Category: taster

Godfather

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(Little Richard Penniman, 5.12.1932 - 9.5.2020)

I grew up with music on the radio
’cos my dad liked musicals an’ stuff,
but then I heard rock ’n roll and knew
that, for me, would be enough.

Mum took me to the pictures
to see Bill Hayley on the screen.
I thought he seemed too old
and the band’s suits were just so clean.

Then this little black man appeared,
stood at the piano, turned to me
and yelled the most famous intro
in the whole of music’s history.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-
a-lop-bam-boom! *
to my astonished ears
rang out across that darkened room.

I sat amazed that so much power
could be contained in his small frame
and besides, to cap it all,
we even shared the same first name!

Thus I was reborn into rock
and never have I moved away
but remain an ancient rocker.
I will be to my dying day.

Brought by the enslaved from Africa,
rhythms, mixed with white folks’ tunes,
to give us a new kind of gospel
to reduce the old world to ruins.

I’ve had more than sixty years since then
to hear sounds from around the world -
so much joy and celebration
since that banner was unfurled.

rs 25.4.19

[* Which begins ‘Tutti Frutti’]

Coronation

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We think we are the high kings of creation
until some other organism comes along
to clarify the situation.

When will we learn to exercise some modesty,
to not assume we rule the roost
and the world’s our property?

Our bodies are collectives, not monarchies -
we’re outnumbered by our symbionts,
our parasites, which are the keys ..

.. to unlocking our dependence on the whole
to survive upon this planet anymore -
they don’t play a minor rôle.

For each cell we have is made out of the fusion
of bacteria that migrated from outside
to work together in collusion.

Like stars and planets formed from cosmic dust,
life grew more complex over generations
and evolving as it must.

We are the product of this process, nothing more,
and our populations do the same -
that’s what society is for.

Besieged now by a virus we self-isolate,
to minimise the damage it might cause,
waiting to find out our fate.

That’s how it goes - co-operation, competition
are our constant companions in existence,
so accept your true position.

rs 29.3.20

Libation

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(for Kamau Brathwaite)

He cracked the bottle open
and splashed a mouthful on the ground,
before pouring rum into our plastic cups.
“Por los Orishas?” and he nodded in reply.
So we drank it quietly in his company.

I wouldn’t do it here, but understood this gift
to the spirits and the forebears who provide
a deep sense of engagement with their story
and their land before the slavers came to take
those kidnapped from their home across the sea.

That simple act’s not wasteful, it showed he had respect
for those who went before him and made it possible to be
the artist he was now, bringing music to our shore
from that island that’s so famous for its rhythms,
not forgetting the sugar, rum and fine tobacco.

I’m not at all religious, nor spiritual one bit,
but there are times and places when we may be given
a connection to reality that’s wider than our own,
so it’s good then to recognise that there are different bonds
that join us to the earth and to others.

rs 7-8.2.20

39 migrants found dead in a lorry trailer, 24 October 2019

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No-one is illegal...

I met a Spanish guy one time,
the kind who’s called a gypsy,
which caused the local cops such worry
he strapped himself beneath a lorry ..

.. to get here, hoping to be free
of Franco’s friendly custody.
My first hint of the desperation
of that persecuted nation.

A trick like that would not work now -
our border guards have got this sussed,
though many others try it still
and, if not caught, are often killed.

You think that they deserve this fate?
To drown at sea, asphyxiate
with dozens more locked in a truck.
Were they simply out of luck?

Is your imagination just so dull
that you can’t wonder why someone
would take those risks to reach this shore?
Is the dole worth dying for?

Can you show one single bod
whose job an immigrant had got?
If it’s because they work for less,
then help them get paid better! Guess ..

.. you ’ve never undercut another ...
In a union, are you brother?
Then fight for pay equality -
cross-border solidarity.

Control our borders? Don’t talk crap!
Drawing lines across a map
won’t make one side different from the other
when over there’s a cousin or a brother.

We’re on an island? Think again!
The Welsh, the Scots still have a claim
to parts they held as theirs before
the frontier moved after some war.

The land you live in was built -
the roads, canals and rails,
as well as most the buildings in between -
by those and, yes, the Irish too. I mean ..

.. migrants from these British Isles,
as well as others from abroad
whose low-wage graft or else as slaves
made all the wealth that paid ..

.. for everything you think is ours
and was gained by our great powers …
Why? Are you rich? Do your veins flow
with blood of gangsters, high or low?

