THE SINGER by Barrie Purnell


She sang her songs, she made her mark
But lived her life inside the dark,
No moon to shed its silvery light
To help her through the black and lonely night.
She was going down, was in freefall
To a river of treasons beyond recall,
Wanted to be who she was before,
A guilt free, visionary troubadour. 

Then Vodka’s voice whispered in her ear,  
‘You know that I can kill your fear,
Without the comfort that I bring
Could you ever write, would you ever sing?’
She knew well that voice’s liquid charms
Surrendering into its arms,
It held her heart, she could write again,
A half way happy, with an edge of pain.

She wrote to lose herself in rhyme
There was a scar in every line,
Writing of love she’d never see
Dreaming of the girl she used to be.
Escaping from the depths of her regret
The words she wrote were darker yet.
The hurt was all that she could sing,
Her reality was an ugly thing.

She tried to escape the misery,
Taking back what she’d given free.
Skeletons of lovers killed by her art
Hung from the gallows of her heart.
Her life ran too close to the fire
Over broken glass and razor wire.
She sank to an ultimate defeat,
Back to Black on infinite repeat.

[Back to Black by Amy Winehouse video - click.]

JUST ANOTHER POEM by Barrie Purnell


I am a walking, talking portrait of my past
With each line I write I send myself a message,
I am known only for the coherence of my failures,
Each completed work, for me a rite of passage.

Living alone in the emptiness of no man’s land
I’ve been masquerading as someone who cares,
Wearing a poet’s disguise and Trojan horse smile,
Clothes woven from lies and unanswered prayers.

A prism of pragmatism in a trial and error world,
Hiding here in the deep shadow of all my mistakes,
With secrets I’m not prepared to either share or keep
Held tight in the arms of eccentricity’s embrace.

An outsider wanting to be back on the inside,
On the other side of love wearing tomorrow’s smile,
I am playing my part so well that no one can tell,
Too late for me to change and too old to stand trial.

I travel with a suitcase full of empty dreams
With my memories all being eaten up by rust,
I lent on their promises but dreams came undone,
This world is full of such examples of broken trust.

I’m waiting for an apology from the dream dealers
Who promised to build me an endless paradise,
But confession never comes easily to guilty men,
We only find the truth when it’s too late to be wise.

I look into the mirror it’s not telling me any lies,
I see the reflection of a man I should have known,
I’m looking at the ghost of the man I used to be
Holding a medal you gave me for the courage I’ve shown.

Just another poem that no one but you will ever hear
From a tired pen that’s forgotten how it all began,
Shining a fading light into unowned, unknown spaces,
Illuminating only the quiet workings of a broken man.

‘What Would They Ask’ by Barrie Purnell

Barrie has written this poem in response to our prompt ‘You’

You asked me to write and to let you know
What people say about you behind closed doors,
What they would like to ask you but never will.
A few home truths maybe to settle some old scores,
Would you say reaching eighty has been worth the wait?
Were the lines of poetry you wrote indeed all yours?

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The Ballad of MacMurdo McFee by Barrie Purnell

If ever a man was the pride of his clan,
A man who stood out from the crowd,
A man who did his best when put to the test
Who with showmanship was over endowed,
Who’d perform for a fee with some sharp repartee,
It was that Scottish magician Macmurdo Mcfee.

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Friend by Barrie Purnell


Your leaving left a scar across
The landscape of my life,
When you changed from someone I know
Into someone that I once knew.

When I lost you I didn’t just lose a friend,
I lost a part of my identity,
I didn’t just lose a person,
I lost part of my history.

We lived through each-other’s hopes and fears
With love and anger in equal measure.
A million shared experiences,
Now I have no one to share them with.

You liked me despite knowing all my secrets,
And told me things I wouldn’t tell myself.
We knew too much about each-other
To ever consider betrayal.

Your world’s a lonelier place
When an old friend goes away.
They can’t be replaced by someone new,
You cannot replace time.

I go whistling past the graveyard
To drown the echo of your voice.
Your memory sits gently on my heart
And leaks out of my eyes in my tears.

You have left a scar that will not heal
It’s inside of me so no one else can see.
We promised that we wouldn’t grieve,
I couldn’t keep my part of that deal.


