by Benjamin Zephaniah



. . .



Who’s Who


I used to think nurses
Were women,
I used to think police
Were men,
I used to think poets
Were boring,
Until I became one of them.

Courtesy of Benjamin Zephaniah



.. .. .. So delighted to get this recommendation from one of my favourite Poets – THANK-YA BENJAMiN

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DICEROS BICORNIS – big horn nose

Diceros bicornis – big horn nose

durers rhino


rhinoceri, defy the ingrates
the people who should suffer
from sickness and diaorea
filched from your horns of plenty

walk the earth so pleasantly
my fairy-tale extravaganza’s
armoured tanks on the plains
your shoulder pads, iron boots

rhinoceri crash, a medieval army
these knights who prefer not to joust
a simple life alone while plucking
fauna, thy designed, engorged lips

draw up the drawbridge fast
brave armed men on the sentry
this war is war, if war is war
compatriots, armed as rhino’s

master humankind, nature-blind
cavorting blithely with the stars
our life on earth burnt, scarred
a heritage for children, uncarved

consensus bars white hunter’s
bandits, poachers, apothecary
of monstrous lies, the rhino dies
this power lauded by universality

rhinoceri, unleash the mythical
beast he runs as fast as an athlete
whose breath is fire and torment
is he not the mighty Behemoth?

hear his snort before the charge
his purpled thunder, battalion bred
gun-metal grey his pauldron, her faulds
bellied plackart, gauntlets and cuisses

knights at arms resign to Arthur’s table
with learned men, sign another treaty
as cop26 in Glasgee, too tired to talk
of endangered species who can hardly walk

rhinoceri, your beauty unheralded
your golden horn adorned by few
Dali did not acquiesce when recognising
it’s perfect, logarithmic, spiral

paw at the earth odd-toed ungulates
paw and show your true disdain
that creatures of best behaviour are
not determined by those of bigger brain



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who arrived like a creeping ivy
    stalking-leopard at the zoo
a Regents Park type break out
    changed our spattered disguises
aided by clearasil, germolene, chapstick
    while a nuclear threat was forming
the colour of your hair was running
    at football grounds from conflict
into Mary Quant’s quaint eyeshadow
    of glass, black vinyl and chrome

Branson, once a happy, hippy mogul
    through virgin skies we launched
Uri Gegarin, Tellstar, Maharajhi Yogi
    transcendent, guru masters of baloney
fish eggs, fish crap in heaps, fools caviar
    spaghetti bolognaise, tikka masala
Colonel Sanders arrived in white suit
    trucking around the US, Canada for a-while
sixties turns up, time to show some style
    savants, intellectuals agree

              it’s a time to be free
So I go to the Festival Hall, moody blue
    these are the days of future past, lead on 
Inna gadda da vida, sunshine of my love
    tambourines, krishna’s, eskimo’s, let it bleed
smokin weed, droppin acid, everyone is placid
    till Quadrophenia, skinhead boots and speed
politicians, plumbs in throats, Yorkshire drawl
  Tony Benn, Guevara, Khrushchev, man
called John from Brookline, Massachusetts
  he took a bullet for Democracy

               shattered dreams

tie-dye shirts, flarey jeans, wooden beads
    no bra women, so, we had contraceptives?
‘sexual revolution’, love the one your with
    some clung to marriage, it’s a magic bus


some to chillums, spliffs, n’brownies
    Billy Butlin holidays in ticky-tacky chalets
sonic screams in the court of crimson kings
    wind-chimes, mersey-beat, Stevie Wonder
Warhol’s plimsole, Lichtenstein, Tony Hancock
  stand up mother’s little helper

                 Social Drama’s 

cos’ revolution’s here, you know what i mean
  Steve McQueen, Bullitt, Thomas Crown
Great Escape good name for films a’plenty
  Hollywood’s copulating, inventing names
Hoffman, Hepburn, Monroe, Bardot, Newman                               
  currency of change, lies on the cutting floor
Lumet, Kubrick. Kurosawa, Lean and Wilder
  made their beans out of the masses
the sugar of molasses, the candy floss
  picture houses, palaces where heroes live

                   and die, Alan Ladd, Marilyn

popular philosophy, Orwell, Huxley emerge
  Jean Paul Sartre, Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung
Anthony Burgess, R.D. Laing, Tolkien, Jung
  no one reads Worlds in Collision anymore
the Politics of Experience, of Ecstasy or Jung
  the revolution died on a Summer Holiday
on an RT bus like Mahatma Gandhi on 3oth
  January 1948, with three bullets in his chest
the ‘sixties’ was a social revolution that died
  not just marajuana, the way we felt inside



rare author’s note:

