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 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]

Stephen Fry and I

I knew I was senescent
when I matched Stephen Fry,
in corduroy and moleskin,
timeless like our lies,
all hung too loose
off our post-fifty frames,
but masking quite nicely
the weight we have gained:
Our jackets flap wildly
above the cut of our jib,
a good length to hide
the pee which we drip.

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.

The Patio

The level is still wrong
because the land slopes,
and I used my tired eyes,
not the bubble’s advice
to set out a dozen slabs
around the cut back tree:
here another shoddy job
of hard lifting and laying 
an imperfect surface,
a memorial, my monument.

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.

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.