what a ride

I’m just your average homo sapiens
so I’ve no idea why I got abducted by aliens

I was out walking Stanley the dog
when there was this sudden creepy fog
then a noise like someone bowing a saw
that carried on annoyingly a minute or more
till a fierce white light snapped down
and I felt myself rising off the ground
waggling helpless as a mackerel
controlled by forces supernatural
till I rose up through a dodgy looking hatch
and landed on deck for the creatures to catch

Let me try to describe ‘em
I mean – at first I totally didn’t buy ‘em
they looked kinda hokey
sounded worse than me at karaoke
almond eyes, sensitive mouths
a bunch of tentacles north & south
if you ask anyone to draw an alien
from Buddhist monk to Episcopalian
I’m damned sure thems the figures you’d see
but that’s what I found leering down at me

They took me to their leader
an older unit with a badge that said PETER
(his real name was probably SCHNORQ or KLARHT
but they didn’t wanna alienate me right at the start)
he put my phone up on a giant screen
I put in the password twenty eighteen
the other aliens gathered round
moved their tentacles so I could sit down
as PETER swiped and the images swam
all the videos I’d watched on Instagram
and every time he’d stop and frown
and sigh and tut and shake his suckers
like humans were the ditziest mothafuckas
and he’d look to me for an explanation
to understand the population:

‘that’s someone falling over at a wedding
that’s Motor Bikin’ by Chris Spedding
that’s three kids jumping in the water
that’s a goose walking on wet mortar
that’s a kitten on a trampoline
that’s switching lip balm with germolene
that’s a wheelie and a stoppie
that’s a ten second paper poppy
that’s a guppy looks like Trump
that’s a starving dog on a dump
that’s a bunch of sweet Jedi moves
that’s a dachshund overdubbed with coconut hooves
that’s how to draw sheep
that’s Tom Hardy & Meryl Streep
that’s Rihanna in Tijuana
that’s Ray of Light by Madonna
that’s Ray Winstone on a lilo
that’s shortcrust versus filo
that’s bloopers from Friends
that’s Jennifer Aniston again
that’s a three year old doing a halfpipe
that’s a woodcock and a snipe
that’s le parkour
that’s Alan Moore
that’s a spiky dress at the Met
that’s a clown swallowing a cigarette
that’s a gas explosion at a depot
that’s a fashion selfie in Aleppo
that’s Grampa, Lily and Herman Munster
that’s a drunk guy falling in a dumpster
that’s a stream of molten lava
that’s J-Lo eating guava
that’s Miley Cyrus
that’s an anti-vaxxer wrestling someone dressed like the virus
that’s Charlize Theron reacting to confetti
that’s a good hard stare from Giacometti
that’s a fashion selfie in Chernobyl
that’s a bad flood in Grenoble
that’s someone eating a cake like a brain
that’s Jennifer Aniston again
that’s a bridge collapsing
that’s Miley Cyrus relaxing
that’s a dachshund with a pipe and beret
that’s three girls twerking on the MTA
that’s a fight at the checkout
that’s – no idea what that’s about…’

Peter suddenly raised a tentacle
slithered down sadly off his pedestal
‘thanks for your help in this difficult matter
I’ve seen enough of this mindless chatter
forget the probing – he’s not to blame
just toss him back to whence he came’

and the next thing I knew I was back in the forest
and Stanley was gone – completely lorest

the constellation of jeffrey

Jeffrey Bezos
rich as pharaohs

rides his gleaming space vibrator
with a qualified pilot and navigator

gets a minor epistaxis
thinking about his unpaid taxes

but suddenly he’s weightless
billions lighter but destined for greatness

presses his shining face to the glass
amazed they got away so fast

stares back down on planet Earth
wonders what the old rock’s worth

hat

It’s so hot my shoes feel tacky, like I’m puddling footprints of molten plastic as I go. I’m visiting a patient in a bunkerish, red-brick block called The Apples. Quite why they called it The Apples is anyone’s guess. Maybe there was an orchard here once. Maybe they tried a lot of other names, nothing fit, so they asked a five year old. Maybe they misunderstood the architect, who actually said ‘Thermopylae’ over the phone. Whatever the reason, the block is just about as far away from apples as it’s possible to be. Unless you count supermarkets.

