A Moment – Now

In bed – laid on the edge of tears –
but we all are deteriorating –
so these are self-pitying tears
barraged by
this slow use of bagged words –

and you hum a short phrase
as the mobile phones light
our thicker faces

before drawn curtains –
still excluding the morning
and holding back the rush of time –

then
a text showing our daughter skipping
atop The Hoover Dam – she is lightened
by the scale of the world

as we discuss how this
truly affects the state of things –
once the daylight is admitted


Latitude

Our eucalyptus tree
is now my distant
Australia –
Our olive tree
is now my recent Israel
and in-between –
in our English garden
of other imports –
our thirsty plants
look more suited
to wetter climates –
they limp without
the pull and whip
of overnight water –
English summers
play redefined dates
of season starts
and season-ends –
They struggle whilst
the olive and eucalyptus
bear climate changes –
as if born to the latitude


 

More Waiting Rooms – Please

[A prose poem]


East Croydon could be LGW or the upstart crow Milton Keynes station – each we passed through to BHX – those visited identikits of brand-stamped sub-city intersections – of yellow lines and low-hung fixed-font signs – there are no seat comforts – no – no more on any platform – no shuttable waiting rooms – no blistering braziers – a common risk in ’72 – when our choices were gas fumes or freezing – Provide us with indoor benches and free heat at connections – Do not risk-assess our comforts – Do not then tell us to stand and wait before the cold blasts of fast-passing services


 

Mr Murray

Sitting with Mr Murray in February sunlight –
under new blue skies – we met at a word church
which boasts a blue plaque for Mr William Hutton –
Bookseller – the first Historian of Birmingham –

Mr Murray’s words sweep the clean streets –
You know .. We could be anywhere in the world –
below fawn high rises – in Sydney – in Hong Kong –
no city surprises me!

Mr Murray isn’t sat with me – here in the sun –
not in St. Martins – not in the Old Rep’ theatre –
but contained beside my small biro’d thoughts –
with my inked finger on his Waiting for the Past –

Talking to strangers is my constant disease –
Sitting with old poets an occasional delight –
those small distances stepped through cities
lay deeper word footings in my travelled mind


 Edited 200219

Thursday – Overground to Euston

We travel sober through London Bridge – below
brick arches – on roads cowered by glassy heights –
Our cabbie blasts bent-to-smartphone bodies
back from near-hits on red-man crossings –

it seems that Londoners have now forgotten
how to see the threats beyond their implements –
We now live hand-to-eye – no longer hand-to-mouth –
no shape-to-spoken words – now embedded emojis spout –

We briefly find speed over the river crossing
and then turn left through the gold standard of cheats –
of fund managers – of clerics – of bankers and white Gods –
where every seat and bench in the low sun is arse-taken –

Thursday lunchtime is the dress rehearsal for Friday excess
behind St Paul’s – and in the eateries of Clerkenwell –
in the stained and new cafes – at exotic roadside pop-ups
and in smoke-free pubs until ten o’clock that night –
Our ride is time travel and a belching reminder that
we are in a handcart to hell – instead of the Underground


 

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


 

The Ascension – St.Martin in the Bull Ring

Before that art-by-light –
a conceit of Burne-Jones
which is framed within lead –

before the builders’ thrums
from the other side of
that tall story of saints –

commissioned under strict
instruction that it should
bear no oxen –

it was possible to feel
the touch of his brushwork –
of his mixing of skin colours

to be lent them by dipped winter
backlight – as it was designed –
to feel dried paint on my face –

those pigments rear-projected
into a warm kiss of soft gobos –
then my own-ish ascension

into an understanding of being –
under that church’s vaulted height –
My creed warmed – half-confirmed

within that minute of grace –
of time’s fusion of experience
and of being there


 

And Disorderly

He visits lost priests
to mumble-in-vain
for what?
His loose-lip prayers weave
over tremble-woven fingers –

This is the church –
this is the steeple –
look inside
and see the people –

God’s gatekeepers
cannot force the bolts –
not slammed
gavel-struck ones –
so he carries his sentence

out in public spaces
as drunken stumbles –
Ready the stocks
they mutter to others –
He is a convict clapped

in cold iron hobbles –
Of his own bad choices
manacles left visible
to every untrained eye –
they see another barfly


 

The Colour of Spring

There a flash – yellow –
clowning in mid-February –
our foolish
fault – a false overwintering
for spring-tricked innocents –

bringing slow recalls
of others’ tales of good luck
indicated by such arrivals –
or was it about good times

or was it about
a sure proximity of death?
Leviticus found leprosy
in yellow and thin hairs

The inopinate-insect dared
loops of dead brambles
as an unexpected daytime
show of colour in London –
before a fatal frost by night


