Above Glynde Reach

I picked a bent path of grass treads
between time’s tipped-hat stones
in St. Andrew’s – Beddingham’s
dry-high whispering graveyard

It hasn’t absorbed any rising tidal
surge or sudden winter wash – of
God’s clearing-out-no-chance-flood
since He-knows-when-of-last

Once vagrants were listed here
in this river-fashioned parish
in a sub-Lewes rolled distance –
68 villains, 6 bordars and 5 slaves

Now Major and Mrs. lie thigh-to-thigh
in parallel places under that shadow
of repurposed stone and fixings –
another bypass and road of sorts

as cars hurtle at a throw’s distance
taking travelling parishioners
beyond unmarked boundaries
without a detour to see bowed stones


Malling Down

We will seek any natural –
and unnatural – sedate shade
under these new northern arcs
of lifted latitude summers

We can still find strolled shelter
under an avenue of plane trees –
but only if dull conspirators
do not deny them a sure line

now their leaf-fat shadows stretch
over an unkempt rough plot
which is – by the hour – turned
by sweat-glazed ground workers

where annual flown-in migrants
and ever re-seeding interlopers
have lost their place of emptiness –
kept at bay by a developer’s fence

On the Meridian

It is a valorised thing –
according to Tesco’s
stuck clock –
it keeps all minutes
at ten past each hour

An upturned claw on top
of the brewery’s
brick chimney
sits finger-ready to grab
electrical strikes

as charged forklift trucks
whirl and rattle
quick around that
barrel-high yard
to meet loading outs
and unloading empties

where white smoke
from Jenner’s pipes
almost declare rogue
Popish thoughts
without bonfire boys
in that lazy town of
timeless martyrs

Men with beards –
each worth a tall story –
gather in cafes –
some sat high inside –
some sit outside
under chalked signs

How to tell such saints
and vagrants apart?
Hipsters and tramps
trading shit for kicks –
that stink of piss marks
their short-distance

The Ouse runs up and in
muddied and quick –
as if time’s rule
has been put in reverse
whilst so-special shops
sell out of bow ties
and string

to men and women
who prefer to spend
their Lewes Pound
– Keeping it local
they also voted for
One Nation Conservatism

If you stand still
for long enough
on Cliffe Bridge
the world and his wife
will pass you by –
ten times –
in both directions

On tidal urges
from her river’s mouth –
and in unseen particles
from a local incinerator –
all that Lewes renounces
does – in time – return


Pinned to https://www.placesofpoetry.org.uk/

Hustings

Please hide a lemon
in your old man’s coat –
their tear gas is primed
but that citrus is hope –

suck on its stung flesh
as if you suck for your life
Your vote for democracy
has been long-denied

We all carry crosses
but some are not struck –
we’ll all hang our heads
Hangin’s not enough

Read widely beyond
their ruled short lists
Education is brief
’til you’re taught by the past

The Riverside Cafe – Lewes

That water-spinning hum
in The Riverside Cafe –
of draining dishwashers
and coffee machines –
is a prized white noise
needed by me to settle –

along with the welcomed
departure of a too-loud family
of urgent asks – of walking plans –
to wear their little monsters
down – nice and early
before unscrewing the wine

Counting clouds passes time
My children are left behind
and all my responsibilities
are dropped – as sticks off a bridge
Like letting go of wobbled bikes
Of not having to have an answer

Perhaps this areads my ageing
among us beige men of Waitrose
Perhaps this is my highest point –
aged fifty-five – twice divorced –
waiting at cafe tables to be served
by staff worth much more than me

My stick is impossible to store
in such places – a hook is needed
to hang my support – to stop it tripping
up those young bucks in aprons
Or I may lay it out at a reasoned angle
to trip those smug fuckers up

A Crew

There is a slight run of resonance
with squared dips of catches –

it quickens with timed recoveries
along those rumbled turns

of leather-collared connections –
so that the forward lean-to-timings

lever everything to leant finishes
and the opening up of your lungs –

and we haven’t even talked
of power with the blade’s bowing –

We can master the cockboat’s turn
through hard rudder tips into the wind –

by finding strength in fixed ways –
by using the entry and exit in unison

Sea Rowing

There – almost baiting us –
ten thousand wind-ripped
waves palpitated on the lake –
but they are merely
breeze-skipping ripples
for us would-be sea fishers
of much bigger catches –

We are required to practice
in such innocuous conditions –
this millpond darkened stew –
before that unknown swell
beyond our harbour wall –
where there are no hard tugs
of a circling gig’s rudder –

but instead sideways drifts
and cuts by undercurrents –
high sea arts to be mastered
in ungenerous conditions –
We will then be willed to shore
by pulls of oars and others’
fears – with salt on our lips
providing a taste of sea rowing


