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 smug fuckers up

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

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

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

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

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

Rubber Soles

Paced – my set flat route
of pliable rubber yards –
of flashed-by-dashes
on my soon-endless run
on that springing path
of a conveyor belt –
then up an incline fixed
by my lightest touch –
but slowed by my death
in that sweated place –

My running times show –
but have yet to pass
an hour’s whole barrier –
so dragged down again
by my lack of breaths –
because all shared air
has been removed
by the greed of others’
sucks and thud-thud-thuds
alongside my rolled way –

their strides soon pair
my thumped heartbeats –
but any visible rage
from my pounding chest
is bagged in my t-shirt –
No pull of Lycra
across my male breasts –
Honest labour is lost
because this is not
cross-country running


E190219

This Extra

It was not a full day of reduced daylight
but the briefest of natural moments
on that calendar date – which passed
half recognised – like the waning film star

who I stood in for – another nacreous man
on a never-ending day of falsified hours –
My value fixed by his cast shadow
whilst I wore identical clothes –

I was being paid to be his tincture
on yet another identical film set –
My tired looks – which matched the actor –
put me under a long spot of sodium –

My winter solstice was over-shuttered
by age and disgrace under shorter days
of cuts and no light left to take again –
My ways of finding extra time are over


E140119

#Guinness is God For Yer

I am – now – that Old Boy in the bar –
he who nurses an anchored pint –
who has time itself as a luxury
of sips every fifteen minutes –

those slow draws of his lifted Guinness
that drinking match of dark mass
and white-topped hair-on-head –
‘Youngsters take this tipple ironically’

Then the in-house mumbling alcoholic
stirs me from my reveries by my name
to ask about my illness – and Christmas –
both are twisting inside me – like candida

The quickened swill in my gut then blooms
to a weighty obligee to her seasonal beliefs –
and those of my degenerative stuff –
each then rinsed down by my cold stout

Marlow’s Complaint

My shins are singing out loud
like Potter’s skinned detective –
him – joyless in being bed-bound

I then picture the flowershop man
worth now – for now – half of his body
until his whenever-recovery

from a stroke – which found him flat –
He was able to stand so proudly
before that inside weakness outed

and laid the old queen on her back
in Eastbourne’s Sovereign Ward –
I hope he laughs at that word –

whilst I do not suffer such rounds
of writer’s block – no aneurysms –
nothing as vile as being bed-bound

 

Under the Sun

Come and watch us pick at
our scabs of bloody ignorance –
they will – one day – partly heal

to a red roughness of scarring
set to itch – a hint of melanoma’s
blasting shadow across our skin

We will not seek relief from shade
to offset such canker or cancer –
instead – we will strip and microwave

on those platters of plastic sunbeds
to a ready meal heat – whilst being oiled
and rubbed into a slept submission –

then into that unimaginable cul-de-sac
of pottering and beige waiting rooms –
where we will find mirrors far too honest –

set with our reflections of bare errors –
then to count the rings of under-eye skin
and we will know our burnt old age

Royalty

He is there – again – the ageless barfly
sat like a sore king at the wet-ringed table
where he fondles his tide-marked pint of beer
in the rooted grip of his right hand and

with each sup he plans to swallow time –
kept to Greenwich by his amber hour-glass –
well drunk – but he is still able to command
the Queen’s English – words not troops that is!

He is the cliché – the grounded boozer who wills
his wide-smiled laughter and loud intrusions
upon more innocent patrons – virgins in his game –
those who do not know how he plays the room

.. Don’t take the adjacent seat – don’t be fooled
by his schemes – of words and winks ..
For them he prepares to over-deliver
.. it is so well-known that he never listens
by dint of his loudness and eyebrow animations ..

