Poem: Another Sunday Morning

September 26, 2022

 

 

the air

after all that rain

had the texture of twilight fireworks

 

glowing

gently above the ground

then bursting into a sun-splashed grey.

 

the chill

had gone while those

of faith pondered greater mysteries

 

and those

who preferred a faster tempo

drew other conclusions from the game.

 


Poem: Calculation

September 19, 2022

 

It’s the poor that give

to the poor.

Those who can actually afford it walk by

the outstretched hand and box

with sneering dismissal.

 

“Get a job,” they whisper under their peppermint breath,

knowing, as bosses,

they would never hire some bum

begging on a street corner.

 

“Have a nice day, anyway”

 

Spitting on a well-polished shoe

gets you six month’s jail time;

letting the poor starve

gets your picture in “Fortune”

 

Go figure.

 


Poem: I Used To Be Homesick

September 12, 2022

 

I used to be homesick

 

for the smell of the old Sainsbury’s butchers shops, the sawdust, the red raw hands of the fat-armed butcher’s boys;

 

for the extinct pink Financial Times and the Sporting Life, for their columns and columns of incomprehensible numbers and symbols of form and potential, neither suitable for fish and chip wrapping;

 

for the smell of the Tube tunnels as a rushing train pushes warm stale air across faces and platforms;

 

for the hop skip and jump it used to take to keep drinking all day in the days of the mysterious licensing hours;

 

for the certainty of location in a spoken voice, always the region and often the very suburb or streetscape;

 

for the red squirrels in the parks and the water rats in the ditches and the horses that pulled the rag and bone mens’ carts on a Saturday morning;

 

for the hordes of rednosed rawboned hoop-shirted hooligans whooping it up on a Saturday afternoon, street level nationalists;

 

for the exciting stink of the Standard Wallpaper Company fire way back before the clean air acts when the thick smoke billowed invisibly within the choking smog;

 

for Toots & The Maytals and Cliff Richard & the Shadows, and the Yardbirds and the Uxbridge Fair, for Eel Pie Island, the Marquee Club, and the Orchid Ballroom, Purley;

 

for the taste of raw beer hoppy and alive in an alehouse more ancient than America where ₤100 is a busy night and the beer and the bread and the cheese are homemade;

 

for the rank taste in the mouth when the gasholders were full and leeching and the air smelled green;

 

for Prince Charles and Coronation Street, and Mastermind and Marjorie Proops and the Sunday Mirror and the Evening Standard and the Guardian crossword, and the suckers getting taken at Piccadilly Circus;

 

for eel-pie and mash, for meat-and-potato pies, for streaky bacon and fat-filled bangers, for two pieces of rock and six pennyworth o’chips, for Bisto and Bovril and Daddie’s Sauce, for Marks & Sparks Christmas puds, for hot runny custard, mushy peas, black pudding and kippers;

 

for the china chink of cup on saucer across the village green as your team takes to the field in whites and off-whites and green-stained creams, running and stretching and yawning off the dozen pints of the night before;

 

for the narrow roads and tiny cars and miniature houses and rose gardens and muddy resorts and back lanes where it is safe to walk.

 

I used to be homesick before you.

 

 


Poem: Unwinding The Thread

September 5, 2022

 

Memory is

the first traitor

 

It is such a waste

to undo the syntax,

to untie the tender meanings,

to try to catch the logic

that meant little then

and nothing now;

to wonder what

was meant.

Was there a

design back then,

that leaves no traces?

 

Memory is

the first traitor

 


Poem: Grandmaster

August 29, 2022

 

The plush vermillion drapes

were pushed aside momentarily —

a passing shoulder, perhaps,

or a microphone cord —

and a brindle shadow fell

across the hushed room.

He looked up from the false ivory,

looked out through the frosted glass,

and one tiny corridor

of his labyrinthine mind

wandered at the sudden, shrill, iridescent glow

of life outside.

Moments passed,

and this moment passed;

the drapes fell back,

and his full deliberation returned

to the quickest kind of death

he could inflict

on his opponent’s queen.

