Pressed for time….


This sunny Sunday, I’m taking time off musing and writing about poetry by other folk to do a bit of self-publicity. I’m delighted that my second collection Pressed for time will be published by Calder Valley Press in the next couple of weeks or so. We’re currently trying to figure out how to organise a launch, given that I’m officially immuno-supressed and chronically under the weather. Yonderly, my mother would have called it. Nobbut middlin’. We’ll think of something, but a bit of advance publicity should forward the cause. It’s the squeaking hinge that gets the oil. In theory. So this week and next I’ll post some tantalising tasters.

It may be a bit perverse, but one that didn’t make the cut seems suddenly timely. So I’ll start with that.


Minding their own business

Photos of chirpy milkmen 

in the Blitz: ciggy in the corner of the mouth, 

stripy apron, delivering pints; 


photos of the children of Aleppo

and all the other cities under the sun,

the sound of planes high up, the crumpling

of exploding shells a distance off, where people

go about their business among broken stones

in the footings of lost civilisations


and somewhere in a corner 

there will be rugs and carpets,

tented blanket walls, and women

who tend small fires, shape flatbreads, patting 

soft discs of dough from palm to palm,

and somewhere there is a call to prayer,

and always small boys intent on a football.

In repetition of small things

is our salvation,

of all the vulnerable ones in tents,

of orderly routines and rules

forbidding tripping or picking up the ball,

or ensuring that the clean hand

will hold the folded bread and scoop the rice,

that hands will tell beads, mouths will form

the words of prayer, of supplication

at the appointed and appropriate times,


the milkman will leave a pint

on the doorstep of a roofless house.


The next one did make the cut. It seems horribly relevant.

In the Museum of Everything

There were so many rooms. 

There was a room for everything under heaven.


One was a room of streamers, flags, 

of bannerets and pennants.

Some were frail as cobweb, grey as mist, vulnerable as dust

and some were brown and stiff with old blood

and one was a saltire of paper on a lolly-stick 

that filled the sky of a child 

whose cheek was pricked with wet sand

and one was made from plumes and smoke

and thistle-heads whose threads could barely hold

another was a coarse square of red on a handle

black bright with lanolin, and smelling of coal and iron

and there were black flags rip-rapping

from the antennae of clattering jeeps

in the hot grit of a desert wind

and heavy crusted cloths stitched all in gold

and draped on ugly coffins

and quartered banners, red and silver, stitched

with lions, dragons couchant, daffodils and scrolls

and roses, chevrons, and sounding

of guns and drums and trumpets 

and the whinnying of reined-in horses

and there were white bed-sheets hung from balconies

of shell-shocked cities all saying stop

let it stop, let us be, drive past

and there were little flags put in the hands

of dead children in streets of frozen processions.


I asked the room: what room is this?

No one said: this is the room of flags.

All the dead regiments and all the dead cities

and all the dead children were silent.


[In the Museum of Everything:  Commended in the 23rd Ware Poets Competition 2021]


Two more taster poems next week.

Pressed for time. provisionally to be published April 2022. CalderValley Poetry. 104pp £12.00

4 thoughts on “Pressed for time….

  1. Hi John – Been thinking about you. Congratulations on the new book, achieved in spite of everything. Hope the health is improving. Bleak times for lots of people, but the Cobweb is a shining light for all of us. Thank you. You always were an inspiration. Jean xx


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