Our Arraignments

Sometimes she lies unknown
without a weathered headstone –
his fingerprints have been struck off
in rages ‘gainst Mytholmroyd’s son

Should I scratch my own existence
off my wronged lovers’ lost graves –
from my past – as if erasing myself –
perhaps that’s the right thing to do

Ted was – just once – Daniel Hearing
not yet un-spelt by strangers’ chisels –
no – they remove his Hughes adjunct
as if they are pummelling his smug face

My first marriage slunked like a low sea fret
over Kemptown’s slippage of wet roads –
it rolled onshore above the piled shingle –
her washed stones should fill my pockets

And did he sever her crown of braids
in some overt – rash – cut and grab?
Was her estate of words – not enough?
Complaint never kept the Laureate at bay

That struck image of my children waiting –
their mother told me at the time –
I could not fix the view from the window
as they waited for Daddy to come home

At an unkept distance – from the graveyard –
there the old stench – a sharp stink of fox
still lingers above the farms and streets –
The rest is posthumousas was once said


Also on Medium

In Be’er Ya’akov

We must use stage whispers
of the plight of Palestinians –
lest we upset the
status quo of seventy-one years

Our distant sympathies
cannot be put on-line in one-liners –
lest we are shot down
as anti-zionist and foul racists

I hold my great nephew and niece
under the Be’er Ya’akov’s olive trees –
they will all grow –
no matter who planted such fruits

I know that my Israeli connections
ruffle my travelling conscience –
We must bow to some ignorance
lest we upset the apple cart

The Christmas Call

..We know nothing of man .. far too little..’ CG Jung

It is over two decades since we last spoke –
you offered no responses – not when I ‘phoned
or when I cheerily arrived at the family home

with – or without – a disquieted companion –
then I’d try to engage you in light conversation –
but that was your silent-met cue to exit the room

And our mother never gave me a full explanation –
except that – He goes upstairs and paints ..
pictures .. from his imagination .. It’s his escape ..

He doesn’t get out much .. nearly an old man – You –
a temporary loss in her thinning line of sons –
each boy sets her wondering – What went wrong?

I watched her fight her eldest – a patio-battering –
from behind the Crittall windows of my bedroom –
I saw her ill-faste fists set upon her eldest child

That is what she made – Us in her ugly likeness
of turned cheeks and of emotional tightness –
that son she striked – he died too early for her liking

And now – on the ‘phone – She is too ill to talk to you
your first line in this garrulous time of your remove –
then a snapped order – not to try again – It upsets her!

You don’t speak to me for years then bark commands –
Do they count – along with your hardened demands
against my ragged ripostes at your loss of voice?

No – do not speak to me –
Please leave it twenty more

The Last Corner

First an eye-crash –
that was the quick blindness
which I slammed into –
it enveloped me under
a tugged-at gallows hood
as I ferried our slumped
kids through their unsettled fears
of the dark – a risen thing

with the hour’s rainfall
which spat – then gobbed
across the lane’s shifts –
springing like shone frogs –
a slimy tide of refraction
down the switch – on and off –
of the unintended chicane –
set by claws of branches
and lumpen road kill

in that true – truest black –
I drove under the storm
that had redacted all colour
from my high beam view
of the tongue-wet road –
that horror film palette
of some evil and of some good –
in stretched marks to bends –
in white lines which warned
of the too-tightness
of that last slip away camber

Old Devices

We’d race to get the telephone –
stating our number as rote taught –
our mother in her poshest voice
but rough for sister talk

Relative news transmissions –
but not intended to be heard –
I knew nothing of kindred facts
’til I stole truth from her words

We were ignorant between acts –
maybe flattening an irksome book –
we’d stare through the yellowed nets
whilst half-tuned to loosened talk

We tugged at the reluctant drawers
where our history was lost and found –
there tucked between old table mats –
sepia smiles were loosely bound

News bulletins marked the hours
or were shoved through the letterbox –
that narrow window on the world –
ink fears of the Eastern bloc

Ignorance was a short-lived bliss
in those disconnected times –
no algorithms on our wrists
to redress the truths and lies

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

The Boat

His boat had seen action in the East –
the reek of cooled sweat met him –
not yet mopped by long-damp cloths –
Never dried enough to work well

so that his first breath taken underwater
faltered – his onshore training failed him
making him cough like that last fag had
as he carried his black kit bag

He crouched to find the right height
at which he was to live and work –
now his skimming on the waves
were inked notes on his service record

This is how it started – it’ll make him –
those hours of constant perspiration –
a hundred nights of coffin dreams –
and still yet to learn Jack Speak

New Terms

Whist you commuters
weary your lit ways
at ergonomic desks
and begging screens

I will walk out
to that richer idyll
that you can only visit
when allowed

You are locked down
by your WiFi streams –
even the commute
is more small displays

Those sealed views
from that fixed carriage
is the best you can do
on most weekdays

until the sullenness
of September dims
and the daily journeys
are seen as reflections

And the mid-term break
in October’s pointlessness
is the dark reminder
that holidays have been taken.

