One More Named Illness

I do not want
one more named illness
that would be a sublime act of greed –
a selfish huzzah –

more drowning in remorse
as others swim carefree
in lakes – in ponds and in seas
without fear of sinking

Suddenly – an unexpected recall
of a place – almost lost – Coxes Lock
that maleficent flour mill
stood above a hand-dug waterway

Exclusive apartments
says Google –
still with brick-skinned faces
over that ever-dangerous depth

A near-redundancy
was obvious to all
forty years before
as a slow decay took hold

Above stuck sluices
hammered signs
denied access by trespass laws
and for all to Be Aware – Deep Water 

With its old labour came cuts
to flow – they filled reserves
to increase their grinding speeds
so reducing depths downstream

We were three boys
adrift in a rope-tied boat
pulled by our father
at his towpath distance

Coxes Lock and its dark pond
were not an option –
even for him
an old submariner

so we were towed
through shallower water
below those
high seeping gates

Now I have no anchor
in this floatation tank –
drifting in thought
and easing my set of pains

from a day’s equation
of hour-paid time
I cannot afford
one more named illness

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

Paperboy 1st April 1977

Here in this alarm-met half-lit hour
things still bide from other April Fools’ days

Do not forget failing spaghetti trees
on foolish reportage loops

Again those soft nudges on slow senses
of soote aromas off flowering bulbs
there drilled – then paraded by retirees

My sucking lungs hauled their scents
and cool air’s apparent emptiness
on my delivery round’s steep ascents
with a bag weighted by broadsheets

Even worse on Thursdays

Another run of The Surrey Herald
Thick – but relevant – before the internet

Impossible to fold in these gloves

Here at this tall window
slid up an inch or two
my increase in rigidity
dictates today’s route

Those sash counterweights
are strung through my arms

Still close – my childhood
of heaves and pumps of pedals
in that slog across Chertsey’s
seven low hills every morning

No more kneaded by a canvas strap
but instead rubbed by an illness
as I deliver my night-laid lines

Here at this window –
on this hill – in my hand
is my latest paper round
of rhyme-sour edits
with old ascents still considered

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 Thames

I drag my wooden ride
to where the water lies

to that lowest of tides
before the tsunami’s rise

I rowed the swift Thames
with blistered palms
and calves of dark blood
where the runners harmed

We swam with the current

avoiding the crafts

in that summer of love
in which I held the shaft

Nothing has changed
as I push out this skiff

Nothing will alter

I have nothing to give

The Jam

Forty years ago
today
I knew boys who swapped
Tangerine Dream records
and others who spat punk

A comprehensive education
in a scrag end Surrey town
of smoke-rattled bike sheds

of wrong trousers and collars

of part formed love and loss

We all knew the girl who gave it
to the intelligent thug

she cried in maths and the bogs

Sex education still has no use

God off-road

We three boys
would trawl boggy fields

well up to welly boot depths
and over

to heel and toe squelch home
from draining ditches
of dark unknowns

never measured before
by mankind

those unlit sinkholes
of fervent imaginations

each fed by slowed streams
of red Martian water

that oxide bleeding

so bloody it could be
the earth rusting inside

too much for life

and from that ditch
I lifted a fossil leaf

a tyre track of time
embedded into rock

as if left by God on a bike.

The Triangle

Past that rough triangle
off Heath Road, Weybridge,
a slow junction lined
by gloom-slimmed birches,
these woods we all knew
as the murder patch,
where a woman was killed,
his low theft gone wrong,
and a foul faked rape
by other thrust means,
(facts then unknown):
we kids were alive to
her near place of death,
there scoured by detectives’
metal detectors:
and we looked for shadows
on every pass,
we innocents whelped
on his criminal act.


Addlestone Crossing

There to see my father,
propped-up in a polished box,
one that my eldest brother,
chose, on the basis of, what?

Death was still too sour to us,
the parlour’s air throat-clogging,
this feared place of passing youth,
ten yards from the level crossing:

Often halted by its turned gates,
and scoured spin of wheels,
on our way in and out of town,
with Dad, and his thousand skills:

he could dissect a battleship,
break apart any gun,
extemporize upon anything,
with sketch, and rule of thumb.

Now boxed-in, he tarried,
we’d leave him, lonely, there:
my brother could not stand
the shop’s execrable despair:

In that time, almost gone,
I learnt about death’s prop:
that last lesson from my father,
our paths no longer crossed.

Fermata


For FM / FF

You looked from under
your fermata brow,
there over your right eye,
your cast unbowed

to time’s reduction,
or to time’s recourse,
as seconds stretched,
four senses soft-paused:

I, an Asura, stared
at your slightly dry lips,
eyes to your neck
past pearls, yet kissed;

I trailed down your throat,
I wished to cusp,
but only with sight
could I ever dare touch.

The sixth sense failed me,
that night sophime:
But under time’s arrow
you then became mine.



 

Passion Notes


It was in local woods,
a tight thicket of birches,
where we went, as three
boys, over a silvered heath,
to that last kick-of-leaf place.

Here I was cast as a victim
in your impromptu war:
Your third, or fourth stone
caught me on my forehead,
in a thick-hit, spun at me,

bowled sports-fast, pitch;
almost a third eye opened
on my hand clapped brow,
no blood, but that helped me
to see I wasn’t wanted.


 

Botleys: Loss of an apostrophe


Those red brick villas
on the sloped lawn hill,
with service roads
linking collections
and deliveries
at every odd hour,
where patients walked,
the ones that could,
between the few points
some had known,
only known, since birth,
long-ago baptised
in that place by
the cloyed smell
of cleaning, and of filth
carried over, into them,
the walking, the lain,
the chair-rocked,
a few with head guards,
over those broken minds.