MOLE VALLEY POETS ANTHOLOGY 2004

Contents
Darkness John Clachan
Animal Magic John Clachan
Scales John Clachan
The Wyvern Claire Crowther
The Warrener Claire Crowther
City of Turns Claire Crowther
Because It's There Carolyn Dunnett
The Squeeze Carolyn Dunnett
The Recalcitrant Cuckoo Carolyn Dunnett
Grand'ma Earnshaw Tony Earnshaw
Not In My Name Tony Earnshaw
I Encountered Death Early Tony Earnshaw
A Glimpse of Wimbledon Sylvia Herbert
First Love Sylvia Herbert
Lunchtime Idyll Sylvia Herbert
Study in String Alison Jesson
Summer Isles Solstice Alison Jesson
Torre Del Mangia (The Watchman's Tower) Alison Jesson
Dust Maureen Jivani
Solstice Maureen Jivani
Danny Boy Maureen Jivani
Hornbeams Michael Lane
At a Performance of Benjamin Britten's Opera
"A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Michael Lane
The Kitchen Fire Michael Lane
The Tree of Songs AA Marcoff
Haiku AA Marcoff
The Lover AA Marcoff
Haiku AA Marcoff
Roofs Helen Overell
Clown Helen Overell
Asthma Helen Overell
Daffodils Hugh Timothy
Haiku Thoughts Hugh Timothy
Disillusion Hugh Timothy
Onion Rosemary Wagner
The Last Fling of the Lime Trees Rosemary Wagner
After the War Rosemary Wagner
The Dancer Diana Webb
Two Tanka Diana Webb
Five Haiku Diana Webb
Conceived on the Northern Line John Whiting
There Are No Weapons John Whiting
My Cat Believes That I am God John Whiting

Darkness

Darkness,
A bleak word, but peaceful.

A place of reflection, composure,
selection of worthwhile and worthless,
of flotsam
         and yet
              some find
darkness,
a sad word, but hopeful.

A place full of longing, supposing,
remembering the nuance, the glances
and chances
          mist thick-
                   ens to
darkness,
a cold world, and frightening.

A place of deception, corrosion,
rejection of balance and logic
that waits for
             us lying
                 in darkness.

John Clachan

Animal Magic

What's sauce for the goose,
Oh cumbersome moose,
Is definitely sauce for the gander.
And you wouldn't rue,
My dear kangaroo,
If you heard the sad news from a panda.
Your cousin's gone limp,
Intelligent chimp,
He's under attack from within.
There's a virus out there,
Oh cuddly bear,
That's making him pay for his sin.
He'll rave and he'll rant,
Industrious ant,
And blame everyone but himself.
But evolution's a road
We all travel on toad
And he'll soon take his turn on the shelf.

John Clachan

Scales

Cadenzas rise and fall,
angry squeaks and squeals that probe
and penetrate the thin dividing wall.

A black dot 'serenade'
that hesitates, then lurches forward,
crucifying every note that's played.

But then, you've asked for this.
You make me stick to scales with no awareness
of their utter uselessness.

I murder every sound.
As one who dares to play by ear,
my music screams I'm stifled, gagged and bound.

John Clachan

The Wyvern

They're millinery, roofs, pinned with cranes.
Or dirty sweatbands, the sweeps of concrete
topping blocks. We bang the slats, kneeling
above the Carphone Warehouse, unroll felt
like a black towel.

The boys say
once I'd have been forced to stay down there,
on the pavement, selling eggs and heart-cakes.
Wrong. There would have been women, hammering,
smelling this smoke from a bitumen bin chimney.
The female dragons.

Me, I carry a hose of fire.
I can stand to walk the metal sky
and land on scaffolding like pigeon shit.
I steer by the blue reins of the Wharf.

Two of us roll up the material
to the beginning again, lay it out more slowly.
I flame each turn. In the days of smocks,
I'd have been drunk from scurvy grass ale
like the boys around Wandsworth Plain
sobering up on saloop, made of cuckoo flowers.

Claire Crowther

The Warrener

Along the row of huts, Lazy Jays,
Icarus, Gull's Way, The Shoe,
and past the shabby row of smaller sheds
without verandas, hearing you spell
a wish-list of Christian names, Elizabeth,
Victoria, Queenie, each halo of letters

glowing over a red or white door
like the orange damp around doorknobs
and hinges, hearing the sea exhale
onto my feet, drag shingle back in again
like oxygen, Shalysim, Slepe.

