happiness in your sea-girt
Wiping guano and turtle-dirt
away from Beethoven and Vera Lynn
with plenty
of reasonably clean
Sand to bury
your head in

I hope you enjoy
Your cave
No doubt you will employ
a great deal of native ingenuity
In making the most of such an opportunity
To Save

Have fun
Among the birds, up in the Seventh Heaven
And give my regards
to Angels Eleven
You won’t fall down;
the fuels you will need are only words
and a front seat in the Sun -
Hot Air
will keep you there

Safe out of real touch real sight real sound
Tucked away in a high womb
you deeply care
for the lack of loving-room
Responsibly and gratefully aware
of Us who wave and wonder from the ground
with whom you share
over the air

We love you
Yes we listen
avidly to Number One for his Opinion
amid the static                

Bones wither away under the skin
a soul begins to
The cold and comes down out of the attic
to make up on the missing
Joie de Vivre   Hot Pants   Passion
Communiqués press handouts Lone Yachtsman kissing
Miss Erotic Plastic
Fell Flat
we walk straight through
you we never notice you we know you
were never real
visiting gods are inconceivable
and in Spring
hermits are out of fashion


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



The day the moon fell
Music screamed up a nerve in the world
The robins crowed like cockerels
And the wind blew all the air away

The day the moon fell
Ice cracked the face of the sun
There were blue strawberries
And a rampant worm bit a sparrow in half

The day the moon fell
Love and hate collided and blew up
The last Pope ran for Parliament
And God met the funny side of hell

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


O come to the shade
Of the cool colonnade -
Don't bother with vestimenta!
What use is a tunic
To Roman or Punic?
This is the community centre!

Vel Gallic, vel Grecian
Your friend Diocletian
Invites you to bathe at your leisure.
It's such fun to swim in
(As well as the women!)
The scenery promises pleasure

Diverting to play with;
And you have a way with
The ladies that seems to amuse them.
So let's make a foursome.
Ointment? I'd adore some!
But never mind clothes - we don't use them.

     * * * * * * * * *

          ON THE BRINK

                 ... to breathe this element of muted sound
                 and think only the things that fishes do ...!
                 I, squat on the parapet, look down.
                 My mind, lapped in that weed-lucent brown
                 Mapping the mossy under-arch with light
                 hereunder shimmering ... lean over! Look!
                 See? Touch it! (Not too far. Don't fall.
                 Not yet.) Trickery, you see. The bright
                 thing, like all wind-spun happiness, shook
                 and left you to the darkness ... yea my mind
                 moves to the slap and the sway of it.
                 ... shall I be feeding the fishes, now?
                 Or will the fishes give me
                 to eat corals, rocksand, sunlight filtering,
                 turtleshell, chilled fringes of moon;
                 weed-broth from the crab's mouth
                 and mud sifted in silver,
                 seasoned with seed-pearls,
                 served in a mussel-shell
                 with a spoon?
                 Come come, itty-bitty man!
                 Come come! The fishes sing.
                 One for Mummy,
                 one for Daddy,
                 eat your nice pudding!
                 Ha! The blue waves. New and drinkable sky.
                 Out there where the rainbow lives
                 and soon shall I.
                 The men who poison the rainbow
                 poison the mind of me
                 with an ill wind, and a sick rain,
                 and they drive me to the sea;
                 and the sun lies in a crooked way,
                 and gods die as people pray,
                 and fear spreads fungous through decay.
                 But I shall soon be free ...
                 ... soon in the sun-silk water I shall drop away,
                 leaving my clothes behind, for there is blight on them.
                 Soon I am ready. Are you coming with me?
                 ... leaving your clothes behind, for there is blight on them.
                 Why don't you take them off? Take off your clothes, I say!
                 Your soul is rotting with it - I can see the mark,
                 mark of a madman. Stay behind and save the world!
                 I shall be under the bridges that you burn
                 crowned with a crown of swimming sticklebacks
                 to keep the twisted thorns out of my hair.
                 Washed in the running radiance of pearls
                 I'll have sweet skin, and I shall laugh! as stern
                 Nemesis chokes you in your deadly air.

* * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Cradled in the Mayor's Arms
So many happy years,
We knew our Dulux Weathershield
(Affordable - we're not well-heeled!)
Would last; but now the paint has peeled
As the Millennium nears.

It held the Hurricane at bay,
It shimmered through the Drought,
But lorries pounding through the night
Shake wall and window, southern light
Has bleached the blue and aged the white
And cracks are opening out.

Friends and strangers come to share
A sanctuary here;
Their welcome needs a shining door,
Bright windows to the bedrooms four
Whatever storms we have in store,
To shelter and to cheer!

     * * * * * * * * *


(sorry, not a poem!)


Once upon a time, Baron Landscape had three daughters inclined to Medicine.
Pharmacopoeia and Panacea grew popular and successful; but poor Cinderallium was
despised for being old-fashioned, simple, and unacceptably smelly. She was made to
wear oilskins, care for the old man's heart, and make pasta.

One day, Pharmacopoeia and Panacea were invited to an Important Discussion on
BBC TV about the Common Cold. "Let us cure it!" they boasted - but none of their
remedies would fit, and the Presenters went home with runny noses.

And since no Fiery Godmother appeared to proclaim uninvited Cinderallium as
Princess Garlic Clove, whose breath is virus death, they all lived miserably ever after.

                        * * * * * * * * *


Now, Wilhelmina Pomeroy's
Obsession was for Little Boys.
It wasn't that she ... that ... ahem! ...
She simply liked to look at them.
So she, whene'er she found one rather
Docile, took him home to Father.
She stood them neatly in a row
And gazed at them with eyes aglow.
She soon had forty-two or so.

And when it came to fifty-three,
A few showed signs of jealousy!
At length - un coup inattendu -
A comely youth of twenty-two
Whose name we will forbear to mention,
Keyed to a pitch of nervous tension,
Struck the lady as she passed!

The chosen band looked on, agahast;
(Miss Pomeroy, I must confess,
Was put out by his forwardness)
And then with cries of "Insurrection!"
"This is done in self-protection!"
"Down with revolutionaries!"
"Equality is threatened! Where is
Social equilibrium,
Upset by antisocial scum?"
With yells and threats and kicks and shouts
They fell on him, unruly louts
And bea him up, and then they hurled
Him out into the lonely world.

          * * *

They pinned a notice in the hall
Enforcing Equal Rights For All.
It was only fair and right
That she should kiss them all goodnight,
Said Wilhelmina, for she knew
That everyone would want her to.
So if she gave an extra squeeze
To one, her duty was to please
The others likewise - what is worse than
To feel you are a displaced person?
She little guessed there could be boys
Who do not like Miss Pomeroys ...
One evening she was halfway down
The line, with kisses duly blown
And planted with a dose of passion,
When ... TwentySix refused his ration!!!
Exasperated by the way
She gloated over them all day
He bravely pushed her face away!

... He shared his predecessor's fate.

And then they saw him pass the gate
One day, with a delightful girl -
Not plain and Pomeroid; a pearl!
She was no means to easy wealth
But simply loved him for himself,
And (which the idle are empty of)
She gave him manliness and love.
No bribery could stay them then!
None but the silliest of men
Could fail to see what they were missing,
Hindered by Wilhelmina's kissing.

          * * *

Broken glass lay on the floor.
They had been gone an hour or more.
They'd even jammed the wretched door.
So now, alas, although she saw
What she had been forsaken for,
She couldn't try to understand.
Ah! Bitter the revenge she planned!
With fury trembling, she took
Her blunderbuss from off its hook
And saw her face distorted in
Its surface to a horrid grin.
The muzzle cold upon her breast,
Her arms strained to the butt, she pressed
The trigger.
          Wrecked beyond repair
They found her - but they didn't care.

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