Home Improvements

Your buck of a builder arrives
in his sign-written truck
they belong
to your dull stepfather –
both the van and the man

and in your imagination
you have used his hands –
calloused – to fix things
in your mind – everyone knows
how these things develop

You returned from a night in Brighton
red-eyed – smelling of men –
of booze and wrecked
He had driven you and your sister
home
Such a gent

She Said

I will carry on as normal –
as that is all I have

I will listen to your requests
but not adhere to any said

I hope you approach my acts
with a more rational mind

I am not ‘heartless and nasty’
and I’m not ‘breezing around’

The situation – as it stands –
is untenable for everyone

So she said – poker-faced
not listening to anyone

Les Sonnetts Luxurieux

Is this her ultimate
act of sadomasochism –
his rest of days of pain?
Is his reply allowed

before her face down lies –
taking it from behind
which are – for others – kinks
and well-hidden discomforts

She pleads her case of cruelty
when such cruelty was her cut
and thrust by strangers’ cocks –
no matter what it cost

Claim innocence in such art
of milking men of all shapes
She craves to smell of roses
She wears her crown of thorns

which she pulls down – tighter –
enough to make a hundred blooms
Her sweetly-bled lacerations
are red jewels adorning her skin –

also worn within as rough scabs –
to peel off by her recall’s pull
That delicacy of altered memories
is her art to serve and savour

Other’s Endings

She said she resented him
swanning around
and her wearing fears
of his limped inability
to earn that old income
no longer kept her
tied to their settle bed

Instead – she rolled over
onto another handyman
for his stiffness to press
into her loosened skin
and for his shadowed face
to take her excited stench
to feel some connection

Afterwards – she said
it could’ve gone either way
when admitting her part
She bet on a wrong result
She needs so very much –
be it a ninety-pound man
or a fat promissory note

Redacted Vows

This ripped-up body
of our scarred marriage
can still live – even now
by each reducing breath
of old vows and love

if we do not talk
if we do not scream
mis-weighted words
but instead stick
to honesty on paper

Such measured prints
can be re-scaled
through that rare craft
of self-censorship –
it will take time to bide

The Loose Path

Seeing our lover despondent and in crisis, in tears and unable to cope can reassure us that,
for all their virtues, they are not alienatingly invincible
.
Alain de Botton

Those seven slabs lie – unevenly
spaced on the gravel path

cheaply formed concrete squares
instead of hewn stone tablets

setting all visitors’ strides equal
for their entries and exits

between this falling house
and the latched wooden gate

On number three you stood
and wept too loudly

because of your recent choices
and how they will set you off

from our semi-detached weight
of bricks and faux-stone faces

out to temporary rooms
But that is your own elevation

and your tears will not dilute
my resolution to see our ending

Use those loose stepping stones
to aid your welled-up blindness

I will count out
your seven gone strides

Inconveniences

And she complained
loudly to herself
that this wasn’t
what I wanted

This marriage of
inconvenience
since his diagnosis
and reduced income

deflecting focus
from her inherited
sense of insecurity
One passed down

from one who
got around too –
as noted by relatives
looking inwards

at her admitted acts
to keep me sane –
forever locked in place
in an echo chamber

A Crossing Point

We walk with affray as our guide
to find another crossing point
without repeating our last mistakes
and so putting all forms of trust
into reverberating beaters’ sticks –
our almost guileless diviners –
on stepped along routes laid
flat by others’ boots on
this meadow’s rush of grasses –
and not yet finding that stream
but – instead – standing alongside
a blown mead – a seed-top lake
of wind turned waves of green –
it talks to me of bared contact
between opposed forces –
of only compromise
in where to cross – If only
you could see

You Asked

What are you all doing tomorrow?
We are coping with disturbances
across gust-rippled dirtied ponds
and roughed-up gutter puddles

We misread momentary refractions
before off-centre concentric heights
roll into a greater tidal rise –
even in shallows where no one drowns –

not until now – Now
I want to sleep early – not to stay up late –
not to exchange tapped unpleasantries
on SMS to blast at my tired eyes

A month ago our empire was lost
to your tsunami shock –
It will be spun by folklore’s voice
whilst
we believe in love’s old ignorance

