Hamilton Place

The tin top cottages
should be haunted – but there is no ghost –
no made-pail Hoogstraten –

A man ripped the roof
off his own propped home and so next door
was left for him – alone –

Now stand those twins
with no tiles or grace – rotting near Hoogstraten –
and his resting place

Lined

The parallel profiles
of the fifty to sixty linden trees
are bitten-thin by the wind
at this time of year

but their ever-tall alignment
of bared trunks
is still my local fixture

There – spaced by landed
strides off an owner’s count –
along this now hemmed-in route –

once a sublime wide avenue
to a grand house –
ridden up forty-ish years earlier
by a princess –
Sporting Life by her side

Now it is the route to a
sprawled estate
of modern servants
who push their buggies
and pull their dogs
along the uneven surface –

a shaded path
for the good half of the year –
for the other bared months
it is fifty to sixty sundial
shadows – if there is sun –

I haven’t counted the trees –
each a timer set by a lime
in the low winter light

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.


Coffee and Cake


Sat down, Grandma,
Grandson, and Mum,
Grandma, huffily:
‘No point sat by ‘im!’
Grandson, grumpily:
‘I’ll be on me phone..’
Grandma grunts,
Mum checks her own,
and Mum reads out
a Facebook feed;
the tired waitress
tries to intercede,
placing before them
menu boards,
waiting for her voice
to now be heard
above that of Grandma’s
moan about stuff:
‘It wasn’t like this,
when we grew up!’
Mum, now bored:
‘The world’s moved on!’
Grandma, resigned:
‘When I’m gone…’
Grandson, buts in:
‘Can I bags your phone?’


Off


That short walk
past the Cinque Ports,
and the neighbouring hit
off pizzas and chips;
left at traffic lights
allowing the right
to walk due south,
past the Picture House,
branded both sides,
and the library lies,
awaiting budget-chops
along with the shops,
and dull retail banks,
even Pizza Express:
‘For Sale’ glowed homes
for too many pounds,
then, more bloody chips,
fat wafts opposite
the old post office,
and our town square,
still empty, still there.


 

Revived


“Look at that handle!”
cried Allan,
as we strode toward
another motorized moment,
and Otto inhaled the leather
and oils of the past
off the cars parked across Luxford.

Lost details from our histories,
fuel switches and choke pulls,
seats that never reclined,
and other discomforts:
We middle aged men find
our comfortable pasts
locked in old cars.


 

The Loos are Lost – Part II

First poem here:

If this were Lewes they’d start a campaign,
to retain the town’s loos under their ‘rights to complain’:

At the top of their list – everyone’s freedom to p*ss,
in a designated place, not in some parking space.

The threatened Luxford loos would be declared a free state,
by a clique of DFLs*, whose lives are deplete

of any purpose on earth, ‘cept lattes, and revolution,
(still regretting their vote against the Liberal’s coalition,

that vote of disgust against tuition fees,
meant swapping their Liberal for a Conservative MP).

Back to the loos – for ‘Men’ and ‘Women’,
the cold seats under threat from the Council’s scheming:

If this were Lewes they’d buy up the plot,
get planning permission, and build a string shop,

in which they’d accept the new ‘Lewes Quid’,
that banknotes’ ink made from recycled p*ss.


DFLs* – ‘Down From London’ derogatory Lewesian
term for people moving into the Lewes: also applied
to people moving from Lewes to Uckfield:
‘Downsized From Lewes’

Speech Therapist

With my therapist,
a genial chap,
we sit and review
my quality of chat;

a bit of a struggle,
with my stinking cold,
an incurable disease,
which has now taken hold:

In the near distance,
two floors below,
a howl of laughter
is loudly let go,

then back to peace,
as my therapist stammers,
r-r-r-repeated advice,
and nice bedside manners.

Hempstead Meadows

I sat on the drunks’ bench,
near the ever-overflowing bin,
shadowing that worn patch
of pressed mud, shit-tinged.

This sitter’s view, skewed,
a beer-distorted luxury,
beside dried bird muck;
a far Tannoy says ‘Sorry..’

Further on the meadows’ path
bushes are clean-picked,
the bearing branches snapped,
stamped back, welly kicks,

where pie-makers,
and black-fingered kids,
thorn-pricked, with sucked cuts,
have harvested:

They have filled, lid-shut,
Tupperware containers,
loaded up September’s
sweet black scratch crop.

