Poet Laureate for Bournemouth poems

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Ode to Bournemouth

Borough of pines and sea blown peacefulness,
Safe haven for the traveller to take ease;
This readymade release for restlessness
Was nurtured for renewal, raised to please
The genuine fresh start, the well earned end;
And all the inbetween who sojourn here,
Who settle or move on, what soft surprise
Awaits you – family, colleague, lover, friend?
Walk by these waters and all becomes clear
Where nature spreads her wares and God feels near,
Amongst these gardens, streets of enterprise.

Old Bournes of blood and hidden histories,
Your treasures brought at last into the light;
Famed bathing town of deep springed mysteries
That whispers to my searching soul at night,
And by day soothes with the assurance of
A past homegrown, one built up bit by bit
From years ago when all the Captain’s eye
Could see was raw potential, and a love
Of splendor; then the rush to bottle it:
The officer’s fairplay, the smuggler’s spirit,
Inherent in us still, this land and sky

Turning like thoughts to action through the seasons;
From beachfront and on heathland I have seen
The pleasures weather makes for its own reasons,
Sun, or rain dappled with a misty sheen,
As years play out on that horizon’s stage
Of light – of airshows, festivals and praise,
Infamous now, renowned throughout the south;
And when this ink has vanished from the page,
Still the river will be speaking to us,
The sea inspire, and calm, and comfort, thus.
Belovèd town. Our home. This Bournemouth.

 

Written and presented to the Mayor of Bournemouth in celebration of National Poetry Day 2015.


 

Light Watching

What does a firework feel, sent up there?
Sometimes I’m like a firework
Waiting to be lit: I might just burst
If someone doesn’t let me go, up and away.

Sometimes everything seems as crazy as fireworks
When they go wrong. Flash of anger,
And someone usually gets burned.
Yet sometimes I’m as happy

As fireworks look, laughing and dancing.
And sometimes I’m as sad as fireworks
When suddenly they are gone
And the sky is empty.

The best times, I feel as peaceful
As silent fireworks on a screen,
Opening like flowers
And the coloured petals falling.

I think people are like fireworks.
I think the world is a spectacular display
That I am watching. When I’m ready,
I will join them, plunging through the darkness,

Ablaze with my own rainbow’s steady light.

A children’s poem written for some young poets in Kinson working on poems about fireworks.


 

August ending
Seven haiku written in remembrance for the 70th anniversary of VJ Day

a terrifying peace
weighed in a president’s mind
cool pacific calm

*

on the railway, work
goes on, life drags on, bodies
broken, empty skies

*

falling forever
this man made gull, its sifting
egg, a bright new death

*

human after all
the emperor speaks, to whom
in the ash cities

*

everyday soldiers
on each side their sacrifice
vibrates in the air

*

yesterday’s future
here in a public garden
your children’s children

*

seventy years
at peace I ask an old man
who remembers them


 

Home

There is a hunger beyond the hunt for food
Which visits only when the stomach’s need is satisfied.

Foxholes and birds’ nests. Tonight, having nowhere
To rest my head, I will find anyone somewhere;
Me whom the wind and rain pursues, the storm unsatisfied.

Once we kicked a ball against a house that Mum called home,
Snuck out at midnight; I kept a torch beneath my pillow.
Now I wake to birdsong, though the birds are not my species.

I would  like to be comforted by my own species
More than blankets, the stone promise of a pillow.

A poem written in support of Bournemouth’s AOK (Acts of Kindness) Rucksack Appeal for the homeless.


 

The Lion Tamed

A poem to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta

Who in their prayers remembered poor King John

Returning from the Bouvines with his crown
Between his legs, and barons one by one
Renouncing their allegiance to the throne?
They’d pay, just as the French had made them bleed.
And who had heard of Runnymede?

Who knew but discontentment in a land
Of rumours and calls for scrapping scutage*,
Or thought rejecting Langton could not stand
And that the Pope must stop such sacrilege
Sown between archbishops? – that mustard seed
Would ripen red at Runnymede.

Thus excommunicated yet enriched,
Hounded for a charter that should have confessed
An abolition of those ills by which
England had been so unjustly oppressed,
Captive in London, the lion was freed,
And clipped and shorn at Runnymede.

