Category Archives: A Collection of Poems by Philip Dodd

Beggar At The Gates Of Babylon

                                   Beggar At The Gates Of Babylon

Don’t you want to be a soldier?
Don’t you want to be a banker?
Don’t you want to be someone?
You’d better start applying
before all the posts have gone.

Thank you for your advice.
I know I’ll pay the price
for not knowing who I am.
The lamp of truth shone in the temple
where they once sacrificed the lamb,
but I was told to kneel to a god
they called the golden ram.

Do you want to be a leader?
Do you want to be a pilgrim?
Do you want to stay no one?
Each moment you are dying.
Do something before you’re gone.

I was half way up the rigging
when the cannon ball split the mast.
I remember falling to the deck,
but like the smoke, that life has past.

Do you want to be rich to ride the super sonic train
or remain trapped on the circuit of the tram?
No, I know it sounds a bit of a bind,
but I just want to find out who I am.
The older I get the more on my mind.
I will not lay down like a lamb
nor will I be led to the temple
to kneel before the golden ram.

Trailers for your ultimate war computer games
torture my television screen.
So that is what they want, I think to myself.
Only I know what I mean.
Earth but a battlefield,
all men soldiers without names,
speaking in smart one liners,
exploding buildings already in flames.

And I know there are secret vaults
where highly efficient military men
play real war moves on computer screens,
plan the paths of bomber planes,
the stations of submarines.
And always there’s the red buttons to press,
as life as sacred grows less and less.

Do you weep like Moses on the mountain
over the ten commandments broken?
To his Lord says, here I am.
The many tribes are scattered.
One thing they have in common,
the worship of the golden ram.

I stole a cup from a carpenter
to beg at the gates of Babylon.
The priest, the merchant, the charioteer walked by,
but that life I led has gone.

Do you want to say something before you go
or just leave behind some facts?
You know a man can be judged by what he did not do
as much as by his acts.
Tell them I never gave up the search
until my final breath.
Tell them I ever wanted the truth
and that there’s more to life than death.

Beggar at the gates of Babylon,
few coins to count in my cup.
My back hard against the wall,
eyes ever looking up.
Every kind of woman passed me by,
every kind of man.
The city guards arrested me,
said I was like a stain
on a lady’s peacock feather fan.
They led me to the judgement seat,
put me in a prison cell.
The foul smell of that dark stone hole,
I can still remember well.

So you recall when you had nothing,
a beggar at the gates of Babylon?
Yes, but after, there came my release,
and I knew, the life I led had gone.

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The Man Who Was Forced To Fly Solo

                           The Man Who Was Forced To Fly Solo

The future draws, forks out, fades, the past recedes,
under my feet a path grows concrete, complete
for me to tread on, see where it leads.
The present closes, a gate opens, made of black iron.
I pass through, to read a sign.
Zoological Gardens, it says, City of Liverpool.
Slowly, soundlessly, I step towards a man,
sat on a bench. He wears a bowler hat, moustache,
reads a newspaper, dated August, 1861.
I do not know what happened then,
I only know that time has gone.
Now, before me, an aviary gleams,
bold and complex, like a structure in dreams.
Further on, a hippopotamus enclosure widens.
So I pass through a zoo.
Somehow I know I am not here
to see the elephants, giraffes,
camels, parrots or baboons,
but to join the crowds on the central lawn,
to watch the start of a race, about to take place,
not one on the ground, but across the sky,
the partakers being the pilots of two air balloons.
Each man and woman I hazily pass by,
finely dressed, for an outing, wears a hat of some kind.
They seem aware of eachother, but not of me.
I do not mind, makes me feel curiously free.
I come to a halt, close to the anchored baskets
of the two air balloons,
watch them slowly lift from grassy ground,
gracefully to clouds, without sound,
heading east, Rainhill way, I hear someone say. One is called the Queen,
after Victoria, securely sat on Britain’s throne,
piloted by Henry Youens, assisted by George Luff,
and the other, Mars, piloted by Terence Jollife,
forced to fly solo, alone,
without the aid of his assistant, Ian Coxwell,
who still suffered pains in his neck, back,
shoulder and elbow after crashing
while ballooning in France.
Mars Terence Jollife called his air balloon
to mark that men would one day get up there,
among the stars.
“This is the first step,” he often told his fellow flyers.
The crowd is hushed. I continue to look up.
Only clouds shift by. Time ticks on.
Everyone wonders where the air balloons have gone.
Suddenly, the Queen lands on the finish site.
The news causes the crowd to clap.
Here and there, some cheer.
Smiles pass from face to face,
for Henry Youens and George Luff have won the race.
Long later,  the sun sinks,
like a dark cherry, about to burst, while unseen by watching eyes,
Terence Joliffe, fiddles around with ropes and wheels,
inside the basket of Mars, above the clouds,
continues to rise and rise,
fears he will perish in the cold void of space,
until, at last, he manages to manoeuvre his fall,
till he sees, far below, the lit gas lamps of Manchester,
glowing in the dark, like a scattering of pomegranate seeds
on folds of black cloth.
To his relief, he gains control enough to guide
his air balloon down, to land like a leaf
with a bump in a meadow near the village of Ashley.
In the dark of night, some men come with lamps
to help him rope down, deflate and pack his air balloon.
Stubbornly, alone, he walked country lanes two miles
to a railway station, to catch a train back to Liverpool.
One look at his pale, fallen face
told those he met what it meant to him that he had lost the race.
I blink, empty as the rough field I tread on.
The crowds and the air balloons gone.

