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
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.

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.

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

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.

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 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

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 avoid my return to the house

which echoes 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 am all alone

with my paper-wrapped chips
and a skulked fat black cat

whilst varied kids wander past

so pissed off with a nameless one

followed by a lad who spits
on to the well-fucked tarmac

And the ever-question hangs

Was I such a teenage-shit?

We all spat out many things

The bin’s basket welcomed me

That glossy plastic greeting
into which I tossed
the greasy chip wrapper

Nothing else smiles so much tonight

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