Lopsided horns

The little brown sheep with the lopsided horns
Follows the the grey mare around
Trots the grey mare behind
Nuzzles the grey mare gently

The little brown sheep with the lopsided horns
And the funny walk
Adores the elegant grey mare
Nuzzles the elegant grey mare gently
Trots the grey mare behind

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The New Jim Crow: an Erratic review

Finally coming to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness eight years after it was originally published in 2010 is an interesting experience. In many ways little has changed: there are still millions of young black and brown men in America’s jails, prisons, and probation systems. The blind goddess Justice still has sores where her eyes should be, since the so-called justice system is systematically stacked against working-class youth of color every step of the way, from the criminal law code to decisions about police priorities, to arrests, to decisions to prosecute, to convictions, to sentencing, to restrictions imposed on ex-felons.

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An immigrant’s poem

‘Have you ever even been to Seacroft’
he mumbled, not a question,
as if the point wasn’t to get an answer,
as if provincial suburban chauvinism was a knowing game we played,
as if 26 years of frustration were pouring out,
as if he knew the outlander.

I know.
I remember saying ‘that’s not how you pronounce Towson’
to kids from Wilkes-Barre.
I know, but not really.
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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 plaintiff’s case

Would it be possible – does any of you out there think – to sue the entire capitalist class for fraud?
I am a republican, constitutionalist, small-C conservative, and democrat, a Disraeli-ite at heart, a believer above all in the majesty of Common Law.
Is there a mechanism; can we all just sue them, or get them charged with negligent homicide?
I am searching for a precedent, perhaps a hallowed decision under the Roman Hadrian, or a distant, un-repealed article of Norman law
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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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The Clotheless Convocation of Capitalists

Each day at noon the naked nabobs met
The bigwigs brayed and bellowed their commands
The Clotheless Convocation of Capitalists
Held their hearings in the house that shared a wall with mine.

Their servants screamed out ‘stocks! Stocks for sale!’
While their masters whipped them, raising welts
The clang and clatter of their chains was cacaphonic
Their uses – pleasure, pain and profit – ran together.

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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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How I won the war

The Marshal of the demon force called up his mighty horde.
His vassals heard the buccina’s call, and dropped their chisels and staves.
In throngs they mustered at shire oaks, and each villain brought a sword.
They were red and grey, full-scaled and hot, and most were very brave.

In columns each brigade assembled, and they marched towards our land.
They were disciplined and well-supplied: a fiery, gruesome sight.
What hope had we, we righteous few, to oppose this devilish band?
Within a week they’d pontooned a river, whose bank was ours by right.

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“The Surgeon’s Palace”, it was discreetly called
The place where men went in and tarried long
Its portcullis spat divinely their echoed song
And it was girdled round by delicately tiled walls.

Each eave betrayed gargoyled inspiration
Each roof tile bore the mark of godly hand
All un-beautiful things, within the grounds, were banned
And everywhere stood urns of contemplation.

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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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And we’ll dance a quadrille on the graves of the lance-corpora
We’ll sing praise to the foolish commands of the centuriones and majori
Lord, how we love a slaughter.
-Lucifer, in De Selby’s one-act play ‘The Devils and the Little Green Men’

In the play, Lucifer, unaware that the main purpose of the Armageddon is the release of a ‘soothing vapour’ which will allow mushrooms and lichens to escape their stunted forms and become a host of angels, teams up with God against Satan (a separate devil) and Adam, who each have their own reasons for preserving the Earth.

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Urbs gratia urbis

Did you ever learn about the mystic little gully,
close beside the creekbed where the water leaps and rumbles?
Past the ill-used gravelled path, where two birch trees lean together,
Go between them and you’ll find a paradisiacal glen.

The rivulet is often dry, but that matters nothing to us;
Dry as well are well-placed boulders, for eating sandwiches and pears on,
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The interwar years

I am a comfortable man; the best years of my life are before me,
when I’ll tell stories of all the hard years of my past.
I have a wife and kids, a house and job and yard;
and no longer have to sneak on trains and steal.
Who am I to resent a life of leisure,
when everything that’s fine is close to hand?
Who am I to derive any pleasure
from memories of my suffering younger self?

[The foregoing said, utterly naively,
on a morning — in the afternoon the bombs began to fall.]

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