Father always hummed at the milking
Pausing only to say ‘easy girl, easy there’
When a troublesome horse-fly struck

Sitting on his three-legged stool
His pail clamped between his thighs,
He caressed old Daisy’s belly with his head
And sometimes sank his fist into the wrist
When she lashed out

The sound of milk hitting the pail
Was like rain dancing on corrugated steel
He could hit one of those flies
At three paces with one long squirt.

Sometimes he practiced on me.

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They form a fluid line

Near the entrance to Specsavers

Suited, polished, hair slicked to neatness

Smiling gravely as I approach.

One is proselytising,

Before alternating with another

Who steps smartly to the fore.

Yet another, partially hidden,

Goose-steps almost jauntily

Into my space

And proffers me an offering of words,

Printed of course,

Trying to catch my eye.

Avoiding him is momentarily difficult,

His hand hovering hopefully.

Then I swerve deftly by him

Leaving Jesus still firmly in his grasp.

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Wormwood isn’t here

The sign said, rather waspishly.

It wasn’t the Wormwood I remembered;

Scrubs Lane on a wet Sunday

The outback in West London

No buses, no cars, no people

Just limp grass, acres of the stuff

And, oh yes, the finest redbrick edifice

Victoria’s henchmen could construct.

No rotting bodies in here, my friend.

Not Newgate, not by a long shot

Though debts must still be paid

And some may still get laid


Lord Alfred Douglas lay here,

As did Charles Bronson,

Keith Richards, Leslie Grantham

And  George Blake

Scurrying along in his traitor’s gait

Till the day he pole-vaulted to freedom

More or less

Before waving goodbye

To his English life,

 His liberty and his wife

And all those Wormwood scrubbers.





I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings


Maya Angelou has died. Poet, activist, actor, writer,dancer, cook and much more besides. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950’s, where she met her friend and mentor James Baldwin. After hearing Dr. Martin Luther King speak for the first time in 1960 she joined the Civil Rights Movement, and later worked for Malcolm X.

Maya wrote seven volumes of autobiography, starting with I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, and described her writing process as ‘regimented’. She would get up at five in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff had been instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She wrote on legal pads while lying on the bed, with a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to play solitaire, Roget’s Thesaurus and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She averaged 10–12 pages of material a day in this manner, which she then edited down to three or four pages in the evening. Tough going!

Maya is put here

 Who will sing the praises of the poets now?

who the deeds of men?

with Maya dead the muses are silent

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom



BRENDAN BEHAN, seen here with Harpo Marx, often said ‘ I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem’. His brother, Brian, saw it slightly differently;   ‘What Brendan really was was a painter with a writing problem. No matter in what country of the globe he resided, or how many luminaries he met, the would always be a painter in his soul . If he had remained one for his livelihood, he could still be alive today’. In other words it was the fame that killed him just as much as the drink.

This is a poem that Dominic O’Riordan wrote about Brendan

I remember him riding the air

A mixture of Puck and the goban Saor

With ruffled shirt and hair astray

In Grafton Street on a gusty day

Respectable gents and maiden aunts

Held tightly in their briefs and pants

Lest their bowels might be disturbed

Hearing genius roaring by

Language of love and obscenity

The words he uttered were very simple

“Your mind is as small as a knacker’s thimble,

Scarperer,joxer, fluther, brother

Hold your hour and have another”