Avant-Garde Verse Attempt Number 416

                                       Avant-Garde Verse Attempt Number 416

inverted cow pat
run over by tractor wheel

no, too clear, concrete,
descriptive, rural

not existential enough
obscured by shadow and cloth
even a dull lit lamp bulb
attracts a moth

no, can’t have rhyme
perhaps try again another time
simply won’t do
just as bad as my other
avant-garde verse attempts

like a bull elephant with a belly ache
there is only so much pain a poet can take
so much angst and sturm and drang he can fake

let us consider our frailties
indigest our faults
fast spin on time’s merry go round
until it halts

there, better end now

Man on a train in torment,
knows he cannot return
the pair of stockings he bought for his girlfriend
to the department store,
even though he is sure he asked for the wrong size.
To ask once was enough of a purgatory,
to return them and ask for another pair
would be to descend to inferno,
even if to get to the floor
he would need to go up in a lift.
From one humid humiliation to another,
the man on the train must drift.

Yeti

                                                Yeti

It’s all right. I will tell no one.
I’ll just take a few photographs,
then I’ll be gone.
Never thought I’d find you, but I did.
You never left a mark, you never hid.
Now there you are,
with some of your tribe, it seems.
How could I describe
what rarely flickers forth in dreams?
Sat protectively, outside your cave,
more like tall, thin apes
with rough skin scraggy with black hairs
than bears you look.
I can tell you have no language,
only seldom muttered sounds,
no link to hang a hook,
as you gaze out over the snow silenced,
Himalayan roof.
I had to come, I had to try to find you.
Never expected I would find proof.
Thank you for being, remaining still,
for the beauty of the sight,
you were worth my frozen tongue,
the threat of fall and frost bite.
They only ever speak of the yeti,
as if there was only ever one,
the last remnant of a race, perhaps,
that long ago has gone.
But there you sit, behind you,
members of more than one family.
You are obviously the head, the chief.
The others look guarded by you,
you they trust, in you they have belief.
A few stump up, turn back, lower their heads,
retreat into the black blanket
of the low roofed cave mouth.
You stay with the others, alert.
Your eyes look one way,
yet see north, west, east, south.
No one would believe these photographs I take.
They would inspire only sneers, laughs.
They would say they are fake.
They would say they are of human actors in ape coats,
photographed in winter in the mountains, somewhere.
It does not matter. I do not care.
I would not want them to believe they are genuine.
I do not want them to find you.
There. I’ve taken my last photograph.
When they think of you,
I prefer that they keep saying: What if?
I will go now, head back down the mountain,
and leave you to remain a myth.

Crossword Clues

                                            Crossword Clues

French word for avenue.
City in the Canary Islands.
Crossword clues he could not get.
Sighed, accepted defeat,
for he rarely completed one.
No need to get upset.

Put the newspaper down,
and turned the news on.
Always it could not be worse.
No sign of things getting better.
Made being human seem a curse.

But at least he was in control of the radio,
he could turn it off.
There was silence then.
Could even hear a neighbour cough.

There would be another crossword
in the newspaper tomorrow,
but it kept coming in from all directions,
and he could not turn it off,
the agitations of being human,
the frictions in the lines,
the joy, yes, and the sorrow.

No hearts were ever broken,
no love was ever woken
over crossword clues.
Once again, he turned on the news,
to hear about the masked men
waving rifles in armoured cars,
who drove the desert,
to create a new state,
founded on fear and hate,
imposed on others with bombs and guns.
Outside, through the kitchen window,
September sunshine on the garden,
and after the lame legged sparrow,
the rough coated tom cat runs.

They learned nothing from the fall of Babylon,
nothing from the siege of Jericho,
prepared to let the feuds go on and on,
dividing the walls of Jerusalem,
barricading the battle ground,
disallowing the pilgrim a place to go.

Half in a doze, sat in his chair,
he looked up, to see,
at the top of a stair,
a grandmother clock,
to chime the time clear.
Seemed well wound.
Only made a sound
when it announced the hour.
Proudly beside her,
stood a grandfather clock.
They made the house they lived in
seem enchanted,
for they were magical to see.

He woke and wondered
why no one had thought
a grandmother clock could be.
If she existed,
she could help to keep the balance,
for at the head of a family,
there is a grandfather and a grandmother.
That was true. On that others would agree.

Las Palmas. There it was.
The name of the city in the Canary Islands,
the answer to the crossword clue
on the puzzle page
in the newspaper the next day.
He was glad of one solution.