There’s a tan coloured plastic cup
sat out of place
in the lonely tennis ball graveyard
of Hazard Alley,
from Lux Park’s vending machine,
catching a ride on the wind,
it’s talking to itself,
reminiscing of friends gone by,
baked apple crumbles,
the fresh bread rolls unbuttered,
the greasy sausage rolls that are now all vegans,
and the countless bags of chips
who’ve got their GCSE’s and A Levels
and are now studying
how to be full time parents or
how to salute whilst making a bed,
he remembers stink bombs
unable to contain themselves
in the main corridor
in the French rooms
in the toilets
in the English department
in... well... you get the idea,
he’s laughing to himself
picturing sliding down the banister
of the stairs in the old hall
of the stairs in the technology building
of the stairs in the French rooms
of... well... you get the idea,
he’s trying to remember
how to speak French,
“Il y a un jambon
et un poisson avec moi
a la discotheque.”
He thinks he sounds clever,
he wonders what happened
to the thick wooden tables
that used to balance Bunsen burners
on their heads
in the old science block,
bulky wooden tables
cut from the Ark or the Argonaut
or maybe just a really fat tree,
there’s a smell he cannot place,
either burning wood
sanded on the spinning disk
or maybe just the smell of
burnt toast coming from
the sixth form common room,
from his spot by the fire station,
he can hear the school buses
stamping up and down the road,
he wants to know if they have a dinner pass
or perhaps they don’t need one
because they’re buses,
do they still expel dust from the seats
when a body slams down on them?
Does the dust dance like it’s in
the Inter-Tutor Group Dance Competition
or does it have more of a
pre-University fed ambition?
If the dust still dances then
surely the stink of dried mud
in the changing rooms
still plays rugby,
or maybe it still clings to the backs of legs
or ears, hoping to sneak its way
into a maths lesson
and steal itself some learning,
he imagines the lockers to be
the cleverest of all the
sentinels of the school,
all those decades of books stuffed inside,
hour upon hour
studying geographical maps,
the civil rights movement, and
though on that logic
the lockers should have
from all those decades of crisps stuffed inside,
the tan coloured plastic cup
in the lonely tennis ball graveyard
of Hazard Alley,
it lifts from the ground
and wanders far,
catching a ride on the memories.
I am writing this on World Poetry Day yet the event in question happened over a week ago! I was asked to attend the flag raising ceremony at Plymouth Guildhall but due to other commitments I had to decline. Fortunately, Reverend Appleby (the chaplain to the Lord Mayor) stepped in to read on my behalf. The poem is a merger of 'old school' and contemporary and I'm impressed with how Reverend Appleby interpreted the formatting, he gave a great delivery! Below are some pictures of the ceremony and a video recording of the poem being read out.
Read the Plymouth Herald article here.
The colonists wiped their boots on straw mats,
the rocket, fuelled by Elon's musk, would
take them sailing under Sagittarius and The Plough.
Each wipe was a haphazard grapevine,
erratic shuffling of feet,
they didn't want to carry the dirt of this world with them,
clean soles meant clean souls for the
soon to be Mooners.
Two sides emerged amongst the passengers,
separated by a gangway of
one metre of speckled Lino.
The Saints saw a chance to design their own steeple;
The Strangers just wanted to see if Wallace and Gromit were being truthful,
they packed more crackers than the devout,
based their dreams on the stop motion theory.
When the countdown ended,
two gangly blowtorches strapped either side,
created a hard caramelised layer on the
they were leaving behind.
Halfway between the great black sea and the
absolute darkness, light flickered.
waved from the sun like the
bell bottomed jeans of a seventies TV star.
Fiery winds knocked the rocket off course,
of course none of them knew.
When they landed far away from Neil's flag, the
passengers declared the stones in the dry river
were beds. Ideas forged; a government made.
The Clangers whistled a tune of jealousy at
such a fine foundation. Sewn eyes turned green.
