New poems

 

(This is me running a writing workshop at Fernhill School in Hampshire)

This page includes many of the poems I have written over the last twelve months. Some are for young people and some for adults. Or at least that’s what I thought when I started writing them. To be honest, I just write for people. They can work out if the poem is right for them. If it is too old or too young for you, well, just stop reading it! There are more poems on my website: www.alangibbons.com

I lived in Salford, Greater Manchester for a while in the nineteen seventies. I wrote this poem for the Salford Children’s Book Award ceremony to be held in January at the Lowry Centre. I will be the MC. For younger readers, Ewan McColl was a singer and playwright who was born and bred in Salford. He wrote the wonderful song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, popularized by the American singer Roberta Flack. He also wrote Dirty Old Town.

Not so old, not so dirty any more

(For Ewan McColl)  

You kissed your girl by the factory wall,

I lived here too, yes, I saw it all.

But come ye back, where you walked before,

It’s not so old, not so dirty any more.

They shut the docks, closed the factories too,

Times were hard, cold winds bit through.

But come ye back, where you walked before,

It’s not so old, not so dirty any more.

The Busby Babes, it’s now fifty years,

We’ll bow our heads, remember them with tears.

But come ye back, where you walked before,

It’s not so old, not so dirty any more.

The road’s been tough, the road’s been long,

But the city’s heart, it’s still beating strong,

So come ye back, where you walked before,

It’s not so old, not so dirty any more.

Glass and steel rise round the old canal,

Lowry, BBC, a brand new shopping mall.

Yes, come ye back, where you walked before,

It’s not so old, not so dirty any more.

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2007.

Here’s another poem about my roots. I was born in Warrington, Cheshire in 1953. I wrote this poem for the town as part of my tenure as the author in residence during the Warrington Reads Alan Gibbons events in 2006.

You’re a Warrington Live Wire

Born here in the year of nineteen fifty three,

in the land of three sheaves,

I remember the people who raised me,

the toiling hands, the rolled up sleeves.

That makes me a wire,

I’m a wire, a Warrington live wire,

I look to the stars,

I take it higher and higher.

Now, they can be a bit wet in Wigan,

Or mopey in Manchester,

limp in Liverpool

or knosey in Knutsford,

but here in Warrington

you’re simply wonderful.

They can be barmy in Bolton

or bonkers in Bacup,

they gossip in Glossop

and pester in Chester

but here in Warrington

you’re simply wonderful.

Because you’re a wire,

a wire, a Warrington live wire,

you look to the stars,

you take it higher and higher.

Let’s hear it from Latchford and Longford and Lymm,

from Wilderspool, Whitecross and Westy,

from Woolston and Winwick,

and Padgate and Penketh

from Grappenhall, Great Sankey and Bewsey.

You’re a wire,

a wire, a Warrington live wire,

aim for the stars,

take it higher and higher.

When the tyres hiss on the M62

when the wet northern wind wets you through and through;

when you’re lonesome and low

and don’t know where to go,

just remember…

You’re a wire,

a wire, a Warrington live wire,

look to the stars,

take it higher and higher

and higher

and higher!

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2006.

Political poem

These are strange days indeed

when the left of the right

is to the right

of the right of the left.

How I long for the days

when you could say,

I’m left,

You’re right,

Fancy a fight?

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2007.

Rivaldo’s biology lesson

(On a world class player sinking low enough to feign injury to get Turkey’s Hasan Sas sent off in the World Cup)

The knee bone’s connected

to the shin bone.

The shin bone’s connected

to the ankle bone.

But when the ball hit

Rivaldo

in the leg bone

he felt the pain directly

in the face bone

which got a player

sent straight

to the early bath zone.

Here endeth

today’s lesson:

when players cheat

they lose face.

Copyright Alan Gibbons 2007.

New take on old history

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus

when he said the Earth was round.

Mind you,

he was wearing big clown feet

and a red nose

at the time.

Copyright Alan Gibbons 2007

Never trust a politician

You can trust the line

when you go fishin’.

You can trust the lens

at your optician.

