CAUGHT IN THE NET 158 - POETRY BY BARRY WOODS
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from Estate by Barry Woods
1 - BIOGRAPHY
2 – POETRY
GANG ON THE VERGE
CRASH TEST DUMMY
CAGE FIGHT IT
TEN YEARS TEETOTAL
I LET THE BLACKBIRDS IN
3 - PUBLISHING HISTORY
4 - AFTERWORD
1 – BIOGRAPHY: Barry Woods
Barry Woods studied creative writing with the Writers Bureau, Manchester, and has been published in the small press. He moved on to discover performance with the Dead Good Poets Society, Liverpool, and occasionally reads at local spoken word events.
He lives and works in Birkenhead, UK. Webpage: barrywoodspoet.simplesite.com
2 - POETRY
'In the early Eighties, the notorious Ford Estate boasted
Britain's highest rate of heroin abuse among teenagers.'
This place still litters me
with smashed milk bottles and dog shit.
I should have lost
those brutal years by now
but the pebble dash scraped heart
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 was 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.
Gang on the Verge
They caught a boredom disease,
heated it up on shiny foil and inhaled it.
They fell lifeless into the grass
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.
Cage Fight It
Cage the beaurocrat, let him suffer a round
with the underdog
and we'll see who can fight dirtiest
when odds are evened. Let his security men spectate
behind chain link fence and not muscle in.
He's a politician, a CEO, a server of money,
a sly grinned weapon of mass destruction
who must be bruised the old fashioned way.
Boardroom face will not scare anyone here
for our livelihoods are smeared over his cheeks.
A blow to the nose, a blow to the ribs:
'Come on! Fight back!'
You are the one who caged us in policies
From you I get a whiff of gunfire, a salute
to profit and suffering. Uniform hides
a network of fear, a body once shell shocked
now stiffened in hate.
Your ambition shoots methodically
from finger tip to keypad, propaganda
convinces with smiley faces.
So you want to divide and rule
with barbed wire, place observation towers
on each corner of your insecurities.
You might just succeed.
Set hair in place with superior wax,
open laptop and scheme
in the cosy lounge of e-mail.
I know you have a bomber
Your voice is an air raid siren
and we have three minutes
to get to our shelters.
(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 who gave himself
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.
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.
The four o'clock stampede bulled corridors,
kicking feet, shoving duffle bags, noise
crushed teachers' influence.
Educated the cheap way
our generation left graffiti on desks;
some boys smashed free from classroom prisons
that held ghosts of trigonometry.
They stood proud outside headmaster's office.
Windows had crooked blinds, text books
were dust on a struggling curriculum,
and our faces erupted with zits.
Some of us did well.
Some of us needed thwack of cane
in place of absent fathers, sting
would last longer than any detention.
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
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.
Ten Years Teetotal
I haven't flexed my vodka muscles in years.
The gym of optics once a weekly routine,
barmen trained me to be as ripped
as I needed.
I put fire where my mouth was,
singles, doubles, triples...
to enter body building championships with,
drink binges that won me gold inside
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.
3 - PUBLISHING HISTORY
ESTATE: earlier draft published in Poetry Monthly, 2007
SEA LORD: earlier draft published in Poetry Monthly, 2006
AUTOMATIC MAN: earlier draft published in Poetry Monthly 2008
FIGHTING FANTASIES: shortlisted for the Poems Please Me Prize 2015
4 - Afterword
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We are looking for other poets to feature in
this series, and are open to submissions. Please send one poem and a short
bio to - firstname.lastname@example.org
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