In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come

Not Dead Yet

(For Clive James)

Old Chiacking Larrikin
dropped eight foot –
his fall rope-halted –
then he jiggery-choked

They hang the committed –
but won’t kill the watching –
who steal from the swung
at the public hanging

Clive laughs with death –
as he eyes the loose noose –
his readers misled
by his maple-red truth

Old Larrikin waits
for the swing of the bard –
He’s stood Mr. James
a beer at God’s bar

Cold

Believe in your child’s ghost –
but then let her spectre run
from the road-kill shock –
from the flare of the
body-struck headlights –

those halogen matches
will ignite her terrified flight
into the woods –
But don’t eye that place
where she first learns to haunt

in the permanent night
of tightly weaved birches –
where Nan Tuck flies afeard
of her burning death throws –

where the recently
spilt spirit runs
from the quick-kill road –
Who let the trees take the young
from our arms?

The wounding country lanes
kill our flightless birds
with too much winding speed –
She will be cold tonight

Seventy-Six Percent

To take this decision to take my life
Off discharged thoughts but it is my choice

I wake disturbed – a scratched record
Will this be the day when I’m feed for the birds?

We frightened males – poor in acuity –
will swing from your beams far too easily

This tear-stained rope now held in my hands
I am throwing it up into no man’s land

The Perpetual Curate

Here lies the poor
perpetual curate –
he lived a low life
on the stipend they paid —

The beneficiary of
a lost monastery lease –
he was appointed to
this chapel-of-ease —

He could not marry
on the wages of God –
with such low standing
he chose to shun love —

Queen Anne’s Bounty
was no saving grace —
He died malnourished –
inhumed in this place


www.mikebellpoems.com
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The Remained

Even in the unfair fall
of rain on the night – of
discharged un-loadings –
after the torches lit
the memorial bonfire –
the three wives of war
will be still – to remain
without any complaint
about huge losses to
King or Country –
or other such standings
of the state’s manhood –
that stupidity of men
Keep back from
the lightings and fusings
of the electrical lines –
It is as if God was unable
to save the widow wives

The Corpse Gate

I called it a tithe gate
but it is a lychgate
I confused it with barns –
my first mistake –

Here are the lost bones
of dead English words –
and here a brutal joinery
hewn by blunt saws –

Here the just-deceased
were propped overnight –
Here guarded ‘gainst theft
by snatchers on the sly –

Laid still – after carriage
on the rough corpse road –
under this shelter
for one night’s repose –

Wood knots – whales watching –
here the whorled grain –
This was not God’s work –
but of man’s own domain

Repose

The granite markers have tipped forward –
angled over the settling of in-filled earth
where the boxes and bones collapsed –
the stones remain whilst other things fall –

The once beloved’s burial is long forgotten –
but not the slab’s patience over centuries
of bearing – the carved words mumble
a worn-down remembrance of years lived –

The mason’s refined font is rubbing thin –
almost erased by the wear of the world
which has re-touched the carved surface –
even death cannot claim shelter from time

Quietus

It is now zero-two-twenty-two
and my sleep is distracted
by far too much thinking
about minor possibilities –

and other rum miracles
in my conjouring mind –
such as taking my mother
back to the Holy Land –

to see her greet the white grave
of her eldest son – at least once –
for me to tolerate her
misunderstandings

There will be no myrrhbearers
but only her – one more witness
before the laid down stone
which is fixed – she will stand alone

But I know that she will never return –
and I have no chance of any apology
as she struggles with family acts
of untranslatable love

She may live a few more years
having never felt his breath on her –
off his loud grandchildren –
and seen the tears of his wife

And at zero-three-zero-three
I save this disturbance of sleep
among notes on my phone
and a reminder to call my mother

Laid

It was as if there was no step
or soft seat that did not force
the deep stab and grip of pain
through his frame and thoughts

He had stood well for a time
but then the ill rip-and-burns
filled his limbs with that sear
which fuelled flames in turn

Bad as it was – it was not Death –
He led The Crowd to the pit –
felt his calves lock on the path –
and then sear as if then split

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 were still no proof

As the Boxed Man was loose of his ties
and was set down in the earth
his own spine screamed for a seat –
or to lie flat on the peeled back turf

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 out a tear to mourn

That was his last one for The Church –
it had turned its arched back –
to leave him to face an ill grace
and to tear up the old contract

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.

The Cull

It bolted into my beam
and was too fast for me
to stop the car in time –

a grey and white rush
of life under my wheels
and I could not avoid

the eye-shined badger
in the space between
ruts and embankments

A thudded weight cursed me
through the steered curves
with the guilt of road-kill –

of something too noble
which was always under
others’ orders to be culled.

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

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 Weariness

Over three decades ago I lived
under this ridge and these roof tiles
of repeatedly cast red clay

They were more malleable days
when constant change was good
and my future still had thirty years

From under these timber beams
Chris was removed before his fiftieth year
A weariness tinged with amazement

Perhaps Camus – or my tired words
will lift the eyes of my children to life
I sip my Arabic coffee as Israel growls

Echo

He was moved down
to ‘The Departure Lounge’
and we were reduced
to the daytime whispers
of his night duty shifts
as required ten years earlier

but then Dad was dying
and his bed was grounded
almost as if the next stage
was another eased lowering

Three decades on
and I now look to a room
which is equally flawed
but my expected years
are not that finite reduction
of a terminal Illness

I struggle with this shift
from first floor to ground
but it will make life easier
for all in our household
I say I struggle with this shift

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