Liver Building



I have been writing for over fifteen years now and I've been fortunate enough to meet many brilliant poets and playwrights at performance venues around Merseyside - everyone with a different story to tell.

I'm fascinated by the different styles and tones of poet that you can hear at open mic, and the many forms of poetry found in anthologies. I feel that poetry is best experienced as an ensemble, reaching out to many different types of people.

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 who were presenting their causes in a confrontational way.

I have worked with local councils and cultural teams. I was awarded a Poetry Medal of Honour by Wirral writer John Gorman in 2019 for my work on The Quality of Mersey project.


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

All written work copyright (c) Barry Woods 2019



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










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 specs

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?










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.












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.





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.








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.











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.





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 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.


















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.'






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.






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.





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.






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. 






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.





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.







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.











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.