It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again after they said no,
it starts when you say we and know who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.

Marge Piercy

Monday, 14 December 2015 23:23

from Coventry Blue

Written by
in Poetry

from 1.

They say that true blue means to stay fast and true
However antediluvian the view –
It’s those who don’t waver: Covenanters,
Conservatives, and all other Naysayers;

The phrase was rinsed from another phrase,
As many are, wrung through human gaze,
Then pressed in the mangle of the rolling tongue:
“As true as Coventry Blue” – and John Ray’s

Compleat English Proverbs traced its root
To a cloth whose fibres were so resolute
That it lost none of its colour when washed,
As stubborn as obstructed blood going bruit…

from 3.

The rich sup ripe apples while the pipped peasants
Are chucked sour cores of antidepressants
To sharpen up penury-depleted spirits –
Or prodded with shocks of Protestant Ethics…

from 5.

We’re hurtling back to the Thirties today
In our Eton Blue Twenty-First Century –
Our leaders once more cut from public school cloths,
Abetted by Liberal buff-coloured moths;

Those shop steward days of woodbines and roses,
Of scholarship Harolds, Teds, Jameses –oases
Of opportunity for more life-shaped opinions
Cropped amid landscapes of palmed nepotisms;

Empirical pools slowly emptied to glimmerings
Of once-greening gains, while privileged springs
Gush back with blue vengeance –in hindsight, a mirage,
That gentler interregnum of grammar and marge

And lowering rungs, when Meritocracy’s rise
Was more than just a glint in Michael Young’s eyes,
But already rooting, up until it was nipped
In its proleptic bud when the Milk Snatcher quipped

She’d “banish the dark, divisive clouds of Marxist
Socialism” –as she did, promptly replacing it
With the dark, divisive clouds of private avarice,
Of property-worship and acquisitiveness,

Pub-emptying pulls for blue collars, carrots
And sticks: Right-to-Buys and Buy-to-Lets;
(Young Junior mapped –while his father was napping–
Playgrounds that trapped the sound of no hands clapping)…

from 8.

Now was ushered in an age of sky-blue grace
When, for three decades, that purple trace
Rinsed fainter and fainter, and pale blue
Pelicans occupied polemical space,

Richly instructive but cheaply priced
At sixpence a pinch, pocket-sized
Portable paperbacks: reimbursement
In trickledown tri-band bouleversement;

Blue-and-white titles to the put-upon
Proletariat, now lifted up on
Pinions of social philosophy
Purchased and trousered philanthropy –

Ripe pickings for black-nailed autodidacts,
The real life Jude Fawleys, Frank Owens, bracts
Of the artisan class whose sepals support
The mortarboard petals of the middling sort,

But whose own thirst for didactic succour,
So long neglected as wrinkle and pucker
In cloth cut for donkey work, multiplied
To corduroyed ridges that couldn’t be dyed

In the usual adulterated yellow-rinse
Of sports colours, gossip, prurience
Scooped up by Grub Street’s bowdlerising hacks
With racing tips feathering their bowler-hats;

This corduroy was no newfangled fabric,
It was an ancient cloth of an authentic
Shade gained with age, and its’ furrowed textures
Demanded nourishment, a cut of ploughshares –

So it fell to red hearts of the better-heeled
To redistribute to them belated bond yields:
Books in sky-blue for workers downed tools
To browse as they put up their feet slipped in mules;

Each in its striped livery, colour-coded
By subject: dark blue for biographies, red
For drama, sky-blue for social sciences,
Cerise for travel, purple for belles-lettres,

And those sea-green intrigues (less encouraged),
Crime fiction a cut above colportage
Potboilers –common folk’s cultural cures,
Wholesome brown stouts of yeasty literatures…

from 9.

Coventry Blue – so resolute, so true
‘To itself and always the same’, through and through,
Impermeable, inscrutable blue,
Ineluctable Baron of British rubes;

Our island race prizes above anything
The right to self-determination,
The right to be told to “do the right thing”,
The right to take flight on just the right wing;

The right to be ruled by those who know best
What is and is not “in the national interest”;
The right to have opinions spoon fed to us
By red-top parrots with blue-torch crests;

The right to worship at the planted feet
Of the elephant god of property –
Ganesha of buy-to-letting agencies;
The right to fleece tenants through legalese;

The right to buy up unlimited empties;
The right to deny others’ rights to tenancies:
‘No smokers. No children. No Chavs. No pets.
No unemployed mothers. No benefits’;

The right to earn livings to cover the rent
For castles which we’ve no entitlement
To enter; the right to elective enslavement,
Grey subservience we revel in: employment;

Britons may ‘never, never, never… be slaves’
But will ever be servants; reives of grey waves;
Our green island salvage is a gem of mildew
In a sea not of silver but Coventry Blue….. 

