141019 Speech Therapy Words

Warming up for Speech Therapy at Nottingham Festival of Words, 19th October.

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Food poems

To offset the recent maudlin missives, here’re a couple of more light-hearted ones spawned as comp entries.


A matter of taste

The tongue comes alive to a flavoursome five,

Marmalade swaps sweet and sour;

The very best bitter elicits a titter,

Especially if drunk by the hour;

Delicious umami will placate an army,

Though glutamate’s sticky my friend;

Aqua’s relief when it’s too-salty beef,

It’s all down to taste in the end!


Gone fishing

If pondering the right way

To catch a fish from brine,

Tuna’s like a telegram:

Best done by pole and line!

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Sad noises

The defensive sparrows
perched on the fence;
they denied
the eggs were cold.

The family cat
looked right through me
the day before we found his brother:
he already knew.

Sometimes you wake
in tears,
I know.

There’s no embrace
in paw or wing;
when words fail,
we all share
body heat,
sad noises.

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Darwin. Boom.

Roosting black in the flowerbed
Head turned eyes closed beak 
Nestled over scapula
Amongst the downy disorder
Of bipartite plumage
As though the feather-shined lower
Outgrew the downy upper
Unmoved by secuteurs’ snip
Soil clink of stone on trowel 
Or judicious watering nearfoot
Unwound blinking momentarily
Staring over the proffered glass 
Ashtray wormery worms wriggling 
I forget about strawberries
Head curling eyes closing beak
Back to the gloaming shoulder 

Slide patio door work-ready 
Look suited as you lie
Spreadeagled a foot from the spot
Sleeping in too early for sunbathing
In sprawling indignity 
Like a teenager somehow
Lying in or something 
Else knees in the air

Plastic bag get a grip
Body soft eyes closed head 
Lolling at the serendipidous bin day 
Dragged past dutch irises gravel
Planted down the lane down the side
Don’t pick them I said let them be
Petalled purple tongues xanthic stripes
Flowering thought of you flying out
Emerging if eyes were mistaken  
Closed head lolling breast
Still they call it 
the just in time principle
Phoenix rising from Eastcroft
A minor contribution to district heating
Round in cycles I thought
Round and round in cycles

When I got home the council had mown
Dragged empty bin by grass just cut
Scattered purple petals xanthic stripes
Would’ve been better in a vase after all
I concede as I pick strawberries left
To redden now riddled with holes
A day is all it takes to sate
Tiny slugs woodlouse burrowed
So deep and still I thought it
Gorged to death until antennae 
Waved out to the cut
Of flesh burrows 
Debrided for wormery worms  
Round in cycles I thought
Round and round in cycles


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Sand grains amongst silicates
Raindrops in an aerosol sky
All cry out to be 
The last plangent note 
in a hushed auditorium

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Witch wanders goose ganders 
Feather on the tip of your shoe
What weather freak whether
You’ll do what you do
In cant incant song
Old room with a view
Unchant incant strong
Search find what is true
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A eulogy to toe nails

Born clipped keratin, 
One of quintuplets,
At birth sadly separated 
From waggling parents, 
Four of five fellows that flew
To the dustiest, hairiest corners 
Of the world developed,
Divided debrided diaspora
Who were subsequently persecuted,
Accused of smelling gallic,
Rounded up, rooted out,
Then flushed away, 
Wrapped in plastic,
Buried, incinerated
Or otherwise ‘disappeared’
By the local waste authority.

Held captive by yarn,
The idiom that got away by not,
You could’ve turned a tiny terrorist
Become a splinter cell underfoot
Or cotton-bound blister agent;
In that dark sweat you spied 
Five unwitting replacements accreting
But accepted the sacrifice, 
Your own imminent irritant fate.

Well-disposed shard of time’s hourglass,
Flexible martyr,
O’ noble nail you knew,
An aim to reign unclipped’s 
Somebody else’s eulogy.

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This is the voice of the Council

This is the voice of the Council
We wish to reassure you that your query is important to us
This is the voice of the Council
We are currently closed. Our office hours are 10am-4pm
This is the voice of the Council
Please note that your home is at risk if you do not secure planning permission before extending your property
This is the voice of the Council
We are proud to announce that this Borough’s dog catchers rank in the upper quartile 
This is the voice of the Council
To update your direct debit details please press five.

