Friday, 1 February 2019

Never Write Anything Down



A eulogy for CHRIS LEE (1958-2019)

1959

My brother finally conked out at five am on New Year's morning, which was about par for the course for Chris. He had great staying power, an iron liver, saw in many a dawn.. except this time he was alone. How he'd have hated this! I mean this - (pointing to myself) - his elder brother getting in the last word. Would've been anathema. (Laughter.) D'you remember Chris? (gesture of writing with a forefinger) He was always doing that. Some people play the air guitar. (mime of guitar playing). With Chris it was the air Biro. (laughter). Christ loved words, and he was good with words, much better than I ever was.

Not long ago, only last June - before all this started - I was in Liverpool with my youngest, Elis, and we were having a drink and a chat; Lisa was with us. I don't remember how it came up, but I was on about a story I'd written more than twenty years before; a novel, in which the hero - as an old man - dies from a lung infection. He's been exposed to anthrax during World War Two. I'd gone into great detail - one of my great faults - and Chris was shaking his head as though to say, "Here we go." Anyway, as I was saying, about five years later, our own dad had died with symptoms and treatments exactly the same as in the story. The only difference being, Dad's exposure had been to asbestos buidling the nuclear subs at Cammel Laird's. So at this point, Chris wags his finger and says, "Never write anything down!" 
1966
(I laugh and shake my head) Chris was so funny and very good with words. "Never write anything down!" - As well as a caution against dabbling in prophesy, he managed to dismiss the whole of literature as the scribblings of an insurance loss adjuster, "Never write anything down!" (laughter). So here I am, talking without notes. Thanks for that, Chris! What do I say next? Erm... yes Chris was good with words, but best of all he was good with people. He was a people person; people loved to be with him, and he loved to be with them. Actually, struggling to compose this I thought, I don't need to write anything down. I could just list Chris's friends... if I could remember them all. If I even knew them all! So, there was Carl Beckly at Flo' Melly County Primary School. At Alsop, there was the Gang of Four: Spenner, Stony, Westy & Chris - who predated Dem Libs Gang of Four, the Chinese Gang of Four, even Citizen Smith's gang of however-many-it-was. I swear, Citizen Smith's gang was modelled on them. This is like 1972, they're in the fourth year and discussing Kropotkin and Bakunin. They're going like, Who's the better anti-hero, Pyotr Verkhovensky or Raskolnikov? And I'm in the sixth form and going, Who are all these Russians? So, not to be outdone, I ask, what about Mussoursky versus Borodin, eh? And Chris is standing there wringing his hands, as though to say, Don't embarrass me in front of my mates. But I'm a show-off, so I go, "And what about Glazunov, eh? He was one of your mob, wasn't he?" And Dave West, who had a phenomenal memory for names... and every Top Ten Hit since 1963, goes, Glazunov? The real name of Molotov? He was never one of us. He was a Bolshevik! The Gang of Four, eh, fifteen-year old anarchists. Just one of Chris's gangs. Chris, Lend me your gang! (laughter).


Gang of 4 minus 1: Chris, Westy (face behind
Blake's Verse), Stony with the V-sign; no Spenna.

When Chris got booted out of Alsop, he went down to London and walked straight into the proto-punk scene. It was the Autumn of 1975, and he was living in Ladbrook Grove, the house next door to Joe Strummer, who was still a hippie busker. There he was there in the thick of it, but it wasn't like Chris to push himself forward. He was more of a back parlour man. Snug but smug. Chris wouldn't dominate a group, he never laid his ego on you. He had no axe to grind. A couple of years later, when I got booted out of drama school, I was actually homeless and looking for him, but he had disappeared. In fact he'd been seriously ill, hospitalised. The family, as usual, were the last to know. Or would never know. There was no one at his last address: 11, Rust Square, off the New Kent Road. So I knocked next door, which was answered by Piers Corbyn. I've always had a lot of time for the Corbyns. Piers ran upstairs and came down with a huge black ledger. He found the entry for Chris and there he was at Lambeth Walk.

