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Apr 2015 · 627
Peat
Alan McClure Apr 2015
Conditions are prime
preservation will occur
as another murky layer
settles and sticks

The smoky dawn
holds no redemption
harsh words have left
their scorch upon the tongue

In one room, he lifts the toppled glass
In another, she straightens sheets, silently
A careless word, a glance
might prove the unwanted spark

No explosion will follow,  
not with this black and bitter tinder
Only a slow smoulder,
a quiet, crawling conflagration

Amber light in the quiet kitchen
sees him unscrew the cap
tip the whisky down the sink,
penitent, confessional

Dull thoughts
of drunken microbes
a mirthless smile
and a bottle, as empty as the gesture.
Apr 2015 · 475
Where Will It All End?
Mar 2015 · 853
Milan
Alan McClure Mar 2015
So, you grew up,
leaving me Peter Panning for gold
amongst the grit of adulthood.
Your guitar gathers dignified dust,
while mine puffs and wheezes
yet another senile song,
an arthritic dog
treading painfully in step
with its selfish, thoughtless master.

I never envied you your brilliance
because it was shared, it was ours
but I've been toasting marshmallows on the embers
far too long.

And now your real life,
the one you've worked for, studied for,
sweated for
(and the one I've studiously ignored)
is to carry you over the sea
and away.
I have no doubt it is still your brilliance
that paves the trail,
But it's for others, now
and that is fine.
I am reconciled,
and full of hope for you and yours.

Let's see now:

G, B minor, C...

There's a song in here somewhere,
I know it.
Mar 2015 · 949
the certain
Alan McClure Mar 2015
Oh my
how they flap and slither
shades of shades of
ghastly crassness

Haven't harnessed
their atoms' fickle spins
spilling, instead,
through the strong and wise and deserving
befouling their blood

Gulping and gaping their own small slice of evil
while we will guard ours
in cages of guilt and fantasy

Spill then
spill slickly,
sick, stupid spectres
You strengthen my bars
beyond imagining
Jan 2015 · 1.2k
three travellers
Alan McClure Jan 2015
Three travellers
are walking side by side.
Says the first:
"This path is long and weary,
and my soul sickens
with every step.
All it shows us
is misery, disease, corruption and death.
This is the path of the ******!"

Says the second:
"No, my friend, you are wrong!
This path guides
my every golden step.
It draws me further
into the dazzling wonder
of this impossible world
and pulls me forward
with the promise of beautiful new horizons.
This path is truly blessed!"

Says the third:
"There is no path."

The first
and the second
are unmoved, however

For there is no third traveller.
Alan McClure Jan 2015
A black maid enters.
Cowed, inarticulate,
she makes obeisance to her mistress,
our erstwhile heroine.

She is given a menial task
in a perfunctory fashion,
and you thrill at this splash
of historical colour.

But her mistress's command
is irrelevant.  She is fully engaged
with two vital functions
with which I have entrusted her.

The first: she has bathed our heroes
in moral ambiguity -
she is a shortcut to complexity,
rendering the important characters
doubly fascinating,
bathing them in pathos.

The second: she has pleased you
as you recognise your own outrage:
"Why must she be black?
Why can't they treat her better?
Don't we live in finer times, you and I?"
And a happy reader
is a reader who will proceed,
enlivened, vindicated, affirmed.

And thus freshly enslaved,
she returns
to the sculleries of my imagination
as we press nobly on.
Jan 2015 · 825
Gaia Calls the Astronauts
Alan McClure Jan 2015
my fingers felt
that new horizons beckoned
and dropped off, one
by one

my eyes, grown tired
of servicing my brain
popped out
and rolled into blind oblivion

my tongue
has slithered off
flicking foolishly,
untasting

they are lost, and rot
and I am poor, and broken

We were one
but now
we are nothing.
Dec 2014 · 930
enemy soldier
Alan McClure Dec 2014
You won't remember this
but we played together as boys, you and I
in the woods of Scotland
on the streets of Damascus

Sticks for machine guns
crab apple hand grenades
direct hit, count to ten
then up again

Your mother was kind, I recall
would berate you for lacking my polished manners
while my mother, of course,
would hold you up
as a shining example to me.