Then, the smell of weed,
and it is not Japanese,
the path is now a trade route
for teenagers’ to please:

The three lads pass me,
space for the sad bloke,
with cocksure strides,
and the exhalation of smoke

which we old imbibe,
those sweet fumes of youth,
one so deeply inhales,
bench-sat, wine-abused.

Holy Cross 7:41am

Simple headstones, dated,
only affording initials,
‘Katie’ could afford the time
to scratch her’s on the face
of the screwed lead plate,
her vertical memorial
before she gets to die;

and the tramp, with a cycle,
lay his copper-only coins
across his palm, not enough
to grant his inner fortune-teller
any hope of good news:
Under his stained hat and beard
there crosses a longer story.

53 High Street, Uckfield

The white line men,
with a truck of cauldron
and flame,
lay chalk lines of intention,
then the fine art,
application by hand,
tool, and technique,
to use the drips
along the straight sure
toe-pegged wood strip;
with an eye for their line
and for the cars’ crossing –
before dried.

Car Hire Story

“I do prefer travelling on my own,
She’s two hours early
for everything:
Had a lovely car, a Yaris;
I saw my model out there.

“This Yaris was fantastic,
had everything on it:
The kids Bluetoothed,
Leave it I’m driving
I don’t want it on! I said.

“Coming in to land,
landing at five-fifteen,
through by six:
Hire car place not open
until eight in the morning!

“Had a coffee:
Couldn’t pick it up until 11:
They would call me, Have a coffee,
Already had fucking three!
No calls from them over five hours.

“But my son rang me,
See my number was working,
I said to the woman,
so they gave me a
hundred dollar discount.”

The Last Dancer

Stiffly drinking flat beer, atop the bar stool,
posted there by his inability to stand, even sober,

but, still, with a quick arm, a lifting pitch
of pint upon pint, as old thoughts limped,

like his legs did, on his way to this mounted spot,
bar side, beer-mat marked, holding a high court.

As drinkers washed in and out, to and from
the smokers’ yard, his thoughts bloated

with his supped pints – the warm gut hit
of bitter and crisps – sending him off again

to 1953, when he danced to rock and roll,
on The Pier, years before it fell into the sea.

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.

Law of Inertia

He was bent to his shovel work,
on the hottest day of the year

as age raised a dark vest of sweat,
soaking a shadow across his chest:

He stopped to chat, resting too heavily
against the swing, and as we talked

the roped seats oscillated under his
transmission of low energy,

Newton’s Law imposed where he leant,
part-recovered from his shovelled work,

whilst his girls lay immobile in the shade,
which he had previously made.

Door Stops

I was up with the light air
before this day’s sunrise
as the heat broke    with
a burglar’s threat

but just

itch-shifting curtains on the sash
and a thud    by the unseen flow
further through the house
which had to be examined
a door to be stopped

because the kids would not

they would sleep through
anything   like this intrusion
of a breeze’s soft thuds

The End of the Party

The hall returned to its rented state
by the party’s emptying,
re-stacked stiff back plastic chairs,
and nothing remained of them:

Swept, bagged, and loaded out,
nothing, nothing, except the echoes
of friendships forged in parties,
trips, fights, and school classes.

There, for me, a preview – end-of-term,
of their school, those rooms,
at the epi-centre of their lives:
Swept, bagged, and loaded out.

Nan Tuck’s Lane

Over Buxted, into folklore,
our sniggered-search for Nan Tuck,
the ghost of those woodlands,
a crone, flown from The Uck.

We set out as useless hunters,
on her kindling-carpeting,
the coppice of nervous laughter,
with hid fears half-echoing:

‘A dearth of any wildlife,
where Nan Tuck’s spirit waits’,
but we disturbed a leaping deer,
and were stabbed by beaked complaints.

No fearsome witch, no spells,
no cackle, no dark arts,
but stepping back onto tarmac,
we walked calmer down that path.

The Ghost, Cinque Ports

Ullage, the short difference,
to be re-recorded
in a skinny red book,
stood soberly-vertical,
behind a jar of slippery
pale-pickled eggs;

there’s many Bar Rules
about equal measures,
keeping this club in order,
but an occasional shadow
re-states the cellar’s height,
corner-of-the-eye stuff,

CCTV captured, she said,
orbs floated, inflated,
whilst, creaking, overhead,
actual timbers and joints groan,
a true, structured tale
of cat-slide reconstructions:

Here the beer tastes great,
priced right, served with grace,
as aged patrons, oft-glued
to the re-drawn-football,
never lose sight of old mates,
and a ghost is welcome,
as our own spirits ruminate.

