from The Columbus Poems

For Susan's baby

Child of the Americas
Born at the coming of the Comet,
It was for you that the citadel fell;
That the gates unlocked.
Your open pathway into the world
Is radiant with light.
May you live a life without fear
Of the Bomb or the dark hordes out of Asia.
May your experience be of the broad land
Girded by the Oceans.
May you grow up wise and gentle
With brother or sister
Healthy and self assured, confident in your abilities.
May your cup be overflowing
In quick intelligence and the love of others.
May you give unstinting of yourself
In service of your Maker.
May you have art and science and prosperity.
May you love and may you breed
In the quiet communion of all things.

I know so little about you that
It is difficult to be precise
But may you carry the virtues of your birth
With head held high.
America your birthright, Europe your heritage.
The love of your parents carries you through all things
To success,
To a successful life.


Please understand. I once doubted love;
And now it has given two babies to Susan.
This world is marvellous.
Foam falls on the barren.
I never believed she'ld have the guts
Until I blew her head off with my begging letters.
I begged her for her baby.
I fought for it. In words.
For who wants their love to finish up a blue stocking.
It is the greatest triumph of my life.
For my words.
And now she has two marvellous babies.
As for her new husband ---
I hope he looks like me.

Orpheus old

The world forgot to say hullo today
Just accused me of being absent,
Said `all must come to all in time'
Was ever a life so piteous?

The winter world of the Northland
Is swathed in ice and crisp white snow,
It is my refuge from the days of sunny warmth
When I swam in the waters of the Aegean.
That was when I escaped from Hades
as the voices entered my psyche.
I fled from them over land and sea
The voices that pop into your head
My Muses --- the eternal singers, old crones
and young girls. They have come for me
Once since then. Knife in hand whispering
Words of love. When they failed to kill me
They abused me for hours. In the coarsest language.
Now I am protected in the Northern citadel
To live out my life in peace. But I must be
ever vigilant. They are always watching, waiting.
But I have good friends in the North.
And why?

         For once I went into Hell
and charmed Aphrodite naked. I tranced
the mean old Ferryman. I dazed the spitting Dog.
And strode firmly across Pluto's land.
I was the pure singer. I was young.
For I had watched her as I went about my business.
The other. Wrapped in her mystery.
Like some great cat she stalked the Earth.
Insecure in herself. Burning with fire.
She hated every man that ever had lived.
She wanted the revenge of women
For all the insults and the injuries
Of ten thousand years.
And I was electric
So shocking, so handsome
And I sang my heartsong for her.
For the goddess.
Giving her everything but being so careful
To take nothing.
For her kiss was the coldness of the serpent,
Her muscles were taut in their revulsion,
Only her eyes and her groin burnt
With that savagery which is immortal.
I was the pure singer. And she loved me.
The goddess opened up her heart
And poured love out of her eyes. She adored me.
And I took her. I possessed her.
Fed hungrily and greedily on her body.
Loved her for being what she was.
Promised to love her all of my life.
Our communion in silence. Not a word spoken.
Talk all with the eyes.
I made her my wife. I married her.
The goddess Aphrodite. Euridyce.
And my mother Calliope was desperate:
`She will kill you!'
So I wrote her a letter declaring I was mortal
Offering my obeyances as her servant.
To this goddess.
And she was kind.
She chose to ignore me.
To forget that I ever had lived.
She bound my tongue to silence
And went off to explore the world.
I remained in Hades in a dream.
I could not believe I was alive.
But I was in excruciating pain
From the separation. I screamed.
And the scream woke me back to life
And Aphrodite set a cruel trap for me.
At Skiathos in the Aegean she spread her net.
And there she tried to kill me
With sweet voices and honeyed words.
She talked me off the Island
Into the blue blue sea. Where I swam for it.
But my mother Calliope had been clever.
She had trained me as a swimmer.
She knew I would need it one day.
And I swam to Greece. Hunted by the voices.
As a Greek once swam to warn Athens that
the Persian Fleet had arrived.
As the watchtowers burnt fire at the fall of Troy.
And I fled to the Northlands. Helplessly.
I was a marked man. The goddess my wife.
And she sent her Muses after me
To madden me. For I had seen her naked.
I knew of her lack of intimacy.
How she had rejected her own mother as a baby
As I had rejected mine.
How she lived her life by the structure of feminine rules
Because her soul was buried too deep to breathe.
How her heart never saw the upper air.
It took a singer like me to ferret it out.
She was so stupid she did not know
That I was love itself,
Come to comfort her. Sent by Zeus.
Instead imperious she continued her existence.
She wanted children so she took a man for husband.
A man identikit to her own desires.
An apparatchik.
Whom she could be safe with. Secure.
Not a teller of tall tales.
She is at peace now under the Capitol.
While her Muses keep me at bay.
They would tear me to pieces
And scatter my bones far over the Earth
If I weakened for an instant
And allowed Dionysus entry to my mind.
So I consecrate my life to Apollo, the intellect.
I study and I learn, in my old age,
How this all came about to be.
The eternal squabble of the gods;
I, an interloper.
All I can do is write what happened,
In a veiled way.
For if I wrote the truth she would come for me,
though it were five thousand miles,
And stick her own sharp knife
Through my black heart.


In my infancy I was Pterseus, the Destroyer,
Come to take revenge on women
For my unloved babyhood
And my terrible emptiness.
Then I fell in love with the beautiful
And adored...
I knew Paradise.

