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.

The Poll

That drab civic room,
where we had voted,
here the Parkinson’s
support group met:

a chesty (badged) lady
offered us coffee,
pamphlets were handed,
flicked, to be kept.

A clipboard was passed,
to take names and numbers,
and to indicate interest
in meeting again:

My wife bent down,
plundering her handbag,
pulling out a tissue,
here the ending begins.

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.

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?

St. Anne’s Hill

My father died
aged fifty-five,
I was aged
twenty-three,
he slipped away
at St. Peter’s:

My mourned dusk
then came back,
as I was buried
in the haunted dark,
under the canopy
in Buxted Park,

back to his story,
as we three ducked
through the woods
on St Anne’s Hill,
our fears fostered
by his ghost story.

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.

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.

First Hour

I boot-up from an ill-night,
one of disturbances, of pain,
under unpolished dreams,
to the unnecessary brightness
now lighting domestic chaos:
my slept agitation seeps
across the bathroom, bedroom,
and then mills about, recalcitrant.
I carry over the dreamt infection
into the first hour of each day,
my crude night’s spilt-illness
will dissipate, but only under
woken, worked-on, distractions.

Doubles

You were still on my fingers,
even then, a slow hour later,
as my whiskey rolled inside
that glass, two fingers deep,
that leftover mix of still-sweet,
of earth’s dark-barrelled cut,
of strong flavours above taste:
and my mouth rested, it did,
on the rim, as on your lips,
as we held that kiss over time:
you were my one-woman orgy.

The Liars

She was an ugly capture ,
and was smelling quite ‘off’ –
‘landed in nets near Batavia,
and worth five thousand dollars’
– traded for the last time
in the city of London.
But that wasn’t her real story,
rather the laughed result
of a fishmonger’s joke
down in Billingsgate:
Charlie stitched half a salmon
to the rotting monkey
which had been found
on Lower Thames Street,
George Cruickshank etched,
and embellished, the lie
committing the mermaid
to a much longer life.

the liars

Knots

I dropped into her
from this height,
into her eyes,
there fixed in size
from birth,
framed by lines,
burnt in recall
by now-evaporated
tears of flicked, blinked,
intimate enquiries,
here refocused on me
into an expectation,
of cross-stitched lashes,
re-knotted,
a tight press of eyelids
in each exploratory kiss,
and then untied
as she measured my heart.

New Broom

She’ll not be swept back
to Downing Street,
her election broom snapped
under the weight;

the Tories will seek
‘a strong and stable’ hand,
to pick up the broom
and lead these lands.

For now she will clean
without the right tools,
whilst Boris and Rudd
agree which of them rules.

The UK untidy,
until the new cleaner sweeps,
austerity to continue
because brooms aren’t cheap.

Two-shot Tories

A table of old Tories
in the Kemptown cafe
plotting the downfall
of your future today:

Grumbling ’bout democracy,
and ‘leftie threats’,
whilst wanking their pensions
on skinny lattes:

The last generation
to enjoy a grand old age,
they’ll spoon all the sugar
and ensure nothing remains.

NHS on Election Day

In Outpatients,
Brighton,
and efficiently
weighed by Julie,
‘blood pressure good’,
then to ECG,
to confirm I am well,

as this country
threatens an ill result,
which will mean
in five years’ time
I will need to pay
a private company,
and shareholders,
for finding me unwell.

New Town Clock

The clock’s being replaced
on Uckfield High Street,
under Emergency Orders
it’ll now strike thirteen,
and then in line
with the ‘Bill of No Rights’
you’ll get a timely vote,
but only if you’re white.
The people of Uckfield
will sleep easier this week,
clocks will chime thirteen,
they’ll dream in doublespeak.

New story HERE

Echo Chambers

It is too easy to hate,
to speak in screams,
to find all solutions
in final extremes;
the volume racked up
in your echo chamber,
knowing your hatred
reverberates longer.
Too many such rooms,
with men pushing in,
these are the places
where the end begins.

[Published here on The Dangerous Globe]

Dad’s Cooking

I love you – hope meeting going well x
A text from his phone, pecked, auto-spelt.

Beyond the window, hinges bared to the heat,
he heard his boys’ repeat beseech:

Another game on the moss-marched lawn,
another day gone, a fatherhood mourned.

He fumbled with dinner, poured from a can,
which wrestled and spat in the unstirred pan.

Kids don’t eat salad, his menu approved,
he returned to his fill of exterior views,

of summer stretching, there below,
of the day reeling in, of longing shadows.

He called them to wash, hollered from the house,
the garden relaid by their boots on the mat.

As a fight broke out in the downstairs bog,
he travelled, returned, to his brother’s love,

that punch of youth, tested again and again,
of everything around them, a smaller world then,

no internet, no screens, no loose connections.
He put food on their plates, and matched expectations.

This Sunday

Call out for the dead, mark the London doors,
a plague on our house which the politic adore.

There is no cure, no treatment, but Gods,
their calls for death, Grails and Jihads.

Our children see men doing harm unto others,
our children are assured that God is among us.

This waking Sunday, more holy work,
tell me of a sermon using honest words.

Kabul, 90

This week in Kabul
the angel of death
rolled through the city
to cause distress,

to dig a space
blown by one man’s fuse,
on bloodied streets,
to pay God his dues:

This could be you,
in country or town,
this could be us
laid flat by God’s bomb.

But also consider
why we are targeted,
why we cower,
now fear-addicted.

0.3c 2100

It’s the laziest retreat in US history,
that of the bought into a sold misery,
to remove from accord with everything to lose,
an old battle plan of an oiled-up whore:

Sat at his desk, fingering fat contracts,
letting frackers suck dry our one planet,
because the POTUS doesn’t give a jack,
he’ll f*ck us all with this one man act.