It works ‘better’ as spoken word, though perhaps I’m not quite there yet with the monotone. After a while I had realised where the original voice had come from…

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The Death of an Encyclopaedia Salesman


The front door closed in his face. He slowly turned from the doorstep and started up the road towards the next house down, shaking his head ruefully. It was the latest missed sale in what had become a long list of missed sales in this new-build neighbourhood of shuttered façades. In his day the straight strip of land running under the road bridge was the local train station, before Beeching had his way and marked the end of the line. Now it was lined with clustered red-bricks. But he could still hear the whistling and puttering, envision the coal dust gently settling along the street, over the glass of the show-home that sparkled at the entrance to the estate. He remembered waving his soon-to-be wife off on a day-trip to London, meeting her return to the platform in the early evening with a bouquet of roses in the days when they were still courting. His heart tightened.

What was ‘Googling it’ anyway? The phrase echoed in his hearing aid, those times when he was invited inside to explain his business. He was harmless enough to be allowed indoors, a curiosity in an immaculately pressed suit tugging a trolley stacked with books behind him. The mothers perched on settees and bounced restless babies on their knees as he set out his stall, leafing through hardbacks as the fathers watched impassively from the sidelines with crossed arms, rolling their eyes in response to the occasional furtive glances of their better halves. Some rare times there would be a sale, the tome left squatting on the arm of a sofa in lieu of a bookshelf. But oftentimes in the end they would just shake their heads, “Sorry,” and he would painstakingly repack and bid them farewell. The children, for the most part, were unmoved by his presence, sprawled in front of televisions or hunched with fingers curled around the video game controllers to which they seemed permanently tethered. What had happened to these young folk?

Fellow pensioners kept him going. Cups of sweet tea and genuine interest, once they’d fetched their reading glasses. Many of them had old out-of-date encyclopaedias; they’d grown up with them. Given pride of place as the household’s store of knowledge, their dog-eared volumes sat, well-thumbed and within easy reach of the armchair, overlooking lace doilies and china figurines, dusty crystal decanters and dead flies. These were the easiest sales: people with the time and respect for new knowledge, people who had stored up questions about the world bustling around them that remained unanswered. After he’d left, they would look up ‘Google’, but their new book offered no clues: its yellowed pages were last published in 1989.

Matilda wound round his legs, mewing. He shook her food from the box, placed the bowl on the dining room table amongst his papers. It was easier than bending down. He had moved out of the office long ago after his colleagues had left one by one; it was just him now running the business from home. He settled down to prepare this month’s postal update. He still loved this part of the job because it was so personal; he didn’t need to open the box file to lookup each customer’s interests – the sheaf of questionnaires filled with childishly over-large handwriting – he knew them all by heart. The snap binder punctuated the quiet of the house as he moved through subject, taking out information sheets and sliding each one into an A4 envelope. Science: the first patent for a genetically engineered animal had been issued to researchers at Harvard University. Technology: the advent of digital cellular phones promised a coming communications revolution. Politics: the Liberal Democrats, a new British political party, had formed. He hefted the envelope, lips pursed to moisten the seal, but was interrupted by the unexpected ring of the telephone. He couldn’t remember when it had last rung. Could it be a new customer? The bulging envelope slipped to the floor, forgotten.

“Yes,” he confirmed, “that’s us. How can I help?”
The woman’s voice lilted on the other end of the line. She sounded affable, if a little scatty. “I’ve mean meaning to give you a call for such a long time,” she emphasised, “but you see we live out of the country now, in Spain. We’re back at our old place at the moment – our neighbours keep an eye on it for us – and I’m just going through the most enormous pile of post! You really wouldn’t believe how much can pile up over a few years; we could barely get the front door open!”
“Oh dear,” he said, as a familiar feeling – one he associated more with a closing front door – set in, “that sounds like a terrible inconvenience.”
“Yes,” she trilled, “it was a bit of a challenge! But we’re getting on top of it now, I think, which is why I called.”
He was conscious of the enthusiastic crunching of cat food, loud in the pauses between his answers. Matilda had her back to him; he wrinkled his nose in distaste and turned slightly away. “Go on…” he offered.
“Well, we bought a subscription from you, many years ago, for our son, David. Of course, he’s all grown up now with his own children, and, you see, we moved away ourselves. So, we’ve never got round to cancelling it, I’m afraid! Our surname is-”
“Clarke.” He knew already. “It’s no problem at all, madam.” They went through the formalities, and he wished her all the best with the remainder of her postal backlog. Shooing Matilda away, he lifted the ledger and, using a ruler, neatly marked a double-line through the surname. It was the last one in the book.

Related article here. Photo from here.

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Next Speech Therapy is this thurs 27th March

Originally posted on Speech Therapy:

Speech Therapy is back this thurs 27th March – hosted by Miggy Angel and guests – arrive at 8pm to book slot on open mic – start about 8:30pm.

It’s free. Come down and spit fire and call it a poem. See ya there!

Speech Therapy at bar Deux, The GuitarBar at Hotel Deux, Clumber Avenue, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham

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