School Days

School Days

Sixty years ago, in 1962, somewhere around today’s date, I left my public school – private school – boys’ boarding school and entered the real world as a free man. I was lost. They educated me to be part of a world that no longer existed, the world of walls, and boundaries, of lists and rules, of school reports and chains of authority, older boys > house monitors > prefects > head boy of house > head boy of school > masters > house masters > head master. That great chain of authority was to rule me for the rest of my life.

Lists

This is my clothing list. Six times a year I packed all items into my school trunk, 3 times to go to school and 3 times to go home. Six times a year I unpacked all items from my trunk, 3 times when I arrived at school and 3 times when I arrived home.

Reports

I still have my school reports signed by by teachers, initials only, and my father, full signature. He had to sign so that the teachers could ascertain that yes, he had read my school report and that no, I had not hidden it from him. The report is a disaster story. I look back on some of the comments and wonder what worlds, what different realities, were we living in? One verbal remark, made in class: “Why are you in the sixth form?” “I am going to university, sir.” “The only way you’ll go to university is on a train.”

I sent that gentleman my train ticket, but he didn’t choose to remember the comment, made to a fifteen year old boy.

Scars

I still carry them. So many of us do. Less than most, possibly, for us ne’er do wells and miscreants.

In the beginning was the word, and the word, maybe, may endure. I guess, maybe, one day we’ll find out.

Hair

Hair

Some have it, many don’t.
Some find it floating
one morning on their pillow,
short or long, all gone,
a dream faded in the light of day.

A woman’s crowning glory,
or so they say
yet I admire the bald skull,
its stiff stubble
stubbornly growing back
beneath head scarf or cap.

The lucky ones wear wigs,
often made from
another person’s loss.

The bravest flaunt their baldness,
battle flags their shining skulls,
blazing like badges of glory,
shiny medals awarded
in this never-ending war
against our own fifth column
and the enemy who devours us
from within.

Comment: Yet another of my friends is suffering from cancer. When will it ever end? This is my tribute to all who fight, or who have fought, the enemy within. Meet him head on. Never surrender. D o not give in.

Click here for Roger’s reading of Hair on Anchor.
Hair

Oily-Garcks

Oily-Garcks

And the oily-garcks betrayed the earth.
They drilled it full of holes
until the planet looked like a circle
of Swiss bankers’ cheese floating in space.

Mining, fracking, exploitation, internal combustion,
everything combined to make rainfall rise,
rivers flood, wild winds blow, hurricanes hustle,
lightning strike, again and again,
until forests flared, skies grew dark with cinders,
and land was reduced to water, dust, and even more ash.

The oily-garcks read their bibles and in their pride
they built super-fortunes, super-structures, super-yachts,
modelling those super-yachts, two or three each,
on double or triple the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.

Then they loaded them. They invited, two by two,
their friends, physicians, doctors, opticians, surgeons,
specialists, generalists, nurses, masseurs and masseuses,
body guards, anybody, really, who would keep them alive.
Next came their wives, concubines, girl friends, partners,
and those they loaded, old and new, by the dozen.

Earth warmed and her ice caps melted.
The seven seas rose higher and higher until
there was only one cruel, grey, destructive sea.

The oily-garcks set sail in their arks beneath
dark skies and an even darker future.
They sailed for forty days, forty weeks,
forty months, and then for forty years.

Nothing.

Gaia, raped, mocked, tortured, and destroyed,
had neither given nor promised a rainbow covenant.
No let up in the rains and winds, no supply ships,
no neutral landing sites, no undrowned friends,
no friendly rainbow in the sky to promise peace.

The oily-garks had brought no living food.
Their fridges were stacked with frozen dishes,
caviar, lobster, tenderloins, great wines, fine liqueurs.
They didn’t even bring a dove, just helicopters
launched from helipads that took off, year after year,
in search of the land that had disappeared.
They searched and searched until their fuel ran out.
In all that time, what did they see? They saw the sea.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Oily-garks






May Day

May Day

Mayday, Mayday, S O S,
this is a plea for help, I guess.

Dit-dit-dit- dat-dat-dat,
the world lies dying
and that’s a fact.

Add another dit-dit-dit
and that’s morse code
for we’re in deep shit.
What can we do
to get out of it?

Very little, as I see it,
if the world can’t be
bothered to see it.

Another half country
of forest gone,
right whales diminishing,
they won’t last long.
Rivers flooding,
forests on fire,
what have we done
to earn Gaia’s ire?

Human beings
long-forgotten,
but profits are up,
maybe that’s what’s rotten.
We’re near rock bottom
I would guess.
Mayday, Mayday, SOS,

We’ll soon be gone
our works forgotten.
No more humans,
the world in a mess:
Mayday, Mayday, SOS.


Comment: Well that’s how I see it some days and this is just one of those mournings. Say it in paint, say it in rhyme. Nobody’s listening most of the time.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
May Day

Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs

I remember my mother and father fighting “like cats and dogs” as my grandparents used to say. Now, my grandparents had a cat. It was black and white and striped like a zebra. They called it Spot. My parents had a dog. It was an English Cocker Spaniel, gold in color, and off-spring to a famous sire. They called it  Wimpy but it was by no means a wimp and fought with everything in sight, especially the cat.

So when my father and mother fought and the family cat and dog fought, I thought, quite reasonably in my opinion, that dogs (with their short hair) were male and cats (with their long hair) were female, and that was the reason why they fought like cats and dogs. And “never the twain shall meet” as my grandparents used to say about my mother and father and the cat and the dog. I guess it was too early to learn about the birds and the bees when, young and all too innocent, I was learning about the cats and the dogs.

