Back from Israel

At three thousand feet
I peck at a tray of crap
as the girl next to me
pokes her laptop

Her typing is rapid –
she’s re-writing scripts
I rinse food with wine
and leave the worst bits

A man swings his baby
in a hipster sling
parading his manhood
as an accoutrement

I cannot sleep
even drugged by booze
on this return
which I do not choose

The Crossing

The night’s timed howl outside
is of another wheel-rattled diesel
slowing over the level crossing
which is now closed to us

It reminds me of the distance
which we can no longer walk –
out to the suburb’s grip around
the kibbutz’s old burial ground

As if a sacred place can be safe
in this country of rude expansion –
of tightened grips on settlements
and the troubling of neighbours

They blocked the road over the line
and so all remebrance is diverted
via town in a short car journey
of blasting air and Arab music

The lock is turned against rust
and we the gatekeepers follow
the steps to where death rests
in this scalped remnant of other lives

The dead are watched over not by God
but those who live in the high blocks –
the commuters and the city workers
who pass these crumbled bones

on each day’s journey to and from
their own short hell of Tel Aviv’s pull
They pass my brother’s white grave
without knowing how far he travelled.

To Deny

That preterist way
of completed schemes
here sound as raw
as infants’ screams

I watch the place
where parakeets nest
in weighted boughs
they make protests

Those trees which grew
a heightened shade
on this claimed place
which Jews re-made

The pool’s loud shouts
a stone’s throw there –
to that shared space
we now repair

Here parents stand
in thigh-deep games –
their inflated kids
play out their day

Widdershins

‘The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming’ Isaiah 14:9

I have turned against the world’s clock
and her perpetual request for following
and found myself with my back to her sun
My shadow’s stain laid like the Long Man

I am that untouched layer which obscures
but which time will shift again and again

I am part gnomon – being so subdued
that a blackbird lands in my cast of darkness

This shaded life is mine to command
as I take on the correctness of watchfaces
and counter the arguments for my decline
which are under the thin mantras she sings

I will cleanse with the Rephaim around me
in the baths in which my brother washed off
his own reductions in the last of his living world
and I will not take on her sour sung calls.

A Man of the Last Century

You were balanced on a bar stool
balanced on a bar
as ambivelent south Londoners
watched you play guitar –
Tooting had never seen the like before

You ripped down a poster
from the high brick wall
and lugged the trophy back
We found it curled in the hall –
Terminator 2 in Gassiot Road

The wild night you leapt from
bonnets of parked cars
leaving your shoe prints
evidently marked –
the coppers took you in

We poured back pints in the
Whores and Gloom
kidding the tired nurses
we were the gifts in the room –
the Northern Line shook the urinals

The mother of your children came
and took you away
our child removed
to North London’s sober ways –
I have never seen the like again.

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

A Letter Home

I do not see this shaded life ending –
that which is being set forth by you
A plan of my restraint from expectation

to make me more comfortable
in a low shelter erected inside our home –
to protect you all from my hideous storms

I will not be laid out in the front room
in a God-awful wake of thirty years –
my very meaning slept away each night –

making daylight a drawn prelude to sleep
That is not my life – it cannot be the way
to feed my dignity and the thought of me

A Weariness

Over three decades ago I lived
under this ridge and these roof tiles
of repeatedly cast red clay

They were more malleable days
when constant change was good
and my future still had thirty years

From under these timber beams
Chris was removed before his fiftieth year
A weariness tinged with amazement

Perhaps Camus – or my tired words
will lift the eyes of my children to life
I sip my Arabic coffee as Israel growls

The Foreigner

This sun on me is a cure
helping my nails grow
and burning off that skin
which had been flaking

I am the foreigner
who scares the small kids
with his Englishness
and chrome walking stick

Older residents recognise
my dead brother in me
and stop to talk – or more
A grandmother touched my face

I read books the wrong way round
was one child’s observation
My kin have my eyes and brow
and are shocked by this mirror

The Shade

There is no word for this foreign heat
but under the dapple-shadow plantation
I find a ten minute retreat from our star

Here I sit and consider my options –
as a bead of sweat rolls from my chest
to track like an insect under my shirt

This is a playground for absent kids
with still swings and slides anchored
between picnic benches on which I rest

I consider my options with no haste –
for now relocated to this middle east
of loud relatives and small children

We are not sheltering in the same land
and I wonder if this half-turned separation
is my way of seeing the other side of the sun

Elicited

I have to measure my responses
and weigh the more foul energies

against those that lift me to you –
a conversion to a way with propriety

I should sacrifice for the lost dead
and keep their spirits at a burnt distance

and so find equilibrium in the overhead
tug and pull of ghosts and lost gods

but not give in to the religious fervour –
the lies of any other life but this one

The Cows

Two good legs shunt the shed’s herd
of black and white hand-numbered hides
into the single storey milking parlour
where the udders are washed and latched
to German engineering by Israeli hands

We would pour unpasteurised milk into a jug
and cross the lava-hot tarmac on bare feet
to then undress and take a long shower
with the coldness in our throats as reward
for hard work and hard fucking

The daughters of my brother’s bovine care
look at me with unrecognizable stares
as they chew on the sweet feed at my feet
They do not know of the kindness I showed
their forebears under these shaded beams