In the green woodland I was Herne, the Hunter;
I paraded my imagination thru the forest.
The chapel of my childhood lay in the greenery,
The paths, the walks
From Lomondside to Lake Thun.
I carried with me Hermes' staff
Purchased in Aeschi when I was thirteen.

I went from childhood to adolescence
And then to love:
I lived agonies. I was not empty.
I suffered all those years in the North
Writing it down.
Then came South to the Royal City:

This City was built for me.
They built it for me.
Around the hot springs constructed
The temple of the goddess.
First of earth, then of brick,
Then of Roman marble.
Old Bladud's town, Aquae Sulis.
This my inheritance.

Modern buildings for my comfort
To live in and a place of work.
Surrounded by the greenery.
They built me a University.
They built me a housing estate.
And a house where I could make a garden:
Of green bushes and colourful flowers.
Alyssum, snow-in-summer, heathers.

For I was King of the Wood,
The Cernunnos of Bath,
Lord of the Animals;
Stag-totem; Horned One; Devil.
I lived high on the hill
With my little black cat.
I collected books and record albums
And I met my fate...

She was the same as me. She hated her mother.
She was fire and earth and the warmth in the night.
I loved her and adored her.
She was my heart and my life.
Whispers in the dark tell of the bones of her face,
She was so beautiful.
She is immortal.

They built this City for her.
They built an Institute at Brighton for her.
They built Washington D.C. for her.
Me, I only had a house and my Computer.
I love my Computer.
It can talk to other computers in other cities.
Even to America.
It is the occupation of the great Hunter.

For I tracked her down and won her love
By the marvels of the language of poetry.
I knew her heart. The same wound as mine.
And I filled her soul with love
Until it overflowed from her eyes
Into my hungry heart.
I bathed in her love,
Knew immortality.
Was baptised the Cernunnos.

But she was a savage bitch
And spat in my face.
Retreated to her Institute
That was built for her.
I worked my magic
And sent out my horsemen,
Lean black horses,
The Royal Mail.
I wrote my heart for her.

I sold her children...
The love of them.
The horses clattered thru the greenwood
As they took the news.
She never uttered a word.
How I strove in my garden
Cultivating my plants
As I thought of her.
I was the craftsman.

Then she was gone to America
With her babies
And her new husband,
I lost my other half.
I am alone as Cernunnos
For I was elected in my childhood
When I ran free in the woods.
When on my green bicycle
I explored my little world.

I am the Lord of this world.
I live alone and suffer for it.
They feed me drugs
To control my imagination.
To banish the poetry
That won me my love.
I no longer have great pictures in my head.
I look over other's shoulders for those.
The liquid words have gone.
The syllables of rhyme
That marked the loves of my youth.

I am alone 'til the end of Time.
I have been alone since I was born.
Living in the tattered ruins of my imagination
In the Ruined City of the Saxons,
Constructed into a Georgian dream,
Constructed into a sad poem.
Living as an animal with an animal:
My black cat Fritz.
All I have had in my life
Has been immortal love
And that was snatched from me.

I have one lesson:
Don't believe in the love of the poets.
It leads to disaster.
The price is too great.
Better to emerge from the morning of life
With warm friendship and mutual thought
Than to burn in Hell
For loving what can never be had:
The return to before birth
When all was happy fantasy.

These dreams have occupied my mind
Since I was a child in the greenwood
Not knowing my inheritance.
I am the oldest man in Europe;
I have suffered eternity.
One day I will have a successor
As I was a successor.
And he will stride firmly over the old paths
Not believing his destiny:

It is to go from the richest experience of love
To the emptiness of the everyday world.
To see poetry and memory of childhood drain away.
To be left with an inferior language
And a grim suffering of the sadness of humanity.
There is no such thing as happiness. It is an illusion.
Wander thru the greenwood and be at one with Nature
For the Hunt for love has come to an untimely end.


I never dreamt I would live so long...

The dream was of the journey South from Camelot
In the springtime morning when we left the citadel;
It was a royal road glistening in white purity
As we put off the fables of our youth to enter the real world.
There is a strident truth in the joys of adolescence
As a horsedrawn sledge coasts over the Northern snow
Bringing the Lord to escort his Lady thru the wintry night;
But now we see the Spring and all is tears and lamentation.

It is a great downcoming to leave behind the two bright eyes
And journey into the world of men where a happy poem
Is as rare as an interrupt in the great crashing waves
Of the sea; as the white horses eternal batter our hopes.
Breeding is the ruin of it. The ills of the parents
Multiply on the children and the weight snaps the mind.
Better never to be loved at all than to know what is missing.
The black horsemen skirt the outskirts of the sane destiny.

To be alone, at one, with the greenwood in the days of infancy
Before the Lady in her ragamuffin clothes inherited the poetry.
To be joined in the embrace of eyes when eating one another
Is insufficient. To realise that the deep, the truly-felt,
Is an occasional event in life; not to be lived from day to day.
To understand that age does not suit a cavalryman
Who would rather be urging his black horsemen onto fresh conquest:
There is a time when the charge stops and it is necessary to ponder.

I never dreamt I would live so long...

Merlin in Winter

`Will nobody carry on, be blind
And deaf to all save a mad prompting when
The reason for the trumpets lies behind?'

                       ... Padraic Fallon



I breakfast off my Copenhagen china,
eating my Weetabix with a silver spoon,
Solitary, having fed the cat.

