Category Archives: poem

Catching a Virus

It moves on through direct or indirect contact;
through using a go between like a mosquito;
through our defense mechanisms:
vomiting, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea.
We catch it by not washing our hands,
by touching a door handle then our mouth
by breathing the air close to someone infected
by being bitten, kissing, from drinking water …

It has a heart of nucleic acid,
within a lipid envelope, spiked with protein
that hook onto our cells, injects nucleic acid –
hijacks our cells, and replicates.
We send out gobbling white blood cells
and run a fever and end up feeling
wretched, until we decode the spike,
and make antibodies.

It is not calculating. Unthinking
it mutates and jumps from another species
and becomes a strain that can attack our cells.
It mutates, and produces a new variant
that moves easily between us.
It mutates and disguises its spike
and becomes immune to a stored antibody.
It mutates and drives us apart.

(Written for share a poem in Feb 2021 where the theme is Science.)

Saving Merry Sue

The owner jumped in to wrestle Merry Sue –
a cabin cruiser moored by Nags Head Island.
Muddy waters poured into her stern. Friends helped
but all too late to stop her tipping sideways.
They wound ropes round trees to hold her fast –
and stop her sinking deeper or drifting to her end.

The owner re-adjusted ropes until the river slowed.
The friends came back, and helped right a soggy Sue.

When the police arrived Sue was being held fast
to stop her jumping in the deep, cold river water.
Sue, a widow, was charged with being disorderly and drunk
after trying to throw herself in at Nags Head Island.
In the police cell, Merry Sue would not compromise,
Why did you stop me? she cried I want to die

Later she was sorry, bad days had grown the hurt inside
but she had a job and would try to live again.

Tychicus Eulogy

He shocked us all by reading his own eulogy.

His voice did not falter as he likened himself to Tychicus.
Tychicus was sent on errands by St Paul.
Tychicus got five mentions in the new testament –
Tychicus took the news and encouraged.

I hope I encouraged you.

My heart is beginning to fail again
and they would need to fix so much first
before operating again on my heart.
And so I speak to you knowing
love is the way –
not being right
or strong.
Love is the way to God.

(five mentions were Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12)

Train ploughs into flock of sheep at Nutfield


That winter brought strange interlopers –
Sussex, Dorset or Leicester Sheep –
Replacing Surrey’s homebred cows
Upon their hoof moiled beat.

Then one sheep teased a barb wire fence,
Reinforced with chicken wire,
That kept them from a richer diet
Than faded grass and briar.

Swarming tightly through the gap
Heads bobbing as they barged –
Like an army unrestrained,
Over the top they charged.

Among the rows of leeks and cabbage
Began their marauding spread
‘Til they saw a man approach
And a stalking canine head.

The shambling flock took formation
And led by one sheep’s eyes –
Sped by fear, they smashed the fence
Back to their home side.

As torn white flags marked the fences,
The lame and injured numbers grew –
The dash-eyed many from behind
Drove on the curious few.

A foggy night in January
They climbed up to the railway line –
Eleven were slain by a train
Upon the Tonbridge Line.

(Written for share a poem in November 2020 when the theme was Remembrance)

On a Visit to the Lake District

Rain rides the wind and darkens the rockface
Towering over the heather and peat.
The pulse quickens beneath vegetation
And the bleary forms of Herdwick sheep.

From the swollen earth racing like children
Becks cascade, tumble, and crash,
Down the sheer curve of the mountain.
They gather as one and conquer the pass.

A veil of water flows over pebbles
Then comes to rest in a wide bellied tarn,
Where a strobing stepping-stone cadence
Ripples the shadows and deepens the calm.

(Written for Share a Poem group on the theme Autumn in October 2020)

Perpetual Lockdown

Every week a letter from Doctor Stroud
tells them to continue their isolation.
Their window holds the rainbow of hope
That everybody else has taken down.

Each day is the same as every other.
Nothing really changes. Life goes on.
They watch each other getting old.
He asks her again about the virus.