And though it has been years
have we ever been apart?
The peace upon you now
has been upon us both all along
as we have traced this warm collision
through all our separate, numbered days

Count to ten, old friend.
Count to ten
and up again.
Dec 2014 · 1.1k
Petals
Alan McClure Dec 2014
From horizon to horizon
stretch flowers
waving, trumpetting
refracting brazenly, dazzling

as children, blinded,
fumble through,
coughing on pollen
drowning in nectar
deafened by the buzz of fat, sated insects

brutally and thoughtlessly robbed of the chance
to find the startling beauty
of the solitary blossom
on the wasteland.
Dec 2014 · 763
The Message
Alan McClure Dec 2014
So the call goes out:
every priest, imam, rabbi, shaman
gets the same message.
Comes to them like a dream,
but there's no denying it.

"That's it then, folks,"
goes the mesage,
"If you haven't got it by now,
you never will.
We're off -
You're on your own.
B'bye."

And it's followed by this hollow ringing,
the great screaming emptiness
of space.

So of course they get together,
discuss what's to be done.
And the funny thing is how quickly they decide:

"Suppose we'd best
just carry on as usual, eh?"

"Suppose so, aye."

Which is why
you never knew
this had happened.
Dec 2014 · 1.1k
Nostalgia
Alan McClure Dec 2014
Midwinter approaches.
You'd barely know it.
Galloway's soft murky skies,
Low clouds born of mudflat and peat,
don't waken the sparkling frost in me

A sudden unexpected pang
for the cut-glass winters of Aberdeen,
skies as clear as no sky at all
and the Dee all poised and crystal
descends upon me in the thick southwest smir

And I long to crunch along the riverbank
with my brother in the frost,
laughter-born clouds
dissipating in the hawthorn branches,
blackbirds startling
in the ice-bound undergrowth -
deep pink sun bursting and bleeding
across the wide blue horizon.

I could return -
follow the waxwings
reclaim my winter home
but I won't -
instead,
I'll cast a glance
of sparkling northern granite
across the fields and mulch,
see if I can clear these skies
and freeze this other Dee

And build myself a fresh white landscape
as crisp
and clear
as memory.
Dec 2014 · 1.5k
Iliop (Lazy Sheepdog)
Alan McClure Dec 2014
I know my motives
and they're far from pure -
The lengths I will go to
for a pat on the head.

And then there's you -
you, with your pure indifference
and your thousand words for soil

Reminding me
that real art
is its own reward
And that I have created none.

But oh!
I am grateful for the lesson,
for the knowledge of the destination
and the chance
to be on my way.
Alan McClure Nov 2014
Thus proving
beyond all hope
that we remember nothing.
Oct 2014 · 797
lesson
Alan McClure Oct 2014
The hills held their breath
as October came shouldering over them
suspending September's false summer promises
tugging the sodden sky behind
and charging the channels with boisterous foam

Remember your place, the season proclaimed
I'll lower the sky if I wish
Strip trees to humiliation,
grey their ridiculous colours -
Run
little people,
run
while I crash and scatter my cackling fun!


A day, a night,
then short relief -
the hills exhale
in pluming cumulus
like colossal conifers bound in snow
pointing at the beleaguered blue
and we, below,
emerge, remembering.
Sep 2014 · 731
a marriage
Alan McClure Sep 2014
She doesn't rush to judgement
when my resolutions crumble
when my morals take a tumble
she can help them to their feet
She can hold onto the good times
when the bad times try to find her
try to deafen and to blind her
she dismisses their deceit
She has seen me as a ruin
when my failures all unmask me
when the black eyed dog attacks me
and I don't know what I am
When the human race deserts me
I'm rejected and reviled
I'm a helpless little child
still she lets me be a man
And I cannot long be broken
though the clouds begin to gather
When I realise I have her
And she calmly calls their bluff
And her wisdom reassures me
I'll have little call to save her
though I would return the favour
just to love her is enough.
Sep 2014 · 630
To a Referendum
Alan McClure Sep 2014
Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous nation
Don't get ideas above your station
Take heed the rising indignation
You've unleashed -
You've had your little conversation,
Now haud yer wheesht!

Aye, very good, there's been a swing
and Salmond, he who would be king
believes you'll have your Arab Spring -
But who's he kidding?
Just settle back 'neath mammy's wing
and do our bidding

So what? Your little movement's grown
Brainwashed by Alec's endless drone
You'll never make it on your own
But we'll protect you
There's monsters in the great unknown
They're out to get you!

