A Preview of ‘Works and Days of Division’

Drawing on two older, disparate sources, these mongrel-bred poems have been written to respond to the historical moment in this disunited kingdom. Hesiod’s Works and Days – probably the oldest poem in the Western canon – is driven by a dispute between brothers. The so-called vacana poems originate in the bhakti religious protest movements in 10-12th century India. Through plain language, repetition and refrain, they offer praise to the god, Siva, though they also express a great deal of personal anger, puzzlement, even despair. They are poems that inspired Ted Hughes in the 1970s.


‘like crimes woven into the weft’


like crimes woven into the weft of a tee-shirt

waiting on the reduced rail


like the shape of the skull no-one remarks

in the flushed cheek of a new-born


like envy buried for years in the black heart

of expressed admiration


like sunshine that is really the withering night

poured onto soil where wheat grows


like the million tonnes of water lying interred

beneath the City of London


like a bank of cloud and the gathering of more clouds

above Threadneedle Street


so it is—in and around and over and above—

all the bridges are down




‘before the doctor asks to examine my water’


before the doctor asks to examine my water

before I can piss in the bottle provided

before my skin goes up in flames

before I can’t turn

over in bed


before the frequently inexplicable dizzy spells

before the morning after

the drunken night before


before the chocolateicecreamhalfpoundofbutter binge

sluiced into the toilet

before the drag and ache of the cast iron anchor

from left nipple to upper left arm

before the silica crystals

hatched in my hip

before the on-set of my swollen gouty foot


before my male companion with his longer stride

makes it impossible

for me to keep up with him

before the pavement leaps up towards me

makes sickening contact with my right cheek


before the paramedics in their green uniforms

before I am lifted bodily into the air

like fallen stock

I remember

what I briefly forgot to remember of course


all the bridges are down




‘watch the child at her bright picture book’


watch the child at her bright picture book

how she mutters


how she gazes into mid-air

her several gestures are of several kinds

it’s as if she does

the different voices herself


while gazing up into mid-air

her mother at her cooling latte

at her macchiato


at her cooling skinny medium capuchino

at her americano her mother

at her frappucino rising to room temperature


her mother’s ears securely wired

with two scarlet buds

she gazes for minutes into the middle distance


hot red wires snaking into her lap

all the bridges down




‘how you order’


how you order then sip your flat white with care

or diesel with care or cling film


or eat responsibly sourced seafood with care

red meat or bottled carbonated water


you dispose of in the bins provided with care

with care what you have locked away


what you have stowed in the understairs cupboard

how you travel by land sea and air with care


then insist on being used by the language with care

with care discoursing with friends


when touching friends and your extended family

with care your actions


have a care and your reactions with care

with a passionate care where possible your politics


how you govern or set out to work

or choose how and who you play with tomorrow


with care I mean take care not forgetting

all the bridges are down


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