Padding softly into spring

March they say ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.’ There’s certainly been some sound – but not necessarily fury – at The Leopard and not ‘signifying nothing’ either. (Or ‘not signifying nothing neither’ if we wanted double negatives)

Gill McEvoy

We’ve had a terrific session with Grevel Lindop and there are promises of further great evenings to come. Don’t miss Gill McEvoy as guest poet on Tuesday April 19th at 7.30pm upstairs in The Leopard Hotel, Burslem – lair of the Poetry Society’s popular Stoke Stanza.

Regulars and those who have been involved for some time, may remember Drew Nuttall who used to attend in the early days. Sadly, Drew has moved from the area and, it seems, taken regular Leopard attender Paul Freeman’s copy of Michael Symonds Roberts’ Corpus with him. Rather than simply asking Paul where to return the volume, Drew’s written him a poem – or rather a ‘poemail’.

Corpus: a poemail by Drew Nuttall

I have uncovered a book, a Corpus
buried in a mound of fellow works.

The shroud reads Michael Symmons Roberts
but I know it to be yours,

Lent, but shamefully unreturned,
even after forty days were up.

I am leaving this town this week,
this less-than-week (this Saturday),

and I have felt in this untombed tome
this same desire for a tomorrow life.

Tell me where this book may find its home
and this Corpus will rise again before Easter.

The Leopard sends best wishes to Drew wherever he has moved and our appreciation for his contributions during our early days.

Leopard regular Maurice Leyland has submitted this poem with an Australian bush theme — with a twist.

NEVER LOOK UP
 
I live on the road, wherever it goes
leading to work and grub and life.
I wear what I’ve got to ride, to sleep
and mend it – not having a wife.
 
My hat’s wide for the sun, the wind and the rain,
keeps off flies and any old weather.
When I come across water it fills my billy –
you can’t beat waterproof leather.
 
My shirt and my pully look after my skin
against flies and dust and whatever.
My trousers are tough for many a mile
and my braces hold me together.
 
When young l could walk but I like my bike
it trebles the load and the miles.
You can’t beat a saddle on a long day
but I’m not saying it’s good for my piles.
 
I try my best for my bum, high on my swag
which does get rather too wide.
When mounting my bike and cocking my leg,
I need post or a rock close beside.
 
Tucker bag at the front as big as you like,
while, at the back – my best friend,
my billy-can, with lantern, all useful things,
with Catty there watching my end.
 
I bake my damper in the campfire ashes
with flour and soda for leaven.
I cover my bread with Cocky’s Joy –
syrup sweet – I’m in swagman’s heaven.
 
The road to the horizon never ends,
wherever it may lead.
You pedal on, one yard at a time;
never look up, is the swaggies’ creed.

We look forward to seeing regular or new attenders on 19th April. There’ll be another opportunity to hear Gill McEvoy at Poems & Pints in Alsager at 8pm on Thursday 12th May upstairs at The Lodge pub on Crewe Road. There will be an open-mic and live-music as well as Gill’s guest slot.

Peter Branson

Peter Branson

Then, at 8pm on Thursday 9th June Peter Branson will be reading from his latest collection at The Lodge, Alsager when there’ll also be an open-mic and support from folk-duo Brennan and Buchanan and singer-songwriter Chris Algar. He’ll also be at Alsager Library from 11am – 12 noon on Tuesday 3rd May and at The New Vic Theatre with folk-band ‘Parish Lantern’ and cellist Sally Walker on Monday 16th May 7pm for 7.30pm.

We look forward to seeing you at The Leopard or at other poetry events around The Potteries and beyond.

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More Poetry from The Leopard

Grevel Lindop poet and literary critic

Grevel Lindop

Just a reminder, folks, that the next Poetry Stanza at the Leopard pub in Burslem will be on Tuesday March 22nd at 7.30pm, when we welcome Grevel Lindop once again. He will read from his most recent collection, Luna Park published last Autumn to great acclaim by the Carcanet Press. Copies will be on sale at the reading (£9.99). Please bring your own poems to share and discuss in the second half of the evening.

