Enclosed – Sheet of Instructions

That parquet floor you laid –
you refused to keep to
Enclosed – Sheet of Instructions
It is now lifting and separating —

Your brushed-off mistakes –
of not taking time to bond – to glue –
to set – are now a dozen fault-lines
across our hall and living room —

You have posited tectonic plates
in each space – where you bent and knelt –
jagged shadows of slow shifts away —
Others’ prayers are with our marriage


Limping

Here is a heel-scrape
of composite on tarmac –
it announces my approach –
punctuated by my stick’s click

of loosenings – of turned threads
on its retractable –
snappable –
black shaft –

And – by the way
how can I hold you
with my love now limped
by other indiscretions?

It is hard only in my gut –
enough to be sick
because of turning thoughts –
of you opened up –
and me still limping


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


 

Ploughing

Clasped – a cold buttock –
dipping to thoughts of others’
comforts – way before zeal
had become sloth-by-illness –

Working a younger body –
thinner – stiffer – bent to those
exacting tasks of hard love –
before this exhaustion set in –

Then visiting foreign suburbs –
eating with a woman and her family –
years before her daughter was born –
before we screwed –

before furrows of motherhood –
those folds of parenthood –
Old positions – long exertions
are no more first weapons of choice

She serves our meal as ritual –
common to others’ habits and grace –
Even with confusions under Hebrew
my understanding is here –

All records are coded recalls of sex –
of finding what had been lost –
then dug by honed ploughs –
all will be turned over once more


E160219 – Edited in Anthony Anaxagorou workshop at Verve Poetry Festival 2019

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

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

Confirmation Bias

Bias – it is our twisted keel
set into that unequal sea swell

and then – quickly – us-confirmed
by our whirlpools of story-telling

as inner-chilled monologues –
Those inside off-stage voices

will whisper too many untruths –
which are not to be corrected

by any offline editor-to-speech

For a Pot of Paint

The tall bay window
is our empty white frame –
on the front of this home
of unshuttered shame –

but now winter-battered –
past my amateur repair –
the paint has flaked off
through changes out there –

The weather has whipped it
in layer-thrashed strokes –
like the blistered hull
of a forgot-turned boat –

with a peeled underbelly
for so long undressed –
it has been left unsealed
losing sea-worthiness

No sensible man
would sail in her –
he would never return –
she is so unfair

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

Pompey Love

Always third in line –
never really intended
such was my birth –
I am long disinherited

Time is our slipway –
greased for each build
It is a steep incline
for those low on love’s skills

Champagne in ribbons
burst on the bow
and then a spunked wave
to please the crowd

‘How long will it float?’
is not to be whispered –
‘Don’t curse the crew
an’ all who sail on er’

Their shouldered terrace –
my parents’ first home
still waiting to slip
into the port’s lapped foam

Across that hinterland
a tide of just-weds –
the wives of submariners –
a choice none understood

One night of holding
before his boat steamed –
it was sweated and lugged
til he heard her scream

The rude gulls returned
when ships broke the Atlantic –
they pull from tipped bins
a seamen’s tossed prophylactic.

Dents

Hide me away
with a tumble of words
and do not release
the briefest of hugs

Under thickening armour
that won’t be removed
you wear that breastplate
of hardening blood

And I picked the wound –
pulled back half scabs
which makes you flinch
at this offer of love

The slice across us
is deepest when drawn
by your quick furled edge
of blunted retorts.

Back from Israel

At three thousand feet
I peck at a tray of crap
as the girl next to me
pokes her laptop

Her typing is rapid –
she’s re-writing scripts
I rinse food with wine
and leave the worst bits

A man swings his baby
in a hipster sling
parading his manhood
as an accoutrement

I cannot sleep
even drugged by booze
on this return
which I do not choose

Distances

We are existing on two shifting continents
still being dragged apart by the slow forces
of nature – her spiteful ways have set us asunder
through more than time differences and flights

This borrowed bed is without the weighted duvet
which you may have reclaimed in my absence –
I sleep under a single sheet and the turning fan –
I am woken on work days by tipping trucks

I am here to consider my place in the world
with the set distance fixed like a short sentence
from which I will be released – but still without
any solution to deal with my mounting crimes

A long call brings neither of us new insights –
only the confirmation that the future is foul
and my recent behaviour is another indicator
of everything that is wrong on our edged shores

I shall return weighted down by foreign gifts
to home soil – I will not step well across that space
which we cannot pull back together –
because the landmass drift still exists

A Letter Home

I do not see this shaded life ending –
that which is being set forth by you
A plan of my restraint from expectation

to make me more comfortable
in a low shelter erected inside our home –
to protect you all from my hideous storms

I will not be laid out in the front room
in a God-awful wake of thirty years –
my very meaning slept away each night –

making daylight a drawn prelude to sleep
That is not my life – it cannot be the way
to feed my dignity and the thought of me

ความรัก (Love)

This Thai beachside paradise
of dribbled concrete streams
and well-kept swept lawns
is like the constructs of love

which also require maintenance
of surfaces and hid beams –
which need an ear to creaks
and underfoot complaints

Left unattended – even for a day
and the leaves will fill the pathways –
The beach will rustle with plastic
and the drains’ stink will stay


E100119

The Lodger

He lay flat on his back,
jacket off, the worn soles
of his buffed brogues
almost rudely exposed,
any sign of breathing
invisible at the distance,
and my mother stood
at the kitchen window
Do you think he’s dead?
It must have been 1975,
and he was an old man
who was not known
to do such hippy stuff,
like lying on the lawn.
If it was ’76 then the heat
would have been the cause.
After that day Grandad wed
once more and moved out.

