Peter Branson

Roaring Meg

Closing time, Saturday, ‘Top o’ the Trent’:

it’s nothing personal. Mix alcohol

with youth in equal quantities round here,

there’s always some bloke boiling for a fight.

It’s mainly posturing, making a fist

of wounded pride, loud as a fusillade

of roaring megs on karaoke night.

The police turn out; no ambulance required.

Not far away at Hopton Heath, mid March

of 1643, the Royalists

roll up with Roaring Meg, combine to march

on Stafford, agents of the antichrist


Although they seem to hold a winning hand,

the cavaliers decide to quit the field

when dusk arrives to shroud the English dead

and neither side has any more to give.

Enduring Freedom


“Three children playing with a shell were blown

to bits in Helmand Province yesterday.”

Back home three others mourn a father’s death.

“Murder of innocence!” the headline shouts.

“Where is he now?” one asks. “In heaven, love,”

they say. “With freedom there’s a price to pay.”

Everything’s relative, God only knows.

Will it bear fruit, this cross of sacrifice?

The town is quietened while the piper plays

Amazing Grace. Along High Street, folk pause,

watch loved ones toss red roses at the hearse,

turn back into their lives. Graveside, Last Post

is sounding, drowns in silence at flood tide.

Six riflemen fire blanks. There’s no reply.

Peter Branson © 2009

The Force Be With You

Babylon, Bacon, Bear,

Big Blue Machine;

Bizzies, Bluebottles, Bobbies, Boys

in Blue;

Cops, Dibble, Dicks,

Ducks ‘n’ Geese, Feds, The Filth;

Flatfoot, Fuzz, Gumshoe, Heat,

The Heavy Mob;

Law, Nickers, Old

Bill, Peelers, Pigs, Pol-lis;

Plod, Rozzer, Smokey, Sweeney, Swine

and Scum;

The Thin Blue Line,

Tithead or Woodentop.

First Signs

For George and Len Pickering

“Don’t look so worried son.”

He hails you through,

ghost bricklayer, propped up

in fire-side chair,

frail, dogged before

his day by dodgy chest.

Familiar faces from

your childhood, aunts

and uncles, neighbours,

slowly penny-drop

you, born and bred

two streets across;

first time you’ve been

since you moved house at eight,

fresh down from university

to join his wake.

Swearing an oath

of brotherhood

to make ends meet,

pay doctors’ bills

pre national health,

seemed sensible way back

to working folk.

High crime to greet

with Oddfellows

two hundred years

ago, en masse,

sisters as well,

panic at Peterloo,

slaughter from France.

Peter Branson © 2009