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Three Poems by Helen Burke January 24, 2012

Posted by vscorpiozine in Veteran Poets.
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 8 o’ clock in Britain

It’s always 8 o’  clock in Britain.
No matter how you try and avoid it – it looms.
Like Groundhog Day.
It’s always too late to go anywhere, DO anything.

(Friend – its too late not to do it, go there.)

In Barcelona, Paris, Rome they’ll be promenading.
We walk round Huddersfield, Halifax , Hades and Hull –
We get the train to Doncatraz, across to York,
Then down to Epping, Reading, Rhyl –
It’s 8 o’ clock and the country has closed.
May as well be Knocking on Heavens Door
(ever feel you’ve been here before ?)
Its 8 o’ clock and growing late –
It’s later than you think – mate.

Everywhere  the same story.
Lights on in one kebab shop –
Served by a yellow eyed dog called Delaney
The owner asleep in the Back of the Shop.
Everyone’s on drugs.  That Drug –
The “Sod you. We’re Closed.  Closed and you can piss off, pal” drug.  The “Bog off abroad, if you’re that bloody bothered.  We don’t do promenades round here”  mainline stuff.

Nah – we do – the Racing Times and Nuts blowing round the city centre.
We do 4 lads in hoodies that look older than me dad
Eating chips.  And 2 lasses – pretending to be coquettish but really
Only after’t chips.
Its 8 o clock and Britain has switched off, is in shutdown, meltdown, crackdown
Backdown, blowndown, growndown, thistledown, eiderdown, walkaround
Pissed town.
It’s 8 o clock and get yourself  indoors – because
We don’t do promenades round here – if you want that sort of crap
Piss off abroad.  That’s more your thing – (you look the type)
I’ts 8 o’ clock and we’ve got glass slippers on our feet.
It’s 8 o’ clock in Britain – and growing late.

Ain’t that right.
Its later than you think, mate.

Bob Dylan’s Toe-Nail

It all began like this.
I’ve got Bob Dylan’s toe-nail
and I’m doing fine.
There ain’t no need to toe the line.  No sir.
You, you’ve got Madonna’s thumbprint on a slice of bread and jam, left over from when she had tea with your mam.
It were grand , we had butties of Branston and ham –
is’nt it nice to know somebody famous.
That’s how it all started,
how it began.
I’ve got Bob Dylan’s toe-nail.

Do you remember we were down at Georges baths
and Sting lost his verucca that day – and you, you
scooped it up and had it clingfilmed and catalogued straightaway.
I was proud of you – no, really I was.
I see nothing wrong in what we do –
Robbie Williams will never miss that “fuck you” tattoo.
What’s all the fuss about ?? I just don’t see –
Cliff Richards face when we set his tennis balls free.
You’d have thought being a Christian, he wouldn’t mind –
but in this world, they insist you toe the line.
But, us, we don’t care – we’ve got Bob Dylans toe-nail.
And we’re doing fine.

We’ve got quite a collection now, you’re welcome to browse.
In the case in the hall – there’s Eltons first wig,
there’s a photo of you and Keith Richard’s sharing a cig,
there’s a Shirley Bassey sequinned bra, hasn’t been worn in years, there’s a piece of naval fluff from Britney Spears,
there’s a high note from the Bee Gees and one of Gazza’s tears.
There’s Bjork’s goose egg and Cilla Blacks first nose –But none of this compares a jot – because we’ve got
Bob Dylan’s left toenail phalange calcium addendum,
And that beats the lot.
(Sometimes – I think, I hear it –  singing to me.)

It’s not so bad in here, once you get used to the food,
and our lawyer – he reckons, to be fair ,
we didn’t need to have brought the gun – well, as
he says – Heather Mills was hardly likely to run –
but Mr. Cartwright, he reckons we’ll be out in the year –
we’ve got an appeal going on and then they’ll do a piece on me and barry in Hallo

Isn’t it amazing – how far you can go, JUST by being dedicated and once you realize you don’t have to toe the line.
It makes me feel special, it makes me feel high –
just think – THAT was on his foot, when he wrote – Mr. Tambourine Man.
I am the owner of  Bob Dylan’s toe-nail.

Baxter’s Crime 

Baxter, the dog , is being dragged down the lane.
I feel sorry for Baxter, in fact, most days –
I feel a bit like him.
Pulled this way and that.
Someone behind me with a lead that I can’t see.
Baxter has no idea what his crime is.
(Nor have I ).
Just that he is a dog who takes his time perhaps.
He investigates.  Sniffs too long in all the wrong places.
I can never hear the words – just that she is shouting.
Snapping and Snarling.
I imagine the teeth are bared – the hackles grissly and raised.
But Baxter I feel is undeterred.
He will go on being Baxter.
He will go on, going on.

There is no cure for being free of mind and will.
Baxter, my friend , my alter ego.
Baxter – I love you.
Go on – being, Baxter.

(Run amok – remain a dog with pluck.)

You bark at your side of the wall.
And I will bark – at  mine.


Helen Burke has been writing poetry for the last 35 years. Her work is widely anthologised and has won many national prizes, including the Manchester, the Suffolk and the Devon and Dorset prize.  Her latest collection “The Ruby Slippers” by Valley Press ,was launched in London earlier this year .  She is currently writing and illustrating her own children’s book.  She will give a reading at the American Library in Paris this March.



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