Her soul will rot in hell
for all eternity;
for trapping me 
all alone in this cave of the World;

Which is what she wanted anyway.

God is an idea in the DNA
forever finding new ways of expressing itself,
So clever, so original, unthinking.

Neurosis is not inherited,
it must be carefully taught;
like playing Follow-my-Leader.

I was the Successor to Alexander:
I had the voice that rang round the World
But my Empire was of mind
As I conjured up matter.
I foretold all and forgot nothing.
The days of Once-upon-a-time are my revelation.

I have a name.


I remember Daedalus.

Daedalus rebuilt Babylon
Stone by stone from learned instinct.
The atmosphere, the environment,
The magician's palace.
Wonder at the colossal effort;
It took forty years.

He was no prodigy.
All his childhood he did not utter a word
but waited for the awakening of Heaven;
The coming of Aphrodite.

She was beautiful:
He flew too near her words
And was burnt to a healthy cinder.
He owes her everything.
She gave him voice, utterance,
The knowledge of self, happiness.
Daedalus was magic.


The footprints in the dark
Many is the time I have followed them
They lead to secrets unimaginable.
I have tried to describe them.

To slip out into the snow and pace forward.

Merlin in Winter

All I am is hate
As I sit in my cave
Staring at shadows on the wall;
Sharp-barbed hate.

I should have had the kingdom
The territory of the broad green land
But I am banished;

There are no compensations
The eyes go, the teeth, the belly
Anachronisms of age;
All I am is hate.

Many masks, many identities gravitate
To my unspeakable name
I am the Lord;
The Punch-and-Judy man.

They will take me out of here footfirst
To burn me in the fire
The wellwishers;

All I am is hate
I have no family
I have no friends;
All I am is hate.

The long summer's day

I come to bear witness
To the long summer's day,
Before the verses of dead poets
Sparked off the dreams that have fallen away.

I come to bear witness
To the simple facts of life,
There's nothing that's not obvious
The joys of a secure job, children, wife.

I come to bear witness
To the importance of starting right,
There's nothing worse than being eaten out
By neurotic fears from babyhood that scream in the night.

I come to bear witness
To the struggle for the truth,
It's not so bad when you understand
Why life's been a battleground from youth.

I come to bear witness 
To the long summer's day,
Before the high hopes of morning
Crumbled my true heart that was carved out of clay.

You ask `What was this summer's day
That you make it out so fateful?'
I answer `It was before my time
Before the beginning of memory.'

Always the outsider

I am not English; I am of the people.
I am not Scottish; I was born in Durham.

I am not educated; I studied mathematics.
I am not a UNIX wizard; I am of the poets.

I was defeated at Arderydd; I hid in the Black Mountain.
I sang before Vortigern; victory over the Saxon.

<< Line against the Welsh censored >>
I like America; its technocratic culture.

I don't believe in Love; I am Orpheus.
I don't believe in God; I am the Devil.

I am of the village; I am of the city.
I have praised the moon; I have swum the ocean.

I am of the Dark Age; after the Fall of Troy.
I am Rangers and Celtic; the Glasgow Saturday night.

I am the barbarian; deprived of faith and kindness.
I am the magician; living my seasons in hell.

I have come pure from the beginning;
I have become twisted and coarsened as the years sped by;
I have seen the end of everything;
And still I survive.

The Horsemen

On the field of Cannae
where the horsemen crisscrossed like scissors
I kneel my thanks in defeat.
Hannibal, you were great;
you won the battle and lost the war.
In the end Roman cash bought out your horsemen,
The African horsemen of legend.
But in your moment of victory
you were dazzled by fortune
and threw it all away;
There is no second chance for a conqueror.
Your defeat was my heritage:
My horsemen cross the mind like meteors
But it is only imagination,
Your riders were for real.


You ask about Arthur.
He was a horseman.
He learnt from Alexander: The Companions.
As Alexander learnt from Achilles,
All written plain in Homer.
You take the friends you trust,
From earliest boyhood,
And you mount them on good horses.
Then you have a cavalry.
You put into them your courage, discipline,
Your idealism, panache, your self;
Then you have a great cavalry.
Arthur won Britain with his men,
He could have been King,
For twenty years he fought the English.
But we were a mean people,
We gave him nothing,
Not even the enjoyment of his wife.
Arthur died.
By treachery at Camlann.
Then it was over.
We are a mean people,
We love our defeats.
We hated Arthur for giving us victory.
He was not royal,
He never amounted to much,
But he was a winner.
That we couldn't stand,
We are better off without him,
Under the Saxon yoke.
He loved Guinevere,
And she loathed him.
We all preferred Lancelot.
Such is fame.

The Moor's Sigh

(for the Granada of Federico Garcia Lorca)

Clear fountain, pure fountain,
Fountain of the Cypress and the Oleander,
The voices of the children rise to you.
Elegant court, arcaded court,
Court of the Myrtles and the Lions,
The romance of the gypsies plays for you.
We weep like women for what we couldn't save as men,
City of the Almoravids and the Nasrids,
City of Sacromonte and the Sierra Nevada.
The Alhambra was heart of your kingdom,
The red house on the road from Fuentevaqueros,
Serenaded in your verdant greenery.
For friendship --- I listen to these drums and these guitars,
It is a long way from the concrete tinderbox of New York,
A long way from Harlem and wizened Walt Whitman.
It is the memory of the deep song of the South,
Forever rumbling round the skirts of the Mediterranean,
Waiting for its poets to throw off their airs and graces.
Scrabble in the dust for your death Federico,
When the lyric is done with then comes the tragedy,
You were spared old age but not the silence.
But you had not finished, you were done too soon,
The Civil Guards took your life on the road from Granada,
Ignorant envious men hate that which is different, special.
Clear fountain, pure fountain,
Fountain of the Cypress and the Oleander,
The voices of the children rise to you.
Good poet, honest poet,
Poet of the light heart and the dark gloom,
You are immortal in the songs of the gypsies.
We weep like women for what we couldn't save as men...

