Odds and Sods – Piggy Beetle

I have a file of poems that I wrote specifically for reading out aloud, but other than for an audience of one (and he being in the mirror) I have never done so.  One or two of them have appeared on these pages before.  I quite like the ebb and flow of this one.  Try reading it out for yourself, but make sure there’s no-one listening when you do…

Every day, when I sit down with my morning cup of tea
And a chocolate hob-nob biscuit a-balanced on my knee
I grab the book I’m reading and open up the page
Then something always happens that fills my heart with rage…

I see you in the corner of my eye
A-scuttling on my floor.
A little piggy beetle
A-heading for the door.

Oh tell me where you come from
I hoovered yesterday
In edges and in corners
How did you get away?

I know you have a right to live
Like every free wood-louse
But we’d both be much more happy
If you chose another house.

I grab you in my fingers
And take you to the door.
I throw you in the garden
Where there’s wood for you to gnaw.

Then sit back down to drink my tea
But it’s cold – I’ll make another
I go off to the kitchen
And it’s there I see your brother.

It seems to me a tragedy
You drive me mad this way –
Your whole extended family
Is in my underlay.

Oh crusty-backed menagerie of mini-armadillos
Though just insects, I should respect your little peccadilloes.
Perhaps I’d find it easier if you didn’t scuttle out
Every time I have my friends and family about.

So if you want to live a long and healthy insect life
Free of all your insect worries and all your insect strife.
If you don’t want me to blast you with this tin of spray I’ve bought
Then it’s only fair to tell you that I really think you ought
Take my recommendation:
Find alternative accommodation…

My eldest daughter told me
At the school gate, in a shout
That the baby doesn’t like pig beetles,
She always spits them out…

…And the incident in the envoi was a true one!

NB – I apologise for the formatting. This lovely block editor does something (I don’t know what) to pasted-in poems that puts them in a different (as far as I can see unalterable) font and puts each individual line in a separate block. Infuriating!

Odds and Sods – The End of the World

It’s quite a while since I’ve published ‘poetry’, and I feel that I need to give a little context to this particular piece.  I was reading a poem by James (James Proclaims) the other day and the style of it encouraged me to look back on something of my own from long, long ago.  Many many years ago I started a book which, much like a lot of what I have done since, I didn’t finish.  It was called ‘The Six Days’ and it was about the end of the world.  There have been many such books and films both before and since – at least one of which, I note, has utilised the same premise and exactly the same time scale as my own.  My book was actually a collection of short stories, vignettes and poems telling the story of how little the forthcoming Armageddon actually impacted on everyday life for most of my cast of misfits.  It stalled about half way through.  I wasn’t old enough to write it, and before I was, somebody else had done it.  Not as I wanted to do it, but close enough to make me look like the sub-plagiarist if I persisted – so I didn’t.  In my head, the book I intended to write was like a ‘concept album’ and this was the title track.  I have played with it from time to time ever since.  This will help me to leave it alone…

The End of the World
Bloody ‘fridge has packed in again.
A pool of water spilled onto the floor
Where the cat sleeps.
Froze as solid as a rock, it did;
Had to ease him out with warm spoons
And that’s no joke.

I think it must be the warmest place in the house –
Except, maybe, for the freezer
Which stopped freezing almost a month ago –
The milk has turned to cheese,
The cheese has turned to mould
And the little light doesn’t come on anymore
When you open the door.

Still,
At least the walls are thin –
We can hear them rowing next-door.
Screaming and swearing because the dog has lost control
On the Shepherds pie
And the central heating has developed a mind of its own:
Equatorial temperatures killing off the house plants;
Giving the children heat bumps;
Melting his favourite nylon vest…

It seems that Jim at number three
Arose the worse for wear;
Fell down the stairs
And cut his head on the ornamental pig by the door.
Yelled the house down.
Woke the whole bloody street.
Such a fuss!
Went to hospital on his motorbike.
Strewth! What a noise it makes,
Set the baby off
Screaming…

I wonder if she knows
About the end of the world?

And now the power’s gone.
The government says we could grind to a halt unless we tighten our belts,
Pull together
And get back on our feet.
But nobody cares about inflation, taxation, education, or unemployment;
About food rotting on the supermarket shelves
And children screaming into the emptiness of dark
Because there’s no time left to die
And life is still the toy of the few who can play:
A gift for those who know
That food is power among the starving,
God is strength among the poor
And death is the only truth they’ll know
About the end of the world.