There’s an elderly woman dragging a wheeled shopping bag up the path ahead of me, her long white hair reflecting the sunlight so powerfully it’s like she’s wearing a bridal veil of spun silver.
‘Where’s your hat?’ I say to her as I gradually overtake her.
She stops, turns and frowns.
‘Don’t believe in ‘em,’ she says. Then carries on.
When we get to the main door I tell her I’ll buzz my patient to let me in, but her frown deepens so much it meets her chin. She swipes her fob in front of the pad.
‘Let me get that for you,’ I say, holding the door.
She drags her shopping bag into the shady hallway.
‘I’m using the lift,’ she says, and nods for me to take the stairs.

Luckily, Mr Felstrom is on the first floor. I wonder if he’ll be confused, me knocking on his flat door without having buzzed the intercom first. There’s no sound from within the flat, so I’m surprised when the door suddenly opens and he’s standing there, looking as if he’s been waiting for me there ever since I rang to arrange the visit a half hour ago. He looks extraordinary – comprehensively buttoned into a tartan shirt, his bristly hair sticking straight up, like he showered, then dried himself by standing over a vent.

Mr Felstrom’s flat is as small and ruthlessly organised as the cabin on a ship, everything aligned with everything else, even the piles of letters on the table in size order, the letter opener parallel, a list of medications surrounded by a display of equidistant pill packets. Even the fridge magnets are all in a grid. I begin to feel as if I’ve been uploaded into a photograph, just like the one on the calendar – a young woman standing next to him under a tree – blu-tacked to the kitchen door. The calendar is covered with carefully written dates and an array of post-its with important messages.

‘My daughter’s coming round later to take me to the park,’ he says, after I’ve finished the examination and I’m writing up the notes.
‘That’s nice! A lovely day for it. If you wear a hat. Which park are you going to?’
‘You know,’ he says.
‘Which?’
‘The long one.’
‘Like one of those stately home kinda parks?’
‘Lots of trees.’
‘Sounds amazing.’
I try naming a local park.
‘No,’ he says.
I try to think of a couple of big parks out of town.
He shakes his head.
‘How are you getting there?’ I say, hoping that might shed some light.
‘On the bus,’ he says.
‘Fantastic! Maybe you could sit on the top deck and get a great view.’
‘My daughter’s taking me.’
‘Lovely.’

He stares at me, blinking rapidly but otherwise completely still. And it’s something about the way he speaks and looks, combined with the stultifying heat in the room, the hectic geometry of the place, the grid of his shirt, that starts to make me feel a little dizzy.
Bus? Park? Daughter?
‘But don’t forget to wear a hat,’ I say.
Hat?

status update IX

I’m Davy Crocket / out of powder and out of pocket / trading my beaver for an Easter bonnet / D for Davy or maybe Dunce on it / but hey – at least I’m honest / I don’t give a moose shit whose musket’s longest / you can find your own way out of the forest

I’m poor Mrs Rochester raving in the attic / a flare for fire and the melodramatic / energetic & enigmatic / two parts FOMO, one part Panic / a risk to everyone but especially asthmatics

I’m Ulysses, stripteased, tied to the mast / having furiously asked / my greased and snake-hipped crew to bind me fast / which they reluctantly agreed to do at last / then retreated to watch and gossip from the aft / and wiki my wicked BDSM past

I’m Jiminy Cricket wishing on a star / sprawled on the bonnet of a Karmann Ghia / wondering where all the real boys are

I’m Maximus Decimus Meridius / loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius / father to a murdered son, Minimus / husband to a murdered wife, Mousimus / and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next – did that sound imperious? / good – I want them to know I’m serious

I’m sweaty Jack / goose and harp safely in the sack / singing while I’m swinging at the beanstalk with my axe / giving the ogre a heart attack / cos he’s halfway down and can’t go back

Space Probe Taurus

Space Probe Taurus. 1965. Dir. Leonard Katzman. Watched on YouTube, so you don’t have to.