I don't think most siblings get the chance to live and work with each other in their twenties. We did, and though we would often argue and sometimes fight, we had lots of great times together in those dodgy days of London in the late Seventies: Chris & I, Westy, Dave Parry, Irene Kappes and Denis Davies. We lived in the obscurity of South London, crossing and recrossing the river every day in Denis's Luton van, working in and out of an old furniture shop behind the aptly-named Liverpool Street station. We had occasional brushes with the famous, hauling a piano up four flights of stairs for Morgan Fisher (keyboard player in Mott The Hoople); moving house for an exiled member of the ANC; we inherited a huge colour TV, and a broken guitar from the manager of Cockney Rebel. On a rare trip out of The Smoke, we crawled our way to the edge of Beachy Head, then ate fish'n'chips on the seafront at Hastings. This is before all those places on the South Coast got revamped. We saw The Clash a few times, and The Specials, caught Talking Heads's first gig in the UK. We bought a sofa that Mel Smith, Phil Daniels and Toyah Wilcox had shared on stage at the ICA long before any of them were household names. Meantime, Chris never lost touch with his mates in Liverpool. I remember a weekend visit by Phil Hayes and the High Fives, though I counted at least seven of them sleeping on that infamous sofa in our tiny living room. 
1975

Some time between Mrs Thatcher getting in and the election of Ronald Reagan, Chris decided he'd had enough of London. I think he realised he'd never be part of the network down there - there was no network down there; also, he could sense that Liverpool was about to go through one of its periodic resurgences. In fact, 1981 was when the British government tried to finish what the Luftwaffe had started in 1941. Chris coming home was a bit like Dean Cody's New York arrival in Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road. I think he'd become a bit of a legend in his absence, and so the circle of friends he returned to had grown. Visiting him in the early eighties, I met people such as Frannie, Keith Moneypenny, Paul Callister, Marg - no, I'd met Marg years before, when she was going out with Cliffie Roberts. It amazed me how Chris would pull in all these strands. Westy had joined Mother Theresa's in Haiti. This was when Bert & Chris got the cottage on Catharine Street and were in the Belvedere every night; plus the Casablanca whenever funds allowed (which was every other night!). I don't know where the money came from. From whoever had a giro coming in, I suppose. At the height of the unemployment crisis, they did their shoeshine act at The Pilgrim: Chris on brush, polish & Stock Exchange tips, Bert - in a top hat - as the barker. One weekend, Barry Robinson and I came down from London and we did our respective acts at a Sealed Knot do on Adwalton Moor.
Our house in London

Chris stayed out of the Peace Festival, rather wisely I supppose, though I was a little hurt at the time. I don't think we caught the spirit of the age because people were rightly angry at losing their jobs and having to lie and cheat their way through life. Militant summed up the mood in the days of the Miner's strike and Hestletine's Garden Festival. Also - let's face it - Chris was always pretty cool, while we were just all the dickheads in Liverpool.

The eighties were Chris's decade, by the close of it he was magnificent. He'd started at The Armadillo, where Sue Flacket and Martin Yarker were his great pals. Every night in Kavanagh's they compared crossword notes. Then there was The Acorn Gallery. At that point, I truly believed my brother was on the road to becoming No 1 caterer on the Liverpool art scene, maybe even a big cheese art dealer? He had an incredible collection of local paintings at that time, every wall of Chris & Gail's flat had two or three major pieces by important artists such as Dick Young. I wonder where they are now? If he'd cashed that lot in, he could've bought a detached house in Childwall. Probably most of them were loans. You know what itinerant lives artists lead. How many pints had Chris stood them for the honour of hosting their unsold works? It was round this time that we made The Sauce of the Mersey, with Dozy and Deborah Itzcovitz. Though they later fell out, Dozy was an important friend. Later on, Chris did a lot of catering at the Pink Recording Studios. He observed that in middle age most legendary musicians were mean with their money, like engineers with long hair and expensive tastes in cars. One American band lit an indoor barbecue which Chris managed to put out. The owners were furious.

