The tie break is fast-food tennis. Must have been an American invention.
It saves time (it's money), lets the impatient crowd savour the tension.
You can win a set at a canter or by going through grief and heartache
after a six-all tie. It's worth the same. That’s what's hard to take. 
For instance, if you're Krajicek at the US Open playing Kafelnikov 
and you lose two sets on tie breaks and what pisses you off 
after you've won two with ease 6-3, 6-1! is that the tie break comes into play
for the final set too, for this is America, and you can't say 
But I've won more points and games, I've served a record number of aces damn it
I've broken service five times to his one, let's slug it out let's grand slam it
not another tie break, please! Because rules are rules. And cruel. 
The tie break is the moment of ironic truth in the dead-endedness of a duel
At Wimbledon, against Stich, Edberg also lost three of them, won one "regular" set.
At the press conference he was a man looking for a hole in the net. 
He'd finished up as loser with service unbroken. The serious Swede philosophised
about freakish fate. In his way the Swede was seriously traumatised.
With good reason. He would have to think all night about two shots he'd fluffed.
But at the end of the day he'd simply been Kafelnikuffed. 
Or Stiched up, in his case. It happens to us all. Life finds out our flaws
and though we demand our portion of justice, life has inexorable laws.
Some seem to rise above them. Sampras has known almost nothing but glory.
Though once, at Wimbledon, he was Krajichecked. But that's a different fate, another


How you said GOOD RIDDANCE to the eighties, Hugh, 
On New Year's Eve of eighty-nine, and how

It struck me as odd is what now comes to mind. 
Odd to look at time, whose passing we tend

To regret, in that way. But you were saying 
A silent valediction to something

Broken, I believed, while outwardly bubbling 
With hope for the future, fired up and babbling

Like a prophet of a new dispensation, 
The New Year's Janus face of negation

And affirmation. Our slates were wiped clean 
In the year's first cold light. Brush and pan

Got rid of breakages, while the dynamics 
Of social change would sweep Reaganomics

Into the same rubbish bin of history
As the fallen dictators. All so easy.

Easy to say. A marriage on the rocks, 
That was hard. You'd had your share of bad breaks,

But disdained to look back, as now I do too. 
This year of ninety-nine's fit only to throw

Into the memory's recycle bin.
And I'm not talking about the millennium

And all that madness, but the mutilation 
Of life and language, the coronation

Of madness, madness to the nth degree 
Of laser precision. You know the country

I'm talking about, for I know you once had 
A friend from Belgrade. Didn't she go mad,

Long ago, long before that communique, 
That apotheosis of perversity

With its sick, rehearsed alliteration,
Confirmed our century's degradation?

A country that didn't exist any more,
Fated for something that resembled a war

And if it was in our own back yard, that war, 
So what? Nothing can surprise us any more.

Hugh, ten years on. if was just one among many 
At the dead end of our compliant century.

What can we say of them, if not GOOD RIDDANCE? 
There's nothing else between screaming and silence.

Nothing can strike us as odd, nothing amazes, 
As this year ends and the century closes.


The discordance of public discourse pains. 
We know too well the rogues' fine suits and furs 
hide stark naked untruth. But we're bound by chains 
of office they wear. A vague protest stirs

inside us. We realise that the non-sense 
loosed on the land is the language of the pricks. 
But console ourselves that however dense 
its structure, we can dismantle the bricks

to reveal a bedrock of mendacity.
We miss the point. The distinction between fact 
and fiction is no more. Their capacity 
for self-serving is nothing but an act,

consummately performed. This art's protection 
from all probings. We ask what's hers, what's his. 
Is It possible to make a connection? 
They answer: It depends what you mean by is.


Beneath the impassive gaze of the Madonna of Porto Salvo 
bunches of carnations lie withered and dusty.

If you can believe the media, the island has been taken by storm 
and the sea is full of corpses.

There's a restaurant owner (speciality: couscous) 
who wants the harbour cordoned with fishing boats.

The smugglers talk to their cargo.
They say: Think of this island as a gateway.

It's true its waters are lagoon-blue and the sand on its beaches is white, 
but it has no refrigerated morgue.

The first time, local people brought them clothes, blankets and hot drinks.

Now they segregate themselves from the tourists.

The man who dug with his bare hands received no official thanks. 
He put up crosses for people presumed to have been Muslims, 
not knowing any other way to do it.

He said: "No. 6 was a very beautiful woman, very tall. 
She was dead on arrival".


He writes to his M.P., the Rt Hon etc., 
to tell him, as the country prepares to go 
to the polls - it's already gone, he says, 
to the dogs - that he's offering his services – 
but first, by way of a preamble, he asks 
the Rt Hon etc. to remind the Royals, 
with whom the Rt Hon etc. mingles etc., 
to be more mindful of their manners, 
viz. Prince Charles's habit of shaking hands 
‘s truth, with his left hand in his pocket, 
and otherwise generally to brush up 
on their English usage (examples quoted)-
his services in the unlikely event 
of the Rt Hon etc.'s party winning 
the election, which Bomber Blair's bagged 
already, and deigning not to repeal the ban, 
his services, free of charge, naturally, 
as a fox (he has red hair),
adding that,
despite having passed 60, he has oodles 
of stamina and could easily set a trail 
across the Sussex countryside for die-hard 
foxhunters who after all only want 
a bit of outdoor excitement.
Last year,
he says, he ran all the way to the top 
of the Cheviot — about four times as high 
as Ditchling Beacon — up in Northumberland, 
which the Rt Hon etc. has no doubt heard of.