I didn’t expect to write this piece – it just happened – did the six-tees happen at all? – I’m not sure they did – yet I was there and remember a certain excitement – we felt something was happening – and we didn’t know what it was – but in so many ways – it was better than what we have today! – I wrote this as a garbled flow of consciousness – as I remember it and things – as things were – as each day life was exciting – as each day was an ‘event’ – not a mundane existence – I wrote it as I sensed it – as I felt it and I didn’t use the word fuck once!

Screenshot 2020-11-14 at 11.12.55

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Naked and Unashamed .. .

I run free my pieces jangling
  run to the crashing sea
I run shouting unashamed
  my arms vainly embracing the moon
  the wind grazing my flesh
I run still wondering
  in my dreaming
  the sunned stones cutting into my feet
  running into the salt-spray stinging my eyes
I hear seabird cries they are crying
  as they are lost as I am lost
  naked and unashamed
  yet still not free of my adornments
My ragged coat of many colours
  my certificates of allusion
  my jock-strap fantasies
Hark, I hear maidens singing
  but they are not singing they are laughing
  they hold a jewelled oyster
They speak of pearls
  I speak of caves to hide in
  lie in, die in
  the potential to survive in
They speak of life not the death I carry
  in this jolly knapsack that dangles at my back
  you see I am not free but burdened like Christian
Like Raif Badawi, Malcolm X, Olatunji,
  I am like they would be
  if they ran naked and free
As those dear women
  whose breasts bangled
  as they ran in artificial pro-aryan races
  at the command of cruelty
  sordid inhumanity
  nazi masters whose hell
  they shared at the shoah
As young children running
  from the horror of napalms burning
  as anyone running in fear
As we are running
  from the honesty of our deceptions
  so naked, so ashamed
Then run, keep running to forget
  run round the corner
  through the tunnel of illusion
  through the valleys of confusion
  across the hills
  into the mountains
  running then on
  and into the sea



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Me and Walt Whitman .. .


me and walt

We grew out of Long Island, Manhattan
It is where my father died, I am not afraid
to speak of it, my father wrote of Watergate
me and Walt we wrote it down together

Walt and I we covered so much ground
the two of us wit’ a pair of dark lurcher hounds
Long Island is pretty skinny like those dogs
down the road to Nassau County and Ronkonkoma

I saw fishermen mending nets by Peconic Bay
it wasn’t Galilee or Gethsemane, the Peconic River
one guy called Peter he was a kind of rock
I thought I’ll write my story written round about it

another guy called John kept cropping up
he wore an artistic smock, lay his head down
on Jesus breast, out here that’s considered cute
it took me a long while to get here but I made it

I made it through to Montauk Point then out to sea
to catch a Bluefin Tuna out of Babylon in a schooner
I saw guys on the pier fishing despite what they knew
my brother was a sailor, a quarterback, a pitcher

You’re cutting the ropes Natasha, set yourself free
i’ll fix you a drink of long island tea on ice
he’ll settle down with a good book and a cocktail gin
Treasure Island, Tales of Ulysess, Moby Dick

I’ve really had enough of living on the land
I’ll live out on the sea as an old man like Hemmingway
Walt Whitman, me and Bobby McGee, dreamed I
made love to Janis Joplin in Saratoga, U.S.A.

I walked as long a while as down Jones Beach
where the sand is soft to touch, as a Kanthalloor peach
where people gather to stretch out, have fun, play ball
where multitudes gather in the sun

I walk with Whitman, Adeline, my sight hound, is a picture
I set her off the lead, she runs and runs, later she returns
there my uncle Art I see he is fishing with a lure for fluke
bluefish, blackfish, striped bass, he so better than my father

My father and Walt they never met, not that I ever knew
knew this or that, that hangdog moon, the august sun’s cravat
its hot as hell but Walt Whitman is a clever fellow
he tries to teach me words have value, they have rhyme

I’ll walk wi’ Whitman night or day he does not mind
he would take my arm when I have no sight, walk on towards the light
the sun above Patchogue when we are brothers
enjoy lunch at the Oyster Bar, dressed crab and piquant peppers

I walk with Whitman to my fathers grave we bow, we talk
we wonder, what gets upside a man’s head
that makes him act unkind, what demons live inside his mind
blinded souls, there are seabirds, herring gulls on Long Island

Life trips by, O the sadness of the human condition
the constant fight to wrestle down the bleakness of traditions
father took a journey to Manhattan west of Paumonok
he was following a dream that left us floating in slipstream

I been floating ever since around the headland
in a canoe with Walt Whitman and a Seatauket indian
indigenous and free as my father wished to be
the day he left our mother, Boo, the mockingbird and me



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Always begin again .. .



