Archive for October, 2012


Curtains drawn against late October twilight,

working on verses about burgeoning flocks

of raucous, emerald Ring-necked Parakeets

in the Surrey Hills, I hear the murmur

of girls. It is Halloween. The bell rings.

There is a bevy of neighbours’ daughters –

one with a painted face, all on the cusp

of womanhood – lovely, ingenuous.


From habit, I watch them safely down the street

and then, before I shut the door, look up

at the night sky, craning my neck with wonder.

Cloud obscures all but Jupiter, Mars, Venus.

It would be tempting to believe not merely

in physical forces and chemical

reactions but design and purpose

through the kaleidoscope of the universe –

and in the countless stars’ unheard music.


After supper, I begin another piece:

about the Ghetto in Golden Prague –

with its learning, its music and its art –

which Hitler decreed should be preserved as

a raree show for ‘Judenrein Europa’.

Daily, new stones are placed on the tomb

of Rabbi Judah Levai ben Bezalel,

Talmudic scholar and Kabbalistic mystic,

legendary creator, from Vltava mud,

of The Golem to scourge the anti-semites,

and battler with Azrael, the angel of death,

to protect his only granddaughter.




In the opposite corner of the room

in which I write is an Edwardian

upright piano, an inanimate

companion since my early childhood.

Our granddaughter asks to be lifted

onto the too high stool and tries the notes,

now loud, now soft,  with the flats of her hands,

hearing with wonder the unending sounds.




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What a work memory is – fecund,

abeyant, arcane!  How apparently

dormant, inconsequential images

awaken, seemingly unbidden!


I am fifteen, climbing the steep steps,

two at a time, from the Underground

to the street –  on a sunlit, London

October morning. I look up. Beginning

to descend, carefully, from the gentle light,

is a young woman,  heavily pregnant.


She has become a persistent stranger,

replete with promise – unrealised,

as yet and forever.






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At twilight from the hills across the Straits, a sudden

drift of smoke – then a fire’s deep orange eye blinked.

We talked of cruising the Nile; of moon rise and sun set,

of the narrow compass of the earth’s curve;

the river pilots’ open armed, hand-on-heart salaams;

and the stars rushing through the night.


Later and sleepless in the early hours,

I kept watch at the bedroom window.

The hotel sign lit a faded Union flag,

threadbare at its outer edges.

The only hint of the far shore was

sporadic lights on the A55.


But the stars were unequivocal. In a cloudless,

unpolluted sky, how they teemed!

I saw the constellations pass

and the random magnificence of things revealed.

Understandably, you preferred to sleep.

And journey safely through the dark.



Note: The poem was originally published on the site in October 2009, under the title, BULKELEY HOTEL, BEAUMARIS, YNYS MÔN –




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‘The Cure of Folly’ by Hieronymous Bosch, circa 1490


Here is a cure for madness. The patient,

stupid with pain, credulity or

the random gaze of the mad, the distraught, looks

in our direction. He is being trepanned.

The surgeon, having pierced the shaved skull,

looks modestly away. A monk with a jug

of wine or of water and a nun

with a closed book gesture to the consultant

as if to say, “Thus perish all follies”.

A white horse gallops through an orchard. Sheep graze.

A distant gallows is occupied.

Where the landscape ends in blue hills, steeples

rise in an empty sky.



Note: The poem was originally published on the site in December 2011 –





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Marjorie Beebe in 'The Farmer's Daughter' 1928



For Ian Craine



‘Marjorie Beebe is the greatest comic possibility that ever worked in my studio. I think she is destined to become the finest comedienne  the screen has ever seen.’  Mack Sennett


Her bottom was a serious matter:

the butt, as it were, of numerous pratfalls

in many Mack Sennett two reelers – like

The Chumps, Campus Crushes and The Cowcatcher’s

Daughter – in which she was a capricious,

lubricious Columbine with witty eyes

and good teeth and various Harlequins,

who ended invariably as losers.

From Kansas City, her mother took her

on the Yellow Brick Road to Tinsel Town.

Beebe and Sennett became lovers, despite

or because of the thirty year difference,

so he knew her asset first hand so to speak.

From silents to talkies, slapsticks to wise cracks,

her Mid West accent playing well, then Mack goes bust

and Marjorie gradually disappears.

Was it the booze? She was certainly

a toper. Or, more likely, The Hays Code:

irony suppressed, vulgarity outlawed,

Puritan America triumphant!


NOTE: The poem has been posted today to celebrate Marjorie Beebe’s birthday – 9th October 1908. The poem has been previously published twice before on the site – and – and has been one of the most visited pieces. In addition, it has been published on




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