Home Improvements

Your buck of a builder arrives
in his sign-written truck
they belong
to your dull stepfather –
both the van and the man

and in your imagination
you have used his hands –
calloused – to fix things
in your mind – everyone knows
how these things develop

You returned from a night in Brighton
red-eyed – smelling of men –
of booze and wrecked
He had driven you and your sister
home
Such a gent

She Said

I will carry on as normal –
as that is all I have

I will listen to your requests
but not adhere to any said

I hope you approach my acts
with a more rational mind

I am not ‘heartless and nasty’
and I’m not ‘breezing around’

The situation – as it stands –
is untenable for everyone

So she said – poker-faced
not listening to anyone

The Chair

My fumbled-for decision of whether
to sit in my reading chair with my back
to my slow-to-rotting bay windows
took rare time to work out –
to atone

Do you face out –
sit there on show?
Or settle –
reversed to that view
with a low sun on any held book

But then not ideal for bright screens

So besort my riposte in that still-hunt

Only read off unpowered paper –
take bright retreats –
stay offline –
turn your chair from poking eyes –
write unplugged from all devices –
and leave biscuit crumbs
on well-thumbed pages

My chair can swivel

Field Studies

We swam before fish
in that meandering
gutter of long runoffs
down from Kemble
in our eel-shone skin –
equal by breaststrokes
and coloured cold white
like a pair of split cod

I waited for you to lift
yourself from her wet veil –
a single upper body heft
in to warm air – mine to hold
from my low water-trod
vantage point – I’m not cold
and what a fabulous sight
Your butt-naked curves

Not mine to touch – to cup
Only when you have agreed
was my tugged at adage
But your own quick greed
countered my willyard ways
A few days later we rolled –
feeling almost drunk enough
and readied to break out

in an untouched pasture
of crackling dry grasses –
as our bare backs arched
But then we left untouched
What came next could not –
not then – it wasn’t in our reach
Not until older years of beers
and then hard sex on sofas

His Last Leaf

Frank Ormsby rarely writes –
only now by medicated spurs

set quick to the side effects
and his drugged obsessiveness

which are my nowhere-near-equals
to his northern placed verse

No more lined up by his diluted voice
Loud Frank left it at school

He opens up his vowel larder
of self-affirming stories

His Rasagiline’s rattle is double
of my dose – no ghosts yet

in the corner of my eye to fade
as Frank’s stand on his laid table –

then they briefly sit alongside him
until slipped back into mindful spaces

Frank works to avoid word boredom
with a poet’s fear of word silence

Horde

Nobody knows
how to garner –
we do not leave
one of the clutch
to encourage more
for sure provision

Take everything
is what we teach
of gathering ways –
we will decimate
as if our suck on
that last pulled bone

of a flightless bird
was an easy meal
Our blinkered rapacity
rolls through to sit
as stinking stools
for our kids to shift

The Riverside Cafe – Lewes

That water-spinning hum
in The Riverside Cafe –
of draining dishwashers
and coffee machines –
is a prized white noise
needed by me to settle –

along with that welcomed
departure of a too-loud family
of urgent asks – of walking plans –
to wear their little monsters
down nice and early
before unscrewing the wine

Counting clouds passes time
My children are left behind
and all my responsibilities
are dropped – as sticks off a bridge
Like letting go of wobbled bikes
Of not having to have an answer

Perhaps this areads my ageing
among us beige men of Waitrose
Perhaps this is my highest point –
aged fifty-five – twice divorced –
waiting at cafe tables to be served
by staff worth much more than me

My stick is impossible to store
in such retail places – a hook is needed
to hang my support – to stop it tripping
up those young bucks in aprons
Or I may lay it out at a reasoned angle
to trip those fuckers up

Fruits and Suites

We washed in an avocado-coloured bath –
we had never tasted that foreign fruit
back in nineteen-seventy-two – or three –
we were lucky to get to peel tangerines

It was a plastic suite – uneasily creaking
with our scales of weights of our pre-teen
occasional visits – each darkly recorded
by layered rings of both dirt and soap –

but warm with the water – no cold steel
or enamel suck – a discomfort favoured
by our TV-fashioned homemakers –
but – one hears – green baths are back

A Step-father’s Advice

They will spit forth
foam-flecked hints of hate*
to rattle old angry folk
by distractions – to vote –
it is as if Enoch Powell
were no longer dead –
as high-born cussing –
upper-class meddlers –
play the lack-Latin fools
to the baying stalls
and set off marchers
to resurrect working-class
empirical values
of tipped flat caps
to the lovely guv’nor
whilst we Remain-bowed
middle-classes – struggling
to foot our rising guilt –
doubly weighted by costs
of over-consumption –
turn our attention off
Do not enter politics
without a deep wallet


*I’m no longer Nasty, but please stop lying
about Nice by Boris Johnson’,
Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2002.
Thanks to Fintan O’Toole


Les Sonnetts Luxurieux

Is this her ultimate
act of sadomasochism –
his rest of days of pain?
Is his reply allowed

before her face down lies –
taking it from behind
which are – for others – kinks
and well-hidden discomforts

She pleads her case of cruelty
when such cruelty was her cut
and thrust by strangers’ cocks –
no matter what it cost

Claim innocence in such art
of milking men of all shapes
She craves to smell of roses
She wears her crown of thorns

which she pulls down – tighter –
enough to make a hundred blooms
Her sweetly-bled lacerations
are red jewels adorning her skin –

also worn within as rough scabs –
to peel off by her recall’s pull
That delicacy of altered memories
is her art to serve and savour

Farming Today

Under Glynde’s grey turbine
I know I am irrelevant

It is as if my chest’s creaks
are now unsure ship timbers

set grinding by lifts and turns
of blown low pressures

Her blades swoon over us
in that signature revolution

She asks of me a greater effort
to stand for any time in her shadow

Can you find a name for her grab
and snaffle of another westerly?