E170219

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

A Bull Ring Recital

Into God’s house below the Bull Ring –
it offers automatic doors
which open to a wild piano recital

before empty pews – set C of E stiff –
aligned and tuned to religious creaks –
here only stained sunlight warms

as fat chattering volunteers spit
in tongues – the pianist is subsumed
by her memory-art of ivories and wires

as half a dozen souls – hard seated –
do not dare shift lest it upsets
her selfless performance
which – when ends – is not applauded


E160219

Quaecunque*

England now seethes
and demands the return
of old ways
in the face of the subtle
invasion
of the German-led nations

England always needs
a threat to Beachy Head
and rationing
to make sense of
itself –
a small state on a shared island

England forever resents
the hot Scottish breaths
and low Welsh
choirs demanding a quick
divorce
from their malignant union

England still breeds
men and women with inked skin
and piercings –
as if such self-immolation
will win
the heart and minds of others

England reclines
in metaphorical Anderson shelters
and pours tea
whilst tuning in to the BBC
World Service –
Nation shall speak peace unto nation

 

*The 1934 motto of the BBC – ‘whatsoever’


 

Valentine’s

I just took a taste of my waking breath –
it is no wonder then that we do not kiss –

The ugliness of my rum state
places bitter tilts upon our old arousals –

I lay whet by a glaze – an unwelcome stain
on this pushed back duvet of night sweats –

My chest gives birth to salty pearls – loosened
by gravity – set to roll down my bare sides

as trickles – as if wept from woundings –
like precious piercings – but not five holy jabs –

though I do feel pinned by a carried cross –
Do not glance at my nakedness – how I am fixed

by the invisible itches and riveted scars
on my legs – I draw up the bedding – my body bag –

and let my skin rest from your listless look –
instead – I shall watch you dress first – then

I will rise alone and not take in the looking glass
until I have washed off the vilde oozes of blood

which I have picked under the night’s disturbances –
those red fruits of my rough sleep’s self-harm


 

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

Utter

I have always suffered
a mild clumsiness –
just now – trying to read
that line back – aloud –
it got rooted in my mouth –
not stuck in my throat –
not in my swallowing –
that feared future loss –

but in the lip-and-tongue
place of speeches –
I now have to think
the form of the word
to make the shape
of its known weight –
to make it heard –
this is no deal I wish
as part of my illness –

I hear the precision
of the speech therapist –
his repeat of the exercises
which I had forsaken
until now – late in the day
as my words stick
like soft toffees and cake
among my loose teeth


 

Hamilton Place

The tin top cottages
should be haunted – but there is no ghost –
no made-pail Hoogstraten –

A man ripped the roof
off his own propped home and so next door
was left for him – alone –

Now stand those twins
with no tiles or grace – rotting near Hoogstraten –
and his resting place

In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come

The First Racing Turn

We can start with the basics –
the lifting and full leans on oars –
but before long we will have to dig
and pull at less certain surfaces
out at sea and under the command
of racing rules – those set demands
of distance and clockwise turns
around anchored buoys – whilst
in smacking earshot of others’ boats –
those crews that can pull away –
under almost-mechanical techniques –
those we have to hone – Our finest victory
will be the first finish we achieve –
and then we will know how to row

BHAFC 1 – Burnley 3

There is a beer-and-pie feast
in the bar-fed anticipation
in the echoing East Stand –
high on the Upper Level
with the buzz of line ups
and incoming league results
in other parts of the land –
but by half time the sense
of dread has resurfaced
and is not pissed away
by one more pint and bogs –
instead we then succumb
to the gnaw of raw nerves
as the clocks stop at ninety
and extra time is not enough
to pull us up a place above
where we were the last time
we were here and hungry

College Green

College Green hadn’t seen
such a circus in such a while –
a scattering of disaster tents –

Those stop-gap structures for
turned-collar journalists
talking to random others –

Those stiff-posed parades
of MPs – grinning between ears
like scavenge-fat hyenas –

Those unyielding politicos
in love with themselves
under the gathering clouds –

Those anchormen and weather girls
passing snide remarks
on muted mics back in the studio –

and voters draped in stars and jacks
shouting at the grey-suited fools
pleading for a voice to end it all

My Designs

I am abraded by a faux light
for my immediate set of tasks –
I sit at my cluttered desk

before that eye-bleach of pixels
framed on a twistable mount –
that rarely wrestled wrist –

I slump before it – weighted by to-dos
by deadlines for stage designs –
my fanciful constructs

in rented spaces for the business
of presentations – for buffed egos
and unfurled peacock feathers –

for fat chanticleers in sharp suits
and for ruffled hens in tottered heels
to preen at brand-gilded lecterns –

those podiums were once brushed –
leafed in beaten gold for unseen gods –
but I enwomb false altars in hewn MDF –