The Builder’s Mate

There – above taught plumb lines
and a bricklayer’s knowing eye
of gauged slaps to alignments –
parried like a joiner’s fine blade –
your men make up for your mistakes –
never measuring twice – you cut once
so badly that your deep footings flood
with run-offs from your mistakes
which I can no longer block by love –
My own eye is still good for lines
and building virtual palaces –
but my tooled efforts were not enough
to convince you of my true craft

A Casting Couch

Again – a rolled-eye look upon you – a lost lover
in muddling dreams – with me as your interloper
who pulls at those fetters you forged when away//
We had made our tugged bonds in bicycled years
when curious games stopped at bare cliff edges//

My role in this slept future is as a limping outsider
writing cinematic recall of my much-dreamt scenes
between us// Ages ago – we shared flat beer and lovers –
rounded turns as we sunk our pounds into pints
and did low crimes before spread cathode light//

Back then we had fewer things to switch between//
None feature now in my sleep’s three-part act
of sweated sheets// Now our phantom presences
are acted by sleep’s bit-part reveries –
so close to the choices we made without a script


 

A Ghost Story

Up at five with the ghost
who is an hour ahead –
not one for the clock’s
change – she lets light in//
She leaves her stew of scent
on my stiff right fingers –
as if marking out extents
upon me// She squats
upon my vice-set thighs –
her other working of me//
See – this sheet is stained
and pocked by blood
once a month – it is she//


 

A Markov Chain

Your single dice is rolled and fixes
the next move of your red counter –
and then things – like probability –

also occur by your releases –
all observed by him – Markov –
who winks at you and your tits –

We are grey with tiredness –
our dog will sleep until our gate
is pushed to allow steps on gravel

and your return from Markov’s place
with your trolley bag of dirty linen
labouring behind you – suited to city life –

There – stand and stare at bare flowerbeds
and desire for small hints of weeds
to not return to this squared garden –

Let us no longer play games of chance –
Markov has your breasts cupped
and will now roll you across his bed


 

 

By Love’s Light

For LB & JB

A lone traffic light beyond Kemptown
oscillates with near-nervousness
as it instantly switches between colours –
older-type bulbs – now made redundant
by lower prices and higher brightness –
once took time over their slow instructions –
But we no longer have that eased luxury
as we drive at our uncontrolled speeds
through a few more degrees of change –

Queen’s Park’s leaf-naked rooted troops
lift prayers for god to temper wind speeds –
it’s bloody hard work staying upright
for plants – for people of various sizes
before rolled surges of shingle-lifting wind
and air-thrown salt kisses – rust readied –

My car cannot settle when parked up –
a moored rocking effect upon its axles
almost slips me into sleep’s slowed nod –
but my ajar window is a penny whistle
played by the gale’s fat-puffed cheeks –
and it jolts me awake to my missed cue –
bringing me back to my nervous state
about weather not carrying old-line labels
and of less comforting climate forecasts –

Within fifteen minutes I have driven us east
to Rodean Cafe and a high view out
to Brighton Marina’s rigid lines at sea level
as repeated waves crest in a broken spray
over a long curve of that rebar-pinned wall –
smug like a reinforced Canute – to stem tides
like mine – under this nameless rage
of a nervous separation and blast-tipped fixings –
I say to you both –
By love’s light – there will be a slow change


 

Endings

There – an ending – a recourse – a damning
by more admissions – by reductions
& other canalisations

which can no longer be left to flow
by a misdiagnosis – by new meds
or by wearing of pulled-tight blinkers

We are drowning – we blind guides
with uncovered still useless eyes
miss each slipped & stained indiscretion

which creep like unfurled underwear
from between tightly-zipped travel bags –
Wayfarers wearied after nights
away – working – unavailable –

apart from a quick one – a filling of gaps
in hotel expenses & of endless bar tabs
everything to be removed – forever
under this title – Endings


Shrove Tuesday

Shriven into a repentant’s place –
readied for a cross of palm ash –
a marking – tomorrow – of believers –
Yesterday was our early Mardi Gras
of confessions – But we do not follow
those fading rules of others’ liturgies –
We cannot name their Shriving Bell
as they stick it loudly to parishioners –
I was last in a church in Birmingham –
under glass and impressive masonry –
but did I not see the work of God –
Now on this half-holiday we will feast
without you here to guide turned heat –
to sear fat and remnants of shopping –
We have given up everything
to a non-date far beyond Lent’s tests


