The Zebra Hides

What is wrong with us
Yes, with you and me
That we see the truth
But still let things be

What was in our mind
When we let one walk
Were we colour blind
Or too scared to talk

PC does not mean
Truth and justice lie
Skin may set the scene
But no alibi

It cannot be rote
Race must not judge race
So a juror’s vote
Hangs on shades of face

And the system creaks
Swinging in the breeze
As new rotten sneaks
Climb down from the trees

These albino fears
Creep into our gut
Just as closure nears
And the case seems shut

Men are painted black
(It’s a point of view)
And we risk attack
For the things we do

Must all verdicts wait
For the blind to see
Justice lays in state
Slain by fool’s mercy

Nothing So Special

There is nothing so special
Needing ribbon or bow
If a child is successful
On what merits they show

There’s no label, no button
Not a banner in sight
If they work for a living
Study hard late at night

All their limbs are still present
And their brain seems to work
They are dutiful, pleasant
And ignored by the world

No, there’s really no reason
We should praise to the skies
Every triumphal season
For a sharp pair of eyes

There’s no faculty lacking
That’s obstructing their view
So no need to start clapping
When their talent shines through

If we over-encourage
Then we risk that one day
They may pluck up the courage
To feel grateful and say

That their motive for trying
To improve on their best
Was the people believing
They would rise to the test

The Ogre Next Door

The Ogre next door
Suffers from moodswings
Rattles my chain in the
Miserable mornings

The Ogre next door
Calls out greetings, repeatings
And howls at the cars on the road
Trapped in daydreams

The Ogre next door
Prone to fits and to violence
Is locked in his head
Cannot stand empty silence

The Ogre next door
Bangs on walls and on windows
And yells at his carers
And tilts at his windmills

The Ogre next door
Tries his best to be friendly
He chants on the weekend
And calls us all ‘Henry’

The Ogre next door
Is a guard and deterrent
For travelling salesmen
A neighbourhood torment

The Ogre next door
Is not always one person
Two voices, one head
Makes for odd conversation

The Ogre next door
Doesn’t lie, isn’t lazy
Just different from us
So they tell me he’s crazy


Listen for a living
They pay you not to care
Just keep good time, a tidy room
A plastic plant and chair

And sit and hear their problems
With tissues close at hand
You take the place of absent friends
(The job they couldn’t stand)

They do not need a verdict
It’s not your place to judge
This isn’t their shock-therapy
You cannot bear a grudge

The woes they wail to tempt you
Are all the world they know
Unpacking all their sorrows
They dump the lot and go

Not fearful that tomorrow
They’ll pass you in the street
No matter what they tell you
You have to be discreet

Get it together

We keep inconstant company
To care and share alike
The only things you won’t divide:
Your food, your pets, your bike.
Her lipstick’s on the headboard
His fags are on the floor
But somehow through domestic life
One tenet does endure
You always put the seat down
To keep me on my toes
So I must guess the pronoun
From the drink, the scent, the clothes

Photographic evidence

A pile of snaps
From years ago
A half-forgotten time

A party frock
The neckline low
A painted face – sublime

So young, so slim,
With carefree stance
How many now would know

The secrets held
Within her glance
The setting for that show

Do I quite dare
Display this face
A portrait from my youth

Or are the few
Would recognise
Too great a risk of truth

I miss that girl
That piece of me
That juggled many hearts

But see her safer
And hidden in the past


I ride this bus
And pass the place
Where first I learned of work

Another world
In time and space
New politics and perks

I started young
It must be said
And strove to earn my worth

And struggle on
Two decades late
Still using what I learned

It’s no surprise
It’s changed since then
But somehow seems the same

I guess what goes round
Comes again
In everything but name

I Remember Love

The heady rush
Of lip to lip

That churned my gut
With borrowed bliss

Oh, yes, mad love
The hit, the miss

As you threw up
I craved a kiss

Remember touch?
So sticky sweet

The smell of lust
And dirty sheets

Those instant blues
A bitter flood

Left feeling used
With red hot blood

The universe
That chewed and chewed

And spat us out
With love to spare

As though you’d tasted
Salty doubt

No appetite
To feel, to care

And in the end
So sad, so sore

No room for lovers

The bored minuter’s waltz

I am not the enemy
I write down what you say
If you prefer machines to me
Then that is quite okay

Just buy yourself a Dictaphone
Rely on cold hard fact
To show you up for what you are
A self-important prat

If you despise the notes I take
Then you are more than welcome
To opt for less diplomacy
And hear the drivel spoken

I shall not be offended –
Switch to electronic means
Your meeting’s open-ended
So just lock up when you leave


This was written in response to a particularly senseless and unprovoked race-related murder last week. Some details of the crime are available from the BBC here.

Not from ’round here, are you love?
Just got off the boat?
Wotcher lookin’ for – a shove?
Mind yer manners; throat…

Threatened by the local view
That one is all too strange
We keep our heads down, all too few
To meet the challenge named

If we in truth had settled here
Invasion on our mind
No gentle native could but fear
The mercy of my kind

But as I’m only here to live
As parents, siblings, blood and bone
I turn my cheek, try to forgive
What Tiffin-tales I heard at home

The promised land of Empires past
Has proven a mirage
My castles in the air are fast
Dissolving with the Raj