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Peter Philpott

17 Instances of Fairy Tales



Oh, little Unwin, you are floating in the water. You floated over the fire – you are floating over the fire. Your fine meshy gills, some old-fashioned collar, make you relaxed, comfortable, as your stream flows across the elements. Your legs kick, of course – we were born to run, is our hidden secret. We think we want meaning. No – we only want movement. There are three types of movement, and you know this then and now: away, towards and backwards & forwards (or around – they are both the same, aren’t they?) You are floating towards, into a fiery dawn. I thought there was a current at first, but I can make out the ripple marks more clearly. It is your own impulse that powers you. There is the beginning of a smile around your lips as you, in fact, begin to enter the descent. What else is there? Out of the sooty, fatty, disgusting semi-solidity of what passes for matter here into yellow and beautiful. You will be halfway to air soon, But I know you will return. I shall wait for you, little one, here by the banks of this river. It flows through this town. We await you, again and again.


We want meaning

OK, baby, but why then?

& why then too that shy little smile

why all of this along this river now?


– oh look, look, you can’t expect else

I’m pushing out here


is my new nowhere that I am going

because I want to & I shall

petulant & playful

what do you expect?



                             this is

the beginning of this nothing & it is

oh it is very large & strange


               we’re forgetting the other words really

               nearly comfortable with that as descent

               will end where it may end


Knock! Knock! Who’s there?  Some old mime artist, working in the woods. He’s bashing about in some decrepit workshop, timber and dusty cob walls, a big roof above of tiles. Oh the sparks can fly sometimes here. What are you doing, funny little hairy man? The sword blade you’re hammering – and I can see from the anvil you’re just a farrier really, no swordsmith – is that red ink on its blade, blood, or glowing heat? No smile from you. Your furnace hearth looks at first sight like a strange unmade bed. I can’t see how this fits in with any narrative of finding Unwin’s slow descent into the english. Are you maybe one of his futures, one of the set up occasions that symbolise what inside him that could yet be made manifest? He could sit in the woods, hammering and bashing, for hours, yes, you’re right. This din blocks out the greedy roar of life around. It frightens it all away. He creeps back to sleep among the still warm ashes.


Write on the backs of other papers — now!

you do know what is to be done

so do it, gently, sweetly, now please:


              that hammering is all

              the stuttering engines of ATP transport

              bound within greasy membranes for ever

              that with a little also electric flow

              on set up occasions

                                                    – concentrate!

                                                        keeps us going here

              the hairy sprite mimic

              of our descent from brutish matter

              he doesn’t smile because

                                                             he doesn’t know

              but he’s comfortable. Yeah

                              comfortable within the english still

                              that musty old brew

                              rotten timber & dusty cob




Uuhhohh: sprite: after something deep and hidden now. These young ladies are outraged. Maybe they’re friends of Unwin’s – no – he hasn’t got any friends, remember? So, OK, they’re looking after the funny little chap. He needs a lot of that. Trouble comes around every corner in these parts. I’d blame the english, with their self-willed total system failures, not good enough to live by. Look! – eyes upon the watery scene – now! The hairy one is diving into a vertical crevice angled between stony outcrops. There is an opening within the slant of the rocks. You can just make out maybe eyes and some fur, unsteady and unclear in the absolute gloom. The golden comfortable light up above ends here, where the giant weed stems root themselves. There is flow and movement, again, the movement to. The little hairy man smiles. You can see his pointy ears and big teeth as his head turns. His smile is one of incipient triumph.


Blasts of noise about here today – oh

shit it all gets difficult but

it were never meant to be easy, eh?


good enough to live by here yes?


bold & brassy

                          all that voice and reach

come back! come back! you aren’t yet



there’s cold here now underneath the waterweed

this wavy kelp forest

                                       – into which Unwin

isn’t yet even born


                                       the water’s so cold

                                       it hurts like loss

                                       blame Mime! blame

                                       old Mim – so rotten

                                       blame him to his core

                                       isn’t he decayed

                                       that thief of good

Peter Philpott was born 1949, Martock, Somerset, and lived in Somerset until attending University of Keele. Since then he has lived in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, retiring from teaching (mainly in Further Education Colleges) some years ago. He ran Great Works Press and magazine in the 1970s, the Great Works and websites in the 2000s – both sites only occasionally still rumbling, except for the continuing “Innovative Poetry Readings in London” event listings webpage. His main formative poetic influences, together with whatever whenever, were the mid & late 20C American avant-gardes, and his British contemporaries. He was socialised into poetry through Cambridge School c 1970; now proudly attends Writers Forum Workshop – New Series. Most recent books: Ianthe Poems (Shearsman 2015), Wound Scar Memories (Great Works Editions 2017).

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