Erasers

We were not taught
how to erase –
how best to rub out –
how to remove errors –
instead – we were told to
Put a line through it

Those eye-ruled
mistakes –
our slight aberrations
in our cobbled
curriculum
They were honest flaws

Being seen to fail
won gold stars
against your name
on that constant chart
of
stuck rewards

Now we suffer
others’ comments –
sickly – green-ish –
spilt on social media
We are ink-stained
No dabs of blotting paper

Before Digital

Revox B77 – high or low speed –
from my easier analogue ways
before everything got too fast

DN300 and DN360 graphic EQs
in 19″ racks – screwed and mounted
Even electric drills were rare

I could load a truck – but only after
being shown how to lift and turn
a case in the air
so that rubbed case knuckles fitted –

Tighter than Jan’s crotchless knickers
Sex wasn’t online or easy to understand
when fellow loaders joked – analogue days

Birthday Presents

For WM, on yr 15th

It is now that time
we scan around
and make honest
our current account
of fouled landscapes
and our – ever – endless
opaque cloud makings

by cheaply-oiled flights
over raised high banners –
bearing boasts of growth
and much-much-wealth –
as if such heavy hauls
leave no poisons – no trace –
no residues – no spillages –
no inhaled lead in blood

And tell them how
it will be
in ten years time
or twenty more –
or whichever
we can hope to bear
And look with me
into their eyes
and say –
Kids this will soon be yours
to fix – Good luck

Field Studies

We swam before fish
in that meandering
gutter of long runoffs
down from Kemble
in our eel-shone skin –
equal by breaststrokes
and coloured cold white
like a pair of split cod

I waited for you to lift
yourself from her wet veil –
a single upper body heft
in to warm air – mine to hold
from my low water-trod
vantage point – I’m not cold
and what a fabulous sight
Your butt-naked curves

Not mine to touch – to cup
Only when you have agreed
was my tugged at adage
But your own quick greed
countered my willyard ways
A few days later we rolled –
feeling almost drunk enough
and readied to break out

in an untouched pasture
of crackling dry grasses –
as our bare backs arched
But then we left untouched
What came next could not –
not then – it wasn’t in our reach
Not until older years of beers
and then hard sex on sofas

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

That’s All Folks

We are suckled
on distortions
of God-given truths
before widescreen tales

Anthropomorphism Rules

Recall childhood absurdities
e.g. Tom and Jerry
showing ink-stained human ways
drawn on pets and pests

We squeeze other species
into a blender of credibility
Perhaps our normalised violence
was induced by cartoon irons

those height-dropped anvils
cast by Dastardly’s Muttley
alongside Disney’s kingdoms
of deviations from the norm

We have taken all naming rights
and re-arranged such old orders

No wonder
that we no longer see
any natural way in this world

First Year, 1970

Aged five to school – an unplanned addition
M. Bell – born into a monochrome 1964 –
just after real sex was bargained by Larkin –

Miss Green – my teacher – wore the latest
fashions – miniskirts and roll-neck tops
with cropped hair and big jewellery –

all co-ordinated above calf-fixed trends
of highly-shined high heel boots
and her daily sprayed halo scent –

Aged fifteen – my recall of Miss Green
was fixed again – seeing her once more –
she was still wearing 1970 well

when we passed in my dentist’s alleyway –
that red brick shortcut to the High Street –
but she did not recognise me – now fifteen –

A decade earlier she was my cool mother
on school days – she had set me to new words
and easy metrication – before my release

to longer grass and longed-for summerings –
She is now – by my calculations – locked
into her last few years – and still wearing
nineteen seventy


In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come