Return

In The Griffin the staff tossed a ball
across our route to the empty bar,
girl-to-boy, boy-to-girl, and back –
a four-way playground match
of childish throw and catch:

The landlord muttered an apology
as their game was put away,
and from adjoining rooms came
the sound of lunch being scraped,
and of coffees replacing plates.

We then found ourselves alone,
only gin and beer to accompany us
in our own pub game of catch up,
our days apart were recalled
as we tried not to drop our ball.

Ballon

Your beauty is to float
above his weight of hate,
it’s how you deal with love,
in your well-practiced way,
which is a crafted dance,
on stage, a casting off,
no half-ballon d’essai,
this is the way with loss:
every marriage dies,
a slow death kills us all,
some sleep with the dead,
but you are not that cruel.
You will rise above the stage,
the ballon, made yours alone,
you will lift, without a man,
because all men will disown,
and you can see from there
the distance others miss,
above the weight of love,
not floored by one long kiss.
You will be the one
who will fly and never fall,
because you are lifted high
and will rise above us all.

The Poll

That drab civic room,
where we had voted,
here the Parkinson’s
support group met:

a chesty (badged) lady
offered us coffee,
pamphlets were handed,
flicked, to be kept.

A clipboard was passed,
to take names and numbers,
and to indicate interest
in meeting again:

My wife bent down,
plundering her handbag,
pulling out a tissue,
here the ending begins.

Knots

I dropped into her
from this height,
into her eyes,
there fixed in size
from birth,
framed by lines,
burnt in recall
by now-evaporated
tears of flicked, blinked,
intimate enquiries,
here refocused on me
into an expectation,
of cross-stitched lashes,
re-knotted,
a tight press of eyelids
in each exploratory kiss,
and then untied
as she measured my heart.

The Witness

They are overshadowed by that evergreen giant,
the one thousand year witness to ceremonies,
to burials, and namings.

Coal was once hoarded where the hollowing
of the yew meets the earth. There, inside God’s tree,
they find a held shelter,

but the air is reduced, taxine within the yew’s
five propped branches, he is hallucinating
as he tastes her,

that passed mead of love, now drugged by her.
Add Odin’s ability to bind and unbind,
and a two millennia lie,

he has no defences left, hung, and crucified
by the centre of her which wets his fingers
in the yew’s compression.

Beaten

I half-stand ring-centred,
in our squared kitchen,
just upright, aware of the
transmitted box of blows,
these roundings upon me,
and that scream-spat radio:
Yes, I feel beaten, as though
I should throw in my towel,
now surrender, step down,
no longer the heavyweight,
me, the former title holder,
in these endless rounds.

Explanation

What bravado
the boys of Sussex
displayed,

and I tried to explain
to my youngest child
after it all,

as we sat outside
the imperial brick
police station:

I spoke about
how some things are
rehearsed,

I talked about
missing empathy,
how thrusts of ego,

cocktails of drugs,
that itchy fug,
near-fungal,

under their skin,
will always
do them in.

She Gives Away

That girl gives away far too much,
Stripped her secrets to mens’ wiped touch;
Cropped, pulled naked, her clicked-on skin,
She’s devoured by those to whom she gives in.

Subjected but free, no lens-locked soul,
Instead she is instant, no Kodak unrolled.

Her surrender of self, in her shared gallery,
Is the nearest they get to adultery.
Her angelic frame, slight but potent,
Holds down her men – mostly aberrant.

Subjected but free, no lens-locked soul,
Instead she is instant, no Kodak unrolled.

All men will take what they can for free,
As wed men delete their watched history.
They wake to dreams, and a cheated wife,
As the girl sleeps late to avoid real life.

Subjected but free, no lens-locked soul,
Instead she is instant, no Kodak unrolled.


HRH

I have danced on the stage
at the Royal Albert Hall,
sidled a swept Princess
and a hundred-like fools.

Their rules of movement,
to me unsaid,
I turned to a tune,
not that which played.

I spun below domes,
under the clouds of song,
with a woman so slight,
because ballet is wrong:

Their rules of movement,
to me set blind,
I turned from their tune,
not the dancing kind.

From Kensington Gore
dropped on to Queen’s Gate,
ripped fast from the ball
by my own complaint.

Their rules of movement,
to me mistimed,
I removed from that tune,
that which was mine.

