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Tiddlers Three

July 1, 2012

Robert Westall, the brilliant children’s writer who died in 1993, once told me that he always had the odd 10,000 words lying around to dust off and work up into something when he had nothing better to do.  And so it is with me.  With the exception of my novel, though, The Petrie Consignment, the pieces tend to be much shorter: a 3,000 word fantasy for young children (I need a good illustrator!), short stories up to 2,500 words and sheaves of poetic fragments, including a few which rather tease me in one way or another.  I’ve selected three of the shorter ones to post this week – ‘Tiddlers Three’.  Individually they don’t amount to much, but juxtaposed… well, you judge!

 

‘Epitaph’ dates from the early “noughties” and is one of the few poems I’ve written since schooldays in a group situation.  In fact the situation was not dissimilar as I was on a management course and penned the poem during the opening exercise, an “icebreaker”, in which we were tasked to each write our own epigraph then read it to the group by way of introduction.  Maybe something of my old schoolboy humour surfaced: I got a laugh or two anyway, which was quite gratifying… 

 

EPITAPH

 

Follicly challenged in later life,

A great frustration to his wife,

A brilliant boss and faithful friend,

A finicky fusspot to the end,

A kindly gent, a poet too,

Whose weird humour grew on you,

 

His name was Beech, some called him “Beechy”,

Paul Beech, “Bald Peach” but never “Peachy”!

His kids will miss him, his grandkids too.

Anyone else?  How about you?

 

‘City Siren’ is another one from the early “noughties” though versions had been rolling about in my head for fifteen years or more, since my stint as a social housing manager in a notoriously tough part of Manchester.  You’ll note a sharp change of mood here…

 

CITY SIREN

 

A city full of leaves,

A city full of snow.

A poet who looks like a gangster,

A gangster who looks like a poet.

The wail of a siren.

Flashing lights.

New life,

New death.

 

From harsh reality to a romantic will-o’-the-wisp…

I wrote ‘Eye Strain’, my eyes aching behind specs, in the ethereal silence that always follows the dawn chorus.  It was a few days after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last month.  I’d been reading Best Poems on the Underground edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert, and wondered whether I could come up with something as pithy and memorable as the little gems which, for over a quarter century now, have been appearing on the London Underground to the delight of many a weary traveller.

Perhaps I should add that, crazy as it might seem, I actually love the rain – the sight of it sluicing through lamplight or glistening on cobbles; its magical fragrance too…

 

EYE STRAIN

 

Been up an hour,

Been through the book,

Straining for a glimpse of you

In vain.

 

Will rise at dawn,

Will write the poem,

Straining for the scent of you

In rain.

 

-oOo-

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2012

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