Canine Graffiti by Mike Jenkins

 Some loopy boy wrote 'FUCK OFF'
in firm felt-tip on the white back
of a nippy-as-a-ferret Jack Russell.

Senior staff spotted it while it shat
in the midst of a modern dance
formation – leotards snapped!

(When they weren't busy piercing ears
with sharp instructions, or spiking hair
with swift backhand cuffs,

they did have time to snoop on lessons
which exceeded the statutory decibel rate.)
They set off in pursuit of the errant dog,

skilfully hurdling its poop in the process.
They chased it into Mathematics
where it caused havoc by lifting a leg

45° towards the blackboard's right-angle.
Then through the Audio-Visual concepts room,
across the film of Henry V, making Olivier's horse

rear and throw the bewildered actor.
It hid behind a smoke-screen in the bogs,
sniffed out bunkers in the coal-bunker.

For hours it disappeared and Senior Staff
suspected a trendy English teacher
of using it as an aid to creative writing.

Finally it was duly discovered
by Lizzie Locust (Biology), necking
with a stuffed stoat in the store-cupboard.

Now you can see the distraught Headmistress
scrubbing form bell to bell in her office,
a small dog held down by burly, sweating prefects.


by Mike Jenkins
from Invisible Times

Additional information: Just in case some of the words don’t make sense because they’re British words, or slang and euphemisms specific to the South Wales Welsh-English speaking region, here’s a quick breakdown of some of them:

Loopy: strange, odd, crazy, affected, etc.

Felt-tip: a marker pen, usually a cheap one meant for kids but it can mean the bigger ones too.

Nippy: to do something in a fast, quick, spritely, etc, manner e.g. ‘I’m nipping over to the shops do you want anything?’

Shat: the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. It’s not a proper word as far as I’m aware and ‘shit’ is more or less used as it’s own quasi-infinitive in most cases i.e. ‘he shit himself [yesterday]’, ‘he has [just now] shit himself’, ‘he will shit himself [if he eats that]’.

Backhand cuffs: backhand hand motions or in this case backhand slaps to pupils or backhanded admonishment due to frustration at not locating the dog yet. That thing where teachers take out their frustrations by speaking passive aggressively towards pupils out of a sense of personal frustration (when it’s nothing to do with said pupils) as I’m sure we have all seen in our schooldays.

Snoop: spy, eavesdrop, etc.

In the bogs: the ‘bogs’ are the toilets… because, at least in my experience, there would be mysterious pools of water on the floor by about 10AM each school day and you could never be certain if they were sink water shaken off of hands or bodily fluids… the smoke screen in the bogs being that it’s where pupils would go to hide when smoking as is no doubt universally the case.

Bunkers: ‘bunking off’, ‘doing a bunk’, etc is the act of not attending class. Skipping class, skiving, but it can also mean playing truant as well though here it’s just the former. The play on words being that people skipping class are in a room intended for storing coal thus both are commonly referred to as ‘bunkers’.

Store – cupboard: A room where school equipment is stored behind a locked door. Usually a small antechamber between two classrooms or a smallroom leading from one classroom like an en suite bathroom but filled with shalves of old textbooks, random items and a prime location for pupils or members of staff to neck on with each other.

Necking: to ‘neck on’ etc involved kissing but implies a more salacious aspect such as groping, french kissing, fondling, etc. Usually done in a place intended to give some privacy but usually easily discovered such as behind the bike sheds or in a storeroom cupboard. ‘Necking on’ being a term often ascribed to teenagers at a party experimenting with such aspects of intimacy.

Prefects: In my experience sixth formers doing something for their school leavers certificate to have extra ‘good citizen’ points when applying for university. Not the Head Boy or Head Girl but given tasks by staff and running or representing various matters for the student body. Compare them to the ‘student council’ in anime for a more commonly known version of this type. I guess though on the whole it’s just teacher’s pets, the (within the school) social elite or those who are already prone to social climbing and a lust for power even at this early an age.