Take me from such
dance floors and grace,
I have no true patience
to keep me engaged.


 

The Storm

There, feel suspicion
shifting, with 
the volute of winds,
drilled, air-cracked,
this wooden floor,
almost set lifting,
with me tied-to,
in Ulysses contract,
waiting upon
a messenger’s distract:
A low across
my nervous squall,
you, my storm,
could destroy this all.

And I shall sleep
through falling trees,
as I did once before,
in another place,
where I was split,
felled to my knees
by a lover, me, cut,
redundant, disgraced
by her mis-order,
my love misplaced,
becalmed upon
her blunted bent:
I descended Leith Hill,
the storm then spent.


 

The Surveyor

I am measuring my life
in Caroline’s greetings,
the mortgage repayments,
in slow sips of hot coffee,
the stick-tapped steps,
in unanswered emails,
thrusts of my toothbrush,
in the filing of VAT returns,
the social media updates,
in trips up the High Street,
the ‘phone battery warnings,
in the hours of lost sleep,
and the distances between.


Five Bar


At our five bar gate,
with the quick-trap latch,
uneven in closing,
mis-fitted, ill-aligned,
is where I stood,
with a long view of your
approaching sadness,
and you stopped to talk,
after a usual pleasantry;
but then you gave to me
your knave-held cards,
a pair of bastard men,
living in different houses:
There I stood equal
to their low value,
in other dealings,
under different stakes:
I had to express doubt
in your maybe-boyfriends,
exposing their bluff,
as mine was once dealt.


 

Counting Cotton

I can tell time passed
by the reduction
of the contents
of the bumper pack
of cotton buds,

that one in the cupboard,
below our sink,
its product packed
so thick that patience
is needed to tug one out.

When that count is half-done
will we be half-emptied
by the rituals of cleaning
up residues of errors,
which only they can reach?

Eventually a rattled reminder
to replacements-required,
another thought about
what we have bought,
are we ever re-stocking?
Will that be when we stop?

Men Fall In Love With You

There – again – a man
falling in love with you –
From outside – in the dark –
looking up – as I walked
to the house – to the party –
I could read his thoughts
at twenty-five yards –
through the double glazing –
as he engaged himself
with more than your words

Even across that distance –
I can stand inside him –

in his forwardness –
and I will unfix his smile –

slur his slightly-drunk words –
thus letting him falter –

adjust his laughter
to minimise its effect –

I would make him worry –
too much – about his bad breath

But – instead – I know my place
is this side of the glass
where I can watch you –
if I want to –
seeing how you make men
fall in love with you –
in that accidental way
of sweet smiles and
eye contact – the attractions
that you make


E170119

Sleep, Removed II

This eye-lined weight
takes me to my bed,
too easily, to sleep,
even then, struck midday,
when the rest of my family
is filling the[ ]gaps
left by my missing
during waking hours.
And I will lie, still, dressed,
rolled round, under the cover
of my selfish-slept discomforts.

Cradle

Speaking with my mother,
after phone disconnections,
not-getting-throughs,
and of unreturned calls;

then, again, her anger rises,
a spiked, child-sick bile,
reflux-like, but not mine,
still before we stop talking

I tell her I love her,
but I am once more muted
by the receiver’s placement
on her telephone’s cradle

The Temporary Couple

They rode in that lift,
on their mirror-checked trip,
to the honeymoon suite,
but not to sleep;

this temporary couple,
married, untroubled,
by the weight on fingers
of their wedding rings:

Bar-acquaintance, to this,
their lift-locked kiss,
divorcing the guilt
to succeed.

Labelled

I can no more shop in Millets,
the sartorial choice of men,
where shorts are twenty quid,
but such shopping trips must end!

She Who Must Be Obeyed
is getting rather strict,
my clothes should be top labels –
the ones that she will pick.

So throw out my Peter Storm,
discard my beige collection,
no more windproof anoraks –
blown away by her rejection:

Instead it’s top notch brands,
to be found on our High Street,
but only if they’re second hand,
costing no more than five quid.

After the storm

It had long-passed,
but the field we walked,
as I had warned,
soaked our shoes,
and
the dog almost drowned
(in the clumps of grass).

Under a pair of beech trees
I looked up,
seeing frail silhouettes
over silhouettes,
rain-glued translucency,
veined-leaves
in forced overlaps

under a still-threatening sky:
All the time
the single rhododendron
was impervious
to the wetness suffered
by the rest of us.

Hurting

Our closest have lives to live and enjoy –
delayed redundancy in our sick bed-employ –

Carers – co-sufferers – careers not chosen –
tend the disconnected – the mumblers and frozen –

Altered – shameful – re-written contracts –
No wedded-bliss when we ill cannot act –

Wives – husbands – family – relatives old –
air-brushed awareness as age takes hold –

My prop – my chained-helper – engaged far too cheap –
Her offset disbursement being too tired to weep

When care is passed on – hear my atheist-prayer –
I ask her forgiveness for our marriage – unfair


E220119