You can trust your car’s

dodgy old ignition

But never trust a politician.

You can trust the well

when you go wishin’.

You can trust the tablet

from your physician.

You can trust the toga

on that glum patrician

But never trust a politician.

You can trust the bark

from next door’s dog.

You can trust the croak

from an anonymous frog.

You can trust the phases

of that cheesy moon.

You can trust the dish

to run away with the spoon.

 You can trust a sum

from a mathematician.

You can even trust the rabbit

from some top-hatted magician

but don’t you ever,

no, no, never

trust that politician!

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

Football question

Now here’s a thing,

Bill Shankly once said the Kop

could suck the ball into the back of the net.

So, how come,

no matter how hard I blow

I can’t keep the ball out of ours?

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

A minute’s silence

(on the minute’s silence observed in the Manchester United v Manchester City derby, February, 2008)

Sometimes silence is louder than words.

Sometimes silence is more articulate

than the human voice,

more lyrical than music,

more passionate than song.

So if we can’t stand in silence

to remember the 23 who died

on a Munich runway,

or the 96 who died

at a Sheffield football match,

if we can’t forget our tribes,

if we can’t remember

that what we have in common

far outweighs what

keeps us separate and apart

then….

….we don’t deserve to sing,

or chant, or cheer or celebrate.

If we refuse to be men or women

who know the meaning of respect,

then all we deserve is…

silence.

Copyright Alan gibbons 2008

Ragnarok

Come closer now, my child.

Enter the ring of warmth

around the crackling fire.

There will be no fairy tales here

for I love you too much for that.

I am a story teller, not a liar.

There is a promise on the wind,

a prophecy in the winter chill,

a word to match the winter rage.

There will be a dimming of the light,

an axe-age, a sword-age,

a wind-age, a wolf-age.

This is Ragnarok,

when our world will come to ruin

and all certain things will melt away.

This is Ragnarok,

the last battle of the gods,

the dimming, the final day.

The Fenris-Wolf will break

his subtle chains and snarl and howl

and roar and chill the beating heart.

Loki, mischief-maker will sail

bringing his army of the dead

to tear the world apart.

Surt will rise with blazing sword

and sear the air we breathe

and torch the warrior bands.

Last of all, Midgard Snake

will spew his venom far and wide

and pollute the nine great lands.

Then Heimdall, Watcher, will

blow his horn and rouse

the Asgard host.

Bones will break, flesh will rip,

blood will spill, skulls will crack,

hearts will hurt the most.

Look there, Thor slays the snake.

He retreats but not enough.

He breathes foul air, he chokes and gags.

The hammer-lord sways,

Mjollnir slips from his hand.

He falls amid the burning crags.

The All-Father is next to die,

beneath a scarlet, blazing sky,

swallowed by Fenris-Wolf.

Then Odin’s son, Vidar by name,

rends the beast apart,

hurls him in the fiery gulf.

At the end of time, Watcher

and Mischief-Maker meet, and slash

and perish, one flesh, one death.

Then the wide world sinks,

the sun turns black, the sky wilts

under Surt’s fiery breath.

Death comes to all, to god and elf,

to giant and to dwarf,

to man and woman too.

So nothing stirs or moves,

or breathes or grows, the Earth

is barren through and through.

What is left? Just ash and stone

and filth and powdered bone,

dark and murk and gloom.

No warmth, no snapping wind,

no breath, no tide, no hope,

just the frozen mask of doom.

But stop, what’s that?

Did you hear that sound?

What’s that shape etched in the mist?

Yggdrasil! Tree of Life!

There’s movement here, two children

hidden ‘neath its roots.

They stir, they blink and squint,

they see the world begin to stir,

the first of life’s green shoots.

From this rebirth will come,

a pair of children, a boy,

a girl, so very few.

After thunder, lightning,

stress and bellowing storm

the world is born anew.

Alan Gibbons, copyright 2008.

Hourly rate

(on the news that author Martin Amis is being paid £3.000 an hour by Manchester University)

Exam question:

if Martin Amis is worth £3,000 an hour,

and a nurse is worth, say, a tenner,

then how much of an Amis

is a nurse worth,

his toenail?

