In The Gutter

The earthy slime in the gutter
sprouts unshaven clumps of grass
with a ragged mosaic
above its wavering shoreline
left by winter’s headlong flows
with their sour odour  of rubbish bins.
The murky torrent drags along
cigarette butts, bottle tops,
drink cans and sweet wrappers.

Only the urchin matchbox
strains to change its course,
its corners grasping green clumps
to steer its own path and
choose its own port;
fighting its fate while
other captives are defeated
by the relentless tide.

Other riff raff is swept
away to the gutter drain grill
to be scooped up by council staff.
Behind a tall green tuft
the matchbox twirls on
an aberrant eddy then
hooks a sharp corner
around thick stems,
waiting for the sun
to bake its world dry.

First posted 1 April 2016.

In The Gutter

In A Back Room Drawer

Moving house again !
I always say “Last time !”
Then a pragmatic world
sends me off again.

With cartons spread around
I look in the spare room
chest of drawers.
Elderly shirts, trousers, sweatshirts
not yet too old to wear again.
Sewing thread, buttons,
needles and scissors,
fabric ends from the days before
Asian sweat shop clothing,
before fabric and dress
pattern prices soared.

Tucked amongst them
an old brown paper bag
taken from place to place.
In it I find my first pair
of “slip on” shoes
with no straps or laces
to grip my low arched feet.
Bone coloured, my first shoes
not brown or black.
In high school I was
now old enough for them,
a step towards the
high heeled shoes of
early teen craving.

Battered now, their low heels
worn at the outer corners,
relics of an exciting time when
I knew at last I was
moving toward adulthood.

They would come with me.

Originally posted 29 March 2016. 

In A Back Room Drawer

Poemness Of Poetry

The poemness of poetry
is an indescribable thing
analysed and pondered deeply
by academics,students,
by earnest working people
trying to write at nights
or on their days off work.

Laws and judgements
considered or intense
are laid down but
reach no final consensus
on what is or is not poetry.

The poemness of poets
is difficult to describe,
though commonly tried
by poets and by experts
real or self designated.
Is it inner angst ?
Or despairing lovelorn loss?
Is it fascinating detail
in everyday moments ?
Is it times of intense feeling ?
– or just being ?

Word sounds ?  Word lists ?
Word patterns ? Do they make
poetry ? Or clever vocabulary ?
Similes or metaphors ?
How do you express
the nebulous mass
in finite alphabet letters
in finite dictionary words ?

Until the poem has been written
you can not start to tell
which is poem or
who is poet.

First posted 27 March 2016.

Poemness Of Poetry

Moving Day

Moving day, here all too soon.
My job like many has vanished,
only the city now has jobs.
Up at the crack of dawn
I do last minute chores.
The removal men arrive on time
talk of planes flying into
New York towers some hours ago.
Sounds like a movie spectacular !

They and I keep packing,
no radio, TV, or phone,
no papers at the corner shop.
Pothead next door calls over
the fence that New York
was attacked by terrorists !
The pot’s addled him this morning !

Removal men’s time is money which
unemployed people cannot waste.
We drive my chattels to the city,
unload them in the tiny flat.
No phone again !   Ring telco
from my neighbour’s phone.

At last I find a newspaper. Photos
show two towers in New York
built on solid foundations,
billowing clouds of black smoke,
white building dust, flames
blazing from upper windows
singed sheets of paper fluttering.
Reporters tell of planes ramming
into the towers, of people jumping
falling from those high blazing
windows, billowing flames.

My shaky towers of home and
work continue to disintegrate.
I learn new skills in a new job
and now get far less pay.
My new home is older, smaller,
than the home I left behind.
Home networks fall apart,
some reconstitute.

A year later my life was
unrecognisable from
what it used to be.

Originally posted 25 March 2016.

Moving Day

Writing Space

On the comfortable couch
paraphernalia spreads out
beside me and over the
coffee table in front of me.
A lined pad, pens, pencils
paperclips give me
materials to record what
I put into words.
A book spills out doodled
scribbled ideas, internet
prompts, to kick start the
unrhythmic explosions
trying to fire up my brain.
A ring binder clutches drafts,
papers clipped together
for each poem.

My mind seeks out
mature adult thoughts
suitable for poetry –
but surely these are a
matter of perception.
The four year old whose
knees no longer fit under
the handlebars of her
much loved tricycle is
travelling a rite of passage.
The old man whose
formerly active body
has seized up with arthritis
is in a heartfelt life crisis.

I stare out the window
at the fence and next door roofs,
at the changing skyscape
whose clouds mimic
the wafts of ideas
floating across my mind.

Where do I start ?

First posted 22 March 2016.


Writing Space


My regular old age income
from a strict government
sets me free from
fear of unemployment
demands of boss and clients
the need to go to
other towns and countries
for paid employment.

I am free to live in this little flat
and pay its living costs.
I get up when I wake up,
no one is concerned.

I have no car
no glamorous clothes,
no journeys to foreign soil,
three redundancies ended those.
My home is simple
no modern decor or
kitchen accessories.

Yet I feel newly released
sitting with a cup of tea
gazing out at the soft blue sky
at flowers and leaves
waving in the wind
outside my living room window.

First posted 20 March 2016


Retirement Flat

This little flat is my home
now I live on my pension.

Three bedrooms worth of
household contents reduced to
two bedrooms worth for storage
while I worked abroad
my boxes and furniture now
packed in so tightly
it’s hard to squeeze
from room to room.

Square by square
in this Rubik’s cube
I ease contents from boxes
into cupboards and drawers.
The Salvation Army
take the overflow.
I empty bookshelves,
move them again,
return their books
to their shelves.
Daylight comes through
windows as I take boxes
down from sideboards.

I am slowly fitting into
the glove of my flat,
the sleeve of my pension.

First posted 17 March 2016

Retirement Flat

Suddenly Retired

Suddenly I am retired
back in my hometown
after toiling for a living
in other towns
in other countries.

At sixty five my chances ran out.
No other employer would take me on
with referees far away or long gone.
The community expects I will now
live on my pension.

I move into my new home.
Social Welfare give me
forms to fill in to say
I live alone at this address.
They say I will have
a living alone allowance
added to my pension.
They are paying me not to work.

I had always expected
to work part time while
living on the pension.
Now the young unemployed
are hired first.

What will I do ?
It seems only yesterday
that I sat in the library
covering books, gluing labels
fifty years ago.

It’s happened so fast,
what to do now ?
With thirty years to go ?

Originally posted 1 March 2016.

Suddenly Retired

Night Shift

With our company always on call
we were rostered on different shifts
though some did only night shifts.

Some of us died young,
under retiring age.
All those who died within
my ten years there had
only worked night shifts
for at least several years.

Doris had a brain tumour
Enid had stomach cancer
May had lung cancer
Alf had a massive heart attack.
Young Jack was medicated
for seizures. He went to
sleep one night for ever.

Relief workers came in
each time staff attended
yet another funeral.

We all knew those who passed away
had spent so long on night shifts
yet no one questioned it.

I do wonder
are our bodies
chewed up turning
day into night
night into day ?

For some do not survive night shift.

Originally posted 13 March 2016.


Night Shift