Labelled

I can no more shop in Millets,
the sartorial choice of men,
where shorts are twenty quid,
but such shopping trips must end!

She Who Must Be Obeyed
is getting rather strict,
my clothes should be top labels –
the ones that she will pick.

So throw out my Peter Storm,
discard my beige collection,
no more windproof anoraks –
blown away by her rejection:

Instead it’s top notch brands,
to be found on our High Street,
but only if they’re second hand,
costing no more than five quid.

After the storm

It had long-passed,
but the field we walked,
as I had warned,
soaked our shoes,
and
the dog almost drowned
(in the clumps of grass).

Under a pair of beech trees
I looked up,
seeing frail silhouettes
over silhouettes,
rain-glued translucency,
veined-leaves
in forced overlaps

under a still-threatening sky:
All the time
the single rhododendron
was impervious
to the wetness suffered
by the rest of us.

Law of Inertia

He was bent to his shovel work,
on the hottest day of the year

as age raised a dark vest of sweat,
soaking a shadow across his chest:

He stopped to chat, resting too heavily
against the swing, and as we talked

the roped seats oscillated under his
transmission of low energy,

Newton’s Law imposed where he leant,
part-recovered from his shovelled work,

whilst his girls lay immobile in the shade,
which he had previously made.

Impossible Constructions

Broken is my reaction:
A child, now a man,
lifts a child, both dusted,

carried, one barefooted
caught in sleep, or poverty?
He looks dead,

must his back be bared?
Or does his red shirt roll
over his hung head to mask his death?

But it could be a girl, either way,
carried from that blast,
where stairs hang

as if Escher had been
at work in Aleppo on another
Regular Division of the Plane.

The Mountains

A grey-faded memory of my émigré aunt,
on the quayside,
where we saw her off on a mountainous ship:

My Dad, an old salt, so going aboard,
(treading the deck) was required,
until we disembarked, before her departure.

**

On that same dock, over twenty years later,
I dug on the grain mountain, but failed to work out
my previous time there:

I only saw others’ ghosts in the redundancy
of the migrant-shipping sheds,
left behind, dusty pendants in the voids above the grain.

The same dockside sheds from where my Aunt had set sail,
in a previous incarnation,
when I was shoulder-carried by my own mountain:

Only now, this night, I reconnect those two pasts
in these greying surveys,
within my contour lines, marking my life, re-mapped.

Gift of God

The scent of jasmine,
there contrived,
gardened,
placed along our path,
around this front door,

taking me
to that backdoor,
where a blackbird nested,
in an accidental
frame of the same vine;

I wasn’t tall enough to see in,
but a partial view was secured
by a discarded egg,
and later, a bonus, for me,
just a kid, a fledgling, dead.

Avoid Grikes

Inis Meadhóin   or
three middle Aran Islands
in Galway Bay
province of Connacht
subject to century-set glacial erratics

Inishmaan the smallest
of those Aran Islands
by qualification of population
said to be thick with
traditional Irish culture
and tripped   grike-deep fixed

ever-floating   predominantly Irish-speaking
and still a secure knowledge of English
but still Gaeltacht
a vernacular   before anything else
including Aran sweater-clichés
purled in the real world.

A Polar Bear in Chessington

It was huge with disdain,
a dirty-white fur ball,
banging, banging,
on the steel door,

in that sunken pit of concrete,
with a pool – nowhere near
the size of the seas
of the Arctic Circle;

we looked on, with other visitors,
from behind glass walls,
us the bear-trappers,
with our entrance fees.


