7 ___________________________________________________________________________


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In the morning I'll ride a motorbike

black leathers and no helmet

white hair streaming loose,  a challenge.


For lunch there will be crispy bacon

in white bread, with butter,

mouthwatering aroma of defiance.



                 from; On my 85th birthday by Maggie Butt






     On my 85th birthday
     The Shape of It 
     The Ballad of Kurt Engler, Master Hairdresser
     It’s Just
     The Patron Saint of Remaindered Books
     The Patron Saint of Ugly Towns




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Maggie Butt


Maggie’s  poetry is widely published in international magazines and has escaped the page onto the internet, choreography, BBC Radio 4, readings, festivals, and schools. Her books include three poetry collections and a historical collage of poems, photos, paintings and extracts from memoirs and letters.


Her pamphlet Quintana Roo was published by Acumen Publications in 2003 and her first full collection, Lipstick, was published in 2007 by Greenwich Exchange. In 2010 a collection of short poems, petite, was published by Hearing Eye and in 2011, Oversteps Books published Ally Pally Prison Camp, the story of 3,000 civilians imprisoned at Alexandra Palace during the First World War.


Maggie returned to poetry after a career spanning many other forms of writing. After an English degree she became a newspaper reporter, moving to BBC TV as a documentary writer / producer / director.


She is a Deputy Dean at Middlesex University, London, England where she taught on the Creative and Media Writing degree. She is also Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education – NAWE.  In 2007 her edited collection of essays: Story The Heart of the Matter was published by Greenwich Exchange.


Maggie has a PhD in creative writing from Cardiff University and is a University Teaching Fellow and University Orator.


She  lives in North London with her husband. They have two daughters.


Website: http://www.maggiebutt.co.uk/








In war time women turn to red

swivel-up scarlet and carmine

not in solidarity with spilt blood

but as a badge of beating hearts.


This crimson is the shade of poets

silenced for speaking against torture,

this vermillion is art

surviving solitary confinement,


this cerise defies the falling bombs

the snipers taking aim at bread-queues,

this ruby’s the resilience of girls

who tango in the pale-lipped face of death.




On my 85th birthday


For breakfast there will be chocolate,

heaped and glossy like a race-horse,

sweating with saturated fat.


And I will devour it,

cramming in the melting mouthfuls

coating my fingers and my face.


In the morning I'll ride a motorbike

black leathers and no helmet

white hair streaming loose,  a challenge.


For lunch there will be crispy bacon

in white bread, with butter,

mouthwatering aroma of defiance.


After my nap in the bed-shop window;

I will invite my doctor in for scones,

and lick thick clotted cream along the knife.


And in the sunset

I will ascend to heaven in a glider

singing in the eerie silence.


The next day I’ll dance barefoot in the rain

or take up smoking (inhaling deeply)

or sub-aqua diving,

or run with scissors


if I choose






Because I could not bear to let you go

my body found a way to bring you back.


Part-dormant genes pushed out a root

and half of me took flower.


My jowls drop just a feather’s breadth

until your jaw-line smiles back from the mirror.


I swim the strokes you longed

and my slow breathing meets with yours.


You use my eyes to note the detail of the world

your calmness soothes my path like honey.


Because I could not bear to let you go

my body found a way to bring you back.





The Shape of It





at first


then billowing

out, sails brimmed

with wind, belly with

movement, house with noise

and muddle,  hours crammed

with loud and rush and full,

until doors start to close

peace settles and

I see that it will

narrow down

at last to

just we








Just a sec, I know they’re here somewhere,

if you’d stop rushing me I’d find them.

Perhaps I might have packed them in a case

or wrapped brown paper, tied with string.

They might be in the loft or shed, or , ah! Look now

my crumpled list of Great Good Things to spend

a life upon. And so they must be here…

Under the bed? Or slipped between the pages of a book,

the minutes of a day? Re-check the list. Oh dear.

No ticks. I lost the list and have been busy with

I don’t know what. But there’s still time. Give me

the list, I’ll start today. What do you mean?

Right now? No time to get my coat?






This Rue is where my daughter plans to live:

a tatoo artist yelling at a drunk;

three old men sun their leathered chests and give

her leering looks; a flame-haired punk

holds fresh baguette and tiny dogs on leads;

a corner bar boasts cross-dress cabaret;

the scent of urine rises; heat forms beads

of sweat – a spring Parisian bouquet.


But strangers share their picnic in the park

and she will climb five flights of champagne night

where rooftops of Montmatre after dark

gleam with reflected gold and ruby light,

throw wide the shutters, sip the air’s rich wine,

intoxicated, think, “All this is mine.”




