Personal poems

A new side of me
I did not write my first poem ever until just after Christmas 2010. I have decided to post them here. I hope some will entertain, as well as provide a glimpse of a Robert even I have not met before.

Unknown certainty

Grey blue eyes and rowan hair,
Smell of cloves and apple pie,
To all the world another woman,
To him a perfect vision.

Sees her smiles and hears her voice,
To him alone she talks,
No one notices the claim he stakes,
Nor the step she makes.

They stand and talk, then drift away,
To a place they make their own,
A path, a park, where only trees
Can hear the words they speak,

A brushing hand, a clasp soon sure,
Followed by a pause,
A life that might have been,
Then overwhelmed by bliss.

Lips that part as if to speak,
Instead join two as one,
Confused and taken by surprise,
Clinging hands say more than words.

There is no going back,
The past's undone,
The future beckons,
Unknown certainty awaits,

Robert Howard
28 December 2010.

Inspired by the line 'Love has no end in view save parting'. Unfortunately, I cannot find the poem.  My first ever poem as far as I can remember.

Mr and Mrs Mainwaring

Sometimes mentioned
Never seen
There they are
The other halves
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

I'll have to see”
She may have other plans”
He's away that day”
They seem to run the show
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

You know them well enough
Always on their own
Only sometimes do you wonder
Who've they left at home
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

With one it's kids
The other, work
Thrown together every day
It would never work
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

An unlikely team
They play the game
Holding onto what?
Even they don't know
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

Out of doors
They live apart
Indoors they share a bed
Where mutual needs are met
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

When it comes to friends
His and hers don't meet
And families just the same
In truth it works a treat
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

In death, like life
They go their separate ways
One without the other
A bit like us in truth
Mr and Mrs Mainwaring.

Robert Howard
29 May 2011.

Inspired by a West End Bowling Club joke about absent partners based on the never seen 'Mrs Mainwaring' in the Dad's Army TV series.

Memories of trollies and Joy

Another day done
And over the road,
I stand at the (bus) stop,
With four in front,
It's damp and I'm cold.

We shuffle and stamp on the spot,
'Every 3 to 4 minutes' they come,
Along the Harrow Road, from
Paddington Green and Kensal Rise,
I wish I had worn thicker socks.

Then thru' the fog and sulphur gloom,
I see trolleybus headlights bend,
Still a distant away,
An indistinct shape,
Smog yellow, dirty red.

Embryo like, it clings to its wires,
Enveloped in winter's dark folds,
Slowly and cautiously,
It comes to us at the (Jubilee) Clock,
Is it a 662 or a 664?

Relief all round, it's Sudbury bound,
5:45 and it's heaving,
'Room on top. Two upstairs',
'Don't hang about',
'And you, son, inside'.

Two regulars look and nod,
I see Joy in the front, wedged tight,
She turns and gives a little wave,
Maybe a chat when we get off,
I can't wait for our Wembley stop.

She's engaged,
I wish it was me,
We always talk,
We met on the trolley,
Older than me, I love her to bits.

February cold. Wet windows inside,
Warm bodies, Narrow seats,
Painted faces with bright red lips,
Woollen coats with wide collars,
And chatter chatter.

Painfully slow we glide,
On and off they get at every stop,
Harlesden's rush hour crowds,
Craven Park 'rumbles' ahead,
And then Mr. Jones.

Every time the same,
'How's Pop?…'
'Tell him he owes me a pint',
Then he takes a bench to himself,
And I slide in by Joy.

Small talk, shared passions,
Barham Park Library,
Books and museums,
Past Stonebridge and Tokyngton Hill,
The trolleybus goes, unnoticed by us.

Wembley Stadium on the right,
All lit up tonight,
Joy. Heaven. Puts her hand on mine,
'Time for tea I think…
My treat'.

We shudder to a halt,
Roads and pavements overflow,
Fans and workers mix,
From end to end the road is blocked,
A welded line of buses, cars and us.

'Shall we get off and walk?'
Down the trolley and off the back,
'You'll break your necks one day'
We hear the clippie shout,
As holding hands we jump.

In a world of our own,
Shrouded by vapours which cling,
We could be any High Road couple,
Past the Majestic and old Town Hall,
We see Lyons still open for tea.

No one we know,
Joy tells me her fiancé's away,
Gone home to Sunderland,
'Are you expected?…
If not, come home with me'.

'I'll phone' I say. 'Nanna won't mind',
Nothing happened,
It never did,
But those times were special,
Joy, the trolleybuses and February.


Twelve months later,
The trolleybuses had gone,
My Nanna was dead,
And Joy was married,
I was there for them all.

The day Joy married
Was the only time we kissed,
She squeezed my hand and said
'Next time it will be you. I promise',
We never spoke again.