POET ON TRIAL by Barrie Purnell


I am a human by birth but am a poet by choice,
My poetry gives this artist’s abstraction a voice.
But now when I write of the beauty of stars in the sky
Or of the pain in the heart born of saying goodbye
They condemn my use of order, rhyme and repetition,
On the slippery foundation of perfidious opinion.
They say that I’m guilty but do they have proof,
They must know that I only ever wrote down the truth.
I have spent many hours just searching for beauty
As a poet I was surely just doing my duty.
You disciples of Elliot, you lovers of Ginsberg and Pound,
You have contempt for the past and for lyrical sound.
You are literature zealots, who seek to destroy,
All those past compositions that many others enjoy.
You blame me for exposing your pride and pretense,
My words are my weapons they are my only defense.
You put me on trial, but failed to get a conviction,
My ballads and sonnets were outside your courts’ jurisdiction.
You asked me was I guilty? You asked did I transgress
Against your perceived wisdom? My answer was yes.
You wrote me a confession which you asked me to sign,
Because I valued the truth, I was forced to decline.

You keepers of disrupted syntax and experimentation,
You killers of rhyme, you lovers of prose fragmentation,
You don’t like my words but even ideologues must see,
The fact I can write them is what it means to be free.
I think you’re pretentious, you think my work is absurd,
But I’ve only ever been trying to cast a tune down in words.
Trying to find hidden ideas that my mind has caught,
Releasing them from impenetrable thickets of thought
Maybe I could be wrong, and you may prove to be right,
That I’ve been ensnared by the very words that I write.
You say my poetry is obsolete, observing outmoded rules,
But I write for the believers and not for proselyte fools.
You subvert my intentions, punctuating all of my lines,
With meaningless phrases, as revenge for my crimes.
You have confiscated my Sonnets you are shredding them fast,
In your desperation to break all links with the past.
All of our previous beliefs you’ve overturned,
Disregarding all the earlier rules that we’ve learned.
We yearn for the poetry of Hardy, Longfellow and Poe,
And all those lyrical poems penned a long time ago.
But you crucified romantic tradition on Elliot’s cross,
Burying Coleridge, the Mariner and the Albatross.

We’re now emerging from your self-serving sententious gloom,
We have rolled that boulder away from the tomb.
With brains that are hardwired to rhyme and repetition
Lyrical poetry is written to enhance the human condition.
It survives in the remembered verses of a million songs
Your work lies in a void beyond recall, where it belongs.
I now write in secret my sonnets and verses,
That you say are traditional and therefore subversive.
You thought you had won but we were never defeated,
Those lines now rewritten which you had deleted.
You’re conforming non-conformists, loving your own reflection,
Our army is now growing through your disciple’s defection.
I have started a petition, I’ve got ten thousand names,
Very soon other poets will join in our campaign.
So now in the back rooms of backstreet cafes we lurk,
Still fighting the war against all your modernist work.
My disciples are gathering, they meet in the night,
They will soon be re-armed and ready to fight,
To fight for that poetry that sings to your soul,
Replacing all those rhythms and rhymes you Modernists stole.
I have gone underground, I am biding my time,
Waiting for the poetry elite to return to order and rhyme.

IF I COULD DO IT ALL AGAIN by Barrie Purnell

Barrie’s response to the trigger ‘fall’:

IF I COULD DO IT ALL AGAIN by Barrie Purnell

When each year seemed forever
And I was young, as I recall
Nothing was beyond my reach,
I thought I had it all.

All my silver and all my gold,
That emerald egg by Faberge,
If I could do it all again
For her I’d give it all away.

Just one of Casanova’s congregation,
Scavenging for love they may let fall,
Pretending I’m still in the game
But knowing I’ve lost it all.

Alone I lie here waiting
For the darkness that will fall,
If I could love her just one more time
She could have it all.

If I could do it all again
There would be no more lies,
No more insincere goodbyes.
I would kiss her lips more sweetly,
Love her more completely.

It was she who had the need
I could not see beyond my greed.
With so many lovers still to find
The register remained unsigned.

Back then our love was newly born,
Now the wedding dress is torn.
I had my chance, I chose to hide.
Now it’s too late to turn the tide.

I squandered far too many years,
I was the cause of far too many tears.
The sad rain falls, night winds wail,
I see her face through a funeral veil.

I am where death will come to die,
Where each tormented breath’s a sigh,
I fear my prayers will be in vain
For time to do it all again.

When she came to me in sorrow
I offered her everything that’s mine
She said she never coveted my riches
All she had wanted was my time

Now I’m getting near the end,
Close enough to hear him call,
Look at the beggar I’ve become
When I could have had it all.

Inside my world of pain
Her love is all I know,
If I could do it all again
I would have never let her go.