The Storm

There, feel suspicion
shifting, with 
the volute of winds,
drilled, air-cracked,
this wooden floor,
almost set lifting,
with me tied-to,
in Ulysses contract,
waiting upon
a messenger’s distract:
A low across
my nervous squall,
you, my storm,
could destroy this all.

And I shall sleep
through falling trees,
as I did once before,
in another place,
where I was split,
felled to my knees
by a lover, me, cut,
redundant, disgraced
by her mis-order,
my love misplaced,
becalmed upon
her blunted bent:
I descended Leith Hill,
the storm then spent.


 

Parents (sic) Evening

I return to my schooling
over parquet flooring,
in repeats of bruised corridors,
between their mending places,
but now to hear about bug fixes
and performance improvement.

This Parents Evening of the lost,
(always missing an apostrophe?),
in a maze worthy of Daedalus,
where hard logarithms rule
my expanding distance from kids:
I compare and contrast –

no more cradle-to-cane
as we follow our children,
from report to report,
from people young enough..
and that overload returns –
I still misuse my apostrophe’s.


The Artist’s Poem

In my dreams, there is silence,
not that conscious switch-off
for the rare library visits,
missed out, not muting devices,

no, not that easy click,
but another longer lull,
down the line of a pen:
a stalker’s murderous silence,

that of me, the fasted hunter,
treading, tarried, slowed over
kindling’s dry threats to snap:
in my sleep – that silence of captures.


Gone

It is hard to know
where time has slipped,
how each of our days
are torn, tossed words,
and within such trades
we seek to quip,
our histories writ
by mis-use of verbs –
those thrown at things,
which will always hurt;
and we’ll settle to books
in our double bed,
with singular thoughts
to be left unsaid.


Mrs. M

Risen, our ghost,
on this landing,
her, embalmed,
our prior owner,
wishing to leave,
without asking,
M. reduced
by a buried composure,
slighted under
daylight’s exposure.

Our eldest child
met her in his room,
dark, spectred,
unexpected there:
he slumped back
to sleep’s deep rheum,
in doing so she slipped,
rent back to air:
our review made her
his dreamt-slept affair.


 

The Summoner

Your exhumed past
should not be here,
a dwindled forget,
such forms be gone:
feeling no cushion
as you now kneel,
on stiff prayer knees
for too long,
do not bow down
to history’s old song:

Summon no ghosts
under your sung spade,
leave those haunted houses
to others,
and turn your back,
walk the opposite way,
leaving your tools to rust
on the surface:
your past to rot
on undisturbed ashes.


 

The Late Shift, Again

Another ridiculous o’clock
finding me drawn at my desk,
hauling creativity and effort
from finite resources that,

when I am slow and upright,
need my re-engineered stick,
but not here, sitting, making
other worlds and other places

to help win Soho agencies
their prizes, small fools’ jewels:
My rude award is their money,
ninety days later, if I’m lucky.


 

A Wall

Each imperial brick length
required malodorous acid
to be dippled, slow-brushed

(avoiding the old lime mortar),
applied to each unpainted face,
covering the exposed wall:

“Up, tight as possible,” she said.
“Right to the [recently plastered
and whitewashed] ceiling.”

My red canvas was four yards wide
(an old measure, antique, in keeping
with the building’s Edwardian lines).

I laboured, bent more, for a day,
etching with those rarely-exercised
dug out tools:

A paint scraper, a black hammer,
a quite unsure stepladder,
and two inherited wire brushes;

that last pair kept
over forty years to remind me
I am not the practical son.


 

Miracles

Upstairs, steam-dripped
by every breath,
becoming condensation
it sticks, a vertical film

on the inside of the windows
of the fan-packed top deck,
aboard the lane-swaying
Number 29 to Brighton:

I sit, as usual, with too much
of the bus-shift-and-tip;
meaning that my forever
poorly-travelled nausea

threatens, from somewhere,
to become a public thing,
to be my fellow passenger
(Otto’s) thrown-up problem;

so I roll my eyes inwards
to cheat my tilted brain,
and by the time we reach
the stop called Earwig Corner

I am away, off in another place,
to stored recall’s sinking edges,
inside the most private
of our human experiences:

So holding back the vomit,
with this old-time trick of closure,
of not looking out to half distances,
but instead by looking within

my journey is thus managed;
sight is restored by the push of mud
underfoot as we step off the bus
to witness miracles at The Amex.