The USENET computer network

`I have someone to meet...'

At three in the afternoon of Thanksgiving Monday
My Spanish poem left Bath.
To UKC at Kent then by line
To MCVAX in Holland.
All that evening it was travelling thru Europe
North and South from Stockholm to Barcelona.
And by satellite across to SEISMO at New York.
From SEISMO it ploughed West all night
Down the backbone
'Til by the morning it was hitting
Berkeley and Stanford, the Pacific;
Ready for the great leap to Hawaii,
Then onto Melbourne and Kyoto,
Last landing Auckland.
Fanning out all week thru broad America
Down smalltown campuses and engineering labs
My poem has outstrippt Byron in his fame
With its publishing speed.
The computer lines sing right round the World

`I have someone to meet...'

Folk memory

from a few backward steadings on the edge of the world...

on my father's side the McKinleys and the Duncans
on my mother's side Pollock and Pettigrew.

My uncle Willy dead with the Australians at Gallipoli
The dogs at Malcolmwood howled all night.

Three brothers came ower frae France: Pettigrews;
Huguenots fleeing the Cardinal. Farmers.

Andrew Pettigrew in the palmy days before the First World War
Visiting his cousins in New Zealand for the Spring,
Relaxing from Australia. A jack-of-all-trades farmer.

My grandfather sitting crosslegged on the floor at Malcolmwood
Reciting `Tam o' Shanter', drunk with poetry
After judging the ploughing competition.

The Canadians in the Farmer's Hall at Lanark
One cousin the image of my mother,
The last of the great parties.

The families are gone; The farm at Malcolmwood is sold;
The bluebell wood a memory. There is no chronicler:
Two hundred and fifty years of history dead.

The Dardanelles, Auckland, Winnipeg, Brisbane, Trois Rivieres,
Malcolmwood at High Blantyre...

I, too, came from the beginning.
I, too, will go on to the end.
The heritage of the North is frittered away.


a lost little boy hears the wind sighing
in the high trees. it reminds him of the
anguish in his empty heart. from what he
has read in books he believes that the lady Love
will be his salvation. he looks forward to
the day when he will meet her.

the absence of God; the absence of Love;
the purpose of life is the living of it.
the horsemen ride past the yellow forsythia.
they ride past the purple lilac. they ride
past the pink columbine. the horsemen ride
past the blue lavender. the black horsemen ride.

the lovely linking with the lady. the white Guelph
adored her intellectual beauty. he praised her spirit.
she left him alone to face the absence.

build a temple to contain her. the ceremony
of the rose bushes and the blue periwinkle. but
brilliant heathers are overcome by long tough grass.
the stained stones seem surrounded by weeds.
never was a chapter more forcibly closed. the
gooseberry and the bramble run riot. the patrician
lady paints her garden-fence white. they will burn ---
my ruins --- as burn the fires of Hell. where I live.
the patrician lady leads the way back into life.

The Crystal Cave

Old miseryguts hates the whole world
Just for having been born.
He looks at the blue roof over our heads
And curses what cruel life has done to him.

All my life I have dreamt of the starships
Heading out into the deep unknown and returning.
Nyneve: she trapped me on this earth
And left me without love to soldier on,
My mother the witch: I had no father; Devil.
And the girls in their summer dresses have floated by,
The rollcall reaches back into childhood.
And the heroes in their quiet courage have died for me,
McAuliffe and Grissom; Gagarin and Icarus,
The rollcall reaches back into eternity.

The poetry is gone now, it was an illusion,
The bubble in the heart is burst.
White horses of the sea, black horses on the page,
White streaks of the rocketships carry on the dream:
To escape from Hell into the immortal world of Love.
That is only done in the imagination.

All's true is the look of love in a girl's eye.
Savour it sweetly. It has to last a lifetime.
`There are many stars and I want them.'
The computers hum, the screens scroll,
The best and the brightest are playing games,
We'll put up another Challenger.

Cat Poems

for my mother, with love


My motorised ball of fluff,
You have golden eyes pink ears and a pink nose
But your long hair is white as winter snow
And warms you like a waistcoat.
A flattened nose and baby teeth
But when you run
It is as though the carpet moves.
You eat for a grown cat
And drink the milk basin dry.
You dig enormous mounds in your tray
As you hide the evidence.
Best when you play games
Biting chewing pouncing
Leaping on cat
Who thumps you scolds you
Chases you back to your place
Where you simper and lick yourself
In pleasure.
My girl.


I am back from the shopping;
Laden with bananas and clunking cans.
To be greeted by scurry little feet
And eager heads asking questions.
Through to the kitchen
To disembark.
Out with sardines, yoghurt and apples
Out with tin cans by the halfdozen.
But by now cat has skulked off in disgust,
No smell of mince
No deliciousness.
A boring old week of Whiskas
And not the season for hunting mice.
Another time.


