Bar Work

For P.

//Grown men bear-hug
in the cinema bar –
this town’s tough men –
they stand held-hard
//with doffed back pats –
almost softly-kissed –
after sunken fizzed beers
after curried fears –
//and the curled-hair girl
quick-checks her sly glance
in the double door glass
of the flung entrance
//That beautiful woman
on the other sunk sofa
before heading out
sinks a sobering soda
//and I’d walk her home
above staggered kerbs –
struggling – still holding –
her wine-tipped words

New Town Clock

The clock’s being replaced
on Uckfield High Street,
under Emergency Orders
it’ll now strike thirteen,
and then in line
with the ‘Bill of No Rights’
you’ll get a timely vote,
but only if you’re white.
The people of Uckfield
will sleep easier this week,
clocks will chime thirteen,
they’ll dream in doublespeak.

New story HERE

Field Work

I write this, aching from my simple effort,
now bench-propped, on Luxford Field,
with car shunts and engine revs behind me,
then killed, still, replaced (for now) by birdsong.

This afternoon, under ripe end-of-March sun,
(we will judge once more with warming fears),
I wave at the future,  upright in a buggy,
trundled up the path, bobbled over lifted roots.

And then the farcical entry of a dog shocks
the three matte pigeons, and a shined rook,
which lift away, leaving the expanse empty,
untimely, far too early for the annual fair,

it’s arrival to be rung by the hammering of pegs.
That fun, on this field, is still a drought away,
until then there will be the scattering of litter,
couples snogging, and teenagers swigging.

But today, with this lunch hour to be consumed,
and low warmth enjoyed, the town joins me
in the old art of laying, uniform, on the grass;
one skill which we were taught well at school.


 

Measured

I was taught to spot the imperfect years
by measuring, with eye and finger
the varied distances, the thicknesses
of those concentric, almost-whirled,
bark-marked lines in the bared-ankles
of cut trunks: Dendrochronology.

Counting back, to before I was born,
my smooth fingers touched the years,
and Dad recalled a distant summer
without enough rain (‘see the thin ring’),
when he felled a malicious child,
dragging him by the handy straps
of handed-down dungarees
through a dusty field of soft cow pats,
that bully face down, Dad ploughed
shit down his bib: he marked him.

At the bottom of Lime Tree Avenue
a bared examination of that past
with the removal of another tree,
rotten, untrusted to be above us,
all that is left is the raw-sawn stump,
of over a hundred imperfect years,

and I cannot touch the ring he was in,
as my finger is now too thick and rough.


 

Coffee Shop

Here’s my retreat,
here’s where I go,
this mug, this refill
of purchased repose;

Louche between low chats
of fat latte ladies,
opposite capped men,
brusque and too matey:

Aglow screen readers,
the Twitter typed lovers,
drugged kids in buggies,
under suffocate of covers;

a blind date, or business,
a couple here meet,
slow in the choosing –
What the f*ck to eat?

I am served by angels
in tight branded aprons,
when they offer the menu
my life is then taken.


 

Continuation

This is my constant (since childhood):
along a rough path of almost-identified
bird song, high-scattered;

but I am no longer drawn to the slip and suck
of uneven grasses, to be welly-filled
so my socks squelched:

Not over the land topped by last year’s
stamped brambles: As ever the grey sky
has dropped,

she rests lightly on this damp copse,
where locked-in trees are north-greased
against climbers.

The birds I once shot, our farmers’ pests,
ruminate overhead on bowed wires,
adjusting with flap-claps,

and, still, ever, that distant roll of
tarmac breeze, of sped tyres
on a constant road.


Bens (sic) Place


I am that bent man in the long raincoat,
with a bagged bottle, my red antidote:

I am stick-led past the bar lessee,
still struck by his loss of an apostrophe;

in there a couple, I fished from reflections,
looked me just once, then resumed conversation.

I crossed shone tarmac onto grey matt stone,
that moment I gripped, not quite alone:

In the small park under rain-weighted trees,
I found my own place below the bent canopy,

with shelter from the worst, poor-afforded below,
I turned into an old man, and walked home alone.


Flying Rats


The flying rats circle over K.C. News,
roosting at night, dropping off their poos,

layering the slabs in a grey film of crap,
then off to the Post Office, to deliver more on that.

We need a Dad’s Army to defend our streets!
To patrol the pavements, with an eye out for shit:

Imagine the scenes, on Uckfield’s wide paths,
a platoon of pensioners blasting the pigeons apart!


Elizabeth Gardens


Sat on a bench,
in Elizabeth Gardens,
that irregularly manicured
Jubilee remnant,

I hear the thrumm-engine,
the Uckfield to London,
low tremors from the station,
with both of us ‘resting’,

but then she shunts loudly,
on her commuted haul;
and with my gripped pain
I stand, stiff, but resolved

that my own departure
is kept to a timetable,
one promised my wife
at my bench-long halt:

‘You go ahead, I need to rest’
and I watched her walk on,
with the dog, and its pull:

Me, re-scheduled,
to then slowly follow.