Set to stand – braced – for only one day
before a room of corporate disciples
who pray for the coming of closing remarks

The Lash

We will – now – we will be read like tea leaves
swilled in a bone china cup and saucer
We – the forcing twins will find a paradox –
the mirrored – the paired inept

Us – the repeated – the sighted mis-readers
of too many – many shames – our mistakes –
under a cooling off – of weightlessness
of false sways – of our un-weighings –

here the sickly heavens will heave –
taking us – bowed into a curved white bowl
of moaned throat prayers –
cold mantras between each lost mouthful

against our friends – Falsified? –
Of exultations –
upon that hard – that bare hardness –
so we spew kisses –

there on the glossiness – the unclean porcelain –
as our bloodless faces pair
to the low level of beer-darkened water –
There – one more soundless drowning –

bereft of any of the bubbled screams –
into the suck-suck
of breath-dead air –
our lungs will now surrender as lost

and we shall pull our heads
from this bent reverence – then –
then –
we will find succour in tap water

Australia

Between Townsville and Tasmania
there is every conceivable season
now that the rules have been lost –

my route north thirty years before
faced airline upset – home to roost
and other such haggard platitudes

sit at the brink of my old thoughts –
a recall of North Shore, Sydney where
I wrote my first unfinished novel –

the green opulence under verandahs –
but still a whiff of being at the edge –
But not until Cairns did I finally trip

 

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

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


 

The Collection

I am almost the same age
as Mr. S. Armitage

Today I bought
a collection of his work

from the secondhand
book shop – just off the drag –

where words are piled
between pencilled prices –

I feel bad – please tell me how
I can pay him the rest –

so that I am not short-changing
Mr. S. Armitage

Freight

I favour the white spaces
between my words –
my loose goods trucks
left uncoupled –
let to roll into others’
classification yards
under the pull of inclines –
ridden
by the freighthoppers –
you few readers
of these lines
who find the hewn floor
a brief comfort –
and me – another traveller –
of sorts – I sit alongside you

A Small Expense

Another plum-voiced politician gabbled
from behind his port-swilled jowls –
Of course the future is great

He could still taste the foie gras
from last night’s foray into decadence –
he had found a folded receipt in his wallet –

He steadied himself before the interview
as he recalled the look in the eyes of the boy
as he pulled too hard at his limp cock –

after he had spent a few hundred quid
at a discreet little place off Piccadilly
It will be put under ‘entertaining purposes’

Lined

The parallel profiles
of the fifty to sixty linden trees
are bitten-thin by the wind
at this time of year

but their ever-tall alignment
of bared trunks
is still my local fixture

There – spaced by landed
strides off an owner’s count –
along this now hemmed-in route –

once a sublime wide avenue
to a grand house –
ridden up forty-ish years earlier
by a princess –
Sporting Life by her side

Now it is the route to a
sprawled estate
of modern servants
who push their buggies
and pull their dogs
along the uneven surface –

a shaded path
for the good half of the year –
for the other bared months
it is fifty to sixty sundial
shadows – if there is sun –

I haven’t counted the trees –
each a timer set by a lime
in the low winter light

Fresh Denials

Today one-in-twenty
British people
hold a shared belief
for that should they be

summarily rounded up –
after a few years
of harassment
and segregation

and then be consigned
into cattle trucks
and carried across
their homeland counties

to a place of final shoves –
of dogs and guns
and hard fists and shouts
and a sick unease

where interwoven fingers
will be broken
as families and lovers
are unloaded

and that is before
they find the hard slats
to sit upon
where others sat in disbelief?

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

Ratfucker

It’s better to be infamous
than never famous at all –
said the scuttling Ratfucker

Even with muscle memories
of weighty court bracelets
fresh in The Rodent’s mind

he still stood before a God –
one he did not get elected –
unlike the ferret on his back —

he won’t pay for its removal –
of Nixon – Stone now itches less
than the lustrous towering fool

whom he – Rat Man – won’t rat upon –
the sunburned – set-up – tycoon –
the fall guy wanting Moscow rooms

I Cannot Laugh Alone

I cannot laugh – not here
under deeds-squared –
not set right by brick walls
or shared boundary lines –

I cannot find a common rip –
no throaty response
to such drivel – no haw-haw
to ear-struck offences

I am talking to myself
in these late-night poems –
which are witchcraft-wishes
for under-dark flourishes

Laughter is a primal grunt –
we are bared-teeth apes –
but do not admit so much –
that would be straight

We can’t afford the weight
of any such conflagrated
head-butts over trolley aisles
or school pick-up lines

I do not LOL alone –
in this cast of red blocks –
because the clocks tell me
of the so-serious ways

