Category: Uncategorized

(for the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square)

Melon rinds, chewed sugar cane and greasy chicken bones,
pizza crusts, bagel bags and flattened candy cones,
empty beer cans, drinks cartons, all kinds of bottles too,
cigarette butts, roaches, maybe a works or two,
streamers, confetti, plastic spray-string and gig-flyers,
broken glass and broken dreams and busted party-goers,
discarded masks and costume shreds and other mislaid clothes,
children lost and lovers lost and coppers in their rows,
stones and bricks and scaffold poles and various iron bars,
smashed shop-windows, smoking ruins, remains of burnt-out cars,
cartridge cases, tear-gas shells, blood on the barricade –
these are what we people call the crumbs of masquerade.

rs 29.10.11

Thanks for the kind words to Sabrina Mahfouz; see her work at

The problem

“What’s the next stage after Artificial Intelligence?”

Paskov looked round the room at the baffled young faces. Smithson raised his hand.


“Artificial Stupidity.”

“Correct and why is that?”

“So that computers can do what we do and learn from their mistakes” Smithson replied somewhat wearily.

“But we’ve got machines that do that already,” objected Fratelli, “so they can navigate around obstacles for instance.”

“Not forgetting any of Gates’s software” muttered Evans to some general laughter. Paskov ignored this and continued. “True but to date the only heuristic available to them has been absurdly simple. They have to examine possible solutions in a straightline logical sequence. The fact that they can do those computations incredibly fast is an advantage but it’s not necessarily the best approach. So what might be?”

“Fuzzy logic.”

“We’ve had that for years.”

“But humans still have to set the parameters.”

“Do we want machines to set their own parameters?”

The class was beginning to wake up.

“What’s the one thing humans can do when a solution fails that, so far, machines can’t?” the teacher interjected. There was a pause, then Fratelli put her hand up again.

“Come up with a completely different approach.”

Paskov smiled. She was definitely showing promise.

“Yes. It’s generally called imagination. The question is then, how do we put that into machines? Any ideas?”

Dedicated to the young women who have gone through this – both those who survived and those who didn’t

Tom’s work was always considered rather extreme but this broke all records. The canvas, 120 centimetres by 100 and set in a repro baroque frame, portrayed in grim realist detail a young woman, in her teens maybe, hung from a rope round her neck against a brutal abstract backdrop in red and black. She was dressed in only a sky-blue slip and was obviously very pregnant. In the top right-hand corner of the hellish sky was a white shape like a bird flying away. In the opposite lower corner a figure could be discerned in the chaos of the background that might be a man. His face, if that’s what it was, expressed either rage or grief. The title was ‘The Annunciation’.

The gallery, that had finally agreed to show it, was soon besieged by outraged Christians of various denominations. Despite a statement of support by the local Anglican bishop, the gallery withdrew it after a week. They cited the cost of hiring security to prevent attacks on the piece as their reason for doing so.

There was little Tom could do about it. As a self-confessed lost soul on the artistic spectrum, he was only doing his job – recording the reality perceived by his quite ordinary, damaged human brain. Damaged, that is, by growing up and living with all the billions of other damaged brains on this planet. Nothing special, apart from the incessant itch to represent those impressions visually, one way or another.

“Why do you need to show it to anyone?” asked his brother.

His standard reply was, “What’s the point of talking to yourself?” In fact he saw art as conversation by other means. Why did people talk to each other at all if it wasn’t to agree on reality in order to achieve something – if only to pass the time? But that didn’t completely explain his work, let alone this painting.

Its critics saw it as scandalous, obscene and provocative. The latter was proved by the number of people who wanted to deface or destroy it. Its obscenity was demonstrated in the belly of the hanging girl, her breasts, barely covered by her underdress, and her twisted mouth, protruding tongue, bulging eyes. Rumours spread that it was painted from life .. or rather death. The scandal was that it had been.