And a woman – and a man – scrape chairs out
to sit across from him at his stained table –
and he now turns – with his sips of time to take –
and soon she is giggling at his crude stories
whilst her silent man stares at his glass

After half an hour they stand to leave the scene –
the man with a shoved handshake for the barfly –
to quietly let the pub’s royal drunkard know
that he is not wanting to fight – not tonight –

and the well-pissed king is left
to drink
on his own

 

Inside My Lover

I am entertained inside her lento lungs –
travelling alone and partly dusk-blind –
within her low suck of cooling breath –

I inhale her exhale of purest oxygen
and with it comes an unwinding –
an expansion of my otiose senses –

an awareness of this as existing –
of living things set around – but
obscured by the falling of the hour –

Now the manic chp-chp-chp-chp-chp
of panicked blackbirds to one side –
joined by the rude crows overhead –

that tuneless duet of birdsong is overlaid
on itself by others’ alarms and queries
which set off – concentric – around me –

As I tread – as I compact the leafy mucus –
which she absorbs into her membrane –
the fallen are re-sown by the plough
of my steps on this weaved footpath –

Her cold stew of re-use – of rotting down –
is nature’s re-design – it is not random –
be it the branched capillary urge
of saplings – or the fork of tipped boughs –

or the patterning of her cast off leaves –
already thick enough to hide the paths –
Now on cinders I miss the give of the mulch –
the weighted compress and its last sound

This Older Driver

I want our lowering sun to burn
for a much – much – longer last hour –
or more – and brighter than now

I do not want to be driving
on those sunken country roads
into the skulk of dusk’s gloom –
and then turned back through black

I wish to see clearly tonight where
the patch of tarmac starts and ends
on the threaded bends and turns –

without the switch of dipped lights
or the blinding others’ high beams –

they set me to groping
as a blind man gropes

I’ll weave between the unseen deer

Self Portrait

My naked body would look worse
only if crucified on Bacon’s canvas –

Because I conspire with my reflection
to blank out the sags and stretches
which later ageing has brush-dragged

so that my dark-haired belly bloats
with the crap and oil I cannot avoid –

I then wash it down with just one more
and the wine glass is half an egg timer
of emptiness – rouged red and framed

Dew

There has been no rain overnight
but the underfoot dew is enough
to darken both my boot toecaps
and to soak the dog’s knotted hair
as she bounds into blind prospects
of hedges and low distractions
And I look up at the underbelly
of another aircraft on another path
and do not envy their chosen route –
I then shout out for the dog’s return.

After a Party

The wisest of the kids
had reset our house –
so that my scratch-forced
early morning ritual
of back-door-and-dog
was quite normal

The unexpected waft
of an outside chill
was the only thing
I found misplaced –
that and a small bowl
of rolled fag butts

which I’d suggested
be left outside
when I had patrolled
their dying party –
consciously sniffing
at the air for drugs –
only tasting
the boyfriends’ sprays

Earlier in the evening
I had bolted myself
in my dark study
as the various volumes
of the engineered event
were subject to
the same social forces
we adults endure –
but at a different pitch

The dog had scratched
at my side of the door
as I sank even lower
on displaced cushions
and kid-shifted furniture

My brief entombment
was almost equal
to Egyptian disarrays –
alas for me there was
no mass of splendour
or promise of some
sort of waking heaven

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.

Emptied

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

His wrenched weekend battles
with ageing Austins and Fords –
as an amateur mechanic –
were his ongoing wars

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

He became a man of peace
as he stripped his oiled guns
with no sprung swear words –
loud expletives unsung

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

The engineering of Brownings
he’d refit with no complaint –
in his hands and soft breaths –
he exhaled and taught aim

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

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.

Fixings

A bare bulb hangs by two wires
over the bathroom mirror
as a reminder of his absence
with that unfinished fitting

I walked between the rooms he built
and am now that rare ghost
having flown back to my home
of other incomplete projects

The future is never reached
as we flounder with tools to build
our small palaces and shrines
in which we wander on our way to die

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.

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.

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 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

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

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

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

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.