 

Comforts

A pint on a Monday – at lunchtime?
Things must be bad – Michael –
And so they are – but I only offer lies
above salted crumbs on my table –
small pieces – but shiftable boulders
to summer’s soon-invigorated ants –
able to heft such burdens of others’
relative insignificance – of leftovers –
But that is a season away – along with
beer-swilling wasps and longer days
of enough light to keep me
from the pub and beer on Monday


Limping

Here is a heel-scrape
of composite on tarmac –
it announces my approach –
punctuated by my stick’s click

of loosenings – of turned threads
on its retractable –
snappable –
black shaft –

And – by the way
how can I hold you
with my love now limped
by other indiscretions?

It is hard only in my gut –
enough to be sick
because of turning thoughts –
of you opened up –
and me still limping


A Review

This time – this very moment –
is a loose leaf notebook –
not a dense hardback tract –
edited – then embossed
by a binder’s weight of craft –
given a numbered significance –
and set immutable by dried ink

but not to be – as you re-code
it with your notes –
in red – in black – in the margins –
your later new translations
of that which was set in blocks –
This very moment will not be open
to such interpretations


How to Stay Married

One way to want
to be somewhere
is to not be there –
to be sitting at
a distance –

All good marriages
encounter difficulty
which stew into
common indifferences

and then sour
as spite and low esteem –
that being the natural order
of such things –

but we have halted nature –
we can squeeze and rub
our chemical emollients
on each raised rash –

on rage-blemished skin –
and invent new ways
to hold ring-bound hands
and still travel together


 

14th February 2019

Held by a red signal in south London –
in a balloon of wifi – of library silence –
this being a price-hiked compartment –
a restricted remnant of empire days
still served up by rail franchisees

as our ticket collector mis-quotes WS –
Juliet’s soft words as cuffed banter
towards serving staff –
parting is a sweetest sorrow
and he then regrets these modern times
of –
changes to language – to luv cld b not bad

Then a roll forward like a sneaking suitor –
an incline takes us without that rumble
from diesel complaints – this carriage sways
over switched points – under lopped trees –
those leaf-spill hazards

alongside a thousand-thousand
other prunings met behind drawn curtains –
those many lovers’ shop-cut flowers
presented in cellophane in south London
on this Saint Valentine’s Day


EDITED 170219

Matrilocal

Am I not uxorious enough?
I just read you my last poem
and it was met by a hush –
as if I had said nothing –
I know you said nothing –

You are a tough one to peel
like a thin-skinned Valencia
which refuses to avail
its tight pith to my digging nails –
never one to loudly respond

to my wagered words on paper –
these verse observations
of the spinning of things
in the near space we share
by our legal agreements

Ploughing

Clasped – a cold buttock –
dipping to thoughts of others’
comforts – way before zeal
had become sloth-by-illness –

Working a younger body –
thinner – stiffer – bent to those
exacting tasks of hard love –
before this exhaustion set in –

Then visiting foreign suburbs –
eating with a woman and her family –
years before her daughter was born –
before we screwed –

before furrows of motherhood –
those folds of parenthood –
Old positions – long exertions
are no more first weapons of choice

She serves our meal as ritual –
common to others’ habits and grace –
Even with confusions under Hebrew
my understanding is here –

All records are coded recalls of sex –
of finding what had been lost –
then dug by honed ploughs –
all will be turned over once more


E160219 – Edited in Anthony Anaxagorou workshop at Verve Poetry Festival 2019

Returning to Work

The dog was away with his eldest
so there was no scurry-to alarm
with her return after midnight

She ghosted down the hallway
to find him sober at his cold desk
pinned by weights of late designs

He met her bloodshot eyes to find
how well they answered his enquiry
about the evening out in Brighton

And then he let his other senses work
out her night’s eyed-up dialogues
and her lent-into clandestine touches

Did she taste of others’ tongues?
Had her lips had been scored by stubble?
Did her neck bear a robust cologne?