The full text of the poem ‘Coventry Blue’ will be included in Alan Morrison’s poetry collection, 'Tan Raptures', which will be published by Smokestack Books in February 2017.

Monday, 14 December 2015 23:08

Two Poems by Owen Gallagher

Written by
in Poetry

The Accumulation of Capital

Marx and Engels almost drained this bar in Soho,
finishing ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’.
Thirsting for another round, I consider pickpockets,
not the ones working streets and malls,
or those in pulpits pilfering what’s left in minds,
but the one kitted out like a toff,
currently lifting my friend’s wallet. I ram
the full force of justice behind his knees
and haul him to his feet, lecture him, mercilessly,
on the nature of Capitalism, how it encourages thieves.

First published in the Morning Star

I Saw A New World Being Assembled

In the tenements
    there were workers
who built dreams for others,

singers who got drunk
    on rebel songs,
fighters who fought

for themselves
    in the workplace
and lost every round.

All were in revolt
    against their masters
one way or another.

I saw a new world
    being assembled
in a sweatshop, dreamers,

singers, fighters, unfurled
    a union flag, voices
were bolted and welded into one.

From Militant Thistles, militantthistles.moonfruit.com

´╗┐Muslims Say Sorry! The poetry of Amir Darwish
Monday, 14 December 2015 22:48

´╗┐Muslims Say Sorry! The poetry of Amir Darwish

Written by
in Poetry

Wars rage in the Middle East. The US and its allies pursue their policies of economic and military aggression, regime change, and the deliberate fomenting of chaos, instability and hardship. Refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants are forced to flee, towards the richer countries of Europe, whose wealth has been built on the imperialist exploitation of the rest of the world. There they are met by steel fences, police with dogs, endless paperwork, squabbling politicians and suspicious populations. Random atrocities are committed against civilians, on the ground and in the air, in Paris, Damascus, Jerusalem and Beirut.

That is the world in which we are living, and it is a world familiar to Amir Darwish. Amir was born in Syria in 1979 and came to the UK during the second Gulf War. His poetry has been published in the USA, Pakistan, Finland, Morocco and Mexico.

His recent book of poetry, 'Don’t Forget the Couscous' is in the words of the publisher, 'a book of poetry about exile and home. It is a love-song to the Arab world – Syria, Kurdistan, Morocco and Palestine. It is a memoir of the failed Arab Spring and the civil war that has turned Syria into a ‘fountain of blood’, as Darwish puts it in one of the poems. It’s a bitter account of the demonization of Islam in the West, and the violent interference of the West in the Islamic world. It is about being a Muslim and not a terrorist.'

Here are some poems from the collection, showing Darwish's poetic skills as a light, musical lyricist; as an honest, informative and insightful political commentator; and as a skilled ironist and satirist, capable of both sharpness and warmth.

An apology from Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) to humanity

We are sorry for everything
That we have caused humanity to suffer from.
Sorry for algebra and the letter X.
Sorry for all the words we throw at you;
Amber, candy, chemistry, cotton, giraffe, hazard,
Jar, jasmine, jumper, lemon, lime, lilac,
Oranges, sofa, scarlet, spinach,
Talisman, tangerine, tariff, traffic, tulips,
Mattress (yes, mattress) and the massage you enjoy on it:
We are sorry for all of these.
Sorry that we replaced alcohol with coffee for Enlightenment philosophers.
Speaking of hot drinks,
We are sorry for the cappuccino the Turks brought over.
Sorry for the black Arabian race horses,
For the clock,

