Aforethought

There is the intensity of sadness
caught in his reddening eyes
after being caught out by innocence

and the cross-infection of malice

albeit the slimmest form of such

found out by his misdemeanour
and a rolled tear as evidence

Old scars

Again
she loosened him
like you do to a ripe scab
with a quick pick

and each time
she contributed to that flesh mark
he had upon her

that white scar
vividly lit by the sun’s admissions
never burn-protected
almost

just almost
cancer’s low cat flap
under which he crawled
to grow
again inside her


E110119

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.

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.

C-90

I ask her, Alexa,
for Prefab Sprout,
as I sip my coffee,
dipping in a playlist
first small-written
on C-90 inserts,
and turned to ten
on an Aiwa stereo,
then sounding
less compressed,
back then,
in those simpler sips.

Special Assistant

Special Assistance at an airport again,
no obvious symptoms above his pain;
minimal tremor, not dyskinetic,
a second class patient, almost pathetic.
‘Dad, can I ride on those cool little cars?’
‘No son, it’s just for the old and infirm.’
‘Dad, that man is the same age as you,
but he’s sat in one, so it can’t be true!’
‘Ah, some people are ill, but don’t look like it,
think yourself lucky that I am still fit!’
‘Dad, when you get ill..’
‘If, if, if!’
‘I’ll drive you everywhere, super-fast-quick!’

Addlestone

That distant town was my playground,
at Darley Dene I scuffed my knees,
returning, scabbed, to 6, Essex Close,
Addlestone, Surrey, England, Earth,
and our three storey police house:

I revisited the road on Google Earth,
unsuprised by its reductions in size,
but as that tripped child it fish-eyed
in the scale of the upgrade it was
to our family of five men and mother.

We schooled in the grey shadow
of the ever-scruffy Surrey Towers,
where Bill D tossed off his pet dog,
knelt, he said, in the oft-stuck lift:
That beastial act he reported to us,
he so wanted to be a milkman.

On a school trip, of distance and steam,
they had stuck signs up in the carriages
to mark our booking, stated ‘Darley Dean’.
Our loud comments about the mistake
are all I recall of that summer excursion:
of Addlestone, I just have shadow

We the Grey-haired

We the grey-haired,
but fashion-aware
men, of a certain age,
the would-be punks,
back then,
or heavy-coated,
liking Echo, Bjork,
and then, a bit later,
almost wax-quiffed,
a suede-headed
Morrissey lover,
or confirmed hater,
tugging our loneliness
and unsure,
still unsure about stuff,
but not music,
just politics and love,
still trying on fashion
and making mistakes.

Rock Pools

In these recharged times
of eye-sucking screens
the two boys still felt
the pull to cold rock pools,

where Fred wrist-delved,
turning possible pebbles,
but Wilf was slowed, upset
by his so-aching tooth:

Me, their photographer,
was quite unsteady,
cautious over rough slices
of tripped possibilities,

and my parental recall
of other times, of deep cuts,
but still they climbed, hunters,
stalking in their innocence

of that shorter progression,
just before their steps lengthen,
when they will stumble
with the strides into ageing.

But now they leapt from high
to scribe in sand their names,
a stick scrape, like us before,
to be tide-washed from the shore.

Humid

You could see the unexpected humidity
in the weep of the trees

almost a rainforest drip in the woods of Sussex

and being tall I had to dip to avoid
the damp stroke of lime leaf on my neck

that of a sweated relative
or grease-ball teacher.

Underfoot the cinder path was an equal impact
on memory as I lugged my groceries

back

back to

that playground in Surrey which grazed kids
and scuffed the sandals
a home to sparkled
stones and shiny ants

and games of ball
chase
kisses
and secret skipping songs of girls.

Abiogenesis

You too have climbed
from the alluvial swamp
of youth, of immaturity,
that dark cloy which sticks,
a viscid ignorance,

up from that shallow place
to our adapted older-selves,
without His re-engineering,
One’s dulled interest long lost –

ever since J. Robert Oppenheimer
re-purposed the identity of God,
and made mankind the last hope.
‘Survival of the fittest,’  is questioned,

but we stand, good, on two legs,
presently erect on this planet,
us, the last keepers of the foul waters
in which we clean our children,


Before

Each weekend was a curst return
from pitch-black,
boot-filled, lifeless ditches,
each boy scolded for deep cuts
and rips off furrow-tripped meadows.

We ranged, untouchable, free,
across fallow farmland,
never knowing every acre was doomed.
The River Addle, our course of choice,
went first, piped and diverted.