Words hurt you – they are your
turned blades in your turned head

And this act of standing upright –
above Gote Farm – is my anchoring

on these Downs of compromises
made between giving and taking

A Calling

It was a pile of bare facts
offered on thumbed A4 papers
She searched it whilst
suffering from acute self-diagnosis

but could only uncover Diverticulitis
there typed out and slid between
other printed sheets
filed in black dust-lined trays

whilst an old boy too-loudly
then too-brightly – grutched
far too-noisily about
his own complaint to a nurse

Consultants’ rooms
are time-flawed monasteries
of waiting – of slow duties – with prayer
and others’ voices bound to

callings to blind-pulled cells
in which our tired priests sit
But this is my wife’s summoning
to another saint-named place

And – again – an absolution follows
That necessary shrift to solve
discomforts set under our skin
and over our lives

and we are lucky – we leave
without having to see higher gods
for a second opinion
This referral is her small miracle

Smoke Over Paris

Their Lady of Paris burnt
in one online afternoon
Her re-imagined spire
tipped to robes of smoke

like a bloodied lance
in surrender – once more –
to politics and holy battles
in a kindless fog of war

Her heated metals ran
as dark beaded sweats
from her swealing heights
to leave cooled scabs

of Saint Thomas – and others –
spattered across worn stones
under her collapsed transept
Those slabs will be saved

with high relics – rescued
from clouds above la quatrième
No puzzle of scattered ashes –
France has her couronne d’épines

Competitors

Our house complains
of his heavy feet overhead –

quick as excited heartbeats
but then still-stopped

to my gone voice in our play
of Grandmother’s Footsteps

once commanding my son
to fix and freeze under

my quick look – that thrill
in his lost childhood – testing

his parents by such stealth
was an unplanned rehearsal

for these sometimes-days
of eggshell steps around us

We players of an adult game
without a joyous winner

Killing Time on Sunday

You can kill time so quietly
in Waitrose’s busy car park
backed up at the shady end –
a wide view of the comings
and goings of happy shoppers –
with – and without – rattled trolleys
in this life of filling and re-filling
kitchen shelves and freezers
in readiness for family visits
and too-successful relations
who never bring any decent wine
Let us pray for a seemly Sunday

Not Undressed

Last night there was
an uncured intimacy
between three old lovers
of common threads
These damaged nights
are my fluid playground
of sex and rekindled
offset stuff – old urges
and displaced motives
which will take this day
to loosen off and unknot
from that second place –
reached far too early
when nightmares broke
whilst I was still dressed
and bound by my state
of delayed readiness
for those long night’s game
of subconscious plays

Other’s Endings

She said she resented him
swanning around
and her wearing fears
of his limped inability
to earn that old income
no longer kept her
tied to their settle bed

Instead – she rolled over
onto another handyman
for his stiffness to press
into her loosened skin
and for his shadowed face
to take her excited stench
to feel some connection

Afterwards – she said
it could’ve gone either way
when admitting her part
She bet on a wrong result
She needs so very much –
be it a ninety-pound man
or a fat promissory note

Redacted Vows

This ripped-up body
of our scarred marriage
can still live – even now
by each reducing breath
of old vows and love

if we do not talk
if we do not scream
mis-weighted words
but instead stick
to honesty on paper

Such measured prints
can be re-scaled
through that rare craft
of self-censorship –
it will take time to bide

Words Burn

VLADIMIR: You should have been a poet.
ESTRAGON: I was. [Gesture towards his rags.]
Isn’t that obvious. [Silence.] 
Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett

A whole ninety-eight cents
have recently been credited
to my low-tide bank account
from Yanks’ penny clicks

on my must-do-better lines
in newly-hewn sob stories
without no strummed blues
which now appear to appeal

to a slew of red neck readers
who enjoy my so inconstant
complaints – in blank verse –
about my current former wife

A true trailer park tale – he typed
We are all trash novel writers
Burkowski still raises a drink
to the 3-year-old’s who’ll never meet

because his words burn
like my continued condition
and we shall meet – Charles and me
downstage without direction

Waiting Rooms

You’re not qualified enough
by your distrust of cocaine
and an ageing disinterest
in disreputable bedrooms

Stay in – keep it straight
and look after your kids –
make sure good things
happen on time for them

whilst others party
wearing white moustaches –
All those kissing cousins
bringing elephants into

relatives’ sitting rooms –
ones already disturbed
by dementia’s whisking
of related recollections

You will find a distance
in your moved-to postcode –
in new waiting rooms –
and by flexing your dignity

The Loose Path

Seeing our lover despondent and in crisis, in tears and unable to cope can reassure us that,
for all their virtues, they are not alienatingly invincible
.
Alain de Botton

Those seven slabs lie – unevenly
spaced on the gravel path

cheaply formed concrete squares
instead of hewn stone tablets

setting all visitors’ strides equal
for their entries and exits

between this falling house
and the latched wooden gate

On number three you stood
and wept too loudly

because of your recent choices
and how they will set you off

from our semi-detached weight
of bricks and faux-stone faces

out to temporary rooms
But that is your own elevation

and your tears will not dilute
my resolution to see our ending

Use those loose stepping stones
to aid your welled-up blindness

I will count out
your seven gone strides

An Exhibition in London

‘I paused feeling exhausted and leaned on the fence…
My friends walked on and I stood there trembling with anxiety’.
Edvard Munch

There is a new exhibition
We should go
but Edvard’s far away church
and distorted pier will be unreachable
in my time of heightened anxiety

She had me put my own hands
to my head to mute her yawps
as her tirades lined the air –
set parallel under nature’s law

A coil of white flesh rolled back –
all of an inch – as deep as the edge
of steel that had lifted my skin
My wrist did not bleed – not at first
There are my insides
said in my as-child voice
And then the bloom exploded

That scar is a faded masterpiece
from my repository of old times
of innocence by slowness –
before this acceleration of fear
coiled me up in her homely asylum

