Saturday, January 22, 2005

The pastoral myth

Truths are found under open skies:
Libraries are full of lies

Martin Locock, 2004

Time management

As they tell you life's too short
Waiting must be undergone
Before they let you voice a thought.

"I'm busy" you are ready to retort
But their syllables are slow and long
As they tell you life's too short.

Martin Locock, 2003

One person's Swansea

Watch the steelwork's light display
Through banks of mist across the bay;
The tide tirelessly trudging up the sand
Then turning back, defeated, to the strand.
Oases of peace lurk among the squares
Forgotten corners that can take you unawares
Passages that lead down hidden ways
Through high-walled alleys opening into space
Cemeteries, parks: secret doors
That only you know of, for they are yours.

Martin Locock, 2003

Rhyme and reason

There are, after all, some grounds for hope
It’s not as desperate as you fear
People do like Wendy Cope

Although poets dismiss a facile trope
“Mere doggerel” is the usual sneer
There are, after all, some grounds for hope

Not everyone has bought the dope
That they should distrust what is made clear
People do like Wendy Cope

Simplicity does limit the scope
For hiding that you’re insincere
There are, after all, some grounds for hope

People who've never heard of Pope
Know of Strugnall's "Ode to beer"
People do like Wendy Cope

It’s not as desperate as you fear
Dumbing down won't happen here
There are, after all, some grounds for hope
People do like Wendy Cope

Martin Locock, 2003

Landscape painting


Martin Locock, 2003

A churchyard cross at Evensong

s h a d o w

Martin Locock, 2003


It's a wise user knows their own password.

You can fill a car with petrol but you can't make it go.

Where there's a will there's a solicitor's fee.

Neither fish nor fowl nor reprocessed animal byproducts.

Christmas is coming, nobody's at home,
The office is closed till Easter: leave a message at the tone.

Red sky at night, rioter's delight
Red sky in the morning, global warming

Put down roots and you vegetate.

Martin Locock 2003
This poem won 1st prize in the NMGW/NLW e-steddfod 2004 for "A collection of eight modern proverbs"

Typographer's test-piece

The sword is mightier than the pen is.


"And age, and then the only end of age"
Philip Larkin, Dockery and Son

Breasting the ridge, the vista opened out;
Breathless, we stopped, as our eyes absorbed
The falling foreground, and beyond it, our destination.

We'd started at a bold and striding pace, hardly conscious
Of the gentle slope, idly switching from track
To track at each junction, zig-zagging
Upwards as our comrades dispersed
As they made different choices.
The horizon was the goal on
Which all thought focused:
There would be peace
And rest.

Now we
Can see the
Sort of peace
That we can expect;
The length of rest with
Which our journey ends;
And we can also see the
Convergence of every path
At one point, distant, but finitely so.

Time over distance


A far-off meeting means an early start,
Up in the dark, breakfasting in silence,
While upstairs the children snore and murmur.

The car pulls out onto the empty street
Reflecting the orange glow of streetlights
On the tarmac moist with an early dew

I leave the village wrapped in night
But soon enough as I drive on,
Day calls forth its usual signs

Bleary paper boys tote their heavy loads
Leaning to counterbalance dense masses of newsprint;
Milk vans drive, in fits and starts

As night edges into definite morning
The pavements fill with schoolward groups
Straggling wayward distracted knots

Then they clear as everyone
With any specific place to be
Has gone there, leaving the day

To those whose time is less constrained
With room for choices, and room
To choose none if they wish

Paucity of options is perhaps implied
By the popularity of bench-sitting
Dog-walking and weeding


Duty done, words said and heard
I return, rolling back the sequence
But not the time: it hurries on

So I catch glimpses of the gleeful rush
As the school bell releases its flood
And then the grimmer, sadder faces

Of drivers worn down by their toil
Ready for time they can call theirs
And then the streetlights flicker

Angry red bulbs burning away
The ashes of the day; it's dark again
By the time I reach my home

Curtains shut tight against the world;
I hear the bath-time shrieks
And a spectrum of electric noise


Places are the same, really;
Similar things happen everywhere, at least:
Work, sleep, school;

What marks out our special ones
Is just who lives there;
It is too much to hope

That anything we devise is new;
But ordinary life, ordinary love
Will suffice.

Martin Locock, 2003

The fall of Troy


The fall

After ten years, the siege was lifted
The encircling army gone off in their ships
Leaving the Horse as recompense
We hardly considered it, in the delirium of victory;
Brought it into the city, and then
Gave over our night to drink.

Few noticed as the shrieks changes pitch
Laughter dying as the gutters ran red
Flames licking up to the wooden roofs
As shadowy figures, armour clinking,
Sought out the handful of sober guards.

It was a different dawn
Than we had dreamed the day before
Victory become defeat.
Lines of captive women and children queued
To fill the ships, some looking back
At the smoking ruin of their homes
While the men lay dead, unburied,
Unregarded by the Greeks,
Laden with loot, laughing.

There was a rumour
The Prince had got away
Escaped with his family;
But rumours will fly wildly
And even if true
Remove no chains,
Open no locks.



I have been proud
I have told the truth
Though fated not to be believed
I warned them
With unwelcome doubts
They chose to ignore

And though I 'm now
Dragged into exile
To be some prince's trophy bride
It still is good
To be proved right:
But I'd rather have been listened to.