Next came the laying of black lanes
for shot past trucks and cars  –
killing machines, legally driven,
which then road-blocked our crossings.

Our wild life was inequally divided
by over-takings and lines of sped death,
cutting us off from the dark woods,
that far copse of unmanaged oak

which, before they lay the orbital road,
was our furthest-ever destination
on our stone-kicked roamings,
in squelch-squeezed Wellies.

We had read nature’s encyclopedia
within the oaks’ shadowy gloom –
the same woods where Dad
had me shoot all that moved.

HRH

I have danced on the stage
at the Royal Albert Hall,
sidled a swept Princess
and a hundred-like fools.

Their rules of movement,
to me unsaid,
I turned to a tune,
not that which played.

I spun below domes,
under the clouds of song,
with a woman so slight,
because ballet is wrong:

Their rules of movement,
to me set blind,
I turned from their tune,
not the dancing kind.

From Kensington Gore
dropped on to Queen’s Gate,
ripped fast from the ball
by my own complaint.

Their rules of movement,
to me mistimed,
I removed from that tune,
that which was mine.

Take me from such
dance floors and grace,
I have no true patience
to keep me engaged.


 

F5

‘The years teach much which the days never know.’
Ralph Emerson

Half a century has passed,
of my oblivious education:

Valves glowed behind Bakelite,
those wireless invocations,

mail was flap-rattled –
some bore oddity stamps,

wearing cent-priced strangers,
sent from inky confidantes.

My search was inherited,
in spine-bust encyclopaedias:

I learnt the word ‘concentric’,
and skipped the Roman Empire.

The Triangle

Past that rough triangle
off Heath Road, Weybridge,
a slow junction lined
by gloom-slimmed birches,
these woods we all knew
as the murder patch,
where a woman was killed,
his low theft gone wrong,
and a foul faked rape
by other thrust means,
(facts then unknown):
we kids were alive to
her near place of death,
there scoured by detectives’
metal detectors:
and we looked for shadows
on every pass,
we innocents whelped
on his criminal act.


The Visitor, 1984.

Recall is now grey scale,
but I once dreamt in colour
without any gnaw of limp,
or hint of restricted reach:
back when stiff was good:
And I would wake to this:

Eight AM, clear-road Sunday:
Floored up the A316,
in my stripped-down Landie,
roof-less, screen-dropped,
me, blown, almost removed,
with the doortops off:

I circled, again,
old Trafalgar Square,
to corral, with fumes,
the climb-shined lions,
those I once ascended,
(now boxed snapshots).

I then accelerated
under Admiralty Arch,
to bomb down that drive,
The Mall, a red carpet
of tarmac, on my whirred
agricultural tyres,

fast past the Jacks
of Buckingham Palace,
and then out, away,
to the Home Counties,
where my rough thoughts
took someone else’s wife, again.


Addlestone Crossing

There to see my father,
propped-up in a polished box,
one that my eldest brother,
chose, on the basis of, what?

Death was still too sour to us,
the parlour’s air throat-clogging,
this feared place of passing youth,
ten yards from the level crossing:

Often halted by its turned gates,
and scoured spin of wheels,
on our way in and out of town,
with Dad, and his thousand skills:

he could dissect a battleship,
break apart any gun,
extemporize upon anything,
with sketch, and rule of thumb.

Now boxed-in, he tarried,
we’d leave him, lonely, there:
my brother could not stand
the shop’s execrable despair:

In that time, almost gone,
I learnt about death’s prop:
that last lesson from my father,
our paths no longer crossed.

Continuation

This is my constant (since childhood):
along a rough path of almost-identified
bird song, high-scattered;

but I am no longer drawn to the slip and suck
of uneven grasses, to be welly-filled
so my socks squelched:

Not over the land topped by last year’s
stamped brambles: As ever the grey sky
has dropped,

she rests lightly on this damp copse,
where locked-in trees are north-greased
against climbers.

The birds I once shot, our farmers’ pests,
ruminate overhead on bowed wires,
adjusting with flap-claps,

and, still, ever, that distant roll of
tarmac breeze, of sped tyres
on a constant road.


The End of the World


The men of Darwin don’t dance,
they prop their lagered weights
on arms over beer glossed bars,
as turned-from-Sheilas oscillate,
in girl-twisted-girl disco shapes:

We had them, choreographed,
in moves (swifter than drinks poured
by locals), the lit-girls entranced,
by us, the few English horde,
we rout of travellers took the floor.

I woke late at the end of the world,
with a forced order to bed rest,
the night had left me pain-curled,
in that ghost town, now unimpressed,
the ideal spot for a nuclear test.

