Copyright Tony Stowell

1.You eat what you are

(copyright Tony Stowell)

 

Sitting in comfort in small City bistro

Member of BUPA and up market gym,

Bronzed by the ski-slopes and P&O cruises –

A picture of someone rich, leisured and trim;

   Placing special onus on his heavy city bonus

   He glances at the menu and he makes his choice with ease –

   So, after a martini he has tournedos Rossini

   Then a slice of tarte montmartre, port and Gorgonzola cheese.  

 

Anxiously scanning the fortnightly market,

Her shopping list thoughtfully full and unfurled,

Looking for free-range and fresh and organic-

Mother is earnestly saving the world.

     So, there’s spinach and Pak-choi and some parsnips and savoy,

     Jamie Oliver would certainly approve of such as she;      

     She does not live in the odium of sugar, starch or sodium        

    (Though her kids sneak to MacDonald’s when their mother cannot see).

  

Waddling slowly, he surveys the superstore

Grabbing all offers from pork chops to tea

Followed by kids holding crisp bags and chocolate –

Kids who are almost as rounded as he;

   For plates of mash and pies add directly to his size

   While chicken wings and burgers seem to bring him little cheer,

   Swelling belly bum and hips with another load of chips

   Before drinking down this diet with a six-pack beer.

  

We're daily bombarded with slogans and jingles;

For food comes in fashions, then fades from our view,

There's whole meals for families, couples or singles -

With synthetic sausage and microwave stew.

   Advertisers charm us, newspapers alarm us

   Academic doctors warn obesity will strike;

   Confused by all this prattle, we may just give up the battle

   And just eat in moderation what we damn well like.

 

 

2. Republican Limerick

 

Aren’t Republican candidates cute?

There’s Rick and there’s Mitt and there’s Newt;

Rick’s far too far right,

Mitt can’t buy the fight

And everyone’s laughing at Newt.

 

 

3. Jonathan Hurd

Who spent his childhood playing with computers.

Jonathan Adolphus Hurd

Became a young Computer Nerd.

His Parents noted, early on,

A certain Oddness in their Son

For John, unlike the other boys

Who scatter almost all their Toys

Conveniently  round the house,

Played only with the P C Mouse.

 

There was, within a year or two

But nothing that John could not do;

He’d simply sit from dawn ’til dawn

And scan the internet for porn

(Despite controls his Father had

Imposed to try to save the lad) -

Young Jonathan just carried on.

He hacked into the Pentagon

And launched a Missile ( luckily

It only landed in the sea).

He electronically sold

His Father’s shares in Tin and Gold

And bought a Laptop which, he said,

Enabled him to surf in Bed.

(For punishment, this naughty Geek

Had Virtual Meals for one whole week.)

  

John’s Parents started to despair

And sought Assistance everywhere.

Their son was placed high on the list

Of every Top Psychiatrist;

But their prognoses, every one,

Said, “Sorry – nothing can be done:

There’s no point in denying it,

Your Jonathan’s a little Twit.”

 

John’s formative and teenage years

Confimed his parents’ Deepest Fears.

The only friends he ever met

He found in chat-rooms on the net –

The only Peers that he could face

Were those who lived in Cyberspace.

 

It happened that this little fool

Who Failed in everything at School

Devised a scheme where people bet

On Horses via the Internet.

He patented the scheme, they say,

And sold it in the USA.

 

Sir John now opulently sits

In his own Penthouse at the Ritz,

Where no-one scolds or calls him names

For writing new Computer Games. 

It is the Centenary of the publication of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Verses

 

4. SHOCK

 

I called for her after I meant to

(In fact, I was quite a bit late)

I said I would meet her at seven

But got there at twenty past eight.

 

I’d had to put oil in the engine

So my fingers bore traces of grease,

And when I looked down at my denims

I saw there was more on my knees.

 

The flowers that I took weren’t pretentious -

I collected them up in a trice;

I couldn’t afford gladioli,

But the dandelions looked very nice.