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


The Decision Makers

I’m lost – Danny Boy –
in this town of my birth –
I’m being pulled apart
by others’ decisions –
by the inflexible rulings
of fixed-people-in-jobs –
I could clip their pinned ears –
but it is not allowed –

due to time – human rights
loom at my now left half-life
in these – so – disunited
flagging kingdoms –
of offset Scotland –
of partitioned Ireland –
of phlegmatic Wales –
of moribund England

Now – they say –
connect by the internet
which eludes my grip –
not my old way of working
because that has been
swiped by the change –
under time’s circled stress
on my devolving thoughts

Early Morning at Abbey Mills, c.1928

In memory of Elwin Hawthorne

It must be an early summer
recollection
with the sun so high
on tin roof contours –
before the gauze and filter
of veiled vapours –
settled by less-puddled
watercolours –

The torn foreshore
is a bared cross-section
of London’s tidal visits –
sunken Roman traits –
that wallow of empires’
drowning of ways –
which were then re-built
for the Industrial Age

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


 

In Be’er Ya’akov

We must use stage whispers
of the plight of Palestinians –
lest we upset the
status quo of seventy-one years

Our distant sympathies
cannot be put on-line in one-liners –
lest we are shot down
as anti-zionist and foul racists

I hold my great nephew and niece
under the Be’er Ya’akov’s olive trees –
they will all grow –
no matter who planted such fruits

I know that my Israeli connections
ruffle my travelling conscience –
We must bow to some ignorance
lest we upset the apple cart

The Best a Man

Let boys be damn boys
Let men be damn men
@PiersMorgan

Let our quick fists and sly cocks
damn us all –
Let young men sport superior
sneers and hate –
Let our sons expect the birth-right
to high esteem –
Let our male egos distend under
our close-shave chins –
Let our wives – our mothers –
our daughters –
Let them down by
letting ill-bestowed egos rule –
Let me not be damned

Insect Hunting

There was that microcosm
fixing my dawdled childhood
in which I centred myself
in a kneeled-to wondering

as unidentified insects
routed in and out – between
bent blades of variegated grass –
and in that airtight stillness

nervy sparrows let me forage
alongside their skits and hops –
until we were all fed enough
by the microscopic wonders

and then I unhinged
my tight focus – pulled back –
unhooking from nature
as Concorde halved the sky –

that white flechette – fustian –
slapping pigeons from the trees –
it was another sudden brutality
in my sub-sonic childhood

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

No Confidence

The Mother of Parliaments
emits a low groan –
her confidence shot –
as our distrust grows

We smell the foul essence
worn by the rich –
it’s the stench of the moneyed
on the front bench

The PM frowns
as her voice thins and strains –
repeating her mantras –
again and again

The deceits are disclosed
in emotional stories
of neglect and fear
under the Tories

those perfidious parliamentarians
who grip tight to their seats –
those reeky Machiavellians
who trade in deceit


This poem was first published on www.dangerousglobe.com 16-01-19

Rubber Soles

Paced – my set flat route
of pliable rubber yards –
of flashed-by-dashes
on my soon-endless run
on that springing path
of a conveyor belt –
then up an incline fixed
by my lightest touch –
but slowed by my death
in that sweated place –

My running times show –
but have yet to pass
an hour’s whole barrier –
so dragged down again
by my lack of breaths –
because all shared air
has been removed
by the greed of others’
sucks and thud-thud-thuds
alongside my rolled way –

their strides soon pair
my thumped heartbeats –
but any visible rage
from my pounding chest
is bagged in my t-shirt –
No pull of Lycra
across my male breasts –
Honest labour is lost
because this is not
cross-country running


E190219

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

Professor Seagull

Joe Gould’s swag bags of pearls
were only bags of bags of bags –
they were his carried-out emptiness
of the never-written writer’s words –

but he could speak seagull fluently –
having learnt the dockside language
of New York’s scavenging finest –
taking their shrill wind-scatterings –
setting them to his Cherokee stomps

His claim to have written such a vastness –
ten times longer than the Bible
and then to carry around such a thing –
was this vagrant’s bagged possession

Parousia

This second life was ordained
by a drawn-out judgement –
an almost-expected epithet

for the quickened reductions
under my ever-thickening skin –
on dragged heels and hands –

Add Old Age’s uneven stockpile
of his enfeebling irritations
and so my time was reset –

And in this slowing restate
I cannot make any mistakes –
I cannot afford to fall heavily –

do not expect me to pick myself up
as quickly as the still-blessed do –
as I did before this epiphaneia

#OpenMic

In a rather cruddy function space
above a time-stale pub in Brighton –
sat uneven – at beer-stained tables –
we sipping poets of no published note

fingered our place settings of paper
in folders – our kicked headstones –
Here Lies M.A. Bell – and other writers –
who died slow deaths of dull rejection –

