Lines in winter – for Raif Badawi

Black flakes of birds, wind driven, tossed
from tree to tree across a bleak sky.
Winter stubble fields sullen and empty

tramlines of pale stalks in dark mud
even the weeds seem to have given up
attempting a foothold in this cultivated desert

The news is full of dismal stuff

Wars and plagues, immigration and austerity
and as if all that wasn’t enough
Politicians shuffling through piles of dead words

And I keep thinking of Brecht’s line
that it is almost a crime
to speak of trees for it is
a kind of silence about injustice


You think we have no reason
to write of anything beyond
personal experience, introspection,
intricacies of words and emotion
because no one will put us in prison
when our words offend?

But what is the purpose of poets
if not to focus the mind’s
attention where it is needed most;
to sing like canaries in dark mines
in the space between heartbeats?


And this skinny little man
with an impish grin and unruly hair
this twenty first century Voltaire

with his tongue and his pen,
who dares to use them to question
and to oppose oppression

and every beat of the cane
draws a line of fire across his back
“he made no sound” the witness said
“but you could see he was in pain”

and each stroke of the lash opens
another throat to sing.  Becomes
one thousand strokes of one thousand pens;

lines of pale stalks that remain
defiant and upright after snow and storms,
bright against the dark of the earth

A de Grandis ©2015


Cityscape – Fox

Sodium harsh city night
chiascuro light and shadow
tensing at the edge of flight
soft padding steps that echo

city centre neon flare
suburban executive boxes
sink estate edge of despair
playgrounds for urban foxes

I prowler I of dark places
quiet courts, tower blocks,
weed infested empty spaces
anywhere you think to look

shadow brushed stillness
suggestion of fox, alert,
nervous, night time witness
to the city’s secret heart

night bus rattles past
no hopers, drunk gropers
disappointed party goers
one more kiss, one last
chance at happiness

silent footed I pace down
shadowed streets
I cartographer I
mapping sub-urban urban
whiskers stippling the air
scenting out hope and fear

rough sleeper, entrepreneur,
slack eyed insomniac
doesn’t matter who you are
my questioning breath
has stirred the hairs on your neck

I vulpine I, slide through
the dark alleys of your mind
in between your thoughts
the eyes glinting in your pysche
I am sensed but never caught
the shiver down your spine

jig jogging along
scritch-scratch city
never sleeps; everyone
all strung out, wired in
dancing to the tune
of the cash machine,
the get out of debt motivator
you’re in too deep
no-one on your side
high flyer, low roller
scrabbling for a ride
on the fast buck escalator

I watch you all through
the cracks in the wall

I urban shadow fox I
soul scavenger
don’t look over your shoulder
I right behind you..


Memory of Adlestrop.

I have been there and other places
where time halts and no-one
comes or goes in the space
before it blows steam,
picks up speed, moves on

places we leave behind become
litanies of cracked concrete
broken fences, corrugated iron
infinities of rust and a thousand
subtle shades of dereliction
valedictions left among
buddleia, willow herb, meadow sweet
words drowned in birdsong


Mornings, East London 

We slipped over an invisible line
some where, some time;

skin to skin, electron trading
is that how it is done…

Intended or not; we are caught
in this covalent bonding.

Early morning walking across Wanstead Flats
to the French Café for croissants and coffee
nothing special;
that’s what stops you in your tracks
the sheer ordinary, bloody, beauty of it all.

Ade Grandis
First Published in Roundyhouse 2009

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