What do we say to our children?

What did you do daddy?

when the butchers

knocked at the door

sharpening their knives

to cut with their smiles

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when the thieves

in grey striped suits

sat at the cabinet table

ready to cut with their knives.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when the nurses and doctors

worked too many hours

and had no more time

to look after us or you.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when all the teachers

working too many hours

had no more time

to teach your children.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when all those liars

with their crocodile smiles

did what they did

and wanted to do anyway.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

When all the taxes you paid

bank-rolled the bankers,

the liars who thieved our Services

and skinned them to the bone

What did you do daddy?


What will you do daddy?

Now the services are gone

and the rich get richer

and the poor get sicker

and no one’s listening to you.

What will you do now daddy?


What will you do daddy?

When Covid-19

Is killing the old and the young

And all the others in between

And the nurses and doctors

Have no protective kit

Have no masks to shield them

And there’s no tests

Cos everythings run to the ground

Are you clapping daddy?

What are you clapping for?



First published in Rob Cullen’s collection “Uncertain Times” 2016 with update.

The year of magical thinking…

Rereading a review by Hilary Mantel of CS Lewis’s writing on grief – Guardian Saturday 24th December 2014 I came across a quote from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking…which led me to another…

“This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.”

― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking


“How often, I thought to myself, had I lain thus in a hotel room, in Vienna  or Frankfurt or Brussels, with my hands clasped under my head, listening not to the stillness, as in Venice, but to the roar of the traffic, with a mounting sense of panic. That then, I thought on such occasions, is the new ocean. Ceaselessly, in great surges, the waves roll in over the length and breadth of our cities, rising higher and higher, breaking in a kind of frenzy when the roar reaches its peak and then discharging across the stones and asphalt even as the next onrush is being released from where it was held by traffic lights. For some time now I have been convinced that is out of this din that the life is being born which will come after us and will spell our gradual destruction, just as we have been gradually destroying what was there long before us.”



  1. G. Sebald Vertigo. P63

Coronation Day 2nd June 1953

So Labour lost an election … we’ve been here before … resistence continues!



Coronation Day 2nd June 1953


From the bench on the street corner one legged Jack sits watching the scene

pennants and bunting draped ready for celebrations, the crowning of a queen.


Jailed for killing a sheep to feed half-starved kids in the far away depression days

Jack remembered the struggle to survive and the children dying in those ways.


On the tree lined flowering street a white haired boy tried and failed always

when the showering confetti of petals slowly made it their time to fall too.


Red white and pink spring colours in a time of khaki, navy blues, and greys

the white haired boy walked kicking along the stony road a blue tin zinc ball


Battered and dented dull on each of its three sides from so many tries

to make it fly, it was in those days with long hours they called peace.


Thundering and lightning crackled without warning in clear blue skies

the silenced old gods and wise men left only indentations, remembrances


Of psalms and words in the places they’d once stood in so many guises.

In the tall aspen trees above the school yard Jackdaws turned into blackness


No longer offering advice to the boy standing in silence on a stone edged street.

He wandered listening to hammering hard voices in those endless days of friction.


It was a time of remembrances of yearning for memories, idylls and those years

before the great fracturing, when men stared too long into the crematoria’s fire.


Of the man-made hell when God looked away from supplications, turned deaf ears

to the prayers of beseechment from the lost, the implorations for intervention


For salvation. And only silence reigned. The old Kings head stared one eyed

on silver sixpences and farthings but he was dead and the Christmas tree lights


Fixed to the windows and doorways ready for the street party rationing allowed

And all those old songs – knees up mother brown, oh knees up mother brown,


They pushed the damper in and they pulled the damper out and the smoke went up

And she’ll be coming round the mountain will be sung again and sung again.


It was a time of remembering past times, it was a time for forgetting times too,

there was hope for the future, for a better life that so many had fought and died for.


But spin the gaudy worn tin carousel sixty four years or more forward and see

a future of food banks feeding working poor kids in the high streets of ghost towns


Where charity shops fill every other door and the worn out junkies haunt the parade

and we turn our backs too as so many lives are stolen away before our very eyes.


So our class celebrates the Jubilee of a queen and our impoverishment

Relinquishing, forgetting what life, poverty and struggle was like in those days.


These days.


My names Jack.


What’s yours?


Published Red Poets 2018.