We will travel up to London Bridge
on another day
and move through huge galleries
and then find a coffee shop
where we can sit without speaking

Inconveniences

And she complained
loudly to herself
that this wasn’t
what I wanted

This marriage of
inconvenience
since his diagnosis
and reduced income

deflecting focus
from her inherited
sense of insecurity
One passed down

from one who
got around too –
as noted by relatives
looking inwards

at her admitted acts
to keep me sane –
forever locked in place
in an echo chamber

The Scent of People

Larner feared removal
of the scent of people
in crowded wiki articles

Dumb grazing animals
hardly move from hoof to hoof
with their heads down

At this bar
three men sit
before chemical beer
misdirected and under-lit

Tommy Robinson spits
as poor aims are raised
by squaddies at politicians

and three men take turns
to buy another Peroni
without exchanging words

We know everything
by what we read and watch
whilst bent to scent-free pastures

Of the Future

They took a hammer to Marx
It’s just another monument
nothing to get excited about
unlike that time Churchill’s
striding high cast of bronze
was fitted a turf wig which
sullied a great Englishman
who meant so very much
to those of lost empires
Do not mention his passing
resemblance to Mussolini
Two men of equal significance
but one man left disfigured
by cowards’ repeated strikes
by tool and boot upon his face

Thrown

Dare yourself to approach the Whispering Gallery’s
too-low balustrade and look down

Here his words
have been heard
by others
In my gut Dad’s
rum gift of vertigo
turns

It was first witnessed
by us all as we stood
before his loosened grip
up Leith Hill Tower

Now this cathedral’s
wall of death dome
kisses my ear
with a cold command
to drop

Tip yourself over to feel
that marble crack your struck head

In earlier years flying
was my dreamt gift
Sleep wasn’t a picked pit
of itches on my skin
with waking stiffness
in useless places

Throw yourself down – Michael

Now his vertigo is mine
taking my lost voice
It is not-quite heard
by my fearless children
when I see them high
on other parapets

Kids – I have my father’s old condition
and it urges me to leap from here

No Rest

Do not tarry for too many minutes
below Chanctonbury’s decimated
circle of silvered-skin beech trees
They were planted without regard
for any long-term fixing agreement
set fast to grow by a man’s measures
of water on their fragile root balls
There on disturbed nights
that dark copse is circled
by foul-mouthed flying guides
Above you in the weighted boughs
are stirrings of banshees and phantoms
as you tremble under battery lanterns
Too many whitened deep roots
screw through long-buried
druid bones and other scatterings
of now-forgotten Roman emperors
The trees endlessly finger through soils
disturbing turned souls with their tubers
once lost and unequal in life and death
but finding a rare settling of parity
under levels of pressed Sussex chalk
and now haunting your visit

Paperboy 1st April 1977

Here in this alarm-met half-lit hour
things still bide from other April Fools’ days

Do not forget failing spaghetti trees
on foolish reportage loops

Again those soft nudges on slow senses
of soote aromas off flowering bulbs
there drilled – then paraded by retirees

My sucking lungs hauled their scents
and cool air’s apparent emptiness
on my delivery round’s steep ascents
with a bag weighted by broadsheets

Even worse on Thursdays

Another run of The Surrey Herald
Thick – but relevant – before the internet

Impossible to fold in these gloves

Here at this tall window
slid up an inch or two
my increase in rigidity
dictates today’s route

Those sash counterweights
are strung through my arms

Still close – my childhood
of heaves and pumps of pedals
in that slog across Chertsey’s
seven low hills every morning

No more kneaded by a canvas strap
but instead rubbed by an illness
as I deliver my night-laid lines

Here at this window –
on this hill – in my hand
is my latest paper round
of rhyme-sour edits
with old ascents still considered

Pound Store

My authorised version
of the holy book
declares that avarice
will kill us all off
which we declaim aloud
being self-anointed
by those inner whispers
of our godhead voices
Our gor-bellied lives
of fulfilment are fed
by our sating purchases
drawn down from less
Our bounties are mounted
under rented roofs
which we brace with debts
bought from richer fools
A momentary fear
meets a mirrored mall face
a lost reflection
in our buying game
We have nowhere to store
next year’s seeds
Our homes are stockpiled
to meet instant needs
Our righteousness is always
hard at work
filling our lives
with meaningless worth

Warming

Each bared upper branch
is sunset-torched
oxidised
reddened
by that last touch of low light
off this third month’s fooling dusk
A slumped red hour

ending a widely-held disbelief
of an unexpectedly warm day
in March
once marked by late snow
but not by my fifth decade’s
birth date

now re-set by
summer’s early incremates

but we are equally annoyed
by a chill off this cooled evening
after sunburn at midday
in spring

A Courtesan in Croydon

Her mind was turned on
by cocaine and hard cocks
neither of which
she could get enough
In her parted silk gown
she would play her part
going down on men
to quicken their hearts
but not before
a fixed payment was made
and for two hundred more
he could enter unsheathed
A subtle glance at her watch
as he buried his tongue
because time is money
and another punter at one

That’s All Folks

We are suckled
on distortions
of God-given truths
before widescreen tales

Anthropomorphism Rules

Recall childhood absurdities
e.g. Tom and Jerry
showing ink-stained human ways
drawn on pets and pests

We squeeze other species
into a blender of credibility
Perhaps our normalised violence
was induced by cartoon irons

those height-dropped anvils
cast by Dastardly’s Muttley
alongside Disney’s kingdoms
of deviations from the norm

We have taken all naming rights
and re-arranged such old orders

No wonder
that we no longer see
any natural way in this world

Last Rites

Our common death knell
will gift all of its peals
to our last take of breath

when our slumping toil
over affairs and matters

played over three score
years and ten or less

is then too much to endure

whilst that loud exhalation
is a rush of dead air
of no known words

Do not let those priests
lecture my kids after this

Bee

Their massed die-offs
are merely statistics
fixed by white-suited
pollinators
in huge trucks of profit

who are forever re-filling
their hired-out hives
between pollen buyers
and ramping-up bee prices

Colonies will collapse
under modern diseases –
by man-spread illnesses
and by slicings of trade

Neonicotinoids may kill
the striped-arse armies –
but other – larger forces –
shade their sun-dance ways

Ah Wel-a-day!