Honesty

As we suck in murmurs
I shut my eyes
the endangerment less
of that to cry

To explain in plainspeak
this fixing of pain
is to convert the Jews
to Christian games

Dinner is served
in a heated dish
as I drink red wine
which bleeds bullish

We hang the evening
like a bull in blood
the severance of such
is of all once loved

And I cry like a blackbird
that hazardous rasp
as tears hurt my face
in this regular farce

Parking Bays

David places the cones
at military distances
of old-paced equality
and makes sure the sign
which reads Funeral Today
is visible to all

It is a one way street
and not overly used
but it’s best to be sure
and there is nothing worse
than the blackened hearse
having to double park

Later in the day I watch
the staggered procession
of roughed-up mourners
making their way to church
on that road which has seen
the dead of Uckfield parked

The Tin Man

I have thought of taking
unthinkable leaps

forced by this impedement
which reduces each step

I have examined myself
in a cracked black mirror

allowing for distortion
what I see is not anger

I have changed under this
my short-lived affair

Rejection is armour
which I now have to wear

The Neighbours

It was the caller ID
which daunted
for a moment
a selfish part of me

I went next door
to the possible passing

the one when I found
my neighbour’s
sick wife had died

But through ajar openings
and by calls aloud
I met her
alive
under scab formations

She had fallen
we all will
on a blood-marked rug
and had been hurried
to A&E

Patched

Now back
retuned to this bedroom
with supplements scattered
her able state was propped

Broken

I left to cut ham sandwiches
and delivered their meal
later
with an apologetic cough

Skin

This skin on my foot
is turning to scales
like that creeping carapace
worn by her grandfather

His octogenarian husk
was raw
flaking
as if spun adrift on the sea
and salt-burnt

The old campaigner held court
in a Surrey nursing home

This was thirty five years ago
His layers of dust
His remnants in that room
have long been hoovered up

The Secret

There are a thousand secrets
which cannot now be told

withheld in run-down hearts
and haunting tenebrous souls

He poured from the heavy bottle
that wine which was not blood

and broke the mouldy bread
to help soak the alcohol up

His life was changing shape
with the cut of floods and falls

all plots of pensions and peace
were not his
to now afford

He emptied that rattling bottle
of a pharmacist’s last count
and took his heartburn secrets
to a place upon the couch

No note
no one to read it
no confidences to be read aloud

Instead his pain passed silently
and his breath stopped in an hour

World War

That was a beer-warmed evening
underlined by an obese burger –
I avoided my return to the house
which echoed to a party of kids
and the small dog’s commands –

In the kebab shop they cooked –
just for me –
as the Turkish news feed rolled –
and on my phone Syria choked

Again – in Elizabeth Gardens
I was all alone
with my paper-wrapped chips
whilst varied kids wandered past –
So pissed off
followed by a lad who spits

And the ever-question hung –
Was I such a teenage-shit?
We all spat out many things –
The bin’s basket greeted me
into which I tossed
the greasy chip wrapper –
Nothing else smiled so much tonight

 

E241018

The Thames

I drag my wooden ride
to where the water lies

to that lowest of tides
before the tsunami’s rise

I rowed the swift Thames
with blistered palms
and calves of dark blood
where the runners harmed

We swam with the current

avoiding the crafts

in that summer of love
in which I held the shaft

Nothing has changed
as I push out this skiff

Nothing will alter

I have nothing to give

The Jam

Forty years ago
today
I knew boys who swapped
Tangerine Dream records
and others who spat punk

A comprehensive education
in a scrag end Surrey town
of smoke-rattled bike sheds

of wrong trousers and collars

of part formed love and loss

We all knew the girl who gave it
to the intelligent thug

she cried in maths and the bogs

Sex education still has no use

Time Travellers

‘The heavy weight of a lonely death’
I read
stated in bold at headline height
eye lined up to the old woman
here
English and abroad
reading her UK paper
as the onshore wind curled the other pages
held in her three score
and more
years of holiday-making
and with the other shaded septuagenarians
her clock refuses to stop

Linings

The daily rituals return
like when I took
the wooden rule

not quite up to the job

that knobbled edge to run
my fountain pen against

the overexcited Indian ink
would leave me to blot

those small stains
are inverted now
found on my sleeve

the toothpaste specks
are my page-ready mistakes
as I bend to this sink
making good this new day

to lay out
line by line
my life

The Mass of Men

Inspired by an interview with Stanley Kubrick by Eric Nordern  for Playboy in 1968