Visit his blogsite: grevel.co.uk/poetry/luna-park-new-poems-2015

Gill McEvoy

On Tuesday April 19th Gill McEvoy will read at the Leopard Stanza. She has recently won the prestigious Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets for The First Telling (Happenstance). Gill is a former Poetry Society Stanza rep for Cheshire, and her poem Exorcising the Chemotherapy Wig was published in Poetry News in 2007.

Judges’ Comments: “We admired the way this pamphlet deals not just with trauma and its aftermath, but with the difficulty of articulating what has happened, the challenge of finding the right words. Form and content mesh together perfectly in poems that use the power of silence as well as the power of language.”

Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday, March 22nd.

Meanwhile, to keep you going, here’s a tender Potteries poem from ‘Milton Shaw’.

VICTORY!

Greater than three points earned.
More fun than bawdy terrace chants.
Joy deeper than Charlie’s pin-point pass.
This game of life finally felt alight.
To sit next to you, joke with you delight in Delilah’s choir with you.
I allowed myself to be exactly what I am; for you, your father and you to me, my son.

Bereft of healing by my leave.
Your trust was all but gone.
Lately you returned your belief in me.
Your faith has seen just what I am: for you a father and you to me, my son.

Greater than the three points earned.
More fun than bawdy terrace chants.
At last I know what’s been returned; to you, your father and you to me, my son.

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Roaring into Spring

The Leopard’s roaring its way into the New Year now with a visit from Jeffrey Wainwright in February and Grevel Lindop due to join us on March 22nd.

Jeffrey Wainwright February 2016

Jeffrey Wainwright reading upstairs at The Leopard

Grevel Lindop poet and literary critic

Grevel Lindop

Here are some poems read and discussed during Jeffrey Wainwright’s visit. Firstly, Malcolm McMinn with echoes of a somewhat seasonal Lenten/Passiontide theme.

I WASH MY HANDS

I wash my hands of this man’s blood
But guilt remains, I know, for good.
I’ve had him whipped until his gore
Runs deep and red upon my floor:
It’s well for me he’s not the Lord.

I did as much as any could
But they would nail him to the wood.
To maintain peace and keep the law
I wash my hands.

For evermore my name is mud,
My part in this misunderstood;
The mob outside still rage for more,
Their hatred running deep and raw,
And though some day I must face God,
I wash my hands.

Meanwhile, it’s bin day for John Williams.

BIN DAY

I press for daycare in the condo, bang the door
and stick a notice to the board with pins.
But it’s my week to clink the letterbox
and call the old hip cats, body builder,
and couples no-one sees to bring their bins.
Puzzled at cinders now we’re smokeless,
I wonder whose fire alarm’s defunct.
Our fires are flameproof, ersatz logs,
surge-free plugs and eco-wired.
We give our milk tops for the refugees
and grow porch plants, devoured by shrubs.
We look like Eden coming back
but for the sachets snipped and uncorked wine.
One tug, my steel pins give, the poster falls
and says we’re temp, not perm.
No daycare in the garden and Adam reappears
who chose tragedy, not playtime for his boys.

For more Poetry from The Potteries join us upstairs at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem at 7.30pm on Tuesday 22nd March. Bring 15 copies of your own work to share and discuss or just come to listen and soak up the atmosphere. You’d have to go a long way to find insight and feedback as good as you’ll get here!

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Prowling into 2016

We are delighted to welcome Jeffrey Wainwright back to The Leopard pub for our Stoke Stanza session on Tuesday 16th February. It’ll be upstairs in that historic Burslem pub at 7.30pm.

Jeffrey Wainwright

Jeffrey’s been a great friend of The Leopard and has read and discussed his verse with us before. He’s even submitted a poem for us to comment on and here it is in all its glory, a recent work on a local theme. Jeffrey Wainwright is one of The Potteries’ leading living literary figures and his poem deals with the famous revivalist movement which started on the slopes of Mow Cop.

PRIMITIVE METHODISTS

Here the helpless, hapless, feckless commonage
in congregation on a May week-end at Mow Cop
to hear Hugh Bourne, who, even when speaking to thousands,
could not help but hold a shy hand before his face.

He carts the gospel from place to place, the word
of some god who is not Mammon and who likes the meek.
Who shall inherit.   Inherit what?  This show below?
potbanks, coal-smoke, salt-fogs, pit-heaps, saffrucks, soot?

