Welcome to my page

 

I have been writing my thoughts down for over a decade now, and have been fortunate enough to meet many brilliant poets and playwrights at performance venues over the years - everyone with a different story to tell. We all have a story as we are all from different backgrounds.

 

I grew up in a deprived area of England during the 1970s/80s, a time of long queues at the job centres, racism and not much political correctness to speak of. I was inspired by the socially critical styles in works by Alan Bleasdale and Ken Loach; some of this reflects in my own writing.

 

I studied creative writing in my early thirties and began having work published after that.

 

Some of these poems have been published in small press magazines (UK). 

All written work copyright (c) Barry Woods 2019



Skyward

 

Glass skins in every city,

monoliths of finance, soaring jewels of pride

 

but in daylight I think they are Stanley knives

slicing up cloud. Spires needle sky,

inject billions into man made heavens.

 

See how high they get promoted,

see capitalism sparkle 

on the one hundred and sixtieth floor

and know that they don't need any god.

 

These towers elevate superhumans

to their penthouses, their offices,

their windows on the world.

 

Their shadows swallow people on the street.

Their multistorey egos block out our sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yemen Boy

 

Let this photo go viral

Let the world see me

Pulled out from collapsed concrete

A rag doll

Covered in dust and blood

 

Red stains my eyes

Red scrapes my legs

And my shoes, were lost in the blast

 

I am just a child

A child torn from home

Caught in the rubble of your air strike

Deafened by noise

Of your big boy war game

 

I cover my ears but still hear

Screams from my family

I have speckles of them on me

 

So let this photo go viral

Aim your camera lens right into my face

As I sit emotionless in this ambulance

Obliterated

Numb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face to Face With Lennon

 

Liverpool's famous son, exhibited in museum space

of cool white. A trip back to the past, my bed-in birth year

of hippy hair, a double fantasy for John and Yoko

with no place for Beatles.

 

This was about peace

and love - before my time.

 

I hear faint piano echo

from far side of room, I hear 'Imagine'

without the words.

 

His portrait is huge

with messages of love framed all around

on sticky white notes.

 

Looking into those penny glasses

I see how young he was back then;

I think of the gunshot and the re-issues,

and a family divorce that burned his number one hit

into my mind as an eleven-year-old.

 

And it feels as deep as the Mersey, this wound.

 

I wonder if he is here today staring through me

and out at the river?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pac-Man Turning in his Grave

 

Atari launched a bright yellow superstar

inside maze of chunky graphics;

a bestseller for the eighties.

 

That chomping mouth wanted it all,

fame, fortune, and the yuppie lifestyle

 

but ghosts were on his tail,

blue and pink phantoms 

that wouldn't be contained in glassy television.

 

Scores went up 

 

into the nineties; PlayStation landed

a kick-ass female. 

She could run, jump, climb and somersault

while raiding tombs in six hour stints.

She created shift patterns for us;

 

our hands got sweaty, moulded

plastic controls. Fingertips could wear down

after too long.

 

We had a tornado spin from Crash Bandicoot.

We learned stealth from Solid Snake, tapped in rhythm

with PaRappa the Rapper

 

until worlds were expanded.

They programmed digital rain, life-like skins

 

in new century. A Call of Duty for Xbox, 

war, blood, guts and gore.

First person shooters 

with surround sound; every crime and fantasy available

to buy, and FIFA might keep you in for weeks.

 

Now our games are virtual reality, hyper-reality

 

a long way from those days of blips and beeps

and Space Invaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Did all the Punks Go?

 

They hide behind white picket fences 

unable to grow mohicans in middle age; they sculpt

neat hedges instead of stiff spikes.

 

Punk politics got mortgaged 

to a desirable neighbourhood, Brothel Creepers 

replaced with tennis shoes, and they shop at Sainsbury's 

for organic food.

 

I see them fill their shopping bags.

 

I never thought they would pop vitamin pills

or walk the Shihtzu; or drink herbal tea with a hint

of pomegranate to stay caffiene free.

 

Once they rocked dog collars, spewed anarchy

onto the street with bondage gear.

They safety pinned an attitude to Union Jack,

 

screamed guitar in the face of our Queen. 