The nineties were Chris's lost decade. I don't pretend to know exactly what happened after the cafe business moved from The Acorn to that Aunt Twacky place on Renshaw Street, except that it didn't last. Brody offered Chris a job in Walton Prison, which - on the face of it - looked just the ticket, except it involved writing things down. He would go and interview remand prisoners, helping them get their stories on paper, for the barristers to use in court. He was disgusted by what he heard, the reality of crime was nothing like a Philip Marlowe story. When Chris was attacked one night in 1993 and very seriously beaten, I can't think that it was simply a random act, unconnected to one of the crazies he'd interviewed. He ended up in hospital with a broken jaw and, as usual, the family were the last to know. He had more or less recovered when he came to visit us in Turkey in the summer of 1996, but a jaded look had slightly dulled the sparkle in his eyes. 

Still, Chris could walk into anywhere. He had that ease of manner. On his first visit to Turkey, he flew Air France - which had a transfer at Paris. There was a short delay - an hour, I think. So he strode into the hospitality suite reserved for First Classes, to down as many free glasses of wine and plateloads of canapes as time and dignity would allow. When he got to Istanbul, where I was meeting him, he'd just about sobered up, and was ready for his first taste of Efes - the Turkish beer. He spent about a month with us, every day writing a letter to Janet, who at that time was a mystery woman. She still is. He got to visit Oludeniz before the place was totally overrun, met people who remember him more than two decades later. Both times he came, he quickly settled into a routine which included a daily visit to a local hostelry. When he'd gone, family and friends soon missed him.

Dixie invited him to New York more than once, to help with putting up art installations; and Chris took great pride in being peeled off the floor by a NYPD officer. It was like a badge of office. I don't know if his Desert Island discs contained a song by the Pogues, but he had lived the life, so what need of the soundtrack? He'd be having his breakfast in the restaurant at the top of one of the Twin Towers just a few weeks ahead of 9/11. This was just before his second visit to Turkey, when we went to Imbros, Troy and Tenedos. Unfortunately, he never made that third visit and so never got to see the house we built. Not did he see our summer place on Lesbos - a real Greek island - which was to make up for the loss of Anglesey.
Craigwen 2016

You see, Chris and I were not just Liverpudlians. We were also country boys from the amount of time we spent in Anglesey, starting at our earliest years. The village of Dwyran was our home-from-home, where Dad built the bungalow Craigwen; and where our Welsh speaking cousins - living on and beyond the island - broadened our horizons. We cycled to beaches, poached in streams, caught eels and fed them to pigs, damned up drainage ditches, set fire to fields, hid in hay barns, stole apples and plums from people's gardens and generally played the city oaf to our young neighbour Ian and his dog Pal. Chris was there when Pal was hit by a tractor and the dog virtually died in his arms. How many times did we come home covered in mud after a whole day spent wandering long and far on the fields that overlooked the Menai Straits, with Caernarvon Castle and the mountains of the Lleyn rolling off into the distance? At low tide, we would row our little boat across to the vast sandbank that appeared in the middle of the Straits, and then run across it and be a shouting distance of Porth Dinorwic. Once our cousin Allan joined us in the boat, and waves almost drowned us from the extra weight. Later, we would trek of an evening to Moel Y Don and drink in a seaside pub called The Mermaid, alongside young farmers and yatching types. Many a time we would strut the three miles back to Dwyran, full of brown bitters, with the Milky Way sparkling overhead. We never seemed to argue in Anglesey. It was there that Chris helped Dad build his crazy boat. Anglesey always gave us a good break.
Christmas 1958

After Dad died, Chris had to spend more and more time in Anglesey, keeping an eye on Mum. Every year I would come to the UK and manage a summer school somewhere down south, then spend a week in Anglesey, via a night or two's visit to Liverpool. It must have been 2002 when Chris and I walked into Kavanagh's one evening. I must have stayed outside while Chris went in to the bar, and a couple of girls came up to me. Are you Chris's brother, one of them asked. I told them I had that honour. The other said, He's just like Chris without the glasses.
I can't go on here without saying something about The Look. The Look was Chris's own. It wasn't Morrissey's, or Elvis Costello's. It wasn't even Joe 90's - Chris already had the look back in 1963 when we were watching XL5 and reruns of Four-Feather Falls.
Anyhow, the first girl said, You've got to do something about your brother. Eh, I said, knowing perfectly well what she meant. But there was no point being coy. You can't change Chris, I said. He is who he is. And he's such a lovely fella, said the other girl. I know. They both pleaded with me, You gotta do something.
Lisa and Chris