She awayed to bed and drunken sleep
as he shifted the aspect and constructs
of the lines of his worked-at scheme

Our Arraignments

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

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

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

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


 

My Arraignments

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

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

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 posthumous – as was once said


 

Squeezed

I am being squeezed from the middle
like a sink-side tube of stale emollient
or that holiday-returned toothpaste –

and you wonder – out loud but wordless –
why I smile less – as if I am a dullard –
a Charlie Brown kept in his place by you –
an always right Lucy van Pelt

It is as if I am being ineptly operated –
I am being used in the wrong way –
That will make my face difficult to read –

dried out – until you grudgingly comply
with the simple set of instructions
and see that you were not doing it right –
then you note my pithy grin – torn off a strip

New Years

I stand – alone – at an open gate –
I have missed midnight’s kisses –
then – me-the-fool – fleetingly lost
the worked-at vows which we set
on our half-recalled wedding day –
a ceremony thirteen years earlier

where we sliced up a countdown
to the last hour’s holding of hands –
with our slid rings on held fingers –
our bind to the old laws of the state –
silver and gold bands of such weight –
I stand alone as this New Year sings

He Really Did

He really did not know
for how much longer
he could hold on to her
and still be dishonest

He had walked far more
than he had drunk –
but still staggered
along the loose path

off which his love for her
dipped like a slunk ghost –
then she was there –
caught by a car’s high beam –

then she was inverted
like a shadow between trees –
as if his recall of her
had been politely dimmed

as if they were long-divorced
from each other –
that common vote for failure –
which is the wedded norm

These Lessons

‘Love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm’ – Alain de Botton

She is giving me lessons
in love without hate –
but my teacher is failing me
for my schoolboy mistakes

The morning was fractured –
my compass wouldn’t twist –
I failed to find answers
and she would not assist

My notebook is ink-stained –
I scribe off my left –
I crib her taught words
but I always forget

The air is mite-lighted
as I pull from her mind –
this classroom is silent
as my learning unwinds

Four by Four

I sought the purport
of a four-letter word
after coming across it
in a loan long-expired

I looked to definition
in its Wikipedia entries
of disambiguations
in need of citations

But do not believe
everything with labels
not even a short story
of four vocables

Love is an impact crater
on the far side of the moon
Love was a film
starring Salman Khan

An East London Dancer

So she tipped – like a slipped-off creature
under the water – tilting back – to arc
below – to birth a falsified richness
of twisted mist – of dry-cold-on-wet-heat

and I held no appall at her staged nudity
which I stood over – there her magnified skin
of yet-kissed white – of yet-sucked circles –
and that interruption above her turned legs

She let my eyes dry her raised limbs
with an idiot’s roughness – back then
such was her kick – in and out of the water –
she lifted a leg and I was ineffective

Before the gig I had been couch-anchored
as she stood just-wrapped in her towel –
with unfitted – with flirts – with a glimpse –
and me on the guest list for her show

At Our Gate

Old lust – our ragged plot
of strangling weeds –
of poisonous shrubs
turn to interleave

I no longer prune hard –
here they still grow –
even tool-turned beds
take foul seeds
as true

You employ a man –
whom you poorly pay –
who digs in hard
with hands-on-spade

He labours for hours –
the rough cover he tears –
as he clears the unloved –
you taste his turned air

Strung

Am I rebuffed by your cooling love?
I tremor under naked phone lines –
oscillating – now wind-touched –
Silent are our words in the wires
which we strung to allow such whip –
Without voices they are set to squinch
and tighten before a snapped mishap
of misunderstood tensions – of speech –
No text – no reveal – such cold harm
here – left open – rough translations
like the coded language of telegrams –
Are muted signals your intention?
And I’ll sit by my phone – as if
your voice is the waited-for-gift

Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore*

As disordered pages
I read back my life –
until you – as Ludmilla –
entered mine

The creak of shined floorboards
from the weight of us
and of ten thousand books
under ten kilos of dust

You as Ludmilla
mark my book with your touch –
your stroke of the spine
is a pleasure to watch

 

*If on a winter’s night a traveler

For a Pot of Paint

The tall bay window
is our empty white frame –
on the front of this home
of unshuttered shame –

but now winter-battered –
past my amateur repair –
the paint has flaked off
through changes out there –

