28 February 2013

#28 - Full Circlet

Beside the moon his frightened, banished guest
scrawled symbols on the sky to soothe her soul,
dreamed of the worm that swallows itself whole–
the worm that grew within her troubled breast.
She cried out to the dark: “Please grant me rest
and coin to pay the weary traveller’s toll;
for every new beginning is a goal,
and every journey puts us to the test.
Give me a place to stand and, by your leave,
like Archimedes I would bend my back
to shape the cosmos as it slowly cools–
a circlet of the heavens I should weave,
a diadem of fire upon the black–
if I had time and all the proper tools.”


27 February 2013

#27 - After Life & Before Death

A fallen woman, falling further still
into the depths where fire and brimstone glow.
The Devil sadly sighs “you'll have to go
for Hell is full, too many men to grill”
So up she climbs that ancient starry hill
to Heaven's gate. A silent bleak plateau
of clouds and broken harps, the place has closed,
no saints to gossip with, no holy chill.
But then the moon to her begins to speak
“you'd better go back home, kid, go back home”
and then the moon begins to cry and shriek
“I'm all alone, my love, I'm all alone.”
She has nowhere to be and so she rests
beside the moon, his frightened banished guest.


26 February 2013

#26 - Cross Bones and Winchester Geese

Those priests, on priestly late night love affairs,
Sew nepotism in their merry wake,
And sons of clergy – who are on the make –
Will wash away the scent of earthly cares.
It is not right that bishops should sire heirs
When celibacy is the vow they take.
A simple promise, easy now to break,
When tempted by a strumpet’s downy hairs.
And will the priest be thrown out for his sins?
Or will redemption cast a kindly gaze?
'Twas woman let the lustful devils in,
She'll have no respite from this moral maze.
Her unmarked grave on such a lonely hill:
A fallen woman, falling further still.

25 February 2013

#25 - Cardinal Sin

for Keith O’Brien

Those whispered words that make a marriage bed
are less important than which naughty bits
you’ve got, that’s what the bishop said.

A set of each is fine, he says, but it’s
more problematic when they’re all the same:
no jousting willies, that’s verboten, kids;

those lady bits he hesitates to name
are likewise to be clearly kept apart,
lest God get squeamish. But, he claims,

if you’re at evening worship when it starts
(the inappropriate touching, not the prayer),
well, God’s OK with that, because His heart

has room enough and grace enough to bear
those priest-on-priestly late night love affairs.


24 February 2013

#24 - Always Fuck a Poet

Hoping that you’ll accept this lame excuse,
I offer up an honest, heartfelt plea
for you to understand, for you to see
that those to truly blame, of course, are Zeus
and his nine daughters – fickle offspring, whose
entreaties and delights have driven me
into the sweet embrace of poetry.
And every poet has his favourite muse:
“Erato! You bewitch me with your charms;
you tempt me, and then bind me with a spell
which slowly, surely, wraps me in your arms.
Erato! You have taught your pupil well.”
My mistress whispers that we should be wed–
those whispered words that make a marriage bed.


23 February 2013

#23 - Disclaimer

We will not take responsibility
if reading any of our sonnets causes
injury, confusion, erections, jaws
to drop, a shock that makes you spit your tea,
smashing of keyboards, boredom, sanity,
madness, enjoyment, vigorous applause,
laughter, lamenting, sprouting fur and claws,
sudden lactation, public nudity.
We're only poets, following the words
until we're lost amid their ancient dance
of rhyme and metre, our intentions blurred
and dizzy, swept along by fiendish trance.
We're only poets, setting sonnets loose,
hoping that you'll accept this lame excuse.


22 February 2013

#22 - Article 17

The actors change, the play remains the same:
The story undulates beneath our hands.
A well-worn narrative. The shifting sands
Of circumstance that writhe. Forget my name!
I am but archetype - a mighty claim
From one who knows this life was never planned,
Who snaps the threads of fate, who severs strands
Of duty with my mind's destructive flame.
For we've been taught to envy and despise,
Instead of celebrating all we are.
We find the face of greed in every guise,
Our lungs are blocked by jealousy's black tar.
We'll download all experience for free.
We will not take responsibility.


21 February 2013

#21 - Abstract and brief chronicles

The wheel rolls on, and we roll with it – too
wrapped up in cycles that we can’t control
our appetite, that swallows stories whole:
forever craving News that must be New.
New! Man on doorstep filmed by camera crew –
New! Politician lies while selling soul –
New! Once fit woman, now declared a troll –
New! Someone said a thing. It’s déjà vu
without the sense of existential dread;
like watching Hamlet, only then to find
it’s Murder of Gonzago on instead.
Try as you might, the VT won’t rewind –
it’s endless, like the ticker, top of frame:
the actors change, the play remains the same.