What did people want from my brother? All he had to offer was his company. I think he was a true friend to many. And I say it with the merest touch of resentment, that he often put friends before family. That was the mark, if you like, of his loyalty; the importance of choice. But, as I said, the decade up until that point in time had been somewhat lacking in direction as far as Chris's life was concerned. And so, this is the time to pay tribute to Lisa, the love of his life. Had it not been for her, we wouldn't have been here today in 2019... but ten years ago. Lisa, by giving Chris permission to be himself, gave him a direction. She never kept him on the straight and narrow, woe betide anyone who tried that! But she allowed him to pace himself, allowed him to go on being friends and socialising with anyone he chose. That's a very rare thing, and Chris was lucky to meet Lisa. Not many of us get to share a love like theirs. Lisa.

And I'm going to have to wind this up conscious that I've left too many people out. Of those who are here, I want to mention Scott and Ray, Mick Fitz, Paula, Neil, Yusuf, Jackie and her family - Jackie in particular, who has done so much to help with all the arrangements and who will be speaking in a moment. I want to thank our cousins Lois & Shayne and Steve who've made it here from far away, and cousin Allan. We're hoping to see more old friends in Kavanagh's later. And as I've said from the start, however you choose to pay your respects to Chris is fine by us.
Outside Wilson's den (No. 10) in 1969
Here's something I must add. I was here in August when Chris was going in for his surgery. I didn't come when he went into the hospice. Why not? Well, part of it was simply wishful thinking. The other part, I think Chris understood all too well. When Dad was in hospital, I came for a week, and the day I was due to leave, I came in to wish him all the best. I'll see you in June, Dad. It was then February. He was - what they call Nil By Mouth - barely able to speak. And I thought he was saying, Give me a bowl, Son. So I looked around the room and found him a bowl. I stuck it under his chin. I waved and went out, fully expecting him to be at home when I returned. Chris and I took the train to Liverpool, as I was due to fly back from Manchester the next day. We just got in to his flat to hear the phone ringing. It was Mum to say he had died.
Dad, Chris and Mum 1958

Of course, Dad wasn't saying, "Give me a bowl, Son." He was saying, "Give me a hold." But I had never given my father a hold, and he had never given me a hold. Phhh! We just didn't do that kind of thing. Chris knew that. I had reminded him of it when talking about the story I wrote, when Chris had said Never Write Anything Down. That kind of precipitation would not have been in order.

I said I'd give Chris the last word. Well, here it is. The day before he went into the hospice - when actually I thought he was finally getting over the treatment - we had as long a conversation as we'd had in ages. We got a bit philosophical. I don't really know why, but I'm an interfering so-and-so and an upstart. Since he was feeling so loquacious, I felt as though he should put the record straight on this question of putting the boat out. So, I said, Well, brother, did you have a good time? He answered me without the slightest hesitation. As though he had brooded on it and come to a firm conviction. I could feel his head nodding into the phone, Oh, yes! he said, Oh, yes!
Cheers, Chris!
(June 2018, a month before his fall)

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Sunday morning rants

shots at karaoke


search for tropes like ships that cross the lines

loaded with assorted porcupines

or the night you wrestled crocodiles’

tears for wiles


raped by Angel Gabriel might do

too much meat about already though

rocket man says planet earth is blue

he’s gotta go


intertexting did the rounds in France

Rimbaud’s arse was duly covered there

underneath sophistication bare

Grecian urn dance


fake I-D’s the real alternative

who is you on social media

wash tattoos & don’t put what ya live

4’s easier


playing ghost to Lady Gaga’s host

beats instagramming poems by post

kindly way of saying get your cost

down or get lost

 


