featured in the poetry forum August 14, 2021  :: 0 comments

You may dance your colourful dances,
twirl strange batons, flail the sky,
stamp hallowed ground with boots of leather,
sound depths in a consecrated cry.

You may sew rubied embroidery
to clothe against the winter’s long song,
pick out old harmonies on flutes of iron
accompany yourselves on pipe and gong.

You may send your children out to the round tent
where they will perform the adult rite
to the tune of birds with curved, ferocious beaks
who teach them the lasting lore of the fight.

All this you may do as you have done
in the centuried past; but you may not
challenge the power of State or minion
by slightest tittle or faintest jot.

And when we bring paying crowds to see
quaint ceremonies, buy trinkets of cheap gold,
you will smile and caper to tunes
not of your own choosing, nor known of old.

And then you will enter the dull classroom
and learn by rote our version of dead history
where the plants have no piquancy, the trees
no shape, the forest floor no mystery.

And afterwards there will be work – the mines,
the factory – and you will make staples of fear
that mock your liberty, enact your dispossession,
and you may be at home; anywhere but here.

editors note:

While home, not yours, is made of you. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum February 20, 2021  :: 0 comments

The eighty-foot Robinia
that grows in my garden
and tries to hide behind the garage, like a gangly
adolescent merging into the crowd, though
its delicacy of leaf is an indelible mark of distinction,
is also, I discover, known as the ‘black locust.’

The Black Locust. It sounds like a spy
from a pre-war novel, last suspected
of living under an assumed name in Casablanca
or perhaps Port Said, consorting with
dancing girls and passing on messages from the Fat Man
in mysterious codes, whorls, woody curlicues.

An invasive species, in this case from North America
where, paradoxically, it has been recently classified
as a weed due to its suckering habit
(where there are spies there are always also the gullible)
and so I look up at it
with renewed wonder; the world’s stateliest weed.

Most species are invasive; how many English nationalists
suspect the great oak of Chinese origins?
They must have laid their plans long ago,
in case the telecoms didn’t work out.
Since they can’t be made to grow straight, they’re no use
for railway sleepers; but maybe they’re sleepers anyway.

Robinia can’t be straightened either;
they have nothing to do with lines, defined angles;
their branches are flamboyant yet secretive;
if ingested by horses their bark causes,
among other ailments, depression and anorexia. Yet their pods
are eaten in Japan and Romania as delicacies.

The ‘delicate tree;’ that is what I called it
before I knew any of its many names.
Spy, horse-killer, preyer on crops,
invader of the prairies, your girth too big to mention
in polite company; crown-shy, twig-gentle, wrap me in
a forested espionage from which I shall never emerge.

editors note:

When a weed sparks wonder… – mh clay

The Panel-Beater

featured in the poetry forum October 19, 2020  :: 0 comments

At first, there was only the receptionist –
rather overweight, dyed blonde, with a smile
that said, ‘Aren’t I glamorous?’ Then she shouted
into the back room and he appeared – small,
far from young, crippled by what looked like
the damage of childhood polio. He led me
at a surprising clip to where my car was parked.

He talked. He said he was an ‘old dude;’
he had no truck with these modern ways.
Now they just look at a damaged tailgate and say
you have to replace it – eighteen hundred quid
a pop. He was right – I’d just been through that
elsewhere. What you need is a real panel-beater,
one who’s seen everything. And then he winked.

He said he could do the job for seven hundred.
It would need clamping, filling, repainting
of course. Good as new. I liked his company;
he had a big, toothy, world-weary grin. I went
back through the office; the blonde wasn’t there,
maybe she never had been. He had disappeared
into a dingy mechanics’ shop, vanished from sight.

The workshop backed onto scrubland, traversed
by motorway slip roads; as I walked away to find a bus
I reflected that, of course, I have no idea whether
he will do a good job. Nevertheless, if you ever
want your panels beaten, and you suspect it could
be done without replacing the whole bloody car,
he comes with my heartfelt recommendation.

editors note:

How often do we hand our hardware and our hopes to the (in)competence of others? (We welcome David to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

A Grimoire

featured in the poetry forum May 24, 2020  :: 0 comments

In the night’s dark half-glitter
regard the stones, jewelled
with drops of mercury.

Watch the drip of memory
as it cascades through retort,
alembic, crucible.

Outside the light, forms
amass upon the scales
and unlovely creatures

formed of no living union
caper and prey, immune
from the cloying call

of natural ways, always instead
seeking transmutation, the next
shape they will take

according to a different ordering
far from the tidy arrangement
of the so-called elements.

Rare metals, noble gasses
have their own sphere.
It is our task, my dear familiar,

to harness all to our own
purposes, and to exile
those foul usurpers

accused of witchcraft
for we are scientists, ahead
of our generation

and steeped in the medium,
arrayed in silk and silver,
accustomed to the comings and goings

of nitrates, carbides, all manner
of oddities and anomalies.
See what I have here,

outside the firelight, in my flasks
of burnished lead. Here no glimmer
of reason can penetrate.

editors note:

Yes, Professor. It’s magic to us, who don’t know witch is which. – mh clay

About the Size of Wales

featured in the poetry forum March 5, 2020  :: 0 comments

Statistics pour out about an epidemic
and what will happen when the medicine fails –
we’ll have a large pool of contamination.
It could be about the size of Wales.

And then there’s America’s prison population
spilling from penitentiaries and jails.
Don’t tell us – the newsreaders can mime it for us –
the remains would be about the size of Wales.

The hurricanes that devastate each seaboard
will take years of replanting, but all that pales
beside the inland wastage, the deserted landscapes
which just might be about the size of Wales.

We set about the oceans for vacation,
with diesel engines in the place of sails
and what do we discover – a sea of plastic
which is, mysteriously, about the size of Wales.

Out there among the planets, there is Venus
(just visible beneath its ghostly veils)
with unexplored asteroidal craters
which are (surprise surprise) the size of Wales.

For a small country, it might seem weirdly mobile
as it sits uncounted on the scales;
but the question appears to remain unanswered:
What actually is the size of Wales?

editors note:

Maybe, in this case, size doesn’t matter? – mh clay