Slowly by boat, the rebel party came,
Barons in the bow, FitzWalter at the helm,
To where John waited, weighing peace and blame,
Alone on the last island in the realm.
Meanwhile the wind between the gathered reeds
Blew both ways at Runnymede.

History in the making? None was sure,
Or could be certain what this promise meant,
Broken too soon (then it was back to war)
Yet there our liberties had their advent:
With ink’s kiss sealed, the necessary deed
Done forevermore at Runnymede.

 

On 15th June 1215 the Magna Carta (Latin for ‘Great Charter’) was signed between the Barons of medieval England and King John, establishing for the first time that everyone, including the King, was subject to the law.  It is an important document later reinterpreted at other historical milestones such as, Trial by Jury in the fourteenth century, the US Bill of Rights (1791) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

*Scutage was a form of taxation in English law under the feudal system. It allowed a knight to effectively ‘buy out’ of doing military service due to the Crown.

Stephen Langton (archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1228) was a leading figure in the Church. When Pope Innocent III called him to Rome and made him a cardinal, before arranging for him to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury,  King John refused to accept the Pope’s choice of archbishop. The Pope imposed an interdict on England effectively banning the Sacraments and later excommunicated the king. Eventually, the threat of rebellion in England and of war with France forced King John to accept the Pope’s terms and Langton was able to take up his appointment.

Robert FitzWalter (died 1235) remains regarded by many as the leader of the baronial opposition to King John.


The Chain That Bears

Pulchritudo et Salubritas*

The chain that bears the badge helps make the mayor
Custodian of a passing heritage,
Faceless yet familiar; who would wear
It wears the best intentions of the age.

The chain that bears the badge is heavier
Than one man or woman’s cares, a prestige
That honours many, graven reminder
Such shared responsibility takes courage

And that the one who would be leader leads
With truth, from sense of fairness, for the needs
Of all in the town that she or he serves,

And serves not self, ‘success’, nor fear, nor wealth
But acts from compassion held in great reserves,
Appreciating beauty, cherishing health.

A poem written for and read at Bournemouth’s Mayor-Making ceremony 2015.

*Translated into English from the latin, Pulchritudo et Salubritas means ‘beauty and health’. The motto appears on Bournemouth’s Coat of Arms, along with the crest made up of four English roses surmounted by a pine tree.


 

Fire Basket
Lines written for the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War

Victory over death, the end of war,
Yet in the easy morning say a prayer
For Sybil Laura Young, from Bournemouth: bombed.
No bunting, flags, or make-do dress for her;
No V.E. Day kiss or gaslight in her hair
Outside amongst the fountain’s coloured water.
She wasn’t there; she is not here: one daughter.
Yet victory over death, the end of war.

In the lonely afternoon say a prayer
For Lance Bombardiers Norman and John
Up on the roof of Beales department store,
Who aiming well their triple Lewis guns
Engaged a pack of Focke Wulf fighter planes
And shot one down in Bournemouth bay. At dusk
Remember Unter Officier F.K. Schmidt;
No victory over death. One end to war.

Calm this evening. The Square is still. I think
Of stoker David Gear, bleeding and bruised,
Wading through waves of rising dust clouds
Towards the electric powers switches
Down in the boiler room of the blazing Metropole;
Of airmen trapped upon the upper floors
And the fire crews rescuing
With their turntable ladders: small victories

Over death. And I remember Verger
Arthur Davis of St Peter’s, who when
The louvres in the belfry flashed alight
Battled to protect the bell-frames from the sparks;
Also the Reverend Hedley Burrows
Whose congregation formed a human chain
To carry bucket after bucket after bucket to the tower,
Element against element

In the name of One whose Victory over Death
We put our faith in. So many thoughts and prayers
For those we loved at home and all who fought
And bled abroad, in Europe and the East.
In honour of the Bournemouth dead, we pledge
To keep their memory burning in the mind,
A balefire for our conscience. Let us be
For them a Home Guard; their own Fire Watchers.

I am indebted to local historian John Walker and to Michael Edgington’s book ‘Bournemouth and the Second World War’ for many of the details in this poem.