 

Their DIY ethic did not include a greenhouse;

they were supposed to shatter glass 

not grow tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trawler

 

Fishing for truths

I drop my net overboard, drag

the shallows and the deep.

 

If I could capture them I'd examine them,

pick barnacles from artefacts;

read all of those messages in bottles.

 

Leviathans try to sink me,

they wrap tentacles around my boat,

whip stingers at my legs.

 

But I am used to sea monsters.

Their poison suckers do not frighten me.

 

I will find the way to Atlantis, under waves,

salvage the treasured heart in this ocean of deceit.

 

 

 

 

Trying to Believe David Icke

 

I want to believe David Icke

when he says we are controlled

by elite families,

 

that politics is one beast with many faces

and secret societies plot the future of human kind

behind a mainstream media screen. 

 

I want to believe Alex Jones

when he says chemtrails are crisscrossing

our life expectancies, and we don't have a clue

what we are breathing in, 

 

that Masonic Temple whores lead a dance of destruction

among our youth, rapping evil

into their subconscious, dressing as porn stars

and pimps. 

 

I want to believe the conspiracy theorists

when they say war is good business

and weapons can be biological, psychological.

Vaccines might hide nanotechnology

inside syringes, and we could all be micro-chipped

in this Brave New World.

 

I want to believe that Big Brother is watching

through our mobile devices, that aliens walk among us

and that the moon hides nuclear weapons.

 

I want to believe it but I can't. It would drive me nuts.

 

 

 

 

London Bridge

 

Your hateful blades wound us

and we don't have time to protect our bodies.

 

A trick of sudden terror,

a martyrs' game

as tourists watch city bleed into night.

On the bridge, in the bars

 

you have your target crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Speech in Shoreditch

(Designated Graffiti area, London)

 

 

These walls have opinions

for many blocks, gutteral screams

of creativity, truths

on brick canvas.

 

They've stencilled it, sprayed it, scrawled it

and epic murals cause you to step back

 

enjoy perspective -

 

a Banksy, a giant super flea

and a red London bus.

 

It's utopia for artists

who have right to offend

in rainbow splashed spaghetti.

See the colours, feel the colours;

take a photo of your favourite message:

 

'Gentrification zone! Poor people please leave quietly.'

'The algorithm is gonna get you.'

'Common sense banned due to health and safety reasons.'

 

Look closer, pick out the politics, 

hear voices of minority groups

on corrugated shutters. 

 

If graffiti could change anything it would be illegal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Family Buffet

 

We queue in single file

ready to taste our share

of the celebration;

 

paper plates and plastic cutlery

at the start

with a napkin or two.

 

We move along for sausage rolls

and ham sandwiches.

We move along for savoury pasta

and sticky pork ribs.

 

There's a feast of conversation.

 

Some have had a belly full already while others

can always find room.

 

it's a family thing and we move along;

 

from toddlers

reaching up for chocolate fountain

to those golden oldies

enjoying their last spoonfuls of trifle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quality of Mersey Poets

The Quality of Mersey anthology which I had the pleasure of editing in 2018 - check out The Quality of Mersey on Facebook

The Queen is Dead

 

LP sized memories at Sainsbury's

sealed in reflective cellophane, shocks

my middle age. 

 

I see the Morrissey quiff again,

and lamb chop sideburns that were a bugger

to keep straight. 

 

Gatefold sleeve opened its arms to me

and all other bedroom loners; I adored that voice

of kitchen sink that whined and moaned

and said life isn't fair.

 

I can see a needle in the groove, the drums inside me

banging to come out. 

 

And I hid clear spirit of The Smiths behind speakers, 

puke hangovers had me a sickening wreck

with the twenty-first century breathing down my neck.

 

He told me to accept myself. 

He told me some girls are bigger than others.

He told me that work is a four letter word

 

didn't want me standing

in the fruit and veg isle of conformity.

 

 

 

 

 

Spaceships Over Concrete

 

Aged ten and my universe was at war, 

a concrete world of tough nuts and bullies.

The battle screamed over pavements,

lightsabers flashed through alleys

 

and there were dead ends

inside that labyrinth

built for scrapes and bruises.

 

I found it hard to make a fist 

like other boys and girls,

preferred to conquer Stormtroopers with stealth.

