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Black & White & Read All Over

by Ian Whiteley

A Poppy In Winter November mists come down in shrouds of grey and folk remember, with their poppies red, the loss of sixteen million war dead and how the guns fell silent on this day. So who are you to deem to have a say on whether I should honour those who bled by crimson colours? – or perhaps, instead, in remembrance there is another way. For I would guess that most of those who died, If they could choose, would say it was their right to be remembered with respected pride and that their children wouldn’t have to fight. “Everlasting Peace!” they may well have cried, “and if you must wear poppies – wear them white”.
A Wee Dram 00:54
A Wee Dram The dancing flames lick gently at the grate, a bottle splashes amber to the glass, soft chimes reminding that the hour is late, aromas drift of peat and harsh deer grass, the smoky mist of morning, with each pass. The glow of bonfires as I gently kiss, letting the rich swelling flavours amass and burn upon my lips, no thoughts but this – “how can something so bitter bring such bliss”. As if in answer, the fire spits a knot, the kettle bursts with steam and deigns to hiss, reminding me that good things can be hot. I close my eyes in winter warmth and bask in age old liquid nurtured from the cask.
A Wound That Never Heals It hurts me when a you shaped hole appears in the cosmos, where there is an absence of colour, where the sound scrapes along, where the light is masked by dense grey mist. That’s where I miss you the most. When it rains a greasy rain, when the cracked bell clangs, when the planets are misaligned. That’s where I miss you the most. When my shadow disappears behind my back, when the alcohol turns the semblance of normality to tears, when I reach for the phone to tell you the news and my hand is stilled by the reality of the reaper. That’s where I miss you the most dear friend. That’s where I miss you the most.
Above The Light Of The Morning Star Pity the dark eyed man who chases sleep. Yet, pity more, the man who finds that realm and dances with his friends, long gone, then wakes to find such loneliness in his heart. A father’s hand laid gently on his shoulder or a mothers kiss to say farewell on leaving. These are the magic lanterns of the ghosts that are their ghosts. No fear here in the dark, nocturnal traps - just longing for their presence once again and knowing that the waking will be cold as a winter’s embrace upon a frozen lake. When the tender touch of sunrise intrudes upon the reveries of sleep they drift away like cobwebs on an insistent, uncaring, breeze. The dead, alive in somnolence that too soon slips from fingers grasping to touch them for a moment longer as they return to their pretty lairs. I have met with demons in this place but go back for the pleasure of spending time again with familiar angels. And when, I too, reside in this land of dreams and drift with those fleeting phantoms, I will wait for you to visit me and take comfort before the light of the morning star.. NOTE: The title is taken from the final line in William Blake’s ‘The Land Of Dreams’ Painting by Svenja Gosen
USMF When the KKK and the Kremlin Are sharing their vodka and rye When redneck white supremecists are making Lady Liberty cry When The land of the free is walled in So pesky Mexicans can’t get by That’s the day the rest of us Watches America die. When the Whitehouse houses a bigot A misogynist ‘locker room’ fly When a multi-billionaire Stands for momma’s apple pie When a name shines on a tower That reaches up to the sky That’s the day the rest of us Watches America die. When a straw thatched Umpa-Lumpa Pedals the conspiracy lie When a tax dodging privileged hypocrite Tells workers he’s their kinda guy When a bully is sitting as president And parents tell their children why That’s the day the rest of us Watches America die Lady Liberty Weeps In a Minnesota precinct On a Minnesota street The day starts like any other For the Baton Rouge elite In the land of the brave In the land of the free A cop with a pistol Shoots liberty A man reaches for a wallet With a target on his back Red white and blue All the patrolman sees is black Where the gun is law The sheriff of the west Has immunity to kill Wearing a star on his chest And this is the country Who sets itself above The rest of the world And preaches peace and love But it can’t control the forces It creates to protect And it can’t control the hatred It chooses to elect Where every stand off Is resolved by the gun And red neck lobbyists Believe the lies they have spun Now in Dallas Texas There are cop killers on the street The day ends like any other The cycle is complete Safety Off The FBI and the CIA got ‘em Good ‘ol boys in the KKK got ‘em Even Doris Day got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe Kids in their daddies cars got ‘em Rednecks in Dallas bars got ‘em Sheriffs with tin stars got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe The white and black and brown got’ em Old folks in mid-west town’s got ‘em Even the Whitehouse clown got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe Clint Eastwood and John Wayne got ‘em The holy and insane got ‘em I’ve heard that Citizen Kane got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe Shopkeepers in their stores got ‘em Vets returning from their wars got ‘em Pimps and two bit whores got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe The Washington Post and Fox got ‘em Randy high school jocks got ‘em Snipers in tower blocks got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe Heroes on TV got ‘em The brave and the free got ‘em Babies on their mamas knees got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe The Waltons and the Brady’s got ‘em The good guys and their ladies got ‘em Tupac and Slim Shady’s got ‘em But it don’t make ‘em safe Every Independence day got ‘em Every bullet that goes astray got ‘em The whole of the USA got ‘em And they’re never gonna be safe
An Unexpected Ghost In The Yorkshire Post She stares out at me from the page of white - all pixels, paper, print and phantom eyes, a child of contrasts under exposed skies dancing somewhere between the dark and light. I recognise the features well, despite the brutal glare of histories disguise. This archive feature caught me by surprise for we are separated by times flight. You are a ghost that flits across the page, disturbs my unsuspecting breakfast read. The spoon stops stirring, knife is laid to rest and for a while I return to an age when you would care and nurture, love and feed your hungry crows before they flew the nest.