There is no air or space these days
for me – from the other side of poetry
quoting verbatim Atilla the Stockbroker –
he put me in my place a long time ago –

There sat – that fusty room’s rum alien –
in my coat – offering quatrains of fear
about warm croissants – and disease –
and Del La Warr – and surrealism –

not getting close to the slam-generation
with their pert feats of rhymed memory –
my voice not near their flat intonation –
do not attempt their shopping list poetry


Paid

Bend to the paid work in hand
and watch your hours fall away
as if they are pearls spilt off string –
those drops off your tilted head
under the fast-running shower –
in the hour before you commute –
until those sped beads are nothing –
And do not ever – ever – attempt
to be a true artist unless squared –
unless you are recompensed
for the selfish hours given to art’s
endeavour – it was Van Gogh’s failing –
not putting money first

Mind The Gap

They’ve got a Dead Cupboard
in this Underground station –
hid from swilled passengers –
a Central route to Heaven

Behind those locked doors –
they hide the fresh body –
where the platform-removed
is stored temporarily

There the dropped dead
waits for the official –
to pronounce upon
this stiffened individual

The zipped-up fallen
is bagged – airtight –
he will not be required
to tap his ticket tonight

Übermensch

I will wake and fail to find my eased flux –
not without pushing up into discomfort
over breaths of ground-voice-as-grunts –
these announcements vex my tired wife
who needs sleep in my odd-roused hours

I sit upright – off the bed – to test myself
in the sweated night – I almost always assay
in the woken hours – contrasting the past –
adding to a never-published paper
about this ill-judged illness – it will devour

My recent history of being her own overman
able to embrace all with gusto and gratitude –
has been powered down – pathetically cut –
too much for either of us to truly construe
We wake to a slow down – no more superman

Little Georgian Antiques

Arrows still fly at Battle – spiritual ones ..
against Anglo-Saxon self-satisfaction* –
as if The Bengal Colonel had then leapt
from the stretched canvas into Ninfield –
and prowled around the village green

set to devour their war-won remains –
that pyrrhic victory over downed fascists
who were set by the Sussex gravediggers
Look inside its mouth to find meaning
said Grace – to anyone who would listen

to her – and Richard – and Reuben – they drew
from the post-war rationals against hate
and conjoured up creatures and shapes –
As if Terry Gilliam had sucked the oily teat
of these artists’ bared brushes of surreal
extractions –

as if colour and lines were not rationed
and all of Picasso’s art was lost to Bexhill
And I see Scarfe and Steadman in the ink
of cross-hatch – etched so hard it scratches
the paper into furrows of staining –
the future will be saved from the past by art

(*Reuben Mednikoff)

De La Warr

I am here – thick-and-mixed
among middle class minions
who eye up the croissants
in the De La Warr Pavilion –
they discuss in great depth
the state of the nation
as they queue so politely
for the barista’s attention –
The winter light bounces
off the buffed bar surface
and my large mug of latte
warms me to their circus –
I leave via the shop –
where I eye the gift dirge –
my shifting behaviour
is verging on absurd –
Return me to boozers
with their beery truths –
avoid gentrification –
and all it consumes

Conquest Hospital

Robert Richard Rollins –
I was born nineteen thirty-four
struggled with the name –
El-dwabe

He worried out loud
that he’d forget
the surgeon’s
Egyptian-sounding name

As he was wheeled –
backwards for ease
he again apologised
so profusely to the nurse

for his failure to recall
I forget names –
the consultant …
El-dwabe

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

The Commuters

Our Ikea-padded cells
should guard us from self-harm –
but instead they fuck with us
in cubes of coupled calm

Each of us fitfully sleeps
in our over-familiar beds –
we pick at our clipped wings
feathering empty nests

We rise to expected alarms –
our daily rude refrain –
to stumble without consciouness –
to queue for time-warped trains

In cattle trucks we stand and sway –
our iprods poke our eyes –
blinding us from seeing
the pastures passed outside

London Bridge – we rise to screams
as the wheels rub on the track –
we shuffle from the shouldered stalls –
spewed out – we can’t turn back

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

The Christmas Call

..We know nothing of man .. far too little..’ CG Jung

It is over two decades since we last spoke –
you offered no responses – not when I ‘phoned
or when I cheerily arrived at the family home

with – or without – a disquieted companion –
then I’d try to engage you in light conversation –
but that was your silent-met cue to exit the room

And our mother never gave me a full explanation –
except that – He goes upstairs and paints ..
pictures .. from his imagination .. It’s his escape ..

