from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 18 July 2014

the cataclysm of catechism cycle (poem)

I first met Neil at my poetry reading for the first Teignmouth Poetry Festival in March. If I remember correctly, we spoke of the potential connections between quantum mechanics and a creative approach to interconnectedness (ish). He then wrote 'the poet clan' an ode on his blog.

I believe the sticky subject of the qs and as I offered here helped keep him awake as he was completing the recent sponsored Three Peaks challenge – sounds almost as gruelling as meeting someone's ridiculous poetry challenge. (Can you imagine climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis – all three in the same 24-hour period? – Me neither. Puts wrestling with a rhyme or struggling with a sestina in perspective, doesn't it?)


The Cataclysm of Catechism Cycle
Simon says .....
"A simple desultory philippic, or how I was Lyndon Johnson'd into submission."

I.  Why do I have a sore throat?

Uuuuh! Woke up with a sore throat.

The gloating of strep on the epiglot-
-tis more than a man can bear.

Stay there in the refuge of bed.

Why me? Why today?

So much to do.

Maybe it'll just go away if I lie here

wrestling with questions,

finding some answers,

resting my body

whilst stretching my mind.

II.  When is my wood arriving?

The kiwi needs staking

and there's no mistaking

how long it is taking

for the wood to arrive

for the trellis I'm making.

My patience is breaking.

III.  Why does Steph need a moose onesie?

(Or an association of words, ideas and random thoughts)

Dressing for an audenary day

for Isherwood.

Do I wish I were there,

there in Berlin,

eased in the sin of the Cabaret.

"Do as you please",

says the sleazy host ..........

Twosie beats onesie but nothing beats three.

So why does Steph need a moose onesie?

IV.  Why aren't my questions deeper?

They're practical,

they're tactical.

They're here and now.

But now and then I wonder

what lies underneath.

Why aren't my questions more profound?

I till the soil, turn the earth,

fork the clods, sow the seeds,

water my ideas.

I pioneer.

I break new ground.

V.  Who were the Tolpuddle Martyrs?


Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs;
a defining part of our history,
feudal victims of iniquity,
fighting for social liberty,
struggling for the right to be free.

In eighteen hundred and thirty-four

beneath the boughs of the sycamore

they swore an oath of secrecy.

Six men were taken for that perfidy,

shackled, despatched to Australian shores.

But the people rose up

and the people marched

and parliament baulked, crumbled, gave way.

The martyrs returned, safe home once more

and social justice triumphed that day.

Everyone knows the Tolpuddle martyrs.

But do they?

Go on, give me their names.

We refrain the headline.  We relinquish the depth.

They left yesterday.

From Plymouth to Teignmouth

they had marched so far –

the modern-day pilgrims,

grimacing with pain from blistered feet.

But proud of their feat.

They had a story to tell

and I now know the names.

George and James Loveless – brothers –
and two other James – Hammett and Brine,

then Thomas Standfield,

and, last in line, his son John.

These are the names that live on.

These are the names that live on.

VI.  Should I write a manifesto for a new society?

If only I could!

No good just thinking about it.

But will people listen?

Will people care?

Will people hear?

Here's where it's at .....

Roll over Engels; take a hike Marx;

this is my shot in the dark.

Stability not growth.

Freeing up land and property.

Community not wealth.


of food and energy.


of housing, education, health.

Working in peace for the common good.

Will people care?

There's where it's at.

VII.  What time are we building the igloo?


It was my idea but I jilted the thought.

I ought to know better

but too much red wine unfettered the mind.

Others remembered

that fateful December

and collected the bottles –
dozens, scores, hundreds, thousands

of plastic milk bottles

demonically jostling in black plastic bags

to be stripped of their labels

and leached out with bleach,

each one now ready .....

and I wasn't there.


No use crying now over spilt milk, I thought.

I so ought to care.

I ought to be there.

So when are we building the igloo?
And where?

© Neil Howell July 2014

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