Sunday 20 November 2022

Four Poems by Tony Stowers


Into the valley of the clones


10.15 on a Saturday night, I look like a monster but I feel all right.

Confused and lost, I miss a turn, in through the out door - I never seem to learn.

The casual sniggers ripple down the line where the cocktail peacocks wine and dine,

each step we take may break our bones as we enter the valley of the clones.

Mouths like cannons, like solders on parade, we felt just like the Light Brigade,

meaty maulers meet your gaze and you know we gotta get outta this place.

Its glitter and flash that flash the cash for lager, vino and liquid trash.

Shirts and ties and social spies - she eyes his packet and thinks of size -

he thinks of shape and size of breasts - she dreams of kids and pregnancy tests.

Aftershave freezes and a hairpin drops, silence is golden as the jukebox stops,

their clothes disintegrate at a touch. Erase them all, the big, the butch,

plastic hairstyle, nightclub unknown: we saw it all in the valley of the clone.

We took a step and drew a breath, hesitation glued the air,

in silence all we did was stare. A burp broke cover, then a fart.

I felt the tension in my heart. Unwanted there, they made it plain -

we must never, ever go there again. HATE across the left hand,

LOVE across the right, T. REX is alive and well - don’t touch him or he’ll bite.

It’s Man at C&A and woman at W.C. and the enemy’s at six o’clock,

the enemy is ME!

‘Can you tell me where the toilet is?’ I gently ask a face.

‘Six foot under – where you’ll be’, it makes my heartbeat race.

‘You get out, punk and you get out now ‘coz you’re the limit to what we’ll allow.

You get out, punk or we’ll bring you down!’

Treated like a stranger in my own home town!

Anger to the left of me, carnage to the right, kicked into Sunday on a busy Saturday night.

Eyes stab our backs as we hit the cool street, so glad to be free of the valley’s heat.

We’d seen them fly the sticks and stones where dinosaurs die in the valley of the clones,

where men are men with arms like logs and bitching women fight like dogs

and I’d only gone in to use the bogs.

So the price of a piss can lead you amiss know your town and deal with this

-       carved up into tribal zones the good, the bad, the ugly and the valley of the clones.



The Ticket Inspector

My name is Harold Everyman, in my shirt and tie and hat,

you wouldn't think to look at me I was such an obnoxious . . . person,

but obnoxious to you is honest to me and the lot of an ordinary man,

but give me a badge and a uniform and I'll behave like Genghis Khan.

At school, the Careers lady said 'What do you want to be?

Do you want to join the Army, fly or do you want to go to sea?

Do you want to be a doctor, lawyer, baker, butcher or nurse?

You could even be a computer programmer or a composer of musical verse.

Yes, you can choose the whole plethora, from Nothing to Director'

and I beamed and said: 'It's plain to see – I want to be a Ticket Inspector!'

I want to wear a black uniform and have people afraid of me!

I want to punish the poor for trying to get something for free!

I want to see them squirm because they haven't got a ticket

and relish the moment I say 'There's my boot – lick it!'

Of course I'm only joking, yes I have a sense of humour,

I'm really quite a decent chap or at least that is the rumour.

I think of myself as an ordinary guy with ordinary ambition:

car, wife, garden, kids and house, retirement and pension.

The idea I'm a pawn bought by a capitalist machine

is something I never think about 'coz I choose to not know what you mean.

But there isn't much difference between me, a traffic warden or security guard

we've all sold our morality cheap and our sympathy by the yard.

I'm sorry you're humiliated in public (not really), that you beg and plea and sob,

but I'm not really a baddy, my friend, like Eichmann - just doing my job.


I've heard all the excuses, you know, nothing’s new in my line

and I'll even address you Madam or Sir before I issue your fine.

My colleagues and I - devoted pros, our duty never lacks

and we're much more efficient as a team, that's why we hunt in packs.


Where we have the most success is where people are most poor,

like council estates or ghettos where the incomes are much lower,

where people are desperate to get to work or save a few quid for grub

but you'll notice it doesn't stop them smoking or boozing down the pub!


But to say I'm on a power trip is really rather silly

and no I don't behave like a tyrant because of a microscopic . . . ego.

In my fantasies I'm a hero, a saviour and protector

but in reality I'm a (insert adjective and noun here)

-       that's why I'm a Ticket Inspector.

The Problem with Chocolate



The problem with chocolate, from what I've understood:

addictive and expensive but tastes very good

and though I love the odour and, as I said, the taste,

dentist isn't a fan and neither is the waist.

Another problem with chocolate: more popular than cocaine,

legally profitable, twice as much to gain.

Cadbury's, Nestle, Lindt all making an absolute mint

but the people that make them rich (us!) are usually skint.

Put it in our cookies, put it in our cakes,

put it in our cereals, put it in our shakes,

put it in our mousses, put it in our desserts,

we eat it 'til our teeth fall out or our kidneys hurt.

Sell it to us in boxes, in bars and in eggs.

Offer it to our dog, that's why it sits and begs.

Use it to bribe our children and stifle all their cries,

put it in their ice cream and flash it before their eyes.