You see, it’s about the end of the world and yet it still sounds, to me, unduly bleak.  The rest of the book was more uplifting I suppose; funny in parts, sentimental, but not bleak.  This frontispiece was just not right, and I couldn’t make it so, so I stopped trying and now, I hope, it has gone.

I would hope to be able to wait for the final curtain on a grassy hillside somewhere, with my family, a picnic and a bottle of wine, playing football and toasting marshmallows on the bonfire – it has to be the way to go, doesn’t it?

“The year 1999, seventh month, from the sky will come a great King of Terror: to bring back to life the great King of the Mongols, before and after Mars to reign by good luck. The present time together with the past will be judged by the great Joker: the world too late will be tired of him, and through the clergy oath-taker disloyal. The year of the great seventh number accomplished, it will appear at the time of the games of slaughter: not far from the great millennial age, when the buried will go out from their tombs.” – NOSTRADAMUS (The Prophecies of Nostradamus) – Is it wrong to suggest that he might have been twenty one years adrift?

PS The new photo has nothing to do with the end of the world, it’s just that I thought I probably needed to update it, to prove that I am not a bot (whatever they are). As far as I can see, the only thing that has changed is the specs. I still look like a dork – and I still have to look at my hand when I’m trying to take a selfie…

Yet More Random Running Thoughts – Odds and Sods…

My Cat, Lawrence.*

My cat Lawrence, he’ll never let you down.
My cat Lawrence, keeps his feet on the ground.
With my cat Lawrence, you know just where you are.
Since my Auntie Florence, ran him over in her car…

I have discovered that when running, by a method I cannot discern, my phone always plays David Bowie’s Heroes (the album version, not the dreadful ‘single edit’) at the very second I decide that I have had enough.  Well, you can’t stop then, can you?

Not for the first time I find myself thinking about Thursdays.

When I first added Thursdays to my blog rota it was with the aim of using a few stray poems which I ran as Haphazardly Poetical, because that’s what they were.  I planned for them to be a regular thing, but they arrived sporadically and could, only in the very broadest of senses, properly be labelled as poetry – however, as, broadly speaking, I have no sense, thus labelled they were.  For reasons I have never been able to fathom, they quickly proved to be my most popular of posts, but because I am pathetically and slavishly bound by rhyme and scan, I found them difficult to write with any regularity or quality, and when I set my mind to producing them, everything else went out of the window.  Consequently, Thursdays also became home for a pastiche or two (Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Winnie-the-Pooh, that sort of thing) which I rather liked, although I was in a definite minority.  From time to time I wrote longer pieces which ran better over two days, so Thursdays became a day of all manner of poems, part twos and bits and bobs and, quite frankly, I began to find them a bit of a trial.

For a while I used Thursdays to republish some old, seldom read posts, which I thought merited a second chance (although, in the main, you begged to differ) and then came Covid, and Thursday became the day of The Plague Diaries, which took me right through Lockdown towards the New Normal, during which time I began to run.  I have no idea why.  My ‘Couch to 5k’ diary filled the next few months, and then the problem of what to do with Thursdays returned anew.

I write masses of ‘stuff’ that, for one reason or another (usually another) never gets expanded upon and, as Thursday blogs are, by and large, shorter and looser than other days, it struck me that Thursday could well become a day for some of these pieces.  Some days I write pure nonsense (some?), snippets of rhyme (see top and bottom of this post), bits of script, random conversations – all of which go into a folder labelled Odds and Sods, which I have just renamed Thursday.  You get my drift…

Eventually, another sparkly something will attract my attention and a new theme will, turd-like, bob to the Thursday surface, but until then you have Odds and Sods, and I, like a pioneering prospector armed only with a broken sieve, the wrong shovel and access to quite the wrong river, will pan away, searching for nuggets of gold that I might be able to fruitfully lay before you and, who knows, something that might, one day, lead somewhere else completely…

I wish us all good luck…

A Small Deception at the Vasectomy Clinic**

He smiled at me, lain on the table
And said, “Now this won’t hurt at all.”
Then rammed over 6 foot of needle
Right down my wherewithal

*I heard somebody shouting out for Lawrence from their doorstep late one night.  They could, I suppose have been calling for a stray dog or husband, but something told me it was probably a cat.  I started to think about how much easier cats would be to find, if they didn’t move around so much…