Late autumn. Only one hut open.
A woman, covered in fleece, eyes closed,
in a deckchair listening to a sound,
lo sciabordio, sea biting the shore.
I choose its wet and gentle muzzle. Choose
to conceive. What is free will for?

Let's leave the boardwalk to catch
the tiny crabs immured too long
in casket manors of sand. Hearing
lo sciabordio, they come out of the ebb,
low, in a froth of low water.

Claire Crowther

City of Turns

The sea rolled itself into a sweat
down our faces as if the tide
had suddenly thought of us as inlets

while radiant-crested, gorgeously-winged
dark-red and orange container crates
trembled from cranes on the dock

and a dead foal's eyes stared toward them
along a horizon striped with steel.
Ripples of sand spread to her mane,

relaxed as if from running. The dunes
hid other burials. I covered
the head with my shirt. My breasts,

salt quartz. Seagulls curfewed an eagle.
A shovel of wings packed him off
across this city of turns, the sea.

Claire Crowther

Because It's There

Driven by compulsion
and restless passion,
a mountaineer tops the world
to feel like God.
To the rest of us, 'Because it's there'
is not sufficient to inspire.

Risking snow-blindness and frostbite,
chancing his fate
for dreams
does he fear for his safety as he climbs
or is his mind too full of next day's plans?

Racing up peaks makes his reputation.
The family hug him safe,
hold fast their belief
that this will satisfy forever.
They cannot contemplate next year's endeavour.

Carolyn Dunnett

The Squeeze

His belly on the ground in grit and slime
and clawing at the rockfall in his way.
Impossible to see the light of day!

This caver will not age beyond his prime,
nor will his jet-black whiskers turn to grey.
He's belly on the ground. In grit and slime

he loses all awareness of the time,
or even that a victory might repay
more effort; but his limbs will not obey.
He's belly on the ground in grit and slime

Carolyn Dunnett

The Recalcitrant Cuckoo

Our neighbours have a cuckoo clock.
They live across the way.
And with our windows open,
I hear it every day.

The problem is, it's always wrong,
It cuckoos much too soon,
For when the time is ten o'clock
It thinks it's almost noon.

They've tried to get it mended.
It should be better now.
But still they say there's something wrong.
It whirrs along somehow.

There'll be no problem, August,
That's what the neighbours say.
For that's the month, or so we've heard,
When cuckoos fly away!

Carolyn Dunnett

Grand'ma Earnshaw

I even skived off school
to get to Grand'ma's on a Tuesday.
Meat and potato pie day.
Cooking you wouldn't want to miss.

She had this settled life;
widowed, peaceful, calm;
visiting in terrace and on farm,
in hat and coat and gloves

And yet she told me once
she still could see her Albert's face,
seated in his old familiar place,
talking through the day

He found her lying across the bed,
the woman who had borne and raised him,
and radiated peace and love,
dressed for an outing
and, in one hand, a glove

Tony Earnshaw

Not In My Name

Not in my name, we say, not in my name.
Because in some way this just isn't the same
as all of that other stuff governments do
in running the country for me and for you.
It's clear for a start that the answer's not war
We could win it of course, but what the hell for?
To unseat one dictator from quite a wide choice
because we don't like him?
The west didn't foist him on his suffering people
like so many more.
We armed him of course, but that was before.
Before we decided he wasn't house trained.
We'd neglected to notice he killed and he maimed
when we wanted a client, his oil and a friend

Well, now it's all different, now that our eyes
are free from all scales, we now realise
we shouldn't have helped him. We need to get rid.
And we really don't like all the things that he did.
So roll out the smart bombs and lie to the voters.
We need friendly oil to power our motors.
We don't give a stuff that thousands will die.
Let's just give old Saddam one in the eye,
creating a world where hatred can thrive
and starting a massive recruitment drive
for every small group with murder in mind.
Let's help them to hate us, as evil defined.
If you ask why war's needed, why give up on peace,
why weapons inspectors' efforts should cease,
they can come up with reasons, most of them lame,
and they can't justify doing this in my name

Tony Earnshaw

I Encountered Death Early

I encountered death early but wasn't sure what it meant,
remember my Auntie Edith's death when I was three.
An impression of loss, my father's, stays with me.
Remember my Auntie Cissie, my 10th birthday,
getting the news before the birthday cricket match,
swallowing hard and going out to bat.
Remember Uncle Harold and his grieving wife,
a tragic end to Uncle Eddies life.
but nothing hit me, made me stop and think,
Until the death that took me to the brink
of dark and bleak despair.