Have you seen the swifts departing or heard their solemn call
across the housetops, the smudge of bronze-brick chimneys
a hoar frost hanging grey, the scoop skin of ripe, wild blueberry
we had been dovecote lonely while nights prussian swallowed
hard the scuttle in my clothed throat I could not easily find words

I never dreamt of such regret, squeezing through scaled memory
faint illusions, ghostly demons with faces that I could recognise
who smiled inside my dread, rebounding from the sides nightly
left by the summered pathway of my long, interrupted childhood
those sober dreams were animated films driven, lost, fragmented

where I would wake silently the bleak sound of sobbing in my head
I was often on a schooner, in imagined tales, as a sharpened knife
as a skulking stowaway always troubleshooting escaping my anxiety
in the midshipman’s parlour, at their salted table, I read the stories
stains in the grainy, weathered oak, written with punishment of blood

the sharpest tales, the ones in the shadow of green, refracted light
confused the bottle with my life, I the priest confirming my own rites
the horrors of golden piss take control, I see the rats, gnawing teeth
the hill I climb always taller, leaning back, a burden I push on wheels
tracks are laid behind me, the blackened engine, honking, gaining

the contrasts of light, shade, beauty, lethal cuts from a blade of grass
trauma confused by grace should never wear a happy face or smile
always the sentinel, grim as icy water we wade through, explorers
who reach the island, a shot in the veins from a non-religious tract
a pioneer pamphlet, you write your seminal piece and I am pregnant

I am adorned with wraiths, seaweed of the deepest, blackest seas
where monsters gather, lamplights on Poseidon, ugliest of brothers
all this I feign carry on my itching, lashed back, turned against treason
I, once a small child with Marvel comics, sugar puffs, tooth fairies
stand a metalled man, a trophy of the Greeks, my cheeks blushed


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I wrote 34 lines on missing you .. .

I wrote 34 lines on missing you .. .

…   …   …

I want it all
I want the lot
I want it cold
I want it hot
I want it double, double capuchino
I want twins nestled in my cot
I want a double in my hand
to hear them live, my favourite band
I want the future, I want the past
I want that last biscuit in the tin
a never-ending bottle of gin
I want total absolution from all my sin
I want my hunny here with me now!
sitting softly on my knee
I want to kiss her, hear her say
tell you what baby
lets never go away, again
come back baby, come back hun
since you went sweetie
there ain’t no sun
or fun or any other rhythm
I even considered joining
that oddball schism
down the road
I want joy and I want world peace
want these nightmares to cease
so come back baby
come back now
I’ll rub your back
I’ll rub your feet
I’ll suck real hard on your teets
and we can carry on. as before
I want you baby
I just can’t love you any more


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The Paper Boy .. .



paper sack


…   …   …


.                   I had been a compulsive since I was seven

   or was it seventeen?

   we all spend so much time alone

   with Chopin and the flowers


The first time I had an erection I became a man

   and when I saw my mother’s breasts

   I fell in love with her

   not the women in Spick n’Span


Those ladies were nowhere near

   with their plastic smiles

   grey-toned faces

   their airbrushed teets


I hid them in a bag at the back of the chimney

   a budding sleuth

   a sleuth and a gangster by thirteen

   hanging more black and white pictures


On my dull, wood-chip, emulsion wall

   pictures of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel,

   all these were perfectly acceptable

   not the women of my masturbations


My early teenage loves

   my pictures of Lilly stuck up high in the chimney

   with the dead starlings, the decaying soot

   two Topo Gigio keyrings we stole from Woolworth’s


Me and a ginger gangster called Ian 

   who introduced me to wanking back in ’63

   we had a kind of wankers club

   curious boys would gather to learn


We held our pepees in our hands

   it seems now kinda sordid

   it didn’t then, rubbing out some pleasure

   from undeveloped glands


Boys did it all the time

   later we found girls

   who would do it for us

   with your hands stuffed inside their bras


Then we tried out rubber johnny’s they often tore

   leaked the messy evidence upon the carpet floor

   always too excited but then you had to wait

   to see if you were mummy’s or daddy’s


Getting married at seventeen which so many did

    in war-torn Britain with the depression lifting

‘  ‘we never had it so good’