But don't believe us out of fear
Rewards will come if you stay near
Unthought of riches will appear
And never stop!
For starters? Why, just lookee here -
This lollipop!

We think the course that would be kindest
Is put this ugly thought behind us
And focus on the ties that bind us
The blood, the soil
(And since we're pals you will not mind as
we nab the oil!)

We've all enjoyed this wee distraction
You're an amusing little faction
You've had your day of satisfaction
But now it's crucial
We get Great Britain back in action -
Business as usual.
May 2014 · 665
Your Best Tommy Cooper
Alan McClure May 2014
Like a rabbit from a hat
Like a bouquet from a sleeve
You appear, and just like that
You pull poetry from me.
Mar 2014 · 954
Invitation
Alan McClure Mar 2014
You're ******* in time ticking choices away
white light fills the night till its brighter than day
cacophonous voices can say what they say
from the dusk till the meaningless dawn
Then secured by a seatbelt to leather and foam
the speedo's at zero six yards from your home
a million neighbours, completely alone
you're a shell, you're a shade, you're a pawn
But glance through the windscreen and look at the sky
a seagull, suspended, is catching your eye
you sense a connection but cannot say why
as it tilts on the wind and is gone
Then the trees you drive under are sharpened and clear
they're humming and pulsing beneath the veneer
you're dazed and confused as you shift up a gear
dumbly wondering what's going on
You turn on the satnav for guidance and sound
but its whisper can't silence this thing you have found
from the shimmering clouds to the roots of the ground
Is a force that is ancient and new
You try to pretend like a terrified child
that the world can be binary indexed and filed
and the sparkling eye of the jackdawish wild
isn't focused intently on you
But there is no denying this fluttering clutch
that is moss-furred and feathered, a hurricane touch
that you knew long ago and you've missed it so much
with a longing that's howling and black
But she's patiently stationed there just out of sight
as you've built your resistance from pixel and byte
Rebellious teenager, pitiful plight
she is waiting to welcome you back
Yes Nature is waiting to welcome you back
She's beneath every slab and behind every crack
at the nethermost end of the bitterest track
she is waiting to welcome you back
Forever forgiving, unloosed unconfined
she is mad she is chaos she's love and she's blind
volcanic voluptuous core of mankind
she is waiting to welcome you back.
Mar 2014 · 1.3k
Song for Shell
Alan McClure Mar 2014
Twilight falls across the bay
Soothes the worries of the day
As the shore adores the sea
Me for you and you for me

Stars appear across the sky
Whisper leaf and curlew cry
As the lock is for the key
Me for you and you for me

There is traffic, there is waste
Icy doubt and black disgrace
There are thunderclouds of fear
But they cannot touch us here
There are nightmares, there are wars
Broken hearts and slamming doors
There are phantoms of the mind
Here, we leave them all behind

Gentle darkness on the land
Beating hearts and touching hands
It's as simple as can be
Me for you, and you for me.
Feb 2014 · 441
Nursery Rhyme
Alan McClure Feb 2014
The dads on the bus go, "Not right now,
Not right now,
Not right now,"
the dads on the bus go, "Not right now,"
all day long.
Feb 2014 · 1.2k
A Day in Space
Alan McClure Feb 2014
We spent a day in space
because the Hendersons did it last month,
and the Jeffreys the week before that.
It was all they talked about at dinner
and their eyes sparkled
in a way I hadn't seen before.

You can pack light.
It's only a day, after all.
Maria and the kids were nervous
but I told them not to worry,
just to concentrate on the in-flight movie.
The kid in the seat behind
kept kicking my chair,
which was annoying.

To be honest
it was just like a normal flight at first,
out the window gazing
at the other shuttles coming home,
pressed into your seat
by the g-force.

But then you break through the ionosphere
and you're weightless.
It's quite cool.
Jessica got some good pictures of Earth.
I was looking at the floating stewardess, mostly.

It's one of those things, though -
you can't really appreciate it when it's happening.
You have to look back on it.
I'm pretty sure the grandeur,
the magnificence of human ingenuity
and the joy of returning to Mother Earth's comforting embrace

Will hit me any day now.
Excuse me, my phone's ringing.
Feb 2014 · 628
Holiday in Eden
Alan McClure Feb 2014
And look,
there's the tree where we sat
with our arms entwined -
no hint of guilt,
just a love
that was no-one's business but ours.