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

The Teacher’s Advice

Don’t put jelly

in your welly.

Don’t put ants

in your pants.

Don’t stick asses

to your glasses.

Don’t put dirt

on your shirt.

Don’t put that bat

in your hat.

don’t put a pie

in your eye.

Don’t barf

on your scarf.

Don’t put beer

in your ear.

Don’t stick a rose

up your nose.

Don’t get stung

on your tongue.

Don’t tuck a nest

in your vest.

Don’t keep a newt

in your suit.

Oh Lily, Lily, Lily

why are you so silly?

And Dwayne, yes you Dwayne,

why must you stand in the rain?

Why can’t you all do

as I do.

Oh, hang on while I pour this glue

in my shoe.

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

Travels by a son of Albion

1

Mist, sunlight on Stoke Newington High Street

There’s something hanging over Hackney today.

No, it’s not just the mist.

That barely affects the girls walking by,

trousers tucked into leather boots,

berets and bobble hats

set at a jaunty angle,

or de yoof bobbing up the road

wearing black and white combats,

an oversized top and an expression

that could sink the Titanic.

They’re not bothered by mist.

It’s preconceptions that linger in the mind,

in the rhythms of public discourse.

Politicians like to talk

about mean streets that need protecting,

or murder miles that need regenerating.

I’ve even heard some media chick

(odd that rhymes with….thick!)

say this is the worst place in Britain.

The worst?

Really?

But shouldn’t that accolade go

to some glass-plated corner of the City

where a man in a £1,000 suit

stays off the lines of white powder

just long enough to guess,

and guess wrongly,

what goes up and what goes down

on a PC screen.

Here’s how to judge a place,

not by the dingy curtains

on a second floor window

or the peeling paint

on a coffee bar facade.

Hackney never caused a run on the pound.

It never made economic clouds darken.

You need a shinier, less vibrant street

to do that kind of crime.

If you’re looking for it,

it’s probably hiding behind the mist.

2

Norway, February 2008

So there’s a mountain.

Are you with me so far? Good.

Well, if you lean over the edge of this mountain

it’s a thousand metres down,

and I mean stright down.

So this English guy asks this Norwegian guy,

why don’t you put a fence round this mountain?

And what does the Norwegian guy say back?

He says, if you put a fence round the mountain,

you’ll make it more dangerous.

Now the English guy looks puzzled.

The Norwegian guy just shakes his head

and starts to explain.

If you put a fence round the mountain,

he tells the English guy,

you’re just going to think

it’s the job of the fence to keep you from falling

when it’s really your job to save

your own fool neck.

Well, the English guy nods sagely

and says, you might have something there,

but he still thinks there should be a fence,

then there will be something to jump over.

3

Three Haiku, Hafrsfjord, Norway 2008

***

Three swords set in stone

stand in silent salute

to three hands, one king.

***

The hilt stands upmost,

the blade below, point downward,

in negation of battle.

***

I pray I will not

see the hands that draw these swords

from the clinging stone.

4

Three Tankas, Stavanger, February, 2008

Three great swords, climbing

against an ochre sunset,

split the wispy clouds.

Glittering shards of moon glow

depart and I am reborn.

***

The snows barely came

this year or settled upon

the bleak northern hills.

A new world begins to stir

beneath my faltering feet.

***

Dark, unblinking eyes

gaze up through shimmering tides.

The old gods watch us,

wondering at our folly,

expecting to rise once more.

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008.

5

Antrim, February 2008

I bought a pack of socks

in Tesco, in Antrim, tonight.

It was no big deal.

Earlier, I came through Belfast

International Airport.

Security was no tighter

than it is in Liverpool or Manchester.

It was different when I came here

back in 1977.

This time, though,

it was no big deal.

I got talking to a teacher.

She was worried about her daughter

because she was going to study

in London

where they have terrorists.

She doesn’t worry in Antrim,

or Ballymena, or Belfast.

Going about your daily business here

is no big deal.