 


 

Bang the Ballot Box

In my friend’s country, when the poet wrote asking for change,
Only silence,
Then they found her hand
Beside her body on a rubbish heap.

In my own country I am privileged
But not by an unbloody history:
Magna Carta, Revolution, Reform and Suffrage,
Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech.

How easy to walk down the street, push open a door;
As normal as the school run or buying groceries.
How easy to forget the lives of others, those

Who bore me here on all they said and did and wrote,

Yet it seems so light in the hand,
Yvour polling card. Please, vote.



Cherry Gold

Since Gladstone Road and Boscombe Football Club,
How many matches now spanning three centuries,
How many stories passed on in the pub,
Win, lose or draw, of the Bournemouth Cherries?

Goldsands the stadium, Dean Court the ground;
In such silences before applause is heard
Raised hopes were dashed yet cherished; none proved sound,
And ‘premier’ would remain a whispered word

‘Til now; thanks to Eddie and the boys, why
It’s Cherries, Cherries, Cherries all the way!
Their game became our game. Years from today
They’ll sing how Ritchie crossed and Marc Pugh swerved
To have them eating Cherry humble pie.
Grub’s up. Full Time. And Bolton, you’ve been served!

A poem written in celebration of AFC Bournemouth’s 3-0 win against the Bolton Wanderers and their promotion to the Premier League.


Bournemouth in Spring

for Ian Ferguson

Past the shores of Boscombe
Beyond the Solent Meads,
A gentle headland rises
Where wildlife grows and feeds.

Maybe we’ll see the kestrel drop,
Or shoppers pausing as they shop
Hear the love song of the linnet
And feel there’s something deeper in it.

For those up in the big balloon,
The Pleasure Gardens, now in bloom,
Have flourished in the season’s rain
To win the annual prize again.

For who’s not browsed through the arcade,
Or strolled along the promenade,
Watching as the last light disappears
The sun dissolve between two piers?

Kinson to Hengistbury Head
Now the borough has gone to bed,
May sea sounds soothe us all night long.
Sweet Bourne run softly ever on

‘Til flower, bird and baby wakes,
The long night over; new day breaks.
The egret, stockstill in the mud,
Quickens something in the blood.

Perhaps the little skylark sings
For patience in the name of things
Invisible, eternal.
Maybe some One loves us all.

As read at the Bournemouth Founder’s Day dinner on 23rd April, at the Royal Exeter Hotel, with the Mayor and other distinguished guests meeting to celebrate the town, its heritage and achievements.

 


 

Duck Race
Swim, swim, my friends, with all your will, breath, might,
For life’s a race, they say, a marathon.
At the end, everything will be all right.

Beaks forward facing, on the left and right;
The wind stirs the trees and the day is young.
Swim, swim, my friends, with all your will, breath, might!

And fear not when the other birds take flight,
Scattered by the echo of the starting gun.
At the end, everything will be all right.

The bridge bobs near, the finish line’s in sight;
Like bottomed-up bananas in the sun,
Swim, swim, my friends, with all your will, breath, might.

The Bourne will bear you up, the last stretch tight.
Upstanding on each bank, we cheer you on.
At the end everything will be all right,

So paddle faster in the dying light,
For all of you are winners, every one.
Swim, swim, my friends, with all your will, breath, might.
In the end everything will be all right.

Rubber duck race

 

 

 

A poem written in support of the Mayor of Bournemouth’s Charity Duck Race 2015


The Skylark Field

The old ‘barn field’, is wintering.
Beneath a brightening Bournemouth sky
She wears the season’s russet-brown;
Each tree stripped bare, and sculptured by

Dry winds. Amongst ancient ant hills,
Stonechats clack and nuzzle. Now bright,
The sky says, ‘Empty’. In the distance
A patch of copper willows blaze

Alone on Catherine’s Hill, from where
You can see the weather coming
For miles across the open Head.
As the sky changes, colours change.

As these thoughts change, so I am changed.
The light at Hengistbury Head
Charges the reeds with gold, coming
And going – here, there, everywhere.

A kingfisher bolts – blue, ablaze;
Lapwings rise, bringing the distance
Close again, their tails white flags, bright
And flying, still, above the hills.

