Appraising the magpie of Stonebridge Park by Paul Sutton

    1. A lead

    I am a crime writer. 

    Seemingly unsuccessful – my books cannot even be found in garden


    I need a lead. 

    Elderly puffins – Ted and Ruthie – timeshared in the '80s, reduced to

    muttering in our local, between weeks in Bulgaria.

    An opening. 

    They tell of a bronzed villain – carved like amber – who stripped them of

    coin and sung like a magpie. 

    ‘A nightingale?’ 

    ‘A scrapyard magpie!’ 

    Nightly his victims – aware they ‘share a cubicle in a Tenerife shit-house’

    – endured his descanting, counting their diminishing cash. 

    Now they have an address. 

    A huge breaker washed this legend away from his Deptford manor, to

    the worst estate in London – north of the river, north of anywhere

    (except gun crime).

    Even the UN have withdrawn their troops, after an incident with a

    Swedish peacekeeper and an obese mother of sixteen, in a condemned

    chicken outlet.

    The man was deep fried then served on chutty bread. 

    His family received a pair of trainers and a flyer for pizza delivery. 

    Like a Poundland Buddha, I found Terry Palmer on his balcony, singing

    for the encircling youths: 

    ‘Poppadoms ain't no good for a fry-up...ghee gets in your eyes...the

    silver off the streets and a Terry's chocolate orange sunset...a bunk-up

    with some black bird...oh Mogadishu's where me love is...the councillors

    give planning permission…refugee camps in Victorian gardens...I used a we got Khan who can't...too much aftershave at day these boys will get me bent over a bike rack...a

    stairwell roistering...we'll revenge…Olaf the white as

    Mother's Pride...that works for a fry-up...oh Kosovo my dinkum...Serbs

    may carve but I love you...Simon Armitage has my back...he can write

    about goalies who smoke...northern pies...give me eels and

    batter...Buckfast for the Sweaties...little girls skipping in the early village I saw on the a lorry-park.’

    2. An overrated horror film

    None of it usable –

    mostly unprintable:

    all of it ‘offensive’. 

    I remember that cult horror film, 

    fire burning, a man in the middle, 

    ‘singing for his supper.’ 

    3. Appraisal

    I now work in the public-sector, valuing diversity and ensuring equality of

    opinion and outcome.

    This requires listening skills – covertly – then enforcement of managerial

    sanctions on reactionary elements.

    Unconscious bias is our greatest enemy.

    Often at night, in the distracting hum from ring-roads, creeping into

    children's bedrooms, filling their dreams with global or historical


    By day, it digs away until attitudes suited to Kristallnacht are heard in

    birdsong, or squeals from the playground.

    Recently, I have doubted my own purity.

    On local buses sit numerous foreigners (often highly decorated)

    alongside obvious lavender-wearers, prowling for ‘contacts'.

    I welcome such vibrancy, but sometimes wonder what difference an old-

    fashioned Tommy gun fired in the face would make to their confidence.

    I write with no worry these harmless words will be misquoted, nor my

    obvious humour misunderstood.

    Hatred is everywhere.

    It calls to us persistently, like those insistent rooks now disturbing my


    Nothing emerges from our howling meetings, psychotic PowerPoints and

    deathly appraisals – save unread paperwork, defaced with the deformed

    genitals I sketch anonymously, hoping to get caught.

    In more progressive cultures, I would be paraded around a stadium –

    wearing a sign detailing my crime – then shot for the enlightened



    Of course, the rain was the same when I was a child – but it tastes

    different now.

    Imagine an educated man, alone, in some socialist paradise.

    The tower blocks, the parks, the clean lines straight out to an industrial

    zone of power against the endless steppe.

    Well, that's not me.

    But I hear them circling.

    Not corvids, but the managerial dictators of who does what, where.

    Oh you can run as a child, perhaps scrape your shin.

    You don't imagine men laid like meat on slabs, cells bursting one by one.

    Have I started to smell?

    Decay is our lot – and in some way to be welcomed.

    4. Psychiatric evaluation (by senior management)

    Reviewing these notes, it seems incredible the writer wasn't

    apprehended sooner.

    This reinforces the need for more invasive and comprehensive


    Those responsible for such negligence need disciplining.

    There is no thought but the one thought –

    which has already been done for us.


    Paul Sutton was born in London, 1964. He graduated from Jesus College, Oxford, worked in industry until 2004, then left to travel. He now teaches English at a secondary school; the insight gained is revealing; of how pointless most ‘mainstream’ poetry seems, to those who don’t have to feign interest. A related inspiration is the liberal intelligentsia’s stranglehold on poetry – the self-appointed moral guardianship that they seek, here and everywhere else. 

    His latest collection is "Parables for the Pouring Rain" (2019, BlazeVox):