Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Things I Miss About England #3: Beer (Well, duh!)

Let's do the most obvious one.
If I lived in Shanghai or Beijing, or even Yangshuo, there would be no need for this post. But I don't. I live in Baiyin. We have quite a selection of beers available here. There's Tsingtao, Hyung, Snow, Yellow River, Harbin and a few others. 
And they all taste exactly the same.
The most discerning palate in the world would be unable to distinguish any of them in a blind taste test except maybe Harbin which sometimes (though not always) seems to have a slightly appley flavour.
They are all pale yellow lager-style beers with virtually nothing to recommend them beyond the fact that there is nothing else available.
And they're cheap. The prices range from about 30p a bottle to about £1.20 a bottle depending on just how down market your bar is.
They are also insanely gassy. Mike and I once devised a bar game. When you are both about halfway down the bottle you pick it up and swirl the beer as gently as you can. The froth will rise quickly to flow out of the bottle neck. The objective is to build the highest tower of froth on top of the bottle as you can without it running down the sides. The record was about an inch and a half.
You can continue playing even when there is less than an inch of beer in the bottle.

Now I have omitted the fact that there are two bars here that do dark beers. These are, I think from the labels, Chinese attempts at European style dark beers. By and large failed attempts. They do have some flavour and I do drink them occasionally but they are far too sweet for my palate. They are also between five and ten times as expensive as the fizzy yellow stuff.

So, I often find myself fantasising about the way that in England I could walk into pretty much any pub and get a decent pint and in a good pub get a choice of a dozen decent pints. I could select from all kinds of style of beer at all kind of strengths - that's another thing here: the strong brews are 3.5%, the weak ones 2.5% - and have a great time drinking it all.

In summer I could sit out in the Black Eagle beer garden with a few pints of one of their guest ales and pass a perfectly pleasant Sunday afternoon.

I could go to Wolverhampton Beer Festival and spend the night drinking myself silly on halves without having to duplicate anything.

I do miss beer.

Thankfully, I have signed up to teach summer school in Yangshou and while I can get the Chinese stuff there too, I also know a few splendid bars that have imported bottled beers. It's pricey but it's worth it. And I'll be there in about six weeks from now.

I'm counting the hours.

My Life In China - Video #1 : The Apartment

Monday, 27 May 2013

Don't want to offend, but

Anyone who knows me knows this about me - I don't believe in stuff that has no evidence. I don't believe even more strongly in stuff where there is actual evidence of the opposite.
So I don't believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Controlled studies all say that it doesn't work. That's good enough for me. The jury isn't out. The jury has been out, come back, returned a guilty verdict, heard the sentence and watched the execution.
It. Doesn't. Work.
I know you can't convince a true believer. I know there will be people who say it's been around for thousands of years. I know there will be people who say one and a half billion people can't be wrong.
All I'll say is neither popular opinion nor antiquity make something true.
I'm not trying to convince you — just saying what I believe.

Anyway, the point is this. One and a half billion people do believe. And I live right in the middle of them. This means that whenever there is something wrong with me — be it a cold or a sprained ankle — there are always dozens of people telling me that they know a super-duper, whizz-bang TCM practitioner who can not only cure it but bring colour to my cheeks, restore my thinning hair and pep up my love life.
Right now I have one of my occasional attacks of gout. It's bloody painful. I'll take pain-killers. I'll go back to an alcohol-free and vegetarian lifestyle for a while. It will last as long as it lasts, then fade away and disappear completely — until next time.

I've had it for years. I know the pattern. I know it's intermittent. I know that when you have it it never goes away completely. I know that, in the UK, I could easily get drugs to treat it. 

I also know that here getting someone to take me to see a western doctor who will prescribe those drugs instead of magic potions is going to be next to impossible. Sure those doctors are here, but they work side by side with the ones who will give me a bag of twigs and tell me to boil it up for a couple hours and then drink it.
And those are the ones that all my friends will want me to see.

They did it when I had a mild chest infection. I went because I didn't realise that's where they were taking me. I wanted a doctor of western medicine. Instead I got someone who looked like a doctor but gave me stuff to drink that, and I'm not kidding, after one sip, had me vomitting all over the kitchen floor.
I didn't take a second sip.

