Who Let the Dogs Out by John Mackie

who let the dogs out
with a self satisfied smirk
and a thirty two foot
poster of people fleeing
from smart bombs, bullets, gas
the insistent red dots
of sniper fire?

these are the enemy now it seems;
people just like us
walking away from
violent death , rape
the stink of our burning faces
the final rattle of our children’s breaths

who let the dogs out
baying for blood for a chance
to swing back to supremacy
to a time when their heroes’
bite was lethal, baleful oh yes
far worse than their bark ?

Orlando by John Mackie

my friend the bass player lives in Orlando
he is not gay and tells me he’s safe
but still I fear

I feel the scale of
the homophobic horror
that burst the brains and hearts of those
who only wanted to dance and fuck together

I say this to two I love
on social media
one responds with a photo of fountains
the other with complaints
about being questioned
for drunk driving

This is my Special Friend by John Mackie

that phrase had power
to make my heart swell

I watched the faint smile
in the saying of it
the bright green eyes

one of those creatures
who enter a room
and everyone looks up
at bold

I am a private person
scarred by secrets now

can still hear the panting
the cry of exultation

the hard body
pressing down on me

the whispered
“no one can know about this
it must stay secret

Fallujah – Requiem For A City Of Scholars (with apologies to M.O) by John Mackie

those poor damned geese
ribboning away
raucous over the wetlands
it is not their fault
they have been used by

and the conscience pricked
to console or forgive themselves
for a settling for “place in the family
of things”

in comfort around here
cocking a snook at fear
taking in food and water every day
we can indeed “let the soft animal body
love it what it loves every day”

down in Fallujah they are eating grass
and piss and
stopping their ears against
explosions and screams
too loud to hear any geese announcing
as they burn to dust
“this is your place in the family of things”.

A Black Widow Waits by John Mackie

As they shut off the power
For water and light
This is her ambition – to
Write in nails across
The hardened hearts of those
Who built a metal wall on
The glass flecked
Rubble of her mother’s house

By the collateral crater
That swallowed her son
A Caterpillar tracks
In her father’s garden

Behind an eyeless window
She straps on

The explosive silence
Of her suicide

In the unquiet black of
Powerless Gaza


israel bombing



A Fractured Ghazal For 3,000 Unaccompanied Minors by John Mackie

a compassionate person I of course
feel jolly sorry for your pain

and understand your journey was hard
through sleet and wire and driving rain

running from the black flag yes? bullets
bombs, chemical weapons (yawn) again

but dear child please understand
there is for us no fiscal gain

in housing you here , a minor still
you can only be a resource drain

do see it from our point of view
you could be trouble – is that plain?

A Fractured Ghazal for Al-Sharif by John Mackie

in the emergency medicine
chronic assessment unit I lie

hooked up to oxygen, drip
and monitors, self pitying sigh

oh my pain but I am safe
nobody here will just let me die

in this video clip, al-Sharif, down,
prone, moves, flickers an eye

then a medic from the IDF
shoots him in the head. no alibi

in the ironic shadow of an ambulance
beneath an Israeli settler sky

d’you see how the ribbons of blood
thicken with the dust of a street that dry?

guttural shouts come from a cloud
of indifference, soldiers, drivers, passers by

a message in a text wishing me peace
I knew her violent, drunkenly high

peace? as two thousand miles away
the brain drips out of that murdered guy

In Memoriam Mohammed Hassan by John Mackie

“peace and hope
spring eternal”

two white doves
on painted glass

beyond –
a steep shorn garden

opens one eye
rimmed with frost

the watching woman
will wait here for hours

rehearsing his voice
among Northern symbols

her only one future
entrusted to strangers;

in a lorry park in Calais
they are eagerly

targeting a chassis
to strap him to

Sredets by John Mackie

at last;
away with conditionals
hedged round with


running away from
the uncertainty of
bombs in the marketplace,
a place on a list of
the casual revenges of
in Kabul

be sure

come here
with fear
and we will shoot you
as dead as hope

under a bridge

Nobody Calls The Police by John Mackie

Hear them
hammer and tong it
he is sobbing panting
COPD or something like
shouting out in broken bursts
“stop it please stop it
get off me please
I can’t breathe
please stop”

louder now, “please
stop or I’ll call the police”
she laughing, triumphal,
“nobody calls the police”
a cry, a thump against
the bedroom wall
an old man’s groan
nobody calls the police

in the faded elegance
of the Grand Station Hotel

I see them next day
in the lobby
the street
asking directions to The Jazz Cafe
Pink Street
he, elderly, frail, walking
slowly with a stick
with the heavy breath
of damaged lungs

she is much younger
taller, copper hair,
the dramatic good looks
and dress sense
of an actor, dancer maybe