I was sixteen when my mother died and found I couldn't bear
to think of how my life might now be changed,
to think of all I'd lost.
I know I grew in those few painful early months,
learned much,
but at a cost,
and though time heals, it does not erase
and even now I have my days
when I shed a quiet tear
that I should have this life
and she should not be here

Tony Earnshaw

A Glimpse of Wimbledon

Crow's nest view; the hoist
Receives the famous courts
Within its compass angle;
Oblong centre -oval juxtaposed-
Each clasping tight the tensions
Packed within.
Geometry of straight white lines
Criss-crossing grass extends outside
Between green canvas walls.
Crowds circulate throughout the arteries
Like life-blood gathering at the heart,
Some pumping out on Henman Hill
In lines across the screen.

Excitement mounts in jagged peaks
Of hands and hats and flags held high,
Youngsters' faces bear the painted names
Of idols yet to win.
But the camera's impartial eye can catch
The coming clouds
Before the players feel a single spot of rain.

Sylvia Herbert

First Love

Love touched me on the nerve-edge of my youth,
A sudden, savage pain beyond control
Which seared into my being, as a truth
Of universal moment strikes the soul.
Dry mouth and reddened cheeks when he was near
Ensured I did not speak or look my best,
Amusement of my friends caused many a tear
In private, when I prayed he had not guessed
Why I could barely pass the time of day,
Meeting by chance in some drab High Street store ;
His cheery "Hello, there!" had seemed to say
"I think you're nice enough", but nothing more.
Oh, silly child, it's obvious that you
Had still a deal of growing-up to do.

Sylvia Herbert.

Lunchtime Idyll

Sunny midday heat enfolds them both,
Mother and child, between the scented lilies
And the door ajar.
The girl twitches face-painted whiskers
And looking into her mother's eyes
Whispers
"Are we quiet enough to go in there?"
"Yes, my love, as quiet as black cats
creeping in the night."
Slipping inside, the darkness gathers them
Into itself, and breathes out a cool draught
Of mystery.

Sylvia Herbert

Study in String

I sit cross-legged on the sofa
hunched over illustrations by Heath-Robinson,
everything held together by knotted string.

Light catches my father's oak desk,
neat rows of envelopes pigeonholed,
sharpened pencils ready to write lists;

drawers conceal paper clips, elastic bands,
his blotter holds the imprint of my pen,
pressed hard from Christmas thank-yous to my aunts.

Books without pictures lean together
in the glass fronted bookcase; Tennyson,
Dickens, a set of Proust, leather-bound.

An arm chair bears the squashed impression
of my mother, where she has sat and knitted
a series of sad grey jerseys.

Dust hovers in a box of morning sun,
the room smells of stale Chrysanthemums.
I can hear my breathing.

Alison Jesson

Summer Isles Solstice

A thin road ribbons from Ullapool to Achiltibuie,
a shoreline of straddled houses
that gaze towards Tanera Mor.

Three in the morning, first glimmer of dawn,
I stir beside you, watch darkness dissolve
and the day uncurl between us like a sleepy cat.

Shadows have faded
when the ferry-boat chugs across to the Isles
and fish is hung to smoke in peat-fired ovens.

Hardy walkers from the Youth Hostel
stride south across the heather,
strands of gossip gather in the single shop.

Only the sun lazes
in a wide sky until well past supper,
leaving a trail of crimson behind.

At midnight, as a nearby thrush still stretches
his song, I reach for you across the hours
drawing out each thread of summer light.

Alison Jesson

Torre Del Mangia (The Watchman's Tower)

Pausing halfway up the five hundred steps
I peer from the dark and take a slice

of the baked city; a geometry of roofs
stretches out to Tuscany, ruckled rows

of terracotta, furrowed by angled streets,
enclosing Il Campo which trickles with tourists

drifting towards awnings of burnt sienna shade.
The guidebook records each dome and pinnacle

rising from the sprawl of these shimmering tiles;
but only a sentence describes the Black Death.

