Author Archives: Martin

A Swagger Stick is not a One-Line Proof

On with your socks, you snivelling ticks,
no porridge today and only two axioms.
Don’t play with them, Jones; you’ll go blind.
Get out there. Construct a proof.
It’s as easy as falling off an abacus.
No, that doesn’t go there, Smith.
Two and two doesn’t equal five.
Look, ladies, see that QED over there?
Two steps and you’ve made it.
It’s not Principia bloody Mathematica.
Just think, you bastards.

Unspent Sestina

‘Like unspent francs, deutchmarks and drachmas’
Sleeping Keys, Jean Sprackland

Do you remember what it was like
back then when our years were unspent,
a rainbow of currencies: French francs,
Swiss francs, the jingle of deutchmarks,
escudos, lire, Spanish pesetas and,
last but not least, Greek drachmas?

Do you remember the drachmas?
These ancient coins vanished like
smoke from the Delphic oracle, and
those kept as souvenirs remain unspent,
waiting in shadow with the deutchmarks
nestling in alliance with snobby francs.

No, we haven’t seen the last of the francs.
They look down on the humble drachma,
suspicious of the once mighty deutchmark
but it’s not a question of ‘like’ or ‘not like’.
All these currencies, cast aside, unspent,
together, they harbour a resentment and

know their day will come again. And,
if the economists were really frank,
they would admit that this treasure, unspent
and sorely missed, doubloons or drachmas,
provides a cultural richness that we all like.
Yes, Germans yearn for their deutchmarks.

The Euro fears the sound of deutchmarks,
rattling like death behind dusty sofas and
crying out ‘Justice for old money!’, like
peasants, mattresses stuffed with francs,
wizened Greeks with their buried drachmas,
so many years, so much wealth unspent.

‘We won’t remain neglected and unspent’
is the slogan of Partei Deutchmarks.
‘Drachma Uber Alles’ sings the drachma
in a fit of confused nationalist fervour and
watch out for the Parti Populaire de Francs.
It’s a mass movement you may not like

but you will never resist the unspent energy of the proud drachma
and the seductive tsunami of crumpled French francs, rolling onwards
like a Wagnerian blitzkrieg of deutchmarks to final victory.


‘Twas Brexit, and the Tory gnomes
Did gambol in the eventime:
All greedsy in their second homes,
Povation made a crime.

‘Beware the Cameron’, they said
‘the Osborne’s stare, the Gore that stings.
Beware the blondel Chubchub bird
When pompily he sings.’

She took her stilstud shoe in hand
Long time the fuhrerpost in sight
Then flaunced her maggie through the land
Proclaiming day was night.

One, two! One, two! And through and through
She tried to kilter Corbyn’s beard
But nothing could remove it, though
Its policies – to some – were weird.

‘Theresa, has thou slain the J?’
The sycolytes demanded then
‘And when will Europe disappear?’
No answer came there from Big Ben.

‘Twas Brexit, and the Tory gnomes
Did gambol in the eventime:
All greedsy in their second homes,
Povation still a crime.

My Childhood

Can’t see the point
of soap in my ears, my eyes,
only to get dirty again.
Don’t get me wrong,
I wouldn’t want to live alone.

Mum and dad look after me,
feed me the best food.
In return, I’m obedient:
no jumping on the settee
or attacking visitors.

But what’s wrong with violence?
Or sniffing the girl next door?
And why this obsession with fleas?
Sometimes the rules
make no sense at all
and I wonder about my parents

in the park, throwing sticks,
scooping my shit into plastic bags.

The Hunt for Happiness

It wasn’t there today,
that feeling in the sun,
that skin of pleasure
waiting to be stroked.

It may have fur (or not)
viewed from a summit
climbing has made mine
a pint to celebrate

with Shostakovitch humming
in my head, a warm breeze
drying moisture on
a loving friend’s tanned face

a trace of scent, a muted cry
as words and symbols dance
from branch to branch
following chance winds

or just another day that starts
the same but for some special
randomness, unlinked
to anything yet something

something happens, though
it’s better not to hope
because it may not come at all.
It may be quite extinct.


Horse manure on cobbled streets,
the memory of time back when
the flats still stood on Dalston Lane,
a farthing with its jenny wren.

The fear of needles, spiders, heights
has faded slowly with the years
along with peaceful, sleep-filled nights,
stiff upper lips to hold back tears.

A list of friends, a face, a touch,
a short-term memory so shot
that now it doesn’t matter much
if I forget what I forgot.


Forgive me, father,
for I have sinned.
Since my last confession
I have harboured thoughts
concerning convent girls
that happened to be naked
when I used my ten-inch
refracting telescope.

You often warned me
that curiosity can be dangerous;
but science is so stimulating.
I pointed my instrument
at the face of the midday sun
and swore I saw imperfections.
How can this be, father?

Perhaps, I’m being punished
by God, blinded by his light.
Or is it the result
of my other nocturnal activities?
I’m confused, father.
Enlighten me.

House Beautiful

The house displays its history with pride:
an outside loo arrayed with twirling spiders,
an inside bathroom hemmed by fragile walls
that fists could penetrate with ease,
a cellar, blotched artistically with damp,
a roof space inaccessible, except
to apes or youthful matchstick men.

He argues with himself but nothing moves,
his way of life, his inability to spend.
Perhaps a lick of paint, some carpet cleaner
here and there would do the trick?
He sits in bed with tea and Radio Four,
aware another day has come and gone
and faster than the one before.

The house awaits his slow tread on the stairs.
For the moment, he is master
but who cares?


It rained again today
a rigid scud of cloud
across a wash of grey.

Wind pulses from the south,
insistent pressure waves
that T-Rex sensed,

head raised from routine
to face a new day, after
the asteroid struck.

I worry about such things, but
there’s nothing on the news.