A (Steam) Fair Diagnosis

I noticed the tremor in his hand
which seemed to be driven
from his bone-high wrist

as if he were deftly turning
an invisible threaded nut
and spinning it quick
up to the bolt’s bare shank

His wife’s coffee was spilling
in that grip as he turned to me
and she took the tepid remnants

He smiled and announced
his own diagnosis just that week –
but he knew it well before –
how unwell he was becoming

The engineering marvels rolled by
under the sure wheel and steer
of coke-puffed mechanics

Each boiler and firebox was riveted
or screwed and wrenched as one
We tremored as the showmen rumbled

Tractor Histories

They were parked in two lines
but not quite furrow straight

We walked through the
static display of old tractors

I read out the name plates of
those dearly beloved brands
now green and red patinas
over mottled paint and flaking rust

Rested greased beasts – loved or kicked
– depending on the maintenance

But my youngest wanted shade
and showed no interest in such things

Echo

He was moved down
to ‘The Departure Lounge’
and we were reduced
to the daytime whispers
of his night duty shifts
as required ten years earlier

but then Dad was dying
and his bed was grounded
almost as if the next stage
was another eased lowering

Three decades on
and I now look to a room
which is equally flawed
but my expected years
are not that finite reduction
of a terminal Illness

I struggle with this shift
from first floor to ground
but it will make life easier
for all in our household
I say I struggle with this shift

I, the Draughtsman

‘The Irish have the greatest command
of the English language’ Discuss
Some West Indian poets may disagree
as would others from further ports
of our whore-explored tongue

This waking moment lets me wander
in a drunken reverie the words of Wallcott
but I haven’t dropped a touch in a week
apart from that sip of gin and tonic
which I was asked to consider for taste

In the house children clunk on floorboards
and the eager dog patters and follows them
My eyelids measure the paucity of my sleep
Later today my fatigue will make a grand entrance
just as I need to be alive to connect the lines

The Winchester Goose

He would pay in cowry shells
and barter for love with time
as they exchanged such currency
the lies they laid made lines

She lay outside the liberty
of the clink and London’s wall
reducing down the value of
his late night wide-net hauls

The orders placed by princes
through their messengers and men
took her eyes from their line
and back to Bankside friends

Of Time

Our histories sit with us –
those unwelcome ghosts
We should not regret
their passing – that loss
If we foolishy embrace
unto any such crowd
then their knife – their gang
will bring us down

We should extinguish the flame
with wet finger tips
and promise the present
that the past has no grip
I am alone in these moments
taking each as my last –
secure that my future
is now planned by chance

Only Being

I convalesce under the counterpane
with the play of evening birdsong
and that blood rush roar of jets
lifting the propped sash higher

The late light on the roofline tiles
is almost that Mediterranean red
against the flat chalk-blue sky
but I am rolled up in Sussex

The same songs will find me
waking in the same place
as the light and sky are turned
and the curtains are ripped

Then this moment will return
of me laid low by the small efforts
which others do not notice –
I have lost the art of only being

Checks

Earth Wind & Fire boogie
in the muted waiting room
But no one dances here

Adverts for vaginal creams
and local dry cleaners
rotate on the large screen

A mother instructs her kid
The patience in her command
fails for ‘naughty little girls’

An elderly couple openly flirt
in the propped-wide doorway
and exchange a loud kiss

My hands turn numb and stiffen
as I wait my turn for ten minutes
of a qualified person’s attention

Luna

‘Slumped’ would be a good description
of my state after the coffees were delivered

I cried as little as I could as we dissected lives
which crossed and recrossed around us –

like those thousand circling aircraft overhead
with thousands again also slumped in the sky

The restaurant was empty enough for tears
and for private speeches about why I cry

I am now the sad old man in this odd kinship

A Man in White

As I dropped over Falmer
I sped past a man in white
who was bent-double
among the weighted hedges

The descent past the stadium
was a collision of thoughts –
it then offered a roundabout
and i doubled back to offer

I rehearsed my approach
reminding myself of the place
and how I would have to slow
with hazards
with a wound window

But there was no man in white
in the place
only the waving of branches
under the charge of turbulence
no one on the untrod grass

From the Gift Shop

In the dream there were scatterings
of things you had bought and then kept

Small gifts from a trip which were never given –
a sprinkle of purchased intentions

I bent with ease to pick each one up
and being of sleep they adjusted
to become other things and other thoughts

On waking I re-assembled the slim moments
from yesterday that my slept mind had touched

– I had briefly looked at a snapped picture of you
from that shortness of unschooled innocence
that age when we inhabit a world so small

– I sat in the sun on a hard garden bench
with my awareness shrunk to that of children
into only considering that which I could see –
down to that hemisphere of no more than a step

– Momentarily I had thought about a family trip
That was a rarity then and more so now

– An ugly fly landed on my emptied plate
but there was a jewel’s quality to the intricacies
of the fly’s translucent wings and rolled eyes –
an emerald’s glint as it fed on microcosms

We no longer stride the globe of our forbears –
that inheritance which childhood soon sheds

Our interests and eyes wander too wide
and so we stop seeing into the eyes of flies

Eating Out

Grown men nibble on ice cream cones
as a Chinese woman commands her dog
and two girls giggle whilst playing crazy golf

Below Volk’s Electric Railway
I drink coffee and watch the planet rotate

On the horizon the wind turbines move
to the onshore whip of nature into wire –
giving us that current and difference
which the rattling train line absorbs

Forever connecting nothing but thrills
the steel and iron of Brighton Pier
creates another kind of consumption

I fear for the woman with her stacked tray
of chips and teas as she crosses the beach
The gulls here are quite mordacious