All that stuff
with the snake and the apple
came later.

Take a picture quickly, love
we've got to get back to the kids.
Jan 2014 · 1.2k
Symbols
Alan McClure Jan 2014
You lie on your back in the meadow
the big yellow blue in your eyes
You're golden, unfolding and gath'ring
the love of the limitless sky
And there's no need to fear
that this feeling is one that will pass
As your fingers entwine
in the dandelion shimmering grass
And they're sensing a message encoded within
the language of everything
And you're searching serenely for symbols
In the breath of a butterfly's wings

Now the sunlight is scattered and shattered
by the broken grey blade at your side
And your banner is ****** and tattered
Though you cannot remember just why
And your eyelids descend
Your features are soft with a smile
You breathe out and in
with the simple regard of a child
And you know as you go that as one story ends
another one surely begins
And you're searching serenely for symbols
in the breath of a butterfly's wings

Now you've happily danced in this pattern
for as long as you care to recall
There's a tapestry tangled around you
that you've barely affected at all
And you're taking your leave
as a cloud dissipates in the sky
And you don't even ask
why a tear trickles down from your eye
Yes you cast the thought out, there is no room for doubt
when you're hearing the fat lady sing
And you're searching serenely for symbols
in the breath of a butterfly's wings

Now the sun can be gentle and loving
the sun can be angry and fierce
And it is what it is in the instant
That it glints in a dying man's tears
You go when you go
you depart from the path you create
And you know what you know
in the moment you know it's too late
In your peace and your bliss it was easy to miss
all the people who pulled on the strings
As you searched so serenely for symbols
in the breath of a butterfly's wings
As you searched so serenely for symbols
in the breath of a butterfly's wings.
Nov 2013 · 1.2k
The Scientist
Alan McClure Nov 2013
I created a ray to save the world.
We had come too far,
had lost ourselves, it seemed to me
and we were taking the Earth along with us
into the abyss.

Too much knowledge: too much thought.
We needed to go back.
And so I created the Great Devolver Ray
and stood, trembling, by the trigger.

This would return us
to our basest animal selves.
Would tune us perfectly into Nature,
re-thread us into the fabric of Creation
destroy the wall between Natural and Unnatural.

Pure uncorrupted survival: nothing more.

And so I stood, on the brink,
unsure as all great revolutionaries must be,
put my hand in place,
and pushed.

And the ray burst forth
and we were transformed
into the pure ******* creatures that Life demanded.

And absolutely nothing changed
at all.
Nov 2013 · 641
The Wise Man
Alan McClure Nov 2013
"No, my friend," he said,
gently amused,
kindly patient.
"It is a fool who looks at the hand.
The wise man looks at the moon."

I felt ashamed,
but eager to redeem myself,
I turned my foolish gaze to the moon

Whereupon the hand
slipped into my pocket
and swiped my wallet.
Oct 2013 · 1.6k
Road Blocked by Frogs
Alan McClure Oct 2013
Grim grey day
starts in the dark,
grumbles, glowers
shoulders hunched
Everyone in bitter agreement -
"Miserable!"
Rain driven against windows,
streaming pavements,
shoe-squelched curses
cast at baleful sky.

Travelling home at last,
raincoat defeated
tricklebacked discomfort,
Windscreen wipers ten to the dozen
under sopping sorrowful trees,
headlights strobing relentless rain

And -

Those aren't leaves.
What are they?
Tumbling across the road,
crisscrossing parabolas
of peculiar joy

Frogs!

I stop:
I have to.
The night is alive
with manic delight
as secret creatures fling caution to the wind
and bound into sight,
into frantic celebration,
unphased by cars, by foolish bipeds
who thought this planet was theirs -

Open mouthed and uninvited
I gaze, displaced and foolish
for not knowing
It is,
it is the most beautiful night
that could possibly be imagined.
Jul 2013 · 1.3k
Mrs. Buddha
Alan McClure Jul 2013
That's him away then.  So, kids,
what do we do now?
No, laddie, don't cry.  We'll find our way.
No-one will write it down,
you may be sure of that,
but no-one will be burnt alive for it -
no nation will be conquered for it -
no vacuous, rudderless culture will claim it at their convenience.

