Laid

It was as if there was no step
or soft seat that did not force
the deep stab and grip of pain
in his legs and flexed parts

He had stood well for a time
but then the ill rip and burns
filled his limbs with that hurt
which fuelled flames to flare

Bad as it was – it was not Death –
He had led The Crowd to the pit
and felt his calves lock on the path –
and then sear as he held The Book

He rocked on his heels to ease it all
whilst he read to them The Truth –
as laid out in the lines for the dead –
but God’s words did not blunt it

As the Boxed Man was let loose of ties
and was set down in the earth
his own spine screamed for a seat –
or to lie flat – like those at his feet

By the time the priest got to his car
all of the Dark Cast were gone –
In the cold groan of the air con
he let one tear roll out to mourn

That was his last one for The Church
and God – both had turned their backs
to leave him to face years of ill grace
and to do him no favours.

Murmur

On the rushed film set
we were re-hushed
for the recording
of a wide shot on B

and we – the extras –
dressed as coppers –
waited in the
bale-tipped barn –

Turning was bellowed
by the unsmiling AD
forcing a quietened
conference of uniforms –

there holding a debate
on colour and race
in hardly whispers
which were kept low –

a murmured conspiracy –
We acted without scripts
and mimed our interactions –
Nothing good was said.

The Living Will

My living will
must now be written –
whilst I command
my pen’s direction

I’ll instruct you Love
in my last performance –
I’m to design the setting
of my dying conditions

It will lay folded
under toungue-kissed glue
until my mind tips
from knowing you

You’re to take my scheme
from the secret place –
on the day my act
receives a poor review

You will sit with this artist
who has drawn so much –
and hold off rolled tears
for our last act of love

I am yet to hatch
the shape of my death –
But once its read out
I’ll have had a good life.

Above the Weir

The kayak wobbled
on the tamed river
as we paddled –
but out of time –
past bikini-strapped girls
and kids your age
whom we sat above
in our inflated craft

Within ten minutes
we had found
the quiet normality
of an unbroken tension
where water boatmen
skated in spurts –
here dragonflies dipped
to a secret dance
above our bright bow

We kept time for a while
and then you gave up
to let me drag routes
around low branches
and through narrowings –
I briefly quit with pain
so we were set adrift
against the nothing current
below the next weir

You held the ropes
as I tried to lift my weight
from the muddy berth –
but my legs could not do
what legs should do
so I dragged myself
up the herd-worn bank –
gripping grass clumps
to bring me ashore

I hold the memory
of that recent evening
as fondly as those of my youth
when I lived for the Thames
and her sly currents –
when I could cross
the tops of weirs –
but now I am reduced
to the sloth of the Ouse.

Into the Season

We have yet to see
our exhaled breaths
as we avoid the burn
of the cold handrails
on our expectant ascent
of fifty-odd concrete steps
to our fixed tipped seats

We have yet to inhale
that repeated wide view
of our floodlit pitch –
re-lined in the week
into a restart of hope
against eleven men
in an unloved strip

We have yet to sip
the bitter hot drinks
that we will queue for
in the muted half-time
of slight disappointments
as old rivals are set to win –
according to media streams

We will fear the descent
which others will take
before the hard blast
of whistle and biting winds –
to then exit The Amex
for seats on misted-up buses
which will take us home.

Shelters in Israel

I measured the fixed areas
in which a life was doused –
drawn for the new owner –
one way to heal his house

Under shading palms
my foreign family sits –
another showed the plans
of his own home being built

I walked in his construction –
ready by the winter
on a tour of whitewashed rooms
and the bomb-proof shelter

He led me through the building site
taking time to watch my path –
and I then saw his dear family
cowed below the blast

The rubble and busted timber
are props across this lot –
precursors to God’s plan
for when the bomb is dropped.

Attention

Heed half-attention
to these written words
and the breath it takes
to read my thoughts

Here in the present
at which you look
stay aware
of my conjoured tricks –

which we now see
in separate worlds
joined by my verse
and nothing else

No hardened borders
or long-haul flights –
so turn off the clock
to find more time

Then walk with me –
but not too fast
past Thoreau’s woods
to face what has passed

as it now collides
with the present
and our time is filed
as misplaced moments.