It’s really way too nice a day out there to be doing a full number on this film. I’m only here because 1) I haven’t written one of these reviews in a while, and 2) apparently it features giant crabs – and I’m a sucker for giant crabs. Even though I’d probably scream and fill my pants if I saw one IRL, but still, the attraction’s undeniably there. I really enjoyed the giant crab in Love & Monsters, for example. So here’s a (very rapid) point by point response to Space Probe Taurus, a film so niche it gets 0% on RT, no reviews, nothing but radio silence and an embarrassed shuffle. Looking forward to it.

0.40 Apparently it’s a Burt Topper Production. Burt Topper – my favourite name.

1.40 The obligatory intro. Graphics like a mashup between The Clangers and a Dorling Kindersley history book.

2.18 In fact, scratch that – it’s more like the intro to Star Trek, before they edited it down to two minutes six

2:59 An astronaut staggers into a rocket, coughing, bent over, like he’s coming in from a fag break by the vents. Behind him you get a glimpse of a noxious looking planet, REALLY not worth the trip, but at least it’s free parking.

3:50 The guy staggers onto the empty flight deck, falls back into his lounger and calls Earth control asking them to blow the ship up for him because honestly he’s too sick. The military guys back on Earth hesitate about a second, then press the button helpfully marked ‘DESTRUCT’ (but not too big you might inadvertently lean on it)

5.23 More big orchestra soundtrack as the Announcer tells us we carried on with exploring the universe anyway. Shrug.

6:42 A slick TV presenter is in Earth Control speaking so smoothly to camera I’m in danger of dozing off despite the heat. He calls over General Tillman, the military director of the Hope probe, which is what this is now, apparently. General Tillman walks like a robot on holiday, a jaunty but still officious rocking from side to side, his arms articulated at the shoulder (which I suppose, in a way, they are). I’m surprised his hat doesn’t slide off. Maybe it’s bolted.

7:21 Gen Tillman explains to the audience about the design of the ship in a little speech which is pretty much the director apologising to the audience that their special effects budget couldn’t stretch to weightlessness. (They must’ve blown it all on the giant crabs – I’m hoping).

9:04 We’re on the flight deck of the Hope probe now. Three men and one woman. They all seem pretty grumpy as they go through the systems checks, which is basically flicking switches, watching dials spin round and bulbs flash. The sound effect for all this is worryingly like chickens in a coop. Brrrrrr-ccck-ccck-ccck. Although maybe they’ve taken chickens along, too. I don’t remember seeing any in the credits, but we’ll see.

9:24 These guys are absolutely the last guys on Earth you’d want to go with on a short drive to the BEACH, let alone a lightyears trip to the stars. I mean – I’d be opening the hatch and taking my chances halfway off the launch pad.

10:35 Dr Wayne goes up to Colonel Stevens and says she hopes he’s not bitter. He says as he stated at the time, in a mission with four crew there’s no place for a woman. Oh-kay. Dr Wayne replies ‘That’s not what Noah said when he built the Ark’. Ooh – Bible burn.

12:15 Dr Wayne leaves the flight deck. You can imagine the sexist fall-out from the guys now she’s gone. At one point one of the officers argues that apart from being a scientist, Dr Wayne’s 120 pounds lighter, so they get to carry more equipment. ‘And she carries some pretty nice equipment of her own.’ Euch. They should call this film Space Probe Creep. I’m sweating like I did in Alien, but for the wrong reasons.

13:30 They come across an unidentified spaceship. It hangs in space like a juicer with wings. (As a side note, this film is 1 hr 20 minutes, and I reckon at least 20 minutes of that is waiting for the doors to slide open and shut each time. Plus every order and every radio communication is repeated – that’s – every order and every radio communication repeated. Over.)