These ‘dear peculiar people’ are not that daft.
They do not expect owt builded here to go up quick.
All they ask, free and familiar, is how to be
a worthy soul, and that their works shall follow them.

Thus Hon Treas., always in his best on Sundays,
rattles year by year his tin of co-operation.
It will add up, even though only copper, into a benefit,
a grand word and a grand thing: all do give so all may live.

Thus Hon Sec. reads the notices for the week, the rotas
and the tasks of patience.  She knows that ‘e’en the smallest thing
can do some good and comfort bring’ and will keep at it,
entering in the minute-book the measures of their joy.

They gave their mite, these ranting Primitives,
a-shivering and a-shaking (agitating!) all through Sunday night.
Filled from the loving-cup, they descend lit-up into the dark.
May those who mock thee learn the dignity of love.
There will be a prize – a very un-Primitive pint perhaps – for the first person to identify what ‘saffrucks’ are.

Come and hear Jeffrey on 16th February – all welcome, admission free.

JENNY HAMMOND, a Leopard regular, brought the following poem to the Stanza session on 19th January.

BLUE GLASS STONE

A gypsy came to my front door.
She knuckle-knocked, ignored the bell.
Her jet black hair was streaked with white
and “headphone plaits” adorned each ear.
A weathered face with gap-toothed smile,
and “crow’s feet” round each hazel eye,
spoke of a rugged outdoor life.

“Clothes pegs for sale, my deary-oh? “
Her lilting voice bewitched my mind.
And so I picked and paid her for a
home-made handful from her wicker
basket. In return she dug
into the pocket of her coat
and pulled out a polished blue glass stone
which seemed to shimmer in the light.

“This will bring you luck” she said
as she pressed the object in my palm.
Since then the years have multiplied
and still it sits with hagstones, flints,
an old clay pipe, a fossil fin,
an antique ink pot, ammonites,
guarding all my memories.

MALCOLM McMINN brought a well-crafted poem with a regular metrical and rhyme scheme.

BIPOLAR

Of all mankind I am the most well blessed,
With silver spoon and Midas touch: the best!
For me, all things fall into place; the apple
Of loving parents’ eyes, no need to grapple
For my share. Socially, I am the soul
Of charm and wit, always my chosen role;
The golden boy, the man who’s got the lot.
Slight swings of mood are just a minor blot;
When told, it caused me such hilarity,
“You’ve got depressive bipolarity.”
That spell in hospital was just a blip;
My God, depressive types give me the pip!
But that was yesterday. Today my mood
Has changed, and now become much darker hued.
I realize my life is but a sham
And this sad Judas world’s not worth a damn.
Unloved, unwanted, mocked behind my back,
No wonder that my mood is turning black.
My Janus headed friends all gone, I think;
For solace now there’s just the demon drink.
The whisky that I sup is bad enough;
So what? Who cares? I’m done with life, I’ll snuff
It out. Death is the cure for all my ills
So now I’m reaching for the sleeping pills.

Meanwhile, JOHN WILLIAMS is sitting rather uncomfortably …

THE BEST CHAIRS

Tugged out of true until the stitches burst,
the chairs we kept for pub talk:
the Blair wars, our young friends
debunking freedom’s many enemies
that plonked themselves in every argument
like the smell of cracked leather.
We wriggled till the horsehair came adrift,
a fire risk no-one had the heart to dump
but saggy by the time the Wall fell down
and the soul turned out to be DNA.
We found the worst way to acquire our stuff,
inheritance, time’s chromosome.
These chairs, coming down to us for years,
one death, another, room to room,
the smell of fresh paint in the dark,
ecology, novels, Mongolian
overtone chanting, sky mums,
the scuffs and stains that make up memory.
Our son pitched each chair upside down to learn
commando skills, a ski run, a bunker
against the Blast in upholstery foam,
listening for the warning crash, thunderclap
then black. What’s freedom anyway,
but ringing on the door till the bell-wire burns?
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Hope to spot you at a Stanza Session soon!
The Stoke Stanza is affiliated to The Poetry Society and meets once a month at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Street, Burslem, Stoke on Trent. All welcome, admission free.
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Into the New Year with The Leopard

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Before Advent and the Yuletide cheer, here are some poems from the final Stoke Stanza session of 2015 – and dates for 2016.