But they do go on trying, and right there is the problem. How do I tell them that I don't believe in any of that stuff and if they must find me medicine find me something that has been tested and evidenced to western standards.
How do I tell them that I think TCM is all just so much voodoo?

How do I do any of that without offending people who are only trying to help?

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Things I Miss About England #2:Galleries

If you live in one of the major cities in China - say Beijing or Shanghai - there are art galleries and museums galore for you to visit. Sadly I don't. I live in a small industrial city in the middle of a desert and art galleries are more or less non-existent. There are artists - I have twice visited artist studios - but no public galleries.
Back in England I was a frequent visitor to exhibitions in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and had a couple of visits a year to the major London galleries. I would pop into Wolverhampton art gallery whenever time permitted and finding myself in an unfamiliar town or city would always seek out the galleries.

Here in Baiyin the only artworks that I get to see are the large, and mostly awful, public statues. There are plenty in the park. The largest being three slightly stylised people in uniform representing the glorious workers who built the city. Most schools have a piece of art in the schoolyard and most of them have a grim similarity. They usually consist of pillars and posts with globes and doves and often a Chinese flag. 

The Experimental School out in the west, perhaps in keeping with its description, has something different (and actually quite appealing), a twenty foot high polished boulder. It's really rather striking.

But the kind of gallery I used to visit? The Tate, the Saatchi? No, there's nothing like that.

And I miss having the chance to walk around just looking at things, trying to see them with the artists eye, making my cynical but (hopefully ) affectioante comments about the art.


I know the parody of "protect and serve" has been used before but, frankly, I think the car I saw driving round Baiyin featuring the phrase "Police Department: Punish and Enslave" must belong to a very brave or a very stupid man. In this society it can't be read as anything but a criticism of the state.

Rather him than me.

Friday, 24 May 2013

They got away with THAT?

Watching last week's episode of Psych, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

A dead woman has been found. The coroner (a very weird character) declares that she has had lots of cosmetic surgery and then says the line

"There's enough botox in her to dewrinkle every shǎ​ bī in China."

That odd word in the middle is the Chinese C-word and carries about the same level of offensiveness.

Presumably no one at the network bothered to check it before clearing it.


And towards the end of the episode  Sean is seen casually making the pushing the right index finger in and out of the clenched left fist gesture. It's brief but it's clear.

Somebody somewhere wasn't paying attention this week.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

RAIN ! ! ! !

It's raining!
Proper rain. Rain that bounces of the pavement. Rain that runs down the windows distorting the view. Rain that turns the streets into rivers.
There's thunder! There's lightning!
It's proper, good, old-fashioned, English-style rain.

For those of you saying, "Rain. Big deal.", let me tell you that this is the first proper storm I've seen in Baiyin since I moved here.

Sadly the horizon is brightening to the north so I don't expect it will last.
Still, for the moment, I can stand at my window and think thoughts of home.

Things I Miss About England #1 Grass

You remember my series of posts with the generic title "To Put Away Chidish Things"?
This is your first time here?
OK. No worries, go and look them up. I'll wait.

(drums fingers)

Well, I haven't done any for ages and I can't think of any new ones so I've decided to start a new series about the things I miss about England. Some will be obvious, some maybe not so obvious.
For those who came in late, I now live in Baiyin, a city you may never have heard of in Gansu province in the north of China. I've been here for almost two years now and (though you may not believe it from these posts) I love living here. I do miss some things about England though. So, without further ado, here's the first one.


