Poetry by Alistair Potter


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I never sit down to write poetry, it just seems to drop out of the ether in a fairly complete form. Of course that doesn't stop me from tinkering with it until I'm happy.

 

Kingdom.

 

A walk in the storm.

 

The Machine's Tithe.

 

Day of the Dead Dog.

 

Faery Picnic.

 

Rise and Fall.

 

Dangerous Dan.

 

Courting Disaster.

 

Plat du Jour

 

Parallel Poem - Of hunting duck and dirty water.

 

Kingdom.

 

Evening light casts half-shadow across the old man's desk,
seeking a last delicate remembering of this place
and of the splendid odd assembly arrayed on aged oak.


A rainbow fuzz gathers,
on edge-sharp and facet of a crystal writing set,
and disposing of its revised light,
it adds playful colour to the surfaces around it.


The day's warmth, having energised the scene,
raises a chemical mixture of scent, and wax, and stain.


Here lies a pistol,
its barrel oozing a fine bleeding of gun-oil,
creeping wet on the porous matt of the blotter.
And here, an ebony chess piece lies in isolation from its fellows,
not slain, but cradled softly on linseed soaked rag.


Tiny tin snuffboxes play hide and seek among the debris,
often found by faint lingerings of their tart possession.


Tweezers hold feeble grip on a faded red stamp,
torn carelessly from a letter long sent and... long forgotten.


Tide marked, a teacup of finest bone records the passing of many days,
and having distilled its yellowed content to tarry brown,
its liquid mechanism run down, it falters, choking with dust.


Heady with lavender, a breeze sweeps the room,
gathering in it loose oddments on the desk,
rearranging them across its surface;
planning new landscapes for busy flies to explore,
their wings blur-bright between manic pausing.


And beneath a book, hides a pair of long, sharp scissors;
ever ready to fight off unwelcome fingers,
to lacerate and probe unsuspecting flesh.
Blood tribute to this most precious domain.

 

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A walk in the storm.

 

You walked into the swirling
eddies of windblown snow,
elven face cocooned in scarf and hat.
Small, growing smaller,
your tough frame angled hard
against the fierceness of it.
The late day grey
removed all colour from the scene,
and that was how it would be.

 

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The Machine's Tithe.

 

They come in packs of three or five,
and sometimes even just the one.
It seems in size they vary little,
it seems one size fits nearly all.
Smaller ones are on offer,
but who'd admit to child's proportion.
Varied in shape and colour are they,
with strange appliqu├ęs and decoration.
Tougher ones are availed,
to those who make a special effort
to climb that mount or go that dist.
Some, I'm told, can glow at night,
what use is that when enclosed tight?
Silvered and gold and thin we find them,
one function all; soft flesh protect.
When new we carefully unwrap, and...
time right, pull on admiringly.
Hopes are high for fulfilment in function,
no hole to appear and sadden wearer.
Now used, abused they're cast aside,
often on the floor to linger.
Sometimes to fester neath the mattress,
martyr to untidy habit.
Handle now tween thumb and finger,
regard askance with nose upturned.
Thrust into a dark interior,
caress with warm and foamy fluid.
Emerge bright and new to start again, lest...
one be lost and cause dismay.
For we all know that one's no good,
for a pair there must be two.
For foot feels wrong when it is placed,
naked in your walking shoe.

 

***

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Day of the dead dog.

 

I wake early in the season of the dead dog.
It is dark, and the weight of a large dead dog,
lies heavy on my bedcovers.
With great effort and resolve, I roll it off, and climb from my bed.
The air is cold - sucked of warmth by a pack of dead dogs
that visited during the night.
The path from bed to hall is littered with their remains; I step carefully to avoid them.
The morning ritual - coffee, shower and dressing - progresses slowly.
The dogs crowd every surface -
their limp paws and wet noses intruding at every turn.
Leaving, the front door resists my efforts,
as I struggle to dislodge a pile of dead dogs sandbagged against it.
Outside, the trees are all bare, except for small dead dogs clinging to the branches,
their jaws locked rigor-mortis firm; they swing pendulous in the chill breeze.
The car groans as I turn the key - a blanket of dead dogs clogging the engine.
It catches finally, and I drive to the supermarket,
my meandering progress forced,
by mounds of dead dogs scattered randomly on the highway.
The trolley I choose pulls constantly to the left,
a small dead dog clinging tenaciously to a wheel.
I buy little, the shelves are piled high with dead dogs;
large smooth-haired beasts with grey coats and empty eyes.
Home again, and what little I bought sits on the kitchen table.
No space in the cupboards; dead dogs fill every nook.
The evening drags and I find little comfort from the television -
it's late, and I should go to bed,
but a programme about
…how to remove stubborn dead dogs from the garden… catches my attention.
I watch but learn nothing new.
All that's left now is the wade through the twilight gathering of dead dogs,
between living room and bedroom.
I fear more will come tonight -
dead dogs, finding new ways to suck away
what little warmth and colour remains in my life.