15:00 They get permission to intercept the alien craft from General Tillman. Colonel Stevens and some other dude get suited up to board it. I love their suits. It’s like they’re carrying a small washing machine on their backs, connected to the helmet by the hose from a vacuum cleaner. No wonder they’re all so grumpy.

19:20 It may be an alien craft, but they’ve still got lightbulbs. There’s one over the door, which is a nice touch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a mat on the floor. Picture of a crab, maybe. Please wipe your claws before coming indoors.

19:40 Colonel Stevens’ spacesuit has got a black chest detail that’s very like a bra. Just saying.

20:00 They find a rotating structure. ‘Could be a power source’ says the Colonel. Yeah. Could be a clothes horse.

20:24 Cut back to Dr Wayne and the other guy listening to the Colonel’s commentary. They both look really hacked off – like they’re wondering if they can get away with closing the hatches and quietly going into reverse.

20:40 An alien walks in – big ears, top of its head like an exposed brain, flicking its tongue in and out rapidly – so all in all quite a bit more attractive than Col Stevens.

20:56 Col Stevens offers the alien his hand, but the alien jumps on him (which might be their way of saying hello – not sure yet)

21:00 Apparently the alien is choking him. So the other guy shoots him. Fair enough.

21:40 They make it back to the probe, but then the Colonel decides to go back and blow the alien ship up ‘because it’s oozing radiation…’

24:00 Several close-ups of the others waiting for the Colonel to finish arsing around with his bomb. If they asked the director for notes on how they should respond, he either gave them and they didn’t make sense, or they forgot what he said, because really they just look like I do when I’m waiting for a bus. Without the tension.

25:42 They watch the alien ship blow up. ‘Nothing left but a bad memory’ says one of the others (no idea who). Actually, the VERY grumpy one is called Paul. He’s like the grand parent you take to a garden centre for a bit of a day out – who says they NEVER go anywhere – and says they’d REALLY like to go to the garden centre – but when you get there only moans about how expensive everything is, and says his tea is cold and steals a packet of seeds.

26:57 ‘Finally to discover another race – then have to destroy it’ says Paul, happily.

28:08 The other crew member is called John. He’s the one the alien attacked. He makes a long speech which basically boils down to ‘you can’t trust aliens’. It’s the kind of speech you might hear in the backroom of the Badda Bing, not out in space. Mankind is truly doomed.

29:00 John is sleeping in his lounger. We are privileged to see what he’s dreaming about – which is rolling about on a beach with Dr Wayne, a saxaphone playing in the background. I think they blew the wrong ship up.

33:00 Whilst John is down in the lab being sexually inappropriate with Dr Wayne, the Colonel and Paul sit on the flight deck eating travel sweets and talking about the good old days.

36:00 The obligatory meteorite shower scene. They look like flaming meatballs. The crew put the forcefield up – which works for a bit – but then something goes wrong and they speed up too much. Not something I thought this film was in danger of.

39:56 Close up on Paul, blowing out his cheeks like he KNEW the garden centre was a bad idea.

40:23 ‘Eight percent deviation from true course…’ (one of the standout pieces of dialogue from the last ten minutes or so). Meanwhile they head towards Taurus or something. When they’re twenty seconds away the Colonel says he’ll give them ‘full reverse thrust’. Oh-kay.

41:24 They make more fuss landing that thing than me parallel parking.

41:33 Planet Taurus or whatever it is looks like a gently revolving Ferrero Rocher.

43:03 They land in the sea, though. Nice one, Colonel. We’re treated to a close up of someone setting a lava lamp in an aquarium. I don’t hold up much hope for these giant crabs.

43:32 Paul gets on the blower to Earth Control. There’s a sarky tone to his voice. ‘This is Hope One to Earth Control…’ rolling his eyes…. like he absolutely KNEW this was going to happen. They come all this way only to break down on the bottom of an alien seabed. They could just as easily have stayed home and watched the baseball.

44:30 The Colonel goes down into the engine room and – correct me if I’m wrong – but seems to think turning it off and on again will be enough to fix the problem.