The odoriferous sound
of others’ discomforts
may force to reduction
your gnawing intolerance,

but instead you must find
a sweet tone of acquittal
by listening much less
for their off-key approvals:

No more the simplified
repeal of nursed rhymes,
but a tune you’ll compose
when not feeling for lines:

Their trip on indifference,
when felled by jealousy
over others’ flat arias,
there you’ll find armouries;

strike this shone torch,
to guides with beams,
illuminate everything,
even old-echoed screams;

you’ll now light your voice,
here in the brightened throng,
to end at the same gate,
but with a much richer song.


[Poem #862]

Oppugn

Spent,
an enured year off
for your partner’s slow death,
interrogated by a kid
about the remnants of life.

Our futures are schemed
by privateers,
those insurers will do well
in our twilight years.

They’ll suck on the dividends,
draw succus from flesh,
as our neighbours, our friends,
save hard for their death.

Stick Note

Without my stick I’m ‘looking so well’,
it would appear to those who can tell:
As this imprisonment crafts weighty plans,
my exeunt is writ by another’s hand.

That hand which I use to place the stick
is a hand which fails this conjuring trick,
in a wrapper of skin, flesh and bone,
the pain is unseen, the strikes full-blown.

Addlestone

That distant town was my playground,
at Darley Dene I scuffed my knees,
returning, scabbed, to 6, Essex Close,
Addlestone, Surrey, England, Earth,
and our three storey police house:

I revisited the road on Google Earth,
unsuprised by its reductions in size,
but as that tripped child it fish-eyed
in the scale of the upgrade it was
to our family of five men and mother.

We schooled in the grey shadow
of the ever-scruffy Surrey Towers,
where Bill D tossed off his pet dog,
knelt, he said, in the oft-stuck lift:
That beastial act he reported to us,
he so wanted to be a milkman.

On a school trip, of distance and steam,
they had stuck signs up in the carriages
to mark our booking, stated ‘Darley Dean’.
Our loud comments about the mistake
are all I recall of that summer excursion:
of Addlestone, I just have shadow

We the Grey-haired

We the grey-haired,
but fashion-aware
men, of a certain age,
the would-be punks,
back then,
or heavy-coated,
liking Echo, Bjork,
and then, a bit later,
almost wax-quiffed,
a suede-headed
Morrissey lover,
or confirmed hater,
tugging our loneliness
and unsure,
still unsure about stuff,
but not music,
just politics and love,
still trying on fashion
and making mistakes.

Rainy Days

The commuter drag
through Haywards Heath,
nose-to-tail,
we queue before death,
we the cocooned
in our leases of life,
counting the weeks
until the holiday ride:
Succour found in Waitrose,
and down at Screwfix,
then a fantastic night –
thanks to Netflix.
I will wake in darkness,
and return home the same,
my weekends are spent
to validate this pain:
I squander my fortune
before I no longer work,
I save nothing for old age,
my pension’s a joke.

We

We, the now-diagnosed,
may be the dead men walking,
slapped, strapped,
labelled as a bit too different
by the uncovered disconnects,
which, compounded by stress,
and our near normal efforts
to be the original self, to be us,
may reduce our ability to fly,
but that doesn’t stop us trying:
we will pull on our waxed wings,
lift from the cloying labyrinth,
and shake off the weight of hubris,
to take self-esteem back, yet again.

St. Anne’s Hill

My father died
aged fifty-five,
I was aged
twenty-three,
he slipped away
at St. Peter’s:

My mourned dusk
then came back,
as I was buried
in the haunted dark,
under the canopy
in Buxted Park,

back to his story,
as we three ducked
through the woods
on St Anne’s Hill,
our fears fostered
by his ghost story.

