Michael Tolkien




First day of being a "genuine" civilian again...at least as far as the Army was concerned.   R.A.F. reserved status helps (ironically)...’     ( Diary: Jan. 1st, 1943)


My father filled my head with his war.

Holding onto it, he loosed it off at stooges

who dodged the action, to defend himself

from wounds that flared up in dreams.


The Blitz: Ack-Ack duty in London Docks;

how an explosion could burst your lungs.

The Stuka that knocked his guncrew out

defending Exeter, and that plucky sergeant

wrenching away the revolver he held to his head.


Commissioned commando expendable

for special tours, after days dodging

patrols and cowering in charred streets,

he made it back to the right beach

on sour rice pudding and a pork pie.

But drafted to sit over France in a Wellington's

perspex nose, he riddled so many phantom

Messerschmitts, the crew dismissed him

as a bloody brown job and the medics

reopened their files to get him discharged.


Real as daylight to me, copying planes

from his R.A.F. manual, and tearing round

with outstretched arms and four engines.

Even Peacock butterflies had British markings.


No wonder I screamed and covered my face

when he aimed his stick at ten Lancasters

banking over sunlit woods in deafening

display, and shouted: 'We're in for it again.'





Taking Cover  interlaces poems of the 32 page booklet, Learning Not to Touch, with revised and new work appropriate to its main themes: childhood experience, bereavement, spirituality beyond religion, and ambiguities in relationships with the human and 'natural' world.

Earlier versions of some of these poems have appeared in:

Agenda, The Affectionate Punch, Envoi, Fatchance, Iota, Other Poetry, Poetry Now, Prop, Seam, Smiths Knoll, Tears in the Fence, The Third Half, Weyfarers.

'Kent's Message' was highly commended in the Northampton Literature Group Competition, 2004

The author's thanks are due to Redbeck Press for reissuing the contents of his 32 page booklet collection, Learning Not To Touch along with poems excluded for the 1996 competition and since revised, as well as new work felt to be contextually appropriate.

He would also like to thank those in his workshop group who have helped him over many years and with great patience to rescue poems from paraphernalia.

The cover illustration is from an original woodcut by Edward Walters (1899-1978) printed at his press at Primrose Hill, London.



'...The world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel...'

Horace Walpole: Letter to Sir Horace Mann (1770)







This book can  be obtained from Forest Books, Amazon or direct from the author (use Contact page)

A5 soft covers    

88pp, monochrome illustrations