It’s good when so many things,

in Northern Ireland today,

are no big deal.

6

Goring on Thames

From the window of my hotel room,

I gaze through a tracery

of limp, green branches, wondering

when the mist will lift and reveal

the mundane reality behind

the bank of lowering darkness beyond.

7

Bromley

You wanted to turn.

You were driving a Jag.

You wanted to turn

so I stopped and let you.

Did you raise a hand,

you with your military moustache?

Did you make eye contact,

flash your lights,

show any manners at all?

I’m talking about you,

the Alan Whicker wannabe.

But you’re not listening to me,

just like you didn’t see me,

because I’m invisible, an obstacle

to your progress, an inferior.

When you get home,

will you complain

about the school kids

clustered round the bus stop?

Will you tell your wife

that manners are a thing of the past?

Will you huff, will you puff

when you read about hoodies,

alcohol, swearing, graffiti?

I wonder, when you do,

will you, even for a moment,

think it might have been an idea

to at least say thanks

when somebody did you a favour?

Or are you just too

IMPORTANT

to think of anything

like

that?

Personally, I despair

of the older generation.

8

Birmingham

It’s bumper to bumper,

a string of steel,

a multi-coloured glittering tailback,

a flood of floating lights,

quite….unreal.

And what are we

in all this manufactured chaos,

what part of this is human?

What are we but winkles

in steel shells

to be picked at by helpless rage?

It’s bumper to bumper,

three parallel lines of faces,

all pointing forward

towards a destination

which seems further away

with every light change

and every jaw is gritted in rage.

So here we sit

and dream of home,

and all the people we love the best,

and their faces blend

in the petrol haze.

Their laughter dies

in the pulse of engines,

drummed fingers, sound systems,

Blackberries, miseries, curses, shaken heads,

the fading hope of progress.

Those of us with a sense of humour

glance at signs

ordering us to drive below

forty miles an hour, and smile.

Not moving at all

is driving at below

forty miles an hour, so we smile.

How else do you react to madness,

but with a smile?

9 

Hale

In Hale village, greater Manchester,

 up some stairs, I find refuge in

a cafe as intimate as a living room.

I eat a toasted sandwich

and drink a freshly brewed cup of tea

and let sunlight roam

across my face, and I smile.

Oh, to have more places like this,

more cafes like living rooms

where the young man who serves me

is no corporate clone barista,

but instead, is just a lad

who calls the owner Mum, because she is.

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008.

10

Painswick

Here I walk, a long way from home,

down narrow streets of grey stone houses.

Living room lights glimmer, and the gloom

parts grudgingly, to reveal silhouetted figures,

a bistro, post office, restaurant, shop.

The church stands monumental in darkness,

illuminated by floodlights,

and the clock wonders whether to move

in a place where time rarely does.

My gaze strays skyward where stars

glint like shards of glass implanted

in obsidian. Like I said,

I am a long way from home, and not just in miles.

Got those creativity blues

Well, I woke up this morning,

picked up my guitar,

met with my best friend,

he brought his sitar.

Â

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But I’ve got those assess me,

track down and test me,

measure my creativity blues.

I walked to my classroom

with my good mate Neville.

We played a quick raga.

The teacher gave us a level.

Yes, I’ve got those assess me,

track down and test me,

measure my creativity blues.

I play from the heart,

I play from the soul.

My school don’t listen,

The league table’s the goal.

‘Cos I’ve got those assess me,

track down and test me,

measure my creativity blues.

I sing out for freedom.

I sing out for love.

Don’t make me a robot.

Don’t dumb me down, Guv.

‘Cos I’ve got those assess me,

track down and test me,

measure my creativity blues.

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

Dr Who Poems

1

Dalek protest

I don’t mind if you call me

a creature from Hell,

or if you say I’m causing

the planet’s death knell

but please don’t call me a dustbin.

I don’t mind if you stare

or point, or scream,

I don’t mind if you run

or have a bad dream,

but please don’t call me a dustbin.

I don’t mind if you crawl

under the bed

or pull up the sheets

to hide your daft head.

