Litotes – #NaPoWriMo2020 Day 5

Dating him isn’t all bad, she thought. It could be worse
He’s no Adonis, and he doesn’t quite fit in his shirts.
He could tidy up more and his cooking could be better.
And he could use more common sense because he’s just not that clever.

He’ll never win an Oscar, never run a marathon,
His sense of fashion in the 80s is something we won’t dwell upon.
I won’t play his CDs in the car until his choices are less dour.
I couldn’t stand to hear him sing much longer in the shower.

I can say all these things to him, he’s never heard the likes of these
Because surprisingly enough, he’s never heard of litotes.

What’s the difference between enjambment and caesura – #NaPoWriMo2020 Day 4

“In poetry,” she said, “there is a long history
Of using enjambment to increase the mystery,
Allowing couplets to spread their wings
And dream of bigger, brighter things.”

“A-ha!” he said, “I think I see now,
And examples I will have to seek out
To learn more. And see! I think I’m ready
At my first attempt I’ve used three already!”

“Not quite,” she said, “let me assure you
That last example was a caesura.”

Who would have thought we’d miss that – #NaPoWriMo2020 Day 3

When you’re the first one in on Monday morning
And there’s no fresh milk in the fridge
Yes, it’s trivial and yes, it’s a small thing
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When you realise your mug is not in the cupboard
And it must still be in the washer
So you have to drink out of a mug that’s brand-coloured
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When everyone around you seems to be on a call
And you need to concentrate so you book out a meeting room
But the noise comes through the plasterboard wall
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When your lunch comes out smelling unnatural
So cautiously you sniff inside the microwave
And you realise that someone has used it to cook mackerel
Who would have thought we’d miss that

You’re on a call with clients and – yep, it’s a fire drill
And then you must walk down nine flights of stairs
Nine more back up and you’re more tired still
Who would have thought we’d miss that

We piss and we moan about work, yeah, but actually?
There’s something to be said for the buzz of the workplace
They’re more than just colleagues – some are our family
And no-one thought that we’d miss them like that.

Anadiplosis – #NaPoWriMo2020 Day 2

Anadiplosis is what?
Anadiplosis is when you can’t get enough of certain phrases
Certain phrases you repeat until everyone gets the point
The point is repetition, producing an effect that truly amazes
Amazes anyone and everyone and leaves them feeling moist
Moist is perhaps the wrong word but it’s close to what I’m thinking
I’m thinking how to lift your writing when it’s stuck in quite a rut
A rut is easily lifted if you let this knowledge sink in
Sink in so you never ask, “anadiplosis is what?”

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Adynaton – #NaPoWriMo2020 Day 1

When Massive Attack release two albums in one year
When the entire Star Wars fandom universally loves a sequel
When the Catholic Church says, “actually, we’ve no problem with being queer”
When the Academy rises to applaud the Oscar for Steven Seagal

When the air is filled with the sound of giraffes in perfect chorus
And pre-schoolers in petting zoos feed bread to stegosaurus
When Smeagol surfs to safety over lakes of blazing lava
Then I, my friend, will finally stop using Adynata

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Find the value of X, and why²

At first he was afraid, but not petrified
When he saw her text end with an X he was quite surprised
Outwardly he scoffed
Inwards, he was lost
As to the feelings that the sender now implied

It’s true; this simple, single letter made him pensive
But wait – his mother sent texts with two xs
And, being British,
He was always skittish
When demonstrating feelings bordered on excessive

He swiftly resolved to message his sister
Her text, ending ‘xxx’, did nothing to improve the picture
Her amusement 
Caused him confusion
And, in this state, to question his very existence

Uppercase, lowercase, position, style and number
Being reckless with your Xs could leave you crying in the gutter
He wasn’t paying attention
When reciprocating her affection
And ended up sexting his poor, confused plumber

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There were only seven chicken meatballs in my pack of eight

There were only seven chicken meatballs in my pack of eight
So I opened up my Macbook to send an email of complaint.

She said

Look. You need to get a sense of perspective.
It’s petty, it’s sad, and you sound like a git.
Plus, it’s a romantic disincentive
So if you’re actively trying to repel me
Congratulations. You achieved your objective.
When you complain about living a consumerist life
Your parsimony is an oral contraceptive.
I can’t stand to live another minute of it
And if I’m losing the will to live, feck this.

She left.

She also left the outside light on as she slammed the garden gate
So I opened up my Macbook to send her an email of complaint.

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When did you meet your Harvey Weinstein?

Ah, my dear, won’t you please come in? Let me see you walk round the room.
Just my type – so pretty and thin – let me smell that divine perfume!
That skirt is so pleasingly tight,
And that red lipstick is just right,
This could be a perfect night – if you’d come out of the ladies room? 

I can massage your neck if you’re tense – hmm, your bra strap is in the way. 
There, that’s better, no need for defence; it’s all going to be okay. 
It’s just us here behind closed doors. 
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. 
Why not get down on all fours, and slip off your lingerie?

I could really use a shower. I know, why don’t you come watch?
It’s a great way to spend an hour, just lathering up your crotch.
It might help you get in the mood.
Follow my lead and get in the nude.
There’s need to be a prude – hey, can I get you another scotch?

I want to kiss those perfect lips, and nibble each and every spot
From lips to nips and nips to hips, until your own name you’ve forgot.
It’s good that we can be so frank.
Now you know that this is not a prank.
Perhaps you’d like to watch me wank, over this poor defenceless flower pot?