Sunday morning rant


worlds impossible as double oh

seven's where destruction plus the death

toll suspended by their tales disguise

painful truths about the place we know

horror ain't so bad don't hold your breath

fifteen minutes later comes a prize

adverts cups of char words to the wise

notwithstanding trips on crystal meth

few of us will ever get to know

courage strong enough to have a go

seldom since the age of Good Queen Beth

has the role of fiction been but lies

told to make us hate the other side

trouble is reversing Planet Earth

backs the clock into binary mode

life ticks by for us as doing time

sleep till six or ten we rise & shine

do our jobs return disposed resigned

argue only if & when some damn

fool has blocked our driveway with his van

then there might be fisticuffs or hand

him stroke her why not a weighty tome

full of rules to make them feel alone

ignorant of leafy suburbs coned

dunce & cornered learned their lesson from

us for this is how we deal with John

Nik or Lesley whatsyourname I'm Bond

James to none but some pneumatic dame

this my Aston Martin gaze in vain

ours an empire that has never waned

that's impossible you cry so then

war has done the rounds & London town

left in smoky ribs of rubble lives

on if underground we barbie cats

fat or not whatever Possum says

diamond dogs with rodents as dessert

kids we swop for rags at bring & buy

auctions clubs of vigilantees cops

murderers & thieves go dig their turfs

oldies who had sooner died insane

scoff their hoarded meat & veg from tins

slit the throats of anyone who calls

seen it all before you say so what

when imagination grabs your balls

why deny it fiction's got the lot

ain't no way escaping from the plot

stuff your rucksack with begotten loot

take the submarine or use your feet

face it sister only route is out

side reality you cosmonaut

crashing through the interstellar gate

landing back on Earth one Friday night

speak the lingo drink enough to float

past your pals & pull in Pizza Hut

make your own movie & star in it

matters not how old you are or fat

everyone looks sexy on the set

line your pockets is the only point

find a puppet damson-eyed & pert

take their arm & strut your stuffy part

tell you what to let us off the hook

take it back to when we read the book

movies never did do justice look

twice at Tinker Bell & see the joins

left by Pan who squandered sacks of pains

pulling wings off angels for their pins

read between the lies & truth will out

Wendy should have sewn her eyelids shut

now the boot is in get off my foot

only thing they ever wrote is true

nothing stinks like sniffing contact glue

rots your brain you'd better try a screw

fairy tales on wing├Ęd chariots

spears of bronze that glint with seven watts

nuff to read by days off sipping shots

 


all washed up


cheated in a foreign restaurant

charged for sitting at a table not

all that drunk the hours passed away

45 years


what's it mean to take a breather now

me no lingo Officer a Brit

diggit I suggest we compromise

45 years


don't believe it seems like yesterday

cycled half the way still got the clips

bread & cheese the wine was cheap my youth

45 years


you'll remember me I took a shine

Marie France a holiday romance

said we'd never last & true enough

45 years


pocketful of change is all no cards

tell you what just let me get my breath

do the dishes if there's any left

45 years
 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Pardon my French

Double or quits, Baroness?


I

fairytale ending

if Cock Robin's murderers had been
caught on CCTV flying in
all the king's birds would straight have fallen
green bottle men

nature's laws set out in nursery rhymes
concrete columns sprouting through the trees
these are the good things & those the crimes
but human beings

cast as pirates of the Caribbean
sneaking past a pilot episode
series two has gotta be their goal
bury them bones

cargoed by the diplomatic load
or the Netflix plot to rival all
Carry On dissolved in acid then
poured down a man

hole & who knows what's the truth old bean
witchcraft superheroes hands of gods
fiction trumps the facts with notes in wads
battles unseen


II

wildlife obituary

Sidney Centipede the greatest thing
ever walked on fifty pairs of legs
died today aged a hundred & ten

days thirteen hours twenty-two mins
life for Sid was vicious crap & not
nice the privvy spawned his awesome rise

treading down the dreams of lesser beasts
where the dung was rich & fragrant piled
high with yellow leaves & rotting fruit

Sid had made it just in time to meet
Brenda Blackbird passing on her way
back from harvest for winter was nigh

get it while it's hot she chortled one
juicy bug to sweeten all that grain
how delicious then burped & flew off


III

stalking horns

modernism raise your upstart glass
as the scherzo of Beethoven’s third
symphony gets horny live on air
for the first time

sure enough a lot of lies damned lies
plus statistics are spouted but don't
take ‘em snorting like a dose of salts
broadcasting’s fine

libatious wine indubitably
kills the bugs immunity has missed
radio's long enthused those on &
off the wagon

but in case you haven’t heard it’s fun
getting raucus last night of The Proms
something sober folk are missing out
on’s the sublime

treachery some teetotallers make
as abusers they may play with us
but as posers their use is abuse
for old lang's sake


