God Rest The Queen

She spoke volumes quietly.
Is everywhere and will remain so
Our shared interest, our common currency
The nation cannot let her go.

Stars untwinkle one by one
The moon, in shock, averts its gaze
No words express the grief we feel
How we loved thee, let us count the ways.

The future, fearful, has gone awol
Life goes on but not the one we know
Though wreaths and words may wither
The nation will not let her go.

Guns fall silent, the flag lowered
She who kept us close is gone
Winter is composing a sad anthem
It will play on and on and on.

8 September 2022 by Roger McGough

for my lover and my good friends

I dreamt of a bakery the other night
and woke with a heart full of such delight.
Noj is the name of the lovely man
who had the skill and had the plan.

I’d met a comrade on the road,
walking on stilts with a tasty load,
it smelled so good, we just had to find
where we could get some more of its kind.

We went off to look for this magical place –
a derelict block. just off the main ways,
it was near to our pub and it seemed alright
to make a diversion and go for a bite.

A maze and a warren, an unfinished plot,
but the ovens were working and the bread was still hot;
he also serves coffee that’s fragrant and strong,
you can drink it short or you can drink it long.

We sat down and crumbled the loaves in our hands
and ate it like that, without butter or jam;
it was wholemeal and filling, but light and delicious;
he asked for a name that was warm and auspicious.

I thought of ‘corn flower’, but cornflowers are blue
and could be confused with maize flour too;
someone else said ‘cornfield’ and that had its charm,
‘the fruit of the corn’ or ‘the fruit of the farm’.

We chatted and laughed and honoured our host
and demanded to know how he’d achieved most
of his vision with so little finances,
what would come next and what were the chances.

The future looked good and I wanted to stay,
I woke up so happy and ready to play,
I know I’ve felt that way before
and that, for sure, I will do some more.

I know I’ve met Noj and will do again –
he’s a cook, a musician, a drinker, a friend,
I know the place and where it is found –
not far from here or another town.

I know he’s long had this beautiful scheme –
it isn’t just me who’s had this dream –
it will all come back when I’m fully awake
then we’ll get together to party and bake.

rs 26.8.04

3rd May – World Press Freedom Day – Defend Julian Assange…

“You think you know it all!” you said –
a common accusation –
but there’s plenty that you can find out
with a little application.

You think you know the truth as well,
like many of our nation,
as though it came all by itself
without investigation.

It isn’t hard or mystical –
the facts are all around us –
yet blindness has been so ingrained
they leave us as they found us.

Our ruling class is subtle, they
don’t look for books to burn.
If there are no secrets then
there’s nowt for you to learn.

The lies are everywhere instead –
we’re deafened by their din –
they’re wrapped so tight about us
so that nothing else gets in.

It starts as soon as we are born
and carries on in school.
They let you think you’re cynical,
that’s not so hard to fool.

It’s a question of assumptions –
your eyes fixed on the screen,
then any practised conjurer
determines what is seen.

To find what really happens, you
must take the trick apart
and realise that magic is
another kind of art.

This may sound too simplistic,
theoretical as well –
but to provide you with the details
would take too long to tell.

You think you know the history,
so did you ever look,
read a rebel pamphlet or
check out a lefty book?

You’ll find there’s other stories that
the newspapers ignore
and ways of understanding these
that you weren’t taught before.

You don’t have to believe them,
you don’t have to be drafted,
but it might just come in useful when
you feel you’re being shafted.

rs 17.12.98

This son of soil has left the Earth
in a fiery new rebirth,
the foundryman encased in steel
has proved that spaceflight can be real.

Dear Gagarin, you then showed
there was perhaps another road
that we could take when off this planet,
if politicians didn’t ban it.

They used you for their propaganda
with disregard for your own candour –
an ordinary man
who showed what once began ..

.. as naked apes who stood upright
and wondered then about the night
and what might be up there
where stars shone in the upper air.

Sixty years ago you proved
that, when we are removed
from gravity’s routine embrace,
we still are in the human race.

It’s sad that you have died so young,
when hopes had in the balance hung,
so we now face the future lost
and ask if it was worth the cost.

rs 10.4.21

[Iurii Alekseyevich Gagarin (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was the first human to go into orbit around the Earth on 12 April 1961.]

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.

(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 sabrinamahfouz.com

(thanks to Ai Wei Wei & Gillian Slovo)

He recommends compliance,
showing the guards some empathy –
a strategy I’ve heard before
to survive incarceration
with the hope of getting free.

I can’t criticise such behaviour,
I’ve not been where they have gone,
but doubt I could have done so,
even if I thought it would have worked,
my rage seems much too strong.

I don’t think that I am braver,
on the contrary nowhere near,
but, as the son of a policeman,
there’s one question I must ask –
why is the torturer still here?

Why do you beat up protesters,
fire shells of CS gas,
or real bullets into crowds
of your own people
when you’re tasked?

Are you really without a conscience?
Does an order make you right?
That lie has been decided long ago
and, even if it wasn’t,
how do you still sleep at night?

Men (and women too) in uniform
are here for our defence,
or so the story goes,
then, when you’re used against us,
how does that make any sense?

“They’re trouble-makers, criminals
who deserve the pain they get.”
Do you actually believe it?
Are your bosses on your side?
Have you not got it yet ..

.. that they’re the real gangsters
who rob and murder without qualm
to hold on to power and wealth
while letting fools like you
be the ones who to come to harm?

No, I cannot find it in me
to forgive your ignorance,
while so many have to suffer
with their minds and their bodies
for your blind obedience.

rs 18.9.19

(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-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’]

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