Professor Seagull

Joe Gould’s swag bags of pearls
were only bags of bags of bags –
they were his carried-out emptiness
of the never-written writer’s words –

but he could speak seagull fluently –
having learnt the dockside language
of New York’s scavenging finest –
taking their shrill wind-scatterings –
setting them to his Cherokee stomps

His claim to have written such a vastness –
ten times longer than the Bible
and then to carry around such a thing –
was this vagrant’s bagged possession

Paid

Bend to the paid work in hand
and watch your hours fall away
as if they are pearls spilt off string –
those drops off your tilted head
under the fast-running shower –
in the hour before you commute –
until those sped beads are nothing –
And do not ever – ever – attempt
to be a true artist unless squared –
unless you are recompensed
for the selfish hours given to art’s
endeavour – it was Van Gogh’s failing –
not putting money first

This Builder

I am a too-quick builder –
one without the weight
of an elbowing canvas bag
of inherited tools –

Mine are not recognisable
as such – no textured grips
of moulded plastic
over cold-formed steel –

My way with these agencies
is by an ill-lightness
of slightest finger touches
on the tablet’s screen –

I chisel and cut without blows
until I slip – step back –
to see – and read – some
over-engineered words –

The curtain rail in our bedroom
dips unattended –
It no longer serves
any purpose

Workshop Lines

These words are also chiselled
but it is still an easier art
than his hammer and tilt

His eye is in the oak’s own grain
at cuts and gouges to open –
as my vowel sounds now close

This floor is a drift of cuttings –
those slimmed timber edits
out of which his art unfolds

My on-screen deletions
do not pile high in corners
but are only known to me