This is my fifty-fifth year of birth
and on my over-rehearsed day
there are fewer cards and family
to mark my unintended arrival

This is a turn of further mistakes
made worse by another weight
set around my neck –
my huge bird which awaits blessings

but such luxuries are not sent –
not in time for unwrapping today
and not as easily bestowed gifts
to be untied from this tired birthday

A Crossing Point

We walk with affray as our guide
to find another crossing point
without repeating our last mistakes
and so putting all forms of trust
into reverberating beaters’ sticks –
our almost guileless diviners –
on stepped along routes laid
flat by others’ boots on
this meadow’s rush of grasses –
and not yet finding that stream
but – instead – standing alongside
a blown mead – a seed-top lake
of wind turned waves of green –
it talks to me of bared contact
between opposed forces –
of only compromise
in where to cross – If only
you could see

Chesil Beach

Will it ever happen? My voice falters
through this late illness
Oh to be reborn (higher)
as Mr Ian McEwan –

which is a fictional acclaim
of another person

Let us measure the worn pebbles
strewn by his ins and outs of moons
along his old pile – his stretched bank
of slipping shingle

See how his beached fishermen
can assume their sailed-to distance
away from where they launched off
just by looking at relative sizes
of landed on stones

like word counts – risen by worn tides
and daily changes of amplitude

He would not commit my fraud
of publishing self-edited works
Me – this writer of verse stories
sucking off my life of unsure
goings on

Florence – my guide who fumbles –
who will want to count out my medication
and place them in tight pill trays

We have drunk and spun
at London’s 100 Club
below brick-pressed soil
of Central London’s weight
lined in red from east to west
and back

again

We handled a soft give
of art’s sticks
which others call out as brushes
Now they are my voice

Her hands tremble when holding
blue porcelain before that tight vicar
who is leashed to his god by
a bleached-white collar

My strung semen and shame lies
on her virgin skin – a tugged garter
of exertions off cocksureness
I am Edward too-knowing
of only birdsong

led astray by my wife’s words
that we can live another life
of queers
by being separate – but still matched

Your married choice
was of a foolish husband
and an incomplete writer
Please read On Chesil Beach
to understand love

 

 

You Asked

What are you all doing tomorrow?
We are coping with disturbances
across gust-rippled dirtied ponds
and roughed-up gutter puddles

We misread momentary refractions
before off-centre concentric heights
roll into a greater tidal rise –
even in shallows where no one drowns –

not until now – Now
I want to sleep early – not to stay up late –
not to exchange tapped unpleasantries
on SMS to blast at my tired eyes

A month ago our empire was lost
to your tsunami shock –
It will be spun by folklore’s voice
whilst
we believe in love’s old ignorance

Henley Homes in Lambeth

It has now come to pass
children are set aside
before profitable hedges
to maintain London prices
over fixed social housing –
though their adverts stated –
common areas are there
for the use of all.. residents
This split capital sets
poor doors as markers
to keep rare palaces high
and beyond the reach
of most average born kids

The Reading Room

We are looking about
at a screen-stuck-to
silvered generation
of eye-glued viewers
in trawl-warmed hands

Those old phone huggers
sit logged in to online’s
click-bait refuge
of tittle-tattle and gossip
and foreign muckiness

under scrolled fingering
for rolled eyes of delight
and instant connectedness
to others’ risen anger

Those mobile surfers ride
on a curl of upper lips
and toothless sneers –
set high by published lies

The White Houses

White immigrants are less-than-wraiths
casting no dark shadows in fever-run minds
of spooked politicians and border racists –
unless they live under foreign beliefs

They are then disowned as aphotic threats
to be that very fear of more is now enough
to allay relayed anxieties by politics and gods
These raw mistakes of old law-making deities

is seen in the spittle on their trembled lips
of rage – which mouth against differences in skin
and hallelujah songs from howled minarets
and synagogues – prayers of sprayed bullets

come to such gatherings – spitting evil’s phlegm

A History of Sex Education

We were taught to label opened plants’ parts
in our relentless study of misunderstandings
and delayed innuendo – ’til later zitty years
of sniggered connections behind bike sheds

My youth was a scruffy hedgerow of wank mags –
naked bodies spread – stuck by god-knows-what
under skin-scoring brambles – in rotting stuff
Now real sex whiffs – it festers – dank openings

No more impossible nudity – just a moonscape
of cellulite – never seen on those peeled pages
of Razzle – or Mayfair – once tossed into lay-bys
by truckers at rest – timed by a tacho’ clock

Today it’s free online – stapled body parts gone –
Still stiffly-fixed shots under poor exposures –
Still fifty quid in used notes to bend to their lens –
Pages of sex get stuck in browsers’ histories

My education in these matters formally ended
when my interest in other things put such aside –
like a childhood hobby that should be curtailed –
grown men should not play with models or toys

A Wedding Reception

This wedding party has fallen off –
Even the guests have had enough –
Mrs.Glenross sleeps in the lobby –
The hotel staff are now long-lost

An untied best man sways
to a two-fingered eye of whisky
which will be regretted before dawn
His rocket fuel is measured in shots

A fallen hareem in ball gowns
show once-alluring cleavages
as they take their turn to drop –
poison is coursing through veins

How many spouses
will still be married
come this honeymoon’s
half-sober morning?

