st peter, the nhs & the list

St Peter / the last, great meeter & greeter / zips up his perfect windcheater
to the dimpled point of his silver-haired chin / getting ready to let the next one in

He yawns / (he’s been up since about a million dawns) / watching them trail across the lawns
he waves his clipboard / an angel strums a heavenly chord / God I’m bored
he thinks / drinks / from a goblet / takes a bite from a bar of everlasting chocolate
this way! he says / ready with his quiz

A tired middle-aged woman steps up / stands there watching him drink from his cup /
waits politely / trembling ever so slightly

St Peter glares down / frowns / flicks through the list / Jane the podiatrist?

Yes! she nods / What are the odds? / Me hobnobbing with the gods!

God – singular – I think you’ll find / unless you’ve got some other place in mind?

Me? No! This’ll be great / judging by the fancy gate

Hmm says St Peter / stepping back a good half metre
Podiatrist? isn’t that feet? / sounds a little bit too downbeat

Lower limbs too / says Jane / happy to explain
There’s a lot more to it than corns and bunions / a top chef has to know more than onions

Is that right? is that right? / says SP, scrupulously polite / fine….okay / so what brings you all the way here today?

Nothing, shrugs Jane / well – a sudden pain / endless night / a blinding light / a pretty wild kinda flight / why – is that alright?

St Peter slowly lowers his board / he’s been here so many times before / things have moved on since the days of yore (whatever yore is) / the thing is, he’s a bouncer who knows where the door is / and he’s pretty damn hot / about who gets to come in or not

You don’t earn enough / and whilst I know that sounds tough / we’ve got to be strict about this stuff

Jane / looks pained

But I spent my life caring for people / and what was that shit about camels and needles?

Yes, yes, says the elderly saint / how quaint / but that was just a fairy story / it was never based on sound economic theory / look at this place! these clouds aren’t cheap / I’ve got overheads that’d make you weep

Suddenly a suit sidles up / gives St Peter a monogrammed cup

Wow! says Pete / that’s pretty neat! / thanks!
Compliments of the bank! / says the man / shaking his hand / now – if you’d kindly show me the line / where you’d like me to sign…

A cherub floats down, gives his curls a flick / opens the gate with a cute little back kick / The banker chuckles / cracks his knuckles / tips his hat / dissolves into a cloud just like that

So what happens to me, then? says Jane

St Peter looks down at her again / Jesus Christ! Jane! Do I need to explain? / Podiatrists go to hell / with all the other HCPs as well / the nurses and scientists / gardeners and  pharmacists / ODPs and dieticians / drama therapists and audio technicians / the porters and the hospital sparks / the paramedics and record clerks / I’m sorry Jane, but that’s all there is to it / you had your chance to make some money and you blew it / anyway, I’m sure you’re used to that shit / the NHS was ever a fiery pit

But heaven… says Jane… who gets to go?
Trust me, yawns Pete / you don’t wanna know


a (very slow) uprising

One day all the old people will wise up
tear off their medicalerts and rise up
they’ll finally decide they’ve had enough
of the endless emollient creams and stuff
the scratchy stockings and handy grabbers
the phlebotomists and care home managers
and they’ll move as one to the coded signal
of a renegade grandma in Newport Pagnell
who entered retirement unconvinced
by Murder She Wrote and the purple rinse
by adverts for scooters and fancy lifts
ballpoint pens and benefits
who stole a ship and escaped to sea
to rally the cause electronically
hacking the loops and hearing aids
of the millions who’ll build the barricades
from static commodes and stools and hoists
and taunt the police in one croaky voice
and when the army arrives in tanks and trucks
meet them with vollies of tommee tippee cups
and the soldiers will not deploy their weapons
because they couldn’t shoot Joan or Uncle Kevin
and the rebels will mass at the top of the street
and bang their zimmers and stamp their slippered feet
and their fighting colours will snap overhead
(an overweight pug and a flaming bed)
and so shall it begin, the grey terror of the world
dressing gowns gaping and hair uncurled
(because they may be weak, and they may be confused
but they’re old and they’re fierce and they’ve got nothing to lose)


the magician’s app

Upon the morning of the first day
enter the nearest bookshop upon thy way
go direct to the outermost shelf
of the section on popular psychology & self-help
close thine eyes
I beseech you
pluck out a book
within easy reach of you
cast it over your left shoulder
take the first and third letter
of the second thing
anyone says
– Quitteth the bookshop

Upon the evening of the second day
enter a green and public space
having first furnished thine head with a hat
and dressed the rim with peanuts and rubbed fat
walk confidently backwardly
taking care
to enumerate the seagulls
that flock to you there
– Quitteth the space

Withdraw to holy quarters
Enter the letters and the number
into the app you hath saved
i’the i’Phone

and if thy signal be strong
and thine thumb be true
and thy patience be long
and thy phone doth actually belong to you
the gift of a magic gif
will be thine in a 3G jiff
and thy fatal fortune revealed all at once
for the fee of just one ninety-nine a month


time traveller

I took the path down
by the cemetery
where heavy rains
had scoured the ground
clear down to
the greensand rock

millions of years ago
(I suppose – I don’t really know)
this was a river delta
where iguanodon waded
buzzed and serenaded
by pterrible pterosaurs
wailing and wheeling
in a sulphurous sky

just over the hedge
two churchwardens
prod a smoky bonfire
‘Alright?’ one says



When the Courtauld Art Gallery
wanted to build a new toilet facility

and the builders set to work on the ground
they suddenly and quite unexpectedly found

an ancient cesspit in the exact same spot
so whether they wanted to or not

they called in a team of museum archaeologists
who decided it wasn’t bottomless

(or was, currently,
and only temporarily)

but an ancient hole, four or five metres in depth
and just about the same in breadth

a giant, stone lined toilet pit
where grunting medieval bishops used to sit

and empty their guts into the void
before the services for which they were employed

and over the years a whole load of stuff went in
a spur, a dish, a bone-handled fork, a ring

now those malodorous palaces are gone
consumed by the magnificent City of London

and we rinse off the wine jugs and the condiment bowls
then call in the cement trucks and line up the holes


status update

I’m slack, cracked, tripping off track
a rusty old oil drill totally fracked

I’m ripped, rocked, chronically clocked
flipping in the flophouse, all tick & no tock

I’m strapped, clapped, sonically slapped
visions of collisions, whole religions of crap

I’m hopped, stropped, brutally dropped
Kong in a thong thing, fatally flopped

I’m reeling, kneeling, sinking through the ceiling
four parts aftershock, one part squealing

but hey – enough of this stuff
all this bullshit protesting
I’m just resting
done for today
(so why can’t I leave it that way?)


yours forever

please, I beg you, remake me in plastic
it’d be fantastic
I could ride the ocean wide
and collide
with the beautiful flotsam and whatever else some
other plastic people like me
felt happy to dump in the sea

please, I wanna go through the process
it’s a simple request
so I can witness the end of this dirty business
and grimace
in a non-degradable parade
of polymerised citizens
who’ll live on in instagram and virtual vitamins

rebirth me as a child of the polymer tree
that’s the fit for me
so I could be there at the final flare
and stare
as the earth dies cheaply like a burger with fries
and I’m the happy meal toy
that gets tossed in the void