Differences were put aside. No more 'my religion' or
'you're lack of religion'.
The dark side of the moon didn't care about Dawkins and Darwin,
crosses marked the graves of the crew that didn't make it, no longer
marking moral supremacy, hairy chests, and cleavages.
The lost souls of travellers that departed, died
for a number of reasons. Some croaked from g-force
sickness, most starved after the space maggots
ate their supply of Jaffa Cakes.
After a debate they named the new settlement Fraggle Rock,
one of the large moonstones looked like Jim Henson's hand.
In the land of many craters no-one is a puppet,
the strings are cut. When you have nothing tying you up - Saints
become strangers. A sea of unnamed faces in an unforgiving world.
As the first days passed
they came to the bay of Epiphany, a
realisation that there was no food on the moon.
the silver shelled turtle was not uninhabited,
natives queued up to see the pale faces, even
Sagittarius and The Plough dangled down to
catch a glimpse of their starving eyes; hungry frowns.
The Tribes of Selene showed the weary how to use their hands.
Taught them how to fish for asteroids and build
houses out of scrapped lunar landers. They never took
more titanium plating than was needed. The exuberant Mooners
declared a National Holiday,
commercialised cards littered the scene amongst golf balls and shadows;
they had microwavable turkey dinners shipped
from the International Space Station.
The tribes brought with them a cheese platter.
The Strangers knew they'd been right all along.
(Me at the Illuminate guest event 2017, Royal William Yard. Pictures thanks to Heather Sabel)
It seems that November (the ninth month of the Roman Calendar) is a time of remembering things. At the beginning of the month we celebrate Bonfire Night and this weekend it is Remembrance Sunday. Thanksgiving isn't far away, a time of remembering. The UN has a day for remembering road traffic victims. It seems to be a time of reflection. Last night a project inspired by the poppies:wave sculpture on the Plymouth Hoe came to an almighty conclusion. The live performances on the night were stunning and unique and everything good about poetry. Below is my write as Laureate.
I See A Great Hand Reaching Out
His hand reached out like a wave of poppies.
The stains of blood like crushed berries, the
juice of the laboured fruits trickling in the cracks.
Stretched digits clawed at a towering figure above,
a pair of shoulders strapped to an obelisk of flesh.
Intimidation was the first impression but, with the
escaping moments, worries dried and crusted.
When the hands of the pocket-watch cross they
briefly touch, a minute is all they get. His silver fob
dented by a bullet.
Each ear drum burst by the bolero of war. Perforation
had occurred across the whole of his frame, ripped
his pigment from him, colourless cheeks slapped cruelly
by trodden blades.
At the going down of the last supper the commanding
officer tore bread. He wondered if anyone would remember him.
The silence of the field
the horses back to life.
The smoke of the guns
pistol whipped the fog
that had lain in waiting.
His emotions escaped his eyes, glassy combers
that poured out and washed over the tall figure.
The wide gape of his jaws didn't help the words
escape. They remained trapped in his mind along
with all his future plans.
He stared into the face of the cold above.
Looking at the eye of a raven before it picks
your bones clean can fill you with regret. The
glare of the presence mistaken for hunger,
studying closer he saw it as anger.
The figure bent down and revealed herself.
Even yew trees bow when they sink caskets.
Her brow marked with cobalt paint that
flecked into shrapnel, blue shards cast down
adding to the mess. Each speck undressed,
noticing not paint but tears, tears that
left bitter trails.
Swaddled by his damp uniform, she scooped
Him up, nestled him to her chest and carried
him away to the land of the ever-young.
Boots once again stomped upon grasses,
each halm squashed, cut down by her force.
When the heel lifted, a wild flower grew, tender
thing that cast a shadow which engulfed the world.
"Will they never let this happen again?"
Her gaze missed its smile.
"No dear, but they'll remember they haven't
every time they touch your posy."
Thom Boulton is a contemporary free verse poet who lives and performs in the South West, UK. He is Plymouth's current Poet Laureate.