Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett


Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.




down the wide highway of forgetfulness:

things like life-defining epiphanies

that come as dreams and small acts of kindness

that make or undermine our certainties.


                 from; Epiphany  by Peter Harris







     Being Human

     Beneath the beautiful mind of a blossomed cherry tree




      Just Driving Through


     The Past

     The Race

     To a Colleague Emigrating



1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Peter Harris


I am a teacher of English by profession and am currently completing a PhD in the philosophy of religion.


My first poem was published in 1993 in First Time magazine. I have had a steady rate of success since then in having poems published in the following specialist magazines: Iota, Krax, Seam, Envoi, Dandelion Arts Magazine, Helicon, Reach, Splizz, Connections, Carillon, Quantum Leap, Inclement, Presence and the journal of the Philip Larkin Society called About Larkin.


Flarestack Publishing published a collection of my poetry in 1999 called Touching My Father.







Like Kandinsky’s hieroglyphic vision

of horse sticks and ravens,

the acmeist lens captures you

as the modernist looking east.


Too, the Turkic Christ

pinioned against the bars

of the Dialectic’s consummation

who refuses exile’s quiet snow

to suffer with the whisperers,


your words the shaman’s liturgy

raising Pushkin’s ghost

and the untongued dead

who gather at the Fountain House

to ride the road to Kitezh.





 Being Human


That factory van was a microcosm

of society’s unwanted:

‘psychotic’ Raymond whom they nicknamed ‘Spasm’

and Robert whose mind was dented

when he fell from a fireman’s ladder.

There was cross-eyed Pat who wanted

to go out with me and tiny Sammy

who was beaten mercilessly

by her husband when she burned the dinner.

(He was finally convicted).


I can see other faces through the smoke

of greedily dragged cigarettes:

Abby who claimed she had just met a bloke

who said he would pay off her debts,

Neil the ex-burglar on probation,

Jack the pock-marked adolescent

who did the job for holiday money

and whose depression was torment,

and myself, enduring my confusion

and failed dreams miserably.


Ten years on I wonder where you all are.

(Raymond committed suicide).

Are you still being transported to far-

off factories through the grey tide

of traffic? Have the brakes failed again

as they did once on Bluebell Hill?

You all agreed that I was ‘dead clever’

and here I am a schoolteacher!

Yet what you taught me was that a good brain

is not enough: that being human still

means treating others as valuable

whether they are strong, or vulnerable.





Beneath the beautiful mind of a blossomed cherry tree


Beneath the beautiful mind of a blossomed cherry tree my annual pilgrimage of 6.8 miles by car ends at your grave.


Each year I am embarrassed that the moss has occupied the headstone more, so today I bring plastic gloves, a bucket, brush and soap, and draw the water from a stand pipe among the graves in the next aisle.


As I scrub to uncover your name, my thoughts come back to the same point: in eye-scope is the street where you were born, then moved a short way up into your married home where you gave the last of your rations to two hungry sons; then years later babysat their children whilst one daughter-in-law studied late medieval crucifixion art with the OU and the other cleaned the Co-op offices of an evening.


A shocking proximity, no more no less and always the same, is your green wooden door (now white UPVC) with this silent plot of land hummocked by forgotten decayed presences where you came to stop.


A life with the same death context

as anyone’s, including ours,

yet doubly so through the ruthless window.


You studied no philosophy-

working class and female

would have you kept you from that-


but I guess you knew all the same

being as all we are

being unto death






There is a frightening nomenclature

that when we meet we firmly keep unsaid

and words that constitute your rainbow store

of wished for future worlds are used instead.


Our talk of icons, Barthes’ mythologies,

montage and hegemonic narrative

gives substance to our phatic strategies

that stave away the thought you may not live.


But as I stand behind the ticket gate

and watch you quickly walk the platform’s length,

you tottering jet-setting svelte giraffe,

I know our new entente is not too late,

for time intensely used gives treaties strength

in lives lived to the full, or cut by half.






My son wants me to play balloon tennis

but I am trying to write a poem.

If I ignore him, he is a menace:

he cries or goes where I can’t find him.


So I stop typing and try to look like

I am really enjoying his new game.

When he gets bored, I push him on his bike

and he practises pronouncing his name.


After his supper, I help him to sleep

and then return to my snail writing.

Larkin claimed that art is an attempt to keep

what deserves preserving safe from going


down the wide highway of forgetfulness:

things like life-defining epiphanies

that come as dreams and small acts of kindness

that make or undermine our certainties.


There is something of an epiphany

about tonight: the green balloon of dreams,

the purple balloon of love gracefully

bobbing on the floor, my son’s bike that gleams

in the sun: my son who will one day go.