IV

avoir du poids

cos the kilo's finally to go
Bonaparte will wet his Paris vaults
revolutionary thoughts aside

all this fuss about a ball inside
goldfish bowls & mimicked to a fault
leave its density alone for no

matter if an orb be perfect why
wasn't Greenwich chosen eh the salts
used to polish it whatever show

accuracy's limits ebb & flow
rocket science isn't gonna halt
entropy a universe defines

when its time has come to shrink or grow
eggheads leave the kilo be the alt
give up playing god change minds instead


V

rien ne vas plus

gotta see the goodness evil does
jobs for one & money don't forget
power such a dangerous world gee-whiz

who are we to question why they dis
human rights when half these countries let
terrorist & gangsters run their fuzz

lazy fare is what I say take Miss
World it's open season cannot vet
chicks by national politics the buzz

words are tits & benefits because
looks alone don't make a Penthouse Pet
hell I know it's murder but that's biz

feel their purses not their pussies is
all Cashoggie had it jammy was
what I heard just made a lousy bet

Archie Locost attrib

Sunday, 11 November 2018

1918 Special


I

Krishna Pandit engineer by trade
worked his way to England bound for France
talent spotted from the ranks was made
driver of tanks

Whippet Quick his rusty chariot
twenty tonnes of steel plus men & guns
half a league about a cigarette
scattering Huns

not that Krishna glorified the work
mountain station air had cooled his veins
steady handed fed on beans & pork
kit-bagged his shame

furthermore the Indian was wise
owl-eyed a sage beyond his years
fellows loved him to extemporise
cocking their ears

bettered English letters by his talk
love thy foes he'd quip but hate their ways
shrapnel struck him as a flock of hawks
battle was praised

*

Ziggy Sarkis laughed a noted wag
cried hurrah for hussars but the horse
saw him first no shame on it to drag
doubt on his arse

never fear an airman's cap might fit
seven thousand feet above the lines
all he'd need for nerves were steel & wits
not to be blind

drunk of course no telling what he thought
over stirrup cups before the up
supping two too many Ziggy bought
Sopwith a pup

oof said he there's only so much string
pull the other Ma if die I must
let it be drowned in a submarine
honest not fussed

but another type of metal box
Ziggy found himself committed to
rudderless no wings a beast on tracks
best she could do

*

Raw could not have drawn the shorter straw
nursemaid to an Hindu & a toff
after crying what a bloody war
took his hat off

joining up from civvy street urgent
schooled on Maxims then in '16 Raw
switched to Vickers quit his regiment
MG the Corps

till the order came again all change
sent to man the loops inside a tank
on a hush job sort of light brigade
devil to thank

not content with that the arms were French
Hotchkisses with belts of metric rounds
fired sideways down along your trench
from over ground

this while doing six or seven knots
cooped inside a lurching metal box
hell on wheels & sweating blood in pots
sooner be fox



II

rich der pickings Allied soldiers wear
lambswool mittens linen under-clothes
fondly sent from homes untouched by war
nothing by halves

ration boxes stuffed with chocolate bars
pork & beef in rounds of purest white
dairy butter spiced with cucumbers
spinsters' delight

sticks of life called Hans or Christian stark
staring stormtroops little more than scare
crows patrol an eerie landscape pick
King George's fare

Kaiser Wilhelm's words irrelevant
marching orders those who understand
Hinderburg or Ludendorf like men
in no-man's land

deafened numb with cold & dumb they keep
hope alive in crater pools & holes
dug beneath the fallen when they sleep
kettle drums roll


but no thought of giving in has stuck
foreign mud beneath their feet is sweet
rich der pickings in zis Belgian muck
theirs no defeat

long as shells & wire spades & mud
don't give out for breakfast schnapps & bread
no surrender dead der Komrades' blood
flows black & red

not for Kaiser love of country God
Death incarnate caught their mood to live
strutting scarecrows trench by trench they plod
open eyelids

through the hail of iron fireflies
peering cooly down their barrels aim
deadly shots at Liberty's allies
GIs the same