Little kitten loves the evening time
When midges whoop and holler over the lawn.
She skulks out from the greenwood
To sway in ballet as she chases the beast.
The sun long gone and the dark not yet there
But soon the efluorescent electric light
Will grandstand her sallies up in the air.
Long white hair sucking out the surrounding black
As for the first time in the day she busies herself.
She sleeps from morn to night
And only arouses herself to digest her tea.
She is a luxury cat,
A scrumptious ball of fluff,
Who hunts phantasms at evening.

Benjamin Clark

Have you still got the kitten in you?
Can you chew and bite?
Can you dab your claws along my back?
Your Uncle Benjamin was wise.
He would sit and stare for hours
From the tops of cars.
He knew everything a cat ought to know
And he loved children;
He could stare at them for hours:
He was wise.
A black coated Persian good enough for stud
who could run like the devil
who only ate the best.
He could play with ping pong balls,
He could play with paper.
Your Uncle Benjamin was wise
He could stare at you for hours,
Wondering if you would flower
In his pale yellow eyes.
Your Uncle Benjamin is dead
He has gone to Cat's Heaven,
He'll be waiting staring at the gate
For the next friend to arrive.
You aren't as wise as Benjamin
But do you have some kitten left?
To play with kids with balls of string
And twirl before my eyes.


I have a good cat,
He sits hunched with satisfaction.
He ate all his Whiskas,
Pilchard, his favourite.
And, not to be outdone,
he got a corner off my steak,
wellcooked, not raw.
He likes his meat.
In the old days
he used to hunt fieldmice
and bring the fat bodies home
for display.
But he did not eat them.
He prefers me to be his butcher.
Now he waits for tomorrow,
When he gets more.
More Whiskas.


Fritz Cat loves the sunshine.
He rolls on his back on the concrete path
To communicate his joy to the sun.
He is not just scratching his back.
In the icy days of winter
He sits huddled in the sun's rays
Beside the heater at the top of the stairs.
His mind floats on a sunbeam.
He is not a daft cat.
He just loves the reflection
From the gold of his eyes
To the gold of the sun.

Fritz's Toys

Fritz Cat is a well-off cat.
He has more toys than any other cat I know.
He has a mouse and a spider, 
A rabbit and a three-star ping pong ball.
He loves to toss his scruffy grey mouse over his shoulder.
He does the same to his black spider with its seven legs.
The rabbit is not so lucky.
Fritz don't play with his rabbit.
He merely keeps it in attendance.
The rabbit is dirty white with red ears, red eyes and a red nose.
It is an unloved rabbit.
Fritz plays football with his ping pong ball.
He is a brilliant dribbler.
Like greased lightning, a two-fisted sprinter,
He can dash across the room.
He don't like it when I kick his ping pong ball at him,
He's not a goalkeeper;
He sees himself as an inside forward
Forever dribbling.
His favourite toy is his mouse.
He cuddles it to him.
Long ago it was perfumed with catnip,
He must remember that.
He bit the leather tail off his mouse
Chewing away happily.
It is a Manx mouse.
There are not many cats have toys like Fritz,
He is a fortunate cat.
Tell him that when his dinner plate is empty.

The Cat Bed

Fritz Cat won't use his cat bed
That used to keep him warm and snug
When he was a kitten.
He requires an armchair for his comfort.
And during the long boring day
He likes to sleep upstairs on the spare bed
Where it is warm and he won't be bothered.
No cat bed for our Fritz!
His cat bed is made of tough red plastic
With a furry white cushion.
It is an elegant bed
Not to be hidden away.
I made the mistake at the end of his kittenhood
Of washing the furry cushion
With soapsuds
Taking away all the lovely kitten smell.
He has never looked at his cat bed since.
He feels it nothing to do with him;
Beneath his dignity.
If you place him in the cat bed he hops out fast;
It is a wasted bed,
I should give it away
But perhaps he will return to it in his old age.
When he was a kitten he was so happy with it;
Curling himself up in a round huddle
He slept there all the time,
Now the cat bed is a dead loss.

Kitten Days

Fritz Cat had a bad time of it as a kitten.
The little old lady whose council flat he was born in
Hid him and his brothers and sisters away in a cupboard
In a big brown cardboard box.
Fritz was the runt of the litter.
He never got kissed and cuddled.
Last in the queue at mealtimes.
His mother was so anxious about him being left out of things
That she passed her anxiety onto him.
That is why he has grown up scared of his own shadow.
He is a neurotic cat.
I got him at seven weeks old when he was all ears.
But sadly by then the damage was done.
He is a cat who sneaks the backalleys.
Not a cat who sits out on the pavement.
And he has never had any guts for fighting
But maybe that is to do with his operation.
There aren't many cats with as low an opinion
Of themselves as Fritz has.
He has to wash himself all day
To put on a sheen to face the world with.
He was never anything but nothing as a kitten
And there is not much to say about him now he's a cat.
A low grade specimen.
Not to be envied.
Poor old Fritz. He could have been something.

