Owen Bullock

What class

rich people are stupid
school is dumb
fixing motorbikes is good
mixing cement, putting in windows
being able to thump
each other
                  hard-wearing clothes
shirt & jumper
& a leather jacket on a motorbike
the same food as last week
a drink on Fridays
and all weekend
a holiday to build a shed
no hot water
no bath or shower
toilet outside
no heating in the bedroom
kitchen or laundry 
(it makes you soft) 

these the ways
we kept ourselves 

The Gen 

Melding fur with nougat I bake you a treat.
Inside the piano a dark poison broods,
Decrescendo, it lullabies you, you who haven’t slept,
Dreamt freely in REM for years, find rest,
Lamenting only that the cake isn’t moister –
Ease is a strange guest to the human spirit,
Calamity more familiar, like a castle
Lately stormed by a gift. After that,
An encore of wine mulled by prayer,
Serenaded till dawn and drawn out,
Sighing at noon when the game ends on the lawn,
Where nets quiver, you open
Hampers to make the day noteworthy.
It’s all getting rather trite as the priest
Traverses the walk with a message
Engraved on plate, proclaiming a text,
Glad of something to say, compellingly
Urging us to believe poetry is dead,
Your favourite art form replaced 
Solely by your own poems, no others exist,
Arrested in this moment of individual genius,
Resplendent like the cake and the dawn in comfort,
Established and maintained in a social norm needing
Boundaries only of your own making. You control
Otherness, gender and ethnicity by your lights,
Rich with a tradition that’s stopped, trembling with metre,
Iambs abounding in a sumptuous veil
Nothing can remove, simpering,
Giving back to itself the standard.


A collection of mandolins –
the hand-built one you learnt on
pear-shaped, sound hole 
decorated medieval style;
the one you played at a festival 
made by a boat builder
top like planked decking,
sound hole hold-like; 
the Italian bowl-back in a junk shop
you couldn’t afford . . .

the little blue bottle 
dug out of the garden

the plastic killer whale 
fished from a wave

Father’s euchre trophy

wood carvings 
your ball in a box
& the free ball 
which took twice as long to carve

commemorative coins 
from teaching the military
creative engagement

tin whistles 
for each key
wooden ones, too

you gave up on them . . .
you need a mansion
or they smother you like a bedsit

Predict predictable (prediction harm)

You’ll see his name in lights 

– it hasn’t happened yet
I’ve stopped waiting, begun
building the cinema – the first row of
bricks took me months, slowly
walls sprout like rare shoots

I’ve started on the roof trusses,
learnt carpentry, damp-
proofing, glazing – though I’m
way off window frames – I still
need to tackle 
insulation, plastering, architraves, 
fitted furniture, flooring, tile- &
lino-cutting, carpet-laying;
sometime I have to make time
to look at wiring those over-
due lights – I’m 53 now
I’ll get out front . . . I imagine . . .

just in time

Climate changeling

the answer 
to the threat of climate change
could be education 
for young women
then more likely 
to court a career
than have children

so says his film, 2040
made for his daughter
who’d be his age by then

new research, published today
predicts that in a few years 
the world’s swelling numbers
will start to go down
in the 1950s
women had 4.7 children
by 2017 it was 2.4
if it drops below 2.1
populations will decline
& they will soon –
by the end of the century
countries like Japan and Spain 
Thailand and Italy will have
less than half the citizens
they hold now

sometimes dreams 
do come true

In the time of 

a bank of roses bows to the sun
purple wildflowers wave down the roadside

two dolphins porpoise
a crab scuttles out of a rock pool
freezes at the shadow of a human
a piece of purple coral clings on
by the pink sea cabbage


dad kicks a ball around with kids in the park
a child plays recorder

spot the teddy bears in the windows 
(& a whale!)


teaching online
working from home
writing grant applications
temporary contracts
year to year –
Mars doubles down
on uncertainty


grey clouds racing
past trees, rooftops
wires, posts

in this 
thoughtless disjunction
three crows bathe air


He watched me come and go, stumbling over cobblestones, mooching pub to pub, buying records, scribbling by gravestones, hurtling up the steps of the Market House to fossick, escaping with another kitsch jacket; steaming into the King’s Head with new cords and shirt, black, ready to die the death of desire (male-centred). Away for years, returning to meet particular people at specific times, at the new café on the corner – tarmac dresses the bends, the cobbles clawed out and gobbled up – at The White Hart Hotel (too posh before). I look up and see him, he’d been my whole life below the spire, a gargoyle of a man playing Cornish pipes, double chanter, three holes in each, tuned D minor or D, eternal note.

Owen Bullock’s most recent publications are the chapbook, Impression (Beir Bua Press, Tipperary, 2022), a single long poem, and Uma rocha enorme que anda à roda (A big rock that turns around), translations of his tanka into Portuguese by Francisco Carvalho (Temas Originais, 2021). He has also published three collections of poetry; five books of haiku; and the novella, A Cornish Story. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra where he teaches. Other interests include juggling, music and chess. https://poetry-in-process.com/@OwenTrail @ProcessPoetry.
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