I thought that what I missed was the colour green. Baiyin is in the middle of a desert and the predominant colours around here are grey and brown. I remember, when I first got here, walking around one of the city's many parks and looking at the bare trees with their jagged naked branches and thinking how bleak and barren it all was.
Well we are at the end of spring now, gradually shading into summer and last week, as I often do, I took another walk. The trees in the park are now mostly green. Some of them were just losing the last of the blossom which a slight breeze was blowing through the air like gentle snowflakes.
I can look from my window at the trees that line the streets or the curious little allotments that go with some of the apartment blocks and I can definitely see green.
In the park I realised what the difference is. It's grass. If I walk around a park in England the trees are surrounded by grass, neatly trimmed, beautifully turned out lawns. Here, apart from one very small area in the centre of the park the ground is grey. There are plenty of trees but they are surrounded by hard, dry, grey ground. Even on the very rare occasions that it rains, the ground is so hard that the water may make the surface slippery but doesn't penetrate far enough for actual mud.
There is no grass.
And those trees outside my apartment? Well in suburban England if you walk around the streets most houses will have a garden of some sort in front and for most of them the predominant feature is grass. Even city dwellers don't usually have to go far to find streets where the houses have gardens.
Here in Baiyin there are no houses as such. Everyone in the whole city lives in apartments and the apartments don't have gardens. The spaces between them are either more of that bone hard earth or actual concrete. Shades of grey. The trees in the streets are each planted in a two foot square where the concrete paving has been left out so that the tree can be put into the earth. The earth is the same colour as the concrete.

So I've decided that what I really miss isn't green - at least not at this time of year - it's grass. Short, nice lawns; overgrown, untidy masses; long grass that brushes moisture onto your legs when you walk through it; buttercup-covered grassy meadows; bluebell-covered grassy forest floors.

I don't want to be a gardener, I've always hated gardening (though I like sitting in a garden) but I wonder if I could get one of those allotments and a large sack of grass seed and just water it and watch it grow.


I always have trouble with those Captcha-style word verification systems. You know the ones where you try to do something on the internet - submit a comment say - and it comes up with a little box with weirdly distorted letters and numbers for you to retype to prove you are a real person. It usually takes me couple of goes to manage to read them well enough to do the task.

I once had thirty goes at getting into a holiday company website before I just gave up completely and used a different company. (And that's not made up, it's true!)
I emailed the company about it but never got a reply.

Anyway I just posted a comment on a friends blog. There were two words to type in. I missed on the first try but got it on the second try. The only reason I mention it is that one of the two words I had to type was "suffer" but it had been photographed from an old text with the old style "s" that looks like an "f" so the word looked like "fuffer". It was a pure lucky guess that I decided it couln't really say that and went with typing an "s".

Friday, 17 May 2013

35 Days: 17 May - Poem #35 The Storm

We stood in the shelter on the seafront and watched the storm
The clouds open and rain came like bullets from the sky.
Lightning tore the night into jagged fragments that day would restore.
We stood side by side, not speaking, not acknowledging each other.
And when the deluge eased, we walked away into separate existences.

And that concludes this little project!

35 Days: 16 May - Poem #34 Insignificance

We ought to see the Earth from a million miles away,
with all its insignificance in a trivial display.
We ought to go still further till it's wholly lost to view
and then perhaps we'll realise that we mean nothing too.

35 Days: 15 May - Poem #33 Hypochondria

I used to have this roommate.
(I don't have him any more.)
He filled up all the shelf spaces
with bottles by the score.
He had pills for every ailment,
ointments, potions and
a large box of suppositories
(labeled, "Care, by hand.")
All of them were quackery -
nostrums of all kinds -
imaginary vitamins,
with effects just in his mind.
For the only thing he suffered from
in reality, I'm sure
was a chronic hypochondria
that none of them could cure.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Well that's new!

I thought I'd seen it all. I really did. It's completely commonplace to find kids doing homework, reading magazines or playing cards or chess in class. None of those throw me for a second. I've had students listening to music, students making phone calls, students playing with knives and razor blades and students trying to set fire to their desks or students dismantling the furniture with a screwdriver. 
I've even had a student who painted open eyes on his glasses and went to sleep behind them and I though that only happened in comics.

Today was a new one though. I walked to the back of the class and found a group of students holding a snail race with a couple of tiny snails they had brought in from outside.

How the hell do you confiscate a snail?

35 Days: 14 May - Poem #32 I have a little penguin

I have a little penguin.
he's just six inches tall.
He lives upon a shelf
that is on my bedroom wall.
I have a little penguin.
I used to have a moose
but he ran away one day
and now he's on the loose.
I don't know where he went
or if I was to blame
I only know he disappeared
the day the penguin came.

