Any High Street

It has become a confusion
of charity store drop offs –
butted to trim nail bars
and empty estate agents –
and now this English town
has a gaudy tanning shop

The bench-rested watch
the parading mothers –
taking note of the too-bared
shoulders and legs
the unnatural colour
of those buggy shovers –

these age-anchored repeat
their Daily Mail complaints
about floods of immigrants
as the pale-faced punters book
to turn brown in the new salon
of not-very-English tans.

Dents

Hide me away
with a tumble of words
and do not release
the briefest of hugs

Under thickening armour
that won’t be removed
you wear that breastplate
of hardening blood

And I picked the wound –
pulled back half scabs
which makes you flinch
at this offer of love

The slice across us
is deepest when drawn
by your quick furled edge
of blunted retorts.

The Long View

I’ve relocated my drawing desk –
we lugged it to the front room
where it hogs the bay window
with the intended long view

I now spot parents and fat kids
off to retail therapists with bags –
I watch them plod down the slope
to then return – to ascend slacked

My foreground is neatly fenced
by neighbouring OAP purgatory
where septuagenarians snooze
in the blind-fitted conservatory

There none visit the anchored few
who shimmy on wheels and frames
to and from their short destinations
of bed to table and then board games

My own rest home is a slow torture
of afternoon sunlight through glass
but it is my now my preferred option –
I have a better canvas – of sorts.

The Lanes

The local lanes have been narrowed
by the thickening of nature’s ripeness
The scabbed tarmac routes are reduced
by the slow encroachments of greenery

Each blind corner is an increased fear
but still taken in third gear at over forty
as if TE Lawrence had never died
on such a cluttered route as this

Summer is an alien with her land grab –
her low leaf boughs weighty obstructions
which hide rotted bodies and tossed litter
until the rape of leaves under winter

I drive between my rural commitments
of drop-offs and collections along roads
which were never designed for our speeds
nor any misjudged braking distance

GMT

I used to reset my watch
when flying over la Manche
An engineered engagement
of small clicks and twists –
spinning hours from the east
to Greenwich Mean Time

Our first rented house
was about a hundred yards
from that scientific mark
which cut a line through
my old school atlas
of blushed exaggerations
and empirical remains

This trip was a reset trick
of handheld smart devices
which knew the differences
and needed no fingernails
to lift the watch’s crown
and turn back lost time

The Crossing

The night’s timed howl outside
is of another wheel-rattled diesel
slowing over the level crossing
which is now closed to us

It reminds me of the distance
which we can no longer walk –
out to the suburb’s grip around
the kibbutz’s old burial ground

As if a sacred place can be safe
in this country of rude expansion –
of tightened grips on settlements
and the troubling of neighbours

They blocked the road over the line
and so all remebrance is diverted
via town in a short car journey
of blasting air and Arab music

The lock is turned against rust
and we the gatekeepers follow
the steps to where death rests
in this scalped remnant of other lives

The dead are watched over not by God
but those who live in the high blocks –
the commuters and the city workers
who pass these crumbled bones

on each day’s journey to and from
their own short hell of Tel Aviv’s pull
They pass my brother’s white grave
without knowing how far he travelled.

To Deny

That preterist way
of completed schemes
here sound as raw
as infants’ screams

I watch the place
where parakeets nest
in weighted boughs
they make protests

Those trees which grew
a heightened shade
on this claimed place
which Jews re-made

The pool’s loud shouts
a stone’s throw there –
to that shared space
we now repair

Here parents stand
in thigh-deep games –
their inflated kids
play out their day

Widdershins

‘The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming’ Isaiah 14:9

I have turned against the world’s clock
and her perpetual request for following
and found myself with my back to her sun
My shadow’s stain laid like the Long Man

I am that untouched layer which obscures
but which time will shift again and again

I am part gnomon – being so subdued
that a blackbird lands in my cast of darkness

This shaded life is mine to command
as I take on the correctness of watchfaces
and counter the arguments for my decline
which are under the thin mantras she sings

I will cleanse with the Rephaim around me
in the baths in which my brother washed off
his own reductions in the last of his living world
and I will not take on her sour sung calls.

A Man of the Last Century

You were balanced on a bar stool
balanced on a bar
as ambivelent south Londoners
watched you play guitar –
Tooting had never seen the like before

You ripped down a poster
from the high brick wall
and lugged the trophy back
We found it curled in the hall –
Terminator 2 in Gassiot Road

The wild night you leapt from
bonnets of parked cars
leaving your shoe prints
evidently marked –
the coppers took you in

We poured back pints in the
Whores and Gloom
kidding the tired nurses
we were the gifts in the room –
the Northern Line shook the urinals

The mother of your children came
and took you away
our child removed
to North London’s sober ways –
I have never seen the like again.

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

A Letter Home

I do not see this shaded life ending –
that which is being set forth by you
A plan of my restraint from expectation

to make me more comfortable
in a low shelter erected inside our home –
to protect you all from my hideous storms

I will not be laid out in the front room
in a God-awful wake of thirty years –
my very meaning slept away each night –

making daylight a drawn prelude to sleep
That is not my life – it cannot be the way
to feed my dignity and the thought of me

A Weariness

Over three decades ago I lived
under this ridge and these roof tiles
of repeatedly cast red clay

They were more malleable days
when constant change was good
and my future still had thirty years

From under these timber beams
Chris was removed before his fiftieth year
A weariness tinged with amazement

Perhaps Camus – or my tired words
will lift the eyes of my children to life
I sip my Arabic coffee as Israel growls

The Foreigner

This sun on me is a cure
helping my nails grow
and burning off that skin
which had been flaking

I am the foreigner
who scares the small kids
with his Englishness
and chrome walking stick

Older residents recognise
my dead brother in me
and stop to talk – or more
A grandmother touched my face

I read books the wrong way round
was one child’s observation
My kin have my eyes and brow
and are shocked by this mirror