The Ballad of Kurt Engler,

Master Hairdresser


His salon was a trip abroad

a place of flirty fun

till local lads broke windows

and painted “Go Home Hun.”


Then Special Branch came calling

(and didn’t want a trim)

they scrutinised his papers

before arresting him.


They wouldn’t drop him off at home

to tell his wife and son

but took him up the Pally –

imprisonment begun.


He set up in the barber’s shop

swept up beneath the chair

and fashioned wigs for sale outside

from other prisoners’ hair.


Like ancient barber-surgeon

he pulled their teeth as well,

filled dental requisition slips,

discovered he could sell


for quite a tidy profit

something to ease the pain,

for boredom and for loneliness

administered cocaine.


Until the army wondered why

he needed such a store,

extracted his supply chain

and said there’d be no more.


He found the artists’ studio

and showed a flair for paint,

his pictures sold like contraband

till guards made a complaint:


he painted future dog-fights

which Germans always won;

his canvasses were gathered up.

No more Victorious Hun.


His missus sold the hairdresser’s

and made a little cash,

her letters and her visits stopped.

He worried for his stash.


So chose a moonless, rain-soaked night

when guards stayed by the fire,

threw doubled blanket out across

the walls of looped barbed wire,


rolled on his back to freedom

and stumbled to his feet,

hopped on a passing omnibus,

and rode home to his street.


Banged on the door and shouted

could see the lights inside

his wife just wouldn’t answer,

she ran upstairs to hide.


A neighbour came eventually

and told him what he feared:

she’d found a nice new English bloke,

“So go home Hun,” she jeered.


Now sodden and despairing

he caught the bus again

returned to Ally Pally’s walls

beyond the alien rain.



It’s Just


It’s just a cold dear.

We all have colds.

the laundry flutters with our handkerchiefs

flags of surrender.


It’s just a cough dear.

We all have coughs.

A thousand hacking men who bark

all night, keeping sleep at bay.


Do I look thin dear?

We all look thin.

The fish is sometimes rotten

and it twists within our guts.


It’s just a life dear.

We all have lives.

Some spill them in the trenches

others in a cage.


It’s just a war dear.

We all have war.






The Patron Saint of Remaindered Books


She haunts the bargain bookshops,

calls them to her softly, hears the faint

flutterings among their leaves;

as stray cats would purr and rub

themselves against her shins;


she gathers them, abandoned children

in a shanty town, living on scraps,

fighting seagulls on the rubbish heap,

ekeing out echoes of their rave reviews,

envying the few, scornful of best-sellers;


she garners them – a harvest-home

where  every one is dusted, shelved

in the eternal dewey decimal.



The Patron Saint of Ugly Towns


You’ve been to towns like this: shabby

as an old tramp, unwashed and moth-eaten,

shambling along from day to day; ringed

by black mountains, glowering  against

the sun; paint peeling from the buildings

exposing plaster like old sores; a market

thronged with tired people in cheap shoes,

stalls heaped with out-size knickers, floral

aprons, itchy socks; a town where work

is history, mines closed, a slag heap

like their self-respect, where even stubby

trees refuse to grow, grass fails to root.

Out in fields the sunflowers bow their heavy

heads like congregations at a funeral,

listening to their doom, counting the hours.


My candles gutter in a grimy church

where mildew blooms on leaky walls,

and you might think my task as hopeless

as world peace.  But watch me fly and brush

a feathered wing tip here or there:

a crow drops next year’s sunflower seeds,

the gangly boy pulls down his cuffs and

slicks unruly hair for his first date,

a tabby cat twines round the widow’s legs,

the too-young girl feels the first fluttering kicks.


Watch me fly, and see love shudder into life.



3 - Publication History 

‘Lipstick’, ‘On My 85th Birthday’ and  ‘Fathering’ are from Lipstick, (Greenwich Exchange 2007) First published:

‘Lipstick’ – The London Magazine

‘On My 85th Birthday’ – Poetry Life competition winner ‘Fathering’ – The Shop


‘The Shape of It’, ‘List’ and ‘Pigalle’ from Petite (Hearing Eye 2010) First published:

‘The Shape of It’ - The Rialto

‘List’ - Snakeskin

Pigalle – The London Magazine


‘It’s Just’ and ‘The Ballad of Kurt Engler’ from Ally Pally Prison Camp (Oversteps 2011)


‘The Patron Saint of Remaindered Books’ – The London Magazine ‘The Patron Saint of Ugly Towns’ – Acumen




4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

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 - info@poetrykit.org

Thank you for taking the time to read Caught in the Net.  Our other magazine s are Transparent Words ands Poetry Kit Magazine, which are webzines on the Poetry Kit site and this can be found at -