46:30 The best scene in the whole film so far. If you don’t see anything else, you must see this. We’re back at Earth control. The radio guy can’t get through to the probe, so he turns to a woman sitting at a desk. ‘We can’t get through to Hope One,’ he says. She gives him SUCH a look – flatter and harder than a steam iron – then slowly picks up the phone and dials General Tillman. ‘I’ll enter it in the log,’ she says. ‘Hope One – location unknown.’ Wow. I don’t care if the crabs are meh – the journey’s been worth it.

48:00 A VERY protracted scene where the crew stand about looking even grumpier. Stuck on the seabed of some unknown planet. Computer on the fritz. What they wouldn’t do for a yaddah yaddah. Only the incidental music has any hint of drama (do I detect a basenote of CRAB in those violins – yeah – a FIDDLE CRAB…. har har …. and that’s why I don’t get invited on any interstellar flights)

49:25 A hatch slowly opens. Someone goes up a ladder. (It’s not exactly Fast & Furious). By the way – you can tell they’re underwater because of the sound of flushing and an echo sounder – although that may be John in the can.

51:50 Dr Wayne is feeling the pressure. The Colonel gives her some emotional support, and apologises for being so sexist earlier. ‘Does that mean when we get back to Earth you can take me out for a real dinner some night?’ she simpers. ‘You just name it,’ smiles the Colonel – so broadly his false teeth nearly pop out.

54:14 They dance around each other with hokey romantic dialogue so nauseatingly off it gives me cramps. Then they kiss. Actually, I love the way they kiss in these films, which is a clamping of mouths colder than two spaceships going airlock to airlock.

55:00 John and The Colonel get all toe-to-toe over whose fault it was they ended on the bottom of the ocean. Paul talks them out of a screwdriver fight. So he has SOME use, then.

57:20 The Colonel goes down to see Dr Wayne in her lab. ‘How grows your garden?’ he says. Inappropriately. Suddenly the spaceship rumbles. ‘Must be an underground tremor’ says the Col – although I’m guessing / hoping crabs.

58:00 They all gather round the scope. Flip around till you see crabs. Normal crabs – not even made up. ‘What a horrible looking creature!’ says Dr Wayne, like she’s never been to the beach before (which is just as well, given John’s dream).

58:40 ‘What ARE they?’ says Dr Wayne. Well – I’m no doctor – but I’m PRETTY SURE THEY’RE CRABS.

58:50 You see a distance shot of some crabs loitering round a model rocket in an aquarium. OMG. The effects budget must’ve been literally TENS of dollars.

59:00 ‘But what ARE they?’ says Dr Wayne. ‘Well – I’m not sure – but I think they’re another species of crab,’ says John, embarrassed. The crew stand around the scope talking about how life evolved on Earth, first in the sea, then on land, dinosaurs and whatnot. The Colonel wants to go out and explore. ‘I think I can handle crabs,’ he says. Well – Colonel – we ALL think we can handle crabs…

1:01:50 They release a balloon to go to the surface to check the atmosphere. It bursts when it reaches the surface… but it’s WAY less exciting than it sounds. Dr Wayne analyses the results – it’s like Earth apparently. Only crabbier.

1:03:13 John gets into his gimp costume.’It’s hero time,’ he says. ‘Stay close to the bottom all the way,’ says Paul, trying not to wink. John tells them his surname is Andros, so they can name a chapter after him (or an STI). He goes through the airlock – which takes about five minutes. The Colonel and the others go back round the screen to put bets on how long John makes it. ‘They’re bunching up’ says the Colonel, like he’s suddenly an expert on crabs, or maybe boxer shorts.

1:05:00 The Colonel activates the force field to annoy the crabs. They bounce around like some of them are actually made of plastic.

1:05:57 Stock footage of a scuba diver swimming through weeds. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew hang out round the computer, fixing it by snipping wire and looking hopeless, which is pretty much me whenever the WiFi goes down.

1:06:29 Actually, crabs obviously aren’t the only problem here. An alien appears, looking like an actor in a monster costume, a cross between a merman and an aunt I used to visit sometimes.