 

Before long, I got the car started -

It took almost no time at all -

And she didn’t have that far to push it

Before I drove into the wall.

 

The cod and the chips were delicious

Though some ketchup got spilt on her frock:

So when she said, “Get lost, you Wally,”

  Well, it came as a bit of a shock. 

 

 

5. Serious Sonnet.

 

I like the sonnet form. It has to be disciplined and the rhyme scheme must appear to flow naturally. It can be used for every occasion from an expression of love, or a polemic, or light entertainment. It deals with one topic and comes to a conclusion about it.

 As a teacher and a historian, I was appalled to read about Michael Gove’s proposed new history curriculum for schools. He had ignored all advice from historians, and proposed a narrow, nationalistic programme based on rote learning and facts and figures selected by him. Exams would no doubt be geared to how well pupils could regurgitate officially approved material. Nowhere was there the possibility that pupils should be taught to think rationally after examining all the material available, and be able to come to an informed opinion.

 

It seemed to me that the situation deserved a serious sonnet!

 

 

A Question of History

 

Should History be just remember’d dates

Of famous British people, worth a quote

And eulogise our famous men of note?

Triumphalise the glories of our state?

Perhaps, too, we could justify our hate

Of foreign things (that’s always worth a vote),

Insist the young learn rigorously by rote

By which we raise examination rates.

Or, should this subject teach our vibrant youth

To scrutinize the folk of many a clime

For how development has taken place,

Distinguishing the fantasy from truth –

So forming reasoned judgments for our time,

Explaining them with clarity and grace?

 

Celebrity Time

           A perennial leader in the nation’s favourite poems is Kipling’s ‘If’, which sets out to illustrate all the worthwhile character traits that make up a decent human being. I have used his exact form, and some of his same words, to satirise by contrast all the shallow and worthless sides of talentless ‘celebrities’, who are merely famous for being famous, and need to live increasingly bizarre and outrageous lives to remain in the lucrative limelight they crave.

 

The Price of Fame

 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and ridiculing you,

If you can sell yourself when all men doubt you,

Then cash in on their stupid doubting, do;

And if you cannot wait for fame to find you,

Get married several times to worthless guys:

If hated, get an agent right behind you

And make sure you look good and don’t talk wise.

 

If you can dream – make dreams of wealth your master;

If you can think, make infamy your aim; 

If you have met with triumph or disaster

Then use these gifts to publicise your fame;

If you can bear to hear the tripe you’ve twitted

Twisted by knaves to rouse the tabloid press,

Then read those things that prove you are half-witted

And sue for the emotional distress.

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it all on glamour, glitz and gloss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings –

Publicity can minimize your loss;

If you can force your heart with nerve and sinew

To seek exposure when you only bore

Then just hold on, for there is nothing in you

Except the Will which only asks for ‘More’.

 

If you work crowds to keep your name before them,

Or meet with Stars, nor lose the common touch;

If foes or friends say you’re just sad, ignore them-

What matters is, you love yourself so much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of press control-

Yours is your World, and all the tat that’s in it;

You’ll have celebrity, but not your soul.

 

Silly Verse for Sensible Kids 1.

 

I’ve written a number of poems for children. I like the bizarre, the strange

and the outrageous almost as much as they seem to.  

   

Join the Witches Charm Club

 

Roll up to our stand at the  Halloween Fair,

            There’s a welcome for one and for all.

Join our Club! Such a chance is uncommonly rare -

            You can park your brooms free by our Stall.

 

In the past, all us witches have got a bad name

            For the magic we use on our foes,

Like making them sick, or go bald, or get lame,

            Or have chilblains on some of their toes.

 

We have de-railed train-sets and lost Barbie dolls,

            And frightened young children with bats

Or giants or goblins  or spectres or trolls,

            And alarmed them by wearing black hats. 

 

We’ve made times of darkness seem terribly scary,

            Cut pumpkins with frightening faces

And conjured up beasties both long-leg’d and hairy

            Which go ‘BOO!’ in unusual places.