Gangsters? I mean aristos
and other chancers who all grow
strong and fat on others’ labour,
happy to exploit their neighbour ..

.. wherever these may call their home
and don’t care how far those roam
so long as there are bucks to gain
and most in their own hands remain.

You think you have rights to keep
what former bosses got to steal
from people like yourselves, whose lands
our ancestors overran ..

.. and then deny their descendants
the chance to get back some remnants
of the plunder that they lost
with so much pain and so much cost?

And don’t say Poles and Czechs don’t count -
you don’t know the full amount
our banks and overlords once took
from them as well as your folk. Look ..

.. into your own history -
it’s a well-planned mystery
designed to keep you ignorant
of the fact that you’re an immigrant ..

.. however long that you’ve been here -
your kin were foreigners, it’s clear.
So, whether they are poor or regal,
no-one can be called illegal.

rs 15-16.7.18

39 migrants found dead in a lorry trailer, 24 October 2019

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No-one is illegal...

I met a Spanish guy one time,
the kind who’s called a gypsy,
which caused the local cops such worry
he strapped himself beneath a lorry ..

.. to get here, hoping to be free
of Franco’s friendly custody.
My first hint of the desperation
of that persecuted nation.

A trick like that would not work now -
our border guards have got this sussed,
though many others try it still
and, if not caught, are often killed.

You think that they deserve this fate?
To drown at sea, asphyxiate
with dozens more locked in a truck.
Were they simply out of luck?

Is your imagination just so dull
that you can’t wonder why someone
would take those risks to reach this shore?
Is the dole worth dying for?

Can you show one single bod
whose job an immigrant had got?
If it’s because they work for less,
then help them get paid better! Guess ..

.. you ’ve never undercut another ...
In a union, are you brother?
Then fight for pay equality -
cross-border solidarity.

Control our borders? Don’t talk crap!
Drawing lines across a map
won’t make one side different from the other
when over there’s a cousin or a brother.

We’re on an island? Think again!
The Welsh, the Scots still have a claim
to parts they held as theirs before
the frontier moved after some war.

The land you live in was built -
the roads, canals and rails,
as well as most the buildings in between -
by those and, yes, the Irish too. I mean ..

.. migrants from these British Isles,
as well as others from abroad
whose low-wage graft or else as slaves
made all the wealth that paid ..

.. for everything you think is ours
and was gained by our great powers …
Why? Are you rich? Do your veins flow
with blood of gangsters, high or low?

Gangsters? I mean aristos
and other chancers who all grow
strong and fat on others’ labour,
happy to exploit their neighbour ..

.. wherever these may call their home
and don’t care how far those roam
so long as there are bucks to gain
and most in their own hands remain.

You think you have rights to keep
what former bosses got to steal
from people like yourselves, whose lands
our ancestors overran ..

.. and then deny their descendants
the chance to get back some remnants
of the plunder that they lost
with so much pain and so much cost?

And don’t say Poles and Czechs don’t count -
you don’t know the full amount
our banks and overlords once took
from them as well as your folk. Look ..

.. into your own history -
it’s a well-planned mystery
designed to keep you ignorant
of the fact that you’re an immigrant ..

.. however long that you’ve been here -
your kin were foreigners, it’s clear.
So, whether they are poor or regal,
no-one can be called illegal.

rs 15-16.7.18

Feeding the five billion

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(enough to go round)

The rich are getting fatter and so are all the cats -
we’ll have to cook and cut them up and share them out like that.
There’s not enough to feed us all - that, of course, I know
but, back then in Galilee, the preacher showed them how.

As my old school teacher pointed out, it was good psychology -
the people there had brought their own and were shamed to share;
but shame’s a poor and scrawny guide to lead us back to sanity -
it’s been tried so many times before and fades into the air.

Love will make us want to keep companions safe and whole -
it’s what’s helped humans get this far since we left Africa to roam -
but love of strangers will not stretch to cover the whole globe -
the numbers now are much too great for anyone to cope.

These days we’re stressed to earn the bread to feed us and our own -
the greed of those who lead give bad directions to that road
by stealing everything they can with no regard for those they rob
and force their slaves to lose their heart or else to lose their job.

Bankers grow quite hale and sleek on fish and fowl and beast,
leaving fishermen and farmers to rot when these run out;
speculators burn down forests so they can simply feast,
the rest are left to drown in mud or starve in endless drought.

Our race has run a million years (depending when you start)
and, so far, we’ve been winning – in this we’ve been most apt.
But now we’re getting to the point where it might fall apart,
it’s time to use our brains once more and relearn to adapt.

