Karen Silkwood

This came from a workshop I took part in inspired by “underdogs” and people who might epitomise the “David v. Goliath” experience. I wasn’t fully done with it on the day, and finished it tonight and I’ve just sent it on for publication in our collection on the theme.

Karen Silkwood (Wikipedia page) was a technician at a nuclear power plant who was outspoken about health and safety standards where she worked and was heavily involved in union activity and activism. She was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home and died in unclear circumstances in a car crash, when she was on her way to meet a journalist.

Karen Silkwood
by Peter Buckley

“Thinkin’ about what a friend had said,
I was hoping it was a lie”

– Neil Young, After The Gold Rush (1970)


I have a weapons-grade rage that started with suspicion.
I waited as time, and time again,
delivered confirmation,
believing at almost every turn
the essential Good in people
which we should fix when it disappoints,
like a routine inspection.

The relative Good of nuclear power,
when it puts food on the table,
a split apple, cheese on Rye bread.

The by-product is isolated alone and is,
like I am, safe as a collision.

I’m still driving off of
the straightest forever, road.

We met in Union,
we were tired but sensed blood, and
I carried a document
from the café where we planned.
You held an expression for a full two minutes
I could’ve kept as an alarm.

In the last steps to my car, mushroom-cloud where
the country radio – wouldn’t turn on –
was melancholy with betrayal and a noted Pastor
spoke about soluble plutonium, and
Jesus, if accepted, is the reactor shielding
who will stand taller than your playground bully,
elected or in place of power.

I dreamt of removing shelves from my refrigerator,
a hat that cast a shadow and had a grimace and a beard,
the man who had all his reasons for doing what he did,
weed-smoke and the static ‘lectricity that came off in my hand like a handle,
Sievert dosages ladled like a stew of Chernobyl,

offered by the glowing sun
like rainwater from a shower head.

And there were patterns, planned accidents,
like thick, red-green, woven strings behind my eyes;
Two baseball-white things knocked out of the park
got old and started shutting
then I nodded as if agreeing,
irresistibly towards the sedation’s pull,
up there and further away toward it,
a Better America,
with a view of
Longview, Texas.

I dosed in drowsiness
remembering you had a punchline,
and the Martin Luther Kings or JFKs,
most of all my family
who I love and who it tears me up to think of,
would fight my corner, on a round Earth
when the soil was new
and made for our children.

You best be as sad as sorry,
sorry, and raging, and
I hope you do your bit,
that’s all.

Untitled *Biopic Poem (Draft)

Video tape is
black under music,
shut out from playing fields,
working behind its plastic window.

Soil segmentations are
aerated by earthworms,
next to pinned
flags of the world.

A cut of Schindler’s List for schools,
shook us behind our desks
in a room with
pencil crayon atlases.

I caught your biopic
by luck, in the cast net of stars,
flicking through satellites, stations,
happy enough without pause
to be embarrassed for them now,

because what a hold our new self-images had,
not yours I noticed, the beyond-wise (or a bit mad)
escaped their young shadows.

The lesson differently pieced together by everyone,
who is ever going to learn the role that
fumbled then crushed dialogue
once played in sweetly stupid

At a paranoid pitch, too,
making molecular
wildness inside
tone-blind to what feelings
seemed to scream.

I passed through an obsolete sleep
into days that test me more,
sure that you were a movie star –

what significance might be best asked of
the miscast stars I dreamt for us,
their celebrity easier
wound back for memory
than innocent as wax torches
held to faces we don’t have.

But I forget the horror of each
awkward hallway
shivering in bones,
bodies jostling for steps on stairs,
and names called to be heard.

I’ve yet to label my working title
in a smudged, thick,
left-handed daub

and almost yours,
wise and tall,
joined up and circled Disney dots to i’s of yours,
remembered only just but like
ice cream in a cone,
clever and kind,
and you would put up with
this nonsense – and more

bursting through in spits

and I remember a bit about
my better double in History.

