Like Bookends

In another waking moment –
with five AM forcing light outside –
my conscious breath found
an angel’s littered question

How many of my earliest
friends are – still – alive?

Coruscating queries – lit fears
address us slightly older men –
of loss of crowning thick hair
oh – and recent deaths of muckers

Bill baulked at Paul Simon’s song
of ‘old friends sat on a park bench like..’

I had one pal hang himself
and another fall from a height
whilst others have taken to tumours
and less humorous routes off

My hairline is still a low-set feature –
light verse on such matters suits me

Ageing is that earthing and digging
forcing us all to bend under groans
as we push on equal spade widths
on that same cost of soil to everyone

No dead human kept his riches for long
They will clear your grave of treasure

A wise Israeli once advised me
Do not make it your precious métier
to outlive everyone in your world
No one will be left
to be impressed – לילה טוב*


*Goodnight

Commandments

Discard anything
that gathers dust
Do not drink alone
Do not fall in love
Avoid shouting
at inanimate objects
Sleep early – sleep sober
Wake without regret
Eat what’s hard to make
not what’s easy to buy
Stand in others’ shoes
of every possible size
Lust is not ageing’s
last flung measure
Fix your moments
in longer pleasures

On Church Street

Shortly after closing time
outside my unknown church –
feeling a stone’s frore
off dead men and women
upright as chiselled recalls

and staring – all – in disbelief
at that zealous parish priest
who dolls up as a spectre
A welcome departure
from his-biking leathers?

Do you fancy a whole Sunday
of such wanton dressing-up?
But – note – none of that
purely Anglicised-God-stuff
No vertical iron pressings
No M&S slacks in ageing beige

I am not of that creamy dotage
marked heaven-ready
My dark walk is guided on
by each clack-clack-clack
of my tapped black stick –
no more standing as a stone
Satan will catch me
if I stay too long

British Aisles

Among slow movers in Waitrose –
who have all the time in the world
to hunt and gather tea time’s treat
to eat under sheltered rooflines –

there is a muttered dignity in aisles
These retirees place select items
in shallow trolleys as they stop-go
Unhurried in their emeritus ways

In its café even us – such younger ones –
adopt the hushed reverence of age
and put off less urgent ‘phone calls –
a church service is about to start

Then fluorescents flicker and douse
and our light snacks are in a dark place
But those old shoppers do not stop
because such an act would be surrender

And their jokes flare up about shillings
and no one’s fed the meters
Their only way out is by those steep stairs
because no one trusts those German lifts


Country Pub

Before this evening’s
swell of punters fill
empty wooden tables

we solemn few near-sober
slow pint daytime drinkers
take our lost afternoon
over equal measures

of flat beer and crisps
as that occasional hour hand
slogs around to grind out time

in this low muttering pub –
until intuition says Go now –
before those commuters
turn up to sip more bullshit