Bag O' Bones 01:25
Bag O’ Bones Please let me introduce myself - my name is Billy Jones. You might know me better as that useless bag o’ bones that gets under your feet when you’re staring at your phones, planning all your creature comforts on extortionate pay day loans. Well I was once like you my friend, I haven’t always been alone huddled up in corners where the autumn leaves have blown, I once dreamed the dreams that you dream, I once owned the things you own, but now I’m cold and hungry where the desperate seeds are sown. Well I was married very young to a lovely girl named Joan we lived a life of luxury - if only we had known that just around the corner I would soon be on my own - the bailiffs came to kick us out of the matrimonial home. You pass me with your coffee cups and grimace when I groan, you cannot stand to fight the war that rages in this homeless zone. I’ve lived for months inside this sleeping bag I feel like I’ve been sewn into a grave – without a name. So exits Billy Jones… Bag O’ Bones, Bag O’ Bones Lying in the street without a home. One bitter night from dying here Where all my hopes and dreams were thrown.
Beneath The Watch Tower I watch the man who sits below the oak, his features twisted by the scars of time, a body wrapped inside a velvet cloak of moss, that wasn’t there back in his prime. He played amid the gnawing granite teeth that sprung from grassy gums of evergreen and knew nothing of those who lay beneath, but only those who, with him, danced between. Then one-by-one the dancers went to bed and left the man alone with only dreams - or fears that simple dreams might raise the dead. Pray tell who, in this place, would hear him scream? Dead flowers hang from vases, cracked and dull, their pretty bonnets overgrown with weeds - whose simple aspirations tug and pull to satisfy their parasitic needs. I stand so tall and proud with stony face, a voice left silent since the chimes of war. I want him to be happy in this place - not sad and bitter for what went before. As twilight hides beneath a heavy cowl of darkness, rising bleak above my spire, the hooting of a solitary owl snaps consciousness as taut as any wire. With a world, weary sigh he stands to leave – turning, but once, to look upon my face. I know that with that glance he still believes that I am God and he the Human Race.
Blood Brothers In Arms My uncle Jack nearly died in the battle of the Somme. Crawling from his trench he was the victim of the bomb that threw him in the air and killed his brother, Tom. Deafened by the blast and blinded by the mud he lay upon the battlefield drowning in his blood, praying God would save him as only his God could. But the gods were looking elsewhere and didn’t hear his cry, so it was left to a soldier to go out there and try to save Jack where he lay wounded waiting patiently to die. Jack saw the muddied face and heard the muffled tone and he gripped the gloved hand and with a wrenching moan he was dragged from the shell hole and would not, that day, die alone. Six weeks in the hospital and Jack was on his feet, despite the shrapnel scars he was so eager to meet the soldier who had saved him and thank him for the feat. In walked private Khan with cloth wrapped around his head and the smile that Jack remembered when he thought he was surely dead - and though their skins were different colours their wounds were both bright red. Soldiers died upon the Somme of every race and creed. for Death does not distinguish and War does not take heed of the bigoted fallacy that only white men bleed. So when you see the racists and hear the oft repeated lie that only the English suffered and only the English die - remember that the poppy’s scarlet and then remember why.
breathing in the dusk bonfire permeates failing light on this humid August night midges cloud the air in flight amassing as they dance and bite the ghostly moon yet to rise haunts the pale indigo skies a rook upon a wire cries failing breath as summer dies heavy mist on stubbled corn scarecrow’s jacket ripped and torn path to orchard frayed and worn twilight bleeds across the lawn a bat glides silent from the trees upon a warm uplifting breeze an owl swoops and hopes to seize something in the hedgerow flees we sit and watch the darkness fall until it chokes and smothers all the natterjacks begin to call from the dusk a night will crawl lanterns lit to guide the way back to the cottage veiled in grey leaving midnight to the fey the ending of a summers day
Broken Doll 01:19
Broken Doll Today was much like any other day - I got up early, ate some bread, drank milk from a chipped glass and stared out of the broken window. You let me play with a doll, ragged like the future, and when I got bored you put it back in the cupboard. There were words I didn’t understand - but I already knew that words were lies because you looked away from my eyes when you promised me heaven. I dressed slowly and made sure all the clasps were locked tight. You smiled at me. I smiled back. We both had tears on our cheeks. We set out for the market hand in hand, until there came a moment when you let go and pushed me forward. I passed the old man who owned the meat stall and the woman who sold me dates drifting by them like a ghost. I looked back once, but you were already hurrying away with your head down. So I stumbled on and when the moment came to press the button I was thinking about the doll and wishing the pretty day had not come to this.
Canary Girl 01:19
Canary Girl (Chilwell, July 1st 1918) When she went there her eyes were clear, just seventeen, her skin was fair. She was my love, my Jeanie dear, she wore blue ribbons in her hair of blond, and I could only stare and wonder at her beauty wild. The sweet songbird - my only child. She had a voice that raised good cheer, when Jeanie sang we were aware in chapels (and after a beer), that angel song was not as rare as what my daughter chose to share. We were transfixed, bewitched, beguiled. The sweet songbird - my only child. She handled bombs for just a year, harsh chemicals – which took great care - and always there a nagging fear that woke her often with a scare of letting slip the dread nightmare - a spark that left the shell defiled. The sweet songbird - my only child. When she left there I shed a tear, her hair was green, not for a dare, but that’s what all the girls have here in Chilwell where the very air turns skin a yellow shade – and there she lay among the bodies piled - the sweet songbird - my only child.