There’ll be Stanza sessions at 7.30pm upstairs at The Leopard pub in Burslem on the following Tuesdays:

January 19th | February 16th | March 22nd | April 19th | 

May 17th | June 21st | July 19th | August 23rd | September 20th

October 18th | November 22nd

All welcome, admission free, please come prepared to discuss and share your work – or simply listen. Please bring 15 copies.

First up from the last of 2015, it’s Geoff Sutton with memories of WW2.

NINETEEN FORTY ONE

so this is  England
I run with the wild McGregors
Matt calls us the Dagger and Bomb boys
no bomb
scout knives the only blades

our sugar bowl is empty
we are sucking nectar from the White Dead-nettle
we will be wringing the necks of the chickens

Don’t sit under the apple tree
With anyone else but me
Till I come marching home

eighty Dorniers and Heinkels will deliver the bombs
to Bristol and Bath
it will be next April

under the stairs
smells of gas and carpet

Straighten up and fly right
Cool down,papa,don’t you blow your top

a bomber will crash
Matt’s dad will take us to see
it  smeared across a hill
Micky finds one flying-boot
lined with fur
inside the other will be a foot

we will be liking the girls
Thelma and Ann
Barbara and Kathleen
they will be smelling sweet

Cigareetes and whuskey and wild wild women
They’ll drive you crazy,they’ll drive you insane

we will put on a play in the McGregors’ garage
all the neighbours will come to watch
the Chronicle will  say we are the Dagger and BOND boys

my uncle Ninian will give me a present
a stiletto   it will flick in and out
he is from Glasgow where I was born

we will fly the Union Jack
the Stars and Stripes
the Hammer and Sickle

my guy will come back
he will
I know he will

My guy’s come back
Hallelujah! My guy’s come back.

Geoff has helpfully provided a discography too:

DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE
(Lew Brown,Charles Tobias,and Sam H.Stept)
The Andrews Sisters, 1942

STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT
(Nat King Cole and Irvine Mills)
Nat King Cole,1943

CIGAREETES,WHUSKEY AND WILD, WILD WOMEN
Uncopyrighted
Red Ingle and the Natural Seven,1947

MY GUY’S COME BACK
(Lyrics,Ray McKinley,music,Mel Powell)
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra,vocal,Liza Morrow,1945

John Williams is in domestic territory with his Extractor Fan.

EXTRACTOR FAN

Forced to mend the Expelair, I fix the vent,
Tweak the hum to rid the home of fumes.
It wafts light clothes, arranges sleeves,
drives out the smell where food slams into oil
but leaves the scent of sweet peas in a can.

Some aromas stay, the fan’s an oracle
in the chaos of the home; dash-home meals,
party poppers stranded in the sink,
heartbreak and the percolator fizz.

I chop clean onions and weep in The Clean Air Act.
How do shoes, a twist of herbs and pith
punched out of fruit escape its whirr?
What does it say? Calm as nap time air,
its cool suck stops and my potatoes burn.

Like Geoff, Steve Savage was in nostalgic mood:

ONCE

Are you that same boy that I knew?
Years gone by, dancing to a different tune
That takes me back, to a whole old world
Skipping, I’m sure we used to skip
Over to the fields, our own Greenham common
No tents, wives or mums, just grass
and the wondrous woods

No worries about when to be home alone,
without an adult, keys in the door
no worry about burglary, stealing
friends close at hand to belay the threat
Remember the football on the field, me
Smithy and Dom, tops against skins
close to the door for when she called

Have you stood and looked at that door since then
All gone now, far away from where we were,
different being your own man
A thought provoking stereotype,
Maybe just a bloke,
Trying to remember the lad inside,
The innocence

Newcomer, William Grieg brought a sonnet:

MY FELINE FRIEND

I struggle with the detail of my day
as I’m clumsy and am often out of sorts
and ruminate till I can’t find my way
to break the habit of my darkest thoughts.

But you are like the whiskers of a cat
which measure distances before it follows;
antennae picking up should I be at
a dangerous crossroads which could bring us sorrows.

Your cat’s eyes light my way which comforts me
so I feel happier when we are together.
Just like a cat, you see what I can’t see
and guide me till my day becomes a pleasure;

So all can see I’m blessed to have a wife
who helps dispel the darkness in my life.