Monday, 13 May 2013

35 Days: 13 May - Poem #31 Pumpkin Thoughts

The pumpkin on the table
was waiting there with dread.
She came into the kitchen
and the pumpkin quaked and said,
“Is it Halloween already?
This is such a rotten life.
Hey! Be careful what you're doing.
You'll take my eye out with that knife.”

35 Days: 12 May - Poem #30 A Wall Ten Feet Thick

He built it all up,
day by day, brick by brick;
surrounded himself
with a wall ten feet thick.
He could not get out
but they could not get in.
No arrows or slings
could damage his skin.
Immune from life's troubles,
immune from life's pain,
every day he examined
his fortress again.
He was happy and certain
he was safe and secure.
Nothing could touch him
of this he was sure.
Then one day he died
and the walls tumbled down
and the look on his face
was a great startled frown.

35 Days: 11 May - Poem #29 The Chimneys of Bilston, The Chimneys of Baiyin

The chimneys of Bilston fell one by one
like flowers that were dying away from the sun.
For the industry that in the town had once thrived,
the summer had gone and the winter arrived.
Their smoke that had filled so much of the sky
drifted thinner and thinner and was lost to the eye.
Now little remains to mark their old place.
Time has changed everything, has erased every trace.

The chimneys of Baiyin are always in sight.
They spring up like weeds in search of the light.
In and out of the city, they surround and they fill.
It's the height of their season, they are kings of the hill.
Their smoke rises like prayers straight up to the sky,
gradually spreading and drawing the eye,
but one day they too, like Bilston's old towers,
will find that time is implacable and always devours.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Yay! I can see The Apprentice

So, not only is The Apprentice back, I can now actually watch it and comment because I (at least for the moment) have access to a VPN..

At last something to put on my blog and the ability to do it properly!

There was nothing much to say back in Episode 1. (Apart from the fact that flogging Chinese Lucky Cats in Chinatown seemed a remarkably, recklessly even, poor decision. Those guys import them for pennies. I can buy one here in Baiyin for about fifty pence. Trying to get them to pay a fiver was the wildest flight of optimism.)

Episode 2 was on ground I'm more familiar with - beer - and the sight of the Banks's Brewery in Wolverhampton made me all nostalgic for a decent pint. Of course, never in a hundred years would I buy Rhubarb and Caramel or Chocolate and Orange flavoured beer. I'm old fashioned. I prefer beer flavoured beer.

For me the comment of the night came in that "post-game analysis" show, "You're Fired".

The panel included the head of the BrewDog brewery who remarked that the boys team had a bad pun as the name of their beer. Indeed they did. Many a fine ale has a bad pun as its name, and theirs was right up there with the others - A Bitter This - can't get much worse than that as as puns go.

The fellow from BrewDog agreed. He told them how much he hates "gimicky names" for beers. This from the brewery that gave us Trashy Blonde Ale.

(Mind you Ed Byrn'es "You've got to go some to look daft in front of a group of Morris Dancers" was pretty good too!)

I'm constantly astounded at contestants basic inabilities, though. In this episode, they made a big deal out of how difficult it was to scale up the quantities of their flavourings from a sample pint to a full cask. It's simple multiplication and no one among the best and brightest on display here could do it. They wasted two kegs of beer before managing to get it right.I wonder if any of them has ever tried to follow a recipe in a cookbook. Scaling quantities is about as basic as it gets.

Next week they have to come up with a new and innovative piece of flat pack furniture. Is there anything at all that hasn't already been sold in Ikea? Should be fun.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Well That's Different #9 : Roadworks

Actually it isn't different at all.
It's exactly and precisely the same. Still, it's as good a place as any to post it.

Back in October to January I posted about how annoying the trenches were. I even included a poem in my last book about it. They had every inch of every road for miles around dug up. All the alleys and pedestrian squares between all the apartment blocks were dug up too. They were re-laying the citywide heating system and taking a bloody long time about it.
Then it was all finished.
Roads flat (well flattish) again, trenches and holes filled in, paths passable.