 

Voyager Maintenant

Vous,
petite douce chose,
doit voyager,
doit visiter,
pour une journée,
une dernière fois:
Une dernière requête
traduit comme décès:
Pas plus de nourriture,
pas plus de boissons,
maintenant le temps
s’est écoulé:
Ces luxes égoïstes,
une telle prière,
cette demande:
À tout moment de la vie,
il est temps de vivre.


#CartepostaleàBannon

Cher Steve Bannon,

Comment redémarrer le mal?
Vous l’avez trop facile
mon altesse-droite,

vous avez votre chemin,
avec la haine, votre haine,
votre politique de quatre lettres:

Tenez leurs têtes courbées,
prendre leurs cœurs sombres,
et ensuite nourrir, si longtemps,

sur leurs intestins bouillonnés,
assaisonné de toss-politique,
raisonnement c’est tout pour eux.

Là, mon cruel ami,
est votre projet déplié
à construire avec l’iniquité.

Cordialement,

Mike Bell.


#postcardstoBannon

steve-bannon1Dear Steve Bannon,

How to re-heat evil?
You have it too easy
my Alt-right friend,

you have your way,
with hate, your hate,
your four-letter policy:

Hold their bowed heads,
bake their dark hearts,
and then drizzle piss

on their bile-boiled guts,
seasoned with toss-politics,
reasoning it is all for them.

There, my cruel friend,
is your simple recipe
to cook with iniquity.

Regards,

Mike Bell.

Measured

I was taught to spot the imperfect years
by measuring, with eye and finger
the varied distances, the thicknesses
of those concentric, almost-whirled,
bark-marked lines in the bared-ankles
of cut trunks: Dendrochronology.

Counting back, to before I was born,
my smooth fingers touched the years,
and Dad recalled a distant summer
without enough rain (‘see the thin ring’),
when he felled a malicious child,
dragging him by the handy straps
of handed-down dungarees
through a dusty field of soft cow pats,
that bully face down, Dad ploughed
shit down his bib: he marked him.

At the bottom of Lime Tree Avenue
a bared examination of that past
with the removal of another tree,
rotten, untrusted to be above us,
all that is left is the raw-sawn stump,
of over a hundred imperfect years,

and I cannot touch the ring he was in,
as my finger is now too thick and rough.


 

Rise

She is slow – the River Ouse –
running muddied below Lewes –
there a capricious millpond –
but when she swells

under storms – off streams
Bevern and Northend
and the quick River Uck –
she reverts to ancient freshet –

swift to rise to redress
the forgotten flood meadows
now supplanted by tarmac –
She rushes such mistakes –

And then a stagnant retreat –
like some unabashed lover –
She leaves a long odour –
she is loathed-to-recede

and keep to the contract
made by tide charts and maps –
to stay inside banks and bends
without the town’s walls

E21018

Aside

It exists today, another foul descent,
where thousands of sickening acts are set:
Saydnaya – Assad’s concrete playhouse,
a lowly spectacle, directed from Damascus,
those dark rehearsal rooms set for Death.

He stands blindfolded, a metre above,
as if waiting on the missing prompt,
knowing this, now, is his unseen drop:
He prays too fast his final lines,
having suffered others’ rehearsal cries.

In the stinking cells, dragging overhead,
there is still no sign of anyone’s God,
instead an ark of the beaten remains,
humans left alive to endure the pain,
hourly woken by screams from this show,
which plays out each night on the floor below.

A last dance of kicks in strangulation:
The skinny ones flailing fast, hung prostrations.
Then, under direction, their legs are grabbed,
and with that embrace their final breath.

And we will watch, the show is streaming,
the dig and lift of Saydnaya’s murdered,
from under loose mounds in that desert:
Syria’s long dead then all laid head-to-toe
in the rewrite of Evil’s latest show.


Fail Better

“All of old. Nothing else ever. 
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. 

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

K.P.

Under this tilted roof,
as designed by me,
here briefly sheltered,
but no deft-certificate,
no kite mark of designer,
unlike your good self –
certification as artist,
qualified by eye and time;
but I am not wood-worked,
not equally level-pegged:
I am highly uninstructed,
except by constant practice,
in this low art of commerce,
deft in invoiced bullshit:
Here we sit, under my tilt,
and I advise you, with my art,
to fail, but only better.