The city is time locked. No rectangles of concrete
or sheets of mirrored glass, no aerials or antennae,

no yellow taxis, or wailing sirens,
no hum of traffic. There is no sound.

If I were to lift the lid of one of these toy houses
I would find a man mending a chair leg,

a woman setting bread dough to rise,
while she makes soup for her sick child.

Alison Jesson

Dust

That flat-capped, full-mouthed, squat-nosed man
looking sidelong at the camera, below a placard
of which only one word is visible: WRATH
     could be granddad, stood there on the dockland
on a bitter November day.

And that lady with tin pail and rag
swabbing the step of her terraced house
     is that you nana? With your arthritic knees
and steady hands; the often ringless wedding finger
aching to the bone; stubborn and house proud
in your catharsis of soap.

And those grimy children, fleeting mites,
who skip through a debris of cobble stones,
     kicking dirt up past corner shops,
beyond the rubble of demolished houses
to lend the air their laughter- how resolute they seem.

Maureen Jivani

Solstice

The Earth tilts; a woman lifts her skirts
squats in the fifty-acre field
between farmhouse and church.

In the smouldering June sky
the Sun radiates his smile
like a God Father in waiting.

All week long this woman has gathered herbs
mugwort, geranium, chamomile, thyme
a basketful to ward off evil spirit's harm.

So look on now, as the charmed Sun pants
at the unexpected crowning of his head.
And as this mother grunts and pushes

see the spinning Earth pull this crying infant
safely into its hallowed land.

Maureen Jivani

Danny Boy

Sound and smell of crackling fire
and I'm back. Back to that amber glow:
mother fifty years since. Mirrored skin.

A tub of hot scented water, near the hearthside.
And the song that she sang as she soaped her bare breasts.
The summer's gone and all the flowers are dying...

And me myself, peeking, from behind the door.
Teeny. Five years old. Wide-eyed.
Full to the brim.

Maureen Jivani

Hornbeams

Elsewhere they coppiced hazel. Here in Surrey
The tree is hornbeam. Could be mistaken
For beech, but leaf-veins closer,
Finer toothed.
Here hornbeam's planted under standard oak -
Wood-management that goes back centuries.
They used to cut it every dozen years,
Make hurdles, fences, charcoal, skittles even,
Move round the wood, letting in a flood of light,
And when it had grown tall, come round again.
The oaks meanwhile would wait: three
Generations at least before their time would come.

The coppice isn't cut now;
Grows tall, its canopy
Up with the oaks, darkening the wood
In summer, hardly letting live
A bramble bush, a stalk of holly.
But spring brings us the first epiphany:
The wood fills up with misty tide
Of bluebells, lapping edge to edge.
We come to marvel.

More secret,
Ina mild November after wind and rain
Hornbeams let fall their splendour,
Carpet the wood in green-gold glowing leaf,
Hide path and ride in iridescent snow,
Soon to be trodden rotting brown in mud,
But at their first fall, innocent and proud,
Not caring that there's none to see
With almost erotic pleasure
Cast cloth of gold.

Michael Lane

At a Performance of Benjamin Britten's Opera
"A Midsummer Night's Dream"

A plot whose daftness you might well complain of _
Crossed lovers, rude mechanicals, a duke,
No simple songs to whistle the refrain of -
And fairies! It's enough to make one puke!
The sort of art the tabloids would rebuke -
So why should I become completely smitten,
Attending this posh opera by Britten?

Bluff Englishmen would once have shouted "Pansy!"
As Oberon the counter-tenor flutes
And prances in a get-up more than fancy -
Just look at those black thigh-length leather boots!
The down through stagey trees Puck parachutes;
He tucks the king's instructions in his pannier,
Flies off to put one over Queen Titania,

I'm really quite reluctant to go into
Their quarrel - who should own a changeling lad,
For nowadays opinion can't begin to
Empathise; they must be sad or bad.
The tabloids (as I've hinted) would go mad
And name and shame Titania, Oberon
(And Glyndebourne too, for putting this thing on.)

Now here comes Bottom - something out of panto -
A northern comic hamming up his part.
Bewitched Titania thinks he's just the man to
(Or ass, at least) take to her fairy heart.
It may be clever, sir, but is it Art?
Another round by Puck will put things right.
You must admit it's been a busy night.

