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I never knew where the Smoke Room got its name,

Except it was a grey and gloomy place, long as a Craven A.

The fire sulked, always keen to go out.

Morose old men pushed dominoes around.


                 from  The Greyhound  by R. V. Bailey






A CALLING                                     





THE GREYHOUND                      

MY FRENCH PIECE                           


THE LIVE THING                    

TRUST ME...                            




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  R. V. Bailey


R.V. Bailey has published 6 poetry collections: Course Work, Marking Time, From Me To You (with U A Fanthorpe), Credentials, and (2016) A Scrappy Little Harvest. The Losing Game (Mariscat Press) was written after the death of her long-term partner U A Fanthorpe.

She has edited (with Stevie Krayer) A Speaking Silence: Contemporary Quaker Poetry, and (with June Hall) The Book of Love & Loss.  She has taught many poetry courses, and she regularly reviews poetry, gives readings, etc.  










She was a woman. A poor start in life, but you

Can’t change that, and you soon learn. Even

As a child she was grown-up, and like a child she


Didn’t count. There wasn’t much money, so

There weren’t many choices. She said yes,

All right, or else just yes. In a mixed class,


The teacher didn’t ask her, anyway. Did he

Even know her name? The room was crammed,

And she was always at the back.


The last girl picked for a team, she wasn’t

Good at friends. No one tried it on with her,

Or took what didn’t happen further.


The telly made it clear it was her spots

(Blemishes, they called them). Or her breath?

She thinks it was her legs perhaps,


But didn’t worry much. Being a woman’s

All she knows – and what a woman does. She’s

Not abused. She’s fed. She’s got a bed –


She’s lucky. Some day someone will get

Something out of her. Things could be worse.


It’s just a waste of time to write this verse.





This is the temple of those who believe

In the future as well as the past.


Ordinary air is their incense, subtly conditioned;

Their liturgy devotion to detail, in whispers.


Among fading files, their deliberate demeanour is

Unhurried, as those who inhabit an eternal


Present. That their sacred charges might,

In the scheme of things, reveal themselves


Meaningless would be heresy, sacrilege,

Unimaginable. Worshippers in this


Shrine are the sanctioned, their credentials

Sobriety and faith, their state of grace


Avowed by scholars. Such votaries are

The angels of resurrection, who will call


These boxed and dusty back to life and breath,

Finding, in letters, in other men's’ trivia,


The ligaments of everyday love that glows

Lively and bright as ever, and world without end;


That speaks the truth of yesterday and tomorrow;

That will outlast us all.





You can take me anywhere. I know

How to behave. Cheerfulness

Is mandatory, and views

Appropriate to the situation,

Season, and the BBC. Radical

Opinions are best left with the dog,

In the car. Adaptations to the roles

Of audience, confidante, adviser

Are part of the package.


This training has taken time. Others,

Similarly put through their paces,

Control Cabinets, Armies, Boardrooms

Or Universities: they have letters

After their names, and dress the part.

I, who have no letters or uniform,

Am qualified only by surviving,

Am still practising full-time

How to be human.






I nearly drowned, getting here.

I suppose I should be glad

I’m not dead.  


My choice of music? No song

Suggests itself. But already I’ve heard

The odd bird.


The melodies I know belong

To yesterday. And luxury – ease?

You tease.


The Bible and Shakespeare?

I lost my reading glasses in the sea.

Those two will do for me.


Will I survive? How will I pass

The time? What’ll I do?

Haven’t a clue.


But if you ever come this way –

And the paperwork’s OK –

And you got the right publicity –

You might drop off the fee.






The enemy is the one who watches you

All the time, endlessly, always.

Above, below, far-off; watches your mail,

Taps your phone, bugs your walls;

Disguised, chats up your children, your wife;

Knows what shopping comes home, follows you,

Goes before, lives in a house like yours,

With Laura Ashley curtains, thinks

Your thoughts before you do, sees the same operas,

Reads the same books; who has the same

Equipment in his office, the same mini

Sharp-heeled long-lashed secretaries

From Cambridge; who supports

The same good causes...





The Commercial took itself seriously:

Reserved for Travellers, with a carpet,

A three-piece suite, on whose uncut moquette

Daisy and George conducted their decorous courtship

When he had a few hours’ leave.


Room for larks in the Taproom.

It had a piano and lent itself

To whoopee with the soldiers there. The fire,

Coaxed behind newspaper, roared at the draught,

Joined in the fun.


I never knew where the Smoke Room got its name,

Except it was a grey and gloomy place, long as a Craven A.

The fire sulked, always keen to go out.

Morose old men pushed dominoes around.


Time, my bonny lads, time, my uncle cried at ten

Over the bar, loud enough to carry

To all the other rooms, to draw to a close

The farmers’ complaints about hay, the Hitler jokes,

The Siegfried Line in the Taproom. Time

For the bonny lads to travel out to the cold

Up the dark street, to the dark camp on the fell,

To the darkened trains, to wherever they were going,

Pushed around in the smoke like the old men’s dominoes.





(for J S Bach)


She is fickle. She waits for me to come,

And then won't play. My timing

Isn't all it should be. There are days


When nothing I can do pleases her

And no one would want to hear

The conversation between us.


That she is tricky is generally agreed

By those who know her. They also agree

That she is lovely beyond words.


She’s been around for a long time.

You need to know harpsichord

To understand her properly, and


Not many of us know that. But today

She is coming to meet me. Today

She plays into my hands.






"... A birthday, yes, so what was needed

Was something festive, in a major key.

The party was a most impromptu thing,

No invitations– and no dress code: farm-


Hands in dungarees; foreign chaps, in suits –

(Who brought some decent bottles). But

The venue – my dear, a stable! with animals!

At least they looked as if they felt at home.


The manger was a blessing. I didn't see

A midwife – though there must have been

One – none of the fellows I met there

Could have risen to that sort of thing..."


We still arrive with bottles, or flowers:

We're random and merry, unsure what to wear;

All of us trying to strike the right note,  

And no one quite sure of the score. 






Is putting up a pheasant on the hill,

Or asleep in front of the fire,

Or dreaming of lettuce in its hutch.


Only later you think

I wish I’d kept that photograph.

Why did I burn those letters?


No letter, dog-lead, derelict hutch, though each

A link in the chain is enough:


The past catches fire from these embers

But our fingers burn.  It won’t do.


It’s the living, the living, we want. To love them

Here on the hill, at our side, in the hutch;

Hand in that warm other hand, 


While they’re alive.






Your name  is Doctor:

I may call you God.


My name is Patient:

I have no other name.


You ask what seems

To be the matter?


My suspect symptoms

Fail to convince even me.


I have no words. But you

Supported by technology,


Have no such doubts.

Guilty of pain, of failure


I waste your sacred time,

Your lofty erudition. I must


Pull myself together, lose

Some weight. Stand up tall.


Unfortunately here

I carry no weight at all.






Archive   (The Dark Horse, issue 35)

Credentials     (Credentials, 2013)

The Greyhound  (Marking Time, 2004)

Striking the Right Note at Bethlehem   (A scrappy little harvest, 2016)


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

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