The Rhythm of Sorrow

Vietnam, Kings Place

‘A woman mourns her husband killed during the insurgent occupation
as part of the Tet offensive’

The howling tornness, her stretched fingers creating the rhythm of the photograph among the waves of sand. What’s left of him is wrapped in plastic. She puts her hat over his head. She wails; we hear it through the glass; I see my shadow kneeling on the gallery floor.
People walk by and shadow the wall. It was April 11th, 1969. Today is April 11th, 2015.

The woman still wails and weeps. It is hard to imagine her returning to children, carrying on. The bright sun on the white wall, so appropriate for the desert scene, 46 years later, the Guardian’s new building pristine. My body older than the one that danced and wrote poetry in the safety of England’s green and pleasant land.

But that scream, on the escalator wall, it resounds, it calls, it keens.
In the silence of the mass grave, 47 bodies.  A woman mourns.

I get up to go from kneeling at the foot of a photo. The passers-by feel sorry as I haul myself up. I feel sorry  looking at her body still on her haunches, face raised to the sky.

The rhythm of sorrow. The occupation of Hue. The Tet offensive.
From Vietnam 1969 to London 2015. A world away, a death unfolds.

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The Poetry of Genocide

The poetry of Genocide exists like this

You listen to a story on the radio

and can hardly believe it’s true

but the survivors tell their stories

as waves of horror wash through your body


Your body, my body, their bodies

in the pit of experience where we

are the world we are one body

One mind, one world and

Genocide’s definition seeks to split us


Into factions that do not truly exist

The poetry of genocide may start with

the experience of separation, of defining

naming and marking us, but ends by ensuring

we know there is no difference between us.

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Back Then

Back then

Some people gave food at supermarkets on their way out

a tin of this, a packet of that and at Christmas shelters opened

so people on the street could get out of the cold

stay alive over the dark period

where the housed stayed home, ate and drank amidst fairy lights


In Finland they cured the problem by housing the homeless.

“Too simple,” they said here, where drawing lines

was a major occupation, the way some felt better

than others, maintained the status quo, even those at the bottom


So long as there was someone to feel better than…………

Finland had the universal wage too, imagine that here

in the godforsaken duchy of class.

Yes. In America the gun laws eventually put


paid to homelessness by sanctioning killing on sight

so anyone who looked remotely like a vagrant forfeited

the right to live in Trump’s United States


Here of course that was quick and easy too. They

started to round folk up and first they moved the homeless on,

eventually put them in internment camps, the boroughs started it, even

Hackney, Oxford, everywhere in the end


They deported anyone without full British heritage, that cut the numbers

then once they and the refugees were gone

and they annihilated everyone with a conviction

by lethal injection they rehoused the homeless in prisons


Oh it was a radical solution at that time

cut the population too, trouble was, with the barbed wire round the coast

no-one could get out either, as no one could get in.


Britain after Brexit was just the beginning, the end of trade

with anywhere, but they didn’t see it coming.

A totalitarian state, who’d have thought it, 

the Siberian gulags in our own back yard

 December 2017

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Facets of Waiting

Waiting, September

6.33 I wake, the lights of the crane shine loudly red

the pale of the sky gives blue a chance

whilst yellow prevails in the birch tree

swiftly moving into autumn

My girl remains expectant as autumn progresses

the kettle boils, does she rumble on?

The branches of recent colour change wave,

does she saunter through the days

giving rise to further weight gain

or will this day bring bigger contraction?

The sweep has swept

and what has ensued?

An engaged head waits


Waiting, November

All the songs appeared and sang

all the sadness floated out

In Granada a queue for the Alhambra

in Cadiz round and round on the tourist bus

Waiting now for a few days in Palma

not long away, a bright blue sky

Waiting in reverse

for the song of the river to repeat

For my grandma to undie

for us to grow young together

For the brightness of a summer bird

to alight on my hand

As if I could wait for you

who’d been and gone 

As if belatedly, beleagueredly

you’d come home

Waiting to open the door

and walk into the precious light

The night time comes at four o’clock 

It is November, waiting now for spring



This poem will be published in February 2019 in The Purple Breakfast Review Issue 7 ‘Waiting’ by Wordsmith_HQ]

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The future of consumption

Asked to write something on  the future of consumption here is an imaginatively lacking response

In the Positive

We will all have enough to eat

There will be no greed

War will be at an end because the ‘stupidity’

Of the desire for power

Will have fallen away.

