She Said

I will carry on as normal –
as that is all I have

I will listen to your requests
but not adhere to any said

I hope you approach my acts
with a more rational mind

I am not ‘heartless and nasty’
and I’m not ‘breezing around’

The situation – as it stands –
is untenable for everyone

So she said – poker-faced
not listening to anyone

Les Sonnetts Luxurieux

Is this her ultimate
act of sadomasochism –
his rest of days of pain?
Is his reply allowed

before her face down lies –
taking it from behind
which are – for others – kinks
and well-hidden discomforts

She pleads her case of cruelty
when such cruelty was her cut
and thrust by strangers’ cocks –
no matter what it cost

Claim innocence in such art
of milking men of all shapes
She craves to smell of roses
She wears her crown of thorns

which she pulls down – tighter –
enough to make a hundred blooms
Her sweetly-bled lacerations
are red jewels adorning her skin –

also worn within as rough scabs –
to peel off by her recall’s pull
That delicacy of altered memories
is her art to serve and savour

Farming Today

Under Glynde’s grey turbine
I know I am irrelevant

It is as if my chest’s creaks
are now unsure ship timbers

set grinding by lifts and turns
of blown low pressures

Her blades swoon over us
in that signature revolution

She asks of me a greater effort
to stand for any time in her shadow

Can you find a name for her grab
and snaffle of another westerly?

Words hurt you – they are your
turned blades in your turned head

And this act of standing upright –
above Gote Farm – is my anchoring

on these Downs of compromises
made between giving and taking

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

Other’s Endings

She said she resented him
swanning around
and her wearing fears
of his limped inability
to earn that old income
no longer kept her
tied to their settle bed

Instead – she rolled over
onto another handyman
for his stiffness to press
into her loosened skin
and for his shadowed face
to take her excited stench
to feel some connection

Afterwards – she said
it could’ve gone either way
when admitting her part
She bet on a wrong result
She needs so very much –
be it a ninety-pound man
or a fat promissory note

Redacted Vows

This ripped-up body
of our scarred marriage
can still live – even now
by each reducing breath
of old vows and love

if we do not talk
if we do not scream
mis-weighted words
but instead stick
to honesty on paper

Such measured prints
can be re-scaled
through that rare craft
of self-censorship –
it will take time to bide

Inconveniences

And she complained
loudly to herself
that this wasn’t
what I wanted

This marriage of
inconvenience
since his diagnosis
and reduced income

deflecting focus
from her inherited
sense of insecurity
One passed down

from one who
got around too –
as noted by relatives
looking inwards

at her admitted acts
to keep me sane –
forever locked in place
in an echo chamber

A Crossing Point

We walk with affray as our guide
to find another crossing point
without repeating our last mistakes
and so putting all forms of trust
into reverberating beaters’ sticks –
our almost guileless diviners –
on stepped along routes laid
flat by others’ boots on
this meadow’s rush of grasses –
and not yet finding that stream
but – instead – standing alongside
a blown mead – a seed-top lake
of wind turned waves of green –
it talks to me of bared contact
between opposed forces –
of only compromise
in where to cross – If only
you could see

The Builder’s Mate

There – above taught plumb lines
and a bricklayer’s knowing eye
of gauged slaps to alignments –
parried like a joiner’s fine blade –
your men make up for your mistakes –
never measuring twice – you cut once
so badly that your deep footings flood
with run-offs from your mistakes
which I can no longer block by love –
My own eye is still good for lines
and building virtual palaces –
but my tooled efforts were not enough
to convince you of my true craft

A Markov Chain

Your single dice is rolled and fixes
the next move of your red counter –
and then things – like probability –

also occur by your releases –
all observed by him – Markov –
who winks at you and your tits –

We are grey with tiredness –
our dog will sleep until our gate
is pushed to allow steps on gravel

and your return from Markov’s place
with your trolley bag of dirty linen
labouring behind you – suited to city life –

There – stand and stare at bare flowerbeds
and desire for small hints of weeds
to not return to this squared garden –

Let us no longer play games of chance –
Markov has your breasts cupped
and will now roll you across his bed


 

 

By Love’s Light

For LB & JB

A lone traffic light beyond Kemptown
oscillates with near-nervousness
as it instantly switches between colours –
older-type bulbs – now made redundant
by lower prices and higher brightness –
once took time over their slow instructions –
But we no longer have that eased luxury
as we drive at our uncontrolled speeds
through a few more degrees of change –

Queen’s Park’s leaf-naked rooted troops
lift prayers for god to temper wind speeds –
it’s bloody hard work staying upright
for plants – for people of various sizes
before rolled surges of shingle-lifting wind
and air-thrown salt kisses – rust readied –

My car cannot settle when parked up –
a moored rocking effect upon its axles
almost slips me into sleep’s slowed nod –
but my ajar window is a penny whistle
played by the gale’s fat-puffed cheeks –
and it jolts me awake to my missed cue –
bringing me back to my nervous state
about weather not carrying old-line labels
and of less comforting climate forecasts –

Within fifteen minutes I have driven us east
to Rodean Cafe and a high view out
to Brighton Marina’s rigid lines at sea level
as repeated waves crest in a broken spray
over a long curve of that rebar-pinned wall –
smug like a reinforced Canute – to stem tides
like mine – under this nameless rage
of a nervous separation and blast-tipped fixings –
I say to you both –
By love’s light – there will be a slow change


 

Endings

There – an ending – a recourse – a damning
by more admissions – by reductions
& other canalisations

which can no longer be left to flow
by a misdiagnosis – by new meds
or by wearing of pulled-tight blinkers