Abdul in the US is sorry for what so and so did;
He does not know him but he is sorry anyway.
Sorry that we accompanied Columbus on his journey to the States.
And sorry for the Arab man with him
Who was the first to touch the shore and shout ‘Honolulu’
And named the place after him.
Sorry for the architecture in Spain and the Al Hambra palace there.
We apologise for churches in Seville
With their stars of David at the top that we built with our hands.
We say sorry for every number you use in your daily life from the 0 to the trillion.
Even Adnan the Yezidi (mistaken for a Muslim)
Is sorry for the actions of Abu whatever who beheads people in Syria.
Sorry for the mercury chloride that heals wounds,
Please give us some –
Because the guilt of initiating all of the above
Gives us a wound as big as this earth.
Sorry for the guitar that was played by Moriscos in Spain
To ease their pain when they were kicked out of their homes.
Sorry for the hookah as you suck on its lips
And gaze into the moon hearing the Arabian Nay.
Sorry for cryptanalysis and the ability to analyse information systems,
To think what is the heart of the heart of the heart and bring it to the world.
Sorry for painting Grenada white to evade social hierarchy.
Sorry for the stories inThe Arabian Nights.

Every time we see a star, we remember to be sorry for Astronomy,
We are sorry that Mo Farah claimed asylum here
And went to become the British champion of the world.
Sorry for non-representational art,
Pattern and surface decoration.
We are sorry for all the food we brought over:
From tuna to chicken tikka masala,
Doner kebab
Right up to the shawarma roll.
And don’t forget the couscous.

If we forget to apologise for something, never mind,
We are sorry for it without even knowing it.
Most of all we are sorry for Rumi’s love poems,
And we desperately echo one of them to you:

Oh Beloved,
Take me.
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and
Release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
Let that fire burn me from inside.
Oh Beloved,
Take away what I want.
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
That takes me away from you.

Please forgive us.
We are sorry and cannot be sorry enough today.


Palestine is a rose that rose
To refresh the air as it enters the nose.

There must be a light at the end of this tunnel

There must be a light at the end of this tunnel
At a point where
So many eyes look into darkness
Cut through a bone and
Shine it.

There will be a creature there
A strange one
With no hands
No lips
No arms
No ears
No body
And only eyes
Eyes and soul.

That being will find a light from within you
And strike it out to the world.

Over there
In that place
The river of sadness dries
Melancholy waves hush and
The Sorrow garden
Reflects an Arabian desert moonlight
Shining the universe.

You sit with your hand back and forth
Playing the water of a Damascus fountain.

I interviewed Amir about his past, his poetics and his politics. Amir asked me to make it clear that he is not speaking on behalf of all poets, nor does he intend offer advice to others on what to think or write. His views are his and his alone.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself to start with, please?

I am a British/Syrian poet of Kurdish origin, born in Aleppo in 1979, and I came to the UK in 2003. I started writing at the age of 16 or 17. My poetry has now been published in the USA, Pakistan, Finland, Morocco and Mexico and in the anthology Break-Out. I recently completed an MA in International Studies at the University of Durham, and prior to that I gained a BA in history from Teesside University.

The book you've chosen the poems from, 'Don't Forget The Couscous' is a collection of poetry about exile and home, love and loss. My next book will be an autobiographical work, 'From Aleppo Without Love', touching on themes of pain and agony felt by myself and my sisters, Shaza, Rana and Layla.

Can you tell us something about your approach to writing, about why and how you write?

As a child and as a teenager, I experienced oppression both in the private and public spheres. I was both a subject and witness to violent acts for several years, and those memories have inspired my writing. My writing has become an outlet, to channel some awful experiences and redeem their pain.

Inspirational moments, for me, often arrive while on a journey. At stations and airports, poems are born, and then later on rise and mature, in quietness. The first stage of the process, the poem's conception, is more important than the second. I am constantly ready with pen, paper, phone and laptop, to put down words and thoughts when on the road. I am a writer who starts big and then goes small, small, small until the word is loud and clear. Nonetheless, the increase and decrease of thoughts is sometimes done as an experiment. Clarity, a sense of simplicity, and fluency are continuous aims.

How do you find living in Britain, on Teeside?

Living on Teesside gave me a good start on the poetry road here in England. The poetry scene is lively and dynamic, with new faces often coming to light. Particularly through the MA Creative Writing course at Teesside University, led by two local poets, Andy Willoughby and Bob Beagrie.

I appreciate what Britain offers in terms of safety, shelter and an atmosphere to write fearlessly. These aspects are particularly relevant to my next work, “From Aleppo without Love” which is scheduled for publication in 2017. Not many places on earth are available to write such work bravely and feel safe. Britain is one.