School Chips

The gates needed painting,
rusted red – shameful shades,
the kick-chipped exit railings
begged for a uniform coat of paint.

Hardy souls took up the shout,
to buff Manor’s roughened fences,
a slog of slap and weeding,
and school was reinvented!

Some may notice our efforts,
and other parents may walk by,
but down there, at knee-height,
kids’ll see that we have shined.

So pick up a brush, or shovel,
get down to your local school,
tidy up the walls and railings –
it’s what life’s taught you to do!

Charity Begins

Another charity shop has opened up,
its shelves already whiff with stock,

featuring Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’,
and the lower-shelved words of Peter James;

his ranking fixed by alphabetic rules,
although Margaret does classier vowels.

Pressed shirts hang, stiff with starch,
whilst dead man shoes no longer dance;

A range of aged prints catch the eye,
Picasso hangs, yours to buy;

Retired golf clubs stand on guard,
their shine worn down, over par;

That jug you gave to your old friend Jane,
she’s re-donated, so you buy it again.

Capture

Walk Back, Writing

I am wobbly, walking home, some late o’clock,
a trespassed short-cut over dampened grass

through this estate of town-planned care:
No roads, paths only to lamp-lit porches

as cars sit, misted, braked on verges.
The street light’s spill, a dry amber pool,

me, sense-struck by the waft of cuttings;
I am re-routed, indirect, by a solitary tree,

it’s stillness shocked, split, by a pigeon’s clap,
it disturbed by my standing, or my breathing?

The momentary effect, combined, then leading
to my old flight to Israel – picked fruits, sun-browned,

lawn-fronted homes, of sprinkler’s ticker-sound:
Same lives parked, people air-conditioned,

sat lamp-lit, the sole indication
of life struck by us, flighted, but never leaving.

Gravel Voices


Gravel Voices

Jean’s gravel route,
no different to ours,
just an over-the-road
distance.

Trodden, it sounds like
a pre-school shaker,
the one the lucky kids
were given.

Step-fade-step,
across her driveway,
whilst our one,
a road width closer,

is louder recall
of kid-invaded,
beach steps,
when shingle slid

into the curled
picnic rug’s weave,
as our burnt parents
pebble-pinned it all.

 

Making Hay

Making Hay

I headed down
the High Street,
sloped to the river,
baked, dust-blown,

everything diverted,
almost deserted;
the traders forgiven
for early closing.

My small-change
pet shop purchase,
fed an empty-rung,
receipt-rolled, till,

But,
an exchange of value:
We talked about skydiving,
John Noakes,
and column-climbing.

Those shaded contractors
blasted sand off pavements,
and I headed home,
only hay-weighted.

 

Post Match Report

All square, one-one,
but, still a loss
for The Seagulls:
An in-equal result
of stripe-painted
kids’ faces, briefly,
unable to pull a smile,

whilst we parents,
post-match gathered,
rolled, barbecue-fed,
with cold beer-wash,
struggled, in the sun,
with the enormity
of the task ahead:
Banoffee pie.

‘Four-hour’ Dave
puffed and laughed,
whilst Nicci smiled,
distant recall.
Mike R was forced
a second helping,
a second goal,
he’d preferred.

Such heat off
our rare-seen sun,
knocking Andy flat,
laid, but sober –
a low wall, on another,
as Charlotte gave
striped-Fred, returned,
an over-glasses warning,
his first yellow card
of the barbecue season.

 

UCTC Entrance 08:45

I stood, stock, in the road,
arms wide, an amateur Christ,
awaiting another crucifixion,
to be run-down, lifted,
cross-heist,

only to allow a mother,
flagged by three kids, a buggy,
to cross in that turned-in place,
to be safely, again,
path-unhurried:

Stared at, over-steered wheel scowls,
by you school-drop drivers (the worst);
can you please deposit your kids
on a far (distant)
verge.

No wonder your grunty, flaccid, son
demands his own car “for sixth form”:
Your poor lad enjoys
uber-time – Mum’s taxi, always,
the driven norm.
 

Radio Too

Waved off sounds,
our wireless re-casts,
‘Uckfield FM’,
over transmission masts,

from studios atop
Bird-in-Eye’s view,
back to this town,
washed by the Uck’s abuse;

whilst the voices, radio,
and on-line, exude
their playlist of music,
a light interlude,

of features, information,
a local voice,
this station tuned-in,
to Hobson’s Choice;

requests, interviews,
and warm chat too,
Uckfield FM –
who needs Radio 2?