Shipping Forecasts

We will struggle for storm names
and typhoons will be numbered
in the Northern Territories

We will enjoy sequential weather
and buy rain and shade covers
in equal measure for such events

Extremes will be downgraded to normal
They will re-define old tide charts
re-draw shorelines and flood plains

But we will suffer drought and wildfires
through months of cracks and widenings
without the squibs of English summers

From across the channel tiny migrants
will swarm in the blown air to find succour
among failing crops in Kent’s dry garden

We will struggle with Biblical excesses
and nature in the new ways of weather
which we will not be able to name

The Bird Table

That waking ear-fill of true birdsong –
as if found – was in truth brought on
by my flickknife choice – by my cutting
at connections to streams and channels
full of self-satisfied chattering

My re-designed distance from others
is freeing me from time’s smother –
to clear air and breath – no misty poisons –
no more breathing in expunged words –
those wonder curls of sour exhalations

We had massed – no more pas seul
for crumbs – to sip at our shitted-in pool
of held rainwater and waded warm piss –
We were fattened on sour disturbances
which festered as their offered titbits

making us so sick – so we did not dare –
there – to old wintering in the warm air –
instead – we consumed – I am unable
to make it to your shared high place –
I am off – I no longer feed at your table

Fifty-five

Life has bleached my forehead to the bone

My alarm is set early
to nothing –
to a home solitude –
except for my youngest –
except for this word search
in my head
for that which is known –

it is known
and then decrepit thoughts
rattle loudly
over my grunting
down
each
stair –
So – fifty-five years of age
this month
but already the ghost
whom I fear

The Builder’s Mate

There – above taught plumb lines
and a bricklayer’s knowing eye
of gauged slaps to alignments –
parried like a joiner’s fine blade –
your men make up for your mistakes –
never measuring twice – you cut once
so badly that your deep footings flood
with run-offs from your mistakes
which I can no longer block by love –
My own eye is still good for lines
and building virtual palaces –
but my tooled efforts were not enough
to convince you of my true craft

Hampstead Heath

We scurried across NW3
but not the low-laid Heath
of bricked-ish village-ness
of idealised introversion –
with loquacious City views

No – We took the buff support
of metre-high teak bars
before the flow of beer taps –
erect like those glass towers
stood in that visible rotten mile

We ripped at the greenery
of London’s low-rooted life
Scarred and weeping skin
from middle-class weekends of
pottering was not ours to wash off

This city is a rubbed scab
which if picked will bleed
from its red core and then fester
until a dry canker kills it off –
Once for all – as the Bible says

We slept with different women
of various sizes and weights
and woke to awkward breaths
and memory loss – some things
are best left on Hampstead Heath

Outside Uckfield’s Picture House

Outside Uckfield’s Picture House –
it was offered up in black and white
as a step off the narrowed path
to then fall under a slab-grey car –

They’re always exceeding
the speed signs through the lights –
or –
They set the limit too low
in this bloody town centre –

My body thumps – it is then whipped –
accelerated sideways on that ride
which comes to Luxford Fields
with a shout of fairground tunes –

For once in a lifetime thrills –

My stick is sent high in the air –
It is offered up as a simple device
to my cinema audience – roadside –
a cut-away shot in super slow-mo –

But my actual step finds me still
on the kerb to see the slab-grey tail
of that car pass downhill into town –
I haven’t hurt anyone – not today

A Crew

There is a slight run of resonance
with squared dips of catches –

it quickens with timed recoveries
along those rumbled turns

of leather-collared connections –
so that the forward lean-to-timings

lever everything to leant finishes
and the opening up of your lungs –

and we haven’t even talked
of power with the blade’s bowing –

We can master the cockboat’s turn
through hard rudder tips into the wind –

by finding strength in fixed ways –
by using the entry and exit in unison

A Casting Couch

Again – a rolled-eye look upon you – a lost lover
in muddling dreams – with me as your interloper
who pulls at those fetters you forged when away//
We had made our tugged bonds in bicycled years
when curious games stopped at bare cliff edges//

My role in this slept future is as a limping outsider
writing cinematic recall of my much-dreamt scenes
between us// Ages ago – we shared flat beer and lovers –
rounded turns as we sunk our pounds into pints
and did low crimes before spread cathode light//

Back then we had fewer things to switch between//
None feature now in my sleep’s three-part act
of sweated sheets// Now our phantom presences
are acted by sleep’s bit-part reveries –
so close to the choices we made without a script


 

A Ghost Story

Up at five with the ghost
who is an hour ahead –
not one for the clock’s
change – she lets light in//
She leaves her stew of scent
on my stiff right fingers –
as if marking out extents
upon me// She squats
upon my vice-set thighs –
her other working of me//
See – this sheet is stained
and pocked by blood
once a month – it is she//


 

Climate Strikers

For B.M.

Your handmade sign
is stood ready for Friday’s
demonstration against
your distrust in our ways –

My grandfather’s choice
was the Peace Pledge Union –
he then had a quiet war
his boot on his spade’s shoulder

as he sliced dark soil in England
so claiming a holy conscience –
in that amorphous mass
who sought God’s thoughts –

No placards – he sent a postcard –
a small weight of words – first class –
to show his sense of disbelief
at such waste by warmongers –

Carry your panel high for a day –
and then again seven days later –
there is no one else to speak out –
ever since God quit your world


Despair

There’s bull in the china shop
and bullshit in the air –
there’s a crash of metaphors
as Britain despairs –

Parliament’s members
throw stones in the house –
whilst Farage smirks broadly
as they bring home his cows –

Johnson – in his jodhpurs –
readies his horse –
the reins will be passed
under Brexit’s hard fall


Four Years

Five-zero-three-fifteen –
my DX anniversary
of a ‘phone consultation
upon basal nigra’s role
in my slow-witted downfall
and other explanations
that Google had offered
over the previous few
years of not-knowing
how many search results
were not sponsored
by quacks and sawbones –
Now it is uneasy sleep
and dreams of running
which keep me turning up
to this annual event


A Markov Chain

Your single dice is rolled and fixes
the next move of your red counter –
and then things – like probability –

also occur by your releases –
all observed by him – Markov –
who winks at you and your tits –

