You Said in the Car

I would rather see
a benign dictatorship –
Democracy only offers
stay-in-power lies

I can still read that
ink-pressed megaphone
which lay wide open
on your kitchen table –

bare column thoughts
of the paper-sellers –
of power seekers
your new advisors

The Drawer

Then they grow up
and are like us
and our inheritances
which we thought
had been tucked
below old underwear
in the sagged dresser
which needs mending

But moving it would
surely unsettle
the air into dustlight

They sparkle at times
but not enough
to dampen our fear
of them becoming
just like us

Quietus

It is now zero-two-twenty-two
and my sleep is distracted
by far too much thinking
about minor possibilities –

and other rum miracles
in my conjouring mind –
such as taking my mother
back to the Holy Land –

to see her greet the white grave
of her eldest son – at least once –
for me to tolerate her
misunderstandings

There will be no myrrhbearers
but only her – one more witness
before the grave and stone
which is fixed – she will stand alone

I know that she will never return –
and I have no chance of a mute apology
as she struggles with family acts
of untranslatable love

She may live a few more years
having never felt his breath on her
off his loud grandchildren –
and seen the tears of his wife

And at zero-three-zero-three
I save this disturbance of sleep

Last Day

It is the day after
the last red ball
and rain has found
the indentations
made by the size
eleven landings –
those measured
imprints on grass
which were placed
half a dozen times
in the hunt for another
man’s number –
And another summer
is ticked off
and recorded inside
the scorer’s book.

The Boat

His boat had seen action in the East –
the reek of cooled sweat met him –
not yet mopped by long-damp cloths –
Never dried enough to work well

so that his first breath taken underwater
faltered – his onshore training failed him
making him cough like that last fag had
as he carried his black kit bag

He crouched to find the right height
at which he was to live and work –
now his skimming on the waves
were inked notes on his service record

This is how it started – it’ll make him –
those hours of constant perspiration –
a hundred nights of coffin dreams –
and still yet to learn Jack Speak

Dew

There has been no rain overnight
but the underfoot dew is enough
to darken both my boot toecaps
and to soak the dog’s knotted hair
as she bounds into blind prospects
of hedges and low distractions
And I look up at the underbelly
of another aircraft on another path
and do not envy their chosen route –
I then shout out for the dog’s return.

Into the Trees

Under the trees we find the path –
that one we missed last time –
and climb above the flood plain
on which – five miles downstream –
fools build fifty-four homes

We are now in nature’s green skin
where branches and hand-propped boughs
form unfinished rough shelters –
these experiments and adventures
decay to an undesigned usefulness

Further on the slunked gully runs –
here kids built mud and stick dams
until a wire fence was erected
and that sucking and silting stream
was blocked from the apprentices

The track is beaten and heat-cracked
which encourages youngsters on bikes
to take the risks we also under took –
but we hadn’t the engineered machines
on which they hurtle as fearless riders

The trees reverberate with monkey calls
and the shrill complaint of a lost child –
it is as if the internet doesn’t exist
as the off stage scramble of children
escalates – not quite Lord of the Flies.

Box Hedge

I ran my dipped fingers
through unscented hedges
as I tried to leave the rings
of your invisible traces
from our long afternoon
of deep interrogations –
the footpath steepened
to demand some attention
but I flipped my focus
back to that gratification
which I had deposited
on the untrimmed hedges
of the respectable tenants

New Terms

Whist you commuters
weary your lit ways
at ergonomic desks
and begging screens

I will walk out
to that richer idyll
that you can only visit
when allowed

You are locked down
by your WiFi streams –
even the commute
is more small displays

Those sealed views
from that fixed carriage
is the best you can do
on most weekdays

until the sullenness
of September dims
and the daily journeys
are seen as reflections

And the mid-term break
in October’s pointlessness
is the dark reminder
that holidays have been taken.

Sunday in Seaford

There the sunburnt woman
sits alone – her cheeks inflated
and colouring to that near-pink
of shrimp-stained flamingos

whilst two older ladies draw
their lines in snapping charcoal
on bared sketch book pages –
each hoping to record beauty –

two on art-pressured sheets
and one – later – in the mirror –
England’s ruddy south coast
still blushes as if caught out

The tradition of seaside decay
settles alongside the ageing folk –
curling as flotsam – delineating
the ragged edge of our known world

And here we locate ourselves
in a bolted and braced beach hut
to watch the dog walkers and seekers
parade in opposite directions

After a Party

The wisest of the kids
had reset our house –
so that my scratch-forced
early morning ritual
of back-door-and-dog
was quite normal

The unexpected waft
of an outside chill
was the only thing
I found misplaced –
that and a small bowl
of rolled fag butts

which I’d suggested
be left outside
when I had patrolled
their dying party –
consciously sniffing
at the air for drugs –
only tasting
the boyfriends’ sprays

