Red Lights

Red Lights

Red lights on my router,

where there should be green.

Red lights on my router;

I dread what this could mean.

 

In the midst of life’s journey, my eye on the summit;

lies an uncharted abyss, into which I plummet.

My existence dissolves, dwindles down to this.

The only sounds emitted: humming and hiss.

 

Mere moments ago, communication was infinite;

now my world has shrunk, within limits so tight.

No emails, no websites, no radio, no TV.

Nothing can be done; what will become of me?

 

My life now in crisis, situation drastic;

little red lights, shiny black plastic.

This is life’s essence, this cannot be right;

shiny black plastic, little red lights.

 

Red lights on my router,

where there should be green.

Red lights on my router;

I dread what this could mean.

As is probably the case with most people these days, my internet provider also provides me with my TV channels, including I-Player, and my telephone landline.  I am currently problem-free, with all these services, but I have had problems – as we all do – from time to time.  A few weeks ago, I suddenly experienced a complete loss of internet connection, for no apparent reason, which lasted for a couple of hours.  I began to realise, towards the end of the two hours, just how serious this problem could be, if it wasn’t soon resolved.  It also began to sink in just how vital our internet connection has become; our self-worth, our well-being, our whole identity now depends upon it.  The sense of liberation and renewal I had, as soon as the red lights on my router changed to green, led me to write the poem above.

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Witnesses

Witnesses

They work together, in pairs.

They walk together, in pairs.

Well-spoken, well-dressed, they reek of middle-class;

but, in a street like this, such people will not pass.

 

This street of drug-dealers;

this street of working poor.

This street of outcast mattresses,

and splintered frames on doors.

 

They want to save souls, to spread Jehovah’s word;

but in a street like this, it is unlikely to be heard.

In this street of rotting refuse, rank with dog turds,

the word of Jehovah is unlikely to be heard.

 

They have high aspirations,

leather satchels, shiny shoes.

But they sink, in this street,

in the rivers of booze.

 

The souls of people here

are unwilling to be stirred

by these witnesses of Jehovah,

spreading the word.

 

In this street of shattered dreams,

harsh debts are incurred.

No-one speaks of salvation;

such visions are blurred,

and the needs of brute existence

cannot be deferred.

 

These middle-class missionaries, in immaculate attire;

their expressions solemn, their minds afire.

Inspired by their mission, they will not be deterred;

but the souls of people here are unwilling to be stirred

by these witnesses of Jehovah, spreading the word.

I have always been intrigued, yet repelled, by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Whenever I see them, moving slowly, methodically, inexorably down my street, my first response is irritation at the nuisance factor of these people, knocking on your door when you have no inclination to speak to them.  I instinctively decide to avoid answering the door, at all costs.  But my next response is one of fascination, and I always end up cautiously observing their movements from my bedroom window, until they have disappeared from view.  I suppose I am reluctantly impressed by their dogged determination to carry out their task; but I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief as soon as they disappear.  I also admit to using “poetic licence” to exaggerate the description of the street in the poem.  The real street involved – my street – is not quite as sordid as it is depicted here!

 

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Placebo

Placebo

“Placebo” emanates poetry.

The syllables slide, insidiously;

sing, with the lilt and lull of the sea.

 

Take the pills in rhythm, one, two, three;

I know they will be good for me.

I close my eyes, sink into the deep.

 

The depths of the mind; territory

resistant to man’s ingenuity.

Hints of latent ability,

transcending mere physicality.

 

“Placebo” emanates poetry,

and, still, after years of history,

“placebo” emanates mystery.

Towards the end of last year, there were at least a couple of TV documentaries about “the placebo effect” that often seems to happen with pills, and medicines in general.  I find this subject very interesting, as it seems to hint at possible latent powers in the conscious or unconscious mind that we still know little about.  I’ve always been fascinated by the amazing powers of the human mind.  In 1961, I somehow managed to pass the Eleven-Plus exam, which meant I was to spend the next seven or eight years at a grammar school, instead of a “secondary modern” school.  Unfortunately, my initial success at passing the eleven-plus was not followed by continued success with the annual exams at the grammar school.  I remember getting really depressed at my lack of success with the exams, and, in desperation, I started reading books with titles like “The Exam Secret”, “How to Study Effectively”, “How to Revise”, and so on.  I found myself getting really interested in the psychological aspects, and went on to read more about mind training, memory training, and self-hypnosis – none of which helped me in passing more exams, but it did give me a life-long interest in powers of the mind, and how the brain is supposed to work.

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Tiny Spider

Tiny Spider

As I lay in the bath,

a fleeting movement

caught my attention.

A tiny spider, abseiling down

the sheer cliff face

of the bathroom tiles,

so nimbly, seemingly unaware

of the dangerous waters below.