Despite the tears that we shed
We must rebuild the walls of Troy
This is the debt we owe the dead

It's difficult to look ahead
When time's done nothing but destroy
Despite the tears that we shed

Comfortless words must be said
A duty that none can enjoy
This is the debt we owe the dead

Memories of the lives they led
Urge our talents into employ
Despite the tears that we shed

Though auguries can be misread
And the future vision can be coy
This is the debt we owe the dead

Martin Locock 2003

Human geography

China is far away
Loneliness enwraps me

Japan is close at hand
Fall, I will catch you

India lies to the west
Sadness grows between us

Tibet will house our souls
Come, I will hold you

The sea washes my feet
The wind dries my hair

I will wash your feet
I will dry your hair

Martin Locock, 2002


“So I, most miserable, ever sick with the heats of impatience, must of necessity sigh after, and invoke, and persistently plead for, that health of patience which I possess not”
Tertullian, On Patience (trans S Thelwall)

Base metal takes some time to change to gold;
Like last night’s pizza as a breakfast snack,
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold

Fools rush in, and won’t be told:
Frustrated alchemists established it as fact
Base metal takes some time to change to gold

Take the long view as the years unfold
You pay your dues and then you pay them back
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold

The instinct is to fight, be bold
But it’s best not to react
Base metal takes some time to change to gold

Wait until the final dice is rolled
Before you drop your token in the sack
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold

A knife needs work to forge and mould
Until it’s sharp and ready in the rack
Base metal takes some time to change to gold;
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold

Martin Locock, 2002


"I might write one of those villanelle things of yours"
Kingsley Amis, letter to John Wain (Letters of Kingsley Amis)

I'm trying to write a villanelle
It's a tradition, of a sort
It's not going very well

The convention's being held in a hotel
Drunken shouts derail each thought
I'm trying to write a villanelle

To cries of "Look at that" and "Bloody hell!"
As the rugby crowd makes its sport
It's not going very well

While others sip at Muscatel
And circulate the port
I'm trying to write a villanelle

The intrusions break the spell
I reach for words but none are caught
It's not going very well.

Woken by the breakfast bell
Last night's work has come to nought
I'm trying to write a villanelle
It's not going very well.

Martin Locock, 2002


"It's not the despair, Laura. I can stand the despair. It's the hope."
Michael Frayn, Clockwise

They say such things sometimes do take place
You never know your luck, you see
I keep it by me, just in case

My pockets fill with paper on lottery days
I am lured by dreams of swift luxury
They say such things sometimes do take place

A rabbit's foot's supposed to be my secret ace
Not lucky, as it's proved, for him or me
I keep it by me, just in case.

A travelling encounter may end in an embrace
A brief exchange on the way from A to B
They say such things sometimes do take place

It's not something I've ever had to face
I bought a condom back in '93
I keep it by me, just in case.

Incense and plainsong fill the sacred space
Demanding an answer from the deity
They say such things sometimes do take place

Silence, I've found, is all my prayer repays
Although I've made a bauble of my rosary
I keep it by me, just in case.

A feature noted by students of the human race
Is the survival of hope against all probability
They say such things sometimes do take place
I keep it by me, just in case.

Martin Locock, 2002

First frost

“Most things never happen: this one will”
Philip Larkin, Aubade

Summer stretched, dry and warm, onwards into October
Almost as if the seasons had been set aside for ever

Almost: but then one dawn, the ground was white, the air chill;
A foretaste of inexorable autumn, inevitable winter.

Martin Locock, 2002

The gospel according to Thomas

Jesus was a friend of mine
We clicked on meeting, straightaway
But now he's gone, I don't know why
He impressed me so.

Perhaps it was the way he smiled
As if he understood your pain,
And when he waved, it was meant for you:
A trick that politicians know.

Of course, he was very kind
In a slightly offhand way
Well-intentioned but a bit rushed,
People to see, places to go.

The time he healed the stricken child
The one who was blind and lame
He forgot to cure the cancer too,
A bit of a public relations blow.

He liked his work, and didn't mind
The photo call that began each day;
Now he's gone, the press has dispersed
Looking for the next freak show.

Martin Locock, 2002


Sand is not my world
I do not live on grains
But in the gaps, the crystal lattice.
Electrons cross my skies:
From them I read my fate
They must know more than I
They have, at least, got somewhere else to go.

Sand is not my world
I fall in space, dragged by random gravities
Not dead matter but flesh and blood
I am not sand, and sand
Is not my world.

Martin Locock, 1982

The pastoral myth

Truths are found under open skies:
Libraries are full of lies

Martin Locock, 2004


Virtue is its own reward
And this is a good thing too
Since no-one bothers to record
The good deeds that others do

Martin Locock, 2004

Age and wisdom: a birthday poem

"What were vices have become the fashion of the day"

"Shot? So quick, so clean an ending?"
A E Housman, A Shropshire Lad, XLIV

What? Still alive at forty-two?
Is there no justice, only luck?
All those years of sniffing glue
And still you haven't come unstuck.

Oh, you have changed, there's no denying
For excess you have begun to pay
But even without very much dyeing
You still aren't like Dorian, grey

What once were childish misdemeanours
Now are habits, hard to break:
The iron grip of Dionysus
Is, like a cocktail, hard to shake.

Martin Locock, 1984

Haiku: Spring

Thaw: white turns to green
The sun draws the shoots upwards
Beware of late frosts

Martin Locock, 2004

Australian epitaph

Here lies John Smart, a foolish man
Who died for his beliefs
He thought inflatable dinghies can
Be used on coral reefs

Martin Locock, 2004
This poem won 1st prize in the NMGW/NLW e-steddfod 2004

A walk in the park: piece for two voices

I said "See the greenness, the lushness,
The verdant irrepressibility of nature,
Springing out even in the midst of this concrete wasteland!"