1:07:00 John gets out of the water, hobbling painfully on the stones with his flippers off. He looks up at the utterly normal looking cliffs, frowning like they’re the most amazing things he’s ever seen – although, to be fair, if he’s from New Jersey…

1:07:50 The monster watches him from the water, struggling a little in its monster suit, spitting water, cursing their agent for getting them the gig when they coulda been in something more regular, like a TV western or something.

1:08:20 Meanwhile, back on the probe, the crabs have given up. Paul and the Colonel are still arsing around with the computer. ‘How long has he been gone?’ says Paul. ‘It’s hard to concentrate on this – I keep worrying about him.’ Yeah, right. They try hard not to snigger.

1:09:20 Back on the surface, John has finished collecting his samples and puts his scuba gear back on to return to the ship. The merman intercepts him. They roll around in the weeds. He burns the merman off with a flare. Wounded, he swims one-armed back to the ship. Next thing you know he’s lying on a cot bed whilst they cut his rubber suit off (or maybe that’s another one of his dreams). But after saying that the ‘land is what we’ve been looking for’, he dies. ‘Oh no!’ says Dr Wayne. I’m not as upset as she is, for some reason. Or Paul. He folds his arms and explains why really it’s not so bad. He’s obviously the kind of scientist who perks up when someone dies.

1:14:13 Back to the computers. The music is more urgent now. Either their wire works or it doesn’t. I’m guessing it will. You can’t do anything without good WireFi. (Pause for loud and appreciative laughter). Meanwhile, Dr Wayne is back in the lab, mixing stuff up, the whole thing looking suspiciously like a kitchen.

1:15:00 Paul gives a speech about how he wishes he could’ve known John better. No-one’s convinced, Paul. Save it for the inquest.

1:15:58 ‘Strap in!’ says the Colonel as they prepare to lift off. But wait … ‘Something’s holding us!’ says the Colonel.

1:17:00 Yep. You get a long-shot of crabs hanging on to the rocket – which might be a sign of affection but you never know with crustaceans. The Colonel activates the force field, which stuns the crabs (but not me). They countdown from ten (the crew, not the crabs). Side note: Why do they always have to countdown to launch? Why they can’t just say ‘Okay – let’s go!’ There’s probably a rocket protocol. That and throwing yourself around when anyone says meteors.

1:19:20 Back up in space, they rotate the cabin and set the controls for home. ‘One more thing to do…’ says the Colonel, climbing out of his lounger. For one horrible moment – WAY scarier than the merman or the crabs or General Tillman’s secretary – I think the Colonel is going to kiss Dr Wayne. But no, he’s going to the radio to call control. ‘This is Hope One,’ he says, flexing his dimple. ‘Mission Accomplished. We’ve found a liveable planet. And we’ve named it…’ (He looks at Paul and Dr Wayne … What’s he going to say? Planet John? …) Andros One. And make sure you spell it right. That’s A N D R O S. One.’ (So if they end up calling it Androswon it’ll be on him).

The End.

That’s it!
So what’ve I learned?

  1. In space, no-one can hear you scream impatiently for a door to finish opening and closing.
  2. If your computer has crashed, try stuffing wire into it.
  3. If your forcefield isn’t working on giant crabs, why not try buckets of creamy garlic butter sauce.
  4. It’s often hard to tell if an alien is being aggressive or affectionate. Best just shoot it.
  5. It’s often easy to tell if a crewmate is being sexually inappropriate. Best just shoot it.
  6. Whatever happens, don’t make eye contact with General Tillman’s secretary

holy stones

I was busy on the beach
balancing a line of pebbles
along a stick of driftwood
to photograph for Instagram
when he came over
a tall man in a white shirt
camera on one shoulder
career on the other
‘What do you think,’ he said
‘about all the holes in these rocks?’
I stood up
‘Hmm,’ I said ‘I don’t know much about it
but back in the Sussex chalk
there are molluscs that burrow
and leave holes like that’
‘Too hard’ he said
‘I think it’s gas bubbles
from the time of the volcano’
‘Hmm’ I said ‘you could be right’

