otobe ing/land
by robert oldham









otobe ing/land 

c 1980

1 poem published Acta 104
Photo by Jack Kay
ISBN 0-99690573-0-X

“I could see clearly that this England was pre-eminently the home of decent happiness and a quiet pleasure in being oneself.

I found here the
same sort of manliness which I had learned to love in America, yet softer,  … which when refined a little creates the gentleman, since its instinct is to hide its strength for an adequate occasion and for the service of others …the low pressures at which their minds seemed to work showed how little they were alarmed about anything: things would all be managed somehow.”

“Where else would a man inform you, with a sort of proud challenge, that he lived on nuts, or was in correspondence through a medium with Sir Joshua Reynolds, or he had been disgustedly housed when last in Prison?”

“What governs the Englishman is his inner atmosphere, the weather in his soul.”

George Santayana


placing my fingertips so
my pulse runs
from each finger to its twin
the pope must do this
in aircraft
as i am
praying for the souls
he flies over
and through (purgatory)

I can hold my hands together
and pray
but we are in different planes
he travels further
i am with sir freddy laker’s airline.

soon will be otobe  ing/land
but we are of one pulse
our hands held gently
together for an instant
when flightpaths cross
and we both reach out
betwixt continents
over the  at/lantic.

our baggage at this moment
jets to warsaw to see the pope
3 days later arrives at east/bourne
rail way station via redstar parcels.

in ox/ford we will meet the bish op
of st. alban’s fut/ure arch/bishop of canter/bury
in the university lib/rary oldest ing/land
but otobe does not know yet.

the time i told hit/ler to shut up

it meant put ting my hand over his
circular microphone striped with lightning flashes 
















                                                              dark         h

                                                           l                    e

                                                             i                    s











                                                                        da              h

                                                                    l                       e

                                                                     i                         s      














                                                                                    l        s



standing on                                                                        h

        his toes surprisingly easy to                                        t

    find in shiny black jackboots                                          \  n /

only a matter of                      looking into             his blue  \ /  eyes.

        counting the bristles on his moustached muzzle ,…     ! … ;  ….

bullets in a               skin        wall                                . .:   ‘ . ;   : .

(that morning stalin shot himself inside the lion’s head) i was   .

                      biting on poisonous teeth       even

                                as the silver skulled guards pulled out my arms

i shouted                  SHUT UP  in ing/lish      oh it was

              worth it should have seen

                                                                       his face

                                         i was stalin’s agent


                     times was hard

                     no-one wanted a new act from Russia

                     at the tail end of vaudeville

                     as stalin’s agent I did my best

                     he threatened me with the revolver

                     that bulged day and night

                     beneath his peasant shirt.


                     we would drink

                     and i would pretend to laugh

                     at his mirthless jokes

                     but chuckle instead at

                     the flat delivery

                     the one liners spat out

                     as if orders for a purge.


                     on the brooklyn bridge

                     he told me his stage name

                     would be stalin-man of steel

                     a weightlifting schtich he said it made the audiences groan

                     beneath its heaviness

                     i told him but

                     he wanted to lock the theatre doors

                                                                                                                                            medicine hat
        while he mimicked a machine gun

and asked for volunteers from the audience

and confessions of those who read the bible in between
                                                                                                                                            burlesque acts.

                     i told him to stick to travelling saleman

                     routines but he would just

                     light his pipe and sit behind

                     an oriental screen

                     when the town council closed down the act

                     i begged him not to think of revenge

                     but off he went with his revolver

                     and a crowd.



                   now can I go back to my cell?

                   i wanna finish a book I found

                   under the mattress

                   by some fella, venerable bede

                   bless you whoever put it there

                   i still have a liking for history

                   just like in school
but i guess we sinned.

no class, no taste

in them tawdry burlesque days.

looking inwards

if I turned my head inside out
would my thoughts fall down
upon my shoulders
like long hair, rain,
a sparkler held by a child?

                                              written in the air within a hurtling metal tube


jeremy Thorpe is innocent  gat wick air port
don’t touch it. report it. if you see anything
suspicious do something about it.  phone crawley
26732 extension 3427.

please have yore pass ports ready
thank you sir
thank you it’s good to be back


bbbbbbbrrrrr   bbbbbrrrrrrrr
bbbbbbbrrrrr   bbbbbrrrrrrrr  musthavebeen myimagination
bbbbbbbrrrrr   bbbbbrrrrrrrr  nothere itis again
bbbbbbbrrrrr   bbbbbrrrrrrrr  coming





law of dimin ishingaction
things move ar ound
less and less
time elap ses
from initial momentum
my mind  is  sssllloooo wiiinnnnngg do w n
he  r e  I n   thhhheeeeeeecottttsssssswwwolllddddssss

52 london bus

he likes b oiled egges and vegetables
i chhoooooop em up
i love my pood  le
he eatsitallup

sir rob  ert scott
mittens dangle fr  om his
frozennn green hands
he israised  up halfway
a building
pigeons nibble  e  cru  mbs between
  hi  sfeet

poodle cries
nott inghill gate

no anim als all owed mad am

didyou hear that?
didyou know?

tate gall ery

dega’s little dan cer
needs a new tout tout
holes in her rib bon
and her dress is full of holes

phoenix the atre

up to London to seetheshow
five minutes to curtain
let’s eatwatchapplaudgo home
to our land of electric lights

the richsoft red velvetcurtain
rings down foldsof swishingpeals
tubs of icecream inlaps


new jerusalem

amid green fields the creatures play
goats butt head against head
sheep blow balls of wool
from contest to contest
i am heart at peace
my blood is the richer
for what is hidden
from science
this is the land of my birth
to walk on this rippled green carpet
touched by anglo-saxon ploughs
ten times one hundred years ago
now by my
canadian desert boots
is to walk in ing/lish heaven

evening the cuckoo calls
the wood dove cracks
her white barred wings
an orange peel
in the sunset
nature is a row
of furry bells
peeling out soft songs of life.

here gently amazing things are destined
ruth speaks the language
the island accepts her.



horses thrust their noses
into the grass
and crop the hair of the earth.
soft buff oxford bricks
ingeniously put together
without a crack
make a cow
who walks into the sheep flock
the head butting ceases
the cow shishes her tail
mist from her nostrils
is incense

                                                    g  uptopress


afternoon standing        I                            my

                                             d                       body



i feel the ground     s

from forehead to toes
i am embracing this planet
here in this corner of an ing/lish field
made sky vaulted cathedral
i am walking pillar
awaiting architect’s instructions
to assemble new Jerusalem
with the others who disperse
and remember.

ancient prior’s house rest au rant crawley

omelette chips and peas (2)
1 sweet trolley
1 peach melba
no coffee (tea making goblin made in leatherhead in hotel room)
5.40 lbs

built in the rain of King Stephen 1150 a.d.
enlarged 1440 a.d.
restored 1927 a.d.
dinner for robert and ruth 7 p.m. 1979 a.d.
the night before climbing aboard
the metal tube 707
back to toronto
back to canada
back home from home.



The author is a librarian with the Hamilton Public Library and has had poems published in Acta Victoriana, Quarry, Origins, Germination and others, as well as two books; The Primitive Gentleman and Angels at 11 O’Clock.  His short stories centering upon Hamilton’s late Victorian sleuth David Owlton have appeared in Hamilton Magazine.

Robert Oldham is a member of the
Hamilton and Region Arts Council, Hamilton Artists Inc. and an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets.

[Distillate © HA&L +
Robert Oldham   |  {from the Greek bios} -- the course of a life.]