No Angel

He endeavours to be
one who ‘can’,
not a bit-part, paused,
not half a man,
not battled to bend,
with rusted mettle,
he’ll hold her at night,
unmasked and settled:
No more a young man
in the place reserved
in God’s waiting room,
which others deserve:
Grant a slow decade,
ten years of good life,
please God, he asks you,
for his kids, and his wife:
Re-set their happiness,
that for his spouse,
he won’t demand space
in your over-filled house.

Two-shot Tories

A table of old Tories
in the Kemptown cafe
plotting the downfall
of your future today:

Grumbling ’bout democracy,
and ‘leftie threats’,
whilst wanking their pensions
on skinny lattes:

The last generation
to enjoy a grand old age,
they’ll spoon all the sugar
and ensure nothing remains.

Where I Sit

I sat with care
on a wide (sawn) stump,
it cut back
by an oxidised blade,

I found a seat
of chamfered comfort,
but still a hard cushion
of battered rings,

where the rounded years
had been taken 
by the scouring rain,
and the decay of things;

now rubbed back,
grooves removed,
until the turn of time
had been loosened,

and the history of it all,
once held central,
had been hard-weathered,
no more nature’s annal.

The Pile

Every brick was identical
and took the same grip
in the lift from left to right,
from the old pile to the new pile,

in the repetitive task
that I undertook –
to clear the driveway
of the builders’ detritus.

Each heave was unique in time
but same as the last,
with slight variations
at the start and the end.

Leftover dust was blown
as I picked at the old pile,
counting the weights
like our equalised days.

In such manual work,
of free menial sorts,
I build a low wall
on a slowly stacked week.

Two Women

I met Makris and Demeter
bent over a half-inflated dinghy

and me, the old boy,
interrupted their labour

with a brief history
of my youth on The Thames;

‘meander’ came back to me,
along with ‘blade’ and ‘gate’,

my recall faltered at Barcombe,
on a twist of The Ouse to Lewes,

their sure sweep of youth’s grace
patched my pause with their words,

they were back from The Anchor
to this downstream landing;

they sparkled in the late-May light
with an assurance, in such love,

and I walked on against the current’s force,
but only knee-deep in meadow grass.

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.

I delete another email
‘from Michael J. Fox’,
and his evangelist cry
that ‘PD rocks!’

And other such homilies,
of which my eyes do tire,
these in-boxed meaty missives
sent down the thinning wire.

And then I’m mailed an offer
to re-double my shit pension,
but the fuckers forget
this luxury that they mention

is only afforded now
by the lucky few,
the politicians, the unionised,
but not for me and you.

We’ll earn less in our dotage,
but will still eat the same,
forever supplied in old age
with those five spams a day.

Wrecked

Too long adrift
on my life raft
of tapped thoughts,

short-winded,
burnt by the sun
and unseen salt:

A rudderless man,
with sickness induced
by this tidal ride

of the curved
and empty horizon,
then struck wave-blind.

The slap and shatter
of seawater
are lunacy’s call

to me, displaced
in the wreck of my body,
a drowning fool.

The Inheritor

I let my grey hair over-grow,
wear out dead man donated clothes,

I occasionally tap paths with my worn-down stick,
missing the beat of my off-time limp.

I’ve been re-set by a strangle, unseen,
I am less of a man, a reduction in mien,

offended by nature not playing it straight?
I eye the barrel of pain’s aimed complaints.

‘Life’s unfair,’ she spat out the words,
a line which I’ll refuse to rehearse.

But forty years later my recall has grown
of my mother’s bile rising, I swallow my own..

Life is fair, it is in agreement,
until we are held up by our parents,

then their bias, that family axiom:
We make our own lives by not repeating them.

I let my grey hairs over-grow,
wearing out dead man donated clothes.