She said "Beauty can be found anywhere,
Poppies grow on battlefields,
Even death cannot be death,
When life continues"

I said "Don't rely on surfaces:
The deeper beauty lies in structures;
There is nothing in this city as complex or as neat
As a single blade of grass"

She said, abashed, "I always knew you were a poet:
Don't you think that love's the same:
Outwardly simple, yet its workings are mysterious
Even to those that it affects"

"Yes", I said,
There being nothing more to say.

Martin Locock, 1983


A beer-loving farmer called Wil
Said that ale was the cure for his chill
When next he was seen
His tongue had turned green
And his face was pure eau-de-Nil

Martin Locock, 2003

Textual analysis

"Credit where credit's due:
You work, you're literate, you rarely smell."
Wendy Cope, Faint Praise

It's not so much
The leaden touch
Of your drear recital
What annoys
Nauseates and cloys
Is the terrible title.

Martin Locock, 1982

A mother's advice to a bride

Take care to teach him every day
The skills he needs to master
Otherwise, I'm sad to say,
You're heading for disaster

"The toilet seat goes down again;
Dirty clothes go in the basket;
Blaming a smell on man's best friend
Will do nothing to mask it"

Tell him he needn't waste his time
Devising wild excuses
Quick confession of a crime
Is what a wise man chooses

Life can be sweet if both assent
To nurture one another
If not, your time is better spent
In looking for a lover

But love is love, when all is said
It cannot be diminished-
Man's not complete until he's wed
And after that, he's finished.

Martin Locock, 2003
This poem won 3rd= in the NMGW/NLW e-steddfof 2004.

The craftsman

The craftsman gives this good advice
(He's learned it over many years):
Before you cut once, you should measure twice.

Materials have a heavy price,
And what is wasted is always dear:
The craftsman gives this good advice.

If you rush, then in a trice,
You'll find you've made a fault appear:
Before you cut once, you should measure twice.

He's learned it over many years:
Preparation saves you later tears.
The craftsman gives this good advice:
Before you cut once, you should measure twice.

Martin Locock, 2003

Ozymandias speaks

I met a traveller from an antique land
Where, armed with trowel and arcane knowledge
He had come to understand
The country's past, and in one village
Found a tomb, unrobbed, still sealed,
Containing gold, bronze spears and jade;
His careful work had revealed
The painted plaster, still undecayed,
On which was shown a noble face
Creasèd with a ruling frown
And in the language of the place
"Here the king lies down".
And so again the king is known
To many as once rich and brave:
Around the world his face is shown
Potent even from the grave.
The digger's name is now unsure
He didn't finish his PhD,
The pottery he was looking for
Still catalogued as "? type 12 b".

Martin Locock, 1983

Character sketch in three sentences

You disapprove of many things:
Sex, alcohol, dancing, for a start.

Yet you have your passions:
Art with a capital A,
Proper punctuation,
The cool thrill of architecture.

You do not often make fun of yourself.

Martin Locock, 1982

Philosophy 101

The Wittgenstein amendment

The philosopher, his voice become violent,
Asked again: "Where's the volume that I lent?"
I answered in pique
"Whereof one can't speak
Thereof one must remain silent."

Socratic wisdom

While browsing the books on the shelf
Among those about health and wealth
One touched my soul
Its contents, in whole,
Were these two words: Know Thyself.

Language and logic

The logic of Professor Ayer
Can distinguish between every layer
Of black and white;
But that's not right-
The truth is often greyer.

Only human

When my studies had reached up to Goethe
I started by looking at 'Werther'
But couldn't find
The strength of mind
To investigate any further

The danger of nihilism

In the writings of Freidrich Nietzsche
Morality doesn't much feature
My classmate soon fell
Quite under his spell
And proved it by killing the teacher

Angst Parisienne

Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre
Was always a bit of a martyr
To De Beauvoir's moods
And exotic foods:
He preferred escargot as a starter

A Communist manifesto

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
Between them have covered all angles
Capital, family,
The bourgeois mentality,
And the radical's right to wear sandals

Psychoanalytical debate

When Carl Jung disputed with Freud
Sigmund became quite annoyed
"Your ideas fall flat:
If I spoke to my cat
My time would be better employed!"

When Freud disputed with Jung
Carl replied "Now just hold your tongue
Your ego and id
Don't like what I did
But that's just because I am young."

Cogito ergo sum

In the mind of Rene Descartes
Doubt comprised the main part
But he knew that he was
And this was because
He thought, which at least was a start

Revolutionary prose

The work of Thomas Carlyle
Is set out in a tedious style
His theories of power
Are usually dour
And seldom engender a smile


The groom found the works of Rousseau
Hidden in his wife's trousseau
When he taxed her, she
Said "We were born free,
If I want to read them, I will do so!"


"The author is dead" said Derrida
"The readers' powers are wider"
But there on the spine
Is his name, not mine,
Which ought to be the decider


According to R D Laing
(Whose Sixties went with a bang)
Nobody is mad
The doctors are bad
They all conspire in a gang

Martin Locock, 2004


Curfew has fallen like a drunken man
Stumbling as he tries to climb the stairs
The night is so solid you can almost hear it slam
The stars are out hunting in pairs

Way overhead the crimson sky is bleeding brass
The gutters run with tears of vain remorse
The rain is rubber-truncheoning the window glass
And the wind is rushing through the door

Underneath the weary eye of the graveyard-shift moon
The fugitives are drifting out to sea
They are sailing out to freedom or sinking to their doom
They are sailing with the hopes of you and me

Won't you aid them on their journey? Won't you lend a hand?
Won't you tell them where they are and where to go?
They are sailing for the future and they're out of sight of land
And if you don't tell them they will never know

Curfew has fallen, it drives us all inside
Beyond us there is nothing but the rain
Driving into darkness where nobody can hide
Driving all of us insane.