**Personal experience – I can say no more except to add that on the day of my ‘op’ I was prepared and splayed on the table when the surgeon and his (female) assistant entered the room, and the assistant took one look at me and said, ‘Colin?  It is Colin isn’t it?  I haven’t seen you in ages…’  The conversation from that point might be best described as strained and I cannot remember a time of greater relief than when I was able to gather myself together and limp, manfully from the room…

The Haphazardly Poetical – Bury Me – A Slight Return

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

I first published a version of this poem in November of last year. (If you want to read the original, it is here.) It had a long preamble and Calmgrove, whose voice and opinion is always to be respected, felt that I had screwed it up by allowing my ‘sense of mischief’ to cock it up at the end. As usual, he was right – although, to be honest, I think he was being kind; on re-reading it I think I probably let it slip a verse before that. So, I’ve tried again, and this time I’ve swallowed my mischief.

Could be that it doesn’t work at all now, for a whole new raft of reasons. I would be pleased to hear what you think.

Anyway, here it is…

Bury Me
Bury me up in a tree
Where the warming sun can shine on me.
Not by its roots,
Or in its shade,
Nor in the silence that it’s made.

Bury me in the canopy
Where the morning birds can sing to me.
Not at its feet,
In darkened balm,
But ever held within its arms.

Lay me in that skyward place,
Held within its firm embrace.
A silhouette
On dappled skies;
Alone to face the long goodbyes.

Bury me amongst the leaves
Encased within the living wreaths
Where, should I wake
At dawn’s first call,
I won’t be held in deathly pall.

Let me lie, under the sky,
Where I can feel the world pass by,
So, when my mortal
Days are past,
My Earth and I will merge at last.

…it’s the best I’ve got, and I promise that I won’t bother you with it again.

The Haphazardly Poetical – Poems of Love and Indifference: Infamous First Drafts

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

The days have grown long
And the winter is finished
I love you in Spring
Now your rash has diminished.

So, it started when I attempted to write something romantic to put inside a Valentine’s card for my wife. These things seldom go to plan, do they? Anyway, it occurred to me that even the great poets must have suffered the same anguish when attempting to construct the early drafts of their own declarations of love. So, I did a little digging around and this is what I found. Consider, for instance, the difficulties faced by Robert Burns when he first attempted to express his devotion…

A Red, Red Nose
O my Luve is like a red, red nose
That’s newly sprung a leak.
O my Luve is like the melody
That only tone-deaf seek.

So fair thy skin, so red thy lips
So bloodshot is your eye
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
When the bar is all drunk dry.

And O my throat is parched, my dear.
Behold my empty glass.
Just go and fill it up with beer;
Be quick my bonnie lass.

Then fare thee weel, my only luve!
Our farewell stays unspoken,
For I will come again, my luve,
When the barman has awoken.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning attempted to get this sonnet right on so many occasions that, eventually, she began to number them…

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love some things about you, but I might need to think.
I would write them all down, but I can’t spare the ink
And I cannot buy more until somebody pays.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Flossing of teeth and washing of socks.
I could love thee more if you bought me some chocs.
I love thee madly when I wake in a daze.
I love thee the most with the help of some booze
When my vision is blurred and I can’t see your vest.
Though I don’t love the way that thy dentures are loose
And, if I’m quite honest, your skin’s not the best.
I don’t love your pimples and pussy-nosed ooze.
In fact, if I’m honest, I think you’re a pest.

John Keats, also, did not find that his first drafts always went to plan…

You say you love; but with a voice
You say you love; but with a voice
Chaster than a nun in wimple
To God she promises herself
And not some oik with pimples –
Oh love me Julie!

You say you love; but with a sneer
That positively smoulders,
With nought but pure indifference,
For you have two cold shoulders –
Oh love me Julie!

You say you love; but then your lips
Are pursed, clenched tight like mother.
More than ever kissing mine,
You’d sooner kiss my brother –
Oh love me Julie!

You say you love; but then your hand
No pleading cheek doth grazeth
And, in the stead of soft embrace,
Two fingers it doth raiseth –
Oh love me Julie!

Oh sweet insanity of love,
Although your words can injure,
The pain they cause cannot compare –
Your punch is like a Ninja.
Oh, love me Julie!