The weather has whipped it
in layer-thrashed strokes –
like the blistered hull
of a forgot-turned boat –

with a peeled underbelly
for so long undressed –
it has been left unsealed
losing sea-worthiness

No sensible man
would sail in her –
he would never return –
she is so unfair

In the Eye

Women slip from winsome
under their senescent faces –
their hands steal the looks
off youth’s eyed-embraces –

They pleasure in pastimes
of tease-tricks and flirts –
they command your heart –
their hard rules will subvert

I want to reach out
and trace your lined beauty –
of furrows and laugh lines
worn freely at forty

I will kiss your eyelids
of stitch-tightened skin –
because here is your beauty –
it is still within

Last Summer

From this hill top distance
above the slope of the estate –
there – in thinning October light –
almost aligned to your rooftop –
I see that solitary oak still in leaf –
forever isolated – also cast out –
under which we took our shade
and where my laggard fingers
gripped at your then-bared skin –
slipping below your blue shorts –
flimsy attire suited for sunshine –
but now the cool dew counters
such all out abandonment –
our laid time remains in summer

Finding You

I found value in my love for you
under Aurelius and Epictetus –
so I purchased a one-way ticket
to end my lonely sojourn abroad

I wasn’t tempted in empty deserts –
no fingers took my potent virtue –
no foreign lips encouraged sin –
But I saw mirrors on their pages

and I watched myself translating –
framing – like Christ – opportune times –
I saw my mouth speak in tongues
telling you to taste my poison

Now I unpack my emptied bags
having brought back nothing more –
I left behind heavy possessions
which I no longer wish to share

יין אדום

I don’t believe in God
but I think she hears my prayers

I can only hope to touch her face
if she deigns to ever care

We don’t talk much about politics
it bores her more than sex

We drink red wine and compromise
on what is truly meant

I woke to judgement nightmares
and a terror in my heart –

with an empty wine glass by my bed –
that brittle bodyguard

Loot

So she dug up my soul –
I have a price on my head –
she pulled it from my skull
because of what I said –

Quoting Aristotle –
in accordance with virtue –
she showed me my old failings
as they formed a ragged queue

Jealousy and mistrust
once mine to sculpt with ease –
I’d struck at our confidence –
I’d cut her blood with tears

She placed her prize on scales –
held high by a blinded hand –
and claimed the inside of my head
was hers to now command

The Boxers

There’s now a looseness
of my limbs –
my flesh is tidal-tugged –
my skin’s forgotten fingers –
it doesn’t get their rub

She slugs her way through cities
knocking back – inside pubs
Testing weights and measuring –
she seems to get enough

I spit blood into my bucket –
they don’t say why it drips –
and I wonder if old Jesus
felt the nails as they ripped

Morning is my saviour
telling me that I’m not dead –
I wake her with my stiffness
but she’s not inside my bed

Cracks

I’m spitting out my words
I do not like their taste –
I’ve been thinking too much lately
now I’m fat around my waist

I’ve been seeing the small hours
without sleep’s dead embrace –
I’ve directed thoughts to work
on your holes and your disgrace

I’ll wash my mouth with alcohol
to remove the lines I hate –
whilst the bitter hit of whisky
sets my mind to sleep awake

And if we survive this winter
without a thaw across the lake
then we will skate more fearlessly
since the ice will take our weight

Call Ended

When I touched the button
and killed our discourse
I ripped with emptiness
then filled with remorse

I cannot handle
these telephonic wars –
I start thinking out loud
my unspoken thoughts

I struggle with distances
logged by servers and silos –
those creeping tendrils
gathering ones and zeros

But my ear is pressed
to heed numbers you say –
of your long hours awake
and your days still away

We have lost the buttons
and slow rotary dials –
these phones are devices
which hack our denials

09:45

This is my time of day
with the door wide open –
just clock ticks and the dog
to keep me company

I am untouched by anyone
whilst the alerts and alarms
are switched off – for now –
I do not think about you

I steer my thoughts around
this selfishness of silence –
I would not explain myself
to any visitor to this moment