We hope to see you again, William – and we hope to see you all in 2016 – keep writing, keep reading, keep coming out in spots …

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Padding towards the winter

There will be a final Stoke Stanza session for 2016 at The Leopard pub, Burslem on Tuesday 17th November at 7.30pm. All welcome. Admission is free. Please bring 15 copies of a poem – yours or someone else’s – that you’d like to discuss. The feedback is friendly, positive and insightful.

Here are some poems aired at the previous Stanza session on Tuesday 13th October.

MOUNTAINS OF FIRE | Jenny Hammond

Montanas del Fuego, ripped apart
by forces from their deepest, hidden heart.
With gaseous heat the grumbling earth controls
through rocky cracks and open fumaroles,
while scalding rivers swallow up the land —
recontoured by a firm, magmatic hand,
to barren fields and spent volcanic cones,
to craters, lava tubes and pumice stones.

This lunar landscape, smoothed with blackened sand,
defines the Timanfayan hinterland.
Yet diverse lichens cling to rocks like snow
and in the crevices euphorbias grow,
to soften and enhance this barren scene
from black to grey to amber, pink and green.
Kaleidoscopic colours, never still,
in tune with shadows moving round until
the sun is quenched and night begins to fall;
when blackness like a blanket covers all.

There were a number of strong rhyming poems this month and Paul Fox was on form with some musings on biological science.

DEMODEX FOLLICULORUM

With little grace and no decorum,
Demodex Folliculorum,
Make your face their home and forum.
(They can’t be seen, so best ignore’em).

Meandering upon your skin –
Your eyelash, temple, cheek and chin,
They entertain their kith and kin:
(And when you wash they burrow in).

In follicles they hold on tight,
With all their microscopic mite,
They’ll watch TV with you at night –
The BBC should be alright.

Sometimes they copulate in pairs
They have more sons than you have hairs;
Run! Climb a mountain! Climb the stairs!
You can’t escape – you’ll still be theirs.

Please don’t panic. Please stay calm,
Don’t look for them, they’ll cause alarm.
They’re ugly and they do lack charm,
But rest assured: they do no harm.

THE TARDIGRADE

The strangest beast God ever made
Is the Water Bear or Tardigrade.
It isn’t like a bear at all
Because it is so very small,
(But can be seen by any dope
Who purchases a microscope).
He lives in rivers or deep seas,
On mountain tops or woodland trees –
In clumps of moss or any place:
They even live in outer space.
Ubiquitous, omniverous,
Hermaphrodite, oviparous.
He has a brain but no neurosis,
And practising cryptobiosis –
Lives, (although he didn’t oughtta)
Ten years without food or water.
Crushed, boiled or frozen, they’ve not died
They never think of suicide.
Their lack of worry and of fears
Helps them live a hundred years.
They even lived – I’d have you know,
Five hundred million years ago,
And when the might of Man has gone
The tardigrade will still go on.

tardigrade
 

 

 
Malcolm McMinn was also in cosmic territory, with a well-crafted Petrarchan sonnet.

CHAOS THEORY
The clockwork cosmos spins for evermore
In preordained deterministic ways,
Proceeding thus until the end of days,
Each part obeying Isaac Newton’s law.
All elegance and perfect symmetry,
There seemed few mysteries for man to solve,
Small need for physicists to dig and delve:
All things behaved as Newton’s laws decreed.

No more! Now chaos rears its ugly head,
Destroying like some parasitic beast.
It seems the clockwork universe has ceased,
The perfect laws of motion all but dead.
But still we wait for Nature’s final word
And maybe Newton’s voice will still be heard.

John Williams was in more belligerent mood with a swipe at violent computer games.

BOARD GAMES

No longer thrilled with Ludo scores,
we fell in love with screens where people die.
More than alarm bells, the Fun House folded
and board games cluttered up the charity shops.
Who plays Race the Robots now
and shakes a double-six to start?

We swapped the dice for poker apps,
the marketing plus of click-to-kill,
dropping barrel-bombs from a sun bed.
I hear shirts burn off, a hero die
and choose a range of screams in Gamer Gear,
the throwback packs from Apple Store.