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

Autumn Term

They make the slow haul uphill
with their shop-branded bags
of untried school uniforms

The boy bears his boxed Clarks shoes
as the girl lugs her sweatshop shirts –
freshly picked off Primark shelves –

Still with plenty of growing in ’em
was her mother’s observation
as she calculated the cost of it all

These slack summer holidays
will end not soon enough
for the parents – but not the kids

The hour-numbed regiments
will reform and take the school gates
in their battle colours of navy blue.

Your Photos

A phone captured moment
of your recent childhood –
which I am guilty
of having forgotten –

until you put it up
on our shared channel –
our stored histories
were then brightly reignited

But for too short a time –
for the flare of a match –
again another lost curl
of extinguished recall

Above the Weir

The kayak wobbled
on the tamed river
as we paddled –
but out of time –
past bikini-strapped girls
and kids your age
whom we sat above
in our inflated craft

Within ten minutes
we had found
the quiet normality
of an unbroken tension
where water boatmen
skated in spurts –
here dragonflies dipped
to a secret dance
above our bright bow

We kept time for a while
and then you gave up
to let me drag routes
around low branches
and through narrowings –
I briefly quit with pain
so we were set adrift
against the nothing current
below the next weir

You held the ropes
as I tried to lift my weight
from the muddy berth –
but my legs could not do
what legs should do
so I dragged myself
up the herd-worn bank –
gripping grass clumps
to bring me ashore

I hold the memory
of that recent evening
as fondly as those of my youth
when I lived for the Thames
and her sly currents –
when I could cross
the tops of weirs –
but now I am reduced
to the sloth of the Ouse.

Shelters in Israel

I measured the fixed areas
in which a life was doused –
drawn for the new owner –
one way to heal his house

Under shading palms
my foreign family sits –
another showed the plans
of his own home being built

I walked in his construction –
ready by the winter
on a tour of whitewashed rooms
and the bomb-proof shelter

He led me through the building site
taking time to watch my path –
and I then saw his dear family
cowed below the blast

The rubble and busted timber
are props across this lot –
precursors to God’s plan
for when the bomb is dropped.

Pompey Love

Always third in line –
never really intended
such was my birth –
I am long disinherited

Time is our slipway –
greased for each build
It is a steep incline
for those low on love’s skills

Champagne in ribbons
burst on the bow
and then a spunked wave
to please the crowd

‘How long will it float?’
is not to be whispered –
‘Don’t curse the crew
an’ all who sail on er’

Their shouldered terrace –
my parents’ first home
still waiting to slip
into the port’s lapped foam

Across that hinterland
a tide of just-weds –
the wives of submariners –
a choice none understood

One night of holding
before his boat steamed –
it was sweated and lugged
til he heard her scream

The rude gulls returned
when ships broke the Atlantic –
they pull from tipped bins
a seamen’s tossed prophylactic.

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

Eighteen. Yesterday

You will hear bird song in Brighton
as you walk the mile home on Eastern Road
with a belly of beer as your low ballast

There will be winking cabs but your gut
will steer you and your mate a slower route
because the clean up bill would be too much

And your ears will be thick with shouts and
laugh-rubbished conversations in places
which were loud and sticky underfoot

The bingo hall will be dark because the old
are too clever to stay up this late –
all except your mother who will wait

Early Rising

I let the cool air in over the parquet floor –
my temporary mistress for these few hours
before the sun fucks her rude heat
back into our brick and glass box

I said we’d need blinds to counter this
warming of the morning face of the house
But my pronouncements were stale –
like unpalatable coffee breath kisses

In the room without windows we had sheltered
from the fallout of this sky-dropped summer –
there for an evening of radiation off the TV
which in itself fed the ice-threatening heat

At this hour the bedooms are containers
of the sheet-shoved and half turned over –
where the poorly slept bodies simmer
and adjust to itched consciousness

It is only five o’clock but the sun has risen
at this point on the turned earth’s surface –
Soon there will be words about the weather
and requests to fix the sprinklers will be made

BN1

BN sweats under this carbonised heat
as hard-hatted men kick up coughed dust
among those lost floors of Hanningtons –
that now-gutted department store

I sit in Brighton Square where I hear
every nation parade as the coffee
cakes the inside of my mouth –
a bitter rake across my taste buds

Still the Italian girls chatter
in loud tongues – untroubled
Their volume drops when the jack hammer
is suffocated by the lunch hour

My eldest arrives from her office
for our lunchtime that is becoming
a regular retreat for me from Sussex
and her own escape from her desk.