A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stop and stare.

I do stand,

And I do stare.

Now that I am old.

And see the night sky,

that is always there.

To watch the moon wax and wane.

To watch the sunrise in a plane,

When the sun comes up on charcoal grey,

clouds turn to white snow.

Once seen never forgotten.


Jean Margaret Harding

November 2013

My old mum and me

Darjeeling, spring 2013

india2013 020


Fanfare for the Dustmen


I’ve watched you do what you do

And love your balls!

To do what others wouldn’t,

That cigarette hanging from your mouth.

You are a man and no mistake.

Keeping us safe from rats, disease and the plague,

that rubbish a plague on my eyes.

If the bin stayed full, check the faces, the surprise.

I have seen rubbish burning in the streets at sunrise

rubbish tipped unceremoniously into pristine forest,

dumped out into rice paddy

beyond the house walls.

I have seen heroes,

collect it up

men and sometimes women with balls.

Face sooty from rice in the pot at breakfast

By the tracks.

They emerge in rags, chimney sweeps from

Dark satanic mills,

Their recycling while my western eyes drink them in,

Busting a gut trying to think them,

Trying to be a fly on their interior walls.

Getting the view from there.

There is no fanfare,

But I have seen heroes.

Afro-Caribbean Knock Knock


Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
A truth universe
A truth universe who?
A truth universally acknowledged that if you are,

brown and at home during the day you must be,

doing the devil’s work.

Knock, Knock!
Who’s there?
Voodoo who?
Voodoo you think you are? I’m the social worker,

and you’re Afro-Caribbean,

and unemployed,

so open up,

let me see if your children are still alive.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Abyssinia who?
Abyssinia behind bars one of these days!

Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Jocasta who?
Jocasta the pretty girl who goes with the rasta.

Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Jocasta’s rasta.
Jocasta’s rasta who?
Jocasta’s rastafari,
but mi near eye is on you blood!

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
ManU who?
ManU crossed the road to get away from,

earlier this afternoon.
State your business!
You are the 1000th person who crossed the road,

when I came along. You win a prize.
Which is? (I’m not going to like this am I?)
Which is  …  the opportunity to explain what you feel,

when you do that and then to compare that feeling,

to what I feel when it is done to me a 1000,

times when I walk along the street.

And finally one for the road.

Why don’t Afro-Caribbeans dream anymore?

I don’t know.

Why don’t Afro-Caribbeans dream anymore?


Robert Harding is Dead was first published on Ink, Sweat and Tears on Jan 27th 2014


Robert Harding is Dead

Turn all the locks, put down the phone,

I’ve something to say,

about someone you’ve known,

Robert Harding is dead*

He’s passed away,

His fuse has blown.

Where were you when you heard?

Withdrawing money?

Parking at the kerb?

Fingering a book,

Reading the blurb?

Robert lived a full life,

Tried hard at school,

though he could have done a lot better, with more concentration and not have been so easily distracted, not had so many dreams about being a doctor or lawyer,

accept it kid, you’re black,

you’re gonna be poor.

As a young man he experienced numerous orgasms,

and boned some beautiful girls,

he had a varied sex life,

studded, it must be said, with emergent troughs of strife.

He worked casually and as a professional,

Though in between he enjoyed periods of slackerdom.

Once upon a time he taught,

Everyone else.



Rob achieved a lot academically.

But ended up treating his brain chemically,


He achieved his ambition of getting published.

Though most of what he wrote was rubbish.

He had three research reports, one article on science fiction,

two stories and a poem published with bad diction.

He worked with several professors and a Cabinet Minister,

men of influence, all stiff and sinister.

He drove a nice car with a V5 engine.

and had a sweet nephew,

name o Benjamin.

He made an investment in a small flat in West London,

from money given him by someone who loved him once,

folded in the envelope,

accusations of ‘ponce’.

Close to Robert’s heart was his love of travel. It helped him unravel.

If you see what I mean.

From England Rob went all over,

all over Europe and back to Dover,

Many times,

And to long haul climes,

Like Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica,

to many he was a seeker.

But it was no use his life was over,

he gradually got weaker,

his rock was eroded.

Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, beloved India**.

But by then he was living in Numidia,

Or was it Shangri-La, Xanadu or Hell?

Hell. That was the closest.

See the key to his heart was thrown away.

‘Just like that!’ I hear a comic say.

And while you think of him in death,

crossing the darkened vale,

remember him as a body of light,

whose heart burned brightest,

it’s best you know he didn’t write this.

In the hospital bed, beneath the shroud,

that shrunken body of his turned over, just one last time,

swivelled and floated and took a look at the mourners,

like Rusty James,

there was no one to blame,

floated above them all,

putting some in his mind’s cardboard box, letting others roam free.

And they came, foxing, squeezing out crocodile tears, their lives boxy and neat,

they wept,

gathered up



thrown away and at the same time,


His last words weren’t clever, he said

‘Nothing lasts forever,

but a little love goes a long, long way.’

*Stokowski’s arrangement of JS Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, Coldplay’s Beautiful World and I’m a Man by Muddy Waters will be played during the service,

to be held at the entrance to his mother’s cervix.

