Voices Before Viceroys

the viceroy’s forgotten whose kingdom he guards

he’s looting the lands that he holds

seminal power has been bastardised

by one who’s unworthy and bold

hounding to hell, he pillages grain

grown for the bread of them all

laughs as he does with a hoit and a toit

oh, the viceroy is having a ball

crown on the head though who here has placed

their trust in sceptred high-hand

usurper and charlatan chasing the throne

big chief thinks he’s making a stand

the natives are drumming, the smoke’s on the peaks

warpaint is blue with white cross

viceroy can number the years he has left

who needs an upstart as a boss

Milkshake

Svetlana reposes mysteriously

on couches and cushions of silk

observing the passage of time carefully

sipping on cocktails of milk

mixed with the blood of pilgrims processed

during visits and viced rendezvous

enlarging on life and the secret of youth

in voice laden with honey and dew

plenty of sleep from the harshness of day

a diet of liquid preserve

no more than needed, enough is enough

with some captives held in reserve

twenty or so, going on ninety-two

could be two hundred and five

Svetlana’s not telling though many have begged

and wound up not quite alive

Svetlana reposes so elegantly

batting more than her eyes

her teeth are long gone so she sips through a straw

vampire with sucker surprise

please drink your milk is the lesson she gives

the calcium’s good for your bones

your marrow, my milkshake, donated to live

now, piss off, and leave me alone

1+1=3

This morning I shall finish procrastinating.

It’s time, I feel, to tackle what is weighing and waiting to be done.

I had thought I would do it on Friday night but I knew I was kidding myself. Friday evenings are not for doing work. That, surely, is a universal given.

I did think I would begin on Saturday. Jump right in and just get it out of my way. But. There was shopping. There were washings. There was cooking. A little bit of taxi service. And a lot of, ‘But it’s Saturday. It’s the freakin’ weekend.’

So, I didn’t.

The worst thing about being a teacher is the volume of paperwork that has crept in over the years.

No, that’s not the worst thing.

The worst thing is the number of subject areas that now have to be taught. And planned for.

My speciality is literacy and numeracy. Every aspect of the two, woven into interdisciplinary learning. You know, plan a theme, incorporating many facets of learning. Drive your lessons through that. Easy peasy, once you know how.

That’s no longer good enough.

As a result of the neglect of some sections of society, and a political scene that will not tackle the root causes – or cannot- it is now incumbent on primary school teachers to incorporate, within their remit, a host of subjects that parents used to do. Some of them still might. But, just in case they don’t, we have to.

This term I will have to make time for the kitchen in school. Yes, the children will be learning how to cut up bananas, make smoothies, try their hands at washing up and, hopefully, keep their fingers intact in the process. They will be charged for this. I’ll have to pay for it first and then collect the money from them. That’s not going to happen. Not doing that. I should go to the shops, buy a variety of fruit that they probably won’t like or eat and then hope they reimburse me? Nope. Cheek.

In addition to exploring the wonders of the kitchen, perhaps using one of the microwaves that now sit on the worktops of what was once the teachers’ conference room, some bright spark suggested that the children would benefit from running five miles per week.

An area in the playground has been duly measured, to the mile, and the panting of both teachers and children can almost be heard, through my window on the ground floor, as they bust a gut not quite belting round the yard. I don’t think I’m going to be doing that. I don’t run. Now and again my nose does. But that’s usually because I’ve not been careful with my fruit consumption and have succumbed to a trivial cold. Bring on the vitamin C. I can peel an orange because my mum taught me how.

Health and wellbeing is the thing, you see. Not content with having teachers supervise teeth brushing – I mean, have you ever! – we should take on the role of parental responsibility in every field.

There is now toast on offer in the morning, a couple of days a week. Why not every day? Don’t children need breakfast every morning? Why not serve dinner too? Get the kids into their jammies, a bed time story and the parents can pick them up around nine.  A good twelve hours at school should solve all society’s problems.

What else? Ah, yes, drug awareness, massage (no fecking kidding!), and the thing that is pending this week for me and mine. The showcase.

On Friday coming, the whole school, together with parents of the children in my class, will gather in the hall while my children take to the stage and perform some highlights from the book study we have been working on. I spent last weekend writing parts for them all and burning music to a disc. It’s been a while since I’ve done that – the disc part – and there was some swearing involved until I remembered.

This week, all the work that adorns my walls from the topic, will be removed to be displayed in the hall for the perusal of the parents. Then it will have to be put up again in my class because, in a week or so, we’ll have visitors – pretendy inspectors from the education department will descend to see if we know what we’re doing.

Quite frankly, I’m no longer sure I do.

Once upon a time, my job was to make sure that the children in my care could read and write and count. I was good at that. Still am, if I get the chance. We’ve always taught P.E., Drama, Music, Environmental Studies, R.M.E., Social Studies, Art, Science and whatever else escapes me right now. But, the focus was always numeracy and literacy. The essentials.

The time now available to do justice to those subjects is being eroded by the additional responsibilities that were once the privilege of parents.

I made lasagne and crusty bread with my two youngest recently. All of my kids can cut a banana and know which buttons to press on the microwave as well as how to turn on the cooker and make something for themselves. I’ve always been under the impression that that was something I had to do so that, one day, I could wave them goodbye knowing they wouldn’t starve or set themselves on fire. So far, so good. Touch wood.