I know I haven't answered my own question -
Why does it stir the psyche quite so deep?
Dreams aren't from fairies, they're from indigestion;
Yet - some strange land lies at the edge of sleep
With power to make us wonder, laugh or weep.
We shuffle from the theatre to our cars
And notice that the sky is bright with stars.

Michael Lane

The Kitchen Fire

Aromatic notes of soot and smoke
Mingled with the smell of age-old damp.
Candle on the wash-stand, water in the pail,
Looking for the lavatory? Take the lamp -
Out in the dark by the backyard hens.
(Nineteen-forties; village in the fens.)

Underneath the pantiled catslide roof
The kitchen fire burned all year through.
Hot water baled from its left-hand boiler
Down-draught smoky when the eat wind blew.
Toast on a toasting-fork held to the embers -
Sights and smells that a child remembers.

Out of the square blackleaded oven
(No thermostat to be adjusted)
Sacrament of summer Sunday dinner -
Chicken, plum-pie and baked egg custard.
Cooked to an effortless perfection
Tasted today in recollection.

Michael Lane

The Tree of Songs

what in the world made me sing of Christ on the morning before he was brought to me, still alive, and whipped by the iron wind?

I saw in his eyes a volcano, an acorn of bone for the oak of life he was carrying within, and an egg containing the total consciousness of Man.

my song was the earthquake and the eclipse. my song was arctic and tropical and granite all at the same time. and my song was tonal and modal and a lament proleptic as a dream that prophesied a grief and a deeper joy.

I knew they would cut me down for wood and a song and cast lots for his miraculous eyes.

I knew my song would embrace all of time and grow to be the shell of Eternity.

the birds flew through the music and themselves sang of total love. all nature quivered in the melody of my boughs.

and still I ask, what made me sing of Christ on the morning before he was brought to me, still alive, and whipped by the iron wind?

AA Marcoff

Haiku

I sing to the world
the robin carries
on his red breast
 
  vast,
the memory of God -
this river
the way
the temple
alters the wind
 
  blindman
passing a broken wall
at dusk
the snow of thinking
covers the earth
with a white thought
 
  Wastwater
with rock : the wild reality
of light
the intense
moment
of the rose
 
  morning - somehow,
and the quiet
of tea
children playing in the rain,
the sun
still in their eyes
 
  silent old couple
no more words
touch

AA Marcoff

The Lover

An angel of the Lord gave me a lover. And it was an adventure in light - chemical, spiritual. She wore the diamond of truth in her hair and she led me by the hand across rivers, seas, supreme distances I could touch like dust. I gazed just once on the forest between her thighs and she spoke of wings, diamonds, supreme mists and some ultimate storm. She gathered me to her and sang of love, a song of the heart. And the song was reality and reality was the song. Even the sun and the moon were musical. I will never forget for a moment the unsmotherable lilt of her voice as she brought sunfire into language and the chemistry of eagles into light. I am renewed. In life. In love.

AA Marcoff

Haiku

unexpected sunlight on wild water

the impulse of snowdrops in the silent light

she plays her violin with ... a rainbow

a diamond ... divided ...into dreams

AA Marcoff

Roofs

That sketch I did from my bolt-hole attic room
that looked out over half the roofs of Redland -
all chimney pots, tiled ridges, slated slopes.

Those firm strokes of graphite on fine grained paper
showing dormer windows, steep pitched gable ends
of tall town houses, the distant steeple.

The way the roofscape underpins the sky's bulk,
shields the solid citizens who go about
unseen beneath the eaves, their terraced lives.

Helen Overell

Clown

He stood in the tangled shade of the apple trees,
his painted face a mournful mask, his eyebrows raised.
He wore a rumpled suit, his head was bare, he held
his battered city hat with eggshell care, pulled out
a multicoloured string of knotted handkerchiefs
that fluttered in the breeze, twirled free, turned into birds
that flew into the branches overhead, perched there,
each feather bright with ruby fire or sapphire flame
or glint of burnished emerald - we watched entranced.
He raised a finger to his lips, beckoned the birds
until, one by one, they settled on his shoulders,
tugged at the worn cloth with tight curled claws, beat their wings,
carried him off over the tree tops out of sight.
We waited for a while but that seemed to be that,
we clapped politely though we felt he'd not be back.