But connoisseurs, the keepers of the shrine,
play blow-football with a drinking straw,
collect old dice and make Meccano men.
They like a scream in a balloon, and give
in friendship Swap and Go or Earthquake
and games that kill quite safely with a flick.

Steve Savage dealt with real warfare in his poem.

THESE DISCS
(From Sonnet – To My Friend (with an identity disc))

Let my inscription be these discs
Until my name grows blurred and fade away
My number etched only inside my bones

I did a little, took that silver coin
Wrote a blank cheque for my life
To be given should my brother need it

One day there will be no need to train
No flying, sailing or digging in for death
One day we will all be stood down

Remember that the disc at the end is for
your toe. Sometimes the only means of
identity, due to the rigours of battle

With so many shattered limbs these days
we may need a new way to tage our dead.
World take note, how good we’ve become at war

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Poetry on the Prowl

We had a cracking Stanza session with Caroline Hawkridge on 22nd September – and we’re convening again at 7.30pm on Tuesday 13th October for more reading and discussing of poems. All welcome, admission free. Please bring 15 copies of work you’d like to read and discuss – you can be assured of helpful and constructive feedback.

Here are some poems from the last session.

First up, Becky Sowray

image of factory

FACTORY

I breathe oceans,
soft-lit, hot landscapes of steam.
Forging raw substance,
into our joint creation,
something fine.

Tonight I power the moon,
my arc lights fill her;
making this hour’s ecstasy.
I draw each surface sharp,
diamond-tense, life-for-living.

Men built my lungs,
while a community gathered.
Every one rode on hope,
the price-less tide
of change.

I have appetite, a beast;
not to be denied.
You; you want my produce,
but not my filthy self; dirtier
than the earth.

You say you want me,
but I know your lies.
Selfishness is all you know;
comfort, want and this hour now.
You are rotten.

Faltering and blind
you try to bury me;
you’d see me dead.
Your chorus is a litany
of stupidity.

Your bleaching day denies me,
wraps me in grey,
it is the weight of your mind.
I exist here only, now,
in the dark.

It was Becky’s Leopard debut, we look forward to hearing more from her soon.

Malcolm McMinn considers what some have to do for a living:

TITAN THE BULL

Titan the bull, a magnificent beast,
Almost as tall as a man at the shoulder
And must weigh over a ton. Broad of head
On a thick short neck, his body is built
Like, —– well, he’s built like a bull. He has got
That macho charisma, his ego swollen
As big as a barn (and temper to match).
The cows all adore him, gaze with desire,
Cow-eyed, droolingly, but to no avail;
The cows and the bull are all badly cheated!
Titan’s the father of hundreds of offspring,
Many more are hoped for next year. You’d think
That a varied and vigorous sex life
Would keep him fully employed. Not a chance,
Nothing like that; Titan, I fear, is a
Virgin and may never know the real thing
For science, not nature, now rules supreme.
Men in white coats and surgical gloves come
Now and then just to extract Titan’s seed.
Gosh! What some men have to do for a living!

Karen Schofield brought an eerie poem with a sinister medical theme:

THE MYELOMA MOTHS

The moths came with a soft flutter
one night and buried into
the deepest recesses of cloth.

Their offspring had their fill, gnawed
the wool and cashmere mix of a coat
framed by a hanger, shaped like you.

They punched out tell-tale holes, some like stars
which later grew, coalesced into craters.
Silver dust littered the wardrobe carpet.

They were driven out, killed off a few times
but resistant reinforcements arrived,
attacked the arms, shoulders and back

until the coat was held together by threads.
Shrunken and spineless, its days were numbered
and it shed bits of blue wool like tears.

Steve Savage also brought a very evocative poem, this one based on a visit to an art-installation.

BATTLESHIPS IN THE CLOUDS
(After visiting a balloon art installation project at Tate, St Ives in summer 2011)

They gather overhead
Line up to cruise inland
Like great grey battleships

Remember when you were young
Finding faces and shapes
Amongst those massive marshmallows

Time would stand still for an afternoon
As the cowboys and indians of youth
Drifted across our child’s minds’ eye

Over time thoughts get clouded
By things not known as children
No string left to ravel ourselves up in

Yesterday we played amongst Tate’s balloons
Today there are battleships in the clouds

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