**The ashes will be scattered at Kovalam Bay in Kerala, South India.

Will you,

Dust vol au vent crumbs off your hands?

take your eye off your mobile price plans,

and ask,

Is that the last I will hear of him?

You must be joking!

Think of him this Christmas when your salmon is smoking,

Robert Harding is dead.

Long live Robert Hoking!





I have finally relaxed. The skin-friendly bath oil a tide mark around my skull. The hot water and the steam and the foam have me calmed. And that gulp, that small body of air, has sunk back, for now, from my throat to my solar plexus. A knot of air. The water has cooled already and I am beginning to think of nothing when I decide to go under.

The water here is cooler still and I listen.

In the white tub the water gives off a polar chill. There is an artic sound. When you go under cold winds blow off the Gobi. Here I am nothing. I cannot open my mouth nor can I breathe. The water chills further. This is the tundra. I join with the permafrost. And as my heart slows the question arises.



Ancient Race

And now nothing matters,
Not the status, not the money,
Not the girl.
I came here to see you,
To find out exactly what you’re after.
‘I can only reveal the truth of things
at the point of death.’
I know.

But I must not die,
not now nor ask why
I must live.
I must be a man,
follow the heart,
be a hero,
from year Zero
Only a man.
An ancient race.

17 lines


First published on Ink, Sweat and Tears see link below:



I went to escape the urban solitude,
To escape the perpetual flaneurship,
the dogged ‘outsider’ mantle I was made from.
I should’ve said grow up you child, you’re a writer
What did you expect?

And the people there, in the countryside were like,
‘oh yes, no lamplight here mate. Black as the ace of spades, ay, ay?’
And they smiled a crooked smile. And there was talk of a bypass going somewhere
to somewhere,
‘but where and on whose land?’ they said.

here and there a stately home—poor relations of the Khan’s pleasuredome, boxy stacks of bricks that still decree,
‘keep off the grass’ and ‘between 2 and 4 for tea’.
By the way folks this is a ‘no-cold calling zone.’ We’re all for the market out here but not around here geddit?

Squads of ducks patrolled the dainty lake, the Serpentine, but alas no serpent, nor monkey or macaw. Or the thrilling cries they made, proclaiming the joys of nature. The pheasant did that I suppose, with his strangled squawk. Or was he pointing out another high-pressure pipeline owned by foreign equity?

Then the silence is cracked open by the radio inside the squad car parked near the village green. The village cop is in his Escort radioing in the ‘suspicious Hyundai’ parked near the Earl’s land. Registration; foxtrot (oh really where?), Golf (to be expected), Hotel (beats my B and B) November (perpetually), Papa (died and left me) nineteen ninety-five model.

In the afternoon Farmer Giles was suffering his piles,
for he dug up a tuffet because Little Miss Muffet,
who was atop it was a
spoilt ‘it’ kid from the city, matter of fact the west of it,
and besides moles around here could shut the ***k up cos they had no
ownership rights either. There were only ‘pests’ disrupting the economics of farming and moi land!
‘I’ve worked all me life.’ Said Giles. Moles should earn a living.

Wherever you looked there were only the serried ranks of the dumb, the
bovine, foxes mugging homesteaders of their chickens, creeping gangster owls soundless in the velvetine darkness.
Come out from under your stones and see the same thing done but in the city where grown-ups live. Crowds of mustard flowers waved all different ways, blowing with the wind —frivolous shoppers in Oxford Street.

The animals crowded the pastures; Friesians blackened the meadows, Gothic starlings fringed the boughs, hustling the best spot.

And all dun-coloured, in the metaphysics of things at least and, worse still, none could talk.

Nor were there pussycats here, no proper country forest, no labial lawns, or chestnut thatch much less the downy patch, of the
penumbra between the feathery wood and the thigh of the meadow.

And subtract from this, dun-coloured sparrows’ chirruping gossip at lights out.

No, all quiet here—only the pout of a dace, the moue of a rudd.

They sit in the dark of a bend in the river where mournful trees overhang;
Nowhere a plan, for them to jump out into the net I don’t have. Only the dark of the bend.
Nothing on offer.

Save some lads who have come from the city. On a trip with ten cold beers each, all warming, turning to soup.
They look at the pastures seen and say, ‘no birds here bruv’. Only the stench of the next door farm, barbed wire, another warning sign; private property, no trespassing, slow down. Twinned with Cologne. Well if you lose the war.

City talk cuts no ice here. The farmer’s boy casually blasts the crests of men pheasants with shot, stoves the skulls of rabbits into the landscape,
poke down the heads of little black kittens into the bucket. Surplus they bob down beneath the surface and up for the last time.
One cat can off the rats.
Drowning cute kitties here isn’t a crime.

Country people, village people anyway, are as mean and quick-sighted as birds, orderly as clerks, great tuggers of lace, sentinels of the status quo.

And so when on my couch and a pleasant host of geese I see, vree-vree,
I think take me back to the town,
And set me free.

Hell. I feel so very tired.

Originally published in Ink, Sweat and Tears

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