Can you give us your thoughts on the current refugee crisis, and the troubles in Syria and the Middle East?

A poet is not a politician for sure, but more someone who can guide public opinion so that politicians are directed onto certain paths. When a poet tries to become a politician, there is a danger for him/her of restricting the imaginative self to intellectual certainties. Nothing kills creativity at the cradle more than adherence to one sole, specific view. As a poet, I try to stay free of specific political thought as much as possible, like a bird who visits nests but never resides forever in one of them. Not sure if I do that successfully! I do perhaps still exhibit partisan views, like everyone I have certain biases.

As for what goes on now in the region, I still feel traumatised by what went on, what goes on now and what might happen next. I don't have the ability to take up a pen and write properly on recent events. Maybe the next generation can. Possibly that is why some of my attempts to write poems about the refugee crisis are weak, powerless and tend to fail as poems. Humanity, and here I mean worldwide not specific governments or locations, will need to examine itself after such a crisis. The current Syrian refugee crisis is the largest since WWII, who would have thought the world would see such a massive refugee crisis?

What other poets do you admire, and would recommend to our readers?

Humanist poets in the Middle East are now necessary more than ever. The Syrian poet Adunis is a great example, tightly embracing the humanist ideal when the Arab Spring/revelation/uprising/ unrest (or whatever you prefer to call it) started. For an intellectual from the region to hold such views is not an easy task. Adunis consistently provokes us away from the thought of taking sides, whether that's Arab nationalism or another system of thought. The Middle East needs more poets like Adunis and wise words like these:

Do you remember how I followed that war? And how once I turned to time and said,
'If you had two ears to listen with
You too would have walked the universe, deluded and dishevelled,
no beginning to your end'

The second poet and writer who comes to mind instantly is Muhammed Shukri. Moroccan and of Berber origin, Shukri's writing breaks down social barriers that are put into place to hide the unknown. That 'unknown' is at the heart of what goes on now in the Middle East. Shukri speaks about Arab society with micro details. He does it with openness, frankness and insight into the 'how' and the 'why'. After all, rulers of the Middle East come from the region’s social fabric, not from Mars.

For Shukri to give us such a detailed vision is a luxury. Unfortunately, he is yet to find adequate echo from other writers in the region, and yet to be given the status he deserves. That is possibly due to the culture of shame, which still shackles the process of liberation in the Arab world.

Thanks very much, Amir. Which poem from your collection would you like us to end with?

I would like you all to read and enjoy 'It's All About Love'. And thank you very much!

It's All About Love

Be grateful for everything written about love
From the first ink humanity slaughtered in Syria

To this very last exact word right now on this page: LOVE.

Love is a misbaha:

Full of beads
Cut loose on the world
To drown lovers up to their ears
Leaving only the brain
To think of love.

Love like a red wall in the Al Hambra

Blushes when you enter.

It is an Andalusian hammam

A scar left for ever on the face of Granada.

Love is a palm tree in Fes

Taaaalllllll with a nest at its top
Grass on grass assembled by lovebirds.

Love is a poem you perfect for months

And like an ardent and sexually demanding young lover
Always wants more of you.

So follow the fine line of the curve

Then rest your head in deep sleep.

Love is a tear

About to explode
In the middle of an eye.

It’s a Barkouk with wrinkles.

The squeeze let its remnants come out of the fist
The way runny butter does.

Love rises with every virgin who keeps herself intact only for one.

Love is a pair of naked lovers in a pickle jar

Twisted on one another and promising to stay this way forever.

And this life must go on to have more of love

Be in and out of it,
Fall for it,
Around it,
Because of it.


One refuses to call love it
Or he,
Or she,
Or they,
Love is different.
It is a ferry crossing between lovers’ eyes.
It’s in trees,

It’s an ember as lovers embrace

By a fire in the Atlas mountains.

And as the story goes in The Arabian Nights:

Love becomes a red rose that jumps into the Nazareth palace
And gives it colour
While lovers sent to the moon kissing
Stay there forever.

Love gives itself to everyone

But since Eve’s arrival
What it gave so far nothing but this:.................

Love is a religion

So follow its scripture
Make love at certain times a day
On Friday,
Or Sunday,

Or even make your own new holy day and call it:

Love is a wave between Tangier and the sweetheart’s eyes
Daily it sails between the two.

