Stocking fillers [8] On prohibitions


No more “Catching Up “ posts. Phew. There are at least four new collections/pamphlets staring at me from the shelf above my Mac screen, and they’re all demanding that I write about them.But I’ll take my time, and raise no false hopes about when and how.

I’m planning to recharge my batteries. That’s the priority. Chemo knocked me for six; I wasn’t prepared for that. But I’ve started going for walks again. The first one was a shock to the system inasmuch as I only managed a mile of easy walking; but in the last couple of weeks, egged on by my partner, it’s getting to be 4 or 5 Km, and the target is to be doing it every day until it’s no longer painful.

And this brings me to stocking fillers. I’ve been posting on Facebook about being introduced to the remarkable variety of field paths that start pretty well at my front door, and which I was almost totally unaware of until a couple of weeks ago. 


There’s one that starts when the road I live on becomes a bridle path, and then a field path that eventually links to a path that leads you over the River Calder, under a railway line, and finally to the canal, beside which you can (if you want) walk for miles and miles. I’m no fan of towpath walks, mainly because no matter how far you walk you still seem to be in the same place. But I knew the path…and thought that it was the only one. It’s a popular path, part of the Kirklees Footpaths system, and for 30+ years I’ve been aware of groups of walkers passing our front window. To my shame I wrote a stocking-filler  about what I thought was their being kitted out as if for hard walking in the Cairngorms, as opposed to having just come a quarter of a mile from the town centre. I poked fun at their Goretex, the OS maps slung in pastic wallets dangling round their necks, their Brasher boots, their air of being on a risky expedition.

Today I went for a walk in the sun, and I had boots on. And I had two walking poles. I beg absolution


However. Stocking-filler time. For the anniversary of 9/11 I posted a poem on Facebook about the  memory of where I was at the time the first plane was flown into the Twin Towers.

Out of the blue

The Inter-City comes into Wakefield 

on a curving viaduct of ten great arches,

built by men who mainly could not read or write,

who worked with picks and shovels, barrows,

hods, and rope and block and tackle.

Wonders, remarkable as pyramids, that endure

like great cathedrals, that no one notices.


Under the arches, small businesses spring up:

builders’ merchants, body shops, scrap yards,

and Cesar’s Ceramics where we went one day 

to buy tiles of a particular shade of blue,

when Capitol Radio cut into Erasure’s

Blue Savannah with a news flash that a plane

had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.


As we drove home with our boxes of blue tiles,

a second plane crashed into the second tower.

For hours after we got in, we watched

the images repeat. Small glittering planes

in a cerulean sky, the smoke, the dust, the dark.


To my considerable surprise, it sparked a long thread of comments in response to one that took me to task for the use of ‘cerulean’ …..a word I suppose I took for granted. Anyway, I watched the arguments unfold about words that should be at all costs avoided in poetry.

There’s a myth that Peter Sansom of the Poetry Business proscribed the use of the word ‘shard’. Being one of those who believe that the only rule in art of any kind is that there are no rules beyond asking: does this work?, I was intrigued to see that ‘cerulean’ could well go the way of ‘shard’. Which reminded me that I wrote a defence of ‘shard’ and all things shard-y after spending a very hot afternoon in Alicante scrambling up steep shaly slopes looking for fragments of Iberian pottery. Shards, in fact.

The Relique

From Mare Nostrum’s Anatolian shore,

ten leagues distant, ‘midst arid, jagged

mountains, eagle-haunted airie heights,

there stands a tow’ring cliff of golden stone.

If to its rocky foot, with faltering steps

the dauntless Traveller would ascend

by goat path tortuous, through brittle thorn,

and bitter dust, as ‘twere of dead sea fruit,

blooded,dwarfed below that precipice dire,

beneath his feet appear, among the roots

of juniper and ericacae desiccate,

fragments of the ancient potter’s art…

broken amphorae, rough bowls and goblets

that, for two millenia lay spurned

by hoof of goat, scorched by tropic suns,

blown at every wind’s caprice, unheeded

even as great Empires rose in pride,then fell.

O! shattered reliques of an Ancient Race!

And say, how should the Traveller, besmeared

with toil, and foul with cloying dust and blood

Apostrophize a single Piece of all this Multitude?


The Replie

Two thousand years it’s lain in dust

on a thorny hill, this broken pot,

waiting, patiently, for that mot juste

from all the lexicon of crock that poets have got


not fragment, splinter, scrap or shiver,

remnant, or chunk, or flake, or sliver.

Dismiss all injunctions laid upon the bard.

Sometimes only one word will do.

So, Take up  your pen and write it: shard

More stocking fillers next week. Or perhaps an appreciation of a collection that’s snagged my attention and won’t let go. Who can say?

One thought on “Stocking fillers [8] On prohibitions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.