On you go now, boys,
there's work to be done.
We can't all nap under a bodhi tree when it suits us.
Here now, no tears -
here's a kiss for you both.

We'll walk this path together,
real dust rising behind us,
real pain and real joy before us
and we'll maybe find
that attachment's not such a terrible thing
after all.
Jul 2013 · 1.2k
A Vicious Dog
Alan McClure Jul 2013
A vicious dog came prowling in to bite and terrorise
feasting on the beautiful, creative and the wise
Chewing their creations and their principles to dust
Leaving all their brilliance to crumble, fade and rust
A snarling, grinding horror issued from its ****** jaws
the sound rolled all around me like a wave of black applause
I gathered my defences and prepared to go down well
My work would be my armour to defeat this hound of hell
My courage at the sticking point, my words in serried ranks
my songs and poems all arranged like waiting Sherman tanks
As those who had inspired me were cast down in their prime
I knew the beast was coming, it was nearly closing time
But just as I prepared myself to triumph or to die
The wretched creature shook itself and passed me right on by
It glanced just once behind it with a look that seemed to say,
"You poor, deluded fool - I didn't want you anyway!"
Jun 2013 · 1.2k
Cenotaph
Alan McClure Jun 2013
Ah didny recognise him fae the eulogy.
The meenister'd nivver met the lad, Ah could see.
A hero?  Aye, mibbe.  Jist a name tae maist ay these fowk.
But ah kent im as a boay,
the daft wee scapegoat, ayewis in boather,
but nae real hairm in im.
He wis the lad wha'd get skelped, the noise
makkin the teacher turn is heid
jist in time tae spot im skelpin back.
Mairched tae the heidie again.
"Yir a bad lot, Barry.
Yir faither wis a bad lot too."

Puir Baz.
Da in the jile,
Ma aff her face on smack,
an him, daft, funny, doomed.
If onybody at hame had cared enough
tae keep the schuil photies,
they'd have shown a wee freckly laddie
wi a too-open grin,
year eftir year,
jersey gettin tattier,
teeth getting gappier,
still grinnin while the rest ay us
were far too cool tae smile for the camera.

Ah liked im.
Didny unnerstaun how the teachers
were sae ***** tae im.
There wis far badder boays in the year.
Ricky ****** Jackson - a nasty, sleekit wee body,
yankin ab'dy's strings.
But his da wis rich
an the teachers fawned ower im.
No Baz, though.
Cannon fodder, richt enough.
Tackin the flack fir the rest ay us.

Exactly the kind ay lad
the ******* Army thrives on.
Ah canny feel the patriotic pride,
canny picture the self-sacrifice,
the heroism.
Ah can juist see im,
daft an grinnin,
daein whit he wis tellt
an gettin killt.

Mind you,
he wis aye headin for the poppies, that yin,
One wey
or anither.
Jun 2013 · 1.0k
Spotting the Lost Ones
Alan McClure Jun 2013
Tours depart at 7.30,
in time to reach the office by 9.
En route, keen-eyed travellers
search faces, gaits
and speculate on destinations.
There are no prizes
but you will experience a cold satisfaction
with every success.
Most prized
are the ones who hide
behind a guise of bluff normality.
It takes a real expert
to catch the tiny glint of fear,
the too-quick reflexive start
at any human contact,
the unwillingness to meet the gaze
of their own reflections.
But persevere
and you too can add to your list.
The longer your list
the less likely you are
to appear
on someone else's.
Jun 2013 · 1.1k
Cagey Poet
Alan McClure Jun 2013
If ever the internal chatter threatens to cease
and the Clear White Light begins to encroach;
if the nail-biting, jaw-grinding, hackle-rising clamour
starts to give way to the humming tranquility of Truth,
where boundaries dissolve
and language lies in redundant, grateful sleep

Some internal reflex snaps me back into distraction,
relentlessly revs the engine
and spray-paints ugly slogans across
enlightenment's helpless face.