 

What’s more, we’ve been always presented as though

            We are ugly, bad-tempered old crones

With straggly hair turned as white as the snow

            And our bodies like bags of old bones.

 

WE ARE FED UP with this! The new image we seek

            Is to CHARM our way into society,

And do good to our neighbours each day of the week.

            We’ll use magic with total propriety.

 

We will dress ourselves tidily, shampoo our hair

            And we’ll speak in the gentlest of tones;

And we’ll smile, and with grooming and cosmetic care

            We could look like the young Zeta Jones.

 

We will cheer up a brother or sister who’s crashing

            Or chucking your toys down the pan,

And by magic we’ll either stop anything smashing –

            Or mend it again, if we can.

 

And we’ll BANISH all ghosties and ghastly faced ghouls

            Who can cause quite unwarranted fears,

Along with the realm that the Goblin King rules,

            And the pixies with long pointed ears.

 

And we’ll magic each meal so that children will say

            That they LIKE what they’re given for dinner-

So the small ones will flourish; the rest, by the way,

            Who have lived on just crisps, might get thinner.

 

And we’ll even help Grown-Ups, especially these

            For whom memory only gets worse –

We’ll find out by magic where Dad put his keys

            Or what Mummy has done with her purse.

 

So – THAT’S our new Club. Slogan?

LET’S DO IT RIGHT!

            For the wrong way can only cause hitches.

From this moment on, we’ll be good and polite –

            Join our Charm Club for Modern Young Witches.

           

 

                                              Poems for Places 1

I like writing about places, but instead of just describing them or attempting an 'evocation' I like to use the nature of the place to make some general point - I thought of calling this 'Progress'! I'm using the same form as You Eat What you Are, which suits this theme.

The Road to Bath 

Galloping down from the northern perimeter

Straight across country on well-mettled road,

Comes a Centurion, telling of victory

Over an enemy covered in woad:

Speeded on his course by a frequent change of horse,

Ignoring Aquae Sulis and a taste of home,

Reporting to Corinium, headed for Londinium,

To gratify the glory of Imperial Rome.

 

Trotting at leisure by way of the turnpike,

Wary of highwaymen, armed just in case,

Come the nobility, clergy, gentility,

Dressed a la mode and trimmed richly with lace:

All beat a steady path to the pleasure spa of Bath,

For a fashionable season flaunting fashionable cash -

The humble and the haughtier, courtesan and courtier,

Praying for approval from the great Beau Nash.

 

Crawling in convoy the length of the motor-way,

Bumper to bumper in unending line,

The children are car-sick, or bored and obstreperous,

Everyone programmed like gadarene swine:

Hoping they can pass just an hour or two of class,

Absorbing ancient culture and the aura it assumes -

Then, purchasing a present with a view of Royal Crescent,

They’ll head for home, surrounded by monoxide fumes.

 

 Poems for Places 2.

Sonnets can also be used in a much lighter vein. This is part of a collection of twenty four sonnets I wrote about the people and places in the Cotswolds. There is a certain rugged individualism about about Cotswold folk which is often more impressed by the things that matter locally rather than those in remoter corners of the world.                        

                                                       CHIPPING CAMPDEN

                               Chipping Campden is an ancient Cotswold Wool Town, and amongst its hearty country traditions is the Dover's Hill Games - a sort of local olympiad featuring such traditional sports as Shin-kicking.

  

                              Let other people range abroad and seek 

                              A world-wide stage to try and make their names; 

                              Let Hellenes hold their Pan-Hellenic Games 

                              And let the world enthuse as Greek meets Greek - 

                              We have no wish to occupy a peak 

                              On Mount Olympus to observe the shames 

                              Of foreign failures, or the counter-claims 

                              Which say the victor was a drug-raised freak. 

                                        Away with them! Good Cotswold folk can go 

                                        To Chipping Campden's Games on Dover's Hill, 

                                        And care about who loses and who wins - 

                                        It's better far to settle matters so. 