He doesn’t get out much .. nearly an old man – You –
a temporary loss in her thinning line of sons –
each boy sets her wondering – What went wrong?

I watched her fight her eldest – a patio-battering –
from behind the Crittall windows of my bedroom –
I saw her ill-faste fists set upon her eldest child

That is what she made – Us in her ugly likeness
of turned cheeks and of emotional tightness –
that son she striked – he died too early for her liking

And now – on the ‘phone – She is too ill to talk to you
your first line in this garrulous time of your remove –
then a snapped order – not to try again – It upsets her!

You don’t speak to me for years then bark commands –
Do they count – along with your hardened demands
against my ragged ripostes at your loss of voice?

No – do not speak to me –
Please leave it twenty more

Turn

She turns to let the bird go –
as if it would leave
such half-robed beauty –
as if it would be robbed
of a close indulgence
like us cocksure things

and I can pick up the scent
from her underarm sweat
as she rotates – so as to let
the creature lift from her –
as she turns away
on her bare bone heels


Inspired by Michaela Ridgeway’s art @michaelasian

Not Right

You lymphatic racists rupture
bursting forth a noxious poison
as you brandish your creased flags –

whilst you unfurl your ragged stupidity –
you slurred men – you such ungifted pigs –
you too-loud opinion-screamers

Reduce the yellow-vested sectarians –
and throw back their shite –
by pointing out politely that they are not right


E080119

The Lungs of God

I stand under this vault
of our common church –
off-centre on this sea-girt isle

Our stone tradition of roofing
is more to do with fools’ fires
than Heaven’s weight

Here the light is insipid –
no tang of incense
only the blue miasma
off flume emissions

My legs tire – but find no pew –
no tuffet to take me
to the path’s cathartic
kneel-down call

Gift Wrapping

There – done – ripped apart
then left on a slunked chair
or hung on the fat bannister –

then the glee-torn wrappings
are bagged – either ‘re’ –
or ‘not-re’ – ‘cyclable

I sit in my Christmas jumper
and hear the thankless mumbles
from others for their useless gifts –

We never know how to lie
on Christmas Day

And tomorrow there will be bags
of this year’s unwanted stuff
heading to the cancer shop

or to fill the unlocked industrial bins –
to become lumpen beds
for the badly-wrapped tenants

This Extra

It was not a full day of reduced daylight
but the briefest of natural moments
on that calendar date – which passed
half recognised – like the waning film star

who I stood in for – another nacreous man
on a never-ending day of falsified hours –
My value fixed by his cast shadow
whilst I wore identical clothes –

I was being paid to be his tincture
on yet another identical film set –
My tired looks – which matched the actor –
put me under a long spot of sodium –

My winter solstice was over-shuttered
by age and disgrace under shorter days
of cuts and no light left to take again –
My ways of finding extra time are over


E140119

Not Dead Yet

(For Clive James)

Old Chiacking Larrikin
dropped eight foot –
his fall rope-halted –
then he jiggery-choked

They hang the committed –
but won’t kill the watching –
who steal from the swung
at the public hanging

Clive laughs with death –
as he eyes the loose noose –
his readers misled
by his maple-red truth

Old Larrikin waits
for the swing of the bard –
He’s stood Mr. James
a beer at God’s bar

This Builder

I am a too-quick builder –
one without the weight
of an elbowing canvas bag
of inherited tools –

Mine are not recognisable
as such – no textured grips
of moulded plastic
over cold-formed steel –

My way with these agencies
is by an ill-lightness
of slightest finger touches
on the tablet’s screen –

I chisel and cut without blows
until I slip – step back –
to see – and read – some
over-engineered words –

The curtain rail in our bedroom
dips unattended –
It no longer serves
any purpose

Pain Gardening

I closed my raw eyes
to suck upon this –
but drew too much
to hold my breath –

the spin off his wrist
of an over-spun stone –
pitched at my forehead –
he took me down –

of the shrill sharp slice
of a buried wheat chaff –
which burnt to screams
making me blind

And then I exhaled
to kill each instance –
a brief mis-direction
of my complaint

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

No Room

Through this sludge-week
before your lit Yuletide –
this path of slopped rain
sucks hard on my boots

as I traipse in my circles
of the dog-dug conditions –
through which I’m set fast
by your barked-out orders –

Only return home
with a well-cut one –
which will not then tip –
not ’til the twelfth day –

Such held superstitions –
erected by lost Popes –
were claims on short nights
over our pagan ways –

I’d rather keep cold gods
from the warm living room –
I hold no love
for your desiccated tree

The Captured

Her story will be lost
by this time tomorrow –
Jakelin Ameí
Rosmery Caal Maquin –
even one so sweet –
many names for one
so small

And no memorial –
except a wall –
will ever be raised
by any state
to the first life lost
in Trump’s own war

