DePfeffelschrift Illustrated NUMBER FIVE : Jane Burn

Malfeasance Page Two


DePfeffelschrift PAGE TWENTY-THREE : John White

40 Degree Rant

Beyond our house today
a host of gulls are wheeling,
crying with distress and collective fear –
we look up at our troubled brothers keening
for a world they’re losing in the burning air.
Is this a wake, is this a wailing song,
are we weak-kneed each day with grief,
is this the poetry of pain, a cry for long gone
tranquillity – that Covid stole away like a thief
and substituted hopeless governance?

What’s this disturbance we feel, is it a curse,
are we reeling like the gulls,
are we ground down and sad like the nurse
who goes in and out the hospital each day
dulled by tiredness and overwork?
Do we stand impatient and wait
for a parcel from a driver who works too late
and isn’t paid a living wage?

It is enough. Let no one say
there is no way to organize our world
so we can eat and heat our homes
in this rich land where dividends
pile up in some accounts like knee-deep snow.
How about a change of plan –
raise taxes, pay decent wages,
take back the generators and the utilities.
Rethink this lousy system,
chuck out incompetent politicians
who won’t cherish their fellow citizens
or pay attention to the gulls who cry for rain.

John White graduated with distinction from the Poetry School/Newcastle University MA Writing Poetry, in 2021. He has a video performance poem on the New Boots and Pantisocracies Postcards from Malthusia blog, and recent written words in the New European, Alchemy Spoon, Ekphrastic Review and the just-published New Writing Scotland 40. 

DePfeffelschrift PAGE TWENTY-TWO : Anne Berkeley

Queen of Spleen  
after Baudelaire

We are like the Queen of a realm of rain,
rich but rickety, a touristic ruin
as weary of fawning yes-men, experts,
as we are of lap dogs and exotic pets.
Nothing delights us: neither petrol queues
nor mounting death tolls on the evening news.
The booster bombast of our Brexiteer
stirs in our ennui not the slightest ardour.
Our heraldic brocades enshroud a pit
where one takes no joy from a TikTok wit
whatever tricks he’s got up his sleeve
to tickle one’s lizard spirit alive.
Not gold, not lead, not even sense – in vain
the alchemist tinkers with Blighty’s brain.
Not even the bloodbaths inherited
from Empire – the old fools remember it –
can warm and revive a corpse so rotten
its veins flow green with something we’ve forgotten.

Source: Baudelaire, Spleen ‘Je suis comme le roi…’

Anne Berkeley’s The Men from Praga was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize. She performed widely with The Joy of Six and now lives in semi-permanent rage near Cambridge.

DePfeffelschrift PAGE TWENTY-ONE : Bob Cooper

Commuters and Icarus in the Brexit Snowstorm
a poem grounded in W.H. Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts 

Beyond Seacombe Terminal’s high-reaching arch snow falls 
silently, large-flaked, through every streetlight’s glare 
but it does not concern them 
                                              though Pieter Bruegel notices 
from beneath his broad-brimmed hat how it touches 
umbrellas, beanies, hoods above head-bowed faces, 
of those who don’t look up when a young man flies past, 
flaps his slow wings, loses height, reaches the Mersey  
or hear his wail before he hits the black water  
then soundlessly sinks 
                                     but Pieter Bruegel recognises 
the end of this aspiring high-flier matters 
because, about economics they were never wrong, 
those distant offshore investors, who told everyone 
they should, or would, or could believe in sunlit days 
and ignore fears that snow will make wings too heavy 
to carry anyone far  
                                so Pieter Bruegel watches  
those who don’t notice as they shuffle in the queu
the pavement and road now resemble a shroud. 
Snowflakes stick to eyelashes, melt, people blink   
as they long for the bus to offer them noise and warmth  
away from what they don’t know has happened, 
what will make grief rise up in someone like them, 
when one knows  
                            what Pieter Bruegel knows 
when he’ll paint what he’s seen as if it happened 
at mid-day in sunlight and somwhere else. 

Bob Cooper lives on The Wirral. This year, his poems are appearing in Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis, High Window, The Waxed Lemon, London Grip, and Ink Sweat & Tears. His last Collection, Everyone Turns, was published by Pindrop Press in 2017.  

DePfeffelschrift PAGE TWENTY : Judith Taylor

Upon Westminster

Godzilla! Thou shoulds’t be living at this hour.
Britain hath need of thee. We have a sty
of chancers folk elected, God knows why,
since all they do is help the rich devour
our substance. Noses troughward, how this shower
– shits, shysters, ministers, drones and members – lie
openly on the BBC and Sky,
careless who loses what, so they keep power.

Great One, arise from out the English Channel!
Stir with thy thrashing tail the Thames! Lay bare
their chummy Chambers: let the chilly air
blow through their threadbare consciences, asleep
on padded benches. Shred with thy claws their flannel;
pound them, confound them, drown them fathoms deep!

Judith Taylor grew up in Perthshire, downwind of a chicken packing plant. She lives and works in Aberdeen, where she is one of the organisers of the monthly Poetry at Books and Beans events. Her first full-length collection, Not in Nightingale Country, was published in 2017 by Red Squirrel Press, and she is one of the Editors of Poetry Scotland magazine.

