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


 

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


 

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