A child – just seven –
in his custody – gone –
whilst his ugly patrols
pour water and scorn –
their cruel acts posted –
‘phone-boasted captures

#Guinness is God For Yer

I am – now – that Old Boy in the bar –
he who nurses an anchored pint –
who has time itself as a luxury
of sips every fifteen minutes –

those slow draws of his lifted Guinness
that drinking match of dark mass
and white-topped hair-on-head –
‘Youngsters take this tipple ironically’

Then the in-house mumbling alcoholic
stirs me from my reveries by my name
to ask about my illness – and Christmas –
both are twisting inside me – like candida

The quickened swill in my gut then blooms
to a weighty obligee to her seasonal beliefs –
and those of my degenerative stuff –
each then rinsed down by my cold stout

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

#Nebulous

As if crashed in the mist
of nebulous complaints –
far-too easily caught –
to vibrate like an angry fly
in a web – not breaking –
until worn to a submissive
woven bundle – set aside –
and that woman in grey –
in her binding cocoon –
in it they will then spin her
into repeated crises –
no one will cut her loose

#Saifullah & Son

Six hundred and fifty
now reduced to forty –
there the forgotten
forever prisoners

under the tight grip
of our Guantanamo’s
barbed existence –
to be kept alive –

in your own grave
Saifullah’s words –
until the end of time –
until the buried future

The Pilot

Stunned by an off-keel tip –
but that was part of the deal
of any such heaved pull
under the pilot’s minimal steer
of his salt-pressed gig crew –

then the high wave-slams of
the clinker-laid hardwood boat
upon the vast ship’s tarred hull –
as if beating upon the pregnant
belly of a dark leviathan

Those men had won the right
to pull alongside – to profit –
to earn their paid return to the
dark harbour’s pints of succour –
but only with the turn of the tide

by half a dozen oars in that boat
timed by a hundred – or more –
counted out from the hefted launch
to that last profitable throw of rope
onto the huge ship of strangers

Bonfire

We cannot ignore
what we see //
We have to recognise
the slow creep
of ired white men
and equal women
who will re-stoke
their noisome hate
by piling their lies
in ideological pyres//
They will then torch
the shredded truth
lit with cupped
safety matches –
putting a slow flame
to stacked ‘papers –
those dried ink lines
of their justified vice –
set in monotype – far-right
under Jack-high cries//
We cannot be seen
to not see this
and to not raise
a more graceful mob

Harbourside

I tripped on a snake
coiled into the form
of fixed turns –
wrestled into itself
by its history of twines –
once factory-whipped
into rope – once born
to a pull of sureness –
to hefts – to shore ties
by long-known named knots
which avoid slippages –
Salt was my second skin

#BlackFriday

I crumpled – again – this morning –
with the endless news – which I cradled –
still warm – in my left hand –
then this unplugged device dimmed
to save on power usage

I stroked the sempiternal story
with a stiff finger – re-lighting it –
the act of scrolling – like teasing skin
with love’s lightest of touches
to bring a waking company to life

My roll-over nights of trickled
sweat-streams will be re-stoked –
Reuters reports of more kinds
of fucks – of over-heated ice
washing from those off-white poles

They now count the last of a species
on one hand – measuring the missing
in thin percentages – filling media inches –
which shift plastic – that advertised crap –
I crumple with such endless news

Marlow’s Complaint

My shins are singing out loud
like Potter’s skinned detective –
him – joyless in being bed-bound

I then picture the flowershop man
worth now – for now – half of his body
until his whenever-recovery

from a stroke – which found him flat –
He was able to stand so proudly
before that inside weakness outed

and laid the old queen on her back
in Eastbourne’s Sovereign Ward –
I hope he laughs at that word –

whilst I do not suffer such rounds
of writer’s block – no aneurysms –
nothing as vile as being bed-bound

 

Bar Work

For P.

//Grown men bear-hug
in the cinema bar –
this town’s tough men –
they stand held-hard
//with doffed back pats –
almost softly-kissed –
after sunken fizzed beers
after curried fears –
//and the curled-hair girl
quick-checks her sly glance
in the double door glass
of the flung entrance
//That beautiful woman
on the other sunk sofa
before heading out
sinks a sobering soda
//and I’d walk her home
above staggered kerbs –
struggling – still holding –
her wine-tipped words

The Dew Pond

I have woken to
that occasional weight
of the chain mail
of another night sweat

but now it is winter –
my cycle-kicking
of the layered sheets
has no drying effect

I lie in wait for a miracle
but revert to dancing
blindly to the bathroom
to dab my dew ponds