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

Bottle

Here clear water springs
halfway up the hill –
forming a slow stream

into leaf-rotted mud
which could – at source –
be bottled and branded

It would sell in Lewes
as a holy of holy waters
off the Sussex Downs

because small miracles
still curl in these parts –
by the sagacious oak

and sacred hawthorn –
a liquid gift from God –
for five Lewes quid

After Needlewriters

I turned my back on the bleached
slice of moon, that ancient stalker,
over bright, (still impossible for
smart-phone or trite word capture).

Lewes fidgeted, early to bed, ill-lit
by the the old devil overhead,
cut by earth’s shadow,
incapable of glazing cobblestones

There was that end-of-wordliness
on our walk down Cliffe High Street,
the ghosts had retreated to attics,
wrapped in ‘No Popery’ banners.

At such time the town behaves,
the worriers and campaigners,
the yet-druv, and the string sellers,
finding world peace under duvets.

We recalled Woolworths, long lost,
as I looped lunar stuff (we talked
from the pub to the car park),
I kneaded those minutes into now.


Rise

She is slow – the River Ouse –
running muddied below Lewes –
there a capricious millpond –
but when she swells

under storms – off streams
Bevern and Northend
and the quick River Uck –
she reverts to ancient freshet –

swift to rise to redress
the forgotten flood meadows
now supplanted by tarmac –
She rushes such mistakes –

And then a stagnant retreat –
like some unabashed lover –
She leaves a long odour –
she is loathed-to-recede

and keep to the contract
made by tide charts and maps –
to stay inside banks and bends
without the town’s walls

E21018

Warehouse Lad


This is a return to hell,
sitting in a warehouse
of soft-play constructions,
and other people’s kids,
re-fueled by sweet drinks,

and me, here, trapped,
in seating which complained
under my current weight,
sofas impossible for a man
to rise from with any style.

Another dad, rather anxious,
up among the ricochet of kids,
in the net-safe towers of foam,
as we sat adults observe
his mismatched socks on show.

In the roof raw strip lights,
and foil-wrapped air-con,
take me back to other hours
of square feet, of a life spent
working in commercial sheds,

equal scaled-down hells
of my previous employments,
in look-alike high structures,
now called industrial units,
the new measure of lost time:

A lad clears the tables,
tipping purple drinks, chips,
and piled, untouched food
into a bucket: an hour of his life
equal to the remains on one plate.


 

Bonfire 2016, Lewes

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong
gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

Thomas Paine, former Lewes resident.


Here – trapped again –
clipped at The Swan
with a Liquidators track –
a requested song –
ska for the drunks
who cannot dance –
especially the white
low-middle-class –
and those blacked-up
for bonfire fun –
hoping to upset
everyone –
White men as black men?
Not very ‘clever’ –
please torch the cocks
and their racist feathers

E021118


The Loos are Lost – Part II

First poem here:

If this were Lewes they’d start a campaign,
to retain the town’s loos under their ‘rights to complain’:

At the top of their list – everyone’s freedom to p*ss,
in a designated place, not in some parking space.

The threatened Luxford loos would be declared a free state,
by a clique of DFLs*, whose lives are deplete

of any purpose on earth, ‘cept lattes, and revolution,
(still regretting their vote against the Liberal’s coalition,

that vote of disgust against tuition fees,
meant swapping their Liberal for a Conservative MP).

Back to the loos – for ‘Men’ and ‘Women’,
the cold seats under threat from the Council’s scheming:

If this were Lewes they’d buy up the plot,
get planning permission, and build a string shop,

in which they’d accept the new ‘Lewes Quid’,
that banknotes’ ink made from recycled p*ss.


DFLs* – ‘Down From London’ derogatory Lewesian
term for people moving into the Lewes: also applied
to people moving from Lewes to Uckfield:
‘Downsized From Lewes’

Thick Ice

In that Victorian pleasure garden
the Pells recreation ground

a walled pool and a play space
in commemoration of a Jubilee

all the time a spring runs
into another rugged-winter

into another summer

a solitary outdoor attendant
once maintained the grounds

In winters the ponds were
skated by the bravest

but the swimming baths made a better
skating surface   when lowered
to allow it to freeze    two tickets at tuppence

but his body floated beneath the thick surface
eventually retrieved through cracks

hauled with a long-handled crook
horse-drawn off to the mortuary

but they knew his true story
a wife of complaints and disagreements