Reminded by this current story

Door Stops

I was up with the light air
before this day’s sunrise
as the heat broke    with
a burglar’s threat

but just

itch-shifting curtains on the sash
and a thud    by the unseen flow
further through the house
which had to be examined
a door to be stopped

because the kids would not

they would sleep through
anything   like this intrusion
of a breeze’s soft thuds

Thick Ice

In that Victorian pleasure garden
the Pells recreation ground

a walled pool and a play space
in commemoration of a Jubilee

all the time a spring runs
into another rugged-winter

into another summer

a solitary outdoor attendant
once maintained the grounds

In winters the ponds were
skated by the bravest

but the swimming baths made a better
skating surface   when lowered
to allow it to freeze    two tickets at tuppence

but his body floated beneath the thick surface
eventually retrieved through cracks

hauled with a long-handled crook
horse-drawn off to the mortuary

but they knew his true story
a wife of complaints and disagreements

Easyjet

Internally booked, still to be paid,
so, I am now, somewhat committed,
to a special assistance, a short flight,
a one-way ticket which is mine:

Her return seat is reserved,
my obligation, then, her future comfort
on a solo flight, letting her go alone,
to meet a new man, on that flight?

He would notice her reddened eyes,
and, being so very English,
wealthy with embarrassment,
not ask her why she cries;

he sees her wedding ring,
which she turns, and turns, and turns,
as if she is over-winding an old clock,
too much,
so it will no longer work.

The Numbers

Mutually Assured Destruction
is the deal,
but that infers an agreement,

with a ‘letter of last resort’, a waiver,
for silent-running replacement subs

to work to the end-of-life,
at the cost of forty billion pounds,

and the loss of eight billion people,
to keep fifteen thousand jobs,

in Scotland, which has voted
for the loss, but not the deaths.

The End of the Party

The hall returned to its rented state
by the party’s emptying,
re-stacked stiff back plastic chairs,
and nothing remained of them:

Swept, bagged, and loaded out,
nothing, nothing, except the echoes
of friendships forged in parties,
trips, fights, and school classes.

There, for me, a preview – end-of-term,
of their school, those rooms,
at the epi-centre of their lives:
Swept, bagged, and loaded out.

Checkpoint

I drove Joel to the Dead Sea,
we circled Jerusalem,

in hindsight a preview
of Europe’s guarded future,

he sighted soldiers, boys and girls,
occasionally clumped,

common as olive trees,
drab, but uprooted too early,

guarding entry to and from
our concentration of gods;

also called, in Arabic,
al-Quds, that place,

the oldest city in the world,
within new walls, through new gates.

Nan Tuck’s Lane

Over Buxted, into folklore,
our sniggered-search for Nan Tuck,
the ghost of those woodlands,
a crone, flown from The Uck.

We set out as useless hunters,
on her kindling-carpeting,
the coppice of nervous laughter,
with hid fears half-echoing:

‘A dearth of any wildlife,
where Nan Tuck’s spirit waits’,
but we disturbed a leaping deer,
and were stabbed by beaked complaints.

No fearsome witch, no spells,
no cackle, no dark arts,
but stepping back onto tarmac,
we walked calmer down that path.

Festerers

Glastonbury, Glastonbury,
take home your shit,
don’t leave it pitched
for others to shift.

800k
of camping poop,
bought cheap from Millets,
loose-pegged, now drooped.

You embraced the moment,
but dropped your tat,
forgotten ’bout now,
back in your cosy flat.

Next time don’t ‘festie’,
please avoid the hike,
stay at home, pitch up
to downloads you ‘liked’.

The Ghost, Cinque Ports

Ullage, the short difference,
to be re-recorded
in a skinny red book,
stood soberly-vertical,
behind a jar of slippery
pale-pickled eggs;

there’s many Bar Rules
about equal measures,
keeping this club in order,
but an occasional shadow
re-states the cellar’s height,
corner-of-the-eye stuff,

CCTV captured, she said,
orbs floated, inflated,
whilst, creaking, overhead,
actual timbers and joints groan,
a true, structured tale
of cat-slide reconstructions:

Here the beer tastes great,
priced right, served with grace,
as aged patrons, oft-glued
to the re-drawn-football,
never lose sight of old mates,
and a ghost is welcome,
as our own spirits ruminate.

Nothing On

[Enters stage left]
That click-clack of the
blind man’s walking stick,
and background natter
from the receptionists:
Noises-off.