I used to resent this, and see it as a weakness.
Now I am profoundly grateful.
It's not the unfettered truth I couldn't bear,
it's the moral obligation to share it
when the dawn rises on another normal day
and you carry the burden alone
through careless crowds, wondering
what the hell
you're supposed to do with it.
Alan McClure Jun 2013
The sad thing is
I could have justified my instruction
with the simplest of reasons.
I would not have asked
a harmful or a wicked task of him
and I could have explained that
with perfect clarity.
But in the instant that he asked 'Why?'
my patience failed
and I said, 'Because I told you to.'

The implied threat was sufficient
and the task was done, satisfactorily.

If I had only known
that I would become one in a long line
planting furrow after furrow of bitter seeds
in this young man's head,
each of which would grow
into the toxic blossom of blind obedience
I would have checked myself that day.

But I did not.

And any inquest worth its salt
would line me up beside him,
beside parents, teachers, priests,
drill sergeants, generals, presidents

A line of dominoes
aimed remorselessly
at a smiling young woman with a placard
in a park, in Istanbul.
This is my second attempt at a response to the brutal crushing of protests in Turkey.  It's hard not to just roar and grieve, casting blame at this or that institution: but I try to remind myself that every officer who pulled a trigger is an individual who was set on that path by something, some set of circumstances in his past.  We don't come to brutality by ourselves.  This got me wondering about our shared complicity and what, if anything, starts this hideous journey off: the best I could come up with was the institutionalised tradition of 'following orders' and unquestioningly accepting authority.  And I immediately saw my own role in that.

The notes are longer than the poem - that indicates a lack of success!
May 2013 · 944
Spend
Alan McClure May 2013
Money wants to be spent.
It sits in your pocket and bellows at you,
it tugs you into shops and boutiques
and weighs so heavy on your mind
that you gasp with relief
to be rid of it.

I don't like this, but I get it:
I accept the hypnosis
and resist when I can,
and perhaps it oils the system
which keeps me comfortable.

But I am fearful that our feel for time
is going the same way.
Hours are things to dispose of:
days, once spent, are lost and gone:
all our energies ****** us on
to the next thing, and the next.

There is no sense
of accumulation,
no glorying in the growth
of knowledge, experience, wisdom.
No respect for things which have been
and thus we shuttle, rudderless and dumb,
Barren, and infinitely poor.
May 2013 · 943
Poisoning the Well
Alan McClure May 2013
I had the bottle
I had the well
I had the population
and the cold interest
in consequences.

So simple:
tip it in, see what happens.
But it would have been too obvious.
I was not interested in being caught.

It gnawed at me,
for all my polished indifference,
the knowledge of the power I wielded
but could not use

Then one day
strangers came,
rolling into the village
in their painted caravans

And I wasted not one second.
As soon as the moon was full
I crept out
through the villagers' suspicious mutterings,
unseen by the baleful glances
cast at the foreign shapes and colours -
forgotten, in all my oddness,
in the wake of this new devilry.

It was the work of a moment,
a soft sound like summer's rain
then back to the shadows
to wait.

And now,
riding past the lynch-mob's clumsy justice,
circled by merry crows,
briefly entranced
by a burnt-out caravan

I can finally
enjoy
the silence.
Apr 2013 · 1.3k
The Architect
Alan McClure Apr 2013
Eulogising was a challenge
under constant bombardment
from falling masonry.
But the gathered crowd deserved the effort.
There was Honest Bob,
whose cut-price bricks
had won the tender
and built the edifice behind us.
Slick ****, the concrete king
fresh from an industrial tribunal
and ready to pay tribute.
Fat Larry, the glass magnate,
dodging the shrapnel
from his wind-shattered panes,
just like the rest of us.

I raised my voice
amidst the crash and crumble
to praise the architect.
There were those who had forgotten
the terrible designs
that had been *******
by her dogged determination,
Her clarity of vision
(here, I was interrupted
by three roof-tiles in succession,
smashing at my feet),
her strength of purpose
(nine bricks and a length of plastic guttering)
and her shining conviction.

But here, in the shadow of the teetering mass,
we could all acknowledge
her unforgettable legacy
with pride and gratitude.

Champagne, truffles,
and off we all went,
helicoptered to who knew where
happily leaving others
to clear up the mess.
Mar 2013 · 838
My Kids
Alan McClure Mar 2013
Every ridiculous thing I did
every time I flipped my lid
Every crime I vainly hid
Who needs a mirror when you've a kid?