Showoff Cat

Fritz Cat is a showoff cat.
He likes to impress people with how clever he is.
There is nothing he enjoys more
Than leaving a room as you enter it
By skipping through your legs.
Demonstrating his dexterity.
It is his party trick.
And he is proud of his mastery of catflaps.
The way when he is in a hurry
The catflap doesn't seem to exist,
He is through it in a flash.
If you want stroke right down to the end of his tail
You have to move fast
Because he can't half do a disappearing act
Into the outside.
He can even open doors;
By hooking his paw around if they are ajar
And pulling.
He is not much good at pushing,
He hasn't the courage to test his strength;
So a shut door stays shut.
But he is so proud of himself
When at night, in the dark,
He dashes headlong through his catflaps
And emerges into the lit centre of the living room
Where everybody is so happy to see him.
He likes being the centre of attention.

Cat Holidays

Fritz Cat comes on his holidays too, in his cat basket,
When I go North visiting my mother.
Ferdia Kittencat lives there.
Fritz enjoys beating up the kittencat.
The two of them play for hours in the early morning.
Then old Fritz has his sleep.
Ferdia used to live with me when she was a kitten
And she grew up with Fritz.
But she was a dirty kitten and had to go North.
Fritz wasn't sorry.
He spat at her because he was jealous
Of the attention that she got. (She's prettier than him.)
And he wouldn't let her in through the catflap:
It was his territory.
But she was dirty and had to go.
Now in the North she is always wanting
To play games with Fritz.
He don't mind. It amuses him.
He knows he is not staying.
That he is on vacation
Stuffing himself with goodies from my mother's kitchen.
Ferdia Kittencat has a crush on Fritz.
But she has no brains.
She's just a kittencat.
Fritz always likes to be back home.


Fritz Cat don't know his name.
When you call out `Fritz!' he won't answer.
He is above such things.
He has his own private secret catname for himself
And that is good enough. Thank you.
He doesn't want to belong to anybody
And a given name labels you.
But he is a hypocrite because he is so proud
Of his cat collar
Which drives off his fleas.
That is medicinal.
But he don't want nothing to do with names.
As far as he is concerned you can call him anything you like.
He won't mind. 
So long as he gets fed twice a day
And a roof over his head.
Thank you.

Cat Biscuits

Fritz Cat don't reckon much to his cat biscuits.
They are only for emergencies.
Like when his dinner plate is empty.
Then he munches a cat biscuit
Making as much noise as he possibly can
To attract attention to himself.
To demonstrate that he is a badly nourished cat
Forced to eat cat biscuits to keep him going.
He thinks they taste like sawdust
Although I buy exotic taste blends for him.
Real cats don't eat cat biscuits.
They eat meat.
And Fritz Cat knows this.
So next time you hear him crunching away at a cat biscuit
Realise he is communicating his displeasure to the world.
He wants his fresh Whiskas.
He is a proper real cat, after all.

Fourth-rate Cat

Fritz Cat is a fourth-rate cat.
Firstly he is not a dog.
Dogs are such affectionate creatures.
Secondly he has no pedigree.
Even Ferdia Kittencat has a pedigree.
But Fritz is just a moggy.
A common-as-muck Bath moggy.
No wonder he is jealous of Ferdia.
She is a gorgeous cat. Persian.
And thirdly and sadly, it is so sad for Fritz,
He is a doctored pussy.
He cannot be a daddy.
He has been done. Had the operation.
That means that he is no fighter;
Not a grizzled champion like Jason was.
Which summing it all up means Fritz is not much of a cat.
Only fourth-rate.
And he knows all this.
No wonder he skulks the backalleys.
Poor Fritz.

Talkative Cat

Fritz Cat is a talkative cat.
He is always chuntering away to himself.
I don't understand a word that he says.
Except when he asks for some milk.
That is too obvious
Because he miaows pleadingly
When I have the milk bottle in my hand.
But when he runs behind my feet
Telling me his stories I am lost.
And when he jumps up on my lap
And talks into my face I am baffled.
He doesn't know I am ignorant.
He thinks I understand cat.
But, anyway, perhaps it is good for him
To be able to pour his worries onto me.
Like talking to an analyst.
It must be a great relief to Fritz to talk with me.
After all he is so neurotic.
Anyway I am flattered.


Fritz Cat stares out of the window for hours.
It is his occupation
When he is not sleeping.
It is all arranged for him:
A smooth surface that he can sit on comfortably
High enough not to crick his neck.
What he is looking for is dogs and cats.
He has a very low opinion of dogs.
Filthy creatures.
Always wanting a gallop.
More important are the neighbourhood cats
Making their territorial strolls.
Toms and queens and those inbetween.
He don't want them to see him.
He wants to be a spy.
He sees everything.
For such a solitary animal he is so sociable
In his thinking.
Best is when I come back from the pub
And he is peering out through the curtains waiting for me.
He purrs to see me.
He is not a bad cat.

Feeding Time

Fritz Cat's favourite time of the day is feeding time.
If I am opening a fresh can of catfood for him
He comes and stands below the tinopener
To smell the delicious new flavour.
Then while I decant the can onto his dinner plate,
A third of a can for him,
He stands on his hind legs squealing with joy.
It was at this point that Ferdia Kittencat
Used to pull his tail
When she lived with us.
But old Fritz wasn't bothered.
Food is all that matters to a cat.
And lots of it.
Especially fresh.
When Fritz was a kitten he would gorge his food,
Eating it all in one go.
Now that he is old and wise he savours it.
Tasting it first then coming back again and again
To nibble away.
He is a trencher cat.
He likes his food.