I don’t mind if you try

to escape in your cars,

I don’t mind if you run off

to Venus or Mars,

but don’t you dare,

don’t you ever dare,

call me a dustbin.

2

Dalek haiku

Exterminate, ex

terminate, exterminate,

exterminate, ex…..

3

Dalek acrostic

Dustbin

Aggression

Landing

Exterminate

Kill

4

Dr Who theme poem

Dum de dum,

dum de dum,

dum de dum,

dum de dum,

whee-who!

5

Dr Who theme poem for back to front people

Whee-who!

Dum de dum,

dum de dum,

dum de dum,

dum de dum.

6

Cyberman poem

I’ve got to get this off my chest,

I hate to be second best.

What’s so great about those Dalek bums?

They look just like mobile oil drums!

All poems copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

The ghost of Xanadu

(with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

In Docklands did Mrs T

a place of wealth adore:

where Greed, the sacred creed you see,

and profit doth run free

to taunt the urban poor.

In these miles of avarice-laden ground

with steel and glass girdled round

bankers used to flounce.

Their system now’s no longer sound.

If they jump, I wonder, will they bounce?

copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

 

Hurting

 

If you live in a village

in the grip of need,

on the edge of time,

in the shadow of death

at the point of a gun,

and you watch the earth bleed,

then, brother, I’ll listen

when you say you’re hurting.

 

But if it’s costing a few pennies more

to pour half of Saudi Arabia

into your four by four tank,

or if the school fees

for Tristram and Liberty

and Tamsin and Harry

are pinching a bit,

then don’t come crying to me,

go talk to somebody who

gives a damn.

 

If you weep

to see your kids

being swallowed by gangs,

and all out of hope,

and at the end of a rope

of despair and self-hate,

then sister, I’ll listen

when you say you’re hurting.

 

But if all that’s happening

is your mortgage has risen

as you cower behind walls of brick

and gates of steel

in your luxury prison

from the knives and the gangs,

and the guns and the chaos

that your love of the market

bequeathed to this land,

then don’t come crying to me,

go talk to somebody

who gives a damn.

 

If you rage at injustice

and misery and want,

and you feel the weight

of all the dead generations

of oppression and war,

and you scream at the walls

and you rant at the screen,

and mourn for the world

that might just have been,

then friends, I’ll march with you

when you say you’re hurting.

 

But if all you’ve got left

is self-interest and greed,

and all that you feel

is fear and financial need,

then go wrap Tristram and Liberty

and Tamsin and Harry

in the bubble-wrap

of privilege and wealth

and don’t give a damn

for others’ education or health

because I’ll be talking to somebody

who gives a damn.

 

So if you’re sick of the liars,

the gamblers, the traders,

the swindlers, the bankers

always shrieking for more,

the bent politicians,

the masters of war,

then look around friend,

I want to march with you.

 

How to play with an elephant

I started watching football

Sometime between Guy Mitchell

Singing about Hooly Hooly skirts

And Lennon and McCartney

Please Pleasing the world.

I asked my granddad who to support

And he said Hartlepool United

And I said who

And he said, oi,

Don’t be cheeky, you.

But I lived in Crewe

So I supported Crewe Alexandra

And Manchester United

(because Hartlepool might as well

Have been Ulan Bator

And at least I could get to Manchester

By train and I didn’t need a Tardis).

After a match I used to go to my Gran’s.

She had these ivory elephants

In a glass cabinet.

Can I get the elephants out

And play with them, I asked.

But she said I was only nine

And I could do myself harm.

A year later I asked again

And she said no

Because I could do them harm.

I asked again when I was ten

And she said, Alan, not again.

I asked at eleven

And again at twelve

But no, she said I must not delve.

Then, when I was thirteen-

It was nineteen sixty six-

England beat Germany 4-2

To win the World Cup.

Gran opened a tin of salmon,

Smiled and said:

Alan, you can get those elephants out.

But I was thirteen,

And too big for ivory elephants.

It seems that elephants,

like World Cups,

Belong in a cabinet.

 

Copyright Alan Gibbons, 2008

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