We are drowning – we blind guides
with uncovered still useless eyes
miss each slipped & stained indiscretion

which creep like unfurled underwear
from between tightly-zipped travel bags –
Wayfarers wearied after nights
away – working – unavailable –

apart from a quick one – a filling of gaps
in hotel expenses & of endless bar tabs
everything to be removed – forever
under this title – Endings


Shrove Tuesday

Shriven into a repentant’s place –
readied for a cross of palm ash –
a marking – tomorrow – of believers –
Yesterday was our early Mardi Gras
of confessions – But we do not follow
those fading rules of others’ liturgies –
We cannot name their Shriving Bell
as they stick it loudly to parishioners –
I was last in a church in Birmingham –
under glass and impressive masonry –
but did I not see the work of God –
Now on this half-holiday we will feast
without you here to guide turned heat –
to sear fat and remnants of shopping –
We have given up everything
to a non-date far beyond Lent’s tests


 

Last Rites

His wife told him – on Sunday –
that she bedded another man –
last Monday –
A bloke who –
if named now –
would see
them both equally shamed –
before their shared families –
It’s almost bloody biblical –
He said –
It’s not their first go –
at such stuff –
they’ve done it before then –
and often –
Finding out last time –
his advice to his wife was –
Never again – Never – Please –
‘Cos of who – ‘Cos of place and
‘cos every other circumstance –
She’s away working –
He told me –
I don’t have a bleedin’ clue
what happens now – Sorry –
I needed to – dunno – offload –
Pretty crap stuff –
I nodded –
Then his gallows laughter –
Nice way to end a tough year!


 

How to Stay Married

One way to want
to be somewhere
is to not be there –
to be sitting at
a distance –

All good marriages
encounter difficulty
which stew into
common indifferences

and then sour
as spite and low esteem –
that being the natural order
of such things –

but we have halted nature –
we can squeeze and rub
our chemical emollients
on each raised rash –

on rage-blemished skin –
and invent new ways
to hold ring-bound hands
and still travel together


 

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

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

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


 

Squeezed

I am being squeezed from the middle
like a sink-side tube of stale emollient
or that holiday-returned toothpaste –

and you wonder – out loud but wordless –
why I smile less – as if I am a dullard –
a Charlie Brown kept in his place by you –
an always right Lucy van Pelt

It is as if I am being ineptly operated –
I am being used in the wrong way –
That will make my face difficult to read –

dried out – until you grudgingly comply
with the simple set of instructions
and see that you were not doing it right –
then you note my pithy grin – torn off a strip

New Years

I stand – alone – at an open gate –
I have missed midnight’s kisses –
then – me-the-fool – fleetingly lost
the worked-at vows which we set
on our half-recalled wedding day –
a ceremony thirteen years earlier

where we sliced up a countdown
to the last hour’s holding of hands –
with our slid rings on held fingers –
our bind to the old laws of the state –
silver and gold bands of such weight –
I stand alone as this New Year sings

He Really Did

He really did not know
for how much longer
he could hold on to her
and still be dishonest

He had walked far more
than he had drunk –
but still staggered
along the loose path

off which his love for her
dipped like a slunk ghost –
then she was there –
caught by a car’s high beam –

then she was inverted
like a shadow between trees –
as if his recall of her
had been politely dimmed

as if they were long-divorced
from each other –
that common vote for failure –
which is the wedded norm

Loot

So she dug up my soul –
I have a price on my head –
she pulled it from my skull
because of what I said –

Quoting Aristotle –
in accordance with virtue –
she showed me my old failings
as they formed a ragged queue

Jealousy and mistrust
once mine to sculpt with ease –
I’d struck at our confidence –
I’d cut her blood with tears

She placed her prize on scales –
held high by a blinded hand –
and claimed the inside of my head
was hers to now command

09:45

This is my time of day
with the door wide open –
just clock ticks and the dog
to keep me company

I am untouched by anyone
whilst the alerts and alarms
are switched off – for now –
I do not think about you

I steer my thoughts around
this selfishness of silence –
I would not explain myself
to any visitor to this moment

In this capsule of my remove
I am so strong – now capable
of stopping time and breath
by not thinking about you

Lover

I leave clues in the bathroom –
empty blisters of pills –
Leonard is everywhere
singing of stiffening thrills

Affection is not infecting
the bodies in the beds
and children speak in whispers
because of what is said

All I want from your presence
is engagement and thoughts
instead we stare at screens
and read others’ fingered words

My weight is dropping daily
whilst the world fattens up –
I would pray for forgiveness
but I’d be praying far too much

A Village Called Ugly

Welcome to Ugly
your new home
in the world,
Daddy isn’t here
for his two
favourite girls,
and he never
hugs mummy,
or kisses her lips:
Ugly, the village,
in which you now live;
it sneers and snaps
on the rumour mill,
marriages kept alive
just for the kill:
welcome to Ugly
a hamlet of hate,
if you haven’t
got perfect
then it’s far too late.

The Prince

I am the Bastard Prince
with my mounted portrait
showing me at my worst
as an ugly creature of spite

caught in wedded anger
and then openly exhibited
by the keen female artist,
she the re-commissioned,

with her de-construct of love,
being the all-seeing critic,
captured by what she can admit
in this oversized oil portrait.

I am the Bastard Prince.

The Ritual

The extravagant white bathrobe,
bagged from a boutique hotel,
her remains of a left-behind weekend,
just the two of them, her and him,
sunk in love, a deeper love than now.

That thick gown hung guiltily
on the back of the bathroom door.
She took it down and wrapped it around
her shoulders, careful not to knock
the tall knotted towel, her damp crown.

The application of creams was next,
and then, only then, she was ready
to be a wife again. And a mother.
Always a mother, no matter what.
She then saw herself in the mirror.