Quaecunque*

England now seethes
and demands the return
of old ways
in the face of the subtle
invasion
of the German-led nations

England always needs
a threat to Beachy Head
and rationing
to make sense of
itself –
a small state on a shared island

England forever resents
the hot Scottish breaths
and low Welsh
choirs demanding a quick
divorce
from their malignant union

England still breeds
men and women with inked skin
and piercings –
as if such self immolation
will win
the heart and minds of others

England reclines
in metaphorical Anderson shelters
and pours tea
whilst tuning in to the BBC
World Service –
Nation shall speak peace unto nation

 

*The 1934 motto of the BBC – ‘whatsoever’


Also published on Medium


Valentine’s

I just took a taste of my waking breath –
it is no wonder then that we do not kiss –

The ugliness of my rum state
places bitter tilts upon our old arousals –

I lay whet by a glaze – an unwelcome stain
on this pushed back duvet of night sweats –

My chest gives birth to salty pearls – loosened
by gravity – set to roll down my bare sides

as trickles – as if wept from woundings –
like precious piercings – but not five holy jabs –

though I do feel pinned by a carried cross –
Do not glance at my nakedness – how I am fixed

by the invisible itches and riveted scars
on my legs – I draw up the bedding – my body bag –

and let my skin rest from your listless look –
instead – I shall watch you dress first – then

I will rise alone and not take in the looking glass
until I have washed off the vilde oozes of blood

which I have picked under the night’s disturbances –
those red fruits of my rough sleep’s self-harm


Also published on Medium

Matrilocal

Am I not uxorious enough?
I just read you my last poem
and it was met by a hush –
as if I had said nothing –
I know you said nothing –

You are a tough one to peel
like a thin-skinned Valencia
which refuses to avail
its tight pith to my digging nails –
never one to loudly respond

to my wagered words on paper –
these verse observations
of the spinningness of things
in the near space we share
by our legal agreements

Utter

I have always suffered
a mild clumsiness –
just now – trying to read
that line back – aloud –
it got rooted in my mouth –
not stuck in my throat –
not in my swallowing –
that feared future loss –

but in the lip-and-tongue
place of speeches –
I now have to think
the form of the word
to make the shape
of its known weight –
to make it heard –
this is no deal I wish
as part of my illness –

I hear the precision
of the speech therapist –
his repeat of the exercises
which I had forsaken
until now – late in the day
as my words stick
like soft toffees and cake
among my loose teeth


Also published on Medium

In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come

The First Racing Turn

We can start with the basics –
the lifting and full leans on oars –
but before long we will have to dig
and pull at less certain surfaces
out at sea and under the command
of racing rules – those set demands
of distance and clockwise turns
around anchored buoys – whilst
in smacking earshot of others’ boats –
those crews that can pull away –
under almost-mechanical techniques –
those we have to hone – Our finest victory
will be the first finish we achieve –
and then we will know how to row

BHAFC 1 – Burnley 3

There is a beer-and-pie feast
in the bar-fed anticipation
in the echoing East Stand –
high on the Upper Level
with the buzz of line ups
and incoming league results
in other parts of the land –
but by half time the sense
of dread has resurfaced
and is not pissed away
by one more pint and bogs –
instead we then succumb
to the gnaw of raw nerves
as the clocks stop at ninety
and extra time is not enough
to pull us up a place above
where we were the last time
we were here and hungry

College Green

College Green hadn’t seen
such a circus in such a while –
a scattering of disaster tents –

Those stop-gap structures for
turned-collar journalists
talking to random others –

Those stiff-posed parades
of MPs – grinning between ears
like scavenge-fat hyenas –

Those unyielding politicos
in love with themselves
under the gathering clouds –

Those anchormen and weather girls
passing snide remarks
on muted mics back in the studio –

and voters draped in stars and jacks
shouting at the grey-suited fools
pleading for a voice to end it all

My Designs

I am abraded by a faux light
for my immediate set of tasks –
I sit at my cluttered desk

before that eye-bleach of pixels
framed on a twistable mount –
that rarely wrestled wrist –