Well now it's May and the roads all dug up again in precisely the same places. So far they haven't touched the pedestrian bits but I expect it's just a matter of time. This time they are relaying sewr pipes. Or water pipes. Or something. Nobody doing the job seems to be sure.
I was walking down the street with a Chinese colleague and I asked him. He asked a worker who told us that his job was to dig up the road where he was told to dig it up. It was someone else's job to do whatever had to be done before he filled it in again.

So there you have it. Two things that are exactly the same in China as in England. Uncoordinated LHRHIF* when it comes to roadworks, and jobsworth workers.

It feels like home.

(*Left Hand Right Hand Interface Failure)

So that didn't turn out to be true, then.

At the moment I have, for the first time in ages, access to my own blog and so I did what all narcissistic, self-obsessed bloggers do and went and read some of my old posts. Towards the end of my time in England, after I had left South Birmingham College but before I had secured my job in China, I posted a couple of rants about the state of the UK education system.
(It was something I was rather prone to.)
In the comments that followed one I mentioned that I expected the burdensome paperwork would be a feature of my life wherever I ended up.
In China this has not proven to be the case.
Now it's true that Chinese teachers have a lot of it but they also have a correspondingly light teaching load. For me, though, the teaching load is a little heavier but the paper work is...

Well, actually, that's the point. The paper work isn't. I could probably get away with none if I really put my mind to it. I was asked at the start of the term to provide a scheme of work but a bit of questioning revealed that all they wanted was a single sheet list of my planned topics. Took me nearly two minutes to dash that off.
I do write lesson plans but they are the kind I've always wanted to write - bullet point lists of what order I hope to do things in along with reminders of anything I might forget. They are to help me organise my lesson which is what lesson plans ought to be for.
Nobody but me sees them (well, apart from another teacher that I swap ideas with), nobody takes them, files them, annotates them, uses them in evidence against me or whatever.
Registers? Never seen one.
Individual learning Plans? I teach about 1200 kids a week. The idea is too ludicrous for words.
Health and Safety Assessments? In China? A country that routinely leaves open manholes in dark alleys? Really?
Evidence that I have met the Government agenda flavour of the month? (Yes "Every Child Matters" I'm looking at you.) Doesn't exist here.

All in all I'd say that I couldn't have less paperwork if I lived alone on a desert island.

It's great.

35 Days: 10th May - Poem #28 It Didn't Rain Today

Today it didn't rain -
nor yesterday, it's true.
Tomorrow I'm expecting
that the skies will still be blue.
In the last six months I've been here
it's rained precisely twice -
a total of ten minutes
(well nine to be precise).
But there are plenty of umbrellas
to be seen in gaudy hues
because the sun gets rather fierce
so the shade is what they choose.
But if raindrops ever spatter
I'm sure enough to bet
that they'll fold them in a moment
and not let them get wet.

35 Days: 9th May - Poem #27 Fireworks

It begins with red crackling static
and crisscross swordplay in brightest white.
A flower with ivory petals dipped in blood;
tendrils that creep into the night;
two sunflowers, two hundred feet tall;
a garden is created above us.
Shoots grow and spread from
the moss that has grown on the sky.
Sparks spit from the heated barrel of a gun;
a thousand rflaming arrows
suddenly curve earthward and vanish
into the fire of battle.

And everything ends in chaos and confusion
as blood pours from the creeping veins
to stain the tree tops.
The sun explodes – a magnificent fireball
that devours the earth,
shrinks back to a point
and leaves us in darkness.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

35 Days:8th May - Poem #26 My Special Perfect hell

The tables were laid out
with books in perfect piles.
I saw them from a distance, with a sigh.
A book fair, I gave a cheer
as I raced along the aisles.
It was something that I never could pass by.
I never stopped to think
that I was in a foreign land
in China where I now had come to dwell,
and the books held only words
that I couldn't understand
a torment from my special perfect hell.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

