From the Gift Shop

In the dream there were scatterings
of things you had bought and then kept

Small gifts from a trip which were never given –
a sprinkle of purchased intentions

I bent with ease to pick each one up
and being of sleep they adjusted
to become other things and other thoughts

On waking I re-assembled the slim moments
from yesterday that my slept mind had touched

– I had briefly looked at a snapped picture of you
from that shortness of unschooled innocence
that age when we inhabit a world so small

– I sat in the sun on a hard garden bench
with my awareness shrunk to that of children
into only considering that which I could see –
down to that hemisphere of no more than a step

– Momentarily I had thought about a family trip
That was a rarity then and more so now

– An ugly fly landed on my emptied plate
but there was a jewel’s quality to the intricacies
of the fly’s translucent wings and rolled eyes –
an emerald’s glint as it fed on microcosms

We no longer stride the globe of our forbears –
that inheritance which childhood soon sheds

Our interests and eyes wander too wide
and so we stop seeing into the eyes of flies

Coffee in Brighton

For LB

First the shuffled shopper’s fanfare
that rasp of chair feet on pavement
and then finding a place for my phone
whilst not spilling my lip-high coffee
which measures
like a spirit level
my ability to perform the simplest things

In that fifteen minutes of talk
your beautiful honesty made me admit
that I have been a slowed down fool

The loud gulls swept around us
as they have always done in Sussex
those opportune white vultures
which pick and steal the best bits

You said that girls had been feeding them
down in the Pavilion Gardens
I have been feeding mine for too long

The Dark Room

They appeared on my phone
in a series of texts

those photos of photos
you unearthed in a drawer
of our kids fifteen years before
we announced this ending

I wanted to steal those times
which chemistry had made
in the development of them
into glossy
but now cracking captures

My childhood remains
in one school photograph
alongside my brothers
one dead
one not talking

And in one other print I keep
of my father
holding me upright on a pony

His hand (for once) holding on to me

Box Set

We are drunk-slumped
drugged by red wine
and the wide screen
into the L-shaped sofa

that and the sequential playback
of episodes long ago watched

It is a life now rewound
made so unstoppable
by a misplaced remote

Time no longer exists
for us
the once-tuned
to watersheds and news
played only on the hour

We don’t pace ourselves
with the TV breaks

Instead it’s consumed
in bibulous retakes

Slap

My father had thinning hair
and ever thinning teeth
and a quick temper

no fists
once a slap

when my year older brother
sliced the bathroom sponge
with Dad’s shaving blades

There had been general punishment
until us boys
the muted quatrain
then gave up the culprit

A loud slap
once
which never healed the sponge

Falmer

It is drizzle

almost

the fine rainfall which is fixing
as the mass of coats and hoods
pass around the stadium
in an unholy circled attendance
at Saturday’s Mecca

Pies and chips

washed by beer

and kids swigging at bottles

now weaned from their mothers
to attend this mainly male church

Here to learn the hymns
and repeated mantras
passed down

No matter

Mobile

The area code was known
to me

and for a few footsteps
I wished it was bad news

such that would end it all

my troubled family history
which crawls from me
could be sorted within seconds

instead it is another person
calling from the same place

and not the dialled news
of a family death

The House my Father Built

I am still weighted by the dream
of a house being built
by my long-dead father –
but it wasn’t him – but some stand-in –
and the details in the windows –
where colour was etched to capture
the hills and home of deer –
so that the past could be lined-up
with the correct view and angle –
A small leak in the high roof
and paint trod into the carpet
and cut timber remained
and an improbable kitchen –
which we mentioned lightly –
and was likened to a shooting range –
he had been a good shot


E030119

God off-road

We three boys
would trawl boggy fields

well up to welly boot depths
and over

to heel and toe squelch home
from draining ditches
of dark unknowns

never measured before
by mankind

those unlit sinkholes
of fervent imaginations

each fed by slowed streams
of red Martian water

that oxide bleeding

so bloody it could be
the earth rusting inside

too much for life

and from that ditch
I lifted a fossil leaf

a tyre track of time
embedded into rock

as if left by God on a bike.

Sea bed

Deep anchored points
of my mishpocha
are now on charts

we will take a breath
and remain immobile
for a while

until the next wave of kids
decide to shift from us –

further from the quiet
anchorages –
this shelter

for them – then
to be returned from storms
and the low doldrums
of their travels

to become us –
equal and anchored


E151218

The Tree

I dropped the car’s roof
with a pull on the switch

to make a high space
for the felled decoration

and drove over six miles

to home with the tree

there propped in your space

and at sixty miles an hour
the top of that cut tree
sung every forest song
that she could recall
before her Xmas demise

Beautiful

She sat at our table
placemats squared

like her stubborn
kissed chin

with a darkened mole
on her stage-right cheek

she never meant to
say so very much

’bout maternal dis-possessions

which is our shared
inheritance

but the problem is halved.

Of this parish

Our laid souls will return
to the same parish

there imperially paced
by our pre-descendents

where our earth-stained
attempts to create distance

with breath and word usage

are removed by the vacuum
in god’s pre-creation

and our put upons and ways
will fall

as Galileo guessed

at the same speed.

Wonder Years

No wonder our kids
look into their palms,
that well of distraction
in a real world of harm:
cupped as treasure,
almost delicate grips
around the devices
which free them from us;
we (the adults)
have written their code,
we are the fools
who offer no gold.

Bonfires

They tripped the village
with explosions overhead,
tipped hip flasks, brimming,
and they smoked cigarettes:
Like wayward teenagers,
but with a greater rage,
the sisters from Sussex
resisted middle age.
She said: ‘There is one life,
but a single span!’
So they sucked on spirit
and exploded again.

Returning to rain

I have only seen rain here
once before
when hitch-hiking
across the north
I was on the run from banks

A night around Bilbao’s industry
on my journey east towards
the mountains’ clear attraction
of duty-free heights in Andorra
where gold trucks delivered cash
and the coffee was twice as much

But now I look out at the tarmac
and at men in their high-vis attire
me
with more baggage than last time
and heavier weights on my ankles

Back then I owed a thousand pounds
but now a hundred times more
which buys me a lounge pass
a front row seat on planes
and the back row comfort in cinemas.

The Lodger

He lay flat on his back,
jacket off, the worn soles
of his buffed brogues
almost rudely exposed,
any sign of breathing
invisible at the distance,
and my mother stood
at the kitchen window
Do you think he’s dead?
It must have been 1975,
and he was an old man
who was not known
to do such hippy stuff,
like lying on the lawn.
If it was ’76 then the heat
would have been the cause.
After that day Grandad wed
once more and moved out.