Earlier in the evening
I had bolted myself
in my dark study
as the various volumes
of the engineered event
were subject to
the same social forces
we adults endure –
but at a different pitch

The dog had scratched
at my side of the door
as I sank even lower
on displaced cushions
and kid-shifted furniture

My brief entombment
was almost equal
to Egyptian disarrays –
alas for me there was
no mass of splendour
or promise of some
sort of waking heaven

Turn Left

I take the dipped fork
of near-identical width
but this left path is falling
and narrowed in breadth

It follows the slope
of the redundant stream
where the hills ran off –
once-washed – bare reached

But now drainage and driveways
have altered old flows
above ancient rights
there is no such urge

I pass standing iron –
a fence absorbed in a tree –
it needs no hard posts
in that adopted place

There’s a weighted trade
in these heavy woods –
between man’s intervention
and her constant response

A Diversion on the Road to the Dead Sea

We drove due east
past the concrete wall
by the older stones
which marked the fall

of carved out gods
honed by man’s cold sword
through the broken centre
of this confusing world

There restricted Jews
and Muslims had bled
under the scything prayers
of crusading men

Rose water was scrubbed
to reclaim the rock
to wash from the slabs
the foul tread of a god

When the Axa mosque burnt
in a war on the dome
a madness was found –
Jerusalem Syndrome

Hopes raise and implode
back to rubble and dust
Forty centuries of walls
have never been lost

Under Buxted House

The gouged stream ran more loudly
than on our last slogged hike –
that rush was the first signpost
on this Sunday-worn path –

I had chosen the wrong boots
for the rain-slip and clay-stick
of the surface which had changed
after the previous day’s storm

Here the invasion of knotweed
was secure in these conditions
unlike my own slid footings
over roots and low branches

The moss sides of tree trunks
were theatrically intricate –
as if that last heavy downpour
had instructed them to thicken

I was thankful for my dog –
and my walking stick – both found
ways amongst the cake mix mud
to routes left unaffected overnight

I do not have names for all that I saw
Nature does not care for me
and refuses to give up her confusion
for us walkers of man-made breeds

The Bared Craters

Here under the canopy are exploded craters
where fickle nature has fought a short war
pitting her one-sided strengths to uproot
in an onslaught against these ancient woods

She reins victoriously with the long surrender
and now directs those flaking birch to fill the gaps
and for brambles and fern to hide the fallen
with their late summer re-sized leaves

When we walk here in the scowling winter
there will be no hiding her raged brutality
as the tipped roots are again exposed
and her brutal battlefield is uncovered

Meanings

For each life to have significance
it needs to be led by awareness

Do not stand off from others
like those diffident observers

You must embrace loved moments
as you move through slowed days
of small actions and interactions
so your short time is truly valued

There is an art to such attention
which is not taught at any school

Let your magnifying glass pause –
learn from the immodest instances

Tie the loose laces of another’s shoe
into the tight knot that they prefer

Become versed in their fingered turns –
how their interactions are directed

You should not steal their thoughts
as you stumble in their taken steps

Only consider how they measure
from their own eyes looking back

And live without your own thoughts
colliding in this time with inner fictions

Then you can walk at your own pace
with – or without – others

Digging

It was never about being held
until it stopped
and then my redrafted scenes
were all that remained

The unbalanced intimacies
of being in love
were ours to upset –
to greedily grab and pull at

until their weight combined
and collapsed
without a bed or shelter –
under the spire we stood naked

and blushed at foolishness –
or so it appeared –
because the mass of it all
was too much for us to bear

I pass through the graveyard
where our bench was set
and still cannot read
those upright names.

Out of the Woods

The soil is dry and compacted
under the last threadbare fall

The laggard stream clogs
between the dropped branches

The cow parsley – and others –
stand as unpicked summer fossils

The weighty berries tease
among sharpened brambles

August should now stutter
into the slow rot of Autumn

But that immigrant heatwave
has not shifted from us

The seasons are so confused
by our greedy interference.

Autumn Term

They make the slow haul uphill
with their shop-branded bags
of untried school uniforms

The boy bears his boxed Clarks shoes
as the girl lugs her sweatshop shirts –
freshly picked off Primark shelves –

Still with plenty of growing in ’em
was her mother’s observation
as she calculated the cost of it all

These slack summer holidays
will end not soon enough
for the parents – but not the kids

The hour-numbed regiments
will reform and take the school gates
in their battle colours of navy blue.

The Dog Walk

I mistook a dropped box of Durex
and the discarded instructions
as a rarely spotted fag packet

My two dogs poked their snouts
around this additional litter
and moved on without direction

This – our diverted morning walk
of squats and leg lifts en route
with me tugging on their long leads

I was a stalled stunt kite flyer –
crossing and uncrossing the strings
as they knotted ahead of me

The weekend gardeners buzzed
and clipped around my obligation
of giving these two their flight