We both looked out to sea

‘I saw a porpoise in Cornwall’ I said
‘Or thought I did.
Turns out it was a triathlete’

‘Igneous, sedimentary and…’ he said
then repeated the words quietly to himself
‘Hmm’ I said, ‘I can’t remember…’
‘Metamorphic!’ he said
‘When one thing gets changed into another’
‘That’s it!’ I said. ‘Of course!’
‘I lived in Sussex,’ he said
‘Sometimes you’d find flint
with crystals inside.’

We stood there
side by side on the sunny beach
two middle aged men
one short, one tall
both in hats
both on holiday

‘My son is off doing his own thing,’ he said
‘He gets annoyed with me
You don’t have to take a picture of every last thing he said
But at least I don’t post them on Instagram
Some people take pictures of their food
before they eat it
Can you believe it?
I’m not as bad as that.’
‘That’s true,’ I said. ‘Documenting their lives’
‘My son says just LIVE your life.’
‘He sounds good,’ I say. ‘Balanced.’
‘Yes,’ says the man. ‘I think he is.’

the lookout

At the furthermost top of Garn Fawr
are the ruins of a lookout post from the war
a corner of bricks on a volcanic outcrop
capped with a carved concrete block:

J J W Calderon
Commander RN
D J W Edwardes
Deputy CWRN

Odd, his name should be Calderon
which has certain volcanic connotations
in a landscape made by the same
like the fires that forged the rock forged his name

Anyway – the graffiti is all very properly done
conveying the important information
surname, rank and service
carved so carefully into the surface

But the war burned out as all wars do
and no one cares who saluted who
except for the lookout’s Calderon and Edwardes
status cemented for the records

Standing now at their crumbling post
staring out along the wave-flecked coast
I wish those guys had flung their caps from the edge
and carved a couple of cormorants instead

alas poor rat

we saw a dead rat at a tourist spot
now – don’t panic – I’m not
about to say this place
was a disgrace
I’m not saying for one moment
it’s got a problem with rodents
in fact it was properly picturesque
walks and climbs, sites of interest
places to wander, spectacular views
parking was a nightmare but what can you do?
no – it was an isolated incident
a tragic death coincident
with our innocent
day out
a poor rodent stretched out
on the cliff walk
that we tiptoed round
and talked about

‘you’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat’
isn’t that
some kinda fact?
(no – as it turns out
it’s just when they were thinking about
rats in 1909
which they obviously did from time to time
they came up with that catchy line
basically assuming
one rat for every human
and spacing them equally about the country
which isn’t something rats do naturally
they tend to stick together for company
anyway
looking at it sensibly
if you only count the rats in urban areas
the actual numbers are way less scarier
just over three million
scurrying around the human dominion
so ‘you’re never more than 164 feet from a rat’
would be a bit more accurate
so we’ll say thanks for the meme and leave it at that)

this particular item
sprawled ad infinitem
ex member of the chordate phylum
was lying with its paws drawn up to its head
like me with the duvet when I go to bed
and seemed so peaceful in this position
creeping by seemed a rude imposition
it was just this weird juxtaposition
a poignant opposition
rat versus
the universe
infinity or day out
the whole thing played out
on a happy, sunny day by the sea
and this tiny existential tragedy
sat uneasily
with me
inevitably
but mostly
as a potential subject for poetry
and admittedly
despite my Munchian scream
it didn’t put me off my vanilla ice cream

Porthgain, Pembrokeshire. July 2021

immortelles

tired and lost, unexpectedly
we came across a chapel called Harmony
and opposite
an overgrown cemetery

amongst the crumbling stones
we saw a grave with a little glass dome
and inside
a porcelain rose

the glass was weathered and cracked
the rusty wire buckled and slack
but still
the rose was intact

time and all its dreams will pass
a porcelain rose, a dome of glass
and we
must find our way home at last


Harmony, Pembrokeshire, July 2021