35 Days: 7th May - Poem #25 A drawer full of keys

keys on iron rings
keys on threaded strings
at the bottom of the drawer
keys shining as if new
keys almost rusted through
keys falling to the floor
keys to start a car
keys to a mini bar
and the tantalus inside
keys to shed and gate
keys for a roller skate
and a hundred more beside
barrel keys and Yale
keys that might for a jail
keys to start a boat
keys for a clockwork train
and for the cover on the drain
keys for locking up a goat
for windows and for doors
keys to open bureau drawers
keys giant and keys small
keys for tiny locks
keys for an empty box
why did we keep them all
the truth is of course that I
not only don't know why
but don't know what they're for
could be, for all I see ,
for a belt for chastity
but there are truly keys galore
and if I ever say
let's throw them all away
the answer is "let's not"
you just don't know that they
won't be needed some fine day
so we'd better keep the lot

35 Days: 6th May - Poem #24 A Wiser Choice

He planted apples but, in hindsight, might have made a wiser choice,

Because if God had planted lemons, they'd have listened to his voice.

The trouble is that apples are tasty and they're sweet

While Eve might have found a lemon a less pleasant thing to eat

And the serpent would have found Eve a harder sell

And there'd still be just TWO people, in Eden where they'd dwell.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

35 Days: 5th May - Poem #23 Sunsets

Another thousand sunsets, like the thousand gone before.

When the last one's over, there will start a thousand more.

Sunsets in the mountains, in the deserts, in the town.

Sunsets on the ocean where it seems the sun might drown.

I have seen them over forest; I have seen them over field;

Watched the ruby-painted sky that the twilight has revealed.

I have seen them when I'm sober; I have seen them when I'm drunk;

I have seen them in high spirits and when my heart has sunk.

I have seen them when I'm lonely, I have seen them by love's light;

I have seen the dying of the day and the fires it can ignite.

And every time I watch again as the darkness starts to fall

I remember every one of them, I can recall them all.

There'll be another thousand sunsets. I know that this is true.

But the best thing about sunsets is that sunrise will come too.

Well That's Different #8 Shoes

I buy shoes the same way that a lot of men buy shoes.
I go into the nearest shoe shop.
I say "Size ten, black, lace-ups please."
I try them on.
If they don't fit I try size eleven.
I pay.
I leave.

I don't think I have ever spent more than ten minutes buying a pair of shoes in my life.

Of course this is China.
The conversion to Chinese sizes is trivial. Size ten is size 45, ten and a half is 46 and eleven is 47. Piece of cake.

Buying them is more of a problem. With my friend Erin in tow to assist with the translations and any bargaining I set off to buy some new shoes. Baiyin is bursting at the seams with shoe shops so I thought it would be easy. I was wrong.  In England size ten isn't especially large but in China when you ask for a 45 they treat you like Bigfoot's weirder older brother. Shoe sizes here stop at 43 in almost every shop - that's a 9 to you and me. In England you might be hard-pressed to find shoes much smaller than a 9 unless you went to kids' sizes but here in China it's the biggest size they do.
In shop after shop we were met with looks of astonishment and amusement and the ubiquitous refrain of "mei you" - "don't have".
In the nineteenth shop that we tried - a branch of Red Dragonfly - the response was the same but the manager thought she knew another branch that might have something in a 45. We waited while she took a taxi to check. When she returned about twenty minutes later she had two boxes - one with a brown pair and one with black. I tried them on and they fit.
Now the style wasn't one I liked and the quality didn't look that great. They didn't seem hard-wearing and would probably fall apart in a couple of months. The price was about three times what I would be happy paying for a similar shoe in England but I handed over the money and left. It had taken us almost two hours of searching and I didn't feel like continuing.
We went for a coffee in a department store and checked a couple of other outlets as we passed just from curiosity but they too said "Mei You".

Funny, I've never considered my size ten feet to be especially big but evidently over here I am some kind of super-gigantic freak.

Maybe I'll be able to buy some in the summer when I am in Yangshou, a town that has rather more foreign residents than most. We shall see.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

35 Days: 4th May - Poem #22 Smiles for the Camera

And, bringing me back into line with my writing we have today's poem.