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‘Разрывы круглых бухт, и хрящ, и синева’ a.k.a. ‘Breaks in round bays, and shingle, and blue’ by Osip Mandelstam

Breaks in round bays, and shingle, and blue,
and a slow sail continued by a cloud -
I hardly knew you; I've been torn from you:
longer than organ fugues – the sea's bitter grasses,
fake tresses – and their long lie stinks,
my head swims with iron tenderness,
the rust gnaws bit by bit the sloping bank...
On what new sands does my head sink?
You, guttural Urals, broad-shouldered Volga lands,
or this dead-flat plain – here are all my rights,
and, full-lunged, gotta go on breathing them.


by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам
(Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
(4 February 1937)
translated by Andrew Davis

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version:

Разрывы круглых бухт, и хрящ, и синева,
И парус медленный, что облаком продолжен,-
Я с вами разлучен, вас оценив едва:
Длинней органных фуг - горька морей трава,
Ложноволосая,- и пахнет долгой ложью,
Железной нежностью хмелеет голова,
И ржавчина чуть-чуть отлогий берег гложет...
Что ж мне под голову другой песок подложен?
Ты, горловой Урал, плечистое Поволжье
Иль этот ровный край - вот все мои права,
И полной грудью их вдыхать еще я должен.

Additional information:

The Volga (Во́лга) is the longest river in Europe with a catchment area of 1,350,000 square kilometres. It is also Europe’s largest river in terms of discharge and drainage basin. The river flows through central Russia and into the Caspian Sea, and is widely regarded as the national river of Russia. Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, Moscow, are located in the Volga’s drainage basin. Some of the largest reservoirs in the world are located along the Volga.

The river has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is often referred to as Волга-матушка Volga-Matushka (Mother Volga) in Russian literature and folklore.

The Ural Mountains ( Ура́льские го́ры), or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. The mountain range forms part of the conventional boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. Vaygach Island and the islands of Novaya Zemlya form a further continuation of the chain to the north into the Arctic Ocean.

The Urals have been viewed by Russians as a “treasure box” of mineral resources, which were the basis for its extensive industrial development. In addition to iron and copper the Urals were a source of gold, malachite, alexandrite, and other gems such as those used by the court jeweller Fabergé. As Russians in other regions gather mushrooms or berries, Uralians gather mineral specimens and gems. Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak (1852–1912) Pavel Bazhov (1879–1950), as well as Aleksey Ivanov and Olga Slavnikova, post-Soviet writers, have written of the region.

The region served as a military stronghold during Peter the Great’s Great Northern War with Sweden, during Stalin’s rule when the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Complex was built and Russian industry relocated to the Urals during the Nazi advance at the beginning of World War II, and as the center of the Soviet nuclear industry during the Cold War. Extreme levels of air, water, and radiological contamination and pollution by industrial wastes resulted. Population exodus resulted, and economic depression at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in post-Soviet times additional mineral exploration, particularly in the northern Urals, has been productive and the region has attracted industrial investment.

Choughs by Gillian Clarke

I follow you downhill to the edge
my feet taking as naturally as yours
To a sideways tread, finding footholds
Easily in the turf, accustomed
As we are to a sloping country.

The cliffs buttress the bay's curve to the north
And here drop sheer and sudden to the sea
The choughs plummet from sight then ride
The updraught of the cliff's mild yellow
Light, fold, fall with closed wings for the sky.

At the last moment as in unison they turn
A ripcord of the wind is pulled in time.
He gives her food and the saliva
Of his red mouth, draws her black feathers, sweet
As shining grass across his bill.

Rare birds that pair for life. There they go
Divebombing the marbled wave a yard
Above the spray. Wings flick open
A stoop away
From the drawn teeth of the sea.


by Gillian Clarke
from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer)
(1978)

Additional information: While the chough‘s black plumage identifies it as a crow, the chough (pronounced ‘chuff’) has a red bill and legs unlike any other member of the crow family. It is restricted to the west of the British Isles.

It readily displays its mastery of flight with wonderful aerial displays of diving and swooping. This Schedule 1 species can be found in flocks in autumn and winter.

Весна (Spring) by Boris Pasternak

Spring, I come in from the street, where the poplar is shaken,
Where distance is frightened, the house afraid it will fall,
Where the air is blue as the laundry bag
Of a patient released from hospital.