Now I have something to write. Now I know.







I’m the infamous Mad Mullah Hussein.

My true weight is two hundred and twenty

but I’m billed at two hundred and eighty.

I’m what’s called a heel (a wrestling villain)


who loves to bait the xenophobic crowd.

My back’s tattooed and my trunks are bright red.

I finish with an elbow to the head

and make my chants for Iran nice and loud.


The script says I’ll soon meet my nemesis:

he’s called the American Apollo

whom wherever he goes the crowds follow:

the golden boy of our martial circus.


When we meet, I’ll be waiting in the ring,

ready like Iraq to be brought to heel

with a drop kick and a Catherine wheel

that make my head heavy and my ears sing.


With choreographed moves I’ll play my part

and lie supine as he pins me for three

and another win for demagogy,

the oil industry and the bloody heart.






Just Driving Through


I drive west through grimacing terraced streets

with the smashed sunset appalling my eyes.

Why anyone would wish to live here beats

me (and they would if I weren’t a good size).


Past the brothel above the launderette,

then down the hill-a tunnel of despair-

I see a child with a cigarette

next to a slashed poster for a funfair.


Here’s something nice: a medieval church

with flowers, stained glass and a wooden gate.

But on go the brakes as two old drunks lurch

across the road with their beer in a crate.


If you like your art, it’s the place to be.

There’s the graffed-up buildings and blue tattoos,

the traffic’s unrelenting symphony

and the modern style of vandalised loos.


If you’re hungry, there’s the oily fast food

outlets, chip shops and £1 bargain stores

where the jewellery’s cheap and the language crude:

a town hell bent on displaying its flaws.


But beware the nest of skunk-crazed nightclubs

filled with shag-packs and bouncers with shorn heads

and underage drinkers in sticky pubs

who should be at home asleep in their beds.


I drive on into the thickening night

and ignore what looks like a nasty fight.

I’m sure there are good folk and places too,

but they’re unknown when you’re just driving through.








Some ask the universe for its meaning

but all they see is a cold sky

that is just there, devoid of all feeling.


To say someone cares is wrong or a lie.

But Sisyphus collects his stone

yet again and without even a sigh,


pushes it uphill, a fate he has grown

used to, has begun to embrace,

for he is superior to the stone


as he knows and accepts his futile place

beneath the faceless vault of sky

and is most happy of the human race.






The Past


At forty, we have had enough of life

to feel we have a past to analyse.

Now we have a job, house, husband or wife,

partner or are divorced, or reflecting,

for the lives on offer don’t match our size.


But regardless of our predicament,

our past rushes back in dreams unbidden,

demanding from us some sort of comment:

a process many find too unsettling

for certain moments are best kept hidden.


Those who choose to open their past’s archives

often do to understand their present,

know the choices that determined their lives

and make adjustments with future intent.


But whichever approach we choose to take,

the past requires sensitive handling,

like antique vases that easily break

or an unexpected mine surfacing






The Race


On our school sports day,

you Sister,

head down, 

wincingly ectomorphic,

gangly as Popeye’s Olive Oil,

panted slack-mouthed round that hot final bend

to obliterate your year group’s 800 metre record.


You finished sheepishly,

bemused at your prowess

being celebrated by the excited voice-slice

over the intermittent public address.


A chocolate medal and vanilla ice cream

were your rewards

and my grudging, “Well done”

as my endo-mesomorphy,

more suited to the tug-of-war,

prevented such impressive aerobic feats.


Thirty years on

and still enviably lean

like Brooke’s clean-limbed swimmers-

mistress of the backstroke-

an alien clump

has insidiously nestled your breast


Now it is a sprint against cellular time,

though the routine scan has given you,

your surgeon and chemo

a quick start from the blocks

to extirpate the bastard

before it roars through the lymphatic metro

to liver, brain or lung.


And I am running for once too,

and swimming,

running thoughts through my head,

my conscience swimming,

my heart racing, racing, racing,

running to the station,

salmon-swimming against the people-tide

and running up Parliament Hill to your flat.






To a Colleague Emigrating


You’re a great colleague and professional

who works for the very best of reasons:

to show kids how to think and solve life’s maze.

Yet inside your mind’s closed confessional

you recognise that life has its seasons

and what you’ve won isn’t a passing phase

of thin narratives of sun, sea and sand,

but the long embrace of a foreign land.


I’ve no doubt you’ll end up a great success.

You’re approach is to have and be the best

and you never accept anything less.

But love isn’t like teaching to the test.

There’s no technique that guarantees a pass

or helps you spot the hero from the ass.

It comes and goes in spite of what you do

and hurts the same in places known or new.



3 - 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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