Martin Locock, 1983

Poetry 101

As I was walking on the beach,
Or through the wood, or in the street
I found a seashell,
Or saw a bird, or met a man
It set me thinking about life,
Or love, or death
And I resolved to do good works,
Or behave better, or get on with things

Martin Locock, 2004

Binary 101

Binary 101
Equals 5, base 10.

Martin Locock, 2004


"Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast."
W H Auden, The Fall of Rome

Unexplored places, lost in space and time,
Wait for me.

Unknown lands, clouded from the world,
Lie at my feet.

Uncharted deeps, far from the shore,
Draw me on.

Unseen chasms, infinitely void,
Block my return.

Martin Locock, 2002

Spiritual sustenance

Hermits, they say, have simple tastes
Their needs and wants are few:
A bed, a hut in the frozen wastes
And a diet of watery stew;
Oh, and a stream of fawning guests
To praise them for what they do.

Martin Locock, 2004

Antiphonetic alphabet

A is for Aye
B is for Bee
C is for Sea
D is for Dee
E is for Yvonne
F is for Efflorescence
G is for Jelly
H is for Honest
I is for Iwan
J is for Giraffe
K is for Knight
L is for Elusive
M is for Eminent
N is for Energy
O is for Owe
P is for Psychosis
Q is for Queue
R is for Architect
S is for Essential
T is for Tea
U is for Yew
V is for Five
W is for Wring
X is for Exact
Y is for Yves

Martin Locock, 2004

February in Evan's country

"Hallo pet. Alone? Good, it's me"
Kingsley Amis, The Evans Country

In Spring, a young man's fancy turns to love
Others aim less high
Instead of roses, Valentines and stuff,
I flick through my book of phone numbers to try

"Hiya love, it's Dai - just you at home?"
Nervously she giggles in reply.
She says she can't talk on the telephone,
Scared someone's listening on the sly.

She banters but does nothing to resist
"You devil you": she knows her Dai
We arrange a midnight tryst:
The husband's working nights, and so am I.

Martin Locock, 2000

A sermon on hope, given at Saron chapel, Abergwynfi

Industry shaped this village:
The streets nestle up to the incline;
The houses were shaken by coal trucks rattling down.

A closed world, once, where a life could be spent;
Called to pit by the knocker-up,
A day's work, damp, dank, dark, dusty,
Then rolling home, grimed and wearied, to sleep.

Mine and jobs have gone,
But pride and dignity remain,
An army of everyday heroes.
A child fed, dressed, to school on time,
A triumph as great as any battle won.

On the pavement by her gate,
Nana Griffiths is setting the world to rights
With each sweep of her broom.

Martin Locock, 2000

Porthcawl out of season

In the harbour, the mournful clang of hawser on mast
Rises and falls with the eddying gusts.
The boats are covered, shrouded for winter.

Benches wait unused, paint scratched and peeling;
The front is deserted,
Swept clean of sightseers by the biting wind.
Shop after shop is shuttered up;
Noone needs spades, or rock, or candy floss.

The hotels are almost empty;
Only the residents remain.
The peace of the promenade is broken only
By the discreet swish of the hearse.

Martin Locock, 2000

Dunraven after the storm


As we rounded the Lizard, Bristol bound,
The gale backed to southerly,
Pushing the Hazel towards the Welsh shore.
We were low in the water,
Heavy with hogsheads of wine from Lisbon;
She rolled and pitched all night.

Time after time we climbed the rigging,
Taking in sail to slow our speed.
The storm blew out as dawn was breaking;
The rocks were just a league ahead.
When the roll was called, there was an absence.


The morning light revealed the damage:
The high-tide line strewn with plastic flotsam;
The busy waves had undermined the cliff,
Claiming a yard of ground.
On the pebbles lie exposed pale bones,
Remains of a long-dead sailor,
Washed up one night, buried hastily then and there,
Perfunctory charity to an unknown soul.

Even in our high-tech homes,
Where we live, encapsulated from the elements,
We are not safe. On any night we may become an absence,
Dependent for our fate upon the mercy of a Stranger.

Martin Locock, 2000

Other rooms, other lives

Back in Cambridge, twenty years on,
Embaggaged with kids, I am baffled by road signs
Alien to my remembered pedestrian geography.

College windows leak the whiff of student rooms:
A cocktail of coffee, joss-sticks, cigarettes,
Sweat, lust, hope and lassitude.

Living here then I had felt at home;
All conceivable wants were served.
Leaving had left me feeling bereft,
Cast into the outer darkness.

As dusk descends the lights go on
In libraries and studies
Like candles lit in supplication to Academe;
I once had wished to worship thus.

Now, though, it wouldn't suit:
Too busy, too cramped, too constrained
By endless polite negotations.

It is as well all wishes are not granted,
I conclude as I re-pack the car,
The swirling Fenland wind catching vainly at my coat.

Martin Locock, 2000

The New Millenium Experience is a registered trademark

Midnight rolled westwards
Over seas of careless revellers.
Blinking in the new dawn,
We tentatively flicked switches.

Domestic appliances failed without cause;
Computer systems froze;
Planes fell from the sky:
Nothing had changed.

Leaving the dead century behind,
We moved on,
Trailing the stench of deodorant,
And the stale tang of air freshener.