   but that was much later in the teenage cycle


At eleven years I started dropping papers under-age

   my canvas sack hung round my neck

   cowhorn handlebars, my statement of intent

   all the while my eyes held open with sticks


My mind racing with the troubles on at home

   the shouting and the arguments, the fights

   the true sense of loss, little father-love

   then suddenly my bike was gone


Taken from me by the big red bus

   the type that comes in threes

   while I was sleep-walking

   it might have been a hearse


The one thing that was fortunate

   I was not riding it, but walking it

   it ended up mangled real good

   contention continued at home under the hood


Yet by fifteen we were knocking back

   full-blown beers at the local drinking-hole

   where the landlord who had weak eyes

   served us two-bob pints of light and bitter


So we wandered home to mommy

   with the stars in our skies

   trundled off to work on Monday

   followed by night-class chasers


Its no wonder later I began to roam

   collecting female conquests like badges

   three at a time, a gigolo in my teens

   in chequered shirt, skinhead hair, high-masted jeans


Yet still I was a paper boy,

   for ten shillings a week

   I wrestled with my world

   that was cold, empty, bleak




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Alone With Void .. .


It was not that I began to hear voices
which signalled my anxiety
it was more tears that began to flow
at really most anything
the line of a song
an irrational concern
for someone I did not know

The sadness, the secret drinking
I made sure I did not show
emotionally unstable
I thought they would say
they, parked up in my street
they heard every word
that now seems so absurd

Somewhere down the way
the cable became disconnected
from the speaker – no sounds!
your chin hits the ground
you still hear music playing
with one speaker
you just know something is not right

Bubblegum solutions get you by
you can hear people talking
about you in your mind
the urge to cry always stronger
a tendency to lie to yourself
drinking is an option
it comes earlier each day

Finally, talk with a doctor
an angel on my phone
she is able to deliver the perfect line
mister-e you have an illness
I prescribe this solution
it is then I admit my condition
and the river soon runs dry

Days, months, hours are all the same
when you’re alone with emotional pain
that silent ache within your brain
you’re reaching out
through your doubts
to a boy you once knew
who isn’t you but just a shell

It is never gone this cloud hanging
throughout the world over
there are people in a worse position
yet the function of our versatility
interrupted, exposes us
to a dangerous fragility
we never should ignore


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The Laurel Crypt

revision: 9/11/21

.   .   .


By the way of Dallinson’s dark alley
I skipped the journey of the cold returning
tortured souls I thought, their coats heavy
with night, the burden of their daily wages
I wrested my eyes, the lights, the sticky rain

To journey for one minute doubtless, free
down still cobbled, quiet passages where 
I hoped again to see my love, offer friendship
if she could still sense fragrance behind the walled
floweres of my desire, Jasmine, Lilac, Laurel beds

This para-cloak of wetted stones melancholy
my collar pulled round, I the thief who creeps
in memory of a much sweeter time, no injury, no folly
a sunshine lisp and blessed her summer dress
clean smile, breathing eyes, hair natural as honey

The august of my thunder- set, there is no losing
as peoples chant their holly wishes, exchange kisses
lightning strikes best when unbeguiled but precedes
the deepest drama, that rumbles under, if only love
did not carry hurt to others, happiness which smothers

Starved of light the key now lay within my pouch-
pocket oozing, surrendered of my choosing to unfold
the sight of my love after all this unnecessary time
the clock on the highroad of the mundane chimed nine
and I tippy-toeing, a street-bum in the ashy shadows

I had time to contemplate my dark-wood choices
watch the flames turn rosewood to ebony then redolence
still chived of the sweetness of a kiss that woke the thunder
of those many conversations of bliss, nought happened
but now they would, I would see my Freya, norse princess

Two sailors are approaching dressed in alcohol and cheer
I pass, stepping to the left, bereft of virtue continuing
the leaning steps distended, another light showing, slants 
grey raindrops, turns this medieval scene Karloffian the night
Shakespeare is rising, attention mused, another passer-by