This uneasiness
in my places of aches –
of Song-writing Disease –
could be helped

by flicking the switch
but such light –
such selfish luxury –
would wake you

As I towel myself down
I remember in waking
that you are not here
and will not be woken


E140119

Under the Sun

Come and watch us pick at
our scabs of bloody ignorance –
they will – one day – partly heal

to a red roughness of scarring
set to itch – a hint of melanoma’s
blasting shadow across our skin

We will not seek relief from shade
to offset such canker or cancer –
instead – we will strip and microwave

on those platters of plastic sunbeds
to a ready meal heat – whilst being oiled
and rubbed into a slept submission –

then into that unimaginable cul-de-sac
of pottering and beige waiting rooms –
where we will find mirrors far too honest –

set with our reflections of bare errors –
then to count the rings of under-eye skin
and we will know our burnt old age

Confirmation Bias

Bias – it is our twisted keel
set into that unequal sea swell

and then – quickly – us-confirmed
by our whirlpools of story-telling

as inner-chilled monologues –
Those inside off-stage voices

will whisper too many untruths –
which are not to be corrected

by any offline editor-to-speech

Dear Nanny

Dear Nanny,

rees mogg dear nannyYou taught me so
very much – like
the fact that the plebs
are far too rough –
‘..Only to be touched
during buggery ..

and then wear a rubber
to avoid disease..’

My dark heart is decorated
like our attic room –
where you taught me love –
Oh! I miss your bosom
Now I have buggered
all of the prols –
with eloquent speeches
off my fountain pen’s furl –
I have time enough left –
and plenty of spunk –
to replenish our love
and become as one

Your loving ‘son’
Jac-Jac x

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

Stair Well

I tipped myself into half of an escape
to sit alone on the in-laws’ stairs –
tilted there by my uneven troubles
from imbalances set by disconnections

I was taking myself off my thumped legs
and away from my sucks of short-fix air –
which set me to stand for a brief parade
among partly-heard party conversations

of drunk relatives – spiked by marriage vows –
loosened by the briefest of infidelities –
those with a younger man whose wife stood up
to beauty’s allure – she was there for measure

I put up too – with the racist uncle’s drunk ideas
for less than five minutes – not quite a cure –
but enough to get me to stand up again
and to leave him staring at an empty step

Audio HERE

The Last Corner

First an eye-crash –
that was the quick blindness
which I slammed into –
it enveloped me under
a tugged-at gallows hood
as I ferried our slumped
kids through their unsettled fears
of the dark – a risen thing

with the hour’s rainfall
which spat – then gobbed
across the lane’s shifts –
springing like shone frogs –
a slimy tide of refraction
down the switch – on and off –
of the unintended chicane –
set by claws of branches
and lumpen road kill

in that true – truest black –
I drove under the storm
that had redacted all colour
from my high beam view
of the tongue-wet road –
that horror film palette
of some evil and of some good –
in stretched marks to bends –
in white lines which warned
of the too-tightness
of that last slip away camber

The Wounded

(A nod to @tonyhoags_LPS)

I am – I think – also wounded into speech –
by limped-off difficulties – by disconnections
away from my pages – I admit my ply of lines

of instant fixes – of weaved words into verse
My tipping point – there by daylight – re-set
after dull errors and other such mistakes

it is my NHS-wrap of lightly cast plaster
to mend – gripping – my snap-bone moment –
or – the tip of talcum on to sweated flesh

I am no more hiding from the heated fallout
of my dull errors – those bombed mistakes –
my day-to-day words are just housekeeping

What My Words Are For

Die Grenzen meiner Sprache
bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt

Did Wittgenstein mean –

‘The limits of my language
mean the limits of my world’ –

or – in other translated words –

‘the limits of my language
stand for the limits of my world’ –

and then later he then stated –

‘the limits of my language
are the limits of my mind –
All I know is
what I have words for’

Feathering

It’s not the same pull or heave
as it was in my rowed youth –

no – this is chalk-and-flint stuff
below fast streams and run-offs

I am far removed from the flow
of the Thames through London

I now dig at the Ouse’s history
of dead poets and burning barrels

where no old boys or public schools
oversteer on her narrow channel

We aim to somehow fly
with the feather of our honest oars –

in a boat designed for work –
not built for pots or snobbery

#HustlePorn

You are a part of hustle porn
having once taken the dark oath
in a silent swearing-in

You surrender to twenty-hour days
missing every sunset in the week

You are schlepping overnight – there
imbibed upon their dripped breasts –
be they Yahoo’s or Spotify’s squeeze
in their rule of the way to work

You are pressed against the deadlines
with your suckled infant face

You dreamt of electric sheep
grazing on forever-rain rooftops
because you fell asleep reading
a novel – because you cannot sleep

Because your eyes are glued wide
open – because
You suffer hustle porn