Martin Locock, 2000


“Nothing, like something, happens anywhere”
Philip Larkin, I remember, I remember

On the Levels, the sky seems vast,
A vault of blue above the fields.
A slow procession of clouds, trailing skirts of rain,
Gives notice of the need for shelter,
If there were shelter to be found:
But the hedges are sparse ragged clumps,
The few trees gnarled and stunted by the wind.

On the pasture, horses stand immobile,
Heads downwind, tails blowing back and forth,
Incurious eyes looking out, unblinking;
Overhead, gulls fly in busy Vs.
Across the Channel, hills emerge,
A fleeting vision of another shore.
The gulls can leave; the horses stay behind:
Yet, they observe, the gulls always return.

On this approximation of the mathematician’s plane,
Zeno’s motion paradox stays the smallest step;
Free will is revealed as illusion:
All we choose is how we stand,
Not where. And if once the chain should fall
Allowing us to move to other, better, places,
Still the evening wind would blow,
Bringing the scent of far bazaars,
The prospect of distant hills mocking our ambition
For purely local victories

Martin Locock, 1998

Below Saddleworth Moor

For Eleanor Spence

‘What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?’
Percy Bysshe Shelley, To a Skylark

All through that dreadful 60s summer
Overhead the frantic planes were circling,

Crossing and recrossing their trails
Trying to find the unmarked graves, searching,

Each night I held my daughters close,
Shutting out the shadowy fears lurking,

The reality of evil touched us all,
Left a weal on our souls, scarring,

At night I lie and puzzle at the world,
Looking for meaning or reason, searching,

Above the Moor the skylark flies,
Seeking out a safer roost, circling,

Martin Locock, 1998

Doubt in a Bath attic

I’ve made myself a sort of study in the box-room;
Sitting at the window, I can reach bibles on the left
Text-books on the right; from below come the busy sounds
Of family feet and cries.

I sit at the top of a tall thin house
Perched on the hillside, overlooking the dark slope
Sandwiched between other houses,
Whose lives I also hear and share.

I look across the valley, over the sad slow River Avon,
To the far ridge, above the streetlights,
Where points of light among the heavy trees
Mark out my previous home.

There, before I heard the Call, I had lived
In clean light rooms; we breathed the air of wealth,
Sleek cars safe in the garage.

In the luxury of time to think, I thought,
And felt alone.
Slowly I’ve shrugged the old life off,
Crossed the valley, traded in the cars.

And now I stare out into the night
And ask for assurance that my choice
Was more than blind egotism;
And ask for forgiveness from my children
At the mercy of my arbitrary act.

As the darkness grows
I see a flood engulf the city;
The busy water, bulbous with currents,
Reflecting the sky.
So few stars; so little light.

Martin Locock, 1998


Since noon the sun has been slowly sinking
The air becomes chill; the hearth,
Quit eagerly at dawn, is now regretted,
Forever distant.

Darkness stalks the corners of vision,
Creating unnoticed a blank corona.
Pupils distend to compensate,
But still the blackness spreads,
Disabling vision, leaving only the still night.

Martin Locock, 1998

Sex instruction manual

Keep out of direct sunlight.
Remove all outer packaging.

Position components A and B
So that the facets correspond.
Offer up the location lug in component A
To the socket in component B.

Keep all parts well lubricated
Repeated insertions may be required for satisfactory operation.

After working temperature has been reached for several minutes, fluids may be emitted.

Retain address for future reference.

Martin Locock, 1998

Despatch from the home front

In August 1914,
Mr and Mrs Charles Rennie Mackintosh holidayed
At Walberswick, a sleepy village on the Norfolk coast.
They spent lazy days drawing in ink,
and produced a study of willow herb.

When they returned in 1919,
The world had changed;
So this time they drew larkspur.

Martin Locock, 1998

A poetry of place

At first there is a sudden peace;
A silence as tangled words uncoil,
An expectation of imminent release,
Of spirits stirring in the living soil.

A special sense becomes attached to ground;
The grammar of thought has a locative case:
A characteristic blend of sight and sound,
As a glimpse of a half-remembered face.

Out of the quiet, an idea takes shape,
Echoing the structure of the land.
Fresh eyes see old paths, old escapes,
Old hazards, and then understand.

A sympathy links eye and mind,
Ego dissolves; skin ceases to divide
Senser from sense, signer from signed;
External states reflect inside.

The trance then fades and disappears,
Leaving behind it, as a trace,
A note in the archaeology of ideas;
An instance of the poetry of place.

Martin Locock, 1998

Rabble babble

The grey men stare out at the sun
Through the smoking glass
Going down the tube again
The sky is blue and I am too
I never knew the world was built on sand:
Coarse grain reality

The glass is broken
Grey men shine
Closedown in a tough town
Dot on the TV is all I know:
Karma coma

Streetsmart kids
They burn their souls
Blasting down the ghettoes of your mind
With their sounds.
A jogging suit
Suits me fine.

Martin Locock, 1982
Printed in Ampersand 1 (1982)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dead water, Oxwich Bay

The languor of a hot midday in June
Spreads to the sea, where slackwater waves
Slap ineffectually at the sand.
A moment of silence: the humid air unmoved,
All action countermanded by the heat;
And in that moment all the world stood still

A choice to be made: to start again?
Renew the tide of life and thought?
Or else to let it end, worn out
By one too many days and doubts.

My heart drummed out the seconds one by one,
Until at last an answer came -
A breeze across the water cooled the shore;
A Wind forgave the sinful land.
Gabriel unpursed his lips, lowered his horn.

Martin Locock, 1997
Published in Gower Society Newsletter (November 1997)

A Monmouthshire hedgerow (Wonastow, January)

"No, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be"
T S Eliot, The love song of J Alfred Prufrock

Stark against the skyline, bare branches
Reach up from the frozen land,
Skeletal fingers grabbing at the sky.
Caught, perhaps, a mist descends.

