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

Baht

That exotic coin
which sits on the sill
has no value here –
a measure of nothing

It has no function
now it is removed
from foreign change
for goods
for food

My recall of the heat
and sweated steps
have an equal value
being worth nothing
unless exchanged

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

Wedding Rites

The small streets of Windsor are sparkling today
it helps that the homeless were moved on their way

Union flags limp overhead – bought online for thirty quid –
as the old – the young – the poor
the ill – wait patiently – right until

The rich – the landed – the toffs –
the Dukes – pass them by – up high –
so aloof

Then roads are re-opened to one and all –
the returning beggars lay out their stalls

Once more in England there’s a tale to tell –
How a town was reduced to a right royal hell

 

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

Sip

The way I sipped
from my coffee cup lid
made me form
the pout of a kiss
and the contact
was almost instant
like the ripe recall
from a perfume
taking one back
to an off-map moment
And that shape
took the bitterness
held in the cup

Workshop Lines

These words are also chiselled
but it is still an easier art
than his hammer and tilt

His eye is in the oak’s own grain
at cuts and gouges to open –
as my vowel sounds now close

This floor is a drift of cuttings –
those slimmed timber edits
out of which his art unfolds

My on-screen deletions
do not pile high in corners
but are only known to me

Weather Warning

This apprehension rumbles –
one only audible to me?

I fear the threat of loneliness
Of old age’s inherent adage
being forced by the separation
which is executed under my hand
but has been otherwise decreed

I fear finding that all time has gone
and is then a compression to death
and then the flatline without recovery

I fear for the future of my children
because we have stolen their hope

I fear someone finding me frozen
in a bed
or chair
without them knowing me well

Planning Permission

I look up at in-need houses
but have to correct myself
as I do when I see the hills –
they are no longer
in my striking distance

My perspective is robbed
being weighed by the weights
which are my lead boots –
these heavily polished toes
which are re-scuffed by this

You see me slowed on the street
but still smile at our lives
and take me out to get drunk
as families quietly fall apart

There is no reason to fail on this
quite inglorious road trip
unless you get fucked
by an incurable illness.

A History Lesson

In my hand a precis of histories replayed
as my online device itches with faces
which I recognised even thirty years on

They strung off the first connected link –
One of a woman who had seduced me
because she had seduced them too

A continuum from which I had dropped –
from the connections which they still maintain
but are now set aside from me – cauterised

even though I was a part of it
albeit for a poor summer

But I was never one of the gang
being a latecomer to the fruits
and the well-trod intimate knowledge
which still binds them to that youth

My Generation

There’s cash to be screwed off this ageing population
of us the near-needy – the to-be-nursed generation

Flyers and ads freefall from the ‘papers
promotions galore to entice us old-agers

Walk-in baths with a seat for tired pins
and packaway loos – such convenient things

Save now for your funeral and reduce the high cost
Insure your fucked body – shield your kids from a loss

They’ll sell off the house and divide the proceeds
Now dead your true worth – two holidays to Greece.

The Delivery

I am driving slowly to your place –
well under the national speed limit
because there is no more rush
to arrive – to park up – to be there –

I am returning with the fourth nail
which a poor blacksmith forged
for a death and his condemnation –
but I cannot deliver it now

I step from the car with less art
because I no longer bear my weight
without a graceless poke of a stick
combined with planned landings

‘The sharpest will pierce his lung’
his feinting mother was told
of those tempered metal pins –
one of which I now hold

Care

What is he listening to today

the lad with the headphones

which are always on his head
as he strides to and from
the care home up our road
on seemingly shorter shifts

and forever fagging between them

then back
back to that commitment
in that same dark combination
of youth half-beard and sour look?

Knife Crimes

I had sliced open my thumb
peeling flesh to fish-white bone –
but the unexpected incision
refused to well and bloom

Caesar took over twenty cuts –
and may still have survived –
but the one knife that killed him
stopped his heart – and then his life

I was stabbed by your fingers
and by your loud blunted tongue –
I pressed at my open wounds
to catch the crimson run

Then I raised my whetted blade
to your bared narrow back –
and plunged it so deeply
that your spine was duly snapped

Hyde Road, Manchester

Malpas Street was assailed
in a sustained assault –
once the Neo-Liberals
took this city and the port

The remaining red terraces
of parallel-lived lives
then flattened by politics –
sold short by Tory lies

The bus rolls so slowly
over holes in Hyde Road –
then past the brick islands
of bust industrial gods

Near the church of football
I pass grim social housing –
No one wipes their doorstep –
we only swipe our devices


E150119

 

 

The Wedding Guest

Two contrails cross over Croydon
as a childish whispered kiss
a wedding party walks the aisle
of this train to London Bridge

The bride is dressed all in black
carrying a bunch of flowers
and her rich perfume fills the train
as she necks a bottle of cider

The twenty minute reception
of small talk
of drunken laughs
of the booze flowing as water
to her lips and to her heart

 

 

Virgin England

‘Get permission from the ticket office
to travel on this train’
sums up this queue-fat England
of intransigence and new rules

Here staff cannot show emotions
or make their own on-the-hoof decisions

The green biro’d ticket was waved on
an hour later by a shrugging millennial

Class resides on trains and in politics
those two parallel English antiquities
which feed off each other
and equally upset the low users of both

The woman serving in the galley
of processed food did so with a smile

That was my only uplifting Virgin moment
.