Or maybe love is a stream of milk between a nipple
And the world to feed it tranquillity.

Love has one flavour

One colour
And no country.
Its inhabitants are everything that moves
including this pen as it writes.

It’s even in the sand clock that appears in a pupil,
Dropping endlessly as you watch it nonstop.

Love is the three quarters of the earth
Which is water,
You swallow it all

And your stomach can contain more if that is what love wants.

Love is a high mountain shadow

It appears and disappears on your lover’s back nightly
As he rises up and down in the act of making love.

Love is pure and never mixes itself with hate,

Yet it is part of it
The way an oil-slick moves in the sea.

Love is beautiful
So beautiful

That when you see it
You fall into a love-coma.

Love is the best form of government that political philosophy can offer

Where you have no duty but one:
To make love.

Thanks to Amir Darwish, and thanks to his publisher Smokestack Books for permission to publish the poems.
The poems are taken from Don't Forget the Couscous, by Amir Darwish, Smokestack Books, 2015.
Lions After Slumber: six poems by Peter Branson and one from Daniel Defoe
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 14 December 2015 22:34

Lions After Slumber: six poems by Peter Branson and one from Daniel Defoe

in Poetry
Written by

Lions after slumber

for Maxine Peake, who read Shelley's ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ in Manchester

D’you recognise them, university?
They’re playing hunt the beggar, light cigars -
'It’s only money' - festival of fools.
Their greed’s a virtue: let me get this right,
one day, if we don’t kick against the pricks,
no promises, some scraps may fall our way.
What price our hopes, our punctured commonweal,
our national health? We bleed, a thousand cuts.
They lay the blame on us. We foot the bill,
bankers who bring this ogre to its knees
get pensioned off. We do their dirty work
abroad, come back in body-bags, no clue,
rhyme, reason why. These thoughts in mind, recall
the poesy, 'Ye are many – they are few'.

Blue Shift
The ayes have it all: General Election Day plus one

After the razzmatazz, papershop bloke’s
hindsight mumming-play trite, grounded, you know
little will change for many, yet, for some,
strings will snag tight. Their mates, they’ll do all right,
gross ever more. Poor, jobless, old and sick
will moulder on the vine: disparity
their sub-text, by degrees, ex Bullys, old
Etonians, will spin to weave crook law.
My youth, we dreamed the time danced free, yet they
unlevelled things again, each five year stretch
a liberty, hard labour, public face
'No other way!' one nation, same tired score;
key players crowding Mother’s market stall,
Necessity unbridled, tooth an’ craw.

It’s Ours
(Tune: adapted from ‘Spanish Lady’ – Irish traditional song)

They’ll say it can’t be done; the profit motive makes the world go round.
Go tell that to our soldiers who they’ve maimed or planted underground.
Tell folk who work for charity, tell teachers, nurses, others who
give everything for little pay: self sacrifice is human too.

Let’s claim what’s ours by right from those who hold the future in their hands,
spiv bankers and fund managers, all smoke and mirror, shifting sands.
Let’s take our water companies on, the oil, electric and the gas:
vast billions go to shareholders; we’ll act to grab that back en masse.

Chorus: They'll say it can't be done etc.

Let’s wrest our transport back, control our buses, trains and aeroplanes,
not subsidise smug plutocrats who run things for their private gains.
Let’s keep our national health our own and pay a reasonable amount
for vital drugs sick people need: let’s sort those multinationals out.

Chorus: They'll say it can't be done etc.

Let’s win control, co-operate, get organised, campaign and fight,
not let the greedy few make hay from what we all should own by right.
Let’s plan for what the future holds, root out unfairness far and wide;
let’s work with nature in our thoughts, green city, town and countryside.

Final chorus:
They’ll say it can’t be done; the profit motive makes the world go round.
Go tell that to our soldiers who they’ve maimed or planted underground.
Tell folk who work for charity, tell teachers, nurses, others who
give everything for little pay: self sacrifice is human too -
self sacrifice is Christian too –
and Muslim too.

‘High Ho Silver, Away!’