Helen Overell

Asthma

asthma - the word brings you to mind,
gaberdine coats, satchels,
clangs from the hand
swung bell

you were in a much younger class,
your clothes had outgrown you,
cuffs were turned back,
hems drooped

you'd be sat on a wooden chair
in the empty playground,
your squeeze-tight chest
wheeze-loud

you'd be hunched in a gasp of air
that trickled like treacle,
your scrap-thin face
ash-pale

you'd be tear-stained, your skimpy hair
tangled into fluffed knots,
your sky-blue eyes
puffed shut

you'd ease up, breathe wafts of chanted
tables, well chorused rhymes,
your black-dapped feet
tapping time

Helen Overell

Daffodils

And there was I thinking I was a poet
As the lettering crash of the morning mail
The splash of the shower set the rhythm of the day
Finding a rhyme in disjointed time
As my biorhythms clash with the world's.

My child's bricks tumble and he screams "Buggy"
Could it be that the word was misheard?
Infants break the rules as they learn
Is that why poets are naughty too
Are tantrums their mantra?

Twisting the latch I open the door to my day
And there he is again
This time wrenching up the daffodils
A present for his mother.

I've no pals up there, I said as I looked
At the clouds and wandered off to work,
Thinking I was a poet.

Hugh Timothy

Haiku Thoughts

young voices
wafting my past
to my future
 
  magnetic puddles
where joyous little feet and
angry voices meet
little water lenses
on autumn leaves
set jewels
 
  finding vigour softly
on my doorstep
backlit by dawn
on the front doorstep
Stiff white morning soldiers wait
Rescue from air raid
 
  riding on grey thoughts
white clouds
highlight my mood
glassy globes of life
grow, float, reflect and fragile
drop to die.
 
  strung on an instant
a universe of jewels find
colour from the dawn

Hugh Timothy

Disillusion

It must have gone somewhere;
in the room next door perhaps?
That was yesterday - yet another dawn.
It couldn't have been yesterday.
Just think,
How long has it been
since I last held on to it?
But then again did I ever
Really hold it, own it, make it mine?

It was always too damned slippery,
Not to mention the savage teeth.
Easier to let it do its own thing,
Just try to nudge it out of other people's way;
A lot less painful.

I envy the others riding theirs, clinging on
with fierce determination, electric with achievement.
And what of mine - never even broken in.

Could it have been transportation to fulfilment?
I keep returning to the eternal bus stop
Where the last one always
left yesterday.

Hugh Timothy

Onion

Crack away the brownish shell -
this will usually peel off easily
in the older woman who has suffered much;
you may feel self-congratulatory
at this point, but beware of the next batch:
these thick outer layers are hell.

The first thing they do is make you cry
with all the saved-up anger at life
you didn't know you had: so cut
through them carefully: the knife
needs to slice through the viscous coat
of bitterness without slipping: try

holding the sticky globe tight
and do not give in to the wall of pain
in your stomach: this is the core
of the matter you are coming to: now begin
to ease away the rings some more
until you find the little shoot

at its heart: the green slip of promise
your ego has built all these layers around,
wanting it all to itself: but no,
you pincer it out like a surgeon; and the wound
of your Self disintegrates like snow
on the lip: you observe only tenderness.

Rosemary Wagner

The Last Fling of the Lime Trees

We saw you coming roaring and shaking your mane
over the hills
and we tittered
and shivered like young girls

we let our tired green cover-ups
slide from our osteoporotic shoulders
and strained eager
hen-necks towards you

I grabbed my brushes and dabbed
impasto skirts of butter-yellow, gold
and orange
thickly over our shrunken hips

streaking the gorgeous bands of oil paint
up and down
our hollow chests
in russet bodices

we lined up in the avenue
and everyone gasped and pointed
and took photos
we made such a good show

nobody seemed to notice our scrawny hands
clawing the black sky
as we lit up our long tunnel
for the last time

you were masterful with us
embracing us roughly
as you passed
indifferently by

leaving our petticoats in ochre rags
over the street
and us unashamed skeletons
hung out to dry

