Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Once a riverran
Like cord of grey churning muscle,
Through a valley
And a city.
Current rolling, pulsing and twisting muddy waters
To the sea and back again at the same time
Running with and against the tide,
Like the city, it never ceased,
On cold winter nights, it sweated mist;
But, if the night was still,
The mist could not rise.

Every house in the city burnt a coal fire,
Nearly every adult who lived there smoked,
And then there was a time
When all the cars, buses and lorries
Smoked too.
Smog was born
And the mist and smog embraced each other
And lay down like satisfied lovers
In a sleeping yellow embrace
Above the city,
Smothering breath and life in a poisonous blanket
So every still night when the smog laid down
Hundreds died beneath.

“Give us clean air!”, the people cried
“Stop the coalfires!,
And clean the car exhausts!
Stop smoking! Cut carbon monoxide!”
Then the old smog, made illegal died,
And fewer people did.

But death was just resting for a decade or two,
Then it smiled and said:
“I’ll find a way to return,
And choke the life from your lungs and heads;
 I’ll make a finer blanket now
Than the smog of old
And when the sun is bright
And the air is still,
I’ll weave a cloth of car fumes,
And light
And lay it over the city
So that they’ll gasp for breath and cough in vain,
Again and again,
Just like they did when my smog was thick
My clear killing veil
Will hang invisible above the city
So they’ll still die for me
As the river rolls on and on
And passes the poisoned people by.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Westminster Abbey November 2016

I walk through the grounds of the abbey,
Lost in my meditations,
With the burden that I carry,
A banner for a demonstration.

Tourists swarm around me,
Some move in files like ants
Crawling over history,
Consuming what’s left behind.

Perhaps they see the grand buildings,
The cornices, gargoyles and spires,
But I see through this feudalist frippery,
To class power that lurks inside.

I unfurl my flag of protest
Hoist on a telescopic pole
There are slogans and placards around me
Parliament’s  close and remote.

We are free to shout on a pavement
Orators can urge and rant
But concrete barriers and armed police,
Keep power and powerless apart.

London traffic never falters one second,
It’s always got somewhere to go,
Solidarity with strikers,
Shall not obstruct its flow.

The tourist buses pass us,
And phones and cameras click,
A demo is turned into data,
Impaled on selfie stick.

We’re all just part of the spectacle, that the tourists may later replay,
They saw a real genuine protest, and heard protestors shout,
With flags and placards and banners,

But what was it all about?”

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wagtails wag their tails warily,

Wagtails wag their tails warily,
Stonechats chatter,
Storks talk about it,
And magpies natter,
In both Eurasian and Iberian tones;
but, these species are not alone,
And down on the strand,
Things are getting out of hand.
Turnstones have turned every stone,
Sad sandpipers pipe despairing laments,
Grebes, shag and cormorant all duck and dive,
But snipe do not snipe,
They swerve, dodge and sneak away,
Through reeds and sedge at the water’s edge
Gulls rise in skeins
From the slipway,
And ride the wind out over the cape,
To join the wild geese,
Far, far away
For exile is their destiny.
Since none can cope,
With prying bins and scopes.
Birds are themselves,
And do not exist,
Just to be ticked off,
On your list.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Orange Fly

Orange Fly

A ten millimetre fly
flew onto the window at
fifteen hundred hours
as from its rest in Ashford Kent
the blue train moved

the fly
head legs
back belly (pale)
proboscii (paler still)
and wings translucent
was in fact all over orange

as we increased speed
the fly seemed to position itself
head forward
feet clutching the window

I put on my spectacles
science of flies in extreme conditions
there must be a name
for this determination
to hold on

as the wind strengthened
so did I’m sure its tiny adrenalin
how would it breathe
battered by motes of dust and pollen!
and its grip is slipping

let go I shouted
in deafening silence
so not upset fellow passengers
who might have had
seizures of anxiety
had they come aware
of the perilous predicament
of the orange fly

to the seismic new
technologies of travel
(no longer the slow gait
of plough and carriage)
as it searches pastures new

and now as the train
accelerates again
its eyes are closed
its cheeks rippling in
the ferocious slipstream

Oh two of its legs
have lost their purchase
Let go I cried
soundlessly again
my body arched in sympathy
my hands clenching
the seat in front
and moist eyes
reflecting round its tiny form!

now clinging
by two legs only
go home!

and it was gone.

(©Emile Sercombe)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


You make me feel
Just like an eel.
And I want to wriggle out of it,
I want to squirm away
I want to slime away
I want to crawl away
I’d even travel over land if I had to,
Until I find the rivulet that leads
To the stream of my dreams
And then I’d be following my nose
I’d go with the flow,
I’d have a current affair there
Until stream become river
Fresh water turns to brine
Then I’d ride the tide
Out into the sea
And on across the ocean
Going where I have to go,
All the way out to
The strange Sargasso.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Because I am an owl.

Do not rub your wet body on me,
For I am not your towel;
I hang around at night and hoot in trees,
Because I am an owl.
Don’t do your carpentry with me.
As though I was a wooden peg
I see things that you do not,
And I am not a dowel;
I hang around at night and hoot in trees,
Because I am an owl.
I’m no kind of gardening implement
And I dream all day of eating mice
Which a trowel just cannot do,
Then I fly I the dark on silent wings
And occasionally hoot.
Furthermore, I’m not a sound made by wolf or by coyote
If you think I am, then you must have been
Consuming too much peyote
I am certainly not a howl
I hang around at night and hoot in trees,
Because I am an owl.
And I symbolise great wisdom
In my few spare moments
And fly away to sleep all day,
When the night is over.
I never make angry doggy noises
Since I am not a growl,
I hang around at night and hoot in trees,

Because I am an owl.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The anti-charismatic

Hello, I am a slug, and I’m crawling out tonight,
Leaving a trail of slime, because I’m going to unite
With the headlouse, the woodlouse, the weevil and the rat,
And also join up with several other species that
Are anti-charismatic, in the public eye,
But this is an injustice which we seek to rectify.

None of us look striking posing on mountainsides,
Migrating across savannahs, or singing in the sky,
We don’t dive or leap majestically out of the ocean
Fine artists don’t paint us to symbolise emotions,
Or patriotism, freedom and other noble notions.
We don’t roam in rainforests or on tundras,
We were stowaways on the ark
And where we live is called infested
Never made a national park
No one will cross the world to see us
But to hear a gorilla fart
They’ll fly all the way to Africa in a polluting jet plane
The gorilla farts, they gasp in glee
And then fly back again.
We won’t sell you anything
With cute faces or appealing eyes
The means of our own deaths are what we advertise
Since a picture of a cockroach sells tons of insecticide.
We are vermin, pests, pariahs, carrion eating parasites
 But when it all ends, we’ll cut you down to size,
Because the corpse of one lion will feed a thousand flies