                                        And if you really wish your neighbour ill - 

                                        No problem: go and kick his bloody shins. 

 

I have written a number of verses for children, and some of them have been illustrated in pen and ink. Unfortunately, I can't reproduce the illustrations in this format (unless anyone can suggest how I can do this) so you'll just have to make do with the copy.

Silly Verse for sensible Kids 2

 

Trouble in the Channel 

The fishes in the Channel

Were in a mood for play 

For the breeze was warm and gentle

And the sun had shone all day

 

And the ferries going out to France

Were  scarcely late at all

So the passengers weren’t seasick

To the great relief of all.

 

But suddenly, a Hake sped up

And said, “Just East of Sark,

As I came by today I saw

A blooming Great White Shark – 

 

He’s heading up this way. LOOK OUT!”

The Hake could hardly speak,

But a wise old Crab just commented

“That’s the second one this week -

 

It must be Global Warming

Or something of the sort;

The  stupid shark thinks it can come

Much further than it ought.

 

Something must be done,” it said,

But then there was a pause,

And when a Sole said, “Yes – but WHAT?”

The Crab just waved its claws. 

 

The fish were justly terrified

For later or for sooner

The Shark would come and feed on THEM,

From Sardine up to Tuna.

 

But then a Dolphin had a thought,

And Dolphins, you may see,

Aren’t really fish at all, but more

Advanced  like you and me.

 

The Dolphin said, “You know, a Shark

Will not allow a rival.

It seems to think another Shark

Will threaten its survival. 

 

I know a wreck where I have seen

A great big Mirror lying –

If we can lift it up, I have

A plan I think’s worth  trying.”

 

They found the mirror, stood it up

And waited for the shark

Who didn’t come the whole day through,

And then it got too dark.

 

But next day saw the Shark appear.

It was of ‘NORMOUS size,

It had a hungry look and Malice

Glinted in its eyes. 

 

The Dolphin swam right up to him

And said, “NER NERNY-ER

YOU ARE A FLAT-FACED GREEDY GIT –

THE FISHES ALL CONCUR.”

 

Behind the mirror then he sped.

The Shark, all FURIOUS,

Began to charge, when all at once

His eye saw something curious –

 

He thought he saw a RIVAL Shark

Approaching him at speed.

He wasn’t having THAT, and thought,

“A challenger, indeed. 

 

I can’t have that. I’ll stop him dead

And never let him pass.”

He reached top speed, and then

KER-SPLATT!!

His nose crashed into glass.

 

His face was flattened, teeth knocked out,

His eyes began to pop-

He was concussed, and his great fin

Went wobbly at the top.

 

“These waters are too dangerous,”

The fishes heard him say

As he shook his head and turned his tail

And sadly swam away.

 

The fishes cheered like anything

And none of them forgot

That Dolphins are quite clever

But the Great White Shark is NOT.

  

 

ENVOI

for Mary 

It’s been a long day. Somehow, I believe

I’ve done more good than harm, where I’ve had scope;

But forcing me to look for a reprieve

Is just a cruel, pointless sort of hope.

I only hope to die.  I cannot live

In any way that’s meaningful to me -

Can’t move, can’t talk, can’t eat, can’t laugh, can’t give,

Can’t read, can’t hear, can’t write, can’t walk, can’t see.

The pain that racks my body I can take -

Relief is quick, well-meant and coldly kind

And sometimes works; but nobody can break

The unremitting anguish of my mind.

  It’s very late. I’m not afraid of night,

  So, if you love me, please turn out the light. 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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Latest comments

24.11 | 13:00

Great to see that all is going well. Best wishes. Jonathan

...
04.07 | 14:06

Hey, my next door neighbour's a poet..
...and I didn't know it!

Well done Tony, I shall peruse with interest.

...
03.03 | 19:03

Its a bit warmer here so most things are up including weeds - the sea defences are damaged - 10.2 metre tide today, 50 knot gusts - and it goes on raining--

...
03.03 | 14:38

What if, indeed, Tony! The title is succinct.

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