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The Barn Owl, Samuel and his pot, and me

The Barn OwlI thought of the barnas mine.  But as she lives thereit belongs to herI’ve been reading Samuel Menashe’s poetry. His most famous poem is even shorter.  A pot poured out
Fulfills its spout.
The distinguished academic Christopher Ricks spends several pages poring (sorry) over this wonderful poem, pointing out all sorts of poetic techniques in play, and indeed the more carefully and the more often one reads it, the more there is to find – that pot just keeps on pouring.For example, it’s not the pot – it’s a pot, which is worth thinking about.Similarly, the American spelling of fulfills has something extra to say about a full vessel; not to mention the alliterations, sound play, rhyme, internal symmetry (each line of four syllables perfectly balanced, as you’d expect from a pouring pot) and the sharing of contents (that pot’s ‘ot’ moving into the ‘o-t’ of out and thence finding its way into, or should I say out of, ‘spout’ – having re-found its ‘u’).But this is not the place, no…
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Granny with dementia, reciting The Revenge

At Flores, in the Azores – how she remembered it! At Flores, in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay… It was all in her memory, long ago learnt, locked up securely yet biding its time buried like treasure before we were born ready to gleam when the lid might be raised – At Flores, in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from far away:
So we were captured, spell-bound prisoners.
Each word was polished as if it were gold. I hear them now, those old rolling phrases like waves from the deep, the far Spanish Main, beginning their life so far, far away to roll over the oceans, washing up on our foreshore salty fragments now altered, tied up in new ways with some of their old rhymes – Lord Howard declaring he was no coward, he could not – no, I cannot can’t meet them … for my ships are out of gear.
But like the Revenge, she still sailed on, against all odds with no hesitation – Master Gunner, sink me the ship, sink he…

Gray's Anatomy

Gray’s Anatomy Descriptive and Applied  34th Edition 1968
Begin at the beginning, with the fertilised cell from which originate all tissues and organs. Biblical, it lies open at the lesson for today, revealing that which is contained within to whomsoever would study this still life.
My finger glides across the glazed page following vessels of red and blue, criss-crossing in their travels.  Tributaries may be traced like roads or rivers, with accompanying prose – for it is preceded near its insertion by the second, or first and second, perforating arteries.
Light streams down its old familiar course to pour upon a clean tiled floor.  No dust here. Porcelain gleams, steel shines, even the page reflects.  Little chained grapples draw back tissues to display the obscured – if not otherwise clear there are figures and diagrams, photos and pictures offering views from every angle. Here you see both hind and midbrain from the postero-lateral aspect with specific reference to rootlets of …

Anguis Fragilis

I didn’t hear it either.
An electric strimmer’s got a lot going for it – as opposed to my petrol driven one, with its noise, vibrations and fumes.But that very silence can be a killer too.
My eye was caught by a flash of metallic sheen. There amongst the grass trimmings along the edge of the road was a beautiful torque.I bent down and picked up the silky smooth, still warm circlet which I could wrap round my wrist.I stood for a moment, wondering whether to show this discovered treasure to the strimmer up on his bank, but he was focused on his work, and what would have been achieved?
Instead I called out good morning to him – which it was, the slow worm no doubt also enjoying the unexpected warmth of the sun a few minutes ago – and slipped the compliant creature into my pocket.When I got home, I laid it out on the table, admiring the different colours of its two sides, the ease with which it could make different shapes – letters and numbers – and the attractive face with its quiet hal…

The Winners!

We are the Winners!

They’ve packed up and gone – the whole bloody lot of them pushed off in their ships. So end of the story! Open the gates come and see for yourself – they are the losers we are the winners!
We knew we would win with right on our side. Of course it took time and we suffered too for winning’s not easy we’re all well aware. But we stood our ground and they ran away –
victory’s sweet! Specially when hard won but we got there at last – well done everyone! And look what they left in their hurry to go – a curious horse! help pull it inside
as it’s ready to move. Come on everybody we’ll party around it all day and all night. History will tell how we saw them off! They’re gone and we won – Hey winners! Job done!

There’s been a lot of win/lose talk recently – even, more specifically, the widespread deployment of military terms.Front lines, unseen enemies and casualty numbers, orders being issued and (for the most part) followed, sacrifice of personal liberties for a gre…

Return of the Green Man

His wound-up crozier straightens out tightened springs unwind, releasing frondy fingers first, tipped with soft new nails
followed by stalk of hand and wrist then un-stretched arcs of bramble arms thrown out to grasp and root.
Keratin hardens, new limbs grow stronger from the making. He emerges phloem fed, hydrated by xylem
strong-armed in lignin. Rib circled he inspires, his inflating body ready to break its bonds
swollen with fresh projections. Leaves sprout from every crack jostling. They are drawn forth
these unsuspected members to find themselves full of purpose and unruly.
Renewed man is almost ready to take his leave once more, once he has learned to walk
and take stock. Firmly rooted multi-limbed he advances when you’re not looking
implanting his staff afresh he leaves the last one, leading the way to his rightful place
through irrepressible growth.

