Sheffield Park, East Sussex

The wide open workshop
was beyond my education
(three terms of metalwork
forty years earlier was never
any kind of apprenticeship).

Greased tools, backs bent to it,
at components, stripped elements
of dead men engineering,
here exhumed across scale layouts
of locomotive parts, almost lost

until men in overalls, and tilted caps,
pulled on levers and tools to fix
the lines from one shut station
to another, suffered, under Beeching:
to get the steam into the pistons:

Our kids milled, kicked at ballast,
and were more intrigued by a ring tone
than the scale of rod-shoved wheels,
and steps so high, halfway to Heaven,
for these men, so we left the engine shed.

Back

I have to step back
from the offer you make,
remove myself, now,
from that covert place,

return to the house,
leave fields behind,
stand at the window,
and draw down the blind.

I will stoke the low fire,
which throws no heat,
and turn from the hearth,
my retreat complete.

Walking on Water

Arlington Reservoir vibrated,
that low bowl of gust-cut waves,
the quantity now the difference
to my previous walk here,

that and my end-of-day inability
to route march any more:
as a kid, returning from school
they called me ‘Bell-fast’.

A stared sparrowhawk, high,
worked miracles to remain in place:
I am the opposite of that bird,
landlocked, working to move.

The gravel scuffs, my soles wear,
it hurts, even in these boots,
and because I have sent myself
back before the rest, I must

sit at the car park and wait.
My youngest is the first to return,
and to hide my accelerated pain
I ask to be taught to skateboard,

and as I stand, held by him, unsure,
the wind drops, and I balance 
as on a small boat, not quite Galilee,
but hoping he still believes in me.

Mahnmal

Never an admission
that our past was wrong,
our history sullied by
bloody pogroms,

we pale British are
so full of such shit,
on a pissy island,
we have set adrift,

an old sucking leech
imbibing low souls,
this country,
this country,
this island of fools.

Free Swimming

What do you wear
when off to the pool,
something quite flattering,
or nothing at all?
Something to cover
your large modesty,
or Speedos – to test
poolside probity?
Or do you cover up,
head to toe,
because such is your right,
wherever you go?

Dancefloor

From above a radio drones
whilst the clippers whine
across the reddened neck
of the gentleman’s haircut.
Lined cars rumble outside
as gusts cross the threshold
and push the trimmings,
snips, hairy tumble weed,
from beneath the two-step
of the rug-cutting barber,
who never seems to struggle
with small talk on the floor.
Done, he attends to, brushes,
the now-vacated chair,
and gentlemen look sideways,
who is next on the dance card?

Heated

A few weeks back,
this summer,
and I would be stood
in a mist,
but this ridiculous
month of June
offers no such
cool sleights
as I stick-click,
lop-sided, alongside
the sucked-slouch
of the muddied Uck;
then hollered at
by the diesel’s sad call
as it sights
the unattended crossing,
and all the time,
across Manor Park,
bedroom windows are flung
in an un-English surrender
to the day’s heat
still found in bricks,
as the padding fox,
so thin,
sets off the estate’s
choir of panting dogs.

Our Talk

I had to lie down,
having taken a bullet
from this sniper,
back flat on grass,

and you stood 
over me, in shadow,
as the dog came close,
her concern simple.

Strength taken,
I struggled to stand,
to no offered hand,
and so all was said.

The Sleep

I am naked on our bed,
upright, pre-slept,
at the gracious request
of my funked body:

It asks, politely,
at first with a flicker
across my eyelids,
felt as light tremors,

then it rudely produces
enormous weights,
conjurer’s tricks,
strapped to my arms,

followed by an elephant –
it places that, too easily,
across my bared chest:
Now I am breathless,

on awkward pillows,
on those between knees;
I claim this space
for my night’s reprise.

No Angel

He endeavours to be
one who ‘can’,
not a bit-part, paused,
not half a man,
not battled to bend,
with rusted mettle,
he’ll hold her at night,
unmasked and settled:
No more a young man
in the place reserved
in God’s waiting room,
which others deserve:
Grant a slow decade,
ten years of good life,
please God, he asks you,
for his kids, and his wife:
Re-set their happiness,
that for his spouse,
he won’t demand space
in your over-filled house.