 


Poem: Exchanges

August 22, 2022

 

Needle exchanges

are just

stock exchanges     really

 

stock exchanges

for those

dispossessed

those on the

margin

 

like over-stretched

brokers

in a bare    market

 

leveraged hedges and

currency options

are

derivatives

no different

than heroin from opium

 

stock exchanges

are just

needle exchanges

juicing up

a different

clientele.

 


Poem: Hard Times

August 15, 2022

 

It’s hard to distinguish the fragrance of Geurlain

from that of pan-fried potato latkes

when you’re beneath a barstool

amid the boot-crushed butts and spilled beers.

 

It’s hard to carve an eagle when the tempest

of emotions coats the back of your throat

with a cold glue that no creative

surge can moisten nor free up nor reduce to tears.

 

It’s hard to say what tipped the scales, what failed to

gel, what failed to gather to you the crowds

you needed for your performances

since you screwed up so many times over so many years.

 

 


Poem: Care

August 8, 2022

 

To enter into

the castle of her mind

 

— a private place adorned

with the illuminated thought

of past centuries —

 

was an adventure

she allowed to few.

 

The gate into

that world of reminiscence

 

— a veil ornamented

with the beauty and vacancy

of a divine smile —

 

was kept firmly shut

to all but the hardy.

 

The key to

that locked-up voice

 

— a brittle stained glass window

etched and impacted

by the meteors of time —

 

was inspiration

affection and love.

 


Poem: House

August 1, 2022

 

She always kept olives in a glass jar

In the cabinet above the pantry,

Amid the fluff and dust of decades.  Tar

Paper lived elsewhere, with the iron gantry

For lifting meats, the turpentine and wax.

Everything else she threw in the dark cave

Of the understairs;  all things that would tax

Her strength she threw on the floor, and this gave

The house the appearance of a swallow’s

Nest built from found goods.  But always she had

Irises, quivering on a cold rad.

 


Poem: Triage

July 25, 2022

 

Losing a lover is like

losing a limb

or a necessary organ:

take whatever drugs you want

to ease the pain,

it still hurts like hell

in the morning

alone.

 

Taking a new lover is like

another transplant:

the dose of anti-rejection drugs you need

just grows and grows.

And as the skin thickens

it takes a harder push

each time

for the needle’s point to pierce your cover;

and each drop of blood seems redder

and more precious

than the last

until you decide

at last

that the payoff is not worth the pain

and you consign that part

of you

to an oblivion

that is not complete

to a decision that is not whole-hearted

to a diagnosis that hurts

like a lover leaving.

 

 


Poem: Before Time

July 18, 2022

 

In a time

once upon a time

when time was fluid

and not restrained

by time zones

invented for train

schedules

 

in a time before

Columbus tripped over

the Americas,

before Marco Polo

invented China

 

in a time before

the pyramids

and writing

and agriculture

and fire

 

in a time before

dinosaurs and

the time before

the first fish

in a time before

the earth moved

when continents shifted

and mountains lifted

 

before the time

when green algae

was the top of the heap

before the time

when green algae

had an empire

wider than the Romans

or the British

 

before the time

when green algae

gripped both poles

with both hands

before the far away time

when green algae

grew from the heat

of the furnace

that the earth was still

and the under-earth was un-still

bubbling and oozing

through the ground

 

all the time

 

in a time before

asteroids banged the earth

in a regular beat

as a drum

keeps time

in a marching band

 

in a time before

the rocks fell

from the spinning disc of gas

to create the earth

 

before that time

maybe then

I didn’t love you

 


Poem: Memories Are Made Of This

July 11, 2022

 

 

filters of memory

crimp images from forgotten

edges.

 

tread carefully

 

down these pathways of the past,

canyon-like corridors,

chasm-sided walls

tiled with jagged notches

of previous wants.

 

tread carefully.

 


Poem: Are We There Yet?

July 4, 2022

 

feeling hot and sweaty and

ridiculous in a suit

 

— its sole function to establish my

bona fides with the customs officer —

 

I emerge from an infinitely long

flight of fancy

into a different

world

 

remarking that intercontinental travel

evokes the neurotic

in even the most ordinary

seatmate.