I slump before it – weighted by to-dos
by deadlines for stage designs –
my fanciful constructs

in rented spaces for the business
of presentations – for buffed egos
and unfurled peacock feathers –

for fat chanticleers in sharp suits
and for ruffled hens in tottered heels
to preen at brand-gilded lecterns –

those podiums were once brushed –
leafed in beaten gold for unseen gods –
but I enwomb false altars in hewn MDF –

Set to stand – braced – for only one day
before a room of corporate disciples
who pray for the coming of closing remarks

The Lash

We will – now – we will be read like tea leaves
swilled in a bone china cup and saucer
We – the forcing twins will find a paradox –
the mirrored – the paired inept

Us – the repeated – the sighted mis-readers
of too many – many shames – our mistakes –
under a cooling off – of weightlessness
of false sways – of our un-weighings –

here the sickly heavens will heave –
taking us – bowed into a curved white bowl
of moaned throat prayers –
cold mantras between each lost mouthful

against our friends – Falsified? –
Of exultations –
upon that hard – that bare hardness –
so we spew kisses –

there on the glossiness – the unclean porcelain –
as our bloodless faces pair
to the low level of beer-darkened water –
There – one more soundless drowning –

bereft of any of the bubbled screams –
into the suck-suck
of breath-dead air –
our lungs will now surrender as lost

and we shall pull our heads
from this bent reverence – then –
then –
we will find succour in tap water

Australia

Between Townsville and Tasmania
there is every conceivable season
now that the rules have been lost –

my route north thirty years before
faced airline upset – home to roost
and other such haggard platitudes

sit at the brink of my old thoughts –
a recall of North Shore, Sydney where
I wrote my first unfinished novel –

the green opulence under verandahs –
but still a whiff of being at the edge –
But not until Cairns did I finally trip

 

Ploughing

I clasped one of your cold buttocks
and dipped to thoughts of other such
comforts – way before my mislaid zeal
had become this sloth-by-illness –

I had once worked my younger body –
when thinner – stiffer – able to bend
to the exacting task of hard love –
before this dreary exhaustion set in –

I am among the suburbs of Tel Aviv –
I eat with a woman and the father of her child –
Thirty years before their daughter was born
I had screwed my hostess – pale under curls –

there without the furrows of motherhood –
those folds of parenthood – now lodged –
Old positions – and my long exertions –
are no longer my first weapon of choice

I watch her serve our meal – as a ritual –
common to their habits and grace –
Even with the confusions of Hebrew
misunderstanding is removed from here –

My history is such codes – of recall and sex –
of finding what had been lost is then dug up
by the slice of smithy-honed ploughs –
all I have been will be turned over once more

A Forecast

There will be a cold sluggishness –
not known since those tardy days
of queued-at red telephone boxes –

impatient lines still in that set chill
after autumn – which was in place
and felt raw ’til the following April

We kids constructed six-foot slides
by compaction and then an ironing
of the snow into break-neck ice sheets –

We knew how to travel back then
with flagged arms and slightly bent knees
and how to scream so bloody loud

We were tough – proved by bruises
under bloodied flaps of cotton and skin –
met by back door shouts and clipped egos –

admonished and shamed – sent to strip off –
to be hot-bathed by inherited remedies
of soap and TCP – but limited sympathy

Freight

I favour the white spaces
between my words –
my loose goods trucks
left uncoupled –
let to roll into others’
classification yards
under the pull of inclines –
ridden
by the freighthoppers –
you few readers
of these lines
who find the hewn floor
a brief comfort –
and me – another traveller –
of sorts – I sit alongside you

A Small Expense

Another plum-voiced politician gabbled
from behind his port-swilled jowls –
Of course the future is great

He could still taste the foie gras
from last night’s foray into decadence –
he had found a folded receipt in his wallet –

He steadied himself before the interview
as he recalled the look in the eyes of the boy
as he pulled too hard at his limp cock –

after he had spent a few hundred quid
at a discreet little place off Piccadilly
It will be put under ‘entertaining purposes’