 

I was on the run from ugly enemies, 

wondering what Han Solo would do

if, like me, he was marooned 

without a Wookiee or a blaster.

 

There would be no rescue by Luke Skywalker

for this trapped underclass;

 

the Empire had a sequel, a bigger army

on snow planet. Outnumbered, 

 

my chances of victory got iced up.

 

I could see those giant metal walkers coming at me

from my pillow, I needed a strategy for each one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estate

 

This place still litters me

with smashed milk bottles and dog shit.

 

I should have knocked out

those brutal years by now

 

but the pebble dash scraped heart

at infancy.

 

Houses have new facades:

I can see joins where the decade hides,

and inside family messes scar life, slap fear

on little ones who know nothing better

than name calling and front door battles.

 

It's criminal to be marooned here young,

forced to fight angry avenues, to become hard

and chipped like broken pavements;

 

and how callous to hear: 'It made you stronger.'

 

 

 

II

 

You're the concrete tyrant,

I see my reflection in each of your windows.

 

I remember your wail of abuse, your pebble-dash skin

that grates on innocence.

 

Your pavements slab the vulnerable

from hopscotch to heroin.

 

I remember no ball games, and your tongue

the long housing benefits form

to be filled out in block capitals.

 

 

 

 III

 

They caught a boredom disease,

heated it up on shiny foil and inhaled it.

They fell lifeless into the grass

 

without thinking.

 

Inside that high there was no unemployment,

no council estate,

no Margaret Thatcher.

 

It was their mentor.

 

Heroin, an easy deal for them,

and a life sentence for parents

who struggled to drag their corpses into adulthood.

 

 

 

 

My book, On Northern Pavements, is available to buy from www.lulu.com. ISBN 9780244600297

 Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Crash Test Dummy

 

An experimental body

to smash through windscreens

I was bashed, slammed, ripped from my seat.

 

They put me in fifth gear without a safety belt, 

drove into me at one hundred miles per hour

monitoring my impacts.

 

I didn't fall apart. I was a sturdy structure

 

vinyl pulled over steel skeleton,

my ribs were specialised, my face expressionless.

 

I was moulded for collisions, comfy

wearing black yellow symbols.

And they showed me no sympathy, no emergency stops.

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Fantasies

 

They were books with a difference,

books in which you became the hero.

You decided which paths to take,

which dangers to risk, which beasts to fight.

 

I spent most of my adolescence in them

 

pulled pages around me so I was hidden

in paragraphs and pictures;

the only decisions I liked to make 

were within those paper mazes.

 

And between adventures I picked sore spots,

didn't fit anywhere else

so the potion of invisibility worked.

 

The warlock had many spells,

the snow witch had a lethal beauty

and the shape changer sent me blindly

to a death page.

 

At least I could start all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

Head-the-Ball

 

Shut your banter up

along with those smelly socks;

use a locker to censor yourself

or you might get tackled.

 

They'll take you down from ankles.

 

This is a match you cannot win,

an evolution of culture

and goal posts have moved. Strategies

go far beyond the pitch now

 

so clean off your boots, tie laces

and ammend the game:

 

no hooligans and no, 'Fucking twat' language.

No mother jokes, no gay jokes, no race jokes.

No size jokes, no age jokes, no pervert jokes.

 

Time has whipped you on the arse

with a wet towel

 

and you are losing four-nil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea Lord

 

(John Woods I, lost at sea, 1944)

 

In a frame

 

his image brings waves

and we swim down through his depths

past cliffs that drop into blackness.

 

Our sailor greets with a bottle of rum.

He does card tricks, plucks out his gold tooth

to make us giggle; we feel like cross-legged kids

singing along to sea shanties.

 

He's the navy heart we never knew,

the propulsion system that steers us

through family storms, shipwrecks,

 

the hero

 

and we can always visit him here when wars get tough.

We see our own faces in water

but know he is never far from the surface.

 

 

 

 

Toy Train

 

Its track was imagined from household things;

I didn’t need the Hornby with real steam 

or a tabletop countryside of plastic trees

and lifelike tunnels.  

 

Excess carriages were not needed, detail

did not stoke my mind

like the cheap red plastic.    