Even Shakespeare didn’t always get it right first time…

Sonnet 18: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And rattle the hinges of the gate.
Sometimes the clouds of steely grey
Are blown across the skies of blue
And it pisses down the length of day
And that’s when I most think of you.
You are, by nature, full of gloom,
That even sunshine cannot lift:
You fill me with a sense of doom
That even Dairy Milk can’t shift.
Dejected I know I shall be
As long as you are here with me.

But they all persevered and, of course, got it right eventually. I fear I may not do the same…

Roses are red
And delicately scented
I don’t know what I saw in you
Quite frankly, you’re demented.

One thing I learned during the course of writing this piece was that there are some poems you just cannot mess about with. I realised that ‘That I Did Always Love’ (Dickinson); ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’ (Betjeman) and ‘Love’s Philosophy’ (Percy Bysshe Shelley) are all untouchable. That I did not even discover the latter poem until I was researching for this piece, probably tells you all you need to know about me…

With abject apologies to Robert Burns, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Keats and William Shakespeare

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania
Dorothy Parker

 

The Haphazardly Poetical – Finding the Perfect Rhyme for Atrocious

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

I really don’t think it’s a crime,
But I like all my poems to rhyme.
It’s possibly overly formal –
I prefer that my rhythms stay normal.

And then, if I possibly can,
I prefer every stanza to scan.
You may think I’m being effete,
But I quite like a verse with a beat.

I find that it all feels much neater
When the lines are of requisite metre,
For I really do feel it perverse
When there’s no shape or form to the verse.

So, for those who prefer their verse free,
There is no point in looking at me,
But for people who like their rhymes bad,
Stick around then, ‘cos I am your lad.

For K Morris (Poet) and James (Proclaims) with apologies for taking so long…

The Haphazardly Poetical – The Many (More) Sayings of Millie’s Mum

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

As nobody actually denounced me as a clown for publishing a children’s poem a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d give you the second part of it today…

THE MANY (MORE) SAYINGS OF MILLIE’S MUM.

Oops a daisy. Never mind.
It’s all your mess I think you’ll find.
Your bedroom floor is a disgrace.
Wipe that smile from off your face.
Eat your cabbage. Comb your hair.
Don’t do handstands on that chair.
Can you turn that music down?
Millie, please don’t act the clown.
Undo your shoes, don’t slip them off.
Put your hand up when you cough.
You’ve been the same since you were born.
Leave that slug out on the lawn!
Wipe your shoes when you come in.
Do we have to make that din?
Are you sure you’ve washed your hands?
Don’t leave your bag just where it lands.
Walk straight there and come straight back.
You’ll give your dad a heart attack.
Come off there, you’ll break your neck.
You’re making me a nervous wreck.
Keep away, that puddle’s deep.
I love you lots – NOW GO TO SLEEP!

© C McQueen 2019

The Haphazardly Poetical – The Many Sayings of Millie’s Mum

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

I always wrote poetry for my children and now I’m doing the same for my grandchildren. This is a favourite. I’m not sure how this fits in here, but I like it – so you get it…

THE MANY SAYINGS OF MILLIE’S MUM.

Millie, are you getting dressed?
Please don’t make a dreadful mess.
I cleaned your room out yesterday
And tidied all your toys away.

Millie, have you made your bed?
Please just say, don’t shake your head.
Run a hairbrush through your hair
And Millie, please don’t put that there.

Millie, have you cleaned your teeth?
Please remember those beneath
The gaps where other teeth have gone…..
And put the toothpaste lid back on.

Millie, will you wear your hat?
Please don’t look at me like that.
Don’t get jam all down your clothes
And Millie – please don’t pick your nose.

Millie, must you play the fool?
Please don’t make us late for school.
I’m sure you haven’t lost your book…..
It’s on the floor. Why don’t you look?

Millie, must you always be
The last to leave at half past three?
I’m sure your teacher didn’t seek
To see the bruise you got last week.

Millie, is it only you
Who has to look the way you do?
Your socks are down; your blouse askance;
Your dress is tucked up in your pants.

Millie, will you eat your tea?
Please don’t pull that face at me.
If the wind should start to blow
It will stay like that, you know.

Millie, have you had a bath?
Please don’t make your sister laugh,
She’s eating beans – oh, look at that;
She’s coughed them all up on the cat.

Millie, are you in your bed
Or are you in the loo instead?
It’s very strange why this should be
The time you always need a wee.

Millie, will you go to sleep?
Please don’t make a single peep
And don’t get up at crack of dawn.
I need my sleep, I’m feeling drawn.