Cat Whistle

When Fritz Cat was a kitten I trained him to answer my whistle.
This was done by bribery and lots of cajoling.
I used to give him the run of the rear garden slopes all day
Then when I returned from work I would go whistle for him.
He would come running at a tremendous pace
All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
He was so happy to see me.
He wasn't much bothered about being allowed in the house again.
It was summer and he liked the great outdoors.
That was before I put in the catflaps
Because, at that time, he wasn't big enough to use them.
Nowadays he still recognises my whistle.
But it depends on how he is feeling as to whether he responds.
Lazy old Fritz don't come running when you want him.
He is past kitten games.
But sometimes the old memory stirs
And when I whistle he comes dashing up the path
Like when he was a youngster.
That's good old Fritz.

Cat Friends

Fritz Cat don't have any friends.
No-one ever comes to visit him.
He is not bothered.
He likes his solitary life.
But when people visit me he fawns all over them.
Which shows he is missing something.
It would be nice for Fritz to have friends.
But he soon gave Ferdia Kittencat the boot
When she stayed with us.
And she was only a jolly little kitten.
Fritz hasn't much brain.
For he could make lots of friends.
Everybody likes him.
Silly old Fritz.
He's a Dumbo Cat.

Hungry Cat

I come home from work in the dark with the rain pouring down
And there, standing in the middle of the road, waiting for me
Is Fritz Cat with his miaows and his purring.
He is pleased to see me.
His tail is standing straight up in the air.
He looks a skinny little thing.
It must be his rumbling tummy that has driven him
To this great display of affection.
He must be starving.
There can't be any food on his dinner plate.
Poor Fritz.
He has passed the house where the Alsatian dog lives
On his way from the back door to greet me.
He is a brave cat when he is famished.
The first thing to be done is to feed him
Although I am soaked to the skin.
We cannot have a hungry cat in the house.
Not our Fritz.

The Mong

from the conifers:
    fir and larch, birch and aspen;
    bedded by carpets of moss, lichen;
the Blue Wolf came to Baikal,
wed the Tawny Doe,
    came to the steppe, the heartland, Yellow River to Danube;
    core of the World.

settled by the mountain Burkan-Kaldan:
    long winter snow, precious springtime,
    midsummer seas of browning grass, the Autumn hunts for target 
here his people made yearly,
    the trek north and the trek south,
    grassland to grassland.
leading: the tented wagons, then girls driving the cart strings;
    as many as ten abreast the lines of oxen.
and the sheep, cattle, horses; far as the eye could see.

horses: ponies, only thirteen hands, but remounts by the dozen.
    a shaggy wealth.
    there was no walking.

thought advisable to wash a baby 'til it survived a month,
    then given clothes.

crooked legs, black plaited hair, bowmen's arms;
bridle and bit, saddle, stirrups.
    masters of the triple bow, the retreating feint;
    two quivers: long range arrow clouds, closework armour 
    javelins and sabre;
    some armoured with leather, bearing lance and sword.

the Borijin, descendant of Wolf and Doe,
it was they who forged the Brave; the Mong.
but fragmented by the tribes of Tatar, Jurchet.
    then was born Temujin; Iron Man,
    son of Yesugei the Borijin.
Temujin, weaver of webs.

    'til thirty nine years and by the Onon,
the white standard of the nine horse tails, crowned by falcon head,
raised by the great white tent
    where the man, the sons, the nine marshals, schemed.
this day the Magician pronounced `Khan' by the will of the Everlasting 
    and confirmed the name Chingis:
    earned by twenty years, the Tatars destroyed incorporated.

Chingis Khan: Lord of all the World.
    carried on a black tent to the white horseskin throne of the 
    the judge of life over his Mong, the mingled tribes:
    The Blue Mongols.

and the generals: Bogurchi: Jebei `the Arrow': Mukali: Jelme:
    the greatest marshal, Subotei:
    and all the Borijin.

Chingis, nomad of the steppe, follower of herds, tentdweller;
    so he would live, so he would die;
    but first there was the World. his birthright.

the ordering of the years;
    petty battles: the Tanguts taken.
steeling the horse archers, welding the toumans;
with his marshals, planning meticulous.
    for there was a King of Gold at Peking,
    with half a million head of men. nomad stock. Jurchets.

to secure the rear.

so Chingis took his hundred thousand
crushing corps upon corps of the Kin
to the foot of the Great Wall.
    then Jebei probed the ravine above Peking
    master of feint
    and with Chingis smashed through
    to the sight of the distant towers and the open plains.

armies ticked as the machine penetrated the land of Ch'in.
three lines drawn over ruins north of the Yellow River.
yet the cities stood behind their walls.
    the ransom paid, the return through the Wall.

but the King of Gold was south of the River
and the armies again.
    Jebei: the Wall, Mukali: Peking, gutted,
    fires burned for weeks, streets slippery with human fat,
    bodies flung over the walls yield hills of bone;
    and all the riches of the Kings.
the greatest prize for China: Yeliu Ch'u ts'ai,
so Chingis chose his Minister from the Kin
and leaving the East gave Mukali the Yellow River for his sporting 
    twenty years.

    whilst the Minister moderated
    `you may conquer from the saddle but you cannot rule from the 

Mohammed, Lord of the Turks, Greatest Emperor of Asia.
    killer of emissaries.

again the groundwork.

meticulous planning.
    luck: Jebei, bloodless, the Black Khitans.
then a thousand miles from the enemy came the horsemen to the summons.