(During a minute's silence to mark the death 
of Princess Margaret, a Scottish football fan shouted 
Vive la republique!)

Ejected and banned for life for a breach 
of the deathly royal hush, and what's more 
in perfect French. Who remembers the score? 
The red-carded fan was man of the match.


All around us the sigh of the unblessed
the oppressed creature. Almost
inaudible. Everywhere. And still
at the very heart of the matter
the soulless conditions, the heartless
world. The red poppy still adorns,
wherever we look, the numbered dead
who have no name. Wherever we look
away, it doesn't fade. Bless them, Lord.
I'm a non-believer. I've seen the light
of the heartless world, know the power
and the glory of reason. Bless them
and let them not be forgotten,
the nameless dead without number.
They believed in you for the most part.
In their heart of hearts. What else was there?

For Jeff Sawtell

You're colour- and steadfast, Jeff. True to red, 
a real punter, putting through its paces 
a worn-out but stubborn old thoroughbred. 
It's good to see you're still at the races.

We now admit the horse we backed was lame 
and had always been a rank outsider, 
was an ageing charger with a noble name, 
nobbled by enemies, failed by its rider.

In the coat you refuse to turn or pad, 
right next to the heart, where you feel the chill, 
you keep the tattered betting slip. I'm glad. 
We know what won but wait to see what will.


He's a punky drunk
who's got his crude little act together	-
His tongue leaks oil,
but he's working hard on his body language: 
executions as a backdrop to banquets 
He doesn't just roll in heaps of gold,
he had a pontoon rigged, three miles long,
to show whose boss
He's honed his oratory on oleaginous snails 
The obsequious Senate has been trained to shit itself 
For show he'll listen to a child babbling about a pet goat
or caress the soldier's boots he wore as a kid 
He wants to drown all human history
in the beneficent blood of the present 
Wishes his enemies had but a single neck 
His bedrock: all is well in Rome,
and there's not a corner of the world
where Roman values are not under threat 
He has appointed his horse to high office
to ride roughshod over the dumbstruck 
Those who lack schooling in meanness call him insane 
He's offering his own infinite justice in his own lifetime


The lesser evil
In times like these, when it goes to the wire
I prefer unfriendly ice to friendly fire

The Afghan Recipe
All this country needs is a few Mr Karzai’s
to teach it to cook its own goose with our freedom fries

United Nations
The shit's going to hit the fan if she won't support this war-
get that damn cleaning lady in., what d'you think the Third World's for?

Divine plan
What you sow you shall reap also ? So all will be well-
the dead Bush and Blair will get a roadmap to hell

The Prince 's faux pas
Natives and Colonials: the theme of the fancy-dress bash.
So why did he wear a swastika and not an orange sash ?

The two of us
Mind and body must learn to share
the after-burden of this sad affair.

The Stockwell Eight
Face down, he got one bullet in the shoulder,
seven in the head. Than cold one can be colder ?

Subcutaneous Blues
Inglan is an itch. My mistake was to scratch her
Under Tony Blair's skin I found Maggie Thatcher.

The missive to their foe comes back, marked return to Sender. 
The IRA's gone away, but still they won't surrender.

Naked you come to me, and without shame, in my deepest sleep 
You're shameless indeed, you're not really in deep.

Worth more than a thousand words
The smirk ‘n' sneer on the dumb imposter’s face
is eloquent testimony to the world's disgrace

Prince Harry, Lord Archer, Sir Mark Thatcher
What a country ! Who can match her ?

Sewers again
Come on, you soldiers^stop felling for imperialist's lies.
Can't you see it's just Eden in a populist guise ?

Fire-red sky,deep in November, in the late afternoon
and, luminous,the early silver-white moon

Don't misunderestimate him, the smirking little figure of mirth 
He was the family's no-count. But he knows what the family's worth

Economic fundamentalists
They prove only that all gods are risible
by worshipping the market and a hand that's invisible

Accessory before the fiction
The jackstraw lies low, he has a great little wheeze:
let Powell spin the story about WMDs

Hey Mr Lingerie Man
Alas, Bob, the times are a-changin' indeed. The world really sucks 
since you jingle-jangled for Victoria's Secrets and Starbucks

Let's put it nice and simply for all me pricks:
Either you're with Chickenhawk or with the Dixie Chicks

Mackerel sky with underblaze of dramatic red.
In an instant I review my life —I'm not yet dead.

Vague report from the front line
While anti-war poets rant about how many have died,
Paterson "flirts with real dangers" (unspecified)

Baghdad Bob gets serious
A figure of fun - Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
he called Blair a tragedy for Britain. That was no laugh.

Tell you how easy it is to stop it? Shall I?
When the biggest terr'ist is your biggest ally?

A poet's wish
In life's unfair race I only wish I’d won more.
I could have done so much with Helen Dunmore.

Another angle
They're in deep now and mere can be no going back
to when they merely tilted towards Saddam and Iraq

1,000 civilians die in 2 weeks:
Negligible by the standards of war, says this Journalist
(fairly accurate by the standards of his Economist)

A problem for believers
The map of the world was drawn by God's hand
So how did our oil get under their sand ?


Mediaeval man was unenlightened. The beast!
The weak were tortured and heretics were flayed
Smoke filled the darkening sky from west to east
It's no wonder there wasn't a tourist trade