Cold Hearted 01:16
Cold Hearted the calming time cotton wool squeak beneath my feet the air crisp with cold crystal palaces cut from ice nose and mouth streaming mist vivid blue sky the lake cupped by mountain hands in a caring gesture frozen feet deep covered with snow the calming time distant voices carried on a biting breeze cheeks frost rouged eyes streaming hot rivulets quiet quiet hauntings in the woods trees weighted with heavy canopies bleached fat bones at worlds end with my love closed eyes remembering steady breathing never forgetting always with me frosted heart her name carved with an ice pick crackling like static where the bone cold ice settles seeps remains Louise - the calming time
Copernicus’ Commentariolus The sun will never rise again, although its early morning stain still paints the heavens with a hue of orange, red and purple. Few will listen to my sad refrain. I studied long, no doubts remain. Though saying so risks Papal chain for claiming this heresy true. The sun will never rise again. Look to the skies and it is plain - Heliocentric theories reign. The earth tilts and we welcome, new, the solar limb – a blazing view of modern and enlightened vein. The sun will never ‘rise’ again.
Craiglockhart (Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous) I kicked over the wheelchair - couldn’t do the simplest task, except the epileptic flailing of my army antimasque. the hissing gas-lamp had me reaching for the mask. You opened up my mind and you didn’t even ask. I’m like a marionette with twisted strings, my limbs are jack-knifing and my inner ear sings of the pain of war and other perverse things. I can’t find the peace a hospital brings. No matter how obedient your soldiers of war, when shells reign down they’ll be shaken to the core, until there comes a time when they can’t take anymore and their minds shut down behind a closed door. You think it might be shock waves, or poison from the shells that’s making me withdraw into this epileptic hell - sometimes you shrug your shoulders - say “we just can’t tell, if it’s lack of moral fibre that’s making him unwell”. Your treatments are barbaric, Persuade, Explain, Suggest - baths, massage, electric shocks are really for the best, when all my mind needs Is aching, morbid rest, and not feeling like a rat in a cataclysmic test. You put me in this chapel you sit me in this chair you give me books to read and feign a sense of care - but one day I will walk from here and people will not stare at the dancing crazy fucker. The Craiglockhart nightmare. Sh-sh-sh shut the fuck up, I think I’m going insane, I’ve got all these bombs going off in my brain. I’m like a rabid dog at the end of it’s chain they’re gonna send me back to the front again. Yes - hey’re gonna send me back to the front again.
Cronos (The Reaper) I wait round corners where the air is still, in darkened alleys wet with winter snow, the places only fools and dreamers go. You will not see me, but will feel my chill on exposed places where the ice will spill and with each prickle you will surely know that, soon, the ancient blizzard wind will blow and bring the reaper with it for the kill. For I am called from somewhere in the past to put an end to all that you have been, a mercy killing for this ancient life. The sinless child is born to us at last, the future cuts its cord with hopeful knife and once more blunts the sharp edge of my scythe.
Death Of A Poet The grey November sky has lost its light, just one more boy has fallen to his death, another lad who won’t survive the fight or pass beyond this final exhaled breath. Though many soldiers leave this war unheard, their stories lost forever, never told, this one will paint us pictures with his words that will not lose their power or grow old. A week beyond that fatal canal dawn a peace is brokered and the guns fall still. In Monkmoor Road a joyful early morn is destroyed and a mothers tears will spill. Outside the bright clanging Armistice bell chimes “Wilfred Owen has a tale to tell”. __________________________________ into Anthem For Doomed Youth What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells, Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, - The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires. What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds
Dexteram Patris. Uncomfortable, seeing him that way, and she, ever supportive, gently touching his arm for reassurance. but there is a failing, something not the same, although in looks we are so similar. The Prodigal returns and sees his father, straight of back and stern of countenance, falling to pieces. The once proud frame - busted and she, as beautiful as always, by his side. This will be you. Like father, like son, like every Odysseus returning home. And when, you too, start to lose stuffing and the world unravels, you will remember them. Mother. Father. The quiet discomfort of not quite right that marks him out as transient. For we are all sitting in our fathers favourite chair.
Domestosterone I’m tougher than a brave marine, in hard-worn battle gear, all decked out in camouflage. There’s nothing that I fear. You may have taken all my mates, but they were old and weak, you’ve never met a foe like me - I’m tough as fucking teak. I laugh at all your vain attempts to seek out and destroy, for when I’m in my element I’m proud that I annoy. I smear myself on surfaces, I hide in subtle bends I know my mere existence disgusts you and offends. You wash your hands and worry that I might survive your war, so you scour and you shower to rid me from every pore - but, just like a true guerrilla, I will choose my time to fight. When you least expect my action I will have you in my sights. You’ve looked for me both far and wide, in every hole and pipe. Despite your best intentions I still evade your subtle wipe - on worktop, chair, toilet seat, sink and windowsill, I am the awesome nought point one that you will never kill.
