The seraph

I have seen a seraphim,
all emerald,
a gawping, hag-head monster fish,
all dripping from the brine.

This angel came up suddenly;
she startled me
with her scaly face,
while I was walking pleasantly,
along a rocky shore.

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A proposal for the expansion of urban garden space

I will admit, under protest, that certain proposals I have made previously, while intended with full sobriety and seriousness, and still commanding my faith in their efficacy and practicality, might be viewed by some people with a more straitened sense of the imaginable as not being meant to be entirely serious. It is for this reason that I must stress that the following proposition is not meant in any satirical, ironic, or tongue-in-cheek vein, but as a legitimate, simple, and, yes, genuinely modest suggestion for the reclamation and beautification of urban road surfaces.
On my street, and on most other residential streets around the world, the people who live on the street and own cars park them in front of their houses. Continue reading

The debate

At the hustings on Friday the crowd was expectant
As they waited for Boffo to take to the stage
The clown politician was red-nosed and couchant
His notes lay beside him, in small hand, on one page

His opponent Malvolio was already up there
A conservative nasty who could barely disguise
His disgust at anyone who needed welfare
And the deadness and dullness at the back of his eyes

But where was our Boffo? asleep, or unconscious?
Poisoned? or dreaming of buckets of paint?
Could it be that the clown, so staid and conscientious
Was afraid to step onto the stage to debate?

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3-year-olds are forced to represent themselves in U.S. immigration courts without legal aid

I’m daring sometimes, but I couldn’t defy decorum
in a court convened to determine if my condition,
in the place which my parents had brought me to in panic,
fleeing famine, fighting, and foul exploitation,
was lawful, licit, and, in the court’s eyes, legitimate.

I’d lean on the lectern, looking at the justices,
wrapped in their robes, surrounded by regalia,
flanked by their bailiffs, fingers on their firearms,
their magistracy malign, and clouded over by malice,

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On borders

There will always be restrictions on and exceptions to the libertarian ideal that I can “do what I want and go where I like”: I can’t do what I want if that means punching you in the nose, and I can’t go where I like if that means sneaking into your bedroom. But the burden of proving that any such restrictions are necessary, of proving that other considerations should override my rights and freedoms, lies firmly with the people who are imposing the restrictions. We no longer find conscionable the idea of forcing someone to spend their life in shackles, and we require (at least, in theory) incontrovertible proof of serious wrongdoing before forcing someone to reside in a prison cell. I believe that the case for drawing a line in the dirt known as a “border,” and forcing someone to stand behind it, thereby imposing a serious restriction on their movement, hasn’t and cannot be proven.

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Magic, soberly considered

What if there were a machine, such that hasn’t ever yet been built,
that if you, no matter if you were an expert, or no matter how unskill’d,
if you pointed it at a tree: a giant oak, or a young sycamore, or even, say, a spruce,
this machine would, by magic or mechanically, take that tree, and convert it into a house?

How would this device change the world? Be careful now, we have to get this right.
I don’t aspire to moralising. I don’t want, in any way, to be trite,
and talk of how we’d change the forest into slums, because a lone house in the woods fills us with dread,
and what we daren’t look at, and what we do instead.

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Atlantis: a tragedy

It rose, real as anything, from the roiling sea
A continent created by Neptune’s cunning
Fully formed, with free-flowing rivers overrunning
And blessed with black soil, bounteous and free

In the depths of the Atlantic, in darkness he’d delved
Surrounded by squid-workers, with sharks as sentries
In the annals of engineering they etched a new entry
With great plains and grand mountains and gallantly shelved

Atlantis, newly made by the noble Lord Neptune
A present perpetual from Poseidon to the world
Forged at the ocean’s foundation, was finally unfurled
Rich in minerals and ready to receive its fortune

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The Referee

Rick Ratter was a semi-professional referee
Non-league, but nationally ranked: nearly there
He travelled in his Transit van, or via train
Across most the North, even to Merseyside, from Middlesbrough