The ten percent I'd like to see
and every other part of me
Not what I say but what I do,
Who needs a mirror when I've got you?
Alan McClure Mar 2013
Skinned knee, tree-barked knuckles,
fights in the long grass pal.
Friends so long that we've our own,
private language
(which renders these public outpourings
largely irrelevant)
and can go years, now,
with no contact
yet never really be apart.

Last Christmas we hooked up,
marvelled at the passing of time,
and you recalled that the last time we met
I gave you a book of my poems.

"Did you read them?" I asked,
and brilliantly, unembarrassed,
you replied:
"No.  I looked at the first one,
saw that it went over the page,
thought: 'Oh, that's long -
I'll read that later,'
but I never did."  
And we laughed uproariously
as I seldom do with anyone else.

But I know
that long after every other copy
has been thumbed ragged,
misplaced,
passed on
and lost
your copy will remain
pristine and safe
on your shelf

Because although you have
no more interest in poetry now
than either of us did at the age of eleven,
you'll look after it
because your pal wrote it.
Mar 2013 · 1.9k
The Emperor's New Clothes
Alan McClure Mar 2013
No, no, no,
that's not how it happened at all.
Precocious children
have never been afforded that much influence
and Emperors, then as now
are largely unafflicted by shame.

And it's a good thing too
- why, if the story had gone
the way Anderson had it,
neither I nor any of the men of the town
would have our jobs
at the Magic Cloth factory

You do realise
that the trade in Magic Cloth
supports all the world's major economies now,
don't you?

Nor would the aristocracy
look half so stylish,
sashaying hither and thon
in the glorious altogether,
applauded by the taste-makers
and notably contemptuous
of child-like observation.
Feb 2013 · 910
Guns and Dolls
Alan McClure Feb 2013
The grunt and swagger
is there, now, at the age of eleven -
the knowledge that, physically bigger,
his will can be enforced
without wit or compassion.

Worse than this,
she acquiesces,
any attention better than none.
And observing this graceless parody
of adulthood,
I feel sudden vertigo
gazing down the hopeless years

I want to bellow,
"Be unbridled!  There's more to life
than servitude!"
But she trusts the empty affirmation
she has been trained
to aspire to -
she's worth it.

Silly old man.
You don't understand
the world anymore.
We tried emancipation and equality
and it wasn't for us,
so stop confusing the kids
and let them be.
Feb 2013 · 1.1k
Body Count
Alan McClure Feb 2013
Hakim sat
on the banks of the Euphrates,
his discarded newspaper
lifting, page by page,
on the warm wind.

He had been reading of the countless dead.

Of course, his mind played first
over those he had known.
An uncle, two brothers,
his mother
and a grandfather of ninety six.

All of them,
definitely gone.

But according to the paper,
atop the official body count
some twenty thousand souls
may or may not
have survived the conflict,
and his head swam
with this crowded limbo
and the knowledge
that no-one knew.

Enough people
to populate a small town,
possibly dead.
Not important enough
for anyone to be sure.
And Hakim, eyes
glazed in the dusty sunshine,
began to wonder
whether he was one of them,
the uncounted,
the unacknowledged,
wandering vacantly
through his outstayed welcome,

simpy waiting
for someone
to write down
his name.
Feb 2013 · 932
Lord of the Flies 2013
Alan McClure Feb 2013
Marooned on a desert island
the boys sit patiently
waiting for a mobile signal.

At last, the bolder ones set out
in search of free wi-fi,
while the boffin tries to figure out
the cheat mode which will release them.

Food in trees
remains inaccessible
in the absence of ropes and harnesses
- these lads know their health and safety.

Slowly fading, bitter, helpless
the children fantasize
about who they can sue over this fiasco.

