A Man of the Last Century

You were balanced on a bar stool
balanced on a bar
as ambivelent south Londoners
watched you play guitar –
Tooting had never seen the like before

You ripped down a poster
from the high brick wall
and lugged the trophy back
We found it curled in the hall –
Terminator 2 in Gassiot Road

The wild night you leapt from
bonnets of parked cars
leaving your shoe prints
evidently marked –
the coppers took you in

We poured back pints in the
Whores and Gloom
kidding the tired nurses
we were the gifts in the room –
the Northern Line shook the urinals

The mother of your children came
and took you away
our child removed
to North London’s sober ways –
I have never seen the like again.

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

The Cows

Two good legs shunt the shed’s herd
of black and white hand-numbered hides
into the single storey milking parlour
where the udders are washed and latched
to German engineering by Israeli hands

We would pour unpasteurised milk into a jug
and cross the lava-hot tarmac on bare feet
to then undress and take a long shower
with the coldness in our throats as reward
for hard work and hard fucking

The daughters of my brother’s bovine care
look at me with unrecognizable stares
as they chew on the sweet feed at my feet
They do not know of the kindness I showed
their forebears under these shaded beams

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

A History Lesson

In my hand a precis of histories replayed
as my online device itches with faces
which I recognised even thirty years on

They strung off the first connected link –
One of a woman who had seduced me
because she had seduced them too

A continuum from which I had dropped –
from the connections which they still maintain
but are now set aside from me – cauterised

even though I was a part of it
albeit for a poor summer

But I was never one of the gang
being a latecomer to the fruits
and the well-trod intimate knowledge
which still binds them to that youth

Tea at Charleston

A heavy shower traps me
it bolts me inside the car
under the fry of rain on roof

I am returned to campsites
and useless kagoules
those flimsy foldable coats

The windscreen streams
with hundreds of floods
and another revisit

when I was pressed
to the panes in my bedroom
where
on the wettest of days
the only sport was teasing
the fattening condensation
into vertical rivers
with my breath as mist

I find
the tearoom is closed

Sussex opens on Tuesday

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

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

Fortnite

My son parachutes
into a zone

I think

as his mate chats
from another place

and they exchange advice

It is another vernacular
‘Let’s go greasy’ is agreed

Talk of killing and guns
is no different to my games
over Easter fortnight
forty-five years ago
when our cold war was
a whispered fear
and our battles were real
making bruises and blood
off loaded pebbles and sticks

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.

Verge

As if there was enough death
to recall at this time of year
there is another one to add
to the villagers’ engraved lists,

but she shall not be set to stone
in a public place, instead placed,
for now, in a far-removed room
to wait, to wake to dried tears;

she will not cry, or laugh, again,
pull faces, look for the moon,
take a selfie, be misunderstood,
she will not cry, or laugh, again.