Chingis: `Lord, you have chosen war; the Blue Sky above knows all'.
    the gathering in the Altai,
    one hundred and fifty thousand horsemen.
now with Chinese technicians for siegework.

a striking force two toumans; and ever a reserve.
    a touman: a ten of ten of ten of tens.
    armoured lancemen and the swathes of horse archers, remounts,
and the strikers clockworked.
    and secretly the arrow messengers, riding by day and by night,
    at speed unparalleled, swaddled in leather.

the combination.
and the great generals.
and ever Chingis with the Guard touman.

Chingis and Subotei:
the first perfection.

Jebei and two touman over the Pamirs.
Juchi and the main army: ten touman
over destroyed country up the Jaxartes.
    a pincer on Samarkand.
then, behind the Turks, before Bukhara:
    Chingis. Subotei. the Guard.
    a ride over three hundred miles of arid desert.
    horses' hooves pounded the Alqoran inside the mosques.
yet an empty city, the citizens expelled.
garrison destroyed by a ruse.
    then the triple rendezvous at Samarkand.

the first perfection.

again the citizens spared; the garrison destroyed.
Subotei: Jelme: two touman:
through Khorasan to pursue and kill Mohammed.

Bogurchi: the Upper Oxus and the massacre at Urgenj.

now Holy War by Jelal, son of Mohammed.
    as safeguard Tului to Khorasan: to `exterminate',

to secure the rear.

    Nissa, Herat, Nishapur; only technicians and slaves preserved.
    even Merv, the oldest city of the World.

Chingis: young Shigi Kutuku with three touman defeated in reconnoitre
    by Jelal at Kabul.
    but now through the Afghan hills, over the range, down to the 
    here Jelal cornered.

    Jelal and a dozen swam the Indus, holding his crescent banner 
Chingis: `there: a man to emulate'
    and into the Punjab.

the plague and Yeliu Ch'u ts'ai decided: enough;

Mohammed: Subotei and Jebei to the Tigris, then north to the Caspian,
    at Abeskun died Mohammed.
    Subotei bandaged as an arrow messenger to Chingis.
    so far? farther!
    the probe to the West with Jebei. he was given three years.

Chingis: the pleasant easy return, hunting, hawking,
    discoursing with sages, learning of his World:
    to his grandchildren:
    Hulagu, Conqueror of Iran; Kubilai, of China;
with fifteen million skulls bleaching;
the ancient glory, the thriving industry, gone;
the technicians removed.

Subotei; Jebei: cut through Georgia then by the Caucasus to the Black 
    and steppeland! Westward to the Dnieper destroying Kipchak 
    a ripple rebounding to Constantinople gate, then halt at the 
    smell wind of Europe.
returning destroyed nine thousand Russians at the Kalka,
the Prince of Kiev pressed to death. no blood blue spilt.

    yet only Subotei reported to Chingis. Jebei dead.
Jebei who with two touman rode from Korea to save the Black Khitan.

The West was open.

Chingis dead. Ogedei the heir.
    dying having conquered the Upper Yellow River
    dying instructing Tului the final extermination of the Kings of 
    dying in the Ordos. old Hun-land.
wielder of touman. welder of clans. dynast.
borne to the sacred mountain of Burkan-Kaldan.
every stranger to look on the bier slain.

Chingis: `as to what is thought of me, I am indifferent'
the historian Juvaini: `a just resolute butcher'

the final extermination: done by Subotei and Tului,
    Yeliu Ch'u ts'ai saving lives in the name of technology.
    the end of the Kings of Gold. the Kin.

under Ogedei at new Karakorum a palace.
brick and stone: the Minister's pleasure: for administrational 

the gathering at Karakorum.
Ogedei: Subotei; the plan.
China and the West; simultaneously.
    to Ogedei: China and the Sung, the Yangtse.
    to Subotei: the West.
    the second perfection.

first the Volga and all between,
the supplement of Turkish prisoners.
and the great campaign as the touman ride;
Turks, engineers, swarms of remounts, food on the hoof, endless wagon 

    first the smoke hung over Riazan,
    soon Moscow, Susdal, Vladimir, burnt.
    Yaroslav and Trer.
to the Ukraine grass and regroup,
then Kiev destroyed;
    so Russia.
second the plains of Hungary:
    while Kaidu probed;

to secure the rear.

    the Polish army --- gone,
    Cracow, Breslau, burnt.
    so Poland.
    the Silesians closing, the Bohemians closing,
    the Silesian army with the Orders Teutonic, Templar, Hospitaller
--- gone.

Wenceslas of Bohemia turns back and Hungary cut from Austria.

Subotei: three columns over the Carpathians,
    convergence at Gran;
    then draw back pursued to Tokay: feint
    and seventy thousand of Europe dead
    as the touman whirl feint whirl.
    the advance base secure. Gran sacked.

the second perfection.

and the columns probe to Venice and Vienna.
    Europe will burn.

    `...all the World'

Ogedei dead.
    the touman wheel East.
    the hundred thousand leave; never to return.
    an exhibition in art for Europe; and the caravan routes free.

the Marshal Subotei, at eighty, chose retirement;
    to his tents and to his herds. his greatgrandchildren.
    to ponder the conquests of Chingis and Subotei;
    as the touman rode feinted whirled combined struck precision 
    arrows darkening skies.
envy the exhilaration of births at the birth of Temujin.
    now there are the names:
    Chingis: Subotei
    Son of the Blue Wolf and his Marshal.

Douglas Clark/ Horsemen/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/