The Neighbours

It was the caller ID
which daunted
for a moment
a selfish part of me

I went next door
to the possible passing

the one when I found
my neighbour’s
sick wife had died

But through ajar openings
and by calls aloud
I met her
alive
under scab formations

She had fallen
we all will
on a blood-marked rug
and had been hurried
to A&E

Patched

Now back
retuned to this bedroom
with supplements scattered
her able state was propped

Broken

I left to cut ham sandwiches
and delivered their meal
later
with an apologetic cough

Tea at Charleston

A heavy shower traps me
it bolts me inside the car
under the fry of rain on roof

I am returned to campsites
and useless kagoules
those flimsy foldable coats

The windscreen streams
with hundreds of floods
and another revisit

when I was pressed
to the panes in my bedroom
where
on the wettest of days
the only sport was teasing
the fattening condensation
into vertical rivers
with my breath as mist

I find
the tearoom is closed

Sussex opens on Tuesday

Coffee in Brighton

For LB

First the shuffled shopper’s fanfare
that rasp of chair feet on pavement
and then finding a place for my phone
whilst not spilling my lip-high coffee
which measures
like a spirit level
my ability to perform the simplest things

In that fifteen minutes of talk
your beautiful honesty made me admit
that I have been a slowed down fool

The loud gulls swept around us
as they have always done in Sussex
those opportune white vultures
which pick and steal the best bits

You said that girls had been feeding them
down in the Pavilion Gardens
I have been feeding mine for too long

A Place to Sit

His round carver’s mallet
rung out vibrations
and workbench chimes
as he forced his chisel
into the oak

Other redundant tools
hung
shelved
and sung with the whack and saw

We talked about art and ecology
and how they could combine
as he formed his perfect edges
against nature’s aged grain

He was crafting a bench
one commissioned to sit
in Alfriston’s book store

No plans or dimensions to hand
because this was true art

We compared the unwritten notes
of our marriage dissertations
and found that such study
provides no long term rewards

Skin

This skin on my foot
is turning to scales
like that creeping carapace
worn by her grandfather

His octogenarian husk
was raw
flaking
as if spun adrift on the sea
and salt-burnt

The old campaigner held court
in a Surrey nursing home

This was thirty five years ago
His layers of dust
His remnants in that room
have long been hoovered up

Ghosts

They say that there is a ghost
in every old house

That frigorific forms will rise
to meet with warm blood
and damp bones

an attraction

almost a magnetism

It is beyond any control

Love is a heavy haunting
which we meet unexpectedly
in bars and dark bedrooms

The ghost I knew was cold

which I did not tell the kids

She troubled the shadows
of our chattering family home

Late in the night I would run
three flights of stairs
Yes
me
the adult
fucking scared

The Secret

There are a thousand secrets
which cannot now be told

withheld in run-down hearts
and haunting tenebrous souls

He poured from the heavy bottle
that wine which was not blood

and broke the mouldy bread
to help soak the alcohol up

His life was changing shape
with the cut of floods and falls

all plots of pensions and peace
were not his
to now afford

He emptied that rattling bottle
of a pharmacist’s last count
and took his heartburn secrets
to a place upon the couch

No note
no one to read it
no confidences to be read aloud

Instead his pain passed silently
and his breath stopped in an hour

Ripped

I read of the theft
of a golden reliquary
which held the dead heart
of Anne of Brittany

They stole the Queen’s case
from the Dobrée museum
The bold theft of this viscus
raised local opprobrium

The measure of its value
isn’t in its gold plate

Now they ask of the Knave
to bring it back complete

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/15/queens-heart-gold-stolen-french-museum/amp/

Cutting Out

I step out to an evening’s aura
to West Park’s dark-cut recovery

of trim lawn-strimmed flora
now sliced to a fragrant enquiry

and I reply to a text’s posit:
Have they helped you
to a conclusion?

Which my stepdaughter
kneads and beats
in a knuckled-down confusion

I give her my finite answer
(as I do to each upset offspring)
I need to move out.. to be kind to

Then I thrashed my walking stick
amongst the white-sat flowers

and then I cracked it on the red bricks
of this house of sucked-off hours

World War

That was a beer-warmed evening
underlined by an obese burger –
I avoided my return to the house
which echoed to a party of kids
and the small dog’s commands –

In the kebab shop they cooked –
just for me –
as the Turkish news feed rolled –
and on my phone Syria choked

Again – in Elizabeth Gardens
I was all alone
with my paper-wrapped chips
whilst varied kids wandered past –
So pissed off
followed by a lad who spits

And the ever-question hung –
Was I such a teenage-shit?
We all spat out many things –
The bin’s basket greeted me
into which I tossed
the greasy chip wrapper –
Nothing else smiled so much tonight

 

E241018

I wear it like a suit

It is always
your quick precedent –
You will be angry
with me –

It makes me to be
a monster –
A cruel judge
of misfortunes –
Is it said to put me
in my place
and I succumb
to an absolution
with my assurances
of serenity
to douse your
flagged fuck-up
and to shroud
my own frustrations

 

The Dark Room

They appeared on my phone
in a series of texts

those photos of photos
you unearthed in a drawer
of our kids fifteen years before
we announced this ending

I wanted to steal those times
which chemistry had made
in the development of them
into glossy
but now cracking captures

My childhood remains
in one school photograph
alongside my brothers
one dead
one not talking

And in one other print I keep
of my father
holding me upright on a pony

His hand (for once) holding on to me

The Thames

I drag my wooden ride
to where the water lies

to that lowest of tides
before the tsunami’s rise

I rowed the swift Thames
with blistered palms
and calves of dark blood
where the runners harmed

We swam with the current

avoiding the crafts

in that summer of love
in which I held the shaft

Nothing has changed
as I push out this skiff

Nothing will alter

I have nothing to give

Un

We will discuss disconnections –

such things we must trust

in this poker face card place
of marriage-discourse

We will flip expectations –
like a shark wrists the deck

We will turn the dealt hand
counting down to slow death

Our marriage is skewered
on the spun-turned spit

here both parts are scorched
now the heat has ripped

Our future fixes divide

to avoid offspring hurt

No one is to blame
as the pain now burns

The Fairway

For SJB Thank you

The forced rise behind gorse
drops to mud trick dips and turns

quick to take us out of sight
until the dogs return at pace
in bramble-wrapped coats

They failed to catch rabbits

A bench waits upon my warmth
as the walk meets itself halfway

For five minutes the dogs are missing

Our fear of sheep
and a double barrelled farmer
drops
unsighted
with their bounding return

All the time our heads spin
with driven thoughts
earlier said
of where this walk will take us

I touched your arm
and said something
which neither of us heard

Fortnite

My son parachutes
into a zone

I think

as his mate chats
from another place

and they exchange advice

It is another vernacular
‘Let’s go greasy’ is agreed

Talk of killing and guns
is no different to my games
over Easter fortnight
forty-five years ago
when our cold war was
a whispered fear
and our battles were real
making bruises and blood
off loaded pebbles and sticks

Box Set

We are drunk-slumped
drugged by red wine
and the wide screen
into the L-shaped sofa

that and the sequential playback
of episodes long ago watched

It is a life now rewound
made so unstoppable
by a misplaced remote

Time no longer exists
for us
the once-tuned
to watersheds and news
played only on the hour

We don’t pace ourselves
with the TV breaks

Instead it’s consumed
in bibulous retakes