or a Yurei with her prey

nobody calls the police

For Mohamed Bashir al Aani by John Mackie

praised be these tireless
black flagged wahabis
excising idolarity

razing monasteries of
than a thousand years standing

the Bal Shamin shrine
the Temple of Bel
tomb towers of Palmyra

all returned to sand
this agitated man
apostate poet

doubly sinning
brought to his knees
in the dust

with his son
before the scything of God
stills their restless thought

headless, released
from confusion by

with the
house of

there are spring bulbs in flower
along the autobahn
snowdrops, crocii and daffodils
and here by the North Sea the same

in the rubble and dust
of Deir Ezzor
blood darkens the sand

his last poem speaks,
tranquillity for defeat

wild jasmine by John Mackie

wild jasmine
ready to burst
in the mountain
intoxicating a
promise of spring

in the Pas de Calais
a two man tent
my cocoon for kids
perched on a
hopelessness of mud
is being ploughed in
like horse-shit

here, with tear gas and
water cannon
we welcome you
to spring
cherry blossom
the return of swallows
the casual cruelty
of states

For Ashraf Fayadh by John Mackie

Not Sato’s sword poetic

a scimitar : a

keen sweep of Chinese steel

posed as

the will of God


how might it be

that you believe you can

chop the absence of belief

from the shoulders of this apostate


are ideas then objects in the mind

to be flung like pebbles

by  a scything blade


to do so is only to confirm

the absence of god

the steady pump of oil

powering the one percent


all the thin white dukes

the belly heavy sheiks

plumping up the dense cities

with oil and water


they collude

with the argument of cruelty

as a proof of God

some will protest but


forgive me poor poet says the roustabout

but petroleum leaves no trace of poverty

on me



Ghost Dancers by John Mackie

smoke, magic,
the hypnotic
of drums:
more things than in your philosophy
not mazed by the feet
gilded with bells
dowered in dust?
of course then
Kill –
it is
after all
your default response
to the challenges
of learning
and the title deeds
of land


The Massacre at Wounded Knee – anniversary today

The Fertile Crescent by John Mackie

the fertile crescent
dry as the dust
three years of drought
have wrought
reduced to rubble
by proxy wars
for the man
at the dispatch box
to jab his finger

more bombs
he speaks
to crush the ideology
that is the root cause
of conflict

revealing himself
a Platonist
it is clear he doesn’t know
that metal that rips our flesh
is more lethal than
idea of it

From Waterloo Bridge by John Mackie

“From Waterloo Bridge” was written on the occasion of the National Union of Mineworkers’ march through London in June 1984. I read it at fund-raising events in support of striking miners and their families, where it attracted the attention of the composer Howard Skempton who was performing “The Durham Strike” and other coalfield songs at some of the same events. Howard wrote a setting for choir and two pianos which was premiered at St. John’s Smith Square, London in June 1986 and repeated at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 1988. Other versions for voice and piano followed, which were performed in Austria and London.
In the 31h anniversary year of that march I would like to dust it down for you

From Waterloo Bridge

(With thanks and respect to William Wordsworth , Dylan Thomas and Percy Byshe Shelley)
In Memoriam Joe Green and David Jones, killed whilst on picket duty.

On that late May Day in June
a day like wood-smoke and glass
the London through which we passed
blank stares of offices and
money humming on terminal wires
That city of grace and greed
lay comatose, silent, stunned
by the beat of a hammering sun:
from bolt holes of shade
its dogs flagged tongues –
pink flags of surrender
on that day of wood-smoke and glass
On that late May Day in June
the city of grace and greed
drew back from where we walked:
it had become
a stupefied predator
grown too old and
grown too fat
from too many
too many easy
trying to hide from the revelations of the sun
– panting in its lair –
the persistent bludgeoning glare
the very air like molten dust
on a day like wood-smoke and glass
Through the glass canyoned arteries
close to its heart of unease
through the day-dazzled
we roared our songs:
ad-hoc choirs of anger, we,
sinuous, fluent, snaking
fifty thousand long
many a pit-white back
tattooed by needles of coal
flint-blue chips beneath the skin
bared to the waist to the echoing
breast-baring roar of the sun
We flung at the fronts
the glass-blank stares of offices, banks,
where blue-chip money hums on wires
and gilt-edged securities
lie vaulted, strong-roomed
consolidated gold in a mass black tomb
our brightly, proudly, bannered choirs
flung our breaths at those
“who repitilized upon the earth”
From Waterloo Bridge do you see –
there is blood on the river,
there is blood on the river:
from Waterloo Bridge do you see
a thousand carnations fall
in intermittent cascades
a wreath of showers
of individually flung flowers
blood-red blooms
that bob on the pulse
like mooring-sprung buoys
on the grey-green swell
The whip of the wind and the tug of the tide
muster them
into casual coagulating clusters
bright clots of blood
taken from sight by the flood
Stand here on the central span
bereaved woman
bereaved man
let spill from your hand
one more potent flower and hold
onto that simple act of memory
so let your anger grow
at those that cannot see
that life need not be shaped
nor ended
so arbitrarily