Pleasure seeker or passerby,
Watch with me, visitor. Each brown
Buds green; soon Spring must flower, sky
Larks sing an end to wintering.

 

A poem written to launch the Hengistbury Head Poetry Competition 2015.


 

Rivers

I still remember

summers as a child in Anglesey,

and yet I’d no idea it was in Wales          one Mrs Watts

of the Agricultural Organisation Society

(there’s a mouthful!)

first took up her trowel and cooking pots

to better feed a hungry nation, weary of war;

or that the first such W.I. in an English town

was started here in Bournemouth,

just down the road, in Wallisdown.

The Vote and Women’s Lib. – the rest,

we say,

is history.

 

Today I think of Lady Wimborne and Lady Chelmsford

mixing salads,

or hunting down some unsuspecting bird

deep amongst pine trees,

along the banks of the winding Stour,

whose steady course, soon joined by others

– the Cale and Lydden,

ploughs south through chalk and heathland,

bright, resilient. Women

I am proud to know,

have such grace and power.

 

A poem written for Stour Power WI, and to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Women’s Institute, the first of which was established in 1915 to help the war effort.


 

Libraries

Sought out, fought over, championed, praised,
Long after Alexandria burned,
With priests surprised, and kings amazed;
Thus from the old estates we learned

The joy of seas of ordered books
Awaiting readers in calm rooms:
The golden fact, the tale’s soft hooks;
That peace when understanding blooms.

So read it, see it, hear it, print it,
Download it, knit it, click it, sing it,
Display it proudly on a plaque:

Each borrowing and bringing back
Shows something learnt, and someone cared.
A library is knowledge shared.

James Manlow
Poet Laureate for Bournemouth

A poem in celebration of National Libraries Day 2015


 

The Patient Heart

Love much, and make your life a work of art.
In choosing, learn to live by what you chose.
The better self grows from a patient heart.

Let paintings be Matisse and music Mozart,
Whatever is for you the hidden rose.
Love much, and make your life a work of art.

And do not be afraid to stand apart;
Once opened there are doors which do not close.
The better self grows from a patient heart.

When else but now to make a finer start?
To live at peace in wisdom’s sweet repose,
Love much, and make your life a work of art.

A blessing given, a poem gleaned by heart,
Will do more good than many may suppose.
The better self grows from a patient heart.

Love heals all that the world can diagnose,
And when that doesn’t work, increase the dose.
Love much. Help make each life a work of art.
A better self grows from the patient heart.

A poem written in support of Dorset County’s ‘Poetry by Heart’ regional finals 2015 – a  national competition designed to encourage pupils aged 14-18 and at school and college in England to learn and to recite poems by heart. Congratulations to this year’s winner Michelle Ezigbo and runner up Jacob Hulland, both from Shaftesbury School. Good luck in London for the final, Michelle! 


 

Naming the Darkness

Even in Auschwitz father was able
To teach from the Torah on a secret table,
Asking the Lord for His mercy and redress,
Praising God in the terrifying darkness,
Even in Auschwitz.

Even in Auschwitz, guards gassing children
Went home for dinner to families of their own,
And asking after school, and kissing their newborn,
Calculated for how long a baby must burn
In the ovens of Auschwitz.

Even in Auschwitz, amongst the living-dead
Laughter was trumpeted, and there were jokes that spread
And raged like a fire that was warming;
And singing where no hope would be dawning,
Even in Auschwitz.

And even from Auschwitz survivors had to go
Back into a world that had let it be so,
And make each new generation remember
All we explain away for an easy future.
Even Auschwitz.

Now Auschwitz is the darkness that’s carried within,
That switch too easily thrown in the mind,
Deciding each instant to be cruel or be kind;
It’s the ego preserved – not me but him.
What remains of Auschwitz

Are broken thoughts on the polluted altar,
Yet are not all that we have to offer,
Who can bear gifts too of human kindness.
It’s Love we struggle with, peace and forgiveness.
Even Auschwitz.

Even Auschwitz.


A poem written for Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 ‘Keep the Memory Alive’ –  to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – the largest and most notorious of the Nazi death camps.
“We honour the survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and challenge ourselves to learn important lessons from their experiences in order to create a safer, better future.” – Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.  