20 February 2013

#20 - Time is a Trickster

Like wilted petals we will sit, and grieve
for golden summers gone, and childhoods lost
beneath a blanket of relentless frost.
But tears are fruitless, weeping is naïve:
Time is a trickster – he will always thieve
those precious, fleeting moments when star-cross'd
young lovers meet in bowers; when the cost
is counted in the passions we achieve.
Yet spring returns, and summer's rainbow haze
will spread across familiar fields once more,
as grinning Time grants us a few more days
to heal our hurts, and mend what went before.
The wheel rolls on, it clears the path anew;
the wheel rolls on, and we roll with it too.


19 February 2013

#19 - Flowers & Kisses

The petals wilt, as petals often do,
mildewed and loose they coat the window sill.
The lovers leave, as lovers often will,
it's just their way. There was a man I knew,
but never mind, I've known too many, too
many to care. The petals wilt and spill.
Thinking about it now can make me ill
and blue, how can we know who will be true?
I don't know why I'm asking you, just nod
and water dying plants. I do not need
your pity, for I am a dwindled god
or some such former strength, I've made men plead,
oh please don't stare at me. The lovers leave
like wilted petals we will sit and grieve. 


18 February 2013

#18 - Chivalry

Where all the battles fought are in my head
There are no dragons left for me to tame.
My sword is blunt, my valiant steed is lame.
My armour, once bright white, has rusted red.
Those brave young knights, who guarded me, are dead
And I'm the one to shoulder all the blame.
Each laughing knave was pulled into the flame
By chivalry - where Angels fear to tread.
For seven years he kept her secret close,
The candle burning deep within his heart.
As delicate as any English rose
With thorns with strength to prise their love apart.
At winter's end - no beauty in the bloom.
The petals wilt, as petals often do.

17 February 2013

#17 - On My Bedside Table

It’s best if you retreat between the sheets,
build quilted walls to shield you from the day;
the featherbed your castle, your retreat:
solitude’s fortress, keeping life at bay.
Just give me books, a duvet, and I’ll lay
here, safe from wars and wintery defeats,
wrapped up in Rome’s campaigns, cradled by Keats,
the pillowed pages dreaming cares away.
Outside, there’s conflict, endless civil strife
the weather’s shit, the country is a mess;
I know I should go out and combat life,
but I’m hungover, and I must confess:
I think it’s safer lying here in bed,
where all the battles fought are in my head.


16 February 2013

#16 - Conversations with a gun

“Fuck it!” she thought, and shot herself. Instead
of going off, and to her great surprise,
the gun fixed her with beady little eyes,
and in a deep and measured tone it said:
“You really think that you’d be better dead?
For be advised that nothing truly dies–
the problems of this life, the loves and lies,
cannot be fixed with little drops of lead.”
Her gaze grew grey, her hands began to shake,
the room span round, she felt her knees go weak.
She fled to bed to calm her wild heartbeats–
for some days suicide’s too much to take.
And when your favourite firearm starts to speak,
it’s best if you retreat between the sheets.


15 February 2013

#15 - Hope & Revolution

a satirical cartoon

She knew that she was free, and felt afraid,
her army job cut by those Tory bastards.
She took revenge. Through Downing Street she blasted
with machine gun, bazookad Osborne, sprayed
bullets at Gove, fed Pickles a grenade.
“I'm sorry!” cried Clegg as his brains were plastered
over the smarmy face of Dave. It lasted
until she thought the country surely saved.
But when the dark and acrid smoke had cleared,
when blood had ceased to splatter on the wall
and through the clouds bright sunlight reappeared
she saw the awful truth, she'd been a fool,
for in Dave's place now sat a grinning Ed.
Fuck it, she thought, and shot herself instead.


14 February 2013

#14 - Anti-Social Networking

By posting useless platitudes on Twitter,
She left behind her life beyond the glass.
Forgot the taste of wine, the scent of grass,
And every joy was swapped for something bitter.
In her eyes there is no trace of glitter –
Each memory now lies within the past.
Her avatar and password are her mask.
Her sense of self – like light – see how it flickers!
But she's the first to know about the trends;
Pop culture is the beast that swallowed her.
She just can't be alone with all these friends!
A prophet with a million followers.
Though all the traps were set and plans were laid,
She knew that she was free, and felt afraid.

13 February 2013

#13 - @Pontifex

Based on an original idea by Andrew O'Neill, riffed on with thanks.