There was one last glimpse of Joy,
Years later on the Bakerloo Line,
Our carriages stopped, side by side,
I saw the wave, then her smile,
And she was gone. This time forever.

Robert Howard
8 March 2011.

My first memory

My early years are blank,
I only know what I've been told,
Or seen in photographs of me,
Are they clues to who I am?
Perhaps reality lies hidden.

When did I become aware?
Sitting in a pushchair,
Uncle Sid and Pop. A fight,
Men running out,
A woman shouting.

Left in Nanna's care,
I remember little of those childhood years,
Pictures show a happy child,
One, standing on a tank,
And, yes, I see the man in me.

Conjuring memories now is easy,
Just how real are they?
And here they come,
A frenzy in my head,
A maze I scramble through.

Perhaps a play describes them best,
In the theatre of my mind,
Sometimes victim, never hero,
Sometimes audience, never star,
Then passive, watching other lives.

Now I see my life in others,
Childhoods that seem my own,
Still upon a stage,
Love growing up,
A family moving on,

And that first memory?
I was nearly two,
But was 26 before I knew,
It was a family gathering,
Of a kind we all dread.

'Well I never' my Pop said,
'Fancy you remembering that,
Now that Sid is dead',
Then we laughed,
And wondered who'd be next.

Robert Howard
3 April 2011.

In response to Mike asking the class to write about a childhood memory.

The bridge

In distant times,
Between two lands,
Set asunder by a river,
Men, a causeway and a bridge,
Did build.

First they marked a path,
Across the marsh,
And shored its sides with stone,
Between they filled with rush,
Then earth and rush and earth.

Hammered down and covered,
With paviors cut from rock,
One side was made,
By men with simple skills,
To cross a river.

On the other bank,
The land was firm and dry,
Well drained and higher ground,
Where men worked,
To build a wall of stone.

They dug a trench,
Three men down in height,
And eight men wide,
Then lined its sides with stone,
In between went lime and gravel.
If that was all they did,
It would have been enough,
But this wall rose high,
And lined up straight,
With the other side.

They looked across and waved,
As men in boats,
Joined hawsers bank to bank,
To carry rocks and wood,
To build a bridge.

Four piers it took,
And several years.
Wood frames and rocks,
Manhandled into place,
One course upon another.

None had built a bridge before,
Mason John had built a church,
So led the way,
With a drawing from his lord,
and a clerk to keep accounts.

With time comes confidence,
And changes could be made,
Instead of wood it was stone,
That carried the road
Men marvelled at what they did,

Then in thanks that no one died,
They made a chapel and a shelter,
For travellers to pray and rest,
Whilst others made offerings to older gods.

Eight hundred years have passed,
Since those men gave thanks,
And still their bridge is there,
Sometimes neglected, always saved,
Time has changed the river more.

Kings have come and crossed,
Invading armies here have stopped,
Thwarted by a bridge,
And what lay beyond,
It bound a kingdom into one.

Not many stop to think,
Of these things or more,
When they use this ancient bridge,
Built by men like you and me
Could we do it now?

Robert Howard
24 May 2011

From a class exercise set by Mike and inspired by U A Fanthorpe's poem about Bonnie Prince Charlie and Swarkstone Bridge in Derbyshire, where his army stopped, even though the way to London was open.

My friend Rosie has blogged about the Swarkestone bridge and causeway

A (Lenton) Domesday scenario

Ten men came that day,
Eight of foot,
Two on horse,
One a scribe.

From Nottingham they came,
King's men they said,
The reeve came yesterday,
Told us not to lie.

Wulfric was the first,
He told them of his ox,
And his ploughs of land,
Every word was taken down.

Edward's widow stood and stared,
What could she say,
He had died that day,
The mill was hers.

Then Aelfric spoke,
The scribe looked up,
'Oh let the woman speak',
The king's man muttered.

'The mill is mine' she said,
'Given by Bishop Toade'
'On Lammas day, ten years ago',
Then she stopped.

Under oath she spoke,
And none did doubt her claim,
'Record the mill as hers',
The king's man told the scribe.

Robert Howard
30 April 2011

My response to an exercise set by Pippa Hennessy at a Nottingham Poetry Society work-shop on 30 April 2011 to write about an 'historical event'.

Lab Rat Hero

Onto the roof under grey skies,
Into the hut, cages inside,
Pink eyes, yellow stained fur,
One of many, but still a lab rat,
He looks at me unknowingly,
Only on his last journey,
Will he see the sky,
Down the stairs, Neck to be broken,
Dissected and dead,
At last he is free,
My lab rat,
And me? I am diminished,
In the end, ashamed, I walk away,
Animal heroes, every one, lab rats.

Robert Howard
8 March 2011

Class exercise set by Mike to write about an animal.