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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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.

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

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)

The Film of God by R.S. Thomas

Sound, too? The recorder
that picks up everything picked
up nothing but the natural
background. What language
does the god speak? And the camera's
lens, as sensitive to
an absence as to a presence,
saw what? What is the colour
of his thought?
It was blank, then,
the screen, as far as he
was concerned? It was a bare
landscape and harsh, and geological
its time. But the rock was
bright, the illuminated manuscript
of the lichen. And a shadow,
as we watched, fell, as though
of an unseen writer bending over
his work.
It was not cloud
because it was not cold,
and dark only from the candlepower
behind it. And we waited
for it to move, silently
as the spool turned, waited
for the figure that cast it
to come into view for us to
identify it, and it
didn't and we are still waiting.


By R.S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

Miracle On St David’s Day by Gillian Clarke

‘They flash upon that inward eye
which is the bliss of solitude

from ‘The Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth
 An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coal as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big, mild man is tenderly led

to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.

The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still.

Forty years ago, in a Valleys school,
the class recited poetry by rote.
Since the dumbness of misery fell
he has remembered there was a music
of speech and that once he had something to say.

When he’s done, before the applause, we observe
the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings
and the daffodils are flame.

By Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)


Gillian Clarke discussing and then reciting her poem ‘Miracle on St David’s Day’

Gillian remarks on her site: “All you need to know about this poem is that it is a true story. It happened in the ’70s, and it took me years to find a way to write the poem.