I make the first offer: raw carrot for cooked

(better the metallic resistance on teeth

than sweet pulp on the plate)


then cabbage: we barter over quantity of leaves

I take a moment to calculate

the exact reduction when cooked all morning


pudding: I promise to eat custard if I’m allowed

to miss Sunday School. Teatime is easier

except for the slight accumulations of flour


at the margins of a slice of bread but I

will talk my way out of salad cream

like a frog in slime, kicking for its life.


© Robin Houghton





Keynote Address to the International Transport & Traffic Innovation Conference 2019


Please forgive my diverting you from the business at hand,

but as we all know


very soon we’ll have driverless cars

governed by the all-encompassing Google Algorithm for Free Flow

(GAFF for short)


Our roundabouts and intersections

will be as frictionless

as a magician’s yanked tablecloth.


The autostrade will be fast lanes of joy,

cities will spin on their rear axles

road rage will be gone with the ghostly wind

of pollution past.


We’ll finally be free of all the tailgaters

the moronic last-second brakers

the texting lane-drifters

the yawning lorry drivers

unsure which side of the road is up or down.


(I have some central reservations about all this, of course.)


But until then it’s freight volumes

speed limits contraflows all the way, and so,

ladies and gentlemen, on your marks

your motorways your autobahnen, let’s go.


© Robin Houghton






For the school dance I wore a circular skirt


after Fleur Adcock


—not exactly Frida Kahlo ribbons and colours,

not exactly Grease or Happy Days or

Audrey Hepburn, no white gloves—

but it girl-swirled and turned me round

like a spinning top

like a Magic Roundabout

it started on the upline to London

from New Eltham, the 8.09 to be precise

and spun its line to Brighton via Rome

then to Banbury and Newcastle

and Nuremburg and Portland then back

to Brighton, which in the meantime

had grown a bypass

shown me its filthy heart

dumped me out of a marriage

killed off the usual protagonists.

A skirt that circled and danced the world.

I still have it in the wardrobe somewhere.


© Robin Houghton