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


Also on Medium

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

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.

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

Kings

I am itch-rolled

curled on my side
of our double bed

my head sandwiched
between pumped pillows

whilst you are spread wide
elsewhere

until that breakfast tray
arrives at your door

and the cooled order
is admitted

Evening Prayers

Across passing minutes
his foul envy simmered,
with another’s wide mouth
taking her down,

reducing the soft layers
(those he had watched,
so dutifully added),
a removal of fashions;

putting bare hands on,
lifting her to their God:
A few hours gone
of her agreed absence,
and he set to bed to weep.

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.