Excavating Aldgate Tube Station (1876) Underneath the rat infested streets dead bodies were piled high, row on row. Enshrouded in their grimy, night-soiled sheets. - thrown to the devils down below. Dead bodies were piled high, row on row. Plague pits rampant all around Aldgate. Thrown to the waiting devils down below - unmarked graves meant no one knew their fate. Plague pits rampant all around Aldgate - the grave soil settled harder on the pile. Unmarked graves meant no one knew their fate, they were lost and forgotten for a while. The grave soil settled harder on the pile Where centuries later heavy machines scour. They were lost and forgotten for a while, only remembered in this modern hour. Where centuries later heavy machines scour, enshrouded in their grimy night soiled sheets, only remembered in this modern hour underneath the rat infested streets.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia Dearly beloved We are gathered here To denounce Satan In all his guises. But How shall we know him I hear you ask. Well The Book Of Revelations Tells us That he shall be identified by a number And that number is Six hundred and sixty six The number of the beast. A fear of that number is called Hexakosioi Hexekonta Hexaphobia And we have one of our congregation Here today Who is sorely afflicted By that complaint Let us hear his story…… His dog craps in my garden to the sound of metal rock. His kids creep round my greenhouse scrawling balls and giant cock. His wife is bruised and beaten all around the fucking clock. His preferred weapon of choice is to hurt and maim and shock. Home from church on a Sunday, he has a bonfire burning - pitchforking rubber tyres and dead meat that is turning. I whip the washing in quick (You see that I am learning), while he stares over my fence his face a mass of gurning. I swear his head has two horns that protrude like little bumps. His chimney coughs and splutters - a sulphurous cloud it pumps. When he laughs my cats screech loud, and their hair falls out in clumps as shelves and windows rattle and all my best china jumps. Got post for B L Z Bubb waiting to let the cat in - I took it round - he was out Well! Mrs Bubb got chatting he spend hours in the basement when all she hears is scratting and some strange incantations sung in archaic Latin. All hell broke loose last Monday - plagues of locusts were released, I called the cops in anger - for a little while it ceased. I want to sell my semi, so please call to view at least. I live at six, six, seven I’m the neighbour of the Beast.
Home By Christmas I fear I let my feelings rule my head, that you would have no trouble getting leave. You would be home by Christmas as they said. All through the Autumn, sleeping cold in bed, I dreamt of all our marriage would achieve. I fear I let my feelings rule my head. Not since the day that both of us were wed had we missed carols, sung that holy eve. You would be home by Christmas as they said. Yet, as the letters came, all proudly read, your tales of valour soon made me believe. I fear I let my feelings rule my head. Friends home on leave said you had taken lead - only wounded, it hardly tore your sleeve. You would be home by Christmas as they said. The truth was that my husband, dear, was dead - His body boxed and sent back, I could grieve. I fear I let my feelings rule my head, you would be home by Christmas as they said.
I Am The Scarecrow I am the scarecrow. Hanging from this wooden frame, a skeleton of twisted wood that creaks and groans in protest at the ravages of age. The ice cold rain trickles through my straw flesh bringing chills to every movement and dull aches to the knotted joints. I am the scarecrow. My sack-cloth head full of sawdust ideas that spill from slashed wound of a mouth. My eyes stitched tight in myopic views transferred from the sharp point of a lifelong needle. I am the scarecrow. Losing bits of me through tattered clothes bought an age ago, exposing beetle scrabble heart and worm-slither tongue to the daily combatants of snow and rain and sun that weather them pale. I am the scarecrow. Standing here, slumped upon a wooden cross, crucified for the sin of age. I only have a brain that works its traitor thoughts into being young again, into being vital. I am the scarecrow. In a field of summer corn the crows are not afraid for they’ve been here many times and I do not have the heart to scare them any more. I just stand and face the sunset and remember all the days of squawking indignation. I am the scarecrow… am the scarecrow… the scarecrow… scarecrow… crow….
Let Me Sit Beneath An Old Lamp Let me sit beneath an old lamp With its shade tilted at an angle Tracing my finger along rough paper Glowing in a yellow light Lost in worlds of other’s making Drawn from the ebb and flow of words Upon a dim-lit page As evening draws in Closing around my imagination Unthreatening, comforting, Time passing unnaturally Against the ticking clock Smiling, frowning, Being immersed Beneath warm passages Of understanding Inked, arranged, Absorbed Let me sit beneath an old lamp With its shade tilted at an angle Casting shadows On what I think I know Opening doors That do not want to be opened The light creeping into dark places Illuminating, radiating, Singing songs of hope That keep the baying beasts at bay That keep the dripping fangs From innocent throats That means I do not wander God’s green earth Looking for pixel phantoms That are not there On plastic screens Of despair Let me sit beneath an old lamp With its shade tilted at an angle For that is where Creation dwells…
Mama... 01:32
Mama… One staring eye, the other blinks like a beetle crossing a marble. Porcelain face, flushed with rouge and crimson painted lips. Hole in the wall in the boarded up attic of a Victorian townhouse. Long forgotten, until the mortar crumbled around the remains of her dolls. Dresses of lace embroidered by spiders with gossamer threads and sprinkled with dust, decay and corruption deep in the depths of the bricked up wall where she left them. A spinster, no children to call her own, she collected the beautiful, fragile things and kept them locked away. Until the day that consumption called, coughing blood and dying she hid her collection away from the neighbours. Silenced their tongues. Blinded their eyes. Stilled their hearts. The workman steps back startled, confused, as the bone white face stares, blankly, back. For deep in the recess he swears that he hears the rustling of movement and clamouring urgency. Light in the dark. Decades of dark. Playing in silence, alone in the attic, the ghosts of eight children lost to the world. The gurgling chorus that whispers ‘Mama’…
My Black Land (Thaw-Irkhet-if) at last the light the promised light slipping from Osiris’ grip crushed by the wheel of centuries yet this is not the land of the lord of silence this is not the fertile valley this is not the underworld this is the harsh light of an alien world where sacred sarcophagus is rent asunder and remains displayed for voyeurs of the dead my lord the dog head prince has failed his duty to protect my grave dragged from the necropolis here I lie for eternity in the land of the tainted forever banished from the arms of my ancestors here in the place of sacrilege here with artefacts and tomb crime here where the soul drifts aimlessly until the end of time here in my home my ancient home my Kemet my black land
On The Slag Heap Quenching the eternal flame, the furnaces won’t burn again, the northern dragons will lay still - the Government has had its fill. At its heart a molten core that will implode and beat no more. The mill will close, the light will die and in the dark the ghosts will cry. The workers will go home to bed not knowing if their family’s fed or if they will become a number disappearing whilst they slumber. Another industry breathes its last, what once was present becomes past, the mines, the docks and now the steel like butterflies upon a wheel. When the grass has covered all, like graves with bodies in the soil, some day we will look back and say these tired beasts had had their day. But that will be only half a tale - economics made them fail, priced them to a lingering death - squeezed them of their failing breath Yet in the end nobody cared how these aging titans fared they didn’t hear their sad swan song - but they will miss them when they’re gone. ‘Another dog has had its day’, the fawning politicians say - and like a dog they put it down destroying one more northern town.