 

The Carol Singers

Then all at once we hear their voices ringing
Somewhere out there in the dark, like church bells
Blown by some new wind to set them singing
In our minds: falling snow and Christmas smells,
Stamp of hooves, and snorts, and harness jingling,
With taste of mince pies and mulled wine mingling,
And peace and goodwill and ‘all will be well’s:
A two thousand year old story that still tells
Of something ancient again beginning,
‘Til suddenly what was outside now is in,
And everyone is singing, heart and soul,
Becoming a part of all that’s been heard,
As if only for this time, this place, the whole
World is singing the same song with one word.

 

Written for Bournemouth’s Christmas celebrations 2014


The Consummation of Light

A little light sometimes so hard to find,
Light that plays around the nursery blind,
Light that permeates the dawning of the mind,
Shine away the darkness and glorify the days.

Light I blocked out seeking my own solitude,
Light I bent for a bit of latitude,
Light that never dimmed despite my shattered attitude,
Pining for time’s darkness to certify the days.

Starlight streaming after sunshine’s curfew,
Light that came wailing to my mortal rescue,
Light behind death’s curtain forever shining through,
Prophesy in darkness and be a sign for days.

World beyond words, vision beyond sight,
Tonight, but not only for tonight,
I give you this light
To mine inside you all the glory of your days.


Written on the theme of ‘light’ in celebration of our autumn and winter festivals and in support of Bournemouth’s ‘Gardens of Light’ installations 2014.


The Forget-me-nots

On ‘Poppy Day’ – I kid you not –
I saw a blue forget-me-not;
And walking, wondered at the reason
That here miraculous it blew:
A yellow sun amongst such blue
Petals lonely, out of season.

That ghosted flower left behind
Now flutters each year in my mind.
Once war knew well each season’s place –
Spring offensive, winter ceasefire:
Humans gave it a natural face
To hide the bending of our nature.

So many flowers, many fields.
The mind thinks on, yet what’s not healed ’s
Reminder to us still of debts
We owe to others here no longer;
Knowledge that gnaws at our regrets
And sense of sacrifice the stronger

Felt in each new generation:
The men and women that live on
In our remembrance, whose lots
Went horror-humbling to make us wise;
Who died red poppy deaths yet rise
As thoughts of blue forget-me-nots.

Written for Remembrance Day 2014, and to commemorate the centenary of the First World War


Meet Me

at the edge of each morning. The breeze
lifts a branch; a bird goes flapping. Edge of

senses: hands above skin; first kisses in
the air; mysteries of perfume. Your name

called again. Silence in the dance. Tick. Drip.
With Art’s staunch atlas opened like a rose

by the light behind such blindfolds, we pick
our way back to the edge of the World’s Wood.


Written for the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival, 2014. 
Festival theme: ‘The Edge’


Space for Peace 

Surely any peace that lasts begins this way,
a slow coming together as music
gathers then moves where different people pray
the same, still prayer; and what in us is sick

is healed by merely asking it of ‘Him’
to whom we’ve given many names. Song like water
flows through a temple where illusions are forgiven
everyone – father, mother, spouse, son, daughter.

Listen. Listen, watching the tongues of candles.
How easily peace again is with us,
restoring what its opposite defiled.

Let peace be brought to you now as a child
carries a candle towards you through the darkness.
As seventy children carrying candles.


Written for ‘Space for Peace’, St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth – 
an interfaith musical event promoting the development of interfaith respect and trusting community relationships.


Peace

Then one day peace
quietly lets herself in.
You don’t remember leaving
the front door open.

Her fragrance is a perfume
from somewhere else, a time
long ago. Her light footstep
on the stairs – you know it.

Tears in your eyes,
you anticipate her whirlwind embrace,
but do not yet turn
from the gilded window.

Across the killing fields even now
soldiers are leaving like a river,
returning to their families,
shy of weapons in hands

unrecognizable,
with which they knock,
in which they should always have been
carrying flowers.


Written to mark the International Day of Peace


Air Show

Look out, look up! Leave the dishes drying,
gather the children, turn off the TV,
and come and see the Red Arrows flying.

