I gave a false name in Starbucks

This piece discusses one of the great ethical issues of our day. For the avoidance of doubt, it is a work of pure fiction.

I gave a false name in Starbucks.
It was so easy the first time.
No guilt. A victimless crime.
It was like trying on a new set of clothes.
Is this my emotional colour?
It makes me feel so different.
Does my ego look fat in this?

I gave a false name in Starbucks.
By the fourth time, I realised that the clothes were not new, but borrowed.
When I said my name was Gordon, I was taller and had fair hair.
Patrick, and I spoke with a drawl.
Joel, and I was a child again.
Arthur, and I was my grandfather.
Every name a connection, a memory, a dream.

I gave a false name in Starbucks.
Another customer called out, “I’m Sebastian too. What are the chances?”
Later that week, Sebastian saw me in the street and greeted me.
But I could not help borrowing more names.
Pedro, I’m sorry I used your accent.
Benoit, Werner, Istvan, yes, those were risky.
What an interesting conversation.
I gained new insights, and in my mind’s eye, a fabulous body.

I gave a false name in Starbucks.
I looked across to where a man sat alone.
He smiled when the barrista called out to him.
And I saw the truth: it was the first time he had heard his name that day.
And when the barrista called out to me
He would hear it for the second time.
But I would not hear it.
I would be out in the faceless crowds,
Nothing to borrow, nothing to steal,
No-one to welcome or please,
A place to have and need no name.

Posted by banting_wp in Poetry


With apologies to anyone who cares about the English (or any other) language

Irregardless! So absurd
To think that it could be a word;
Syllables in disarray,
Double negative dismay!

Yet all the lexicons agree,
Merriam-Webster, OED,
No matter that it brings disgrace
“Irregardless” has its place.

It bring me pain to even utter,
Standards lying in the gutter.
Using such linguistic freakage
Ain’t the way to proper speakage!

It proves how much the English language,
Unrestrained, is prone to manglage.
It didn’t ought to be allowed
But who can stop this trend unbowed?

With no Academie Française
Each one can choose just what he says.
Of all bêtes noires that us appal,
This is the noirest of them all.

Posted by banting_wp in Poetry

Kings Heath poem

This was my entry for the poetry competition run by Enjoy Kings Heath in February 2019. To my surprise, it was the Competition Judge’s selected winner. There were some excellent winners in other categories, and it was especially pleasing that the winner of the popular vote (unknown to the voters at the time) was an entry in the 12-14 years old category.

I visit Kings Heath Park often, especially for Kings Heath Spanish Club, and have taken many photos there. It has a more orderly, laid-out feel than Highbury Park, which is bigger and feels wilder in comparison. It was that contrast, as if representing the diversity in Kings Heath’s people and built environment, that provided the inspiration for the poem.

Sunshine and dark clouds

Dramatic weather in Kings Heath Park

Two Parks

Because one park is never enough.

Because we need the loved and nurtured, the neatly cornered,
A place to find the fountains and the flowers,
The tearoom and the tennis court,
A meeting space for children and your ageing mother,
Somewhere to grow and thrive together.

Because we need the wild and free, to roam unbounded,
Where biking paths are rough and hilly,
Angles leading off to dark mysterious corners
And old twisting trees sway and crack and fall
And new places to play are born.

Because we need spring flowers bursting through the snow,
Berries defying the grip of the seasons,
A canopy of trees to soften the fall of rain
And let the drops linger while daylight fades.

Because our times and moods are ever-changing
One face is not enough to represent us.
In parks and streets, wherever people gather
Kings Heath has room for everyone and everything.

Posted by banting_wp in Poetry

Moral high ground

A creative writing session at Artefact Stirchley brought to mind a time when I stood, along with the rest of a group from Birmingham, at a viewpoint overlooking the city of La Paz in Bolivia. The feelings I had at the time resonated with what we had been discussing and prompted me to write this poem.

Looking down on the city of La Paz, surrounded by mountains

View over the city of La Paz: it spreads out on each side of the photo, disappearing into the midday sun on the left

We came a long way to get here, from another continent,
to reach this city high among the Andean peaks.

Today we rose further through the already-thin atmosphere,
leaving behind the hustle of the city,
passing dried-up rivers, homes for millionaires,
homes for the poor, a home for the dead.

Now we stand and look down from the edge of the ravine.
Humanity clings to its rocky floor,
the city spreading out into the midday sun,
its tiny towers reaching up towards the sky which will not bend down to meet it,
suspended high above the encircling mountains.

Here in the silence we hear the cry of the city,
not the swarming traffic, not the street vendors, not the pressing crowds,
but the cries of the heart, of grief, of poverty, of betrayal, of injustice.

In this upside-down place the rich have escaped to the safety of the valley,
while the dwellings of the poor flow up the mountainside
and on to the barren plateau above.

Even the highest mountains,
forever inaccessible in their snow-covered purity,
only reveal your fragility.

As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we pray over this City of Peace.
We see a million people, fearing the future, fearing each other,
and we are forever part of you.

Your lucky charms and crucifixes cannot protect you.
No mighty cross or statue stands guard over the city.
Look not to what is dead, but to what is alive.
Hear each other’s cries, and find the cross that lies within.

The Spanish named the city Nuestra Señora de la Paz (Our Lady of Peace): in reality it is a noisy and busy place.

Posted by banting_wp in Poetry