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

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

God off-road

We three boys
would trawl boggy fields

well up to welly boot depths
and over

to heel and toe squelch home
from draining ditches
of dark unknowns

never measured before
by mankind

those unlit sinkholes
of fervent imaginations

each fed by slowed streams
of red Martian water

that oxide bleeding

so bloody it could be
the earth rusting inside

too much for life

and from that ditch
I lifted a fossil leaf

a tyre track of time
embedded into rock

as if left by God on a bike.

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.


Laying a Fire, Again

He would lay, again, the open fire,
between night shifts, his own dark art in
balled-up shoe-polished newspapers,
rolled over last night’s cooled coals,
that base of almost volcanic remains,
near to weightless in its new state.

There, my father, 1976, recycled
in his making of each night’s blaze –
yesterday’s news, and yesterday’s coals.
As I bent over my own dark bunker,
now forty years later, I returned to him;
we shovel-filled my black coal scuttle:

He’d have never commented
about the bloody tang of damp and steel:
Dad’s metal was clean – submarines and guns,
polished and oiled, triggered functions,
only ever working if maintained well,
ready to reduce – their design to kill.

The stove in my studio, that scruffy servant,
would have been buffed and dusted
if my father were that burner’s owner:
I drop in a fire-lighter, the too-easy ignite,
tip coals over kindling. Warming my own shift,
my dead father and I still work late for our kids.


Peace and War


Dad never tossed politics ‘gainst Him,
never pitched loud against Our Lodger,
perhaps that’s why He located again,
my liberal-leaning Grandfather,
who moved on quick, so soon after

He won a third wife, and her home,
a short cul-de-sac in Ottershaw,
embracing a widow, no more alone:
A new step-mother for Dad to endure,
for Dad to meet, and to peacefully enure.


 

The Old Boy


Grandfather was of a slipped generation
with his Bakelite-twirled-to radio stations –
tuned to his low-hums with orchestras
and his wound-up clock – that western sutra –
its regular pendulum his hands-free baton
conducting his lonely tea-mornings taken –
until he rolled his guard-rattling Raleigh
out of the garage – always wordlessly –

for his brief progress to priest-led prayers
down to the hymns and those-who-care
His trouser leg rolled – clipped – chain-safe –
he pedalled away to kneel at God’s place –
I re-delivered his Guardian newspaper
to his emptied room – our in-house neighbour –
In such regular times I’d take a sneak –
a look inside The Old Boy’s suite –

His life with us was lived behind two doors –
the only bedroom with parquet-floors –
in that other place – not fully his own –
in his free chapel – there prayers alone –
beside his shelves of impossible books –
Schweitzer tallest amongst the hardbacks –
Some with his dead wife’s dated name –
but no further indications of her ever being –

That forensic examination of his living space –
with my untrained eye – I made mistakes –
I never read well his folds or light marks
which re-leafed books do often impart –
I now decipher those responses I get –
I am near his last age – and he gains my respect

041118

Kodachrome


There on the dresser
the family pictures,
sons stacked and set,
mother’s glossy fixtures,

my brothers captured,
in Kodak-rolled histories,
but mine’s found missing,
held there, not one of me:

Roared on the orbital,
gone from the old house,
a portrait held up,
my stiff-lip countenance,

framed in these rough palms,
my face here removed,
the accidental son
is now finally proved.


Botleys: Loss of an apostrophe


Those red brick villas
on the sloped lawn hill,
with service roads
linking collections
and deliveries
at every odd hour,
where patients walked,
the ones that could,
between the few points
some had known,
only known, since birth,
long-ago baptised
in that place by
the cloyed smell
of cleaning, and of filth
carried over, into them,
the walking, the lain,
the chair-rocked,
a few with head guards,
over those broken minds.