Moisture collects, runs along the bark,
And drips on rustling leaf-litter below;
Nestling in the fork of a leafless beech
The only patch of green is mistletoe.

White berries show among the partnered leaves
Singular fruit of a barren season;
They say in winter, when all was dark,
There came a man to light the world.

The chill cloud now enwraps the field;
I turn for home and button tight my coat,
The bitter berries not for me to taste:
The blank horizon is a lesser gall.

Martin Locock, 1997

A lost world (Penyclawdd schoolhouse, 1940)

“Never such innocence again”
Philip Larkin, MCMXIV

Cool in my outstretched palm the perfect sphere sits
Its surface milky white and streaked with blue
“Go on Harry, use your two-er”
I pitch the marble at the playground wall.

A siren screams; Mrs Taylor claps her hands,
Chivvies us along
“Come on children, form a line;
You’ve got your gas-mask boxes, good”

Robert’s dad had come last Christmas
To build the concrete shelter round the back;
We troop into the airless room
Pale bulbs hang above the benches where we sit;
The steel doors are closed; we listen.

At first a distant throbbing roar
Echoes around the hills – the ‘planes;
And then the ack-ack barrage starts up.

A rattling metal shower hit the roof
“It’s alright, only shrapnel from our guns”
Says Bill, whose Dad’s over in France.

The siren sounds again;
We rush into the fading light.

The playground glints with sherds of window glass.
I find the fragments of my shattered globe;
Trying to collect them in my hand,
I cut my finger, drawing blood, and cry.

Martin Locock, 1997

Eliot's Ghost

"I will show you fear in a handful of dust"
T S Eliot, The Waste Land I

The shadow of Eliot's ghost still falls across the land,
His tongue the language that we use
In trying to make others understand
Fragmented thoughts and discordant views

Images of decay and creeping doom
Alongside cityscapes of frozen souls
He leaves on walls of modern catacombs,
The subways, rendered bright by aerosols

As we face another weird winter
And wonder when and how the end will be,
Knowledge cracks and cultures splinter:
Discourse fades into soliloquy.

In times when everything is going mad
What chance to defend frail sanities?
Eliot's ghost has nothing else to add:
He is unsurprised by all he sees.

A desperate duel of faith and dread
Injures hope and breeds distrust.
The shadow watches, hears what is said,
And, leaving, scatters handfuls of dust.

Martin Locock, 1997

Seven cities

"You saw such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands"
T S Eliot, Preludes III

"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it"
Jonah 1 ii


On Malvern Hill, I looked across the peopled plain;
I lay down to rest and, sleeping, dreamt a dream.


It is the evening of the world,
And it will soon be night.

In the suburbs of the world,
The dormitory countries,
The remnants of the green belt,
The crickets sing at sunset.
They need no sleep, no sun; they only sing.

Here in the busy city,
We also need no sun:
For we have neon, sodium,
And furnace fires always lit.
And as for sleep,
We do not sleep.


The razor-blade dawn slashes the night canvas
Yellow-white light stabs through
The dawn chorus of cups of tea rings out.

Did you feel the buildings shiver?
Facades are streaked with soot;
Blank windows cry carbon tears.

An echoing roar heralds the march
Of the smoke-screen maker,
The silver arrowhead, the frozen bird,
The jet, across the burning sky.

Did you see the girls in summer clothes?
They stretched out lazily on lawns and benches,
Chatting through the molten hours.

The town hall clock has stopped again
Only shadows move across its face.

Did you hear the rattle of the goods train in the night?

Domes and steeples, tower blocks and pylons,
shine in silhouette against the city glow.

Did you read the news today?
Or did you make a headline when you died?


I heard the choir of angels; I heard them in the halls,
And they echoed in the streets:
Yes, I heard them in a dream.

I heard them when awake; I heard them in the dawn,
But only on the radio:
They were not living, were not here.

Unclimbed stairs echo; the elevator falls,
Blinking its lights as it passes the floors.
Will we stop? Will we rise? Will we rise again?

The shroud sticks: a curtain wall without a window.


We have been cast out from the temple
How are we to enter once again?

We are not here to live, here in the city,
We are here to collect our rations in a line

We are in the egg of the phoenix
We feel the heat of flames

We are the ashes, we are the embers;
We shall fly, we shall grow again -
We will burn again.


Above the traffic noise I heard a voice
Did someone smile, did someone love,
Among the millions?

I love them all, each one, even those I do not know,
But one especially - an intimate communion.


In the dormitory countries, they sleep to the sound
Of crickets singing.

Here, we do not sleep (we do not need to)
We hear no singing (we cannot hear)
And yet we live, until we die,
And then we cease to live among the crowds.

It is the night-time of the world
But in the city there is no night;
Where there is no night there can be no end
World without end

Martin Locock, 1984


Across the rolling hills I heard the sighs
Of trees in rambling woods as evening fell.
In the dusk the creatures closed their eyes,
In summer heat - the drowsy, lazy spell,
Of gentle rain was falling from the skies,
Causing heads to droop and streams to swell.
The water dripped and rushed on to the sea,
Away from hills, from forests, and from me.

Martin Locock, 1985

Only natural

Your skin is cold, my dear,
To the touch of my manicured fingers;
Your silicone-enhanced curves unreal,
Stiff as sea-waves, frozen in a moment.

Your hair is blonde, my dear,
The hue of summer wheat, permanently waving
In the air-conditioned breeze;
Bottle-born, fading,
With the hiss of a hundred showers.

