A Forecast

There will be a cold sluggishness –
not known since those tardy days
of queued-at red telephone boxes –

impatient lines still in that set chill
after autumn – which was in place
and felt raw ’til the following April

We kids constructed six-foot slides
by compaction and then an ironing
of the snow into break-neck ice sheets –

We knew how to travel back then
with flagged arms and slightly bent knees
and how to scream so bloody loud

We were tough – proved by bruises
under bloodied flaps of cotton and skin –
met by back door shouts and clipped egos –

admonished and shamed – sent to strip off –
to be hot-bathed by inherited remedies
of soap and TCP – but limited sympathy


Also on Medium

The Orbital Road

The bastard Surrey countryside
was our dawn-to-dusk playground
of rust-stained ditches – of new paths
set down through welly-trod crops

out to where the horizon was lost
to woodlands – and to buildings
that had not been let to trespass –
not since the fitting of the green belt

to this part of the arse of England
but all that was dug up by navvies
sat in high cabs – forcing wide roads
across our churned playing fields

with their lurched one ton buckets –
set to feed on the tide-laid gravels
under the stripped-back veil of top soil –
We took to the clay and sand – until

in the channelled land – lunar places –
we found it to be a foolish choice
when they had to bring a donkey in
to pull a fool from the suck-quick sand


Being Eighteen

Being eighteen in 1982
was easier than in 2018 –
we had less stuff to plug in –
sniping critics were blocked
by the turn of a front door key
and loud parents muted by
the stereo being set to ten

Our whole past was aligned
spine out – but not in public –
on the overhead shelves –
bound in worn LP sleeves
to which we returned on those
solemn dead-end Sundays –
before it was switched on

The Wanted Ad

Some things are more important
than ability..

that line a would-be band leader penned
when pinned in by the curtain-drswn

suburbs of – perhaps – outer London –
or from behind striped drapes of Oldham?

Such calls followed the loss of real music
to MTV’s cathode-fixing rays

and her pure love of riffable looks –
so much so that artists succumbed

to that two quid call in WANTED –
in the NME – and more for

‘Smiths, Commotions ..
and or Pet Shop Boys ..’

yet unfound by any other bands –
They needed a bassist – smiling

whilst the drummer they required
would not be seen – just sitting

Students Don’t

They don’t throw parties
like we did –
no sleepovers in puddles
of puke and-or-piss –
or found shagging bareback
their best mate’s lover
They don’t sink pure vodkas
for breakfast –
no acid – nothing dropped
without a full appraisal –
googling its providence
Unlike their bad parents –
who took to partying too hard
with only the letter E to look up –
They don’t throw up like we did

First Class

As my path-running dog bolts – yet again –
at the vertical thinning of grey squirrels –
I hear – and then see – those almostvermin kids
gather across the far side of the school fields –

where they struggle with bunched keys
to unlock the rattled and knocked store –
where the bright balls and corner flags
are piled behind the fist-drummed tin walls –

There the brazen – almost-male – chorus
of laughs and throat- bubbled testosterone –
of catching-ups – is loud before the blast
of Sir’s voice from afar – which pulls them

to five-a-side battles in their dark uniforms –
until the rattled shed is locked hard again –
I return from those few seconds of my school days
to see the dog waiting – I call to her on my way

The Blinded

The olfactory hit kicks in –
smelling at a filed return
of youthful tree climbing –
of guns-made-from-sticks
and of our lumpen crashing
among swallowing bracken

I am now drawing so deeply
on this propel of perfumes –
of the under-tree rotten scents –
and also taking the shaded chill –
which seems to feed the smell –
which was the first suggestion

My childhood – found in the kernels
of peeled sweet chestnuts –
was so open-ended that nothing
was going to set a conclusion –
Then on to the unexpected
cinder path – where it ends – again

In Line

Weird kids never came out –
not back then –
that’s why they were not in
our rushed pack
of loosely herded imaginations
running under the command of
Up to the ruins!

Us from identical houses
yet each uneasily unique –
being found guilty
of English differences –
set by the age of cars on drives –
which kept us in our place –
forever fixing our sub-classifications

The weird kids only went outside
to be the last-in-lines –
to retreat to bedroom isolation
which was still a viable option –
back then

County Lines

There – incongruous in khaki
among the lurid colours of youth –
two sallow lads sat by the tunnel
at the love-etched bench

as if recovering from a hundred years
of trench warfare with their coughs
whilst the younger troops are bound
to school desks and repeated tasks

The soldiers’ drugs are sweet perfume
above the sour rot and kicked mud
of the early hints of a winter campaign
across county lines with bunched fists

Into the Trees

Under the trees we find the path –
that one we missed last time –
and climb above the flood plain
on which – five miles downstream –
fools build fifty-four homes

We are now in nature’s green skin
where branches and hand-propped boughs
form unfinished rough shelters –
these experiments and adventures
decay to an undesigned usefulness

Further on the slunked gully runs –
here kids built mud and stick dams
until a wire fence was erected
and that sucking and silting stream
was blocked from the apprentices

The track is beaten and heat-cracked
which encourages youngsters on bikes
to take the risks we also under took –
but we hadn’t the engineered machines
on which they hurtle as fearless riders

The trees reverberate with monkey calls
and the shrill complaint of a lost child –
it is as if the internet doesn’t exist
as the off stage scramble of children
escalates – not quite Lord of the Flies.

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.

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.

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

Science Block

Surface tension
gives water droplets
that almost
spherical shape
A sphere – I was told –
has the least
possible surface area
to volume ratio

My science lessons
were not elliptic –
the strains on the class
were uneven –
instead we received
rough instruction
from miserable teachers
on secondary pay

Biology lessons had a tang
of flesh
and chemistry
was a measured stench

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 –
the stiff udders are washed and latched
to German engineering by Israeli hands –

We would pour the cold output into a jug
and cross the lava-hot tarmac on bare feet –
to then undress and take one long shower –
with the milk in our throats as a reward
for our 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


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