The Milky Way

“Erasure Poem” composed entirely of words from
Popular Science Monthly Volume 26 January 1885

Image: SnEptUne-Mountain-in-Ink-300px


The neighbourhood,
completely neutralised,
the darkening of sky.

Seductive, revolutionary.
Walking with footsteps along paths.

The nature of bodies, their movements;
such different objects,
novel modes of investigation,
centring of circles
printed in photographic cameras.

Ingenuity anticipating
atmospheric transit,
carrying upwards into finer air.
Light and heat.

Its pursuit is far too arduous to be conducted
with less than a man’s whole energies.


Today in Bradgate Writers, lead by Lydia Towsey, our jumping off point was reading the poem “Today” by Frank O’Hara. Having never encountered the poem before, I fell in love with it instantly.

We wrote our poem based on words which happened to arise from discussion, but which, of course, we made our own in our poetry. It was very natural and organic, quick and free as a moment of writing, after a sleepless night (the unusually hot weather we’re having in England, where we’re more used to summers that aren’t summers.)


Marry, marry, to celebrate joining up,
once, twice, again 
with oneself,

pillow, kiwi bird, kiwi fruit,
in which case, vegetarian
in New Zealand.

Air traffic, the thing with birds is –

downy feathers
smoothed over.

The accidental pottery owls I’d collect,
each momentarily
proud amateur potter.

Interrail, because Interrail.

Draw a way out, far out…
Man, if you’re the paper not the pencil,

go abroad.


Movie Geek For Refugees – Reviewing My Unseen DVDs For A Refugee Charity, In A Time of Humanitarian Crisis

This is a pile of DVDs in my living room, most of them unwatched.


“Movie Geek For Refugees” is an attempt to make something like a charity marathon out of film reviews, in aid of Refugee Action. Regular readers of my work might well note that silliness is never far from intense seriousness in a lot of stuff I seem to do, so while you’ll see me having fun as an amateur film critic finally getting around to viewing a two-column-strong pile of impulse purchased movies, I have seared in my mind what we’ve all seen is going on. People just like us have fled war, torture, indiscriminate violence, persecution and horror only to find that the international community is responding with indifference. People are living in unlivable conditions. Hundreds of unaccompanied children are perhaps the most greatly at risk. Your donations are desperately needed. If you’d like to join me in my fun movie critiquing sideshow at “Movie Geek For Refugees” you can, or just donate towards much-needed work and offer, in these times, a much-needed gesture of your compassion.

Refugee Action homepage.


Feverish (Draft)

The lasting notes of glacier guitars, and
a wild guess in the blue-currant dark.

A clown hurled me joke words
covered in crud
from a 70’s phrasebook,
and stood outside in the sun
sometimes in a scarf.

Despite coincidence
on this strange side
of a postcard,
we were clouded in a hug
for a long time
in white wool.

Your surprising jumper
trekked across by husky dogs
and unreasonable in June.

You knew me more than I knew of you,
being fuzzy myself, while
they hung tinsel for

When your hair cut the roundness of two
shop display copies,
though inedible or without taste,
that’s still their logo –

the guitar over the big moon,
the clown entertaining the child,
the mother, a fleeced animal,
looking the other way,
who wants to press on with the shopping.

We saw it being made,
In the Italian way
In the Italian industrial estate,
by the company.

That’s their mascot.
A clown had sold me a guidebook,
too alert to dangers
but you seemed to know me.

I was dog-eared,
bright orange and fading,
I was a sight impaired guide
and, like smoke,
from a smoker’s home.

I asked you about my school once,
people remember the wheelchair
before I do.

I was taken back because you said “the sky was blue”
Anyone could have said so
if it was and that was true.

You said the grass was green and steep
And at its furthest you couldn’t hope to hear a bell.
That was true, could be said by anyone, but wasn’t.

My mind soon threw my head back – we started looking through
and if it’s glass, you can,
it was to remember, stranger,
not intrude.

“I was a teary child who laughed when not appropriate”
You don’t recall the detailed grooves in the Italian
bread…er…my state school,
your favourite subject, any of the other pupils,
a teacher’s nickname nor his ponytail.

You’ve also read the book about a film.