Redemption 00:52
Redemption The black soul of a sinner, in a numbing amphetamine haze, listens to the screech of bats and considers his end of days. Sitting in the suicide dark in Marion County, Tennessee, he has followed the stumbling ghosts of the Chickamauga Cherokee. He listens to the whispering water tempting him in that cave where he thinks no one will find him to lay flowers on his grave. Yet, something happens to him at the depths of his despair a flame, he will later call God, engulfs his body there and he crawls out of the tunnels into the rapturous light - saved from the darkness and given a cause to fight. Trial and tribulation saved the man in black and led him to redemption in the cave at Nickajack.
Screaming Blue Murder I’m screaming Blue Murder at the state of the nation and how we blame our ills on Muslims and immigration - talking about people as though they’re an infestation. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder at the Banker’s greed and the people on the street who we can’t seem to feed - the way that we trample on sexuality and creed. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder at the whole disheartening mess of the education system, transport and the NHS - and how we’re going to get out of it is anybody’s guess. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder at the neo-Fascist’s rise, about how we’re indoctrinated by Tory owned newspaper lies and the way we look away when an industry dies. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder that the rich are getting more while zero hour contracts are hammering the poor and the way we still find money to support another war I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder at intolerance and hate, about the way you can’t criticise a Persecution State without being dragged into an anti semitic debate. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder for all of the bluster and fuss caused by unsupported facts on the side of a bus - how just one third of the country somehow speak for all of us. I’m screaming Blue Murder. I’m screaming Blue Murder at what this government’s done to the weak and vulnerable, to the poor man and his son - and as they stand accused with their guilt ridden smoking gun I’m screaming Blue Murder My heart is on the left and my blood is red. Austerity doesn’t work, it has to be said. Our ethics and our values are morally dead. I’m screaming Blue Murder
Soothsayer 01:14
SOOTHSAYER Upon the Tiber’s sacred banks, the black grape waters idly lap like wine within a swirling cup, the sleek and bloodied entrails spill between my stiff and shaking hands to roll and coil on sun baked dust. I see a crown of laurels there, all seeped in false and guilty tears, and at its heart a bitter hate, its innards twisted like this lamb. The noblest Roman of them all, gilded now in ragged glory, his breast exposed to countrymen and those, alike, who would betray upon the fated Ides of March. They gather like a pack of wolves a frenzy in their lupine eyes. Crimson betrayal of cowards, dripping and steaming from the blades of silver, glinting Janus knives. His eyes lock wildly on each frenzied face, as gurgling questions stain his august lips before they cascade like opaque glass beads upon white marble, reverberating, rattling across a broken empire.
That Which Autumn Leaves The clowns were funny in the ring, as they joked and tumbled and fell - but in the camp, after the show, they made our young lives hell. Still in their masks of garish paint and drunk on Vodka shots, they cut and bruised and beat us, hatching cruel, twisted plots. I never saw the demons lurking safe behind the masks and who would have suspected them as they went about their tasks? We couldn’t tell our parents, although so great was our need to escape their vile clutches, “Blaming clowns, indeed!” So as they slept in caravans painted in autumn shades, some friends and I crept up on them, our young hearts so afraid. We lit a little fire underneath the sleeping nest and jammed tree branches in the doors. Oh, what a jolly jest. We banged nails in the window frames and waited for the screams when those inside rushed at the door. I hear them in my dreams. They cursed and swore unholy vengeance in strange Romany tongues, as flames and smoke lapped around them and scorched into their lungs The paint on every caravan peeled and bubbled like hell and we swore an oath between us that we would never, ever, tell. We stood at the far side of the field as the garish wagons burned. The shades of autumn lit the sky as one by one we turned. The shrieks in the night sounded like frenzied jesters frying in a three ring circus of the night. The children stopped their crying. The shades of autumn blurred across an unforgiving sky. We even raised the alarm ourselves As we waited for them to die. Our handiwork went undetected, just more ash in the rubble. None of us were suspected then and no one got into trouble - but now my friends have all passed on, as age comes to us all, every autumn I wait for them to come around and call. For every year since that fateful day, as the night sky burns in season of falling leaves and epitaphs, they seem to have a reason to return to that scorched cradle and pitch their caravan in the same spot in that killing field where years ago we ran. I fear them, not for our redemptive past but, because I see the eyes of Paul, Peter, John and Mark and hear their mournful cries spilling from the cracked and crumbled greasepaint faces of each and every ghost that visits me upon that night i dread and fear the most. When autumn visits with the clowns I come to realise, that I stand in the twilight of my life and winter, soon, will rise. The flaming oranges will pass and give way to the white, smudged with the ashes of my guilt and many years of lies. The clowns will wait round corners with their evil, coal-black stare and I will smell them first, the acrid scent of burning hair. In livery of orange and gold they will open the doors wide on their caravan of collected souls - and I will step inside.