Your face is blank, my dear,
As, helpless, I am driven
To lay down at your feet
My artificial heart.

Martin Locock, 1984


"Here I am, an old man in a dry month"
T S Eliot,
Gerontion by Thomas Stearns Eliot

Within my room, inside the walls,
I do not count the passing of the days.
Papers rustle as a brown leaf falls,
And lamplight cloaks the winter greys,
With warmer, orange, steady light,
By which I read, and even sleep,
For, careless both of day and night,
I sit, half-awake, a coddled heap.
And in the grate the fire smokes away
All year round - I am now cold all year,
While crimson curtains fade and fray,
Hanging undrawn, unwanted and unclear.
I have grown tired of books and ancient dust,
I will go out to meet the cold,
I accept Life and so I must
Admit at last that I am growing old.

I shall sit and stare, watch and wait,
Once more a child, I shall laugh and learn,
And when the sun says "Sleep, it's getting late",
I shall at once to bed and blanket turn.
And I shall strain to hear a winter snow,
And smile as catkins cover trees,
And in the summer, soak up the glow
Of sun; in short, I shall do my best to please.
I shall wait for knocks upon the door,
And answer them, and talk, and offer tea,
And shuffle through the dust upon the floor,
And sit becalmed as a silver bell rings "Three".

My skin is wrinkled, my muscles gone to waste;
I struggle with the passing of the days.
The ashes of the years all I taste;
My self-possession crumbles, courage frays.
I shall sit and wait here, watch and - hark!
I hear a footstep now upon the stair.
Death calls me out, I walk into the dark,
Uncertain whether Hell is here or there,
And uncertain whether life was mine at all.

Martin Locock, 1984


"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"
W B Yeats, The Second Coming

On the edges of the town,
In gaps left by fallen factories,
The waters are gathering.
The river is rising
On the edges of the town.

In the secret marshes, by the scrapyards,
The washed-out oil forms broken beaches.
The water-birds, lured from safer seas,
Dip cautious toes into the grime,
In the secret marshes, by the scrapyards.

Silent streams run underground,
Their courses traced by Corporation plates,
Their outlets locked by rusting chains.

By the roadside, in the browning grass,
Rubbish flies in wind-blown orbits,
Cans half-split with biting scars.
The fences are falling from their posts,
By the roadside, in the browning grass.

Railways, their tracks now gone, lead up blind sidings,
To shells of silent factories,
The skeletons of swift purpose, standing still,
Until they fall.

In the churches, in the squares,
The light creeps reverentially past the shutters,
And shuffles in the dust upon the floor.
The pews are gone, the walls with gaping sores,
Where pipes and wires were ripped away,
In the churches, in the squares.

On the edges of the town,
The night is closing in,
Sneaking past the broken street-lights,
Shutting off the final drips of power.
The scavengers walk boldly, now,
On the edges of the town.

Martin Locock, 1984

Student poet

In the void before the nicotine dreams,
Noises and thoughts collide and merge
Until the random racket seems
Like a Muse's whispered urge.

Arise, young man, turn on the light,
Before the self-deluding moment goes,
Take up your fountain pen, and write
The sort of stuff too transparent for prose:

Of rain and night, love and aircraft noise,
Of barbed wire, holocaust and tanks -
Find again the self-important joys
Of borrowed woes and teenage angst.

Then lie back, turn the light off,
Dream of suicide and post-mortem fame,
To wake in the morning light, and cough,
And file the page with others, much the same.

Martin Locock, 1984
Published in Ampersand 2, Spring 1984.


Dust lies thick on marble pillars
Temples hide discarded gods,
The bastard sons of the mother city,
Left alone on the hill to die
Their only marks are worn inscriptions,
Engraved in vain prayer long ago.

The oracle is empty, quiet,
No god-sent warnings disturb the cave.
Foretold dooms have come to pass,
The Fates have taken back their own.
Even the stars have now forgotten
The stories that they used to tell
To all who saw, and read them truly:
Seeing sights has left us blind.

I came across a shattered statue
In a barren olive-grove
On the ground lay sharp-edged pebbles,
Votive jewels from the earth.
The zephyr found no leaves to rustle;
The trees were dead, their spirits gone,
Hitch-hiked to the busy city
Where the streets are paved with souls.

The chuckling stream runs silent
Down to the oil-dark sea.

I heard you breathing in the night,
The guardians, the sleepers still.
The regents are no longer ruling,
The infant kings are now of age,
Heedless of your counsel, even
Grudging the blankets on your bed.

Martin Locock, 1983

The blackout

The curtain falls, the curtain draws across
Cutting off the blank wall, sealing out the groping dark -
I am alone again.

I mark time, cross it off on calendars,
Tick it in the pages of a diary;
Each day is much the same -
I am alone again.

I sometimes have the fire
Of hate and love and so desire
To try to set the world alight
But it passes with the night,
And by breakfast time I am
Prepared to eat my toast and jam
And stretch out hours on the rack
Until it's lunch, and then go back
To wait, and eat and say Amen -
I am alone again.

I have lost the fire,
Lost it along some motorway,
And my body is ashen,
And my heart is growing cold,
As I see in my reflection
That I am alone again.

The hermit, meditating on some god
Lives in a cell, his skin chafed
By cold and sack-cloth,
His lips silent save for prayer.
All I say is only to myself
For my God has gone away;
All that I can say is that
I am alone again.

"You are not alone: we feel much the same;
The curtains that are hiding you,
The darkness that is trapping you,
They will fade and then
We will see you once again:
We will try, will you?"
So say the books on the shelf
So say the letters in the drawer
So say the invitations on the desk
But my heart can only hear itself, pounding,
An endless rhythm, a lullaby in beat.
The dawn itself, the birds admit
That as I lie here, death-like, prone,
I am again alone.