After the battle, when the wounded had been tended to, the prisoners secured and the dead buried, I left with my bodyguard and rode to her lake. I had sworn that, if the day was ours, I would pay homage to the lady as Bedifyr had done for Arthur.

We reached the place as the last light lingered in the sky – just enough to see its glitter ahead of us. I ordered my knights to stay behind in a copse and not to follow or look at what I did. I went forward alone on foot to the edge of the water. I bent my head in prayer and then, taking my victorious blade from its sheath, threw it as far as I could into the silver depths.

I watched as the ripples spread and subsided. Suddenly the waters parted and she rose. As I stared in wonder, she glided towards me, shimmering with a greenish glow and covered with liquid pearls, the sword in her hand. I fell to my knees in dread.

As I knelt there, shivering with fear and awe, I felt a ghostly hand on my head. It gripped my hair and drew me up until my face was level with hers and, thrusting the weapon back into my hands, she uttered the words I would remember till my dying day.

“This is a message to you and your tribe.” she whispered, “Tell them, will you stop throwing your rubbish into my garden or I’ll turn you into a cesspit!”

“Yes, Goddess, I will” I stammered and knew no more …

… until I awoke at home, sat on the shitter, wondering if I’d dreamt it all.
rs 9.5.15

(another tale for the nearly grown-up)

I met her in a small country inn in a faraway land. After agreeing a fee for the interview, it went like this:

Self: “So, what should I call you?”

C: “You can call me Cindy.”

Self: “Thank you for seeing me Cindy. Now what my readers would really like to know was what it was like being married to the prince.”

C: “Like being married.”

Self: “Can you give us more details?”

C: “Are many of your readers married women?”

Self: “Lots of them, but more are young unmarried women who dream of doing what you did.”

C: ”Leave their husbands?”

Self: “No, I mean marry a prince.”

C: “That was an accident.”

Self: “I don’t understand.”

C: “I just wanted to go to a dance. The rest was out of my control. That so-called fairy godmother set it all up.”

Self: “You didn’t want to marry the prince?”

C: “I didn’t know any better!”

George straightened out his sword for the nth time, breathing heavily. He wished heartily that he’d never taken on this quest. The beast lay, head down and belching black smoke that reeked of brimstone with a touch of barbecue. Its tongue flickered intermittently into view.

“Enough already” cried the knight errant, “Keep the maiden, let me have some of your hoard and call it quits!”

“No,” rumbled the dragon, “you take the woman and go. I’ll keep my treasure.”

“Oh, come on! You’ve got lots of loot but only one girl. Plus,” eyeing the pile of fresh bones, “my trusty steed. That was mean.”

“But tasty. Horse meat is an underrated dish. That’s more than can be said of dis damsel in dat dress. I love the tinkling sound of gold and silver when I stir it with my tail. Her noise gives me ear-ache.”

George winced and wished once more that he’d done a bit more background checking before taking on the job. He had been slightly puzzled by the king’s apparent lack of hope for his chances and the miserable size of the promised reward. But it was too late to back out now, he’d signed a contract – bring back either the daughter intact or her weight in precious metals.

“I’ll find you a replacement” he offered in desperation.

“No deal.”

“Why not?”

“’Cos you won’t come back.”

‘Rats!’ thought the warrior, ‘Why did I have to go and find a smartarse dragon as well!’

“OK, I’ll take the girl if I can have just a little bit of loot too.”

The monster was silent for a while, then groaned “Only what she can carry.”


As it turned out of course, that was precious little – just a few coins in her own reticule, which she clutched to her ample busom.

“Aren’t you supposed to slay it?” she screeched, pointing to scaly giant panting with exhaustion on its pile of plunder.

George held out his battered weapon. “You have a go.”

(for Yevgeny Yevtuschenko)

Not all of us can pick and choose
what comes up to be transposed
into words worth all the effort
of being creatively composed.

I’m reminded of the cook
on Cousteau’s famous ‘Calypso’
faced with a glut of baby squid
rising from the deep to grow.