 

It paused, in its heedless descent.

Then, in sudden panic,

began climbing, lost its footing,

fell, spun another line,

clambered up again,

fell again. . .

 

I decided to help it; to save it.

It ran onto my paperback book,

then disappeared.

 

I turned the book over,

expecting, hoping, to see the spider

running underneath; but no sign.

 

With a sudden sense of dread,

I looked into the water,

and saw a motionless black speck:

the drowned corpse.

 

My act, carried out

with the best of intentions,

had only ushered the spider

into another dimension.

Following on from the Tiny Black Fly of my last posting, followers of this blog must be thinking I’ve got a particular fascination with small insects, but this poem was inspired by an incidental event, that happened only a few days ago.  It’s simply an exercise in observation, and reporting on exactly what happened, although the rhyme in the last verse refers to the universal truth that well-meaning acts often trigger unfortunate consequences.

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Black Fly

Black Fly

I am currently haunted, by a tiny black fly.

I am waiting, in vain, for it to die.

You’d think it so easy, to expunge

its tenuous life, in a single lunge;

but it seems to sense my malign intention,

and vanishes, into another dimension.

From whence it emerges, to persecute me,

as I slump, half-asleep, half-watching TV.

 

It comes and goes; its movements so fast.

It often appears on the edge of the glass

I’m drinking from, full of wine, or beer.

I pick the glass up, and it disappears

into a world of dark energy, anti-matter,

where black holes suck up the spray and spatter

of dying planets. A tenebrous world;

the complete obverse of our

brightly-shining universe.

A world of negative truths, or lies;

presided over by the Lord of the Flies.

Because I have a phobia about insects – particularly wasps and bees – I keep all my windows closed, at all times.  Nonetheless, I still get the odd little intruder, penetrating my defences, from time to time.  The most recent one is the tiny black fly of the above poem.  The poem started off describing what had been happening, as a lot of my poems do.  It was only when I got the idea of it disappearing into another dimension – which had to be one of appropriate blackness, of course – that I felt the poem starting to “take off”, and the Lord of the Flies seemed to be a fitting ending.

Just a reminder, in case anyone missed it in my last post: a first collection of my poems, entitled The Bunuel Martini and Other Poems, has recently been published, and is now available as a paperback or e-book from https://www.amazon.co.uk and https://www.lulu.com

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Bare Walls

Bare Walls

The walls of his rooms are completely bare.

You would think that it must, indeed, be rare

for a person to live within walls so bare.

But he likes it that way; he likes to stare

into the blankness enclosing his lair.

 

His mind is full, but his walls are bare.

His mind can work in the clear, plain air.

His mind can work, infused by his brain,

creating notions inspired and inane.

His mind is full, but his head is bare.

His head holds scarcely a trace of hair.

This poem can, perhaps, be read as a kind of sequel to the poem “Lions and Tigers”, that I published on this blog a few weeks ago.  I was thinking about that poem, which made me start thinking about the subject of “walls” in general.  The next thing I knew, the idea for “Bare Walls” suddenly popped into my head.

And now, some IMPORTANT NEWS FOR FOLLOWERS OF THIS BLOG.  A first collection of my poems has just been published, entitled “The Bunuel Martini and Other Poems”.  It is available as an e-book for Kindle (Price £1.99) and as a paperback book (Price £4.99), and you can get it from https://www.lulu.com and https://www.amazon.co.uk

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Depression

Depression

A friend of mine once walked

into a greengrocer’s,

to request Russet apples,

of which he was inordinately fond.

 

He was depressed, at the time,

and the depression obviously

affected his diction,

for, on returning home,

and opening the brown paper bag,

he saw a loose gathering

of Brussels sprouts, not

the Russet apples he had requested.

 

He was truly depressed; so depressed

that, instead of expressing outrage

at this blatant affront to his wishes,

he merely uttered a sigh, of resignation;

almost as if he had expected

the brown paper bag to contain

the pungent vegetable, instead

of the sweet-tasting apples.

 

He then, without further ado,

consigned the blameless Brussels sprouts

to the rubbish bin.

Egremont Russet apples (commonly known as “Russet”) are a particularly distinctive British apple, that are only available for a brief period in the autumn.  They have always seemed to me to be redolent of the earth, with their mottled brown and green colouring, and they evoke images of apples painted by Van Gogh (in his earthy “Potato-Eaters” period) and Cezanne.  When you bite into them, the flesh seems soft at first, but is also, somehow, firm and crisp.  The taste is sweet, delicious, and unique.  The incident described in this poem happened a long time ago, but I’ve always found it amusing, and I suddenly thought that, if I recounted the incident very simply, it might just work, as a sort of a poem.