The Bayonet In The Shed He put it there in forty nine, in a woodworm riddled drawer, wrapped it in a greasy rag. A remnant from the war. On top of it he laid his medals, nothing more was said until the day my father took the bayonet from the shed. We had pestered many times and he had said ‘perhaps’ when we asked him if he’d killed any Krauts or any Japs. His eyes fixed on something far away, as though searching for the dead, but we found out what we wanted when he took the bayonet from the shed. He was a sergeant major in the hell hole that was Burma, where the Japanese snipers would target you on a murmur. He was proud of the campaign and the boys that he had led but he never ever talked about the bayonet in the shed. He didn’t hate all foreigners and he said the greatest worker that he had ever met in the war was ‘good old Johnny Gurkha’. That being brave wasn’t about killing, he was happy when they fled, then he went down the garden and took the bayonet from the shed. He was gone a short while and when we saw him coming back he was no longer marching proudly along a heroes track. We witnessed the aged warrior return with heavy tread, shoulders slumped in surrender with the bayonet from the shed. He moved the cloth reverently and laid the medals by its side and for the first time in my life we watched as my father cried. We sat with him and looked at it and thought of bodies that had bled after being introduced to the bayonet in the shed.
The Beast Beneath The Beck The beck at Westgate End is full of weeds, its water is a muddy shade of brown, confused ducks die within anaemic weeds as sunken shopping trolleys pull them down. Sometimes you hear a cold slithering splash, as though some ancient creature has slid in to feast upon the centuries of trash. Who knows what evils are contained within? It waits for drunken sops no one will miss - staggering from the Redoubt To The Rock, it lures with an intoxicating kiss that leaves them in a state of wide eyed shock. The beast beneath the Beck has taste for meat and keeps unwary drunkards off the street.
The Collector (Roget’s Soliloquy) In my book…….. Words – so simple in their sound they fall like snowflakes on a lake and interlock their unique form until the water gives way to their power, becoming something bigger, something cold and hard and beautiful. Or a flame, just a spark at first until the kindling catches and the embers jump from twig to dry grass, a blazing range of colour, heat and rage. I sit and sort the snowflakes. I flit among the flames. Words – a vivid fall of leaves that tip from stoic trees their gaudy greens masked in a cascade of amber, rust and bronze. Settling and becoming strong together, simple potency gathering around the trunks of those who only see the basic shapes hanging from branches that clutch to hold them. I harvest autumn hues. I press them between pages. In my book…
Cycle Of The Scarecrow A scarecrow in autumnal sheen thinks of all that he has been. His age old frame begins to lean as bitter winds blow in, so keen. He longs for days of evergreen, so buys back time, wipes the slate clean, gives his soul to the pumpkin queen - the witch who walks at Halloween. The scarecrow dreams of living free He thinks he’s gonna survive The summer sun, the winter snow, He’s never felt so alive. The scarecrow dreams of living free He thinks he’s gonna survive The springtime thaw, the autumn leaves, He’s never felt so alive. A scarecrow in the wax moonlight is snowed upon one winters night and as the crystals, soft, alight he dreams perhaps some day he might take footsteps off into the bright ice world. His skeletal delight some hours later, fat and white with snow-flesh - waiting for coal sight. The scarecrow dreams of leaving home He thinks he’s gonna survive The summer sun, the winter snow, He’s never felt so alive. The scarecrow dreams of leaving home He thinks he’s gonna survive The springtime thaw, the autumn leaves, He’s never felt so alive. A scarecrow in a cutting rain watches his slush slide down the drain and as it leaves, he feels the pain as bones of wood protrude and drain. Weak sunlight sows the sleeping grain as he is called upon, again, to stand guard over crops – attain dominance over winters stain. The scarecrow dreams of working hard He thinks he’s gonna survive The summer sun, the winter snow, He’s never felt so alive. The scarecrow dreams of working hard He thinks he’s gonna survive The springtime thaw, the autumn leaves, He’s never felt so alive. A scarecrow dries in summer sun knowing that, once more, he’s won the right of those, which he is one, to face the crows of Albion. Then as the solstice webs are spun and shadows lengthen, day is done – he knows that he cannot outrun what summers beetles have begun. The scarecrow dreams of dying now He’s not so sure he’ll survive The summer sun, the winter snow, He’s never felt less alive. The scarecrow dreams of dying now He’s not so sure he’ll survive The springtime thaw, the autumn leaves, He’s never felt less alive. A scarecrow in autumnal sheen thinks of all that he has been. His age old frame begins to lean as bitter winds blow in, so keen. He longs for days of evergreen, so buys back time, wipes the slate clean, gives his soul to the pumpkin queen - the witch who walks at Halloween.