bullets counting one for one The Fall
harvests pink-faced youths from Langedoc
Hartlepool and the prairie grain-bowl
hard place to rock


acolytes of anti-Christ survive
crucified on iron crosses rise
grim & bloody faced to fight again
ghouls with a yen

taking fodder groomed by church & state
pimply boys in numbers not too great
here & there they match them to their fate
tying to stakes

lures for Tommy Atkins bait for Jacques
traps to snare the Yankee infantry
charging reckless in open country
into the crack

doom awaits whoever should attack
caught in crossfire skittled by grenades
drowned in mud disguised by clever sacks
murdered in raids

worshippers of doom will win this war
kings of Death have forged an after-life
hung on barbs it jigs in merry gore
triumphant strife



III

training took forever half a twelve
month the plain of Salisbury all churned
up as Private Pandit learned to swerve
brake and reverse

differential failures plagued the work
twin transmissions see & engines kept
boiling over leaving fumes to lurk
deep in their chests

yet a better life than at the front
playing cards in barrack room or pub
letting conscript soldiers bear the brunt
till the last shove

still the war dragged on in France & five
times had Autumn's chill been hand in glove
when from o'er the Channel there arrived
orders to move

Jerry'd staked his last reserves the bout
really would be over Christmas come
just a frog-marching of the Jackboots
out of Belgium

*

tanks a Brigadier tells Parade
trample down yon wires bridge the holes
eat your very mud while feet of clay
follow in droves

wonder-struck the chappies listen up
one per company each tank will push
Boschie back three thousand yards & stop
so you may rush

bayonets fixed all through the gaps there left
round the blighters up if they will yield
otherwise dispose of them as best
clearing the field

cavalry will then take up the drive
gallop through the breaches you have made
kick what's left of Jerry's rotten hide
into his caves

if this works & with our tanks it must
by tomorrow morning's armistice
half a league of trenches guns & stores
fall unto us

*

blimey if the Hun is packing in
what's the point of staging one last fling
surely keeping casualties to min's
far better thing

orders Sunshine put your faith in me
what's an armistice but three black lights
floating through the stars as you can see
wait for their whites

scared is what I am & petrified
soil my pants a dozen times before
sunrise tanks or no that mud is wide
shrapnel galore

keep your head you sniveling lump of grease
think it's only you who'll cop a load
pray to God or write your Ma a piece
faith in me Toad

holding you to that so help me I'll
shut my trap but here's the awful case
you and only you will have me smile
Death in the face


IV


Whippet Sarkis Raw & Pandit three
men in a tank Death is waiting for
munch their sarnies swill their gin & tea
breakfast at war

zero hour's not till six so while
Captain Ziggy draws on cigarettes
Corporal Raw is snoring whizz-bang whines
like string quartets

Private Pandit shunning drink & smoke
prays a mantra to the fading stars
begging war god Durga to invoke
Venus or Mars

Durga rides as Kali manifest
tiger mounted many-armed & yet
peacefully in face & bearing smiles
comely & mild

fight thy foe she says with love not hate
killing evil purges thee from sin
send them back from whence they came that way
new life begins

Captain Ziggy speaks his mind to him
fading stars snuffed out by creeping light
rise & shine to live their lives again
while those who fight

die forever is it right he asks
killing mothers' sons because they're Huns
they believe their cause be just the fact
is here's the sun

Krishna it's a shame to die but worse
where's the sense in all this killing eh
tell me why we have to fight because
don't wanna play

cheery up my captain load thy gun
here today tomorrow gone & who
cares but those who live to soldier on
life's a rum do

we that kill the sacred water ox
God has doomed there's nothing left a crime
unforgiveable but bide our time
wait for the knocks

all that matters here in hell's the bond
soldiers kill like brothers each for each
swords & guns have waved a magic wand
no gurus teach

double edged the blade of honour cuts
slayed & slayer arm-in-arm alike
live or die it's shooting cocoanuts
sixpence a shy

pick the fallen up & eat 'em prize
cannibals no time to sympathise
fish the sea for sunken treasure or
perish ashore

only we as higher creatures think
better men than us will come anon
human beings should be carry on
if we don't blink

pearls of wisdom Private start her up
there's the signal three black lights above
forward both your engines man the loops
off with our gloves