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John Quicke

The Camel Jockey


I met him wandering on the dunes, a tiny man

who’d been replaced by an automaton.

“ Remember those rows of gantry cranes, high

stacked  decks, lines of waiting wheels? No more!”

He’d seen containers with their cargoes spilled,

flowers for ‘cities’, umbilicals cut, withering;  

noted rebellion afoot amongst the worker tribes

crawling from their barracks to mix wrong ratios

of sand/cement before their deportation.

Soon the mighty towers crumbled, icons fell like

ninepins, while on the three glass pyramids left,

the Sheikh’s smiling face, appeared, disappeared,

proclaiming his benevolence, his eternity,

his concern for customer care.

Portrait On the Humber*


Lips gently parting to reveal a simple smile,

she has an untroubled but enigmatic look,

her apparel conforming to divine diktat

- a deep white collar on a full black dress,


Wife of a merchant? One perhaps reliant

on confident Dutch traders working sea-marks

set by pilots - sandbanks, mudflats, saltmarsh,

inundation, reclamation, changes over time.


A boat laden with goods on a favoured tide

via a dog-leg estuary and across the sea

inching its way to a land reclaimed with God’s

blessing for nation building in a ‘golden age’.


How much did she know of slaves in the east,

the props to an ‘embarrassment of riches’? 

A mastery of nature and colonies infected

both our worlds of empire generated trade.


Today oil-power spews pollution on the south bank.

Fumes disguised as clouds linger above the slipway.

Windmill relics remind us of her destination.

Enough power once to help her kin drain land.


Now, at deep anchorage the tankers rest, handy-sized

for river travel, cargoes stowed with double hull

security and cofferdams, chartered with convenience flags

of threatened islands, fortunes tied to markets.    



*Portrait of a Young Woman by Franz Hals, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

John Quicke is originally from West London, where he was born 16.10.41, John Quicke has spent most of his professional career in Sheffield. He is a retired professor who has published widely in the field of education. In his book, Inclusion and Psychological Intervention in Schools (Springer, 2009), he draws upon his experiences as a local authority educational psychologist. It consists of a number of ‘factional’ stories which demonstrate how a self reflexive narrative can generate productive insights into educational processes. Other books include A Curriculum for Life (OUP, 1999) and Disability in Modern Children’s Fiction (Croom Helm, 1985). The role of poetry in teaching has been an emerging interest. His own poetry explores a number of cultural and political themes in a contemporary context. His recent collection, Political Ties (2014), has been self-published by Matador/Troubador.



Outside the outer edge of wilderness,

firing arguments from mountain tops of sand…

I see your denial of a sense of burn out.  

Perhaps, a change of view? Cherish the rosy glow

that’s solitude, a quiet space for a slow take off,  

for consolidation of a found again dream?

I’ll help you perform a version of your ‘true’ self,

as the perfect antidote to clubman economics,

newly minted but slightly ragged and unpolished.

So let your handlers deal with the baggage,

put yourself on a well resourced plane, and re-enter

not as an aging comeback kid, but as ‘real’,

all your hyperboles tied down, all your conceit

lurking in the eyes airbrushed, all your friends

and family now on message. It’s OK

to rely on me to put your best foot forward.

Humber Oil


In this operational refinery with its dangerous connections,

workers are haunted by a leaky, controversial history.

The flow draws through sour water strippers, a feedstock

circulating through banks of pipes, distilled in towers,

cracked, reformed, lightened. After dark the eye ascends

to shining platforms near flaming chimney silhouettes,

along steel grids through different fluxes of illuminance.


Soon, a small city will be left inhabited by artists,

trailing a golden thread  through a mix of hazardous buildings

- no harmony of geometric form but the brutal

agitating with the elegant, a rusty jungle expressing

both logic and dysfunction. At its centre is a flow diagram

on a silver screen. The science of raw oil-power builds pressure

for a spurt of rainbow-coloured synthetics, a kind of beauty


in viscosity and in the light fluctuating through smokeclouds.

But don’t return us to illusions, a beginning nature

starting the whole thing off again from something

called the fundamentals, more fetish fantasies, human

and godly guff. Now workers are permanently

out of their trance, if still living in the acid rains

creeping over their retirement, but with memories of tangles


and puzzles, a steel forest of perplexity. No flight of fancy.

They have rights to work their own way between the columns,

silos and tanks, disconnecting reconnecting, candles

and tricks of light, not perfectly constructed

but poking through stuck to a new purpose. A creative

ambition for demolition row, dismantling a sick form,

reinventing it as their art on a new map of hope.

Poor Doors
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
bedroom tax
Disrupt and Upset
bedroom tax
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
Disrupt and Upset

Militant Thistles

prickling the politics of "permanent austerity"

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