Foreign Country?

If only some of the past was a foreign country.
Remember that teacher
that ridiculed you 60 years ago?
The scars as familiar
as the London streets
you walked back then.
No map needed
to traverse the route
that took you through
your mother’s death.
That woman you loved
but who left you
with the oh so familiar language of heartache and pain,
in your mother tongue.
The failure, as you saw it,
of school feels like
only yesterday.
No qualifications needed
for that job you took
of no hope,
of boredom,
a cul-de-sac of ambition.
And yet the good times, too
not foreign but parochial, local,
down the road,
in the neighbourhood,
of this land.
Remembered as if it is round the corner
In the motorway of your memories,
not across some long-forgotten ocean.

Malcolm Henshall

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‘There’s small choice in rotten apples’, he quoted,
as he sank his teeth into the Pink Lady.
The sign had declared, ‘Choice Apples’.
But why, he thought, as his tongue found the worm hidden within,
had he chosen this one.
No money,
No opportunities,
No future.
No choice,
but to live his life
chewing on the scraps and worms
he came across
in the fruit basket of his existence.
Oh yes,
he has the choice
to eat or to keep warm,
to sleep in the park
or in that doorway on the Arndale centre.
Happiness is a choice, the comfortable say
but it’s hard to make that choice
when you are hungry, tired and cold.
Caught between a rock and a hard place,
between the devil and the deep blue sea,
on the horns of a dilemma.
Call me Hobson, he thought.
Choices are the hinges of destiny,
but his door is locked
from the outside.

Malcolm Henshall

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Can you help me?
Certainly sir
I need something to be furious about
Well as you can see on the shelves
there’s plenty to choose from, sir.
Yes, you always have a good selection at
Let me see,
Spoilt for choice.
The weather
A fulsomeness of furies
Oh, I get it
Your little joke
And that one comes ‘boxed. Very clever.
Will the bus ever come?
Piers Morgan
Road Works
Other drivers.
We do have a buy two get one free offer, sir
No, I must choose just one
or else Fury will take over.
My life would be Fury itself
I would be Fury personified.
I know it will be expensive but
I’ll take Brexit for now.
That should keep me going for a few years.

Malcolm Henshall

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It begins, as always, with the wings of a bat.
The rest I tailor for you.

A phial of shine from Sun.
A drop of fresh dew,
Taken from white petal
Of daisy or rose,
So mornings are new.

For sleep, the charm
Of a lover yet met.
Scent of honey, lily balm.
Moon silver I’ll sift
And you will lift
Beyond body and harm.

Take the light from a tree
And the darkness from its trunk;
From this gentle strength
All colours will come.
Drink to the spirit of a fallen leaf
And see an end to grief.
This is no hokum;
Your heart, no longer broken.
The world seemed set in its ways.
Now is the world held open.

Howard Benn

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I’m passionless, devoid of all desire,
an empty vessel in the cause of love.
My libido has sunk into the mire
of despond – I need a forceful shove
or, at the very least, a helping hand.
Oh, who can aid me in this hour of need?
If anyone can, to you I plead.
Viagra? Ah, I knew you’d understand!
Chemical enhancement is such a boon –
much like a second honeymoon –
and stimulates the flagging horse
to clear the fence and stay the course.
Hats off, I say, to medical science,
to it I’ll give my full compliance.

Bill Fitzsimons

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“Such is life.” Reputed to be the final words of the Australian outlaw,
Ned Kelly, before he was hanged at Melbourne in 1880.

A life, a death.
What’s one more life
(or death) in this
hard world?

Man is born of woman—
in this case
Mrs. Kelly
and her son Ned.

A wild colonial boy,
horse thief, bushranger
and mythical figure;

another man
in an iron mask;
a man whose passions
led inexorably
to the gallows.

Man who is born
of woman hath
but a short time
to live—

Mrs. Kelly, behold thy son.

Such is life.

Bill Fitzsimons

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Heartlines: National Poetry Day 7th October

Heartlines Writers are running a drop-in event for National Poetry Day at HEART, Bennett Rd, Headingley, LS6 3HN between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday 7th October. The National Poetry Day theme this year is ‘Choice’.

A recording of poems on the theme will be playing in the marquee at HEART so you can enjoy the poetry alongside refreshments available to purchase from the café. Members of the group will be in the marquee to chat about all things poetic. You can also read the poems because they are on display around the centre.

Liz McPherson of the Heartlines Writers says “Our poems really make you think about how choice – and lack of choice – influences every aspect of our lives. We look forward to meeting you and sharing our poems”.

The Heartlines Writers have produced two previous anthologies, Unlocked and Sunglasses at Midnight. Both the anthologies can be viewed and  downloaded free from the links above or, if you prefer a printed copy, they will be on sale in the marquee and at reception in HEART.

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Last night, in the morning, I gandered down the wooden stairs,
ate jellied eels for breakfast with my pals, the grizzly bears.
Just a normal day so far but, as we slurped our dishes,
I heard a floosome noise outside – sploshy, splashy, splishy.

So I opened up the hatches to see what I could see
and, to my utter flabber, there’s an elephant up a tree.
‘I’m very sad,’ he wozzled, ‘And I’m in an awful muddle.’
He shed a tear and then another till they formed giant puddle.

‘I’ve lost my tusks,’ he told me with a tragivistal frown
and he recounted how they’d vanished as his circus came to town.
‘An elephant without his tusks is just a just a simple nelly,’
he sighed and cried another tear, his face dissolved like jelly.

I grabbed my hat and coat, my bag and shoogly purse
‘Wait here,’ I said because I couldn’t think of anything worse
to happen to an elephant than to lose his winsome finery
– his splendid white appendages made up of shiny ivory.

Down the local supermarket there was an oofly queue
and I wondered for a moment what in wetwang I should do
The nelly was performing in a show that very night –
he had to have some tusks for his moment in the spotlight.

Then luckily a singing squid danced past in purple pantaloons
and the queue fanoodled after her as she played her squidgy toons.
So I grockled through the sliding doors and shouted for some help
and such was my excitement, I let out a little belch.

‘Oh, lucky you,’ a colleague clucked and snapped her chicken beak,
‘Replacement tusks have gone on offer just this very week.’
‘Buy one get one free,’ I carpled with delight.
I’ll take a dozen of them – I imagine that will be alright.’

I crackled home in high calloo to tell the treesome creature
that I’d got the tusks he needed to restore his finest feature
but when I gurgled up the road the nelly wasn’t there –
I would have called his name but what it was, I’d no idea.

There were no footprints in the grass, no clues at all, no sign

–   just a giant muddy puddle to show he’d been at mine.
I nearly threw the BOGOF tusks into my wheelie bin
but, if you should see him, please invite him to call in.

You see I didn’t throw those tusks away – I’ve kept them just in case
and if he calls again then I might fling them in his face.

Liz McPherson

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She is gone.
No longer will her sleepy smile
greet me in the morning,
her warm arms embrace me.

She is gone,
yet her aura lingers
in the night breeze from
an open window;
a soft whisper
in my ear, just before sleep.

She is gone –
yet somehow she is still with me.

Bill Fitzsimons

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I look in the mirror and what do I see?
The image of an aging chimpanzee.
Black-button eyes and grizzled face,
a simian angel fallen from grace.
My body hair is fading fast
(how much longer can it last?)
My teeth are yellowing with age:
I hear that implants are all the rage.
All in all, I’m in a mess –
help, SOS, I’m in distress!

Bill Fitzsimons

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