Who is it still brings the food and water?
Who keeps the door locked on them?
Who brings them their medication?
Why do they need those coloured pills?

She has told him so many times
About how they will get out tomorrow.
Plaster’s strewn on their bedroom floor
From the time they tried to break free.

(Written for share a poem in June 2020 when the theme was Pandemic)

Oxford’s Magdalene College Choir Virtual May Day heard from a bedroom

The revelling crowd reduced to one
In bed with his computer on.

The breakfast beer cans strewn around
And egg smeared on his dressing gown.

The facebook video played at six …
Some tweeting birds, a choirboy mix,

Recorded several days before,
Each choirboy stood alone, unsure –

How weird it was to sing alone!
But digitised they found their tone –

The virtual choir sang Latin Prayers –
Protected from the germ purveyors.

‘… Immensum hoc mysterium
Ovante lingua canimus’.

He listened and quite unrehearsed
The tears came naturally at first.

He missed the solidarity,
He missed the man dressed as a tree*,

He missed the champagne on the grass,
He missed the chance to make a pass,

He threw himself into a heap
Began to blubber and to weep:

He missed the Leeds star Norman Hunter
Killed by the virus – six feet under.

He missed the Stranglers Keyboard player
For both of them he said a Prayer

And worst of all he might succumb
Before his old man and his mum.

* leader of Oxford University Morris Dancers comes dressed as a tree to May Morning

Theme for Abingdon Share a Poem in May is May and I wrote this after watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEBsmxAfGiY

Leeds United 1972

Gary Sprake 03.04.1945 † 19.10.2016
Jackie Charlton 08.05.1935 † 10.07.2020
Terry Cooper 12.07.1944
Norman Hunter 29.10.1943 † 17.04.2020.
Paul Madeley 20.09.1944 † 23.07.2018
Paul Reaney 22.10.1944
Billy Bremner 09.12.1942 † 07.12.1997
Johnny Giles 06.11.1940
Eddie Gray 17.01.1948
Mick Jones 24.04.1945
Peter Lorimer 14.12.1946 † 20.03.2021

Ma Chere Catherine

I have seen what you wrote in my diary.
‘I want to see you again – if its possible’
Your address is given as 36 Rue Vendage
I send this letter to the old address
In the hope it will see you somehow
Just as your words were destined to see me.

Life has been assez bon pour moi,
I live in England in a town called Abingdon
For forty years I have worked in a cafe.
During breaks I smoke my cigarette of choice
Sometimes I hear you say
Pourquoi Camel? Pourquoi pas Marlboro?’

I have grey eyes, grey brows, grey hair …
Pourquoi?’ I hear you say ‘Why have you gone all grey?’
Ma Chere Catherine, I had no choice at all, I am sixty three.
My eyes went grey when I lost the picture of you.
My brows went grey because I saw you no more.
My hair went grey because I thought of you – all the time.

Now I close my eyes, imagine where you are …
In a shaded apartment in the French Midi
Or travelling with a fair, reading people’s palms.
And if you choose to write back
‘Oh la la’ I will cry ‘It was written in the stars’
Je t’embrasse tres fort.

– Theme for Abingdon Share a Poem in March is Choices – second possible poem

Moonstruck

Late last night mingling with drunks,
amazed at all of the things that they said,
I looked at the ground and the mottled sky
with the moonshine in a puddle of cloud.
I saw again the man in the moon and remembered
how he lost his way going too far south.

And did we sit on a cow that jumped over the moon
or was that a dish and a spoon and not the moon
sitting together on the side of the road to Norwich,
spooning porridge, or were we supping pea’s pottage
in the moonlight that made us into moon prophets?
Moonstruck, moonchildren, mooning moonbeams.

Moony man in the moon his mooneye dark and empty –
dark and cold until a cloud came across and he winked.
He winked! Ha! The man in the moon winked at us.
Clouds clearing away back to the drunks and their blabbering.
Sad eyed figures that call me away to you then when
We were as friends, as one.

(written for Abingdon Share a Poem Group with theme Moon but not read as I was not confident about it)