He served them every way he
could think of from his repertoire
until the ship’s crew mutinied
and made him in his galley cower.

We don’t always know what will appear
as material to start
the process to rework the world
with our culinary art.

Whether a banquet or a stir-fry,
a stew, dessert, or snack,
we chop and mix ingredients
and hope diners will come back.

rs 3.4.17

I wonder lonely as a nail,
proud upon a camping chair.
While passing sirens howl and wail
I shelter from cold eastern air
here upon this low green hill
beside a bunch of daffodils.

Not Wordsworth’s thousands, dancing free,
but their brassy garden counterparts
pretending to act naturally
and, like tributes bought from supermarts
then rammed into this parkland soil,
they fool no-one – wasted toil.

I resent the space they take
where in my lunch break I would sit –
spring tinsel for the strollers’ sake
but, for my part, they look shit
and crowd right out the native flowers
that sometimes lighten my dark hours.

But, in fact, I can’t complain –
this is man-managed space
where all’s arranged and that is plain
as the manicured beard upon my face.
Where are all the wild flowers gone?
Gardeners stole them everyone.

rs 1.4.14

I know that Wilhelm got it right
and this is what bonds us together –
not the fear of law or might,
nor a marriage’s life-long tether.

Sex should be open, frequent, free
as it is with bonobos –
we are the smart third chimpanzee,
let’s bring this nightmare to a close.

Clothes are just to keep us warm
or to protect us from the sun –
fig leaves were a metaphor
to explain the ban on having fun.

This was imposed by patriarchs
to control their women, children too,
so they’d know there’d be no backdoor larks
and who their wealth was going to.

The family means the household slaves
of rich men and of their successors –
to make sure that they’d behave
needed this and other measures.

Insecurity works best,
with shame and fear of isolation –
never mind the inner mess
of one’s stiff-lipped, well-bred nation.

Hypocrisy is fine of course
for those in charge of this charade –
just make damn sure the lesser sort
don’t rise and piss on your parade.

Thus puritans and sadists co-evolve
to oversee that sick regime,
while cops and soldiers can resolve
situations more extreme.

Repression is a dangerous thing,
we’ve seen the damage it can cause –
torturing and castrating
and always endless bloody wars.

It hasn’t always been like this
four millenia or so –
we’ve been here half a million years,
so there are other ways to go.

There never was a golden age
or Eden where we might return,
but to escape this stinking cage
means we have got to start to learn ..

.. how to share out equally
what’s required for decent life
and regain our liberty
yet co-exist here without strife.

This is where orgasms fit
into the structure of our world –
releasing tensions that are built
up in our social whirl.

So let’s go out and fuck or wank
without the bullshit about sin
and know there’s no-one else to thank
but the partner who may join in.

rs 4-7.2.16

Wilhelm Reich, psychoanalyst and student of Freud, published ‘The Function of the Orgasm’ in 1927. However wrong he may have been, the questions he raised remain to be answered.

(thanks Mr Wyatt & M. Moitessier)

speaker iconClick on the bar below to listen to this piece read aloud
Alone on this blue ocean,
further out than all the rest,
amongst the other jetsam
he’s slowly going west,

Tangled up in lostnets,
dragging all that weed,
a sense of some direction
is very much in need.

Listening for signals,
looking out for signs
at birds and clouds and fishies,
he’s running out of lines.

“It’s a rum old time without it,
it’s really very weird –
this wreck knows where it’s going
even though it’s hardly steered.”

“I s’pose I’d best stay with it,”
he mutters to himself,
“I’m not cut out to be stuck on
the continental shelf.”

“No reskuas are coming
the turns have all turned back,
Albert Ross is just the punchline
of some tired sad leatherback.”

“Out on my horizon
the seen rolls up ‘n leaves.
I’ll try just waving back at it
and see what that achieves.”

On this well red ocean
he is heading for the reefs,
but that can’t be much worse to meet
than all the other griefs.

rs 8.1.15