I’m not some crazy cannibal who fancies feline meat -
I’ve tasted one wild carnivore who met death on the street -
but, if we wreck the oceans and the earth beneath our feet,
fat cats will be all that’s left for anyone to eat.

carnation

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1.
SO (Social Order) thought they’d dealt with Jon Do when they vaporised him and shut down or disrupted all his networks. They were wrong - his avatar stayed alive on the Net. The programmers and teckies tried everything in and out of the book to neutralise this ghost, but nothing worked. The only way would be to terminate and rebuild the entire system, but that would lead to chaos - the last thing they could face. All they could do was to try and drown him out. Meanwhile …

Jon, or whatever his real name was and few people outside of SO’s inner core knew it, had started small. At first he merely asked questions - innocuous sounding ones like: are you happy? From there he, if it was a ‘he’ and no-one outside of Central Control knew for sure, moved to more challenging matters such as: ‘Give me reasons why you’re not happy’. Slowly his readership grew until the monitors began to take note, but by then it was too late - people were waking up. Word spread and soon others were joining in. The acceptance and passivity that SO had created was being questioned and that could not be tolerated. The hunt was on for the source of this disruption.

It took time. Jon and his ‘Do something’ campaign proved extremely elusive but, in the end, he was caught, allegedly in the Cape Verde Islands, and brought back to face justice. Of course, that all happened in secret - the charges, the trial, the verdict and the sentence - and all reports were silenced … but not before some were noticed. For a while SO relaxed, but then the debates were renewed. Like a bubble of air in a closed plastic bag, as soon as one was squashed, it appeared somewhere else. At first the search concentrated on locating Do’s remaining disciples, but it soon became clear that he hadn’t been completely erased - some version of his mind was still alive and active. How this could happen baffled the experts.

All the usual tricks were tried - from sites, enticing those who agreed, to fake versions of Jon’s ident preaching contradictory messages. Some worked but the infection remained, His icon, the black carnation, could be copied by phoney on-line posters but that just spread the ideas further - they even started appearing on walls in workers’ colonies in many countries.

I’m Dreaming Of A White Easter

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Looks a like a xmas card outside
though Spring is on its way,
March is known for cold winds first*
but not the Arctic’s usually.

Greetings cards are not much use
to get seeds planted in the fields
and chocolate eggs won’t help a lot
to improve the annual yields.

The climate’s in a total mess,
the bosses stall and lie.
We going to do something about it
or wait until we die?

I sit indoors to keep me warm -
the whiskey helps as well for sure -
I’ve caused as much trouble as I can
but nothing yet provides a cure.

We sing our songs and shout out loud
and try to tear the walls all down
but still the master stands there proud -
he doesn’t know that he’s the clown.

We’re deep in shit, it’s getting worse,
to how we going to end this show?
Stand up tall and end the curse
or watch it covered up with snow?

rs 5.5.18

Dark daze

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Pancake Day is late this year
but I don’t feel less starved.
It’s not for lack of food or warmth -
these times are much less hard
than when Lenten deprivation
was easy ’cos you had now just about
nothing but the minimum
to see the winter out.

All the same our spirits sink real low,
the old and weak fall off their perch,
the solstice wasn’t half as bad,
now we’re truly in the lurch.
Whether clear or cloudy,
windy, drowned in rain,
this season is the fag-end
till the sun returns again.

The Protestants banned Carnival,
when we would take some cheer,
getting out of their control
with brandy, wine or beer.
It’s better though in southern lands
to be out on the street
than in this cold and greyer place
with wet or frozen feet.

If you have a sweetheart
to send a Valentine,
the springtime feels less far away
and you’ll hang on there fine.
But, if they do not answer
and you’re sat all alone,
nothing seems as cruel
as a silent telephone.

I’m not trying to depress you -
that you can manage without me -
but February Fill-dike
means the buds on every tree
are getting ready to explode,
welcoming another round
for those who still have got the strength
to stand upon the ground.

rs 8-9.2.19

Sidelines

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I can’t compete with these young poets
rising from the ashes of their home,
who’ve seen the worst that hate can bring
and forced to flee, to wait, to roam.

They speak so clearly of their loss
and that of others who escaped
the destruction of a world
centuries of work had shaped.

You need to hear their words to understand
the meaning of despair, distress
and see that something must be done
to clear up this bloody mess.

I can only sit here on the sidelines
and try to let my colours show,
to shout support, to scream dissent,
to make sure other people know.

rs 19-21.10.17

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