We are grey with tiredness –
our dog will sleep until our gate
is pushed to allow steps on gravel

and your return from Markov’s place
with your trolley bag of dirty linen
labouring behind you – suited to city life –

There – stand and stare at bare flowerbeds
and desire for small hints of weeds
to not return to this squared garden –

Let us no longer play games of chance –
Markov has your breasts cupped
and will now roll you across his bed


 

 

Platform Five & Six

See it
See it
Say it
Say it
Sort it
Sort it

This is a security announcement
This is a security announcement

The next train on this platform
is the 15:41 calling at East Croydon
Gatwick Airport and Three Bridges


Remain behind the yellow line at all times
Remain behind the yellow line at all times

See it
See it
Say it
Say it
Sort it
Sort it

#BBCQT

I turned off the BBC’s
weekly Question Time
it’s now a B-movie
played out by UKIP-types –

Bland egos screen-act
mincing up for clap-baits
from the baying audience –
all cheered up by hate

as a host steers the fears
from lost hope to idiots –
this is Jeremy Kyle
with professional gits –

But late-at-night viewers
under booze can’t deny
the glaring screen truth –
the Beeb also lies


 

By Love’s Light

For LB & JB

A lone traffic light beyond Kemptown
oscillates with near-nervousness
as it instantly switches between colours –
older-type bulbs – now made redundant
by lower prices and higher brightness –
once took time over their slow instructions –
But we no longer have that eased luxury
as we drive at our uncontrolled speeds
through a few more degrees of change –

Queen’s Park’s leaf-naked rooted troops
lift prayers for god to temper wind speeds –
it’s bloody hard work staying upright
for plants – for people of various sizes
before rolled surges of shingle-lifting wind
and air-thrown salt kisses – rust readied –

My car cannot settle when parked up –
a moored rocking effect upon its axles
almost slips me into sleep’s slowed nod –
but my ajar window is a penny whistle
played by the gale’s fat-puffed cheeks –
and it jolts me awake to my missed cue –
bringing me back to my nervous state
about weather not carrying old-line labels
and of less comforting climate forecasts –

Within fifteen minutes I have driven us east
to Rodean Cafe and a high view out
to Brighton Marina’s rigid lines at sea level
as repeated waves crest in a broken spray
over a long curve of that rebar-pinned wall –
smug like a reinforced Canute – to stem tides
like mine – under this nameless rage
of a nervous separation and blast-tipped fixings –
I say to you both –
By love’s light – there will be a slow change


 

Those Other English

There is a malaise among those English
set sore by a too-shared saint and crosses –
spoken of in footballers’ reedy voices
at post-match interviews – post more losses –

Now Being English is not quite enough
for Pimms-pourers and pub-crawling bigots –
Cuckolded Englanders distrust each and all –
those past Offa’s Dyke and Hadrian’s Wall –

those who speak of The European Project
that obvious brain child of English logic –
Those truest English of English hate again –
they hate all foreigners – that’s how it begins


A Pathogen at Work

This year’s olive crop
is failing across Apulia
as older-than-Christ
groves are uprooted

to break the spread
of the end of the world
for sun-dried farmers
who bear the dark look

of bereaved parents
at their child’s funeral –
as their questions to God
are waved away at mass –

Their pontiff no longer visits
because Rome is burning
with rumours of disease
promulgated by priests


Finding Signs

There is a languageless rule to reading puddles –
to understanding such first-glance nothingness –
their impossible silences before trod-in signage –

a gauging of place – now – by such offered inches –
ones dredged by tyres – those in unfettered lees –
below busied hedgerows – there held evergreen

against all buffettings – such pleshes can guide
you when compass-less – a small-ish understanding of
nearby prevailing wind helps to fix your position –

known conditions assist in your marking a route
by each reading – taken – it will give you knowledge
not spoken to others from your stared-at puddles –

and flooded plough trenches – and by potholes –
by rain dropping – as storm-clock worked droplets –
and of damage done by such small repetitions

over time – as nature finds less is left natural –
then you will need a new sign language
to name each stranger season of weathering –

whilst you struggle – again – to pass your folklore
without old landscapes to bind your tired stories –
as floodwater-and-thirst rise to alter all readings –

except those re-told by your oldest survivors
of what they saw before – in muddy gatherings –
their earliest evidence of man’s impact on earth –

as Robinson attested – as he circled heel-and-toe
on virgin sand – to find a matching disappointment
in himself at marks he made – huge ramifications


First Year, 1970

Aged five to school – an unplanned addition
M. Bell – born into a monochrome 1964 –
just after real sex was bargained by Larkin –

Miss Green – my teacher – wore the latest
fashions – miniskirts and roll-neck tops
with cropped hair and big jewellery –

all co-ordinated above calf-fixed trends
of highly-shined high heel boots
and her daily sprayed halo scent –

Aged fifteen – my recall of Miss Green
was fixed again – seeing her once more –
she was still wearing 1970 well

when we passed in my dentist’s alleyway –
that red brick shortcut to the High Street –
but she did not recognise me – now fifteen –

A decade earlier she was my cool mother
on school days – she had set me to new words
and easy metrication – before my release

to longer grass and longed-for summerings –
She is now – by my calculations – locked
into her last few years – and still wearing
nineteen seventy


Endings

There – an ending – a recourse – a damning
by more admissions – by reductions
& other canalisations

which can no longer be left to flow
by a misdiagnosis – by new meds
or by wearing of pulled-tight blinkers

We are drowning – we blind guides
with uncovered still useless eyes
miss each slipped & stained indiscretion

which creep like unfurled underwear
from between tightly-zipped travel bags –
Wayfarers wearied after nights
away – working – unavailable –

apart from a quick one – a filling of gaps
in hotel expenses & of endless bar tabs
everything to be removed – forever
under this title – Endings