In this capsule of my remove
I am so strong – now capable
of stopping time and breath
by not thinking about you

Lover

I leave clues in the bathroom –
empty blisters of pills –
Leonard is everywhere
singing of stiffening thrills

Affection is not infecting
the bodies in the beds
and children speak in whispers
because of what is said

All I want from your presence
is engagement and thoughts
instead we stare at screens
and read others’ fingered words

My weight is dropping daily
whilst the world fattens up –
I would pray for forgiveness
but I’d be praying far too much

Digging

It was never about being held
until it stopped
and then my redrafted scenes
were all that remained

The unbalanced intimacies
of being in love
were ours to upset –
to greedily grab and pull at

until their weight combined
and collapsed
without a bed or shelter –
under the spire we stood naked

and blushed at foolishness –
or so it appeared –
because the mass of it all
was too much for us to bear

I pass through the graveyard
where our bench was set
and still cannot read
those upright names.

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.

Dents

Hide me away
with a tumble of words
and do not release
the briefest of hugs

Under thickening armour
that won’t be removed
you wear that breastplate
of hardening blood

And I picked the wound –
pulled back half scabs
which makes you flinch
at this offer of love

The slice across us
is deepest when drawn
by your quick furled edge
of blunted retorts.

GMT

I used to reset my watch
when flying over la Manche
An engineered engagement
of small clicks and twists –
spinning hours from the east
to Greenwich Mean Time

Our first rented house
was about a hundred yards
from that scientific mark
which cut a line through
my old school atlas
of blushed exaggerations
and empirical remains

This trip was a reset trick
of handheld smart devices
which knew the differences
and needed no fingernails
to lift the watch’s crown
and turn back lost time

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

The Shade

There is no word for this foreign heat
but under the dapple-shadow plantation
I find a ten minute retreat from our star

Here I sit and consider my options –
as a bead of sweat rolls from my chest
to track like an insect under my shirt

This is a playground for absent kids
with still swings and slides anchored
between picnic benches on which I rest

I consider my options with no haste –
for now relocated to this middle east
of loud relatives and small children

We are not sheltering in the same land
and I wonder if this half-turned separation
is my way of seeing the other side of the sun

Elicited

I have to measure my responses
and weigh the more foul energies

against those that lift me to you –
a conversion to a way with propriety

I should sacrifice for the lost dead
and keep their spirits at a burnt distance

and so find equilibrium in the overhead
tug and pull of ghosts and lost gods

but not give in to the religious fervour –
the lies of any other life but this one

The Winchester Goose

He would pay in cowry shells
and barter for love with time
as they exchanged such currency
the lies they laid made lines

She lay outside the liberty
of the clink and London’s wall
reducing down the value of
his late night wide-net hauls

The orders placed by princes
through their messengers and men
took her eyes from their line
and back to Bankside friends

Luna

‘Slumped’ would be a good description
of my state after the coffees were delivered

I cried as little as I could as we dissected lives
which crossed and recrossed around us –

like those thousand circling aircraft overhead
with thousands again also slumped in the sky

The restaurant was empty enough for tears
and for private speeches about why I cry

I am now the sad old man in this odd kinship

Her Book of Acts

Other men arrived
so many times
finding a night
in wide open lies

I was made surplus
by your choice of lust
One return to the past
was never enough

That unholy spirit
descended to hell
as retold by Luke
and the Acts you tell

John’s head demanded
The Baptist was bowed
as he prayed over you
you took him as well

The Delivery

I am driving slowly to your place –
well under the national speed limit
because there is no more rush
to arrive – to park up – to be there –

I am returning with the fourth nail
which a poor blacksmith forged
for a death and his condemnation –
but I cannot deliver it now

I step from the car with less art
because I no longer bear my weight
without a graceless poke of a stick
combined with planned landings

‘The sharpest will pierce his lung’
his feinting mother was told
of those tempered metal pins –
one of which I now hold

Knife Crimes

I had sliced open my thumb
peeling flesh to fish-white bone –
but the unexpected incision
refused to well and bloom

Caesar took over twenty cuts –
and may still have survived –
but the one knife that killed him
stopped his heart – and then his life

I was stabbed by your fingers
and by your loud blunted tongue –
I pressed at my open wounds
to catch the crimson run