Piggy is the last one standing
for obvious reasons.
Feb 2013 · 1.2k
Pine
Alan McClure Feb 2013
The frantic crackling log
sends forth a chemical lament,
filling the room with ghostly branches,
spectral sunlit needles
against blue skies
the laugh and chatter of us as children,
hiding and seeking from trunk to trunk
and climbing, resin scented,
to where the blue **** perch and squabble.
This dying breath
contains the whole life
and we sit, breathing it in,
remembering.
Jan 2013 · 1.2k
The Immortality Pill
Alan McClure Jan 2013
He had never realised
that everything was moving
until it stopped

One pill
and the joyous ramshackle journey
dug claws into the soil
and froze

and turned

The things he had known as trees
began to bend
to curl towards him
gnarled eyes glaring,
tendrils groping

The dog, his faithful companion
rose painfully on two legs
grew shoulders, arms
bared fangs and snarled

Rocks rose from snoring mountains
to grind their ancient jaws at him
and the sea folded in on itself
in disgust

Paralysed he stared
as the sky climbed down
defeated
and the sun pulled back
its shining mask
to show the grinning, vengeful skull beneath

Nothing could touch him
but all could see him
exposed, brutal, foolish, ridiculous
and desperate, desperate

for death.
Jan 2013 · 1.4k
Sorted
Alan McClure Jan 2013
Well it was Tarquin's idea, actually.
It came to him after watching 'Slumdog Millionaire.'
Have you seen it?  Marvellous film.
Such resourceful people.

Anyway, we were looking at schools,
and the local comprehensive -
simply ghastly - we couldn't put Eugene through that.

But two blocks away
there's a school for the blind.
Ofsted simply raved about it.
So, we popped the old eyes out
- easy as
- and Bob's your uncle.

He starts in August.
More tea?
Jan 2013 · 2.7k
Maxwell's Otter
Alan McClure Jan 2013
The movie shows
an innocent man,
misguided, perhaps,
but well intentioned
killing a creature
he thought to be a pest
and full of remorse
for the unhappiness he caused

In fact,
the man who killed Mijbil
never confessed
never repented
did it for gain
as otter pelts
were worth a bob or two.

A tiny ghost
haunts a ditch
by a single track road
in Scotland

And the vanished marshes of Iraq
know which version of events
to believe.
Jan 2013 · 788
Protest: ten years on
Alan McClure Jan 2013
A million people
marched on Whitehall
every footfall
was a trumpet blast
every placard
bore an epic poem
every eye
flashed righteous lightning
and it made
absolutely no difference
at all.
Jan 2013 · 1.5k
Sustainable Development
Alan McClure Jan 2013
A countless headed monster
rampaged through the village yesterday
smashing everything in its wake
befouling the water
and devouring my whole family
in its slathering jaws.

It really was no consolation
that it brushed its teeth afterwards.
Jan 2013 · 1.0k
Barnacles
Alan McClure Jan 2013
Hunkered down
against tides and waves
they allow themselves
a certain satisfaction

Cold currents surge past,
bringing them all they need
shifting them not one jot

But in those currents
their own young course and swirl
adrift, alive,
gauntlet-running,
glorious

And the barnacles wonder
whether they may, perhaps,
be missing something.
Dec 2012 · 2.7k
Resurrection
Alan McClure Dec 2012
Christmas died with Santa Clause
when I reached a certain age.
The magic revealed as scam,
the wonder now an act
maintained for the sake of form.

This descended, in my teens,
into outright distaste -
all the trappings
a failed attempt
to light a lost wonderland;
a decorated tree
incongruous and distasteful
as a chimp in a suit.

Anger waned,
disinterest set in,
and I merely wished to avoid it all.

But through your eyes
a miracle occurs:
Papa Noel, mistaking his season,
makes an Easter of Christmas
by rising triumphant.
A tinsel star becomes a true Polaris
and love,
for anybody's sake,
is everything.
Dec 2012 · 1.9k
Alternative Endings
Alan McClure Dec 2012
(i)

It's no use
the legs aren't up to it anymore
and he's barely an eighth of the way up the mountain
when some kindly climbers
opt to help him down.
Confused and broken of spirit
he is returned to the home
and time stops passing once more.

(ii)

The fog whose descent
has sent him north
has one last trick to play:
though he reaches the top,
through bog and heather
and bone-weary exhaustion,

it is the wrong mountain.
He has misremembered the name
and all he finds at the hard-won cairn
is a gentle ***** down the other side
and a group of picnickers
who eye him with sympathy.

(iii)

A circle which was opened
when he was fourteen;
when a frozen night in a frozen tent
was swept aside
by a breathless climb
to a dazzling white peak -
Liathach -
and a view over crashing cliffs
into the wild blue
bore the thought,
"This, when the time comes,
is where I will end it!" -
is closed.
And the body joins
the half-flown soul
in the mist-swallowed distance
and beyond.
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