Shrove Tuesday

Shriven into a repentant’s place –
readied for a cross of palm ash –
a marking – tomorrow – of believers –
Yesterday was our early Mardi Gras
of confessions – But we do not follow
those fading rules of others’ liturgies –
We cannot name their Shriving Bell
as they stick it loudly to parishioners –
I was last in a church in Birmingham –
under glass and impressive masonry –
but did I not see the work of God –
Now on this half-holiday we will feast
without you here to guide turned heat –
to sear fat and remnants of shopping –
We have given up everything
to a non-date far beyond Lent’s tests


 

Cox

Slipped backwards with a slight grumble
of keel complaints on that steep slope of gravel –
and our loose rudder is quick to shift – left or right –
as if kicking sullen under reversed ways –

its complaint is slowed – then dismissed
by my pull and straightening – my first correction –
We drift into being a crew as dry blades lower
into the fix of pins – set as bared pegs on a line –

You are the cold engine – me – a tugged-corrector
of your early misfires – of too-short reaches
and lax recoveries – they will tip our vessel
like a nervous fish in an ever-shrinking pool –

as we outgrow circling and find a desire for waves
and their high rises – then lives will depend
on us mere coxes – us shouters and fag-suckers –
we will need to read sea water – as if born to it


 

Comforts

A pint on a Monday – at lunchtime?
Things must be bad – Michael –
And so they are – but I only offer lies
above salted crumbs on my table –
small pieces – but shiftable boulders
to summer’s soon-invigorated ants –
able to heft such burdens of others’
relative insignificance – of leftovers –
But that is a season away – along with
beer-swilling wasps and longer days
of enough light to keep me
from the pub and beer on Monday


Dry

Bugger off to those soda syphons
claiming in January sainthood –
un-settlers of our sense of right
with their smug month-long cast
of sober teases off whipped rods –
with their dry false flies as bait –
those anglers now spreading
their dull-witted winter diseases
of no more indulgences –
drowning by their dry resolution –
But we have our thirst-fix gulps
from all-answering tankards
as they stare out at tame still water


Two Masterclasses

A.A. rebuked me –
Do not use ‘I’ –
that first person singularity
it’s not yours to rhyme –

It’s of the oppressed –
their turned-to-word –
for taking control of
that which is owed –

And – A.A. then said –
There’s too much ‘the’ – too –
‘The’ is a word
which only dead poets
should use

But J.G. had reproved me –
a short while back –
The ‘the’
is missing –
it makes your poetry slack


Found in Birmingham

[A prose poem]


Here is an old white male using his poetry to ease off drugs and dropped lines – verse defined words – his strips in place – in plied lines – to avoid being lost in a rush and buff – of being set to in slow motion – fixing over him – sat above him – then floating signs which point at him – they light him in garish neon – and flicker with shouts – this old white male crows – this white male quietly denies bright white goods – this white male will now – as one man – apologise for chains – for tied ropes – for pricing bent heads – this palliation is not for any racist whom he knows – those he hears – those foul loud spat speakers – he can see their white spit – sickly double thinkers – there is white hate paint on the tip of every finger of pint tipping beer drinkers in his ghost town – he reads their glassy foamed thoughts as they form – because we all emit that local illogical eye illness – passed down – lie to lie through ill brewed words – and other such ways – our white lied said inflexions are caught in our history – the way the world rhymed and how our thick ears cock – but ignore white crows


 

Lossy

So this internet thing –
it is not perpetual –
those coded points
are subjected to atrophy
by compression –
of post-reposts –
a shrinking by interactions –
a constant thinning –

as offline moments thicken
with time’s hand-hefted
brushwork —
see – original composition
is super-fogged
by varnished layers
of obfuscations —

My dark-slapped lacquers –
upon my rubbed recalls –
are words-on-words –
becoming dried-hard glazes —
Even instant-spun thoughts –
such attempts – gloss over

finding not enough
clarity to remain –
all will fade under the loss
of servers and by untruthful views
of clicks-by-bots —
These words will not last long enough
to work for us


 

Enclosed – Sheet of Instructions

That parquet floor you laid –
you refused to keep to
Enclosed – Sheet of Instructions
It is now lifting and separating —

Your brushed-off mistakes –
of not taking time to bond – to glue –
to set – are now a dozen fault-lines
across our hall and living room —

You have posited tectonic plates
in each space – where you bent and knelt –
jagged shadows of slow shifts away —
Others’ prayers are with our marriage


Last Rites

His wife told him – on Sunday –
that she bedded another man –
last Monday –
A bloke who –
if named now –
would see
them both equally shamed –
before their shared families –
It’s almost bloody biblical –
He said –
It’s not their first go –
at such stuff –
they’ve done it before then –
and often –
Finding out last time –
his advice to his wife was –
Never again – Never – Please –
‘Cos of who – ‘Cos of place and
‘cos every other circumstance –
She’s away working –
He told me –
I don’t have a bleedin’ clue
what happens now – Sorry –
I needed to – dunno – offload –
Pretty crap stuff –
I nodded –
Then his gallows laughter –
Nice way to end a tough year!


 

The Village Hall Players

Three empty tables –
without decorations –
set equal – spaced
with sweated men
at squared-up ends –

They are quick to each
shot with fenced returns
off slightly comical bats –
facing up to their other –
posed low in a mirror –

with backhand – forehand
and wrist flicks of a ball –
that metronome tick – set
by the smacked kisses
of celluloid – rubber – wood –

measured eye-to-hand over
the stretched – pitiful – nets –
to gain advantages ruled-in
without any higher umpire
by meeting white-line edges

to beat an inverted opponent –
although both well-matched –
but not enough to claim a draw –
there is always only one winner
between men playing at tables


White Gloves

Words are not
field-dug hoards
or fragile relics –

to be held offline
in bound spines –
for those educated

and up-it classes
to have – to hold
in cotton gloves –

then returned
to turned keys –
& slid back into

rosewood cabinets –
We will own
our every word


 