I Should Retire

The mean clock is doing it,
the balancing trick, ten-ten,
as ever the secondhand there
timed it, re-ticked on cue,

aligned with the brief minute’s
late-late reach to the far right,
just as I looked, synchronised,
to check another missed hour,

and I should retire at this point,
not too late, never, ever too late,
but for a man (of so many years)
it is so correct to consider such,

as others’ worlds spin in beer rounds,
long wet snogs, and streamed films:
I shall find comfort in a double bed,
propped-up pillows and hope,

whilst fitter men, soaked in bitter,
fuck-and-dance, dance-and-fuck,
in beer-washed sticky nightclubs,
swiped by Tinder, as I sleep soundly

through their infectious ribaldry,
and not have to hear the repeat
of chat-up lines I re-rehearsed
back in 1982, but never copyrighted,

then there was no intellectual theft,
instead we stole left-over half pints
and lengthening kisses with strangers,
to return to single beds in shared houses,

waking to cold kebabs at ten past ten.

The Fighting Temeraire

Apart from the obvious creases,
and immediate grey effects,
a flabby jowl from rich indulgences,
comes the breaking of our extents:

Once loose, no plot, our lives,
now rotting in unsure depths,
so we face a towed-to future,
to be beached in shallow dread:

The Fighting Temeraire repeated
on the walls of sheltered flats,
reprints from London visits,
an obsolescence, reduced to scrap.

Do not put me in a care home,
those stinking broken berths,
let me ease off, with the pull,
let me drift without tow ropes.

Voyager Maintenant

Vous,
petite douce chose,
doit voyager,
doit visiter,
pour une journée,
une dernière fois:
Une dernière requête
traduit comme décès:
Pas plus de nourriture,
pas plus de boissons,
maintenant le temps
s’est écoulé:
Ces luxes égoïstes,
une telle prière,
cette demande:
À tout moment de la vie,
il est temps de vivre.


Measured

I was taught to spot the imperfect years
by measuring, with eye and finger
the varied distances, the thicknesses
of those concentric, almost-whirled,
bark-marked lines in the bared-ankles
of cut trunks: Dendrochronology.

Counting back, to before I was born,
my smooth fingers touched the years,
and Dad recalled a distant summer
without enough rain (‘see the thin ring’),
when he felled a malicious child,
dragging him by the handy straps
of handed-down dungarees
through a dusty field of soft cow pats,
that bully face down, Dad ploughed
shit down his bib: he marked him.

At the bottom of Lime Tree Avenue
a bared examination of that past
with the removal of another tree,
rotten, untrusted to be above us,
all that is left is the raw-sawn stump,
of over a hundred imperfect years,

and I cannot touch the ring he was in,
as my finger is now too thick and rough.


 

The Coming

We must build dikes of courage
to hold back the flood of fear

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I no longer understand this aberrant world –
I am standing – ill – aged and weeping in confusion

Please – for me – explain
without repeated cliches
then I might hear you
and avoid a crossing

On this side of the brook I did not drink the dark rum –
the fresh blood in the water – the slaughterhouse run-off

That upstream slew was held
in the foul storm
by time’s broken trees –
dipped raw dams

But nature’s stoppages are made to give up
and her stick-jammed wall broke under the rising

‘This isn’t forever,’
I shouted to you
as blood clogged the current
and the gully turned red

When all that floats are the clots of dead men
then we will have gorged on the last of the world

Fear of Climbing

I have my inner tremor,
my lower jaw mumbles,
my right hand joins in,
connectedness concurs
to plot, and I cannot
easily climb the stairs,
instead piss in the garden
the less-stepped option –
until this house (for-the-fit)
is re-made, is bomb-proofed
to the extents it can be,
because I cannot live
like this and still be,
I’ll not let inched timbers
and imperial bricks unsettle me.


The Surveyor

I am measuring my life
in Caroline’s greetings,
the mortgage repayments,
in slow sips of hot coffee,
the stick-tapped steps,
in unanswered emails,
thrusts of my toothbrush,
in the filing of VAT returns,
the social media updates,
in trips up the High Street,
the ‘phone battery warnings,
in the hours of lost sleep,
and the distances between.


Value


I am humiliated by this decay,
its dragged moments I can’t avoid,
it lessens me, I will slope away,
to be cloaked in the duvet’s void:
There my limbs are less employed,

as am I, in a short-lived suspense,
over sleep-engineered springs,
to a place of brief recompense;
but with my being there I shrink,
my devaluation, one lasting thing.