Dove soap on my fingers,
I had washed for the Doctor,
who knows more about me
than I can ever recall,
he is checking my notes,
re-pronouncing the drugs,
which I tend to forget
[Prompt required].

I’m tongue-tarred by the coffee,
sipped before my drive here,
a route of life-threatening lanes,
and I try, try, to recall my script
for this ten minute soliloquy:

A repeat prescription –
to conquer the constant nausea,
my travel-sickness,
even when hardly moving,
my performance then given,
up from the gut.
[Prop – mop]

Everyone News Gathers

Everyone’s making the day’s news,
the shooting of blacks and blues,
filmed in high res –
streaming on Facebook,
the mess, shot by voyeurs,
the fake film crews:

Addicted to a screen held in a palm,
kids swipe quickly through the harm,
as we, their makers,
‘Like’ killings,
to watch back later,
whilst the grieving
flick through psalms.

Social media is here,
the fifth column,
set now at too high a volume,
a channel,
without a controller,
now, turned louder,
always filling the news vacuums.

An Obligation

I have never faced war,
no action under fire,
no orders to follow,
parade-free, slouched:

My grandfather declined,
being the religious one,
conscientiousness,
and, so, an objection.

His son ran off to sea,
sealed in a submarine;
Dad learnt how to kill,
and how not to die.

My other grandfather,
lost to Rommel in Africa:
Would I object to orders,
like those I imposed,

on my Action Man
– gripped hands?
I would not:
I owe my past a life.

Damn

“Let’s give our NHS the £350 million 
the EU takes every week”,

wrote Matthew Elliott,
Chief Executive of Vote Leave,
in his, now removed, tweet.

I am also self-censored,
asked to stop sending
our Brexit-relatives
the bare-bone facts

whilst all the time,
before the vote,
their righteous voices
were quick to scream:

“You can’t persuade me
to change my mind!”
But I never did try:
I couldn’t disprove lies,

until now, and then,
it’s uncomfortable for them,
having broken the future
for our children.

Calculus

‘The perfect number is a positive integer that is equal to the sum of its proper divisors’

I did count out what I have done for you,
now you to count what you’ve done too.
My fag-packet relative comparisons,
reveal to me necessary adjustments:

Upsetting a child is a minus of your sum.
Putting down one’s own is long division.
Disparaging of men, is a simple add-on.
Not offering compassion is a multiplication.

And your friends complain of your equations,
dead-reckoning now with their own estimations,
they live quite well,  with your bone-dry worth,
but only if their values are not reversed.

School Chips

The gates needed painting,
rusted red – shameful shades,
the kick-chipped exit railings
begged for a uniform coat of paint.

Hardy souls took up the shout,
to buff Manor’s roughened fences,
a slog of slap and weeding,
and school was reinvented!

Some may notice our efforts,
and other parents may walk by,
but down there, at knee-height,
kids’ll see that we have shined.

So pick up a brush, or shovel,
get down to your local school,
tidy up the walls and railings –
it’s what life’s taught you to do!

Instructions On How Not To Die

For the children, teachers, TAs, and staff at Little Horsted School, East Sussex. Thank you for choosing @parkinsonsuk as your charity, your fundraising is fantastic, your poems are beautiful.


Put on your jump suit, it is quite a struggle,
meet your buddy, the man tugging your toggle.

Pull on your harness, adjusted too tight!
Walk outside, the sky looks quite HIGH!

Say ‘Goodbye’, shout out ‘It’s all fine!’, secretly hoping it’s not a lie,
Stride to the plane, like a pro, its roaring props don’t half blow!

Climb a short ladder, still afraid of heights,
Sit in the floor, swallow back your fright.

Get strapped to the man, who does this for thrills,
Take off, sat backwards, up above the field.

Polite conservation, as you fly through the sky,
talk ’bout anything, anything, but not about dying!

Watch the light go green, people fall out the plane,
Now its your turn to feel their pain.

Sit there, on the edge, just like God,
Turn your head to the left, and then drop…