The Fly

The fly hummed her old song of death
as she jacked in the room’s still air
in a quickened patrol overhead
of absurd dashes and acrobatics

I considered my chances of a kill
but her own sense of time saw me
in slow motion – a sweated animal
of missed flails and wrong swats

Then she was gone from my space
because death was not here – not yet
But she will endure and then retrace
her plotted flight to my last warm breath.

Pompey Love

Always third in line –
never really intended
such was my birth –
I am long disinherited

Time is our slipway –
greased for each build
It is a steep incline
for those low on love’s skills

Champagne in ribbons
burst on the bow
and then a spunked wave
to please the crowd

‘How long will it float?’
is not to be whispered –
‘Don’t curse the crew
an’ all who sail on er’

Their shouldered terrace –
my parents’ first home
still waiting to slip
into the port’s lapped foam

Across that hinterland
a tide of just-weds –
the wives of submariners –
a choice none understood

One night of holding
before his boat steamed –
it was sweated and lugged
til he heard her scream

The rude gulls returned
when ships broke the Atlantic –
they pull from tipped bins
a seamen’s tossed prophylactic.

Holding

There are ripe callouses
on one of my palms –
a furrow of skin
in my walking stick hand

My limbs are nettled –
a tease of scratches
which paint my shins
with blood-dried patches

The constant cut pain
scythes my stilly squalls –
‘Just a walk to Waitrose’
is a distance too cruel

I lie fixed by the duvet
that weighty cover
Here reduced by time –
my sadistic lover.

Catching Butterflies

To catch a butterfly
takes a lightness of hand
which I try to employ
whenever I can

The reminder chimes
for the civic hall meeting
where the Parkinson’s carers
do all the speaking

Their therapy stirred
into cups of weak tea
and we smile politely
at the speaker’s ill ease

I’ll be the youngest
at this month’s farce –
still able to hold
a life trapped by glass

Eclipse

I danced my weight home
to a no-eclipsed Moon
whilst reports of Her crimp
were reduced – removed

Her amber qualities
here timely-abused
by a shifted Earth’s
slow sun-spun cruise

As we sweat into sleep
and tug on warmed fear
please pray for a God
who will rain on us tears

If no good will fall
on our field-wide droughts
then pray to the Devil
for floods to drown doubts

Expect little beauty
in this high hemisphere –
whilst long winds spin
the clouds quite queer

And if all such plans
only map out to dust
then take to the lake beds
and imagine them lush

Drink the low waters
which form as warm pools –
but do not imbibe
the next epoch of fools.

Emptied

There was a tin of Swarfega
under the kitchen sink –
its opening the notification
that Dad’d been tinkering

His wrenched weekend battles
with the aged Austins and Fords –
as a fraught amateur mechanic –
were his own ongoing wars

He was sometimes frustrated
by metrication’s slow foray –
and I was equally stumped
by his old imperialist’s ways

He became a man of peace
as he stripped his oiled guns
with no sprung swear words –
loud expletives were not sung

He would put his bearded cheek
onto the cold wood and weigh
the weight of barrel with loadings
and teach his lungs to wait

The engineering of Brownings
he would refit with no complaint –
in his trigger hands and breaths –
he exhaled and taught our aim

At the farm with my two boys
I put up targets with care –
There I taught them how to shoot
and shared my Dad’s zephyr.

This Brexit Summer

Every upstairs window
was wide open
as if an exorcism
had violently willed
the throwing
of panes and drapes –

that unlocking
from the day’s hard heat
of still bedrooms
and even dark landings –
which up until now
were cool shelters

Such inflammation
is now an English condition
which is mishandled
in every negotiation
between couples
and sweated politicians

We will sit in shade
this July and not suffer
the rude temperatures
which expose flesh
and remove the duvets
but not for sex.

3am

These are such long hours
in this slumbered house –
that only I ever know –

so being only mine to own
when the wall clocks talk
to no one else but me –

there is no competition
for chairs or channels
as the left alone wifi flows –

I unlock the back door
and let the dawn air flood
the breath-staled room

shorting the summer’s heat
that had been held over
from another day now gone –

which was all that remained
of a small part of my history –
a short story I’ll never repeat.