We will share in all units of social organisation

From the couple to the family extended to the community

The country and the continent, our turning world and far beyond

The sea will no longer be polluted and will issue forth her teeming gifts

We will eat of the local land importing only what we need since profit

Will take a low rung place to people who take what they need, no more 

The eating of meat and animal products will have lessened 

carbon emissions will have dropped

The future will look bright as we remain in Europe 

Politics will reflect people’s true needs and politicians will be representatives

We will produce more, import less and trade will depend worldwide

On local production, each country looking after its own and others who do not have

There will be improvement in communications, one with the other, on every level

Universal wages will replace universal credit which will be at at end

We will learn each others languages

And travel freely for experience

Not because we have nowhere to live.

Terrorism will be at at end, 

There will be no power imbalance

Can you hear me, there will be no power imbalance

So everything will change.

The future is now.

Begin, here, where you are, here, now


In the negative

Plastic will have so clogged the seas that sealife is at an end

Artificial hormones will have deranged our animals systems

They are unfit to eat, unhappy and unproductive

Western countries make nothing, relying on the East

Who are paid next to nothing for their labour

The tyranny of political systems will have closed 

All passage of communication

The powers that be issue proclamations to the subjected

Who live and die at their behest. There is no health system

Only the fittest can survive.

The forests are long gone, gone, the powers explore space since the dying

Earth can no longer sustain them.  The war to end all war which spawned the next

Left a legacy of lack of care, millions gasp for lack of air 

People, drowned in mud, no longer call  themselves that name


What future? What more to say? Our world is at an end. Long live the world.

Lest we forget, look up and see the sky, admire the sun for soon this planet

Will be gone. We thought the sun would cease. Cessation is our gift to the universe

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The sea is a rugged sailor, Obliquity

I feel I am waving to you from the end of the pier
Some of you are in a boat putting out to sea
whilst others are walking along the promenade

There is a promontory, a headland extending out
as far as this pier and a man is
teetering on the edge trying to find the courage to jump

I have no intentions to jump or to save
to swim or sink, I recognise I have
no choice and intention is the very vaguest

of issues. Three lines, many words, it all looks neat
but hidden inside is a coming to be that knows
no limits and as I am not the actor but rather

the acted upon, the acted through, I cannot say what
will occur. But I wave to you nevertheless
Never the most, I acknowledge you. The sea is a rugged sailor.

It was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were carried out and during the battle he did not know what was going on […] it only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will -Tolstoy 1869)
quote cited in Obliquity by John Kay
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Back and forth like the wave

like the Hull riding into the Humber

click click between home page and next page

in search of a prompt as the wading bird

searches for the worm

eventually gives up, eats a shred of seaweed

confident it will not starve

warming its wings in the sun

confident it will not freeze

knowing nothing of confidence

living anyway, promptless

on the shoreline of the riverbed

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Blue’s intensity is no less pertinent
now than the sky ever knew
gazing blue into ocean’s blueness
blue became his mood for all those
blue edged sunsets when the Bayou
called like blue wolves, simmering
in their acquiescence to the truth

But that afternoon when the blue airmail
envelope arrived with a blue stamp
printed ‘not known at this address’
he finally blew his top. A hole in the
ground no bigger than the mouth of
the bottle of ‘Blue Nun’ in his mother’s
pantry held the stylised demise he dreamt of

The wind blew fierce. Blue lips iced
his frozen heart as he, so passionate
in his reveries blew his blue dreams home,
shoreward they caved in, fell through clouds
in the blue sky landing in the blue dreams lake.
‘I shall never say the word again,” he sighed
and signed his name, Azure Azul, Amen

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