The sun enjoys making doilies from floral curtains,
and reflections can be unfairly imposed on you, writers do.

Because I got distracted
I let you go for ice-cream
when your eyes looked through that emblem
to unmelting sorbeto,
stopped in its tracks
across the street.

(When life gives you a clown scarf and a guidebook)
you’d found a new way of getting citrus
from lemon trees.

You left in pursuit of curiosities,
I said my bon chance and
wished myself “ciao, bella” slightly.

I had with my life returned to me,
just as crowds poured in.

Not everyone can stay seated for long
in this small Italian shop.

A Banana

I’ve been working with our awesome Bradgate Writers Group here in Leicester, and last night  we had a Showcase Smoothie  event to perform  work, and celebrate with other local groups the “Healthy Culture” art and sounds project and accompanying  book of art, lyrics and poetry, which is all themed around the promotion of healthy living.

With this in mind, I wrote this poem to perform there.  It’s a fun one to read out loud so I hope to record it soon.

A Banana

No oil tycoon has ever said
that the secret
to his dubious success
Was gorging upon
millionaire’s shortbread.

The artist Andy Warhol,
got his factory lackies
to screen-print the hip, unzippable thing
until it ripened in the limelight
yellow and famous.

You could find life,
in all it’s lightness
by peering through a donut ring,
But there’s mystery within banana skin
In silent contemplation
between a sandwich.

Devoured nimbly in bites
left for a passerby to slip,
if you’re in the mood for passe slapstick,
choose it over a pie with cream

Don’t follow the example of Homer Simpson’s D’oh! worship,
let’s be braver, less toothless
with the dish and spoon’s next heap

The banana is for you,
it will be waiting when you’re ready
it’s inner-sanctum pale,
and energetic

in a steady sea of porridge,
where there’s oats
there’s a new morning.

when a banana sits harmoniously,
gently rocking
backwards, forwards
in a boat of its own body.

Poem of Contentment (New Re-Write)

For Gran

Hi, I updated this poem from 2013, this time adding new elements that would hopefully be of particular significance to my grandmother. The original spoke of a writer (haha, possibly me in this case🙂 ) struggling with a draft, but I think I’ve come to understand that people might see in it a calming quality, and I like the idea of having a poem here that might soothe and provide at least a raindrop’s worth of tranquility, if we’re lucky. I’ve lightened the tone, here and there, for my Gran.

So, for now, we’ve got one of two ears on the lullaby. Us poets are fond of telling you when and how to breathe, via line-breaks and commas. Consider taking a big gulp of that big ol’ life-giving air  before reading this, because I’ve rambled on a bit as much as anything.

Yours kindly,


Poem of Contentment
Jan 5, 2013 (original version)/10 Sept 2015, Peter B.

Where the seagulls fly,
a clock-tower chimes
of “oranges and lemons”.
Where fruit trees line the path of limes,
rare fruits here,
but their greens known
to the eye

When I left small tears to leave
on an oak tree’s
windowsill of bright sky.

In it, it seems,
all the names of birds, flowers, and creatures
who, now as then, look over the hedge-maze
of the green garden of summertime.

I am blissful even now.
I’m as happy as I will be
in this peaceful city,
when I land on such an island,

to three chimes of a clock, somehow in the playground,
and some maroon petals,
vividly remembered,

and this is not a poem, I suppose,
just a float,
and float on
in blue chalk,
and in peace
and just as happy,
just to be.

In this quiet city,
peopled to sing
self-assembled melodies,
quick to summon and to spring;

complete, complete
and feeling like a full moon,
with a pot-bellied sumo wrestler,
on a dinner plate,
on a bed by the river.

I continue on my way beyond
the bend of the lilac water,
where trawler-men are fishing
for their own reasons,
and continue singing
in Edo-peroid Japan,

in the same reflections to which they whisper,
playing mah-jongg and other games
on a crane’s wings,

and this isn’t a poem that
needs to look for a reason,
and doesn’t expect to be any good,
but would like to raise a smile –
and, see, your smile is lovely ,
and never a lonely one!