Days later, I limped, gingerly,
to Uluru, to her sunken otherness,
but I was floored, by my jiggery-injury:
Propped at the shaded base,
as Aussie men shimmied across her face.


Fermata


For FM / FF

You looked from under
your fermata brow,
there over your right eye,
your cast unbowed

to time’s reduction,
or to time’s recourse,
as seconds stretched,
four senses soft-paused:

I, an Asura, stared
at your slightly dry lips,
eyes to your neck
past pearls, yet kissed;

I trailed down your throat,
I wished to cusp,
but only with sight
could I ever dare touch.

The sixth sense failed me,
that night sophime:
But under time’s arrow
you then became mine.



 

Warehouse Lad


This is a return to hell,
sitting in a warehouse
of soft-play constructions,
and other people’s kids,
re-fueled by sweet drinks,

and me, here, trapped,
in seating which complained
under my current weight,
sofas impossible for a man
to rise from with any style.

Another dad, rather anxious,
up among the ricochet of kids,
in the net-safe towers of foam,
as we sat adults observe
his mismatched socks on show.

In the roof raw strip lights,
and foil-wrapped air-con,
take me back to other hours
of square feet, of a life spent
working in commercial sheds,

equal scaled-down hells
of my previous employments,
in look-alike high structures,
now called industrial units,
the new measure of lost time:

A lad clears the tables,
tipping purple drinks, chips,
and piled, untouched food
into a bucket: an hour of his life
equal to the remains on one plate.


 

Passion Notes


It was in local woods,
a tight thicket of birches,
where we went, as three
boys, over a silvered heath,
to that last kick-of-leaf place.

Here I was cast as a victim
in your impromptu war:
Your third, or fourth stone
caught me on my forehead,
in a thick-hit, spun at me,

bowled sports-fast, pitch;
almost a third eye opened
on my hand clapped brow,
no blood, but that helped me
to see I wasn’t wanted.


 

Projection Booth


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In the airless cupboard
of our sixties new-build,
in that three storey house,
up on the second floor,
we gathered, brothers,
to delight in the wonders
of the boxed projections,
a Chad Valley picture show
of Thunderbirds Are Go;
with fat batteries loaded,
like dad’s shotgun cartridges,
in the spring-tight blue barrel,
and then, a twist of focus,
our slide show began,
on the whitewashed wall:
Us on a shelf, in the warm.


Threats


Skinheads scared me,
old stupidities,
their immediate uniforms;
bared arms, Fred Perrys,

with high-rolled jeans,
over Doc Marten kicks,
and the sneered attitude,
in ska-scored gigs.

But those skinhead girls,
I briefly adored,
their androgynous looks,
which I hooked, engorged.

But the depths of clans,
shorn, or long-haired,
all sunk in belief,
of such no one cares,

unless you are stuck,
in a false uniform,
that of thump-dressed,
or of us, the warned.


 

M. D.

If there was a hard way
or an easy way
I would always choose
the hard way
MD said
but I knew it
already       having been
broken by her

the once-champion
Irish dancer
who used
unexpected steps      to win
and who later quit
to avoid complaints
from within herself
as a dancer

To be the sure
choreographer of her future

 

A Time Ago

‘Yes,’ you told him,
‘I was in love
with your brother’
Him: ‘That does not matter!’

You both seduced
your rounded youth,
but, eyes closed,
he was still unsure
which one you saw:

Yet you shared a short,
unmarried, life,
with your half-English,
and his own, too precise.

A rattle of ‘roaches,
in the tight shower space,
was the moving-in present,
left by prior tenants,

and two doors down,
a neighbour, laughing again,
when calling out:
‘Never marry a woman!’

As your afternoons,
of barefoot heat,
sex, gulped air, sipped,
and tongue-sweep,

under groped fascination,
his brother
was there, deep, deep,
in your imagination.

Cul-de-sacs

I grew up under
the order of
suburban curves,
boxed allotments,
striped lawns,
the apprenticeship
of newspapers,
which we fed
into houses;
careful to avoid
the murmured float
when bombing down
cul-de-sacs,
with no bagged burden
by eight am;
to return, to dress,
uniformed, to school.
as we now send our own.

Bucharest, 1989

I touched down in Bucharest,
for my connecting flight,
on to Tel Aviv’s equal distance
of foreign placed-ness,

at that point, where I stood
in a terminal, sparrow-spotted,
and under the guard of men
in serge uniforms, weighted by rank,

chairs also stood, imperial, ragged,
as if waiting for the return flight of
a poverty-struck Ottoman Emperor,
equally stained and dusted by time.