Millie, are you sleeping yet?
I didn’t mean to wake you, pet.
When you’re asleep, I feel ignored.
So come and talk to me….. I’m bored.

© C McQueen 2019

The Haphazardly Poetical – Bury Me

Poetry
Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash

As a child I was fascinated with the stories of how the yew tree came to be associated with graveyards: the idea of people being buried with a handful of yew seeds as a nod towards resurrection appealed to my sense of morbid fascination. Then I read a book that suggested that through the ages people had been routinely buried whilst still alive. Now, I understand that the past held in its armoury some pretty brutal forms of discipline and punishment, and I’m fairly certain there were people around who would have been only too happy to employ such methods – many of them our very own monarchs for example – but those unfortunates who suffered such a fate must surely have been small in number. Besides, the book claimed that signs of live burial were still being found amongst those buried in the twentieth century, which led me to believe that the majority were probably innocently interred: presumed to be dead at the time of burial. Not a pretty thought, is it? But it also leads to the conclusion that a similar number also woke up as they entered the crematorium furnace – maybe less appetising yet.

For years it haunted me, but as the only solution I could think of involved me being kept above ground until there was absolutely no doubt of my demise, whereupon I would have to be taken off to meet my maker in a series of buckets, I suppressed it. More recently, I have thought of insisting that I be put in my box holding my mobile phone, but I know what the battery life is like. If I awoke with flames licking around my body, only to find that my phone battery had gone, I would be so mad! I fear that my geriatric organs have little value for transplant, certainly it would probably only be a cobbler that would care for my liver, so I do not have even the failsafe of having had my organs harvested pre-bonfire. I’m guessing that there’s little chance of waking up after that. Anyway, I think that was what was on my mind…

Bury Me
Bury me up in a tree
Where the warming sun can shine on me.
Not by its roots,
Or in its shade,
Nor in the silence that it’s made.

Bury me in the canopy
Where the morning birds can sing to me.
Not at its feet,
In darkened balm,
But ever held within its arms.

Lay me in that skyward place,
Held within its firm embrace.
A silhouette
On dappled skies;
Alone to face that long goodbye.

Bury me amongst the leaves
Encased within the living wreaths
Where, should I wake
At dawn’s first bid,
I won’t be under nailed-on lid.

Let me lie, under the sky,
Where I can feel the world pass by,
So, when my mortal
Days are through,
We’ll be together, me and yew.

 

Mea Culpa (A Brief Apology)

sorry

Over the course of the last few weeks, other than corralling myself into meeting my own publishing deadline, I have been a little absent from this platform. The creative (pardon me) juices have been flowing as ever they do, but time has not been on my side. I have not interacted as I should; I have not read the blogs that I would have liked to. Please accept my apologies – normal service is just around the corner.

In case you’re interested (although God knows why you should be) here is what daunted me:

• Part one – what started out as a relatively minor kitchen ‘update’ grew in proportion (and budget) into a full-scale Hollywood ‘re-imagining’ involving heating, plumbing, wiring and flooring. I now have a kitchen in which I know not where to find anything. I dare not ask. That would merely illustrate my lack of engagement during the ‘process’. If I want something – eg the fridge – I have to hang about in the kitchen until my wife wants it too and then memorise the location of its tiny incandescent door-opened glow until the next time…

• Part two of my demi-disconnection was a holiday, designed to follow on from the travails of part one and to allow recovery from them – which actually turned out to be an opportunity to discuss (at length) why part one was, in fact, still on-going.

Anyway, there you have it; my excuse, such as it is: several weeks of toiling all available non-gainful-employment hours, followed by two weeks of finding myself disconnected from most things internet.

I publish three of these things a week, but I do not always write three a week.  Sometimes I write many more, sometimes I write none at all.  The excess bounty of a good week will be stored and dipped into during the fallow periods and, thus, chronology does, on occasion, go out of the window.  What I have published over the last few weeks has been roughly 50/50 newly written/stockpiled from times of plenty, but I sincerely hope that you will not be able to easily tell one from t’other. I have not lacked effort in that respect, but for the rest of it: reading and participating, I have been sadly remiss. I will catch back up over the next few days – hopefully before the next home-improvement schedule kicks me in the nethers – and, in the meantime, I hope you will excuse me a little unscheduled poem:

If ‘sorry’ is the hardest word,
Be sure you don’t demean it:
Mere platitudes will sound absurd,
So, if you say it, mean it.

Thank you for your patience…