The Devil Don’t Own Me He may have saluted the corrupted cross In Hitler’s Germany, or whispered to Judas Iscariot, hanging from a tree, he could have pulled the trigger finger back in nineteen sixty three, he may own the soul of rock and roll but the Devil don’t own me. He may pollute the air we breath or the raging, deep blue, sea. He may breath on polar ice caps on his subtle killing spree. He may steal food from starving children or the hope from you and me, he may arm the fights of acolytes but the Devil don’t own me. He may own the greedy bankers and the false economy, the fascist newspaper owners in the lands of liberty, he may own the cops and robbers, he may strive to set them free from the laws they place upon us - but the Devil don’t own me He was at the witches coven, looking for his fee, when the British Government compacted with the DUP. He locked their morals in blood and threw away the key. The devil owns the country but the devil don’t own me. He may own the halls of government and the sly, dark powers that be, the state run institutions, he may own the state TV, he may control what we hear, he may control what we see, the Devil may be media savvy but the devil don’t own me. He owned the Milk Snatcher and the Grey Man forking peas, the Jolly Sailor Boy and the Bullingdon Club bullies. He was in the wrong line at Orgreave urging on the young PC’s. Yes the Devil sides with devils but the Devil don’t own me
The Walkin’ Man Serendipity Spangle was a walkin’ man - of that, there is no doubt, he walked across great continents and was seen round here about. With his low slung jeans and guitar, he had no need for fancy suits, he just roamed the great blue yonder in his worn down cowboy boots . Those who were there at his birth cross their hearts and tell no lies - they say he came into this world singing and walked straight from his mammas thighs out into the dustbowl road out there where he promptly disappeared into the heart of America and was folk and country reared. He walked the fields of Gettysburg, dried the tears of the crying. He strolled the trenches of the Somme and comforted the dying. He raised the flag at Iwo Jima, hung his head at Nagasaki, stirred the spirit in Vietnam - his heart is red and khaki. He’s been around a long, long time and many times he’s died, but he walks into the valley of the shadow of death and comes out the other side with a pale horse trailing behind him, riderless and out of breath, Serendipity Spangle always wins the wrestle with Death. For the poor, the weak, the hopeless - he will pacify the soul, the depressed, the hurt, the dispossessed - chew it up and swallow it whole. With his raging songs of freedom, you will hear the old folk talk, of the time that Serendipity Spangle stopped by on his long walk. You hear his footsteps echoing along these highways of dust when Bob or Bruce or Pete Seeger ask you to place your trust in poetry and a guitar and a minstrel of the road. Serendipity Spangle will help you carry your heavy load. A lonely figure steps out and walks into the moon at the top of a country road, whistling a mournful tune. When the sun rises tomorrow his footsteps will have blown away on a warm and soothing prairie breeze. Walkin’ into another day.
The Weeping Angel She passed this way and tended to our pain, stayed by our beds and whispered in our ears, administered our wounds and eased our fears - telling us that we would be home again. Once, in her hands, I saw pendant and chain, I will remember that for many years, an angel weeping solitary tears that made me think of the oncoming rain. She sent it to her sister days before the hospital was shelled and her fate sealed. She was gentle, but never weak or frail, a young life ended by this pointless War. Remember Nellie Spindler from Wakefield - the only woman killed at Passchendaele Nellie Spindler (10th August 1891 – 21st August 1917) Nellie was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery with full military honours the following day. The Last Post was sounded and it is believed that over one hundred officers, four generals and the Surgeon-General attended the funeral. She is the only woman amongst over 10,000 men to be buried at the cemetery.
The Westgate Run. Upon the Merrie Cities oldest street when twilight creeps across the Yorkshire sky, traditionally friends and strangers meet and let the velvet darkness pass them by. In pictures from a dim and distant past, as gaslight spilled from heavy shadowed doors, to neon tinted bars of Friday last the sound of liquid laughter gently pours. At seven, sharp, we meet in the Redoubt, it’s crooked rooms are full of chiming talk. then on to face our Waterloo and stout as black as coal, to help us on our walk. The White Hart next and sawdust ghosts afoot, stiff, wooden chairs that creak like age old men. A chimney spills authentic, ancient soot that trails away in footsteps way back when. Where Wagon and Horses were tethered tight we drink and watch the youngsters on the baize - full heads of hair and eyes a shiny bright, no blood shot orbs and salt and pepper greys. The Smiths Arms draws us to a blazing fire that warms us from the hearth of cosy rooms until we leave to climb towards the spire, our breath explodes in will o’ the wisp plumes. The Swan With Two Necks, changed yet one more time, its stained glass windows gazing at the mill forever etched against a sky in grime - though long gone you can see its outline still. Henry Boons is next with its straw thatched bar where trendy student ambience abounds. The walls are permeated with a tar of funky, grungy, rocky, poppy sounds. Under the railway bridge and cross the road, the red bricked Elephant & Castle looms, a place where time has permanently slowed and memories are cobwebbed in the rooms. Finally, back across the road to find the Black Horse on the corner of my dreams of a dim and distant past I left behind supported from its old, oak timbered beams. Perhaps these cobbled streets hold no surprise to those who visit here upon a chance - but living all my life beneath these skies I hear the music, soft beneath the dance. A century or more of stumbling feet have traced this path from St. Micks to the Rock. Good spirits open wide the doors to greet the revellers of Wakefield when they knock.