Light slides down reels
of spinning celluloid,
freewheels through silvered streams
of space and time where ghosts
dance out from two dimensions, black
on white, rides technicolor myths
to flood the screen.
The stranger in the mask
would choke injustice in a cloud
of dust on sets of cardboard rocks
and plywood frontages,
where punches pull
and shell blanks ricochet.
A cowboy arms and head,
mad galloping
through hobbled streets
on hopalong back legs
and slapping thighs, you’d wing
hostile young kids with finger guns
beneath dark cobbler skies.

That hero tucked inside
your head, recall
first rueful day your thoughts
outgrew his dreams.
He’d conjure reds from greys
where Pax Americana rules,
seel hearts and minds,
Korea, Vietnam,
time-warp, same script,
like Superman and Captain Kirk.
You’ve seen what’s happening:
talking forked tongues in cheek,
(‘The national interest’);
Afghanistan, Iraq; lost souls
in orange isolation suits;
wetbacks who hold
this brave new world intact?
As troops clean up
another street, stars fizzle out,
stripes cringe from sheer embarrassment.

No Use Aged Forty-Two
(for the Sally Army lady who shakes her tin at us)

The brass band’s playing in the square,
Sing Merrily on High,
King Wenceslas, The First Noel,
Watch Ships Come Sailing By.

Well it’s winter now with Christmas here,
No angel’s wings for you,
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
No use, aged forty-two.

Your bed tonight a cold stone floor,
Shop doorway off the high street,
With cardboard for an eiderdown,
Brown paper for a sheet.

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

You crave long summer days, warm nights,
Some shelter from the rain,
Bleak winter is your terror time,
Chills bones and dulls the brain.

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

What brought you here, so far from friends
And family, tell me why
You’ve slept outdoors alone for years,
Blank stares from passers-by?

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

'Lost everything, job, wife and kids,
The demon in my head;
No other way, I had to leave,
That’s what my voices said.'

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

'I read their faces, people round,
Grow louder by the day:
To them I’m an embarrassment
They wish would melt away.

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

Folk wash their hands, police move you on,
Leave charities to cope;
Your world inside one carrier bag,
Can’t live on faith and hope.

Chorus: Well it’s winter now etc.

First verse repeated

Chorus: (modified):
Well it’s winter now with Christmas here,
No angel’s wings to cope,
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
Can’t live on faith and hope.

Excerpt from The True Born Englishman
by Daniel Defoe, 1701

Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het'rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
Whose gend'ring off-spring quickly learn'd to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
Infus'd betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
Receiv'd all nations with promiscuous lust.
This nauseous brood directly did contain
The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.

Which medly canton'd in a heptarchy,
A rhapsody of nations to supply,
Among themselves maintain'd eternal wars,
And still the ladies lov'd the conquerors.

The western Angles all the rest subdu'd;
A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
Who by the tenure of the sword possest
One part of Britain, and subdu'd the rest
And as great things denominate the small,
The conqu'ring part gave title to the whole.
The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
And with the English-Saxon all unite:
And these the mixture have so close pursu'd,
The very name and memory's subdu'd:
No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
The silent nations undistinguish'd fall,
And Englishman's the common name for all.
Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
What e'er they were they're true-born English now.

The wonder which remains is at our pride,
To value that which all wise men deride.
For Englishmen to boast of generation,
Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
A true-born Englishman's a contradiction,
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools,
Which those that use it justly ridicules.
A metaphor invented to express
A man a-kin to all the universe.

For as the Scots, as learned men ha' said,
Throughout the world their wand'ring seed ha' spread;
So open-handed England, 'tis believ'd,
Has all the gleanings of the world receiv'd.

Some think of England 'twas our Saviour meant,
The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
They to all nations might be said to preach.

'Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
Since scarce one family is left alive,
Which does not from some foreigner derive.

Our Mongrel Breed
by Peter Branson

This poem’s a fox amongst the hens, each word
a claw, each phrase a wrecking ball, roof, wall
and floor, foundation – ignorance, till there’s
no house of folly left at all, that sense
of being overwhelmed by strangers, folk
who try their fortune here – blind panic, bile,
'What a to-do! – in Europe’s jakes, enhance
our culture, vitalise our mongrel race.
This morning’s pallid, root-stock still, time stalled,
ice chandeliers on twigs, the slightest move,
keen-set hawk’s breath, will shatter, send to ground
to glisten like the dew, these brittle shards
of frosted glass, self-doubt, small-mindedness,
ill will, that meld to nothing in the grass.