 

The Old Boy


Grandfather was of a slipped generation
with his Bakelite-twirled-to radio stations –
tuned to his low-hums with orchestras
and his wound-up clock – that western sutra –
its regular pendulum his hands-free baton
conducting his lonely tea-mornings taken –
until he rolled his guard-rattling Raleigh
out of the garage – always wordlessly –

for his brief progress to priest-led prayers
down to the hymns and those-who-care
His trouser leg rolled – clipped – chain-safe –
he pedalled away to kneel at God’s place –
I re-delivered his Guardian newspaper
to his emptied room – our in-house neighbour –
In such regular times I’d take a sneak –
a look inside The Old Boy’s suite –

His life with us was lived behind two doors –
the only bedroom with parquet-floors –
in that other place – not fully his own –
in his free chapel – there prayers alone –
beside his shelves of impossible books –
Schweitzer tallest amongst the hardbacks –
Some with his dead wife’s dated name –
but no further indications of her ever being –

That forensic examination of his living space –
with my untrained eye – I made mistakes –
I never read well his folds or light marks
which re-leafed books do often impart –
I now decipher those responses I get –
I am near his last age – and he gains my respect

041118

Distance


The distance, my distance,
on our late-traipse home,
we split, slipped in time,
stonewall of town’s slope,

to the bells’ commands
of Holy Cross Church:
with books, our language,
of moments mis-heard:

This distance, my distance,
you shall have to forgive,
as long as such distances
are not distances long-lived.


 

Gifted


It’ll be another end
to another slowing year,
my tightening body
under pain’s besmear:

A letterbox drop,
cards on the hall floor,
there to remain,
as I can’t bend any more:

Christmas on pause,
a slight hint of freeze,
until the carer’s arrival,
to attend to me –

if she turns up,
if she’s the same one,
– my hour will lighten,
a bath will be run.

A text from my child,
now a mum on her own,
they’ll be here by three,
we are never alone.

One lesson I’ve learnt,
under disease’s deep rub,
is that life is still wonderful
when treated with love.


Featured in Parkinson’s Life


Kids Pay


It is that moment
they mass at the till,
in the push-tight bar,
as dad checks the bill,
and mum, in her anorak,
cannot work out
if tips are included,
as the kids look up
at the array of spirits
they have never sipped,
ever keen to escape
this embarrassment.


No Lift


I am alone, stood,
stranded in the dark,
outside an unplugged,
vinyl-skinned, olde pub,
both so remote,
the last orders forgotten,
and the staff have gone;
left with no signal, no lift,
under that ever-same
stretch of try-to-name stars:
me, a witness to the late
rush of commuter cars,
and out-for-dinner suitors.
A lone owl re-calls,
but it is only discernible
when the road is lulled,
when her refrain greets
the dead heavens above,
and, for those still seconds,
Sussex returns to old ways.


 

Bens (sic) Place


I am that bent man in the long raincoat,
with a bagged bottle, my red antidote:

I am stick-led past the bar lessee,
still struck by his loss of an apostrophe;

in there a couple, I fished from reflections,
looked me just once, then resumed conversation.

I crossed shone tarmac onto grey matt stone,
that moment I gripped, not quite alone:

In the small park under rain-weighted trees,
I found my own place below the bent canopy,

with shelter from the worst, poor-afforded below,
I turned into an old man, and walked home alone.


Limits


He once hip-waded
across this life,
now no deeper,
just ankle-high;
those he’d stripped
in his mouth
He’ll now undress,
but in his eye:
A shot of water,
without whisky,
into sleep’s
half price dreams,
no sweated sheets,
no fingered-loving,
but he’ll wake more fucked
than he’s ever been.


Coffee and Cake


Sat down, Grandma,
Grandson, and Mum,
Grandma, huffily:
‘No point sat by ‘im!’
Grandson, grumpily:
‘I’ll be on me phone..’
Grandma grunts,
Mum checks her own,
and Mum reads out
a Facebook feed;
the tired waitress
tries to intercede,
placing before them
menu boards,
waiting for her voice
to now be heard
above that of Grandma’s
moan about stuff:
‘It wasn’t like this,
when we grew up!’
Mum, now bored:
‘The world’s moved on!’
Grandma, resigned:
‘When I’m gone…’
Grandson, buts in:
‘Can I bags your phone?’