Rosemary Wagner

After the War

There they still are, gleaming
in glass bottle rows, neat as the jars
in my toy shop: drab bulls' eyes,
stripy humbugs, sand dunes of sherbet,
and, like cellophaned jewels,
boiled sweets and lollipops,
diamond-lit in emerald, ruby and amber,
next to the liquorice allsorts;

and I, clutching my ration book,
well below the counter's edge,
craning my neck to glimpse
the rare gold of barley sugar
glittering behind the balding head
of the sweetshop man, who will go on
gossiping with my unhurried mother
and on,

scream silently in my mind,
crushing the brown paper coupons
almost to dust in my pink hand,
while my tongue dreams
lovingly round the cloying
sandwiched texture
of the pretty pastel cubes
in my once-a-week dolly mixture.

Rosemary Wagner

The Dancer

Weary and lame,
The dancer lay on the ground weeping,
And she heard the sound of the earth sleeping,
Whispering its dreams.
Hearing her name,
The dancer lay on the ground listening,
And she heard the sound of the earth glistening
Into her streams of light
lifting her
lilting in flight
Take up your bed and dance.

Diana Webb

Two Tanka

butterfly lands on finger
stilling the pen
that would catch
the linger of its wings
in words

wood's edge,
across sound of the stream
small birds
flitting in and out
of the trees' silence

Diana Webb

Five Haiku

life class -
brushing the model's neck
a thistle-seed

summer party -
a thistle-seed
lands in the olives

thistle-seed drifts
in the scent
of himalayan balsam

footfalls -
thistle-seed
on the stair

stuck to the window,
last year's thistle-seed
bristles with frost

Diana Webb

Conceived on the Northern Line

The compartment heaves at Leicester Square,
a man in chinos and Timberland boots hustles
in with girl friend to snatch vacated places.
He sprawls, she looks around. The sprawl
becomes dominant, almost tumescent,
legs wide, prick-centred he slumps eyes closed,
commandeering the aisle. Part protective,
part embarrassed she noses into him with kisses and
noises, then pulls away.

Youths nearby jostle, grin and point chins
and eyes. One keen to grab crotchwise and twist
and shout obscenities
but self-restraint and uncertain consequences prevail.

Two ladies opposite tighten crossed legs and squirm.
Near to, but barely noticed, the unassuming man
lets slip a hardly perceptible grin,
perhaps just the conception of a twitch
at the corner of the mouth.

Beneath the Thames the girl nuzzles closer
whispering his likeness to the poem
she'd read to him last night,
perhaps she just told him the next stop was theirs.
It worked. He stretched and withdrew his loins
from the public arena. Everyone dashed
towards Way Out and Trains with passes
and Oyster Cards and the incident
went unreported, until now.

On the platform the self-assured man watched
as they hurried away, allowing his grin to germinate,
picturing the sensational news
on the Evening Standard placards.

John Whiting

There Are No Weapons

You were told not to fire without instruction.
But the leaders did not make it clear,
there are no weapons of mass destruction.

Did they teach you nothing at your induction?
They only said we should show no fear.
You were told not to fire without instruction.

We did believe there was no obstruction,
the disbelievers would laugh and sneer,
there are no weapons of mass destruction.

The call to war, that was pure seduction,
the mullahs shouting, the children jeer.
You were told not to fire without instruction.

Forty-five minutes was a misconstruction,
you listened to what you wanted to hear,
there are no weapons of mass destruction.

Ahead lay the years of reconstruction,
we should not have been so cavalier.
We were told not to fire without instruction,
for there are no weapons of mass destruction.

John Whiting

My Cat Believes That I am God

My cat believes that I am god
I've done nothing to dissuade her,
she does not think that it is odd
that we have gone and spayed her.

When she sits down in front of me
and purrs with eyes tight closed,
I believe that she is praying
and adopt a gracious pose.

Recently I have lectured her
on environmental matters,
on global warming, the Kyoto
Summit and how the ozone scatters.

I've heard her on the compost bin
preaching to neighbour's cats and crows,
they argue through the finer points
of where their rubbish goes.

Some days she comes and whines at me
on subjects I only guess at,
I try my best to understand
my loyal thinking cat.

I know we cannot now converse
on some deep, religious topics
and find it hard to keep from her
all matters misanthropic.

One day I know she will return
with mischief in her eyes,
then point a sharp, accusing claw
and her great god despise.

John Whiting