'High Ho, Silver, Away!' was first published in Ambit.

Little Mosque Poems
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 14 December 2015 22:11

Little Mosque Poems

in Poetry
Written by

Little Mosque Poems
By Mohja Kahf

In my little mosque
there is no room for me to pray.
I am turned away faithfully
five times a day

My little mosque:
so meagre
in resources, yet
so eager
to turn away
a woman or a stranger

My little mosque
is penniless, behind on rent
Yet it is rich in anger—
every Friday, coins of hate
are generously spent

My little mosque is poor yet
every week we are asked to give
to buy another curtain
to partition off the women,
or to pave another parking space

I would like to build
a little mosque
without a dome
or minaret
I’d hang a sign
over the door:
Bad Muslims
welcome here
Come in, listen
to some music,
the soul’s longing,
have a cigarette

I went to the mosque
when no one was there
and startled two angels
coming out of a broom closet
“Are they gone now?” one said
They looked relieved

My little mosque
has a big sense of humor

My little mosque has a Persian carpet
depicting trees of paradise
in the men’s section, which you enter
through a lovely classical arch
The women’s section features—
well, nothing

Piety dictates that men enter
my little mosque through magnificent columns
Piety dictates
that women enter
my little mosque
through the back alley,
just past the crack junkie here
and over these fallen garbage cans

My little mosque used to be democratic
with a rotating imam
we chose from among us every month
Now my little mosque has an appointed imam
trained abroad
No one can dispute his superior knowledge

I miss having a mosque,
driving by and seeing cars lining the streets,
people double-parking, desperate
to catch the prayer in time
I miss noticing, as they dodge across traffic
toward the mosque entrance between
buses and trucks,
their long chemises fluttering,
that trail of gorgeous fabrics Muslims leave,
gossamer, the colors of hot lava, fantastic shades
from the glorious places of the earth
I miss the stiff, uncomfortable men
looking anywhere but at me when they meet me,
and the double-faced women
full of judgment, and their beautiful
children shining
with my children. I do

I don’t dream of a perfect mosque
I just want roomfuls of people to kiss every week
with the kisses of Prayer and Serenity,
and a fat, multi-trunked tree
collecting us loosely for a minute under
its alive and quivering canopy

Marshmallows are banned
from my little mosque
because they might
contain gelatin derived from pork enzymes
but banality is not banned,
and yet verily,
banality is worse than marshmallows

My little mosque
is fearful to protect itself
from the bricks of bigots
through its window
Doesn’t my little mosque know
the way to protect its windows
is to open its doors?

I know the bricks of bigots
are real
I wish I could protect my little mosque
with my body as a shield

I love my dysfunctional little mosque
even though I can’t stand it

I would like to find a little mosque
where my Christian grandmother
and my Jewish great-uncle the rebbe
and my Buddhist cousin
and my Hindu neighbor
would be as welcome
as my staunchly Muslim mom and dad

My little mosque is as decrepit
as my little heart. Its narrowness
is the narrowness in me. Its windows
are boarded up like the part of me that prays

I went to the mosque
when no one was there
No One was sweeping up
She said: This place is just a place
Light is everywhere. Go, live in it.

The Responsible Bomb
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 14 December 2015 21:55

The Responsible Bomb

in Poetry
Written by

A short message inspired by a British politician discussing bombing Syria on BBC Radio 5, November 2015

I am the Syrian child
Awaiting the British Responsible Bomb.
Each day I wake and rush to my window
Hoping to catch a glimpse as it falls
I want to welcome it with open arms
Because it keeps the British safe in their beds.
I want to catch it and caress its metallic beauty
This glittering message of peace
This reasonable response.

Each day I scribble crayon pictures of
Responsible Bombs
On smooth sheets of paper.
I stick them to our fridge with magnets shaped like butterflies,
My infant brain imagining friendly fire.


The pieces of my skull
Tear the paper
Smear my blood across the wall
Sprinkle spleen and scorched skin
Across my simple art.

The Responsible Bomb
Screams out my name

I am the Syrian child!