In the van’s front seat would sit his friend Ffion
Or curled up by his kit on the carriage floor
She was a white-and-black Welsh sheepdog
Devoted, daft, and always well-deported

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I dreamt of a field

Our view is of a vast and varied, frozen field.
Furrows fill it, and it’s flanked by deep ditches full of water.
Stubble sticks up, remnants of the last good crop still visible.
Close by, a pile of rotten produce, there, a polluted pond,
further, the detectorists’ pewter teapot.
At the far end a hillock erupts and,
as if aware of the mood, sits, barren and unmotivated.
Everywhere, the cold earth is clumped in clods, undiggable.
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Marceline Ford

Marceline Ford is an interesting woman. There are some critics who argue that she is not an author, that her art is nothing but a gimmick, and that it is undignified to include reviews of her work, that of a ‘self-published’ writer, in the nation’s most prestigious literary magazines. Others retreat to technicality: she is not an author but a modern artist; her works belong not in English Literature classes but in galleries. Neither of these criticisms has any merit.

Ford is an author. In fact, it would be an extreme and unfair understatement to describe her as the premier author of her generation. Ford’s genius is so startling, so acute and warm, that her peers are better counted as the J writer and the Gawain poet, Langland and Homer: men whose works have survived all biography bar their names.

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A Poetical Response

To Greg Mankiw’s assertion that “consumption smoothing” makes it worse for a rich child to lose their inheritance than for a poor child to remain poor

The rich feel more sweeter pain than we
It sugars their sublime fresh misery
A pinch to them is like the sweetest flowers
Not dull and torpid, like long workman’s hours
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A vignette

In my mind the young British Asian man is still standing there,
on platform 16 of Leeds station,
standing in the dimpled cautionary zone
in a grey parka,
leaning towards the track
as the grey, grated engine of the Liverpool train
pulls in past him.
His friend stands slightly further back,
chatting: bearded and backgrounded.
There’s no sense of danger,
just a subconscious calculation of distance and velocity.
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Winter solstice – darkest timeline

I ooze into the sinking darkness;
I slip into the rippling night;
I run without the aid of torches,
and follow owls in their flight.

I am growing used to endless darkness,
and it is growing used to me.
I grow used to endless winter,
walking blindly across a frozen sea.

Ask me if we will find summer:
flowers, green shoots, warmth and light.
Ask me and I’ll tell you only
that I follow owls in their flight.

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A nasty habit

I pick the scab because of a desire
_____to see red oozing from me.
Not for pain — no! —
_____if it hurt I would stop immediately.
I don’t do it to ‘feel something’ —
_____what do I feel?
sitting there fiddling with brown scab
_____and yellow crust,
_____ white pus and blood-red blood,
in a bright fluorescent corner,
_____in a steel-and-glass —
_____state-of-the-art —
_____that will look decrepit in ten years,
while the lecturer yaks on about macroeconomics,
_____or marketing or privacy or whatever.
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Untitled no. 27

Do you recall, sir, we were great once,
and our exploits filled headlines?
—My head now is filled with stale nuts;
if you please, restore my wine.
Sir, you must remember
how we terrified the crowds!
—I know who I’ll dismember,
if no pony I’m endowed!
But sir, though your mind is feeble,
yet your legacy is strong.
—Once I spoke the tongue of weevils,
but my syn-taxis were wrong.
Listen closely to my cricket accents,
because I know my days aren’t long:
there’s nothing that I did I’m proud of;
I resent the drip-pan crown of

A conversation

—It’s not all in there, you know!
Sorry, what?
—You won’t find everything you’re looking for
I was checking whether my friend had messaged me
about meeting up later,
but thank you, strange man.
You’re exciting to me.
You see, I’m a collector of condescensions,
a connoisseur of stale wisdoms,
an aficionado of heads up-their-own-asses,
and a dealer in fine fools,
and you, sir, you’re a specimen!
You’d fetch a pretty penny at the next auction.
Can I keep you?