There Are No Angels Here Scraping around the vipers nest, flaming swords and thrusting spear, black spiders scuttle to the feast but there are no angels here. The dragon crawls into their veins, hallucinogenic ecstasy or fear. The demon bares his fangs to bite and still there are no angels here. The first-born rounded up and caged, harvesting the mothers tear, the innocents are slaughtered. Yes, there are no angels here. No Seraphim, no Nephilim, no Archangel seen far or near - God’s army keep their powder dry. There are no avenging angels here. The dead will rise in Babylon, false prophets will snipe and sneer, the doubters branded heretics. There are no longer angels here. Tangled up in their own strings the puppets and the puppeteer. God is dead and Satan lives because there are no angels here. The fool sits in the house of white, Apocalyptic portents appear. Despite claiming the hand of God there were never any angels here.
Twelfth Night Pining with your sisters in every other garden. Lying used and violated next to the shed. Tinsel traces like expensive jewellery draped from your denuded, coat-hanger, limbs. Ribs of dry twigs poke from your green dress. Ripped and torn by seasons greetings. Where once your heart beat fast and true there now rattles the hollow scratch of beetles. Frost will melt and drip from your bauble eyes. Winter tears of deep regret. Forsaken by angels, bereft of light, you gently settle into shadows. When summer comes you will be found like a draft of chilled air breaking from the ground. And we will think of December.
Under August Skies We sat around the table Mam but none of us got fed, for the Corn Law has been biting and we don’t have any bread. The mill wheels have stopped turning, so we haven’t any jobs and we’re under-represented by the parliamentary nobs. So we gathered in the field Mam, with our banners and our flags, and the soldiers sat in lines with their brightly coloured nags. We were organised but unarmed and adamant we would not yield as we marched in peaceful protest arm in arm to St Peter’s Field. There were tens of thousands there Mam under baking August heat - and when Mr Hunt got up to speak we all jumped up to our feet and a huge roar went around the crowd as everybody cheered - but that was just the signal that the local magistrate feared. He called up the Hussars Mam and sent them in so we’d disperse and the air was filled with shrieks Mam and I don’t know what was worse - the slashing sabres on our backs, or the blood that soaked the ground, or the groans of all the wounded, or the chaos all around. There were soldiers in the field Mam and they all had swords and guns and they hacked their way through daughters and they hacked their way through sons, they hacked their way through husbands and they hacked their way through wives and they didn’t care a jot for the loss of poor folk’s lives. Sorry I didn’t come home Mam but I’m lying next to John, trampled by the horses, but now the horses have all gone. There are fifteen other mothers who will grieve the same as you over this bloody mess in Manchester. Pray for the dead of Peterloo.
War Boys 01:46
War Boys “YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU” We’re going to war boys, we’re going to war, Lord Kitchener asked us so we formed a corps. Joe and Jack from the factory, Ted and Jim from the farm, the recruiting sergeant assures us that there’s little chance of harm. We’re part of the great pals army and we’ve fallen for his charm as we march away to war. We’re in the war boys, we’re in the war, we think we were lied to but we’re not too sure. Bullets are flying everywhere some of them get quite near, our cocky, jaunty demeanour is now riddled through with fear. Our pals are dying everywhere and there’s no time to shed a tear as we fight this blooming war. We’re sick of the war boys, we’re sick of the war, we’ve had enough of it, can’t take any more. I’ve seen friends explode in pieces, I’ve seen bone and guts and blood, and everywhere we march there’s this terrible fucking mud and when a shell flies by you you’re just praying it’s a dud. We’re so sick of this war. I’m home from war boys, I’m home from war, just me on my own, boys, from a hundred and four. They died like cattle in the field, cut down by bayonet and shell, sucked into the earth like they were journeying to hell. All my friends died horribly, only I was left to tell of the boys who went to war. I’m still in the war boys, I’m still in the war, I talk to friends who were with me before. I see their muddy faces, I hear their mournful boasts, buried under Flanders fields so they can’t desert their posts. I’m no longer with the living I’m just drifting with the ghosts of the boys who went to war.
Windsor Street No bunting flutters in the breeze, no boys and girls, dressed up so neat, with not a scratch upon their knees. There are no flags on Windsor Street. There are no parties in the yard, the sandwiches will hold no meat. They will send no greetings card ‘from the residents of Windsor Street’. There are no beds of scented flowers, there are no open arms to greet crumpled masses who spend their hours hunched in corners on Windsor Street. There are no canapés or quince or any kind of special treat - just calory saturated fats since the jobs were lost on Windsor Street. So when the bride comes down the aisle platitudes thrown under her feet the folk will try to raise a smile at injustice wrought on Windsor Street. The cheering crowds will sing their praise, choreographed to match the beat of marching bands on sunny days that won’t pierce the shadows on Windsor Street. When the happy couple go to bed and lay beneath their privileged sheet not a single thought enters their heads of the lost souls drifting on Windsor Street. Little England has it’s sideshow celebrities they’ll never meet - while resentment will flourish and grow in humble abodes on Windsor Street.


A Collection Of Poems


released January 1, 2019

All Words: Ian Whiteley - except 'Anthem For Doomed Youth (Wilfred Owen)
Produced by John Kettle at Music Projects (Wigan)


all rights reserved


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