Martin Locock, 1983

The cloud of unknowing

Far from the city,
Where the desert meets the wind,
The armies are standing ready,
The standard-bearers taut, waiting;

A hermit is chanting,
Surrounded by dust and praying for rain;

Soon, rain or blood will fall,
But who can say which?
Who can know?


Within the cloud we cannot see the walls
Nor even know if there are walls to see.

In gloomy halls I do not know
I struggle with all I do not know
I am aware of corners there
Where no sane man can go.

I know the past, as much as I can know,
I know the tally of the years,
Although I did not sit them out
Although I did not watch them die.
I know them through the dead,
The graveyards full of faceless names,
Of stones eroded, letters gone,
And through the stale tang of exhaled air.
I know them through the air filtered by the lungs
Of all the millions before;
I can feel them wheezing
And the cloudy moisture of their breath
Has now corroded the window-glass,
Spreading fog in daylight, mist in night.


I am going under, free from pain,
Free from thought, anaesthetised.
I cannot move (yet I am moved
By unknown hairy hands)
I cannot cry yet water drips
My eyes are leaking
I cannot cry, yet fluid floods
And I am drowning.
I cannot cry, I need not cry
I do not grieve, I am at peace,
And yet my eyes are drowning.


I cannot see -
I cannot see out, at least,
I watch instead within
Explore the cages and the mazes.

It is not dark, although there is no light,
There is no dark, only grey
The shadow-world, the mist, the shroud, the curtain
The ghost of ghosts, the shades of shades,
Rippling robes, faded or dusty,
Threadbare, empty, dead.

There is no sun, no moon, no stars,
Just spots moving with my eye
Will-o'-the-wisps drawing me on
Into the swamp, into the fog,
Under the seeping lake.


I am not glad or sad, there is no time for that,
For here there is no time;
Time has stopped, I am alone.

A ghost, I walked the inch-wide line
That separates the good and bad.
I saw the shadows, mumbling and impotent,
Stare through stones at ancient foes.

I saw a long road winding upwards,
A spiral to the sky.
A satellite, I saw a globe, and looking down
Found the road was not a spiral, just a circle:
The uphill slope was in our hearts,
Not in the path.

The distant lights are unclear now,
Stars on a misty night:
All around is darkness, void.


My body reasserts itself
In pain at first, the ache of unused limbs,
The roughness of skin against cloth,
The blaze of light on my eyelids,
A sickness in my stomach.

A sudden change, a shaft of pleasure;
A young feeling, warm and vital.

I am coming round,
I am in between,
In between the knowing of the gods
And the unknowing of Man.

Martin Locock, 1984

Stations of the cross


Even Jesus has packed his bags
He's bought a ticket for the train.
He's going away tomorrow,
And he's never coming back again.

I stand on the hill,
And look down on the town,
Feeling the wind blow
Fanning the fires in houses and cars.
My feet are nailed to the earth
I sway in the breeze, but cannot fall.

"Can I carry your cross for a while?
You look tired, and you've a long way to go today."

I lie by the river, burnt by the sun,
Stung by the grass,
Eyes dazed by unaccustomed light:
I belong to the night.

I saw the trees shake
I saw the lamp-posts shrug
I heard the bells cheering
I heard the hammer fall.

Dawn tore apart my curtains,
Woke me up by barging in;
I tried to doze but couldn't dream;
The blankets burned in sunlight.

By a cave a black bird was sitting on a stone
Calling out for anyone to hear
That he wished they hadn't come
And covered all the grass
With polished marble.


Someone said the dam was going to break
Someone else thought the bridge was down
Everyone knew a flood was coming
They knew they'd be washed away.

The newspapers had little to add
To the wild words scrawled on walls;
No-one had time to read,
The paper crumpled in the flame.

The stones that took so long to shape
Were struggling free of mortar;
The ground was shaking, toppling towers.

Sunset set the clouds alight,
The whole horizon burned;
Smoke was thick around the town; no-one could see.
They felt their way with tentative fingers
Past the fences and the rubble,
A weary, broken-stepped army,
Heading in defeat for the countryside.

There were no orders, no leaders;
The blind led the blind out to freedom.
They stumbled into barricades,
Fell down wells and ditches;
Moaned, and mumbled mutiny,
But marched on all the same.


On the second day, they huddled on the ridges,
Snatching sleep from cold fatigue,
Making hurried meals on the verges.

They looked down on the pillar of smoke,
Rising from the city, and wept for the past.

With eyes re-sighted, they hoped again
As they saw the fields and realised
That broken stones were not the end.
But as they moved, they idly snapped the saplings,
Pushed through gaps in ragged hedges.

By night they gathered on the mountain side.


In the dawn of the third day,
They felt a rumour in the air,
Of great things long-promised,
And greater yet to come.
Mist swayed with ghostly drunken dancers.

On the rocks there was no rest;
The bruised and weary travellers
Had nowhere else to go.

A hammer-blow of sudden light
Struck the crowds silent;
They waited, breathless, and stared at the sky.
Then they saw their saviour,
Glowing in fluorescent robes
And heard his voice, and they understood.


When he was gone, the light in their eyes
Faded, and they were blind again.

And those that sat, afraid to move, began to sing:
"Where have you gone,
You who led us here?
Why have you left us in such darkness?"

But Jesus was standing on the platform
With his ticket in his hand:
He's going away today,
And he's never coming back again.

Martin Locock 1984