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Craft Beers – a Return to Keg?

Crafty Return

Heard on the radio, earlier today:

it’s Mary Hopkin’s sixty-eighth birthday.

She was born just ten days before me,

half-way through the last century.

The mere thought of her hit song

“Those were the Days”, and I’m back there,

in the noise, the alcoholic haze.

 

Once upon a time there was a tavern,

where we used to raise a glass or two.

Remember how we laughed away the hours,

and dreamed of all the great things we would do.

Those were the days my friend;

we thought they’d never end. . .

 

Fine songs could be heard, on the jukebox;

they were great years for Pop and Rock.

The Fitzwilliam Arms, known as “The Fitz”;

just Keg Beer in those days, all bubbles and fizz.

 

And what do we have now, after all these years,

but a strange transformation, in the world of beers.

To an old veteran of the Campaign for Real Ale,

the new “Craft Beers” are beyond the pale.

 

We thought we’d seen the worst days of inflation,

but injection of gas has caused price escalation.

These illusory, revivified corpses of Keg

now cost the poor punter an arm and a leg.

 

It seems that these highly-praised, trendy new brews

are available only to the privileged few.

I’m surprised, myself, that I’m now one of those

cynics, decrying the Emperor’s New Clothes.

 

It’s not what the craft cognoscenti wish to hear,

but a simple question: what’s wrong with real beer?

When I first found out that the singer Mary Hopkin was born ten days before me, I had an idea for a poem that linked her hit song “Those Were the Days” with my first experiences of pub-going in my youth.  I then struggled, for weeks, to write the poem, but found it difficult to avoid it just being a facile comment on the passing of time.  It was only a few days ago, when I entered a local emporium of craft beers with a friend who is a lifelong lover of “real ale”, that I was able to solve the problem.  He surveyed the highly-priced craft beers on display, was not impressed, and walked out of the place, commenting “I don’t know – what’s wrong with real beer?”  I suddenly realised I could turn the poem into a commentary on craft beer, and that it would work much better that way.

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Lions and Tigers

Lions and Tigers

Lions and tigers adorn his walls;

prints of paintings, in wooden frames.

Lions and tigers; these are all

the pictures that adorn his walls.

 

Prints of paintings, in wooden frames,

by a wildlife artist, of deserved fame.

Lions and tigers; these are all

that hang, accusingly, on his walls.

 

The room is, surely, far too small

for the lions and tigers on the walls.

The psychiatrist stares, overwhelmed by all

the lions and tigers on the walls.

 

Some peel away; surely a sin.

Some reveal the ferocity within.

Lion roars, tiger jaws;

seize the prey, with lion paws.

Tear the heart out, with tiger claws.

 

The psychiatrist pauses;

takes a deep breath.

Prepares for a mauling;

prepares for a death.

I remember the first time I entered a living-room that had been recently re-decorated, and couldn’t help noticing that all the walls were covered by a number of framed prints of paintings of lions and tigers.  After sitting in the room for a while, I began to feel slightly uncomfortable, and realised it was the unsettling effect of the pictures of the ferocious wild animals; it was almost as if they were gazing at me, sizing me up as likely prey.  I was relaxing in the bath recently, reading a review of a highly-praised collection of poems all about wild animals, and the idea for the Lions and Tigers poem suddenly came into my mind.

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Sea Cat

Sea Cat

My first weeks at college, I was most puzzled that

everyone seemed to talk about a “sea cat”.

 

Weathered by abuse of sea and sky;

accustomed to pain; patch over one eye.

Hissing, spitting, a tendency to maul;

one leg torn off by a cannonball.

Steeped in the climate of tropical zones;

sailing under the skull and crossbones.

His liking for grog, aka rum,

was infectious; all just part of the fun.

 

This was the image I had in my head;

where my foolish fancies had led.

A pirate’s cat; an old sea hand,

straight from the pages of “Treasure Island”.

 

Sea Cat gave me the best three years of my life,

and the single most surreal moment of my life:

when I was told I was likely to be

the only one, that year, to get a first-class degree.

(This prediction proved erroneous, ultimately;

only one person did get a first-class degree,

but a student with more brainpower than me,

who went on to lecture in Sociology.)

 

Being a slow northerner, from Barnsley,

twenty-six years old, just starting a degree;

it took weeks before it finally dawned on me,

weeks to come to terms with my stupidity.

How was it I completely failed to see

that “Sea Cat” was derived from “CCAT”:

Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology?

Regular followers of this blog will probably be aware of the fact that I have previously posted a number of autobiographical poems about my student days in Cambridge, 1976-79.  This is the latest in the series.  The college I attended has undergone many metamorphoses since I was there, and is currently known as Anglia Ruskin University. 

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