Then I raised my whetted blade
to your bared narrow back –
and plunged it so deeply
that your spine was duly snapped

The Wedding Guest

Two contrails cross over Croydon
as a childish whispered kiss
a wedding party walks the aisle
of this train to London Bridge

The bride is dressed all in black
carrying a bunch of flowers
and her rich perfume fills the train
as she necks a bottle of cider

The twenty minute reception
of small talk
of drunken laughs
of the booze flowing as water
to her lips and to her heart

 

 

If On a Winter’s Night

Se una notte d’inverno
n viaggiatore

As disordered pages
I read back my life

until you as Ludmilla
entered mine

The creak of shined floorboards
from the weight of us
and of ten thousand books
under ten kilos of dust

You as Ludmilla
mark my book with your touch
your stroke of the spine
is a pleasure to watch

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

Ghosts

They say that there is a ghost
in every old house

That frigorific forms will rise
to meet with warm blood
and damp bones

an attraction

almost a magnetism

It is beyond any control

Love is a heavy haunting
which we meet unexpectedly
in bars and dark bedrooms

The ghost I knew was cold

which I did not tell the kids

She troubled the shadows
of our chattering family home

Late in the night I would run
three flights of stairs
Yes
me
the adult
fucking scared

I wear it like a suit

It is always
your quick precedent –
You will be angry
with me –

It makes me to be
a monster –
A cruel judge
of misfortunes –
Is it said to put me
in my place
and I succumb
to an absolution
with my assurances
of serenity
to douse your
flagged fuck-up
and to shroud
my own frustrations

 

Un

We will discuss disconnections –

such things we must trust

in this poker face card place
of marriage-discourse

We will flip expectations –
like a shark wrists the deck

We will turn the dealt hand
counting down to slow death

Our marriage is skewered
on the spun-turned spit

here both parts are scorched
now the heat has ripped

Our future fixes divide

to avoid offspring hurt

No one is to blame
as the pain now burns

No Dance

We had no dance record –
no undulated score
to offer a vinyl track
to our lost time
of looking back —

The dog lies untouched –
her stroke mislaid
like a forgot chorus
of a heightened itch —

I broke the news
at O-one hundred
with shipping news
and ‘Sailing By’

and your phone died
a battery death
as if
we could recharge


E270219

The View

Here – a future lost
like a still fifth child –
her shortened view –
no more beguiled –

as paths by priests
churn to mud –
their robes now scabbed
in soured blood –

All is fouled –
left to burn –
her spin – her shaft
is now slow-worn

The wide street slopes
to rain-washed grey
which I take now –
adante –

the coffee sips
are her warm flesh –
her taste last kissed
of latte breaths


EDITED 170219

BST

British Summertime
day one
as seen from this flint field

high above the Winterbourne’s
estate-dictated course

above the rush of the bypass

that continuous inland tide

Here I listen for the reduced birds
as seagulls are distance summoned
by the hip-jiggered tractor’s
turn of furrow

You have walked on
with me left here
above this valley landscape
with an extra hour of light

as if the clocks had stopped

ความรัก (Love)

This Thai beachside paradise
of dribbled concrete streams
and well-kept swept lawns
is like the constructs of love

which also require maintenance
of surfaces and hid beams –
which need an ear to creaks
and underfoot complaints

Left unattended – even for a day
and the leaves will fill the pathways –
The beach will rustle with plastic
and the drains’ stink will stay


E100119

The Engaged

For Beth & Samuel

Under wind-tipped red umbrellas they take midday shade
laid out behind sunglasses
flat down on sand-itch sunbeds
hiding from the equatorial burn
which catches us
the unblocked
out

They are separated
for now
by the short array of kindly shadows
between palms and the sky
set in another timezone
they submit to sleep’s distorted demands
to dream
to reset their love and lives

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

Broken

And these awakenings roll
from stones into movement

of cruel stretches to unlock
my fixed hands from the straps
of an accelerated illness

as my skin crawls with insects
within the scratched at tingled layers

and no tablet on earth can fix
the inner unrubbed itch

no cream can offer emulsion
enough to bleach the nettle beaters

except for her mouth on mine
and a foreign breath to confuse