Oh there’s work to be done and the work is trying
but no one needs another cup of tea.
Look out, look up; leave the dishes drying,

Bournemouth’s in bloom and the Mayor is buying
and who’s not glad to be beside the sea?
Come now and see the Red Arrows flying.

Each new formation wholly satisfying,
soaring from the page like poetry
looking out and up. Leave. The dishes drying

shudder as the planes go higher, plying
blue sky with endless possibility.
Come now and see the Red Arrows flying,

weaving through the clouds, hello-goodbyeing,
memories regrouping, new thoughts breaking free.
Look out! Look up! Leave the dishes drying
and come and see, the Red Arrows flying.


Written in celebration of Bournemouth Air Festival


The Lamps

Silently all over Europe
one by one the lamps are going out.
Overshadowed in our lifetime,
we shall not see them lit again.

One by one the lamps are going out,
faces we have known and lived with;
we shall not see them lit again.
We have made a war to take them.

Faces we have known and lived with,
breakfast laughter, evening kisses.
We have made a war to take them
forever from us, far away.

Breakfast laughter, evening kisses,
what made them human, truth and goodness,
forever from us, far away.
Their love seeps deeper in the earth.

What makes us human? Truth and goodness
overshadowed in our lifetime.
Love seeps deeper in the earth,
silently all over Europe.


Written for Bournemouth’s LIGHTS OUT event, 4th August 2014

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time” is a remark attributed to Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary in 1914, purported to have been made on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War.


2014

If I should die, safe in a Bournemouth bed,
let it not be still thinking that such war
was sportsmanship, or that the dead
could just get up and play on as before.
O football was played famously for sure
when boys (no matter what the papers said)
knew well by then that ‘war to end all war’
meant death, their death: futility that led
to pity only, just to go on again
manning the guns and felling fellow men
like walking trees through fields in lawless dreams
freefalling into nightmares, which in peacetime
ruptured still – in families – yours and mine:
a loved one woken by inhuman screams.

 

a poem to commemorate the centenary of the First World War


The Roses

As though we had returned, flowers
were strewn beneath our marching feet.
It seemed the trees had bent their boughs
to rain their adulation on the street.
Red roses all the way through France,
the heart-red roses of last chance.

In Paris, girls hung perfumed wreaths
around our necks; some gave a kiss,
the way we’d used to dream a girl might kiss
a lover when at last he leaves.
Red roses all the way through France,
the lip-red roses of last chance.

In Flanders, waist-deep in the mire
death rose to bath our brothers in, we knelt
in silence, watching friends on fire
and could not find a word for what we felt.
Red roses all the way through France,
the blood-red roses of last chance.

O children of our children’s children,
remember us; do not forget
what must be borne and then forgotten
in that war you have not started yet.
Red roses all the way through France.
the poppy-red roses of last chance.


Written for Bournemouth’s Civic Service to commemorate the centenary of the First World War


Children, 1914

They’re ‘being brave’, these Belgian refugees,
doing what they have been told by mothers
and fathers far away now oversees;
patiently trembling, sisters and brothers,
each with an emptied, newly orphaned look
it’s easy to imagine. Is it?
Wide-eyed, sleep-starved, twisting hands, they fidget;
one grins while his companion hugs a book.

Now in the mind’s sincere commemoration
these boys and girls stand silent at the gates,
and when my own remembering generation
in time is called upon, and hesitates;
when we are lost, unsure where our place is,
let the compass be such children’s faces.


Written to commemorate the centenary of the First World War


Bournemouth

I wandered back through centuries with the Mayor.
The beach was empty. There was nothing there
except, towards the east, those Double Dykes –
the forts where Romans once would trade the likes
of clay and salt – all left to fall to ruin
when Caesar called them home. The sea breathed in

Then out again, breathed in, along a shore
“scarce worth seeing,”* Defoe said, on his tour;
and yet in time created something beautiful.
The Bourne’s Mouth spoke to Lewis Tregonwell,
the peaceful bay, the coves and caves, a haven
for smugglers and a tourist’s piece of Heaven.

I wandered through the gardens with the Mayor,
flowers famed throughout the country. Here and there
the children ran and shrieked in play and sport
right here where bloody battles once were fought
between the Wrecking gangs and Customs men
(fool’s gold, tea and taxes, now as then).