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Closing the front door gently behind me because I know how much slamming the door bothered him, I entered his living room and took stock of everything

Supermarket-brand well-used reading glasses
On a well-preserved copy of ‘A Day at the Races’.
And tape-measured rows of tarnished horse brasses
Hang by picture frames bursting with grandchildren’s faces.

On the coffee table, a seventies ashtray
Sits with neatly-packed rows of each day’s medications.
And gaudy baubles from foreign holidays
Sit with expensive snow globes from later staycations

On a faded brown dresser, aged and austere, 
A three by two printed business card reads: 
“Are you recently bereaved? Lost someone dear?
Call for a quote for your house clearance needs.”

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Anxiety is… (part one)

Anxiety is

… a bag so heavy that for days your shoulder hurts
… a shirt to sleep in, plus boxers and briefs (pairs: three)
… two pairs of trousers, sweater, tee shirt and two shirts
… socks in white, black and grey; no-show, trainer and knee

… three playlists, four podcasts, five episodes of LOST
… spare straps for my Fitbit in additional shades
… Nexus Slate in custom case with my name embossed
… two types of aftershave, new razor with two blades

… credit card, debit card, Google Pay plus some cash
… fresh-scented deodorant, both roll-on and spray
… moisturiser, eye cream, shower gel and face wash
… all classed as essentials for an overnight stay.

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No, I really don’t care what Gail wrote on Facebook

“Ooh, have you seen what Gail’s put on Facebook?”
“About Jade’s Spanish lodger? Right made me giggle.” 
“Bet you can guess what’s underlined in her phrase book!” 
“When I told our Kylie she fainted in Lidl.”
“She said, ‘well that explains the bar through her nipple!'”
“She definitely has. I’ve seen it full frontal.” 
“So I guess the kids have another new uncle?”
“What has she been like since the end of her marriage!”

I try to ignore it and don’t like to grumble 
But must you share it with the whole quiet carriage? 

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Covetousness

I want you to know I love you but I know it’s unrealistic
So I take home all your coke cans for the smudge thereof your lipstick.
(Please don’t think the worst of me, I won’t become your stalker).
I just had to tell you even though I’m in the wrong
That’s what made me write these words, just loving you so long.
Seeing and not having you is fast becoming torture.

I’m walking round the building and I hear your laughter somewhere
So I stand still, close my eyes, and feel the ripples in the air.
Find I’m flirting with your shadow, scared to do it face to face.
They say, “be careful what you wish for”; they say, “It might come true”
I just hope it does because I know exactly what I’d do.
I would tell you that I love you and you’d see that was the case.

I know I shouldn’t have told you and I know I had no right
And if you want me to I’ll leave and go without a fight.
I will quietly walk away with not a hint of insurrection.
It’s just you drove me crazy, almost literally insane
And sometimes I get a clue that some hint of it remains
When I’m looking in the mirror for a trace of your reflection.

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Sandwich fillings: an elegy

Siberian kale with cherrystone clam
Bulgar, quinoa, and spicy brown mustard
Orange okra served with whiskey-roast ham
Red chard, leaf lard, and savoury custard

Avocado jam with relish of quince
Shaved black truffle with sourdough croutons
Sun dried tomatoes with guinea pig mince
Plantain wraps served on tiny oak futons

Sandwich menus leave me filled with remorse
For the simple thrill of cheese with brown sauce

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Who would have thought we’d miss that (Epistrophe)

When you’re the first one in on Monday morning
And there’s no fresh milk in the fridge
Yes, it’s trivial and yes, it’s a small thing
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When you realise your mug is not in the cupboard
And it must still be in the washer
So you have to drink out of a mug that’s brand-coloured
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When everyone around you seems to be on a call
And you need to concentrate so you book out a meeting room
But the noise comes through the plasterboard wall
Who would have thought we’d miss that

When your lunch comes out smelling unnatural
So cautiously you sniff inside the microwave
And you realise that someone has used it to cook mackerel
Who would have thought we’d miss that

You’re on a call with clients and – yep, it’s a fire drill
And then you must walk down nine flights of stairs
Nine more back up and you’re more tired still
Who would have thought we’d miss that

We piss and we moan about work, yeah, but actually?
There’s something to be said for the buzz of the workplace
They’re more than just colleagues – some are our family
And no-one thought that we’d miss them like that.

A poem for Matt Abbott on the occasion of his appearance at Off The Shelf literary festival in Sheffield, October 2017.

He sleeps on the overnight bus between shows
Because it costs less than getting a room.
Sleeping strangers sharing uneven spaced rows
Their faces lit by the light of the moon.
Whether down on their luck or just lying low
They sleep in sodium silence and gloom.
Everything they own stored in the overhead.
“It must be awful to live that way”, you said.

He spent some time in the ‘Calais Jungle’ camp
Among the survivors of various wars.
Warming up meals from the light of a lamp
Counting their blessings as you forget yours.
As they try to sleep in the cold and the damp
They count children drowned trying to reach our shores.
We’re inured to pictures of dying and dead.
“It must be awful to live that way”, you said.

His dad was a miner, his dad before that
Until Thatcher came and closed all the pits
Police versus miners in daily combat
In hand to hand fighting that neither side quits
The mines are all gone now, the buildings laid flat
The men, like the spoils, consigned to the tips.
Where once they had pride they have despair instead.
“It must be awful to live that way”, you said.

But before the echo of your own applause had died out you were queuing in the foyer to pay £7 for a glass of white wine.
It must be awful to live that way.

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