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 09 December 2015 23:23


in Poetry
Written by

‘Australia’s hosting refugees’, I heard the newsman say,
and I wondered just how many are received the proper way.
For hosting is a practice where some social rules hold sway,
and a host has obligations to behave a certain way:
all guests should feel they’re welcome (so a guest should never pay)
and if they’re tired and hungry having come from far away,
each guest might well expect to have at least one canapé,
a drink or two and a decent meal. And, for a long-term stay,
a comfy bed, some private space, and things to do each day.
They need to know just where they are in case they go astray -
they’ll need an introduction to the shops and the café,
to the people round about them , to the customs of the day –
you do not want your guests to feel all lost and in dismay.
You do of course expect that there are rules they will obey
but it isn’t right to say that you will meet your guest halfway
for hosting isn’t like that. It’s up to you to say
you’ll do anything you can to help. You can’t say “Go away!”
and if their need is urgent you can’t quibble or delay…

(nor should you hand them over to some quickly hired valet.)

A Strong and Stiffly Worded Letter Should Do the Trick
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 23:09

A Strong and Stiffly Worded Letter Should Do the Trick

Written by
in Poetry

Dear war makers and war takers,

twitchy button pushers and mushroom cloud worshippers,
bomb botherers and gun polishers,
chemical weapon wielders and coup-cooers,
battle cry criers and army gatherers,
bullet loaders and knife sharpeners,
death collators, chief whips and spins and
dear kings and dear lords and dear right honourables.
To all the dear Mr Presidents and dear Mr Prime Ministers –
Thank you for taking some time to read this letter.
I am writing to make a small request –
Go to the park, feed the ducks, read a book.
Take a break and put down your war-stirring spoons.
Quit being so trigger-happy.
Give your eye-for-an-eye campaign a rest.
Just take some time out –
do your laundry, water your plants, visit your mother,
pull a sickie, have a duvet day, watch a whole season of 
but just stop.

unplug your internet and take a breather.
Stop winding each other up. I don’t care who started this trouble.
You’re all as bad as each other. I want to send you to your rooms
to do your homework –
you all need to read the history books
and refresh your geography.
So here’s the thing:
If you could just stop making bombs. And you, if you could stop
pretending you haven’t sold any bombs. And then if you could stop
pretending you haven’t bought any bombs. And then you, if you could
stop threatening to bomb people that would be brilliant. Yeah. If you
could all stop threatening us with all your bombs that you haven’t built or
simplify things: if you could stop making bombs and you stop selling
bombs and if you could stop bombing people and if you could all stop
threatening us all with bombs all the fucking time that would be brilliant.
One more time, let me put it another way: if you could stop making
bombs and you stop selling bombs to the other side when you are
meant to be on the other side, and if you could stop accusing the
other one of having the bombs, whilst procuring the production
of more bombs, which you know the latter has because you have
the receipts because it was you who fucking ordered them in to 
be great.

 Now go and have a fucking cup of tea and do a crossword.

Do something lovely and ordinary with your time.

Bake a fucking cake or something.
Since you have all this surplus energy and money
for bombs and war planes,
go and build a school or a hospital or save the rainforests
or something useful.
Put all that war chest money into grants towards that cure for cancer.
Save a soldier, save some money, send him home.
There is not one person I know wants to see another
human being killed.
I certainly don’t want anyone shot or blown up, how ludicrous.
And you always end up bombing schools and hospitals and
killing children and women, because your aim is crap.
At least we are all to believe that it’s because your aim is crap.
Seriously, I think I can safely say
It was vibrating with all the chest beating.
Stop with the King Kong method.
What is it with all the killy-killy-bomb talk?
Are you all drunk or something?
Has your summer of *HW/XFN\ gone a bit sour?
Stay up all night to get killy…
Stay up all night to get bomby…
Obama, Cameron, Putin, Bashar, Letta,
whips and spins and government war stirrers,
every one of you in every war bunker,
yes, you and you, all of you,
all of you, go to your rooms.
I think you need to go take a nap.
Start a war? Seriously? You are going to start a war?
Start a war? START A WAR? Bomb people?
Yep. That’s your solution, is it?
You bag of hopeless dicks.

With Kindest Regards,
pretty much everyone.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 21:28

New Boots and Pantisocracies

Written by
in Poetry

Jody Porter talks to ANDY JACKSON and W N HERBERT about the success of their post-election poetry project. This article was first published in the Morning Star

THE next few weeks will see a radical web-based poetry project reach its conclusion, with the posting of the final poems out of a planned 100 on the New Boots and Pantisocracies website.

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