Brianna, my age to thee you said was too advanced, prior
though might I have been thy wedding charm, thou the new 
dressed in gentian blue, adoration thy embroidered garter
I was away in my revelries, the rain descending came stronger
woke me to my task, the diablos leering, my angels protect

The flowered wall lay silently to the left precluded by my camber
I caught faint aroma, ambivilent in consequence I was assured
of gesture yet also certain such floweres had long departed
as swallows, the purpled swift, do their nests in gabled rafters
beneath those broken tiles, gutters, in the street they hung over

Like the drunk I found and stepped over, he in blackest coma
besides his girth I found the door, my key to open, step inside
the windows blinded foresaw the cold, clinical light of science
of medicine and I previously assured my angel lay not scarred
within the dormitory of the dead and fallen, the east-wing crypt

The while I intoned so dark a discovery, the picture in my mind
remained the same and blossoming, of days we were alone
the walk by the river, her secret passage she had shown
good-naturedness, quiet contentment yet a patient longing,
dawning of a fervent hope, passion ham-strung, wracked

I slipped, nervous to sound, not ghost nor ghoul but prying eyes
who might not try to understand this tryst with love on sacred ground
as tryst it be were my lover able to welcome me this grainy night
who never welcomed me before but coy mischance accepted
now the dance of our strange romance, her beauty, her loyal beast

This turning of the lever I had reached allowed me breath, belief
I could not contemplate nor anywhere the taint of death
certainly not hers as I scrambled for the door to enter hades
and in the whitest room, the blackness, a briefest lady-shape
draped, daubed by one sheet as my confederate had promised

Hush of night gathers as an orchestra to tune, I the band leader
who raised his arm not to muster yet betray shadows on the wall
they travelled, magnified, the yardarm on a ship a’fore it sails
then the sheet, I yanked it at the corner it fell as rivers to a waterfall
and there she lay as sweet and soft, yet cold and pinched of grey

Her form, as of any other woman, now my torture concluded
upon her face the faintest smile, her hair fell long on morbid sheets
the rest of her now complete, her breasts, her stomach and her valley                     quite how I had imagined her, in life and death, she the perfect lover
I touched the bleaching skin in places believing not that she was dead

I could see visions, angels in attendance, her music a choral cadence
she, more perfect now I thought, I clasped her calmness, her clamminess
lifting her naked torso, stiff like dead branches to me, hot tears spiralling
as early rain spots from a golden cloud with blackened belly, this rain                    falling on her jellied breasts, mounds that held my sad regret closer to me

It came the awe-filled realisation, I lay her gently back upon the
covered slab, her arms awkward, like de-assembling a deck-chair 
a quiet gurgling, acrid smell of death, my Brianna long, since departed
I reached for a petri dish too late, the pallid contents of my stomach
were writhing on the floor, her carcass now mis-shapen, haunting

On leaving Dallinson’s undertakers I caught the menthol in the air
the rain now departed as my love, eucalyptus, lemon and mint
that ionised feeling after-storms will bring I remembered as a child
collecting butterflies with pins, the trick to finish them without distress
or damage, laurel leaves in a glass jar, put them to sleep never to waken

                                                        ©edenbraytoday11.09.2021 (revision 9/11/21)

#Author’s Note :-

Some may view this a morbid tale and yet it is ‘a song of love’.

Although not in any way pictorially related to the horror of 9-11 it is nonetheless, dedicated to all those who lost loved-ones at 9-11 in the strangest and most tortuous of circumstances at the behest of warped minds and the ugliest, most calculating and putrid terrorism the world has probably ever known – although recognising the depravity that humanity is capable of sinking to – I doubt that is really a true statement at all.

On the morning after the horror of 9/11 I spoke with an associate who had lost all his workmates, he had stepped out of the office when the atrocity occurred. Cash was a bright, intelligent, imaginative and enthused young stockbroker – that morning after – his world was destroyed probably for ever – Cash was a muslim, a creative, promising young worker and a very decent human being – my heart goes out to Cash right now wherever he may be and all the lovers, fulfilled or unrequited who lost friends, family and their hopes for humankind that terrible, terrible, terrible sordid day!

I wish you all your still so painful happiness.

– edenbray 11th September 2021 (revision:9/11/21)

illustration – Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

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