Our Slack Dog Sleeps

Our slack dog sleeps – again –
under backlit performing particles –
those flecks – peeled and rubbed –
bare floating remnants of us

in ramped tilts of warming beams –
up there – fine speckles cavort against
our sureness of earth’s old ways –
under ageing theories of gravity –

That free carnival of melancholia
almost pulls me down alongside
her – laid out on our made-up bed –
matching breath-for-breath –

to wonder under our lost stars –
This is my routine – my vie with time –
now – on common weekdays
after the exodus of kids – to try

to find flow from my inertia –
drugged by my hate of
my paid-by-the-hour ego-building
for lank corporate schemers –

those dullard committees
of amateur designers
desiring temporary cathedrals
built in the air out of dust –

by me – wearing the same jeans
for three weeks – no one sees
me bent to my desk with malaise’s
dirty weight of false deadlines –

No one sees me dipping my eye
to find brief relief in my word chapels –
small wonders – crafted from
their commissioned remnants


 

 

Limping

Here is a heel-scrape
of composite on tarmac –
it announces my approach –
punctuated by my stick’s click

of loosenings – of turned threads
on its retractable –
snappable –
black shaft –

And – by the way
how can I hold you
with my love now limped
by other indiscretions?

It is hard only in my gut –
enough to be sick
because of turning thoughts –
of you opened up –
and me still limping


Sea Rowing

There – almost baiting us –
ten thousand wind-ripped
waves palpitated on the lake –
but they are merely
breeze-skipping ripples
for us would-be sea fishers
of much bigger catches –

We are required to practice
in such innocuous conditions –
this millpond darkened stew –
before that unknown swell
beyond our harbour wall –
where there are no hard tugs
of a circling gig’s rudder –

but instead sideways drifts
and cuts by undercurrents –
high sea arts to be mastered
in ungenerous conditions –
We will then be willed to shore
by pulls of oars and others’
fears – with salt on our lips
providing a taste of sea rowing


A Review

This time – this very moment –
is a loose leaf notebook –
not a dense hardback tract –
edited – then embossed
by a binder’s weight of craft –
given a numbered significance –
and set immutable by dried ink

but not to be – as you re-code
it with your notes –
in red – in black – in the margins –
your later new translations
of that which was set in blocks –
This very moment will not be open
to such interpretations


The Word Cowboy

Out with no phone –
out without
that device which is
my ready-coiled rope –

a slack spiral – a bracelet
looped into a throwable
lifeline – unknottable –

loose for when needed –
for my amateur attempts
to lasso my lawless
thoughts –

Each born-weak twine
twisted over many
weak-born twines –
into a thousand strands –
into one unbreakable line –

Verb-spun into itself –
into a readied tethering
which will bear
me – my word weight –
which will tighten
without a tug or hanging –

There is a knowhow
to such coiling –
which was my first
apprenticeship –
which now –
is my last attempt at art


A Moment – Now

In bed – laid on the edge of tears –
but we all are deteriorating –
so these are self-pitying tears
barraged by
this slow use of bagged words –

and you hum a short phrase
as the mobile phones light
our thicker faces

before drawn curtains –
still excluding the morning
and holding back the rush of time –

then
a text showing our daughter skipping
atop The Hoover Dam – she is lightened
by the scale of the world

as we discuss how this
truly affects the state of things –
once the daylight is admitted


Latitude

Our eucalyptus tree
is now my distant
Australia –
Our olive tree
is now my recent Israel
and in-between –
in our English garden
of other imports –
our thirsty plants
look more suited
to wetter climates –
they limp without
the pull and whip
of overnight water –
English summers
play redefined dates
of season starts
and season-ends –
They struggle whilst
the olive and eucalyptus
bear climate changes –
as if born to the latitude


 

More Waiting Rooms – Please

[A prose poem]


East Croydon could be LGW or the upstart crow Milton Keynes station – each we passed through to BHX – those visited identikits of brand-stamped sub-city intersections – of yellow lines and low-hung fixed-font signs – there are no seat comforts – no – no more on any platform – no shuttable waiting rooms – no blistering braziers – a common risk in ’72 – when our choices were gas fumes or freezing – Provide us with indoor benches and free heat at connections – Do not risk-assess our comforts – Do not then tell us to stand and wait before the cold blasts of fast-passing services


 

Mr Murray

Sitting with Mr Murray in February sunlight –
under new blue skies – we met at a word church
which boasts a blue plaque for Mr William Hutton –
Bookseller – the first Historian of Birmingham –

Mr Murray’s words sweep the clean streets –
You know .. We could be anywhere in the world –
below fawn high rises – in Sydney – in Hong Kong –
no city surprises me!

Mr Murray isn’t sat with me – here in the sun –
not in St. Martins – not in the Old Rep’ theatre –
but contained beside my small biro’d thoughts –
with my inked finger on his Waiting for the Past –

Talking to strangers is my constant disease –
Sitting with old poets an occasional delight –
those small distances stepped through cities
lay deeper word footings in my travelled mind


 Edited 200219

Thursday – Overground to Euston

We travel sober through London Bridge – below
brick arches – on roads cowered by glassy heights –
Our cabbie blasts bent-to-smartphone bodies
back from near-hits on red-man crossings –

it seems that Londoners have now forgotten
how to see the threats beyond their implements –
We now live hand-to-eye – no longer hand-to-mouth –
no shape-to-spoken words – now embedded emojis spout –

We briefly find speed over the river crossing
and then turn left through the gold standard of cheats –
of fund managers – of clerics – of bankers and white Gods –
where every seat and bench in the low sun is arse-taken –

Thursday lunchtime is the dress rehearsal for Friday excess
behind St Paul’s – and in the eateries of Clerkenwell –
in the stained and new cafes – at exotic roadside pop-ups
and in smoke-free pubs until ten o’clock that night –
Our ride is time travel and a belching reminder that
we are in a handcart to hell – instead of the Underground