Later, on sunny days like this, soldiers
strolled with girls away from two world wars,
pausing amongst the pines, beneath some bough,
to close their eyes and kiss. Great grandchildren now
join us at the cenotaph. They are free,
delighted by the sleeping lions and happy,

bringing back to life the stone memorial.
A white wedding today at the Town Hall.
I leave my guide returning to his Parlour
and wonder what it takes to be a Bournemouth Mayor,
custodian of past and future years:
a goodwill smuggler with a pioneer’s
imagination and a soldier’s bravery.
A lion’s heart. A child’s humility.


Written for Bournemouth’s ‘Mayor-Making’ ceremony, 2014.

from Daniel Defoe’s, ‘Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain’ (1724-1727). Defoe’s description here comes from a visit to Christchurch and the surrounding area undertaken during the 1720s. Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731) is best known to us now, of course, for his novel, ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (1719).


Festival of the Wheels 

The bicycles came at first light from the Racer and the Mountain orders,
having rolled in their holy lines for days across the length and breadth of land.
Then came the motored kind of bikes, and swarms of cars, their multicoloured
skins flashing, a rainbowed armour. Lorries and trucks cleared a corridor for
the rarer wheels – those funny aeroplanes which rolled on air, and stubborn trains
following only where rails would lead them. Baby hubcaps spun and bossed around
the furniture castors. Bright buttons shook blasphemously in their boxes, while rollerblades
and skateboards met their match on sand. The sensible prams rolled along the pier,
then silence for the millstone and the spinning wheel. Even the cogs in machinery stopped.
For the first time in the Age of Wheels there was no turning. I remember
the sea whispering, and then the clocks chimed now the waterwheel would speak.


Written for the Bournemouth Wheels’ Festival 2014


Tea Time

To make them all a cup of tea
I must fill up the kettle first,
and switch it on, and fetch the tea.

I must take out the tea things first
and put the teabags in the cups;
get out the milk and smell it first.

Who poured the water in the cups?
Who says I musn’t use the gas?
Such pretty cups – I like my cups.

I’ll put the kettle on the gas.
No, No! But, oh, the water’s cold.
“Now we’re really cooking on gas!”

Mother always said. Who said that?
I must make sure the milk is cold,
then add it in – there, just like that.

In Prague that time, it was so cold.
Goulash. Do you remember that?
“Angie, you’ve let your tea go cold!”

“Stand back. Be careful of the gas.”
We used the stove against the cold.
I musn’t put this on the gas.

I must make sure the milk is cold.
I’ll pour the water in the cups.
I must make sure the water’s cold,

turn on the taps and find the cups,
take out the tea and smell it first.
But why are there so many cups?

Such pretty cups; I’ll count them first.
Perhaps I’ll have a cup myself.
No. Ask them if they want one first.

Yes. Go back now and ask myself.
Always this going back, while first
remembering to make myself.


Written in support of Dementia Awareness.


This poem was inspired by a ‘How to Make the Tea’ exercise undertaken during a Dementia Awareness session, where participants were asked to record the many steps and processes the brain goes through when making a cup of tea. People with dementia often face great difficulties and confusion when carrying out such everyday tasks.


Tregonwell’s Staircase

I place my writing hand upon the banister
and feel only the ordinary thrill
of polished wood resisting time.
Those who climbed such stairs before us
whom we call founders, ancestors,
to what were they hoping to rise,
in their own age, or this, the next?
Could they sense us in their footsteps,
pausing halfway through a life,
happy to be off the ground floor
yet nervous of the numbered doors?
What now if I opened this one
and there before me stood the man
in terror at my hair and jeans?
– pushing past me, now right through me,
shouting for servants and the dogs?
O Lewis do not be afraid
of this my eager apparition
rushing at you across the sand
with all the proud frustrations of
his town embodied in him – of your town,
as yet a sea-blown spec
of inspiration haunting in
somebody’s eye – your own, maybe,
or perhaps that other fellow’s,
or else only in history books
further down the fleeting line
we all must follow, leaving behind
our gravestones’ toothy monuments
and all the hotels of the heart
and somewhere (open most days) big
museums of the soul’s endeavours.


Written for Bournemouth’s Founder’s Day, 2014

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