Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cathedral Square


Cathedral Square, in summertime glow;
fountains and children provide the show.
The cathedral, nearby, just part of the view;
with slender spires puncturing the blue.

Surging fountains spatter and spray;
children enticed to unfettered play.
Whimsical, as life, fountains fascinate.
Spontaneous, wilful, they tease, frustrate.

Small children laugh, scream with delight;
run forward, boldly, back-off with fright.
People sit on benches, take in the sights,
think back to a time when they still could be
as these children are: innocent and free.

Sun-worshippers sit idly, frazzling their skins;
brainier pigeons shower their wings.
Others seem less at ease in the heat;
shifting, nervously, in their seats,

fancying they hear the haunting “tick-tock”,
the hurrying hands of the Guildhall clock.
In the back of their minds, unsettling truth:
that brief burst of glory, evanescence of youth.

“Cathedral Square” is a poem inspired by the real Cathedral Square, in Peterborough (i.e. Cambridgeshire, UK), where I live.  It is a kind of companion-piece to an earlier poem “Sun-Salutation”, which I wrote about the other prominent square in Peterborough, Laxton Square.  Both squares are situated adjacent to Peterborough’s famous cathedral, yet they have completely different atmospheres and identities, which are – somewhat ironically – nothing to do with the cathedral itself.




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The subject of the following poem is inequality, and how it is all too easy for us to forget about it.  The poem is my contribution to Blog Action Day for Inequality; #BAD2014.


A report I saw; Channel Four, on TV.
The plight of a poor Afghan family.
Three young boys, working, all day, every day.
No chance, for them, of school, or play.
They’re woken at dawn; eyes heavy with sleep.
They stagger outside; start herding their sheep.

One of the boys barely ten years old.
No food to warm them, in the searing cold.
Off they go; an unending day’s work.
No feigning of sickness, no chance to shirk.
They scavenge through rubbish; live on their wits.
In huge piles of refuse; infernal pits.

Unceasing labour; a fourteen-hour day.
At the end, they get a mere pittance for pay.
Then, “home”, to their barn; breath billowing in the cold.
Meagre food for the family; the young and the old.
If Wordsworth were witness to their fourteen hours;
new meaning to “… how they lay waste their powers”.*

I watch, am moved. It’s all so unfair!
For a few, fleeting moments, I really do care.
The economic structure of the world is rotten …
But, mere minutes later, it is all forgotten.
A thriller soon grips me; its twists, its chills.
No space in my mind for Afghan wars and their ills.

Like a Nazi camp Commandant, supervising slaughter,
then returning home, to his wife and daughter.
I choose to forget; to avert my gaze.
To subsume my worries in a comforting haze.



* William Wordsworth, Sonnet: “The World is Too Much With Us”.


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They aspire, always, to lucidity.
Bishop Berkely saw, with lucidity,
our misplaced trust in “reality”.
“Ideas”, in the mind, are all that exist;
all else is delusion, he would insist.

Doctor Johnson, of the great “Dictionary”,
impatient with the wiles of Philosophy,
saw no need for protracted dispute;
for Berkeley’s theory was easy to refute.
The Truth, clearly there, for all to see.
Johnson’s boot, the stone: “Thus, I refute thee!”

Perception, consciousness;
what we see, what we think.
Our little lives, ended in a blink.

I’ve mentioned before, in this blog, about coming across a couple of books by Colin Wilson in my local public library, when I was a teenager.  Wilson had a way of making the “History of Ideas” incredibly exciting, and he wrote about philosophers and artists as if they were action heroes.  His books sparked off a fascination with Philosophy for me, which has persisted to the present day.  Whilst I find it fascinating, I have never studied it academically, and am often frustrated by certain philosophers of the school of “Linguistic Analysis”.  I also tend to disagree with the emphasis on Logic and intellectual rigour as being the only methods worth thinking about.  Philosophy, for me, should be a much broader, inclusive subject, encompassing imagination, emotions, and the history of human thought and literature.

The well-known tale – told in Boswell’s epic Life of Samuel Johnson – of Johnson’s “refutation” of Berkeley’s philosophy of “Idealism” by kicking a stone has always amused me, and my poem “Philosophers” is an attempt to tell the story in verse.


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