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New poems by Bruce Harris



Doing One’s Bit


Of course we’re concerned, who wouldn’t be? I think we have a duty
to treat the world responsibly, not reduce it all to garbage.
We try to practise what we preach; the day to day things matter;
there’s nothing worse than lip service; inertia’s not an option.

Of course, a solid four by four’s inevitable for the moment;
even with the bloody thing, the school run can be a nightmare;
the children simply won’t be seen in some commercial rep Mondeo
and Mum’s too frail to bump about in some claustrophobic rear.

Of course it isn’t necessary to fly around everywhere;
we do try to restrict ourselves to just a few a year.
I never can feel comfortable while sitting there emitting
And I generally follow the spirit of greater firma, lesser terra.

Of course, there are some places which you simply have to fly to
or half the holiday has gone while you mess about in trains;
they do need tourist lucre, let’s be perfectly frank;
there’s not much point in lovely air if you’re sitting in a mud hut.

Of course we keep an eye on power; we do have bills to pay;
the whole house can’t be glaring out like some giant Christmas tree.
People really have to try not to be so bloody greedy;
we have to share the goodies round, not scoff them all ourselves.

Of course, the kids on one computer is a recipe for disaster;
he’s buzzing with his tanks and planes while she’s on high street fashion
and, honestly, Giles would struggle now without his big screen plasma;
like the very first car, he says; once had, can’t do without.

Of course we must recycle; what else can we do?
We cannot turn the planet into one great stinking tip.
What kind of desperate legacy are we giving to our children
if the landscape they look forward to is a festering pollution pile?

Of course, dividing up the stuff is maddening and confusing,
and in the post-do debris, the tins finish with the papers;
Jen will simply pull a face at any hint of compost
and Giles thinks carrying bottles around is strictly for the winos.

It has to be commitment now; the emergency is here;
now has got to be the time to stand up and be counted.
Perhaps there have to be some ways where the process must be gradual
but goodness me, we’re getting there, we’re up and on our way.


a line, (a blue one)


You Know - Him


He thinks the Firth of Forth is a number sequence
and a wee dram a small percussion instrument.
He thinks Newcastle is two minutes from the border
and believes Rob Roy to be a kind of larceny.
Shortbreads and tartans, bagpipes and heather,
he swallows every single PR cliché
and if the subject of Scotland ever enters conversation
he’ll ‘hoots mon’ obligingly along with all the rest.

The same species exist in the north-east of England.
They think the Venerable Bede’s a kind of precious necklace,
and have the Miners Gala down as a picnic for the kiddies
and Northumberland a kind of suburb outside Hull.
Cloth caps and whippets, terraces and slag heaps,
always on the BBC with brass bands on the soundtrack;
people who go on about their trizers and their hizes
criticising people who speak with funny accents.

And down here in Devon, where I’ve fetched up for the warmth,
you see and hear them still, braying where they’re staying,
going ‘oh, arr, oh, arr’, just like Long John Silver,
all their daily pronouns suddenly ‘oy’ or ‘moy’.
It tends to be a state of mind, it’s adjective, not noun,
being equipped with glasses which see only stereotypes,
being far too lazy to allow for complications,
experiencing travel as a narrowing of the mind.


a line, (a blue one)


Millie Elliot - Learning the Drill


Millie shouts out ‘Mum, I’m home’ and mutters ‘at long last’,
her leotard carelessly flung on the front hall easy chair.
One more day as a ballet girl has eventually and painfully past
and she can read again the mining books she keeps in her teenage lair.
A poster of a blasthole drill is secreted under her bed
and photos of heavy duty stopers hidden under her unitard;
her future is clear enough in her mind even though it’s never been said
and isn’t likely soon to be; all mining talk has been barred.

‘It’s just not reet, lass’, Dad had said, pronouncing the subject closed;
‘there’s only our pit left these days, there’s no more jobs to be had,
while thousands of ballet girls are there to be properly rehearsed and posed
and you’ll always fetch a weekly wage; just be told by your dear old dad.
Entrechats will bring bacon home, glissades put bread on table;
pneumatic drills and underground loaders won’t keep your toddlers fed;
we all start thinking what we might and end up with what we’re able
and it won’t matter anyway when you’ve met a chap and are safely wed’.

So Millie bravely en pointed on, though sometimes on the exercise bar
she could close her eyes and see the rock drills swathing a way through the seam;
she gave her grande battements the best she had, keeping them up to par
while knowing that only the shifts and shafts could really fulfil her dream.
And then one desperate winter night in the colliery’s dark and grime
an access tunnel suddenly gave way and collapsed into piles of rubble
trapping seventeen men behind, who were soon running out of time
because the shrinking pockets of air would lead quickly to deathly trouble.

‘One of them’s our cousin George, and another’s our nephew Dean’,
said Millie’s dad, ‘and what can we do, to save them from such a fate?’
‘I’ll put on a tutu, should I, Dad, and demi-detourne off to the scene,
saving a ronde de jambe for the pit and hoping I’m not too late’,
Millie said with an edge to her voice that silenced her father’s noise.
She took herself off to the accident spot with her pictures under her arm
and there she saw, just standing around, disconsolate men and boys
saying the drilling rig was bust and trying to keep cool and calm.

Millie looked at the Boomer T1 D and then at her detailed designs.
‘The piston end sprockets aren’t aligned; it’s as plain as the nose on your face’,
she said with a tut of withering scorn for the so-called experts on mines
and after she’d effected a quick repair, the drilling went on apace
with Millie taking a driving turn until all the trapped men were out.
‘Burn them tutus and leotards’, Dad shouted out with pride
as the whole relieved village gathered around and, giving a mighty shout,
cheered the heroine all the way home with a triumphant shoulder ride.


a line, (a blue one)


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