Six poems inspired by tea towels.

One of he weirdest projects I had last year was to write thirty one poems about tea towels. Here are six of them, all inspired by the pictures on my mothers tea towels. Hope you like them.


1. How would you describe the behaviour of cows?

Cows line astern 

Grass munchers in a row

Like forensic detectives

At the scene of a crime. 

2. Are you familiar with bovine behaviour? Y/N


3. Describe the types of cow that you saw.

Fresians black and white

Flanked by invisible maps.

Half of an hour hyped up.

Are they black cows with white splodges

Or white cows with black splodges?

4. Have you ever been caught under the silvery moon suddenly transfixed by the inate beauty of cows and the way that they seem to reflect the celestial moonglow as if lunar objects themselves?



5. Were you aware of this before the incident?

I had a crush.

6. Explain in a single haiku the beauty of the cows you saw.

There once was a field of cows

Upon which I would browse

By the side of the gate

And other places on the farm

Often in shady areas but sometimes in the full glare of the sun. 

7. That’s not a haiku.


8. Eulogise a cow for me.


I know this rhyme is lazy

And people may think me crazy,


But in this rhyme I praise thee.

Says me.


You are amazy.

9. Tell a cow joke.

In what way is a cow like my parents bungalow?

10. I don’t know.

They’re both fresian.

11. Do you have anything else to add?

I have no beef with you.

12. So I herd.
The quivering chrysanthemums

Which, in their stately manifest, 

Seem to shield all harm from life,

Colouring the inevitable with an

Affected glee multiplied by the

Verdant nature of their bloom,

Would justly fill my jaded heart with

Inordinate bliss, but until such a time

That I may bask in their chrysanthemummy goodness, I must

Temporarily satisfy my whims with

Hydrangeas and the occasional


On the fifth night we argued.

Lightning illuminated my lonely garret,

Flickering omens of someone else’s storm,

Grouching and crackling the radio with static

As I tried to find French soap operas,

Lazy drops falling from an overcast night sky,

Stained brown by sodium lights,

Rolling ever so sadly down sash window panes.

You fumed.

I stare out the window at a jumble

Of slate tile rooftops sheening in the rain.

Momentary sheet lightning illuminates

Jagged architecture, chimneys, television aerials,

Your sour face.

There is no such thing as perfection, you said,

In your defense admittedly,

Having skewered my heart with mild

Grumbling a which seemed to match the

Rumbling thunder.

Having supplied a list of all

The things in which I fail.

And now you say, there is no such thing

As perfection.

Yet I read your blog, in which, in

Glowing terms, you eulogized and praised

And refused to criticize the herbaceous borders

At Polesden Lacey.

He set up a library in which people borrowed not books

But tea towels.

And they were classified dutifully under the

Dewey decimal system

According to their subject.

People said he was mad.

The two most popular sections

Were Travel, and Cats.

The Travel tea towels arranged on shelves

According to country, region, town, city,

Municipal districts, culture,

The cats tea towels

Were all kind of clumped together

Although some attempt had been made

Discriminating long hair and short hair.

Plain tea towels were measured

As to their viscosity and were

Stored in their sections,

Friction and non friction.

On most days he would appear

From his office in a 1920s showman’s outfit

Complete with top hat, jacket and bandsman’s trousers,

All made out of tea towels,

And he would dance along the aisles

As if caught up with the absolute romance of

So many tea towels.

People said he was weird.

The humour section was off limits to kids.

One of the tea towels was a bit saucy.

Some people don’t wash them properly.

An early morning sun

Sets afire the desert land.

An opal mine shimmers on a heat haze.

Nothing but sand

And the dull empty crack of life,

Existence as grand.

In a tin shack bar sits Jack,

Fresh from the dust, weary from a

Fortnight’s driving, weary, he caresses

A cool early morning beer.

How many sheep will he have to sheer

Until his dreams come true?

Yesterday, he dreamed of rodeos.

This morning, the outback sky was split

By a lone vapor trail, at the head of which,

An aircraft reflected the morning rays

Heading south to cooler climes.

We live in fantastic times.

Seven AM, already thirty degrees.

He ponders on unseen passengers,

Heading to their cool bars, their

Cool night clubs, their cool trendy flats,

With their cool friends, their cool husbands

And their cool wives, watching the latest cool

Films and reading the latest cool novels,

How cool it must be to be so cool,

Oh, right now how he wishes he were cool!

He traces his forefinger on the frosted glass

And ponders on appetites, fashions,

A suburban existence,

And the thought that a landscape so vast

Could easily suffocate a weaker soul.

The tin shack radio blares through static

Seventies rock opera, and in the distance

He can hear the chug chug from the opal mine

And the bleating of sheep.

You said you loved me

And you’d get a tattoo of my face to prove it.

Only when I peeled back your sleeve

Expecting to see my own youthful twenty-something visage

Emblazoned in ink on your upper arm

I saw instead a depiction of

The secret lost garden of Heligan.

I was most indignant.

You said you’d had a sudden change of heart

I pointed out that the

Secret lost garden of Heligan

Was neither secret nor lost

Because they’ve got a website

And a Facebook page

And a Twitter account

And several published coffee table style books.

You said that tattoos are permanent

And the nature of gardens in all their seasonal

Glory are but momentary depending on the whims

Of the climatic variables which make up this

Fine isle, they never look the same

One day from the next

And I said, neither do I.

I began to have my suspicions

That something was amiss

When I saw a little old lady at

The garden centre coffee shop

Who had a tattoo

Which was a very fine outline of my own

Facial features 

And I said to Dean,

Was there a mix up at the tattoo parlour?

Yes, he said, there had been

A hideous mistake

But the old lady thought that her new tattoo

Was of snooker player John Parrot

So she was quite happy.

(His name was Dean,

I should have mentioned that

Earlier in the poem).