DePfeffelschrift PAGE NINETEEN : Martin Figura

Land of Opportunity

Here we are then, huddled on
the exhausted stained mattress
in the seaside boarding house of state.
Rusty springs squeak out
Rule Britannia whilst we make love
to ourselves. The bed, digging its heels
into a tidemark carpet that’s shrinking away
from the chipped gloss of the skirting boards
and the terrifying flora of the wallpaper.
Thin rayon curtains spill yellow light
onto our gilt-framed Boots the Chemist
reproduction of Constable’s The Hay Wain,
picks out the greyed varnish craquelure
of the wardrobe quietly looming in the corner
containing who knows what – a little shoebox
of secrets perhaps? Suitcases sticky with dust
sit atop – their handles ripped off.

Martin Figura’s The collection and show Whistle were shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and won the 2013 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Show.  Shed (Gatehouse Press) and Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine (Cinnamon Press) were published in 2016.The Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine Show was shortlisted in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. He lives in Norwich with Helen Ivory and sciatica.  Together they began hosting Live from The Butchery Zoom readings during Lockdown with leading guest poets, winning the Saboteur Best Regular Spoken Word Night 2021 Award.

DePfeffelschrift PAGE EIGHTEEN : Taylor Strickland


Online variations on the Scottish Gaelic for ‘Prime Minister’

A synonym for ceannardas: high-head, chief-end
(never ‘chieftain’). Scrot bag, racist git;
wee sleekit bastard, scunnerin basturt
(cuid nae hae put it better masell).
Wank-stain, utter knob. Shut yer geggie!
Ur a numpty bawbag if ever there was ane.
Get it right up yie! Mum
always said ne’er
trust any whose eyes are too close tegeither.
Gardyloo. U’ll do wonders for IndyRef2,
fud, with more faces than the town clock –
haunted furby, spineless cock
womble. An in-your-face out-and-out cunt.
Imagine school children studying history
in 50 years’ time. This’ll be known as the WTF-era.

Taylor Strickland is a poet and translator from the US. His poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in New Statesman, the TLS, Poetry Review and various other outlets. Commonplace Book, his debut pamphlet, is forthcoming from Broken Sleep Books. A doctoral candidate in literary translation at the University of Glasgow, he lives in Glasgow.

DePfeffelschrift PAGE SEVENTEEN : Paul Stephenson

Tambour Rasp above the Ditch of Thieves
after a line from Eugenio Montale’s ‘The Storm’

I can’t describe the sound but it’s abrasive,
a kind of grating, a sort of rubbing from below.
But it’s clear where it comes from: way down
in the deep trench of crooks, narrow conduit
of swindlers, the well-cut ha-ha of hoodlums.

It’s a scouring that rises up from the trough
of brigands, dyke of looters, fleet of muggers.
This scratching of criminal collusion, a noise
of raiders in drains, marauders in gullies and
pirates in gutters. It grinds on the drum, invades

like a villainous earworm with its jarring of
pickpockets in fosses and poachers in moats,
coy dacoits in empty ducts. It’s a feint rumbling
of robbers that travels through the murky waters
of a fleet. Not a bugle of bandits and burglars

soaking in a sap, more the loud, syncopated sound
of shoplifters lifting in a straight watercourse,
armed highwaymen with their foreign haul
hunkered down in a drained channel, squatting.
Listen, put your ear to the ground, can you hear it?

Paul Stephenson has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), which won the Poetry Business pamphlet competition; The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016), written after the November 2015 terrorist attacks; and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh and lives between Cambridge and Brussels. His debut collection is due in 2023. Website: / twitter: @stephenson_pj / instagram: paulstep456

DePfeffelschrift PAGE SIXTEEN : Finola Scott

The Road Tae Nowhere

Och we aw love   thon wee paisley buddy
politicising energy  whiles tellin us
tae wear a wee simmit unner oor starched frocks
aye buzzing wi the adreneline o twitter
and frettin hirsel aboot the growth o world economy
       getting hir earrings frae Claires accesories
But dinae mention we’re headin towards drought
or aw they disabled people neglected oer in Ukraine
Jist look at they shoes
he’s stoatin aboot in  Prada    pure disgrace

Hir bro seys she’s a rerr laff   loves karaoke
doon the Anchor bar oan a Wednesday night
Mibbe if Liz has tae be in London   sortin the world 
 ironin oot  levelin up or doon  she can aye gae oan Sat 
but  thon wee attention seeker Sturgeon better no be there

A braw maw  she works the girls hard  playing
board games  maks sure they’ve goat skills 
Aye good at  flipping dice   Sure she’s kin t change
hir mind   nae hand-oots   cut public sector pay
liberal tae tory  stay in europe   naw hing oan   lets brexit
Gie hir a break  stop fussin  aboot her pledges n policies
Cannae wait – a phoenix Thatcher  
(haud oan tae yir milk but)

An avid listener of Radio 4, Finola Scott spends her life shouting at the radio as well as performing all over the country – on the Glasgow Subway, at the Edinburgh Book Festival, in Swimming Baths and in the Scottish Parliament. They can be read in her pamphlets, in anthologies, on posters, tapestries and postcards, as well at her Facebook page Finola Scott Poems.