An Expenditure of Munitions


Twenty-seven orphans

cleaning and oiling,

polishing up their rifles.



holds an uzi

which he cocks,



showers his class-

mates with gifts

of steel. Blood

and eight year olds’


fragile brains

pattern bare classroom

walls. No-one cares


except a silent,

angry man, who

must account

for spent munitions,


and a child

who just wants

everything to stop.



First stanza based on the first line of 102 H-Bombs by Thomas M. Disch





English Skin


…and when he became sixteen,

as if that were crossing some secret

border into their land, they grew him

a skin. His skin, this skin

they gave him, shaped

for him, moulded in their understanding,

this beautiful skin, angular as a flag,

this was his English skin.


Boy and skin evolved,

symbiosed, together so close

no-one knew which was shaped,

which the shaper. One became

impervious to cold, to pain, reason

and empathy. One sliced the world

at jigsaw boundaries, split

pieces into those that matter

and the rest. Hid

unimportant ones.


Eighteen, hair razored, muscles

pumped, unfeasibly, to fit a boy

who fit his English skin, a polished

duet, a steroid stare. Inked

manifesto on his English fist, inked

English soul rippled black on trapezoids

and biceps. His fear fed back,

through burnished steel

capped boots, at stereotypes –

breaking teeth, bones; stomped

behind black banners.


Before his twenty third, community

service reached out justice-

stained hands to him, placed and taught him

planting and repair, building where

he had torn and broken. There

his enemies often came at him armed

with tea and charm, their words

wrapped like arms around him. Stretched

that wonderful English skin

to embrace their other Englishness.


And a girl with shy brown eyes

might sometimes sit out breaks, smile, and ask

if the tattoos had hurt. Sometimes, now, he thought

they had. And his brave English skin

fissured, began to fuse lost jigsaw pieces

and new skin, make a blended,

unlined panorama.


He grew into twenty-eight bearded,

a carpenter, with a carpenter’s splintered skin,

every job as unique as its customer,

every customer important as friendship.

Sometimes he would lend skills

to needy projects, work for those

who give payment in tea and slow words.







Runs back to the computer,

everything black

or white

Spikes of charge

crashing into the rubbled

hard disk remains


World gone







Gary Carr has been writing since he was at school. He has been published in several magazines, including The Interpreters’ House, Under The Radar and Five:2:One. He is often found lurking around spoken word events; if not,  then he may be crouching, sheltering matches somewhere outside Derby in the hope of lighting up a poem. Gary Carr does not want to tell you what to think, there are already too many people doing that.
featured photography by badpoem