Written not twelve hours before old Ratzinger resigned.

To speak the naked truth is hard as hell –
Uniquely when you know that hell’s not there.
Awake at night, I lie in silk and stare
At walls of chiselled gold that line my cell.
Hello? Hello? I’m here at last! I yell,
It’s me, your earthly deputy! Your heir!
Nothing – just echoes of my swindled prayer:
The worst bit is ­– there’s no one I can tell.
This triple crown of falsehood, fraud, and guilt,
Has locked me in a lie I cannot leave;
On faith of sand is this, the house I built:
So spare a thought for one who can’t believe –
I’m compensating for a life turned bitter,
By posting useless platitudes on Twitter.


12 February 2013

#12 - I want you. I need you.

Myself, I fear that dreamless solitude
will cut the ties that bind me to the past:
the wild, chimeric demons I pursued,
perpetuating rôles in which I cast
myself. I fear that dreamless, dead impasse:
it forces me to contemplate a fate
reflected like a mirage in a glass.
It forces me to calculate the weight
you took from me – the burden of self-hate
you folded into two, and hid away.
You dreamed the dreams that faith and hope create,
you dreamed those three short words I cannot say.
And though your dreams still wrap me in their spell,
to speak the naked truth is hard as hell.


11 February 2013

#11 - Sleep & Monet

a poem emerges from a fever induced dream

I fear that dreamless sleep eludes me yet
I dreamed I kissed the water lilies dear
what colours water knows their price is dear
for dreams like these the fears come yet
still know I think of you at midnight yet
I kissed Monet I really did oh dear
do please believe the price of sleep my dear
the lilies light the secret heart that yet
eludes the fearful lover and her dream
unless she's kissed the water eyes of sleep
the pillow's stale oh dear a sleepless dream
less dream than stale old wisps of sleep
in which I kissed Monet my heart eludes
myself I fear that dreamless solitude


10 February 2013

#10 - Dreaming of Budapest

We see whose love is blind and sleep. Who knows 
What wisdom slips between these quilted sheets? 
Which glories fair, which failures or deceits 
Will tremble as the lilting zephyr blows? 
We are like ghosts; a faint disquiet grows 
And formless beasts will walk these city streets. 
We conjure from our minds such tricks and treats, 
Our fears and furies granted in repose. 
A glimpse of futures past: I can’t begin 
To understand this mind of mine, so wild! 
And still each night I let the devils in, 
Till daylight finds me, weeping like a child. 
I want so much to live without regret; 
I fear that dreamless sleep eludes me yet.

09 February 2013

#9 - a short pause, longer than a comma

the love that’s lost is love – that makes us strong
the love that’s lost is lost – that makes us weep
the loss that’s lov’d seems wrong – unless it’s sleep
who loves that loss seems deep – at least in song
who sings of love seems lost – but never wrong
who sings of loss is lov’d – but not so deep
who loses song is lost – tho’ singing’s cheap
who loses sleep is toss’d – who knows how long?
who knows he’s lost is bless’d – for he will find
who finds he’s bless’d is lov’d – for he is true
who’s true to love is kind – for it will show
who’s bless'd with love will know – yet he be blind
we see who’s love is blind – yet know not who
we see.
            whose love is blind?
                                           –  and sleep… who knows?


08 February 2013

#8 - L'Amour Fou

The season’s crops all rot. In lovers’ sweat
the memories of those moments linger on;
for though she’s glad that he is finally gone,
that heady perfume won’t let her forget
electric nights, entangled in his net,
with endless fucking, cries of “Tu es mon
soleil, et tu es vraiment mon amant!”
But passion suffocates in unpaid debt.
And passion leaves a sour taste in her mouth–
a bitter banquet, served with doubt and lies–
the leavings of a life that headed south
to bake beneath those endless desert skies.
She chants her mantra like a child’s song:
“The love that’s lost is love that makes us strong.”


07 February 2013

#7 - God & Summer

Submerged before the surface breaks his fall;
a damselfly caught in the sudden rain.
The God of Storms has nothing but disdain
for insects, cricket matches, picnic sprawls,
and breaks them up. The raucous thunder brawls,
lightning and ruptured clouds. The batsman blames
his awful luck, the picnic couple drain
their wine and leave their sodden sandwich haul.
The God of Storms, well pleased, of course he is,
behind his beard a smile, the swaying sky
his hammock. Now the English summer's his
to keep. He dotes upon her, makes her sigh
and groan on boggy meadows, panting, wet,
the season's crops all rot in lovers' sweat.