Where evening is empty, an unfinished tale
Left in the air by a star with no sequel,
Bewildering thousands of noisy eyes,
Expressionless, unfathomable.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1918)
from Темы и вариации (Themes and Variations)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

Весна, я с улицы, где тополь удивлен,
Где даль пугается, где дом упасть боится,
Где воздух синь, как узелок с бельем
У выписавшегося из больницы.

Где вечер пуст, как прерванный рассказ,
Оставленный звездой без продолженья
К недоуменью тысяч шумных глаз,
Бездонных и лишенных выраженья.

Additional information: This should not be confused with the other Весна (Spring) poem by Boris Pasternak from the collection Over the Barriers.

Easter by R.S. Thomas

Easter. I go to church
to proclaim with my fellows
I believe in the Ressurection -
of what? Here everything
is electric and automatic.
In April a myriad bulbs
are switched on as flowers
incandesce; a new generation
of creatures rehearses
its genetic code. All this is easy.
Earth is a self-regulating
machine; everything happens
because it must. My faith
is in the inevitability
of creation. There will come a day -
dust under a dry sun,
ashes under its incineration...
is there somewhere in all
the emptiness of the universe
a fertile star where the old
metaphors wil apply, where
the bugling daffodil will sound
abroad not the last post, but
a gush of music out of an empty tomb?

by R.S. Thomas
from Unpublished Poems

Весна (Spring) by Boris Pasternak

How many sticky buds, how many candle-ends
Are glued to the branches now! April
Is lit. The wind from the park reeks of puberty
And the woods are more blatant still.

A tight loop of feathered throats holds the wood's windpipe
Lassoed like a steer, and it groans
In nets as the gladiatorial organ
Steel-throated sonatas intones.

Now, Poetry, be a Greek sponge with suckers
And let the green succulence drench
You, under the trees on the sodden wood
Of a green-mottled garden bench.

Grow sumptuous flounces and furbelows,
Suck clouds and gullies in hour by hour,
And, Poetry, tonight I'll squeeze you out
To make the thirsty paper flower.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Over the Barriers
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

This translation only covers the first part of the poem but below is the full original version in Cyrillic.

Весна


1

Что почек, что клейких заплывших огарков
Налеплено к веткам! Затеплен
Апрель. Возмужалостью тянет из парка,
И реплики леса окрепли.

Лес стянут по горлу петлею пернатых
Гортаней, как буйвол арканом,
И стонет в сетях, как стенает в сонатах
Стальной гладиатор органа.

Поэзия! Греческой губкой в присосках
Будь ты, и меж зелени клейкой
Тебя б положил я на мокрую доску
Зеленой садовой скамейки.

Расти себе пышные брыжжи и фижмы,
Вбирай облака и овраги,
А ночью, поэзия, я тебя выжму
Во здравие жадной бумаги.

2

Весна! Не отлучайтесь
Сегодня в город. Стаями
По городу, как чайки,
Льды раскричались, таючи.

Земля, земля волнуется,
И катятся, как волны,
Чернеющие улицы,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

По ним плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки синевы со льдом,
От пены буревестников
Вам дурно станет. Впрочем, дом
Кругом затоплен песнью.

И бросьте размышлять о тех,
Кто выехал рыбачить.
По городу гуляет грех
И ходят слезы падших.

3

Разве только грязь видна вам,
А не скачет таль в глазах?
Не играет по канавам -
Словно в яблоках рысак?

Разве только птицы цедят,
В синем небе щебеча,
Ледяной лимон обеден
Сквозь соломину луча?

Оглянись, и ты увидишь
До зари, весь день, везде,
С головой Москва, как Китеж,-
В светло-голубой воде.

Отчего прозрачны крыши
И хрустальны колера?
Как камыш, кирпич колыша,
Дни несутся в вечера.

Город, как болото, топок,
Струпья снега на счету,
И февраль горит, как хлопок,
Захлебнувшийся в спирту.

Белым пламенем измучив
Зоркость чердаков, в косом
Переплете птиц и сучьев -
Воздух гол и невесом.

В эти дни теряешь имя,
Толпы лиц сшибают с ног.
Знай, твоя подруга с ними,
Но и ты не одинок.

Additional information: Not to be confused with the other Spring poem by Pasternak from the collection Themes and Variations.

Night Sky by R.S. Thomas

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller. But there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)