And of course it’s only natural that the twain should meet. My mother and my father, the cat and the dog, had to meet somewhere, didn’t they? How else would I be here? We weren’t the sort of family that practiced contraception by throwing stones at the storks to keep the babies away. But I could never work out why the cat always had female kittens while the dog had all-male off-spring. That was a bit too much for me, and nobody ever explained anything in those days.

And look, in spite of the differences between them, even cats and dogs can sometimes live together in peace. And opposites can and do attract, don’t they?

Bruised

Bruised

The clematis unfolds its flowers: bruised purple on the porch. Beneath the black and white hammers of ivory keys, old wounds crack open. A flight of feathered notes: this dead heart sacrificed on the lawn. I wash fresh stains from my fingers with the garden hose. The evening stretches out a shadow hand to squeeze my heart like an orange in its skin. Somewhere, the white throat sparrow trills its guillotine of vertical notes. I flap my hands in the air and they float like butterflies, amputated in sunlight’s net. The light fails fast. I hold up shorn stumps of flowers for the night wind to heal and a chickadee chants an afterlife built of spring branches.

Pressed between the pages of my waking dreams: a lingering scent; the death of last year’s delphiniums; the tall tree toppled in the yard; a crab apple flower; a shard of grass as sharp as glass, as brittle as a bitter, furred tongue at winter’s end.

I know for certain that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the dog fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to count the hours as I lay sick in bed. I sense a whimper at the window, the scratch of a paw. I watch a dead leaf settle down in a broken corner and it fills me with sudden silence. Midnight stretches out a long, thin hand and clasps dream-treasures in its tight-clenched fist.

The lone dove of my heart flaps in its trap of barren bone and my world is as small as a pea in a shrunken pod. Or is it a dried and blackened walnut in its wrinkled shell of overheating air? Sunset, last night, was a star-shell failing to fire. Swallows flew their evensong higher and higher, striving for that one last breath lapped from the dying lisp of day. Its last blush rode red on the clouds for no more than a second’s lustrous afterglow.

I lower defunct delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones. Rock becomes putty, malleable in the  moonlight. Midnight readjusts her nocturnal robes and pulls bright stars from a top hat of darkness. Winged insects with human faces dance step by step with circling planets and clutter the owl’s path. Night swallows the swallows and creates more stars. The thin moon hones its cutting edge into an ice-cold blade.

Click here to listen to Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Bruised

Fearful Friday

Fearful Friday

“I met a traveler from an antique land
who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
tell that its sculptor well those passions read
which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
[Percy Bysshe Shelley]

Comment: Not my poem – I only wish it was – but certainly it expresses some of my sentiments at the current time. What on earth is happening? Who do we think we are? What do we think we’re doing? Where do we think we are going? ‘Vanity of vanities – all is vanity.’

Vis brevis. Ars longa.

Click here for Roger’s reading of Shelley’s poem.
Fearful Friday – Ozymandias – on Acorn

Lists

Lists

We all have them somewhere,
we few, we few, we privileged few,
sent away to boarding school
before we even knew what was
tucked away in old school trunks,
or locked away, cobweb-covered,
in the dark recesses of parental minds.

This is my ‘back-to-school’ list.
It contains everything a young boy
needs, or can think of, when leaving home:
shoes, shoe polish, many brushes for shoes,
hair, clothes, teeth… everything: name tags,
shirts, socks, underpants, trousers,
jerseys, ties (of a quiet color),
sheets, pillow cases, hankies,
sports shirts (house and school),
pen, pencils, ink, blotting paper.

So many memories spring out
from this list, so many skeletons
shake their fists, or wag a finger, or wave,
hello, farewell, from that old trunk.

Look: the safety razor to shave
that first hint of hair on a juvenile face.
Bible and prayer book, too,
though I never used them.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor
Lists

Revisionism

Revisionism

Chalk on a blackboard.
Black, red, blue, green markers
on a white board.

Here comes the eraser.
The board is wiped clean,
or almost clean, figures,
letters, blurred, just about
ready for the next class.
This happens again and again.

What remains?
Notes in a student’s book?
Memories of a lesson
in tedious boredom,
the teacher droning on and on.

“Knowledge:
that which passes from my notes
to your notes,
without going through anyone’s head.”

Yesterday’s lessons:
dry dust of a doctoral thesis.

Revisionism:
“What color is the blackboard?”
“Last year, it was green, but
this year, the blackboard is white.”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Revisionism

Reflections

Reflections

What do we really see
when we look in the mirror?
Do we see our real selves
or do we see the sad distortions
of our diminishment?

The Fairground on the Recreation Field
in Swansea used to have a hall of mirrors.
You handed over your three-penny bit,
not the silver one your granny gave you
so you would have good luck always,
then you walk up the wooden stair,
and there you are, staring at yourself.

Fatter, thinner, shorter, taller,
a half-and-half version,
thinner at the top
and so much fatter at the bottom,
like those old Christmas figures
you could flick, but never roll over.
Giggle city: and hysterics ruled.

Or did they?
So sad to think that, back then,
I saw myself as I am now:
forehead larger, fatter one end,
thinner at the other
with shriveled shanks,
wasted muscles.

And the Fairground brain scan?
Well, it didn’t exist. Thank God.
What is there now within my skull?
Just a crackle of old, dead leaves,
a rat-filled attic of dried memories,
a sand-bag of half-forgotten thoughts.

I remember sitting there,
at the Slip on Swansea Sands,
with the summer ending,
thinking about going back to school,
watching the tide creep slowly in,
wondering what life was all about.

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Reflections