Sweet Truth

Written for Little Horsted CE School, East Sussex – poetry workshop

Just like Roald Dahl,
The best writer of stories,
I surrender too easily,
To sweet-tooth fairies:

Chocolate, oh chocolate!
Terrifying stuff,
The scary thing is..
I can’t get enough!

I don’t care ’bout wrappers,
Brand names or offers,
The chocolate inside,
is all that matters!

Chocolate, oh chocolate!
Causes tooth rot,
The truth is, the truth is,
I don’t give a jot!

Easter eggs on sale,
The day after Xmas,
Begging to be bought,
And eaten to excess!

Chocolate, oh chocolate,
A mouthful of treats,
You are so bad for me,
But still taste so sweet!

Moving My Shed

Plans made today, to move my shed:
turn, pull, place, via grease-sleeper sled.

Tirfors engaged, off discussed points:
Fears for the shed’s, and my stiff joints.

Stress on structures – bodies and boards
– distributed off two steel cords.

To then be towed, in slow-motion;
slow-drawn drags, on fag-backed notions.

Each inch of shifting-movement, slow,
a daunting five metres to tow.

All grinding, groaned slid hours we pull,
could conspire in my sledged-shed’s fall.

Do You Know Her Name?

She stands, cold,
at Waitrose’s door:
An immigrant washed-up,
on our shore!

is an instantly-fired
typed-up-rant,
quick-raged, sick,
a tuneless, descant:

She stands, wet,
at Waitrose’s door:
‘The Big Issue’,
her limp offered store,

undersold, in
our freedom trade,
dignity, her
last held barricade:

She stands, ages,
at Waitrose’s door,
her light smile,
your corner-eyed reward:

A few fear
this awaiting grace,
her quiet held issues,
the rest embrace.

To Charlotte Savage, Thank you

The stoic Lollipop Lady,
Manor’s stick-wielding boss,
she was out in all weathers,
the snow, rain, and frost.

Her high-vis personality,
cheery, loud, and with grace,
giving rat-run drivers
her glared look-of-disgrace:

With waved magic baton,
she guided kids safely across –
the missing Lollipop Lady
is Manor’s greatest loss.

Double Trouble

Yellow paint
in paralleled-pairs,
the parking lines
will appear;

all being ‘good’,
bad-parked are slapped,
with a fat fine –
tickets wrapped.

The new parking zone
will span Uck to Ouse,
privatised wardens,
in uniformed blues:

Pacing side streets,
in ‘bounty-hunt’ mode,
leaping on the parked:
‘I stopped to unload!’

Our future is fine,
thirty days to pay up,
but don’t park in Uckfield,
it has just been shut.

New Tricks

The new Uckfield car park, laid out carefully,
with too many spaces, commuter-empty,

A groovy idea: car-less spaces become,
a grey-surfers’ skate park for some OAP fun!

Beige-age skaters would form an orderly queue
lined up, loose-limbed, to go skateboarding anew,

each of them hard-helmeted, and elbow-strapped,
they would say: ‘It’s way cool’, then sneek a cat-nap.

On waking, a leisurely pre-skate tea break,
then rolled oldies mount boards, and partake;

a no-brainer for sure: the benefits are many,
and our cash-strapped council don’t spend a penny:

Lined up along the fence (after too much tea),
they add car park odours: emergency-wees.

The council, please, agree to skate parks for all,
It’ll encourage the beige-aged to stay way cool.

Michael, Not Me

– Looking nice Michael,
been somewhere special?
– Funeral. In the bloody rain.
Two pints of bitter, froth flat,
stand alongside the boozers,
as they then chat about the showers,
long-passed, and bloody penguins.

One of them, not Michael,
has the look of Rupert Murdoch.
Pints are refilled, the urinal next –
it takes more visits these days.
– Michael, you dressed this well
last time you was wed.. hahaha..

Ceiling beams, once chiselled
by equally beery men,
prop the roof of the bar
and threaten the non-stooped:
the timbers are black-slapped in gloss,
they ooze a shine like ships’ tar.

Old age brings advantages,
and shrinkages and breakages.
A handshake, another drinker,
greeting Michael, not Mike (too old,
not Mick, too straight)
all to the hubbub, ice-chink,
bandit complaint, and clink
of glass and bar. Michael smiles.