#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
I quote verbatim Atilla the Stockbroker –
he put me in my place a long time ago

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

I cannot get close to the slam-generation
with their pert feats of rhymed memory
nor reduce my voice to their flat intonation –
I cannot do their shopping list poetry

BN1

BN sweats under this carbonised heat
as hard-hatted men kick up coughed dust
among those lost floors of Hanningtons –
that now-gutted department store

I sit in Brighton Square where I hear
every nation parade as the coffee
cakes the inside of my mouth –
a bitter rake across my taste buds

Still the Italian girls chatter
in loud tongues – untroubled
Their volume drops when the jack hammer
is suffocated by the lunch hour

My eldest arrives from her office
for our lunchtime that is becoming
a regular retreat for me from Sussex
and her own escape from her desk.

Eating Out

Grown men nibble on ice cream cones
as a Chinese woman commands her dog
and two girls giggle whilst playing crazy golf

Below Volk’s Electric Railway
I drink coffee and watch the planet rotate

On the horizon the wind turbines move
to the onshore whip of nature into wire –
giving us that current and difference
which the rattling train line absorbs

Forever connecting nothing but thrills
the steel and iron of Brighton Pier
creates another kind of consumption

I fear for the woman with her stacked tray
of chips and teas as she crosses the beach
The gulls here are quite mordacious

Beachcombing

On the shingle-driven beach – I looked for shells – but found plastic

We are no more the guardians because everything we use returns

The indicant we find is a tide mark of oil-based products

As kids – we looked for rare treasures after the waves had retreated

Mermaids’ purses and seaweed – our stolen weather stations

The currencies of beachcombing are no longer nature’s ways

 

E221018

Full English in Brighton

The bare strip lights and over-loud radio
nudge me into an uncomfortable state
in this low rent cafe

A grease-shadowed place

I stir my mug of tea and drop the spoon
into a water-filled pot of stained cutlery
as I have done so many times before

My order cooks loudly
in the best-not-seen pan
as the chat back there
gyrates between water rates
and about the old man

A square plate
piled high
(the dish a brown colour
which briefly worries me)
is placed on my table
with a nod to the few
sauces available

Coffee in Brighton

For LB

First the shuffled shopper’s fanfare
that rasp of chair feet on pavement
and then finding a place for my phone
whilst not spilling my lip-high coffee
which measures
like a spirit level
my ability to perform the simplest things

In that fifteen minutes of talk
your beautiful honesty made me admit
that I have been a slowed down fool

The loud gulls swept around us
as they have always done in Sussex
those opportune white vultures
which pick and steal the best bits

You said that girls had been feeding them
down in the Pavilion Gardens
I have been feeding mine for too long

West Pier

It may have been the 1970s –
it may have been Brighton –
but no one can confirm
when my father saved a pier

I was railing high –
navigating the gaps in the planks
with a slender fear –
a cheap thrill
as you walked above the sea –

and below – under the bolted timber –
waves hypnotised the iron work

The tang of salt over candyfloss
was taken up like Friars’ Balsam
through your head –
as we passed the rides
Dad saw smoke

a daft smoulder rising up
from the deck
and we stopped – bent –
to look for timbers –
for them burning

but it was just
a cigarette butt
still curling

PC 883 -as he was at work –
called out to an attendant
and the fag was drowned
with a red bucket –
marked ‘FIRE’

 

E311218

BN01

I only know I am walking in Brighton
because the numbers 74 74 74
on taxi cabs semaphore the fact
that and the Number 24 is in club mode

It could so easily be east London’s
red bricks and lunatics
pumped bars
shops of tat and shops of coffee
with scooters outside McDonald’s

and pairs of staggerers off to shag
whilst round the back of the Co-op
people raid the big-mouth bins
looking for out-of-date two-for-ones

If I was younger
if I was single
only ifs
I would struggle less with urban stuff
which is Brighton’s after-dark equality
to every other smacked-in city

On Duke St.

As I left the car park
men hunkered down,
in stain-greyed sleeping bags
they bartered their pains:

I passed a young bride
outside a loud bar,
she was laughing
unaware of the rain:

I found Duke Street,
there for a book launch,
a drink in a record store,
to tip my glass to his.

On my way to the bank
the black sky collapsed,
and on my return
I gave the bride a soft kiss.

Upstairs Room, Prince Albert.

Dead-weight, rouche mourning drapes,
long-fitted, allying the room’s beams,
accentuated by the dusty refraction
on the glitter ball, still, yet working:
Ghost flecks off the mirrored-planet:

Look close, a sphere of a thousand selfies.
I hold my phone up, like we do, to be
there in the room, on record, uploaded,
few particulates of life are ever captured,
by these devices for palm memories:

Polaroid proved it, before our kids were born;
quickened development misses exposure.
On the wall an almost life-size John Peel
stands in this room, analogue approval,
for every act to appear here, upstairs.