Thursday, 27 June 2013


This was my entry in a competition, in Kudos in 2010, for poems containing the word 'beacon'.  The poem was highly commended -- not published, but even commendation in a competition is enough to rule it out of many future contests.  So it gets the blog treatment now.

Leslie Hore-Belisha, the subject of the poem, was, as Minister of Transport in the 1930s, responsible for the introduction of the driving test and the flashing Belisha beacon at zebra crossings.  That by itself was enough to make me write about him in connection with beacons.  My knowledge of him was tiny, but it included the story that he had changed his name from Horeb-Elisha in order to appear less Jewish.  Reading his Wikipedia entry, in preparation for writing the poem, I was most intrigued to see that the story is apparently without foundation; in consequence, it drives the entire poem.

The crack re-split the livewire's double-
barrelled surname, like rock,
into two Bible names, a trouble-
and thought-free ethnic mock.

And the Horeb-Elisha joke
so wholly stuck to him
it was the truth to many folk,
his name the pseudonym.

But where, joining two sides of road,
a way's stitched black and white,
not crossword play nor Highway Code
but right split names the light.

And somebody's eureka
that gave his name a crack
softens at the Belisha
beacon, steady flash.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Tree poem

This quatrain was written in November 2010 for a competition organised by the Clyde Valley Orchard Group. It has now found publication in connection with another Scottish arboretum: the Redwood Avenue at Benmore Gardens in Argyll.  The avenue is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and the Gardens' writer-in-residence, Sue Butler, has put out an appeal for 150 4-line poems on the theme of trees. I am delighted that she has used my contribution.


Apology as apple seed.
Some day, a tree, a bough,
and fruit of knowing them again.
Best not risk that just now.