In the interests of not procrastinating further, I will end with one last thought. Why is it that the only subjects the children are tested on is numeracy and literacy? Simple arithmetic, that a moron could work out, but not, apparently, the powers that be, (bit worrying that), makes it plain that less and less time is available for the essential PRIMARY subjects. I’m a primary school teacher.

As wonderful as I am at integrating the essentials into multi subjects – and I’m really not too shabby at that – I’m no wizard with time. There are only so many hours in the day to achieve planned aims. There are just too many aims now.

I shall now go and spend the rest of Sunday planning for the current term and trying to bend the parameters of time. Someone’s got to do it.

P.S. (still procrastinating) I just discovered, this week, that my salary, for doing all of the above and then some, has been eroded in the region of £13,000 in the last six years. So, that’s nice. Very motivating.

By Tooth And Nail

You may write of death, destruction and the dance of seven veils

behead the lies when witnessing pursuit of holy grail

shear the locks of strongest men, deliver their entrails

mine and carry samsonite discovered on the trail

You may scourge systemic flattery that panders while it fails

preserve with crystalled clarity the darkest told of tales

fixate upon minutiae, recalling all details

and balk at circumvention upon the grandest scale

You may write with licensed freedom if no power pressed wholesale

investigate impartially and never truth curtail

bring to public notice and with honesty prevail

integrity of stewardship when sworn by tooth and nail

Upon The Half Shell

we found love upon the half shell

salty kisses, blues and dry white wine

softest flesh and crisp bouquet, flow’red garlands

syncopated sways awash with brine

fuelled on sand and summer, stripped those oysters

gurgled to their laughter, overdosed

love upon the half shell, pearls and promise

in a seaside town where everybody goes

searching for their opalescent wishes

in dishes served quite raw with moody tunes

lucky ones find treasure on the half shell

in a bar beside the seashore at full moon

Selective Amnesia

wipe all slates clean and bury the past

cremate matrixed effigies down to the last

put petrol to paper and shred all the proof

delete all the files that burden the truth

electrify brains with a pulse to negate

terminate programmes before it’s too late

forgive us our sins in biblical quotes

forget all our actions but never your votes

a like with a cross is all that we need

we’ll write a new future just as we’ve agreed

on pamphlets provided to clarify years

prophetic tissue to dry up your tears

spoilt paper lies in recycle bin

trespasses tempered by just throwing in

but never forgotten all that they said

nor history rewritten although papers dead

canvassing conscience, memories last

past actions determine results of votes cast

Always After Midnight

It’s always after midnight on the streets where they do roam

It’s always after midnight going home

The clocks they keep on ticking and time moves steadily

But it’s always after midnight when they’re free

It’s always after midnight when they find you all alone

It’s always after midnight when they moan

Days turn into darkness and night prepares the fee

And it’s always after midnight faithfully

It’s always after midnight when they whisper down the phone

It’s always after midnight when they’re gone

No one sees them coming but they visit frequently

And it’s always after midnight when we see

Whose Army

By angelic proclamation, the fearless dared to tread

Called upon the living and all those unjustly dead

Rise upon the morning, there are fools to fill with dread

To save the children suffering and ensure that all are fed

With shields and swords the angels adorned themselves with flame

Faces quite anonymous and no one knew their names

Led an army galvanised, none before the same

The flag unfurled, a pennant, brightest white and deathly plain

Marched they into vestibules of chambers far and wide

None could halt their access though they tried, oh how they tried

Quivering, unbowed, the brazen culprits did not hide

Believing still the rights of kings, protecting those inside

Inside corrupted corridors, ashen faces turned

Aghast at blazing bravery, afraid they would be burned

While all around, the voices cried, maybe now you’ll learn

And, as one, they clashed and flashed their swords, system overturned

By seraphic proclamation, a message to the fools

Do not tread where angels fear nor alter godly rules

Children first, the kingdom, woe betide who bleed their souls

An army forms to vanquish you, to crush inhuman goals

Fear the retribution of the soldiers who are fed

By hosts from heaven sent to purge corruption of undead

No crypt shall hold the army upon whose stones they bled

Arise, they shall, the innocent, by angels, justly led.

Bewitched Over You

climbed ladders and ledges

scaled mountains in pain

crossed deserts, dense jungle

to seek you again

found new worlds, discovered

black magic for you

endured endless torture

but you were untrue

with the strength I have mustered

on travels, I’ve learned

to mix poisoned potion

that will sting and flames burn

bedevil your life

like you’ve done to mine

you’ll drink of the chalice

disguised as fine wine

and suffer the torment

your love gave to me

in your death throes I’ll dance

and proclaim I am free

with splinters from ladders

stone fragments from ledge

herbs gathered from mountains

with this song I do pledge

that from deserts and jungles

where berries I plucked

I’ll cure my addiction

spell good from bad luck

serving you notice

while pestle I grind

bewitched till the end

and out of my mind

but soon from the bubbles

that boil in your name

I’ll climb no more mountains

to find you again

for I’ll drink from destiny

you’ll get your dues

in hell where you led me

I’ll be all over you