 

 


Poem: From Here To There

June 27, 2022

 

the wind wound round my legs,

changed direction, wiping my face

with a salty slap as it whistled away.

I veered with it, swinging south

along the strand, grinding my heels

into the beach to stand my ground

against the tempest’s growing bloom.

And though I’ve felt the lash

of fortune’s back of hand before,

never before did I assume the depths

of despair I felt that day.   No,

not even close. I looked ahead

as best I could through the spray

that pebble-dashed  my view.

The future spread before me,

flat as prairie, expressionless, gray

and drab, devoid of interest, latent or

exposed.  I sighed the sigh of the

homeless man;  then,

like a seasoning sapling,

I bent with the rain and trudged

on to Desolation Sound.

 

 


Poem: Aromamore

June 20, 2022

 

was it the jitterbug perfume

she poured on my soul

— the fragrance of an everlasting kiss —

that keeps me staring

into the dark?

my neglected work

— lying angry like an abandoned maiden

scattered across my desk —

shivers with jealousy

as I part the curtains once more

and stare into that scented slice

of memory

 


Poem: Redress

June 13, 2022

 

after,

we drifted back

through the apartment,

retracing our twin trails

of panties and socks

sweaters and jeans

boots and belts

redressing

until we were

as we were

before


Poem: First Date

June 6, 2022

 

it’s dark and smoky in the back

of the old Lincoln;  smells of old leather

and cheap perfume, nostalgia for the old

days sweep over me like the steady progression

of clouds wheeling around the planet.

And there she is beside me, showing me

more thigh than I can possibly handle;

an immense superstructure peeps

from the straining buttons, and I see

with the clarity of hindsight how this present

future follows the paths of the past.

 


Poem: Fireside

May 30, 2022

 

The tension seemed to fuse

his spine to his neck

and he found he couldn’t move,

bracing himself for the words he knew

must emerge

from the smudge-faced fireman.

His brain felt hollow,

as if all the matter had been extracted

to make space

for the cascade of new information,

fragmentary and wounding as it would be

at first,

that he anticipated momentarily.

 

“Your wife, sir.”

“Yes?”

 

Even as he answered, he recoiled with imminent horror;

and even as he recoiled

he hoped – inanely – that his reaction

would not form part of his

permanent record.

 

“Your wife, sir,

said to tell you,

she’s at her mothers.”

 

He wondered if he’d ever move

his neck again.

 


Poem: Just Like In The Movies

May 23, 2022

they circled the building on foot

once

twice

as the rain pelted down

hard like hail

 

on the street

they mugged as tough guys

in the streaming glass

of shop windows

images bouncing from the curved edges

of drops

 

in the back lane they each had time

to be shy with themselves

wish themselves luck

to be quiet and to suck up

the fear

 

the third time round

soaked to the skin

they had had enough

headed for the door

she had on a false nose and a hat

gap-teeth and a grin

he had a honey-blonde wig and a gun

 

the bank was silent

no more

 

“Hands Up!”

 

 


Poem: Southern Comfort

May 16, 2022

 

It was a slam bam thank you ma’am kind of night.

“It’s alright,” she said with a slight frisson of uncertainty perhaps

as she unwraps and taps the money-box on the dresser.

He pays to caress her, to possess her as she bumps and grinds

and too quickly finds the kind of passion paid for.

He wants more before he’ll leave: sixteen and still hard.

But she’s on guard, body barred against free love.

Push came to shove.  Above his pleas she screamed and screamed

until the apartment teemed with neighbours and passers-by

who wondered why this nigger came by and by to be in a white girl’s room.

 

It’s a warm, hormone-rushing, mosquito-swarming kind of night.

Fox-fire bright, passions tightly wound and sprung.

No brass bells are rung, no masses sung, but masses gather to enjoy

the black boy toy with the last of his time on a slippery slope

as the hempen rope grips and gropes for his hopeless neck.