Posted in Before the Rain


Early February a tall man stands
hands crossed
over the front of his trousers
covering the gate of paternity
a guard against accidental opening.
and addresses the staffroom.

Upright, dark hair parted to the right
the side of correct politics and God.
A good-looking man, but not too so
doubt a vestigial element in his life.

He begins to speak
part welcome
part recitation – royal secretary announcing a knighthood
concurrence reflexive : agreement pro forma
Unfortunately there has been a decision
my employment will not be renewed.

He wants to make one thing clear
this decision is entirely due to budgetary constraints
not any shortfall of expectation or underperformance.
He would like to wish me well.

A soundbite of obligation
added to the menu of the year’s first staff meeting.
A thin spread of absolution
sandwiched between upcoming events and social club levies.

Posted in Before the Rain


The success of a revolution is marked
not by loud presence of the new
but non-echoing absence of the before – Slide rule. Typewriter. Walkman.

Before Apple, before Microsoft
before the graphical user interface and computers for everybody
files were sheets of paper, bounded by thin cardboard.
No directories or folders. Hierarchical by colour.

Memory could never recall the hue of the personal file
perhaps slack should be cut for infrequency
sited just once, inverted, so the man seated opposite could read easily.

Open, self-conscious of being uncovered in public.
On the inside cover, precisely equidistant from praise and criticism
neutral to the rising hope of the first page,
the declined petition that would be the last.

Chapter one. Verse one. In the beginning
the civil service created personal information.
Name. Date of birth. Qualifications.
Day, month, year of commencement.

By the first of March.
He laughed and spoke of my luck. This is a leap year. An extra day.
Gallows symmetry. Second line. DOB : 29th of February.

Posted in Before the Rain


they will let me know.
Morning break – still no news.
A decision is imminent
a secret known to three people
but whispers escape from closed room
I am being watched … and I feel it.

The boss arrives. Late.
An instruction, cheerfully gruff, stay after everybody has gone.

15 minutes. One quarter of one hour ….
time enough to determine if the darkening
on an x-ray is inconsequential – or terminal.
Time enough to analyse clues.
At the top table laughter and chat
grimness is absent.
Slowing of heartbeat and unclenching of fear
confidence topples pessimism. Bad news doesn’t stop for coffee.

Confirmation is an unexpected diversion
and byplay with the two resident larrikins
laughter still trembling on his lips.
“Those two …what a pair of cards.”

A pronouncement
If given a choice
I would always take it straight.
I wasn’t. He was.

“Unfortunately ..
The decision is final. No more appeals.
This is the end –
nothing more can be done.
Not good news – he realized that
messengers are specialists.
they only deliver.