There are lots of Green Men – so many types, in so many places, in so many ages, with all sorts of different names.
He may be…


In recent years poets have attached themselves to all sorts of places as poets-in-residence – such as famous landmarks, beauty spots or buildings, especially if there are literary associations.Residencies have since extended to more workaday places like supermarkets, clinics, prisons, stations, offices, factories, airports, theatres… and outwards, to include teams, groups and all sorts of clubs and organisations.

My residency was at a crematorium. With its great variety of people working closely together, performing an essential job in a distinctive place which exerts a certain fascination, it promised to be a fruitful choice. Which proved to be the case.
A set of poems resulted from all my watching, listening and talking – to technicians and office staff, managers and gardeners, to visiting professionals such as clergy and lay celebrants, organists and funeral directors, to mourners and attenders.
This one comes from the middle of the sequence, after the cooled cinders have been rak…


Exminster Mental Hospital Notice

The Hospital have for disposal various Goods as per Price List below. Samples of which can be seen at the Canteen or Female One Ward.
Some of the items are second-hand but having rendered good service and been subject to careful assessment they are commended for general perusal.
Others of course are unused. Howsoever they may have arrived the Committee has no hesitation in confirming their general utility
for Staff and for Patients alike. Early inspection is urged Management being aware that every item will prove to be
no less than excellent value. Individuals with particular needs not addressed by the present arrangements are requested to postpone any purchase
since further disposals will follow, Management ever mindful of the undoubted continuing need to maintain a proper supply.

I’m not sure how old this notice is, but I can vouch for its provenance (but that’s another story).
To be sure, it bears the stigma of age, with the several stains, the perforations and wrinkling – …

A new jawbone

And he found a new jawbone of an ass and put forth his hand and took it and slew a thousand men therewith

Judges 16

What someone can do with something new can surprise
your eyes open wide here by your side you find what’s required
to tackle the task no need to ask for much help
just put out your hand seize the moment and nothing can stop you
armed with a jawbone you slew on your own a thousand men.
Who’d have thought that the jaw of one herbivore had such power?

Well, it wasn’t any old jaw bone – it was a new one.I’m not sure how important it was that it happened to be one of an ass, but the narrated story – minimal as it is in other respects – provides us with that particular detail.
‘Found’ is interesting too.Was he looking – searching for a weapon – or did he just come across that fresh mandible lying in the grass?
And the putting forth of his hand, with its suggestion of a conscious and determined action, after a moment – perhaps even a longer time – of reflection, raises many a question.Almost thousan…

In Search of Genius

In Search of Genius

Dr Thomas Harvey conducts Albert Einstein’s autopsy

The body itself was perfectly ordinary of course, just as I expected. But here between my hands I raise a gift, an offering which is held before me, like a sacrifice. I set it down with reverence, noting familiar features – see the cerebellum with its fissures closely set, transverse and curved. All appears normal, for now.
So to the cortex. Accompany me – let us walk around the hemispheres enjoy their glistening surfaces: the superolateral and the medial (the inferior is presently hidden) following folds, traversing sulci – across the longitudinal fissure I skim, an arctic explorer on my sled over hills and valleys, there is so much awaiting discovery.
I pick up my knife, the round-ended one, as I search for the genius that lived and died here. The slices begin.  Each falls away softly like cheese.  A key hole appears gradually growing into a chamber fit for a pharaoh perhaps, although empty of course, it hasn’t…

The Gargoyle Speaks

The Gargoyle Speaks
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. My eyes protrude, quite an eye opener, set wide apart, away from each other they behold – down the gross of my nose past lips that are parted – grotesques which are those whose foreshortened bodies grow heads from their toes. They pass to and fro, avoiding another with similar slit eye – no more a beholder of beauty than a gargoyle thought uglier.

Actually, not a gargoyle at all, as the gurgling, gargling gargoyle was designed to throw water clear of the stonework below. These heads are grotesques.

What does that mean?
I’m not convinced they were designed to represent ugliness, to remind us of our own ugliness, or even the transience of beauty, if only because they’re not easily seen.  If that was the intention, they’d have been placed more – to coin a phrase – in your face.  Very few passers-by will have noticed these downward gazing people, intent as they seem to be on us.
Nor that these fellows were placed there apotropaically – to fr…

The Explorer

It’s interesting to rummage around in old folders and notebooks, looking for something useful that might be worth sending somewhere,
I found myself rolling the years back – at least ten years, discovering (it felt like that) poems which were remembered and recognised, but also discovering that they’d changed.Or more accurately, I’d changed.It was still me who wrote them, and they were still them, but we were both different.
I felt as though I was travelling upstream on a voyage of discovery – discovery not just of old poems, but of my earlier self. Here I was – or am – going back in time, when things were younger: striding against the flow of time, through years that had past.
One poem in particular gave me a metaphor.
I could see why I’d titled the poem ‘The Explorer.’
There’s something naturally attractive about the source of a river, as the great Victorian explorers discovered (you just have to use that word).And the poem brought back that feeling of searching, of being on a journey o…