Christopher Moncrieff

Flotsam

Through its many cracks the evening sky,

a smudged grey mirror without horizon,

empties its reflection into the sea, mingling with

the blood of the dying sun, staining the water

on which float or sink the tide of little boats,

their foreign eyes fixed on the ghost of land.

Up in the old town of small blue houses,

where cats and dogs fight their owners for a crust,

people drift out of Vespers in unmended shoes,

their souls patched one more time, hoping it will last another day.

The ageing priest stares after them, a trickle of ragged shapes

running down to the shore

where crimson water laps the beach

on which children used to play.

They run across the wet and shining sand,

gazing out to sea,

wondering what the waves will cast off tonight,

how many boats will turn to driftwood

for the fire to keep them warm.

Fingers of foam, cold and searching, brush a tiny, sodden shape,

a question mark curled up at the water’s edge,

one arm stretched landwards, its bloodied fist clutching

the last few shreds of hope.

They turn the young boy over, close his lifeless eyes

as the Aegean whispers his name.

The Iron Gates are closing

all over Europe,

slammed shut against the Other,

faceless strangers fleeing homes bombed flat

by pounds and dollars.

While in the island to the north,

land of crumbling, pockmarked cliffs

and instinctively doffed caps,

they are rolling down the shutters of their shops,

counting the day’s takings,

balancing the books

for posterity.

Put the kettle on, be a dear.

Is there honey still for tea?

Spots Before Your Eyes

At a certain time of year,

when the pale sun hangs lower in the sky

and its angled, obnubilate rays

eclipse the landscape with dead-man’s finger light,

you begin to see strange shapes,

bright dots of colour blooming everywhere,

splashes of red clamouring for attention,

for national recognition

on the curled-up, stale lapels

of the unworthy

whose forbears (who they seek to emulate)

despatched millions to a brute, untimely death

so that the shops could stay open round the clock,

their cash tills sounding patriotic carillons

which chimed in tune with the putting out of flags.

 

This untimely, bloodstained rite of spring,

with its fly-breeding zealots,

afflicts us every autumn

at the going down of the sun

and in the morning,

in time for the budgetary noose-tightening of belts

and chat show appearances

by would-be, could-be,

vote-for-me-please self-elected worthies

bearing prominent scarlet posies

to ward off the danger of de-selection.

Each year the flowering of this noisome crop

creeps forward on the calendar,

its drumbeat growing ever louder

until the cries for peace

are drowned out by the year-round tide

of co-opted coquelicots

uprooted from foreign fields

and left to rot.

Christopher Moncrieff is a European poet who has also translated widely from French, German and Romanian literature (Pushkin Press, Alma Books, Alma Classics & Istros Books). After professional military service in Europe, the Near East and the USA during the Cold War he produced son et lumière-style shows in Germany, France and the USA before beginning to write full-time, and has also lived in Paris and Los Angeles. He read Theology at Oxford, and has qualifications in design and on the military staff. A frequent traveller in Central and Eastern Europe, he speaks a number of the languages of the region. He is an award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, in which capacity he was the Writing Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge, from October 2018-December 2019, has worked as a mentor for young adults on the autism spectrum, and campaigns for the acceptance of neuro- and gender diversity. His poetry has appeared in the Bucharest Literary Review, Luceafrul, and in two illustrated collections from Caparison, Tabac Blond (2019) and Mermaids in Wormwood (2021). He is currently working on a new collection, as well as a cycle of prose-poem novellas written from a neurodivergent perspective. In 2020 he was the first Writer in Residence at the Institute of Science and Technology at the University of Vienna.

Personal website: www.christophermoncrieff.com

Who Will Speak For England?

Where the voting slips were counted,

children now draw and sing and play,

coughing in the dust that still fills the air,

skipping through the layer on the ground,

finding crumpled ballots here and there.

They puzzle at the scrawl that smears the paper,

screaming out its pint of bitter rage,

clamouring inchoate for a voice.

And the children frown and shake their curled, blond heads:

what is this noise, they wonder? Does someone want to speak?

 

Out in the street, meanwhile,

and on the dust-choked airwaves,

there is much talk of speaking,

of walking the talk,

walking tall,

of taking it on someone else’s chin,

handing out brooms to the unemployed and capped

so they can cheaply sweep up the lies the talkers told

before the children find them in the dust

and read them out loud

outside Poundland and the sporting sweatshops

where babies are born in toilets during unpaid tea breaks

because the talkers and their ear-flap listeners

don’t like breast feeding in public places,

it gives them puce red faces

and makes their velvet collars curl.

But someone has spoken;

their Voice has been heard.

 

And in My Lady’s Chamber,

where the dust of ages past

is dutifully debated daily

by blond talkers with loud voices

and divine-right, skirt-wandering hands

(when they’re not straying in the till),

the unanimous, hard-whipped opinion

is that someone somewhere who the clarions call

The People

has definitively spoken

once and for all

there’s no going back

we’re not for turning

to do so would be Tower of London Treason

chop chop chop goes the axe Mr Punch.

 

England has spoken;

it has done its duty

by the Irish and the Scots

and out-talked the Welsh.

The smell of its voice floats rankly on the breeze

which blows back and forth across the Channel,

clogging the continental air conditioners

like so many times before,

poisoning the atmosphere for friend and foe alike.

England has spoken

for itself.

Trambahn    

 

On it went along the coast,

bells singing for the sake of an

eternal memory

that drifted somewhere in the sleeve of mist

which hung over Der Kanal,

protecting you from the Island to the north,

with its colonies of bow-legged, fist-brandishing gorillas

who viewed you and the swaying trolleybus

with the special fear and loathing

that they reserve for Others;

those foreign types who live across the water

- our water, as the apes prefer to call it.

And you gazed out the window of the tram,

inhaled its scents of caramel and sweet oil,

swaying to its familiar lullaby

that bore you eastward and away,

away from the bilious, boarded-up nostalgia

across the fog-bound waves,

yet always remembering

that she might be there too,

dreaming along the Promenade of her seaside town

whose honking, island shanties chill you to the bone.

But for now you felt assuaged,

even expressed,

by this lilting trajet through the dunes

where the many tongues they speak

are also yours.

 

atos
Poor Doors
Sheriff Stars
spikes

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
bedroom tax
Disrupt and Upset
triangle_small
spikes
bedroom tax
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
Disrupt and Upset

Militant Thistles

prickling the politics of "permanent austerity"