 

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Faery Picnic

 

A tartan shawl is spread across the
jagged tangle of storm-cast autumn twigs and
bulging chestnut husks.

We sit, and then each adult produces their contribution;
a little cheese,
some oatcakes,
a bottle of red wine,
oranges and apples,
- all are laid about the shawl.

A pause as no-one eats,
the smiling wonder of our youngest traveller
holding us in thrall as she absorbs the sights and sounds around her;
the erratic dance of mottled light on the uneven ground,
the rustle of wind through the fragile canopy of branches.

A biscuit is prepared with a sliver of cheese,
and with a gleeful smile the child's tiny hand curls about the food.
Contented she chews, but still she watches.

We adults partake in food and gentle conversation.
Possibly the wine is too strong?
Too full of dark fruit for such a Faery place,
maybe it should be softer, flowery and a little sweet,
just enough to fight the acid bite of orange segments,
sour enough to raise comment, but still eaten.
The apples are sweet though, and crisp, and hard in the cool air.

The picnic lasts long enough
for the ground's chill to creep through the uneven carpet beneath us -
it's time to go.

The shawl is shaken,
and a few cheesy crumbs, and oatcake bits, find their way to the earth.
Meager offerings to the Faeries -
but they won't mind.
I'm sure the company of child,
and childish innocence,
was reward enough, for them.

 

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Rise and Fall.

 

Our tide rises and falls.
Sometimes…
drowning us with its intimate embrace.
Or occasionally…
beaching us on a lumpy, uncaring shoreline
Often though…
we bob contentedly,
cradling each other and relaxing
in the warm, salty after-swell.

 

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Dangerous Dan.

 

We really love our Uncle Dan,
he used to be a fireman.

But at work he took a knock,
sadly now he cannot walk.

No quitter Dan he hatched a plan,
he'd become an Olympian.

He got two chairs; one sleek and low,
the other tough but slow.

The first one he calls flash,
for in it he can win the dash.

The other he calls his chariot,
he takes it on the streets a lot.

We're as proud of him as we can be,
he won his medal easily.

But there's a thing that stops his grin,
and puts him in an angry spin.

And when Uncle Dan gets boiling mad,
he does a thing that's very bad.

We all shout 'don't do it Dan'.
But he has hatched another plan.

Ford or Fiat, he don't care,
if they are parked in places where,

they take away his pavement-path,
he rushes in and with a laugh,

scores bodywork with scratches deep,
enough to make the owners weep…

… go-away faster stripes he calls them.

 

***

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Courting Disaster.

 

Lacking evidence,
my conviction was
based on doubt,
sentence delivered
in silence,
execution swift.
In conclusion,
doubt still exists,
but there is no appeal.

 

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Plat du Jour

 

Beziers, France 2004

In a garden park,
the 'Plateau des Poets',
a placid avenue borders a sultry pond.


A special place, the 'Refuge Libre Pour Les Ouisea'.


A careful planting of exotic trees,
selected to attract an equally exotic avian population,
and content in the shade of that dappled light,
sleek in cream and coffee stripes, sits a cat.


His ever-watchful eye
selecting the day's delicacy.

 

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Of hunting duck and dirty water.

 

water fowl
seasonal event
no chance
to survive the drink
bad taste

 

water foul
seasonal event
no chance
to survive the drink
bad taste

 

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All content © Alistair Potter.

 

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