06 February 2013

#6 - The Prophesy

Sometimes it's wise to hide those thoughts away 
But foolish is the man who holds regret.
His mind will wither, trapped by mortal debt, 
Imprisoned by the role he's doomed to play. 
From self-made cell, his heart will seldom stray, 
A life half-lived, his brow is drenched in sweat 
As he perceives some distant, unknown threat.
A threat that creeps still closer with each day. 
And though he bears the weight of every crime, 
He'll barter with the boatman for his soul.
But sharpened knives have cut this thread of time 
And, sinking to the depths, he's swallowed whole. 
Alone, he screams, but no one heeds his call; 
Submerged before the surface breaks his fall.


05 February 2013

#5 - Judith Kisses

She walks in beauty still, she walks in grace –
from fable onto canvas. Long I stare:
transfix’d by loaded eye and tumbling hair;
the reckless bloom that paints her stainless face.
I think I want her – she could take her place
beside me as my feet stroll through life’s care.
I think of troubles soothed by skin so fair;
I think of rippling souls, still fringed with lace.
But look beyond, like Huxley, past those folds:
the battle rages – all is background strife –
as, eyes downcast, in either hand she holds
a branch of peace, and yet a fatal knife.
As Holofernes, drunk and dead, would say:
sometimes it’s wise to hide those thoughts away.


04 February 2013

#4 - Final Copy

Below the painted boats, and through the dark,
a shadow stumbles, praying for the sun–
some mumbled, pleading call for dawn to come–
but God’s a jester now, and will not hark.
Then whistles sound, and dogs begin to bark:
across the sand, a last despairing run,
a single shout, a single silent gun,
a single lethal bullet finds its mark…
His body sinking slowly to the beach,
with shaking fingers punching at the ‘phone,
that lifetime scoop is just within his reach;
he files his final copy with a groan:
“The Princess lives! Yes, I have seen her face!
She walks in beauty still, she walks in grace…”


03 February 2013

#3 - Photographs & Sharks

A beauty now is all she'll ever be,
forever young until these photos fade
into the remnants of a quaint decade
when girls wore dresses green as mushy peas,
such dreary rooms, a whiff of potpourri,
the summer breaks to Galway Bay, mislaid
moments of love. Fashion has changed, unmade,
her daring style lost to the mythic sea.
A story now is all that will survive,
her frightful jump into the ocean's surge;
perhaps she washed ashore, reborn, alive
in distant lands, perhaps she's still submerged,
her silenced voice now flitting like a shark
below the painted boats and through the dark.


02 February 2013

#2 - Typecast

‘Is this the only crown I’ll ever wear?’
This circlet forged by fingers so unclean,
A vapid prize for every Beauty Queen:
This title, filled with promise and despair.
Though she was blessed with beauty (and great hair) 
There comes, with this, a curse that’s seldom seen.
Permitted just to pout and primp and preen;
Her words and thoughts were nothing but hot air.
As every rose in bloom will surely fade,
She too will fade, like sun worn tapestries.
For time’s an inescapable parade,
The only way to fool it is to flee.
With fingers crossed, she jumped into the sea:
A beauty, now, is all she’ll ever be. 


01 February 2013

#1 - Uneasy Heads

If I had time, and all the proper tools,
I’d shape myself a crown of stolen gold,
And light all England, with my living doled
For free – and gladly so – by servile fools,
Bedazzled by my band of borrowed jewels.
I’d hoard the nation’s wealth and love, as bold
As brass, and smile a smile that might seem cold,
Until I’m thanking those who made these rules.
Well, luckily for you, I lack the will
And metal scorn to be a king of men;
What little wealth I have is earned by skill –
My supper paid for by the verse I pen.
Composed of insubstantial words and air
Is this, the only crown I’ll ever wear.


28 Sonnets Later II - The Crown

28 Sonnets Later is back! And, like The Godfather Part 2, we’ve added a layer of complexity!

Last February, the four of us took it in turns to write and post a sonnet a day on this little blog. We were so happy with the results that we’ve decided to try it again. This year, however, we’re going to attempt something that (to our knowledge) has not been tried before: we’re going to group-write a crown of sonnets.
What’s a crown of sonnets? It’s simple: the last line of the first sonnet becomes the first line of the second sonnet. The second sonnet’s last line becomes the first line of sonnet three, and so on – until sonnet 28. This last sonnet will take its first line from the end of sonnet 27, and its last line will be the first of sonnet 1. If you’re still confused, don’t worry – you only have to read them. And spread them around on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to all those who followed us last year and bought the book – we hope you enjoy the next 28 days and poems as much as we do!