The Children's Game

It is a game they play on their days off,
sick days, half-days, early closing days
in the long light evenings
when everything has stopped working.

The boys pretend to be men. They go out.
The girls sing lovelovelove and rock the babies.
The boys come back. They pass the babies
round the circle

When the music stops whoever is left
holding the baby is naked and
everyone falls down.

In the old days when men worked underground
they would take a cagebird down the shaft
and as long as it went on singing
they would know they were alive.

Now in the shopping malls do you notice babies
in little wheeled cages with plastic covers?
The women push them about and sometimes
the babies seem to be asleep.

We will finish with dancing.
This is how it goes --- hold hands
in a circle, one step forwards
two steps back. Mark time.

Now the men walk away from the women,
the women walk away from the children
and the children walk away from the old people
and the old people are left shuffling in their cages.

Are they still singing?

Two men and a pig

My name is Joseph Henderson.
My brother's name is Matthew Henderson.
The pig's name is MacDonald.

I was called after my father.
Matthew was called after our uncle.
The pig was called after the hamburgers.

I weigh twelve and a half stone.
Matthew weighs thirteen odd.
We haven't weighed the pig yet.

I am forty-six years old.
Matthew is forty-four.
The pig is ten months.

I am wearing wellies, working trousers,
jacket, cap. Matthew is wearing boots,
waistcoat, no jacket. The pig is naked.

I am standing on the left,
Matthew is standing on the right.
The pig is upside down in the middle.

I am smiling.
Matthew is smiling.
The pig is not smiling.

Last Words

Perhaps we could all agree to avoid the word
filigree. Do any of you still remember 
those pierced silver dishes filled with Turkish Delight,
grapes or nuts set among folded napery
(and that word too should be avoided). What would we lose
if that image was no longer available?

How do we feel about stipple? Are we happy
with pock? Patina? Lambent? These words are under threat,
their future uncertain but how would we describe
the interlocking rings of raindrops on water?
The distant sound of tennis on summer evenings?
The richly weathered surface of garden bronzes?

I would like to apply for a licence for pock
stipple, shard, patina, lambent, filigree.
I feel under an obligation to keep them
alive when so much is endangered. Could they be
recycled? Tigree, stippent, lampard, shopple, filipat.
It might be kinder to let them go quietly.

Faraway a pock-a-pock-a and the evening sky
stippled, lambent. The long high note of filigree
screams thinly for the last time gree!gree! and falls
apart and the fragments go fluttering across
the moon. Ock lam ipp ent bage sha...sha...
sha... whispering into the silence.

Left Right

If you had your time again what
would you choose? If we were playing
Oranges and Lemons would you pick
oranges? Lemons? Would you pick me?
If you picked me would I be your
better half? If there was only half
of me would that be better? Would
you take left or right? If there was only
one left would you take it? Would you
see me right? If I couldn't take it
would you give me the other?
If you were the other would I
be the one? Would I be all right?
Or would I be left?

If it's half-time do you feel like
a right lemon? When you have sucked
the juice will there be anything left?
How much of this can you take?

How much time have you left? If
you had your time over again
do you think you would get it right?

My Father's Shadow

At Seascale our shoes were full of sand.
Daddy emptied them out in the front porch
and we went up the stairs like good girls
and pulled the quilts over our heads as
the rocks dragged the darksilk sea back
over the wet ridged sand
again and again and the sea was lovely really.

Mother said, It's not cold really,
you'll get used to it but I was frightened.
Daddy said, She'll go in when she's ready.
He found a hollow in the sand
and something sweet in his pocket.

I wouldn't have chosen to grow up
quite this way, to be quite so far out,
to become so used to the cold
that now I can even lie down in the snow
and imagine it is warm, imagine
I am in the warm sand
in the shadow of my father.

Maggy at Grandma's

Fee fi fo fum and look at the plunge in Grimma's Arden.
watch the slips! They're a bit properly. Cold my grand.
The gag won't hurt you, he's a blood moggy. 
Flat him. Bently! He won't fight, he's only breaking.
A gnashy noise. Brown, Pincer, Brown!
The brass is blush and clamp. The bones are green.

See the clash? Under the breeds?
Goldsplishes and polyglots. Frigs.
All lippery. Mutes under the leavings.
It's all crud at the bottom.
Woeful! Be woeful, brawling, don't want to brumble
you'll get all brat!

Grimma's mouse smells molish and purey
the more's lippery. What's in the hubbub? Names!
SAcks of pards, bluedo and pelicans.
When you are colder Grimma will play with you,
snappy fumblies, widdley tinks, necks and sadders.
You can go worst because you are longest.

The cock kicks. Grimma minds up the cock
with her big clay. She finds and finds.
The cock goes knick, knock and the time goes bong.

Meet your tickys up. Link up your silk.
It's in your very grown hug with the habits on.
How many habits? Gone. Who. Me! Oh suck
at all those hums, all heat and sidy.

Up in the pilchard there are asps
at the blindfold mopples, huzzing in the blowers,
wipe moreberries under the knotting. This one's all dead,
Meet it up, bawling, and a mother!

Look how star you can be from here! Proud arrows
boating over the sills and alleys, folds and goods,
bright out to the freeside across the way.

Roamtime now. Say butterfly to Grimma, wailing.
Grieve her a miss, grieve her a shrug.
Sun again moon! She bends by the floor and braves.
She braves and braves as Maggy thrives away.