Ensure we're addicted, constantly in need,

bombard us with advertising, stoke and fuel our greed

along with burgers, sugar, additives, make us fat by stealth,

normalize obesity and strain the national health.

Another problem with cocoa, one that bugs the most,

much is grown in West Africa or on the Ivory Coast

and the rest in South America where people don't make what they oughta

just like their Indonesian cousins on the other side of the water.

It's called the Ivory Coast ‘cause white Europeans were there

to plunder slaves and elephant's tusks with profits not to share

but when slavery was abolished and the elephants all had died,

the white men said 'What else can we steal to keep us satisfied?'

so they planted cocoa everywhere, hired children as young as ten

to sow the cocoa beans and harvest it for them

and paid the sort of wages to make Europeans blush

and if they were reluctant got a little push.

Exploitation, trafficking soon became the norm

but as long as Billy Bunter got his Ovaltine in a big mug nice and warm

and another unpalatable fact, this you can't deny it,

the workers that pick this stuff can't even afford to buy it!

So a final problem is when our taste buds are anointed,

thousands of kids and parents are all being exploited,

with a salary that’s a pittance, one dollar a day,

from sunrise in the mountains to sunset in the bay,

six days a week, fifty-two in a year,

no minimum wage, no unions there,

no medical, no schools, no pensions, no thanks,

just greedy First World mouths and greedy First World banks.

So the next time you're thinking about chocolate for a nibble or a bite

don't forget to say 'Who cares, as long as I'm alright !'

or grow a conscience like me and wallow in choc-a-dence

but don't forget to buy Fair Trade and give the workers a chance.

Being British abroad


The thing about being British abroad's though you never really change

though everything else around you does - the familiar's suddenly strange.

A square peg in a round hole, you cling like truth to a liar

trying to make your new world bend to your desire.


You can follow your national teams to bolster your ID

and sports you never cared about suddenly get priority.

You can wave a Union Jack or stick GB on your car,

try to hold the crowd back while queuing vainly at the bar,


insist on milk in your coffee and sweetener in your tea,

read English papers and Radio Four at three,

eat an English breakfast, spill ketchup on your vest,

boast about the good old days and on your laurels rest.


Accepted concepts taken as gospel melt like molten wax

dentist, banking, directions, car trouble, an ache, admin, tax.

Struggling to explain your needs within a dictionary's pages,

you mime and grunt like a stupid twit, inside frustration rages.   


You flounder in silly arguments trying to get your point across

and get into trouble at work by disagreeing with your Boss.

'You don't unders-tand!' becomes your daily plea.

The penny drops: 'Who don't understand? O my God, it's me!'


But it's a losing battle 'cause the world is bigger than you,

grinds you down, wears you out like a walking stick or a shoe,

beats you up, slaps your chops and orders you to sober up

just because you won the war and once won the world cup. 


You were told GB was everything, beyond a mere zoo,

a pond to dip your toes in but cloudy not clear and blue

yet the further you go away from it, the smaller GB gets

and all you held important shrinks and like a sun, it sets.


And you want to remain a part of it but must accept you are apart,

abandon worn-out friendships but for new ones lose your heart.

'This is the centre of the world!' you think, but then you stumble and fall 

and live abroad and realise the world has no centre at all.


The less adventurous say: 'Not me! I'd miss family and friends'

but that's not hope of change talking, that's fear of changing ends.

Born and dead in the very same place while all you do is moan

but were you ever really challenged, ever left your comfort zone?


If we all spoke the same language we'd end up saying the same things,

a world of  'Can't' and 'Won't' and the negativity that brings.

A scientific experiment - labelled and analysed,

trying to shape it to our ends instead of rationalized.


And those who stay behind get defensive when criticised,

they think you're criticising them but you're simply politicised!

Media, history, tradition, culture – it's really a double-edged sword,

it can make you strong at home but can be meaningless abroad.


The biggest surprise I ever had was teaching in a French school,

I asked a history question, was left looking a fool:

'What happened in England in 1066?' - I saw 30 faces blank

until one brave kid raised his hand and said 'Ze English invented ze bank?'


Nationalists talk of  'us and them', 'foreigner' clichés abound,

but we're migrants in a rudderless boat going round and round and round.

If all you know is only one way then you never see the rest,

the Self is never challenged nor convictions put to the test.


British life is island life – a drawbridge and a moat,

pull it up, shut out the strife like an immigrant in a boat.

Drip-fed technology our attention's soon diverted

and we end up talking to ourselves or preaching to the converted.


Being British abroad's Pandora's box – once opened, never shut.

Do I regret opening it? Ha! I'd like to say 'no', but . . .

Tony Stowers - Is a 59 year old 'old school' punk poet (British punk from 1976-1984). He likes strong rhymes, topical issues and (mostly but not always) ABCB schemes. He's been writing and performing his own work for 40 years and has about 200 in total, almost all made for oral delivery. If he laid them out as poems they'd take up too many pages so, he lays them with the minimum of design and urges readers to speak them aloud as this is where the true beauty of the rhymes come to their fore. He thinks of them as songs without music. He has a website www.tonystowers(dot)com and scrapes a living as a writer.



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