The Coming

We must build dikes of courage
to hold back the flood of fear

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I no longer understand this aberrant world –
I am standing – ill – aged and weeping in confusion

Please – for me – explain
without repeated cliches
then I might hear you
and avoid a crossing

On this side of the brook I did not drink the dark rum –
the fresh blood in the water – the slaughterhouse run-off

That upstream slew was held
in the foul storm
by time’s broken trees –
dipped raw dams

But nature’s stoppages are made to give up
and her stick-jammed wall broke under the rising

‘This isn’t forever,’
I shouted to you
as blood clogged the current
and the gully turned red

When all that floats are the clots of dead men
then we will have gorged on the last of the world

Drawing

Another day of distances
at my complicated desk,
workings-out/drawings-up,
a world, yet to be seen,
here conjured, cuff-rolled
under my sleights of hand;
I am a whore for every hour
at this, my digital alchemy,
turning fixed ones and zeros
into other fools’ short gold:
And when their rush passes,
designs met, now unamended,
I can then draw out my words

across other complications.


Parents’ Bays, Waitrose, Uckfield.

4th February 2017

To she who mouthed an obscenity
(because I parked in a Family Bay):
I hope we get to meet up again,
as I didn’t get to fully explain:
There is no excuse for what I did,
especially as I didn’t drive my kids;
instead it was me picking up paint,
these days a much heavier weight:
the problem is my hands always hurt,
my feet are crippled, my strength is burnt:
Concession is king in my brain disease:
Hey, I’ll soon forget your obscenities!


Coffee Shop

Here’s my retreat,
here’s where I go,
this mug, this refill
of purchased repose;

Louche between low chats
of fat latte ladies,
opposite capped men,
brusque and too matey:

Aglow screen readers,
the Twitter typed lovers,
drugged kids in buggies,
under suffocate of covers;

a blind date, or business,
a couple here meet,
slow in the choosing –
What the f*ck to eat?

I am served by angels
in tight branded aprons,
when they offer the menu
my life is then taken.


 

Naked Killer Dolls

One could stand by herself,
being a Pedigree model,
but her voice had gone,
her real hair discoddled,

knots of locks trimmed
by nibbling vermin.
Two dolls from the loft
in one box, both hiding:

I brought them down,
as found, unbidden,
with rolled back eyes:
old toys, MADE IN BRITAIN.

From the same place
a thin negro doll,
but more limbs missing,
no hands to hold.

They sit mute and watchful,
reading us, the shocked,
with unabashed stares
and glass-eye looks.

We play tricks on the kids,
which becomes quite droll,
the unexpected placing of
those naked killer dolls.


 

The Visitor, 1984.

Recall is now grey scale,
but I once dreamt in colour
without any gnaw of limp,
or hint of restricted reach:
back when stiff was good:
And I would wake to this:

Eight AM, clear-road Sunday:
Floored up the A316,
in my stripped-down Landie,
roof-less, screen-dropped,
me, blown, almost removed,
with the doortops off:

I circled, again,
old Trafalgar Square,
to corral, with fumes,
the climb-shined lions,
those I once ascended,
(now boxed snapshots).

I then accelerated
under Admiralty Arch,
to bomb down that drive,
The Mall, a red carpet
of tarmac, on my whirred
agricultural tyres,

fast past the Jacks
of Buckingham Palace,
and then out, away,
to the Home Counties,
where my rough thoughts
took someone else’s wife, again.


Addlestone Crossing

There to see my father,
propped-up in a polished box,
one that my eldest brother,
chose, on the basis of, what?

Death was still too sour to us,
the parlour’s air throat-clogging,
this feared place of passing youth,
ten yards from the level crossing:

Often halted by its turned gates,
and scoured spin of wheels,
on our way in and out of town,
with Dad, and his thousand skills:

he could dissect a battleship,
break apart any gun,
extemporize upon anything,
with sketch, and rule of thumb.

Now boxed-in, he tarried,
we’d leave him, lonely, there:
my brother could not stand
the shop’s execrable despair:

In that time, almost gone,
I learnt about death’s prop:
that last lesson from my father,
our paths no longer crossed.