The Beach Haters


Ranked low on recliners
by freckled differences,
some late sun-aged
before this dead sea,
as ragged and wrinkled,
umbered by the sky,
muttering in languages
so indignant, lain,
offended by others’ children,
and the laughter of families,
each interaction
a foreign intrusion,
as they languor, topless;
not that you’d want to see
the lower laughter lines
of these clay figurines.


Special Assistance

Special Assistance,
just two of us,
and in those minutes
I was lost,
under decades
of othered-avowals,
she bound to her
dementia-bed spouse,
him, one of us,
shuffling, forgetting:
When so met
I am guilty of vetting,
with my symptom
enquiry lines,
mapping my
prescription of time.
His first phase
like mine, didn’t alter,
only reduced
a former builder:
‘It was awful,
but no real pain.’

‘We are different,’
there, I said it again.

Let’s Put It In Writing


Fifteenth May, nineteen eighty-five, Brighton,
a Top Rank Suite, for an evening’s adoration,
standing, a puntered-audience of boys’ bad skin,
but fast forward, here, now, sat-settling,
in gentrified Hove, off the low Western Road:

Waiting, stalled, greyed women and men,
pot-bellied, various middle-aged friends,
like the rank of boorish South Africans,
love-locked, along with billy-no-mates,
who arrived, drunk-stumbled, seated late:

‘You missed Rattlesnakes,’ Mr Cole said,
looking equally pissed at their loud entrance.
And I ended the concert, stood at the exit,
removed by my stiffened need to stretch,
whilst the audience sat, politely applauding,
I shifted, mine the only standing ovation.


 

Revived


“Look at that handle!”
cried Allan,
as we strode toward
another motorized moment,
and Otto inhaled the leather
and oils of the past
off the cars parked across Luxford.

Lost details from our histories,
fuel switches and choke pulls,
seats that never reclined,
and other discomforts:
We middle aged men find
our comfortable pasts
locked in old cars.


 

Cold Coffee

For SG

You would meet me after work,
for a drink, sat closer in Fitzrovia,
my years ahead start,
I hoped wasn’t my only appeal:

You know as men age our vanity grows,
and attention from younger people
is our tonic: a look, a smile, a touch,
such regards are our effortless sex,

because the real stuff hurts,
maintenance just court-ordered,
not even an act of concentration
can help us to keep up, perhaps drugs:

I could see what we were doing to you,
with such sugar daddy assurances,
we men, we perspicuous things,
we look upon your world,

as one-eyed kings.

My Caricature

Picking up the pencil
to draw a human being,
was an avowal of my return
to that time of evolution;

first encountered, younger,
when making another mark;
in all these years, somehow,
I am no different from my past.

There is a self-portrait,
my rough hand in charcoal,
in which my Steerpike face
reflects these same scowls,

which thirty years later
are now etched by this disease,
my own drawn face
complains too easily.

Hempstead Meadows

I sat on the drunks’ bench,
near the ever-overflowing bin,
shadowing that worn patch
of pressed mud, shit-tinged.

This sitter’s view, skewed,
a beer-distorted luxury,
beside dried bird muck;
a far Tannoy says ‘Sorry..’

Further on the meadows’ path
bushes are clean-picked,
the bearing branches snapped,
stamped back, welly kicks,

where pie-makers,
and black-fingered kids,
thorn-pricked, with sucked cuts,
have harvested:

They have filled, lid-shut,
Tupperware containers,
loaded up September’s
sweet black scratch crop.

Then, the smell of weed,
and it is not Japanese,
the path is now a trade route
for teenagers’ to please:

The three lads pass me,
space for the sad bloke,
with cocksure strides,
and the exhalation of smoke

which we old imbibe,
those sweet fumes of youth,
one so deeply inhales,
bench-sat, wine-abused.