Once More

There is such scant chance
of any long term escape
from your rusting suffixes
now all time is in a half-light

since your last offered dance
to your half-known songs
of romance –
you unstitched their looped lyrics
in your head

Love is not found in white lines
or knocked on hotel doors
or where an hour is charged
at exorbitant fuck-me rates

as underwear is slipped down
and another breath is felt hot
through a nipple-bitten-minute
of house rule-settings

before a stiff affirmation
of your being so beautiful
that feckless gauge of worth
which has been set

by years of dressing downs
within your three-way coven –
they fucked you up
and left you to look – still looking –
for more than them

Grandpa? Not Yet

Look! Waking white etens are tailwind-struck by onshore gusts. That tall flock of unfixed turbines. Into Kemptown they will march by France’s orders beyond La Manche ..

A readied Grandpa story – not yet –

not now – not pinned – not aligned
above high tides by unseen wordy fixings –
by birthdays – yet again – by cakes with candles

blown out – Once more – and finally out
Those one-legged giants were plummeted
into cedings – by borings into seabeds

through lost layers of petrified trees
into our once-forests washed off-shore
Let me tell giant stories to your children –

about hundreds of acres before this began
Our grandchildren do need to learn
that history is scribed beyond this land

Fruits and Suites

We washed in an avocado-coloured bath –
we had never tasted that foreign fruit
back in nineteen-seventy-two – or three –
we were lucky to get to peel tangerines

It was a plastic suite – uneasily creaking
with our scales of weights of our pre-teen
occasional visits – each darkly recorded
by layered rings of both dirt and soap –

but warm with the water – no cold steel
or enamel suck – a discomfort favoured
by our TV-fashioned homemakers –
but – one hears – green baths are back

Competitors

Our house complains
of his heavy feet overhead –

quick as excited heartbeats
but then still-stopped

to my gone voice in our play
of Grandmother’s Footsteps

once commanding my son
to fix and freeze under

my quick look – that thrill
in his lost childhood – testing

his parents by such stealth
was an unplanned rehearsal

for these sometimes-days
of eggshell steps around us

We players of an adult game
without a joyous winner

First Year, 1970

Aged five to school – an unplanned addition
M. Bell – born into a monochrome 1964 –
just after real sex was bargained by Larkin –

Miss Green – my teacher – wore the latest
fashions – miniskirts and roll-neck tops
with cropped hair and big jewellery –

all co-ordinated above calf-fixed trends
of highly-shined high heel boots
and her daily sprayed halo scent –

Aged fifteen – my recall of Miss Green
was fixed again – seeing her once more –
she was still wearing 1970 well

when we passed in my dentist’s alleyway –
that red brick shortcut to the High Street –
but she did not recognise me – now fifteen –

A decade earlier she was my cool mother
on school days – she had set me to new words
and easy metrication – before my release

to longer grass and longed-for summerings –
She is now – by my calculations – locked
into her last few years – and still wearing
nineteen seventy


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 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


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

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

The Blinded

The olfactory hit kicks in –
smelling at a filed return
of youthful tree climbing –
of guns-made-from-sticks
and of our lumpen crashing
among swallowing bracken

I am now drawing so deeply
on this propel of perfumes –
of the under-tree rotten scents –
and also taking the shaded chill –
which seems to feed the smell –
which was the first suggestion

My childhood – found in the kernels
of peeled sweet chestnuts –
was so open-ended that nothing
was going to set a conclusion –
Then on to the unexpected
cinder path – where it ends – again

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

Old Devices

We’d race to get the telephone –
stating our number as rote taught –
our mother in her poshest voice
but rough for sister talk

Relative news transmissions –
but not intended to be heard –
I knew nothing of kindred facts
’til I stole truth from her words

We were ignorant between acts –
maybe flattening an irksome book –
we’d stare through the yellowed nets
whilst half-tuned to loosened talk

We tugged at the reluctant drawers
where our history was lost and found –
there tucked between old table mats –
sepia smiles were loosely bound

News bulletins marked the hours
or were shoved through the letterbox –
that narrow window on the world –
ink fears of the Eastern bloc

Ignorance was a short-lived bliss
in those disconnected times –
no algorithms on our wrists
to redress the truths and lies

Into the Trees

Under the trees we find the path –
that one we missed last time –
and climb above the flood plain
on which – five miles downstream –
fools build fifty-four homes

We are now in nature’s green skin
where branches and hand-propped boughs
form unfinished rough shelters –
these experiments and adventures
decay to an undesigned usefulness

Further on the slunked gully runs –
here kids built mud and stick dams
until a wire fence was erected
and that sucking and silting stream
was blocked from the apprentices

The track is beaten and heat-cracked
which encourages youngsters on bikes
to take the risks we also under took –
but we hadn’t the engineered machines
on which they hurtle as fearless riders

The trees reverberate with monkey calls
and the shrill complaint of a lost child –
it is as if the internet doesn’t exist
as the off stage scramble of children
escalates – not quite Lord of the Flies.

Your Photos

A phone captured moment
of your recent childhood –
which I am guilty
of having forgotten –

until you put it up
on our shared channel –
our stored histories
were then brightly reignited

But for too short a time –
for the flare of a match –
again another lost curl
of extinguished recall

From the Gift Shop

In the dream there were scatterings
of things you had bought and then kept

Small gifts from a trip which were never given –
a sprinkle of purchased intentions

I bent with ease to pick each one up
and being of sleep they adjusted
to become other things and other thoughts

On waking I re-assembled the slim moments
from yesterday that my slept mind had touched

– I had briefly looked at a snapped picture of you
from that shortness of unschooled innocence
that age when we inhabit a world so small

– I sat in the sun on a hard garden bench
with my awareness shrunk to that of children
into only considering that which I could see –
down to that hemisphere of no more than a step

– Momentarily I had thought about a family trip
That was a rarity then and more so now

– An ugly fly landed on my emptied plate
but there was a jewel’s quality to the intricacies
of the fly’s translucent wings and rolled eyes –
an emerald’s glint as it fed on microcosms

We no longer stride the globe of our forbears –
that inheritance which childhood soon sheds

Our interests and eyes wander too wide
and so we stop seeing into the eyes of flies

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

Projection Booth


fullsizerender

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.