Posing for photos

with smiles on their faces

that die when the shutter has clicked.

The truth of the moment

is one that camera

is never equipped to depict.

The family together's

the family apart

it tears at itself like a beast.

They gather for Christmas

and let their resentments

boil over to flavour the feast.

They peck at each other

and peck at their food.

Their words are as sharp as their knives.

This one day of duty

lasts for eternity

and then they go back to their lives.

But this anger is private,

a family matter,

no outsider could ever predict,

or know from the photos

that the smiles on their faces

had died when the shutter had clicked.

35 Days: 3rd May - Poem #21 Solar System

In the shop, a row of globes

in coloured glass with inset stones

stands upon the table.

Each has a different range

of jeweled hues and tones

from ivory to sable.

But all are Earth in different shades

the oceans blue or black or red

the land picked out in rainbows.

Worlds as they might have been

if travelling other paths instead

of those familiar ones we know.

35 Days: 2 May - Poem #20 Ghosts In The Subway

There was, as the more astute will have noticed another one of those typos that I can't correct in the last poem. It should. of course, have been dated 1st May not 30 April.
It's really quite a nuisance that blogger is blocked by the Chinese firewall.

Anyway, here's the poem for 2nd May.

There are ghosts in the subway,

memories of footsteps.

The acoustics of fear reveal them

There are ghosts in the subway,

shadows of the fearful.

The unstable light reveals them.

There are ghosts in the subway,

icy drafts across your skin.

The night-drawn breeze reveals them.

There are ghosts in the subway,

perfumes and fetid funks.

The miasma of the past reveals them.

There are ghosts in the subway,

the iron taste of fate.

Your rising terror reveals them.

There are ghosts in the subway,

yesterday's ghosts and today's.

Tomorrow's light reveals them.

Friday, 3 May 2013

35 Days: 1 May- Poem #19 Metaphor

sand grains -
a handful-
into the water:
the ripples make a metaphor.

35 Days: 30 April - Poem #18 Eye of the Beholder

The objectors say, "Take them away,
we want our green fields back!"
But they look to me like metal trees
as I walk down the track.
In passing by, "Beholder's eye"
I murmur with a smile
I'd watch for hours these turning towers
That others so revile.

35 Days: 29 April - Poem #17 Unundoable things

You can't put a chicken back into a shell.
A secret once told, you cannot untell.
You can't unscramble eggs; you can't unbake a cake.
You can't follow a path that you once didn't take.
You can't unsay the words that in anger were said,
or, after the guillotine, glue back the head.
You can't call back the bullet or unfire the gun.
Sometimes you must live with the things you have done.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

35 Days: 28 April - Poem # 16 The Machine

Every day he came to tend to the machine,

stood watching its mysterious motions;

the cogs turning in locked synchrony;

the rods and pistons rhythmic push and pull;

the ratchets ratcheting; the flywheels flying.

Every day her carefully dripped oil

into the correct points and channels;

watched it ooze to the machine's heart;

watched it spread renewal to the actions.

And every day he wondered, "What is it all for?"

35 Days: 27 April - Poem #15 Purple

She watches the butterflies

dance for her:

red and gold,

white and black

and suddenly she spies

a momentary purple,

a single strand

of a different thread

pulled through time.

It circles her head

and settles on her hand

and slowly the colour

bleeds from it

and into her,

spreading like a stain

into her fingers

into her hand and arm.

It stretches tight

across her skin

and then beyond,

into the air.

The grass and trees,

the earth and sky

adopt its hue.

And the butterfly,

as white as a snowflake,

lifts and drifts away.

35 Days: 26 April-Poem #14 Cracks

I have been continuing the project while I've been on holiday but have had no chance to post the results. To catch up I shall post three a day until we are back in step.


I put my foot down and the earth

shatters like crazed porcelain.

I imagine the cracks stretching

down and down through the Earth,

through the top soil and the bedrock,

the crust, the mantle, the core.

I imagine them reversing their path

up and up through the Earth,

appearing in mirror image

half a world away from here,

where someone looks down

imagining a world that ends with me.