 

I used hands to journey wherever, behind sofas,

up curtains, down banisters. I sped to countries

with burning pistons, realised how far I could get

without the whistle of a moulded route.

 

And freedom chugged over me, around head, 

down arms and legs 

until different became an accolade

spat by passengers who never mattered. 

I left them standing at platforms. 

 

 

 

 

 

Drones and Drones

 

Cameras all over our skies, we're a planet

photographed for Google's Earth;

 

with mood enhancers in every hand

eyes stay fixed on pixels, a viral disease

of selfies and screen to screen combat

keeps majority entertained.

 

We've lost our privacy, haven't we?

 

Imagination is censored then hijacked for cash

by entrepreneurs

who are not smart enough to stay ordinary.

They know how to extract human minds.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Companion

 

The digital soul is credit card thin.

Charge it up to one hundred per cent

 

and see how they've hacked our inner space,

advertised online gambling through it.

 

We are video captured, mapped as a species,

and our dream time vibrates with email after email.

 

Press, drag or swipe, feed your notifications,

get a date or a pizza deal, satisfy your impulses now,

 

right now.

 

 

 

 

Urban Androids

 

We commute under Wi-Fi clouds,

walk circuit board pavements

to our jobs

in cities that spy on every corner.

 

Cameras read print on our newspapers

from space. They see what we ate 

for breakfast.

 

Minutes scroll down information feeds,

every word is saved, every mistake logged

for future reference.

 

And our blood vessels are fibre optic,

hearts pump with text;

 

human essence is downloaded

to online prisons; soon, even our dreams

will be hard-wired

 

direct to a command centre.

 

 

 

 

Automatic Man

 

See me project a company image.

I have a clean shaven face.

I have mint fesh breath.

My tie is neatly knotted

and I wear an appropriate expression.

 

I am programmed to earn, hard wired

for targets and profit,

no room for dreams or desires

only spreadsheets

and a compulsion to pay my bills,

 

pay my way.

 

One day I will malfunction, 

my voice will become a computers voice, my heart

replaced with a circuit board.

 

They will remember me in binary code.

 

 

 

 

Bookish

 

I splashed you with summer, raced you

down water slide to win a smile;

I tickled you a the pool, got some laughs

in the beginning.

 

You didn't care for sun lotion. 

 

You shaded in office chair, preferred to swim

through word files with keyboard

 

most of your life.

You had skin white paper, creased spine.

You got lost in page numbers

and your energy was stacked on library shelves.

 

Those chapters were written to please everyone else;

I didn't get your story.

 

I bought you a holiday shirt

but you chose to wear dust jacket instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passed

 

We should dress in black,

pay our respects to the old ways,

the old days which bloomed us.

 

Cast soil onto coffin

in turn, remember lessons learned,

stiff upper lips and disciplines

 

almost buried.

 

New kids won't remember the way we were

they're wrapped up snug, sheltered

from rain

 

as the eras get their headstones.

 

 

 

 

 

The Social Programme

 

keep up with the latest iPhone

keep up with the newest sounds

keep up with the clever jargon

 

   the apps, the pop-us, the advertising,

   the gambling demons of pretty colours

 

keep up with the collective brain

keep up with the Joneses

keep up with the Kardashians

 

keep up with the programme

 

 

 

 

Perception

 

Did you think alcohol would take me?

or lack of study

would enslave me two classes below?

 

Did you think I would always stumble to the mud?

That's where you needed me to stay.

 

What if time flips things, teaches

its cruellest lessons to the smug;

what if your castle, built on insecurity,

starts to dissolve from the inside.

 

Could you use help from the outside?

 

 

 

 

I Let the Blackbirds In

 

They knock lamps over, scratch furniture

and drink my thoughts at the kitchen sink.

 

They give me bird vision:

 

I see insects and branches and rooftops,

worms plucked from soil

and dropped into mouths of frenzied chicks.

They show a life cycle

from egg, to flight, to the plummeting end

 

and I hatch my own sharp reflexes,

stretch arms like wings

and patter my feet as they do.

 

I unlock the ravens from my rib cage

with a splash of guts and a shriek of agony.

I let them nip away burdens till I'm lighter,

till bones are hollow;

 

and my breast puffs out; eyes film over black...

I become airborne.