Words

Stuff that rhymes, sometimes

The cleaner

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A cleaner sees her client in the shop

She doesn’t recognise me
(We’ve never met in person)
but I’ve fingered through her knicker drawer
and peered between her curtains

I’ve straightened up her duvet,
brushed the ginger hair:
obscuring infidelity,
(her hair’s brown; her husband’s fair).

I found an indicator once,
in the bathroom bin.
Its telltale spot glowed sapphire blue,
betraying carnal sin.

After that, the leaflet:
‘Easy termination’
for cheating women who, like her,
can’t resist temptation.

She must have thought her secret safe
stashed beneath her “women’s things”
for no wife’s husband likes to think,
of gussets, thrush cream, pads with wings…

I took it and I kept it,
and I plucked the ginger curls,
knowing that one day I’d have
a good use for those whorls.

In a year or two, I thought,
they’d oil negotiations
for a rise of ten percent
‘to keep up with inflation’

But sod that now
she’s blown her chance
by acting like a queen
looking down her nose at me
and pushing in between
the man ahead and where I’m standing,
waiting in the queue,
unaware of who I am
or what I now shall do.

I’ll salt her husband’s pillow
with the little ginger hairs
and the telltale test will settle nicely
in the loo downstairs.

He’ll be the first one home tonight,
and think she’s tried to flush away
the evidence that while he’s working
she’s been led astray.

He’ll head up to the bedroom
(where I’ll ruffle up the quilt)
and find the crumpled leaflet
that I’ll drop to prove her guilt.

I hope it wounds her more than him;
stings her with regret,
and teaches her a lesson
she’ll not easily forget:

That everyone deserves respect
regardless of their pedigree –
for they might be your cleaner,
and cleaners copy keys…

Sooner or later

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We’re all in eternity’s anteroom,
waiting to step through the door.
None of us knows when our name will be called
or what we’re waiting there for.

There’s no system; no tickets or marshall;
first there aren’t always first seen,
and when it’s our turn, it’s too often in public
where even the meek make a scene.

The wretched might think that by jumping from heights
they’ll jump to the front of the queue
but they always lose out to the murderer’s muse
who unwillingly barges straight through.

While to those who are tired of waiting,
old age seems to cling like disease.
They long for their slot on the rota to come
and bring them a measure of ease.

None of us knows when our name will be called
or how long we’ll be in that queue.
So live like you’re close to the top of the list
and if life isn’t perfect, make do.

The Today programme

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Sometimes when I wake up
I remember to forget.
They’re the ones I start the day
without a sense of dread.
    I lie in blissful ignorance
    for three or four whole seconds
    unaware that in the air
    a muted menace beckons.
Then the wireless wakes itself,
gloom pervades the room
as Humphreys, Webb and Robinson
prophesy our doom.


The Today programme is a long-running news and current affairs programme broadcast nationally on BBC Radio 4. It is renowned for its ability to attract key spokespeople and senior politicians.

Unrelated to the above, it is such a fixture of British culture that it is said the last test for the commanders of the country’s nuclear submarines is to try and tune in to the programme on Radio 4’s long wave frequencies if they have been unable to contact the government in any other manner. If it’s not being broadcast they are told to assume the country has been obliterated in an attack and open the safe that contains the Prime Minister’s final instructions for what they should do with their missiles (traditionally ‘nothing’, ‘retaliate’, ‘use your own judgement’ or ‘surrender to a friendly nation’).

The valves used to transmit the long wave service are, sadly, dying, and are unable to be replaced since there are fewer than ten left in the world, of which the BBC owns the entire stock. When the last one blows, the long wave service will be taken permanently off the air. What the submarine commanders are supposed to do then, we don’t know.

Dust to dust

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The new me is an older me.
The old me once was young. Young me has no future though
the future’s just begun.

The present me is a fallacy,
a link upon a chain
from fertilised to fertile ground —
again, again, again.

Silent falls the garden

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The larks no longer fear the lawn
soundly sleeps the shrew.
Sparrows splash in sunlit pools,
while wrens feed in full view.

The catnip grows unhindered now;
the grit lies undisturbed.
The mice no longer fear his paws –
he’s killed his final bird,

for rustled grass, the rush of feet,
signals not a feast,
and weeks have passed since last he snared
the scent of bird or beast.

Though master, once, of every creature,
quartered in his fief,
he ends his days the servant
of an unrelenting chief.

To thirst, the silent predator,
he’s ceaselessly on call,
hunkered by a dripping tap
that holds him now in thrall.

He watches as the droplets form,
snares them for his master,
then taps the faucet with a paw,
urges it, drip faster.

The master’s satisfaction wanes;
it soon enough will fade
just as he grew weary
of the mice with which he played.

And when the morsels fail to
sate the master’s appetite,
he’ll come to me and silently
beseech I end the fight.

The wall

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    Look over the wall.
    What do you see?
A child fleeing war
    or a threat to our country?

    Women invading,
    setting down roots,
or daughters escaping
rape and abuse?

    Men whose attire
    would suit the dark ages
or sons whose desire
is fair work for fair wages?

    Terrorists,
    muggers and migrants?
    ‘Difference’,
    immigrants,
    forces of evil?

Or refugees, emigres,
friends without homes?
One of us,
humans,
penniless people?

Flu

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Skewer
Spear
Immunise.
A tiny chrome harpoon
stuck into your flabby thighs
will make sure you’re immune.

A shot,
a fix,
a liquid dose.
A needle in your arm.
It’s what the doctor diagnosed
to keep you safe from harm.

Jab,
stab,
a quick injection,
just a little prick.
To help you fight infection:
vaccination does the trick.

Her indoors

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Stripping wire, opening wine,
freeing small stones from a hoof.
      Scaling fish, filing their nails,
      picking their teeth clean at night.
Carrying, measuring,
sawing through wood.
(They carry not one but two knives);
      There isn’t much
      they can’t turn their hands to,
      these versatile Swiss Army wives.

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