Poem For Battle of Britain Day

September 15, 2021

We Shall….

 

If a miracle

or the toss of a coin

could have summoned peace

and coated our wounds with a soothing balm

we would not have been tardy

to accept it

in those forlorn days of 1939 and 1940

but as the umber clouds of autumn

turned first to dusky grey and then to the darkest night

of wartime winter

and then it’s spring again

and our boys again

are battling for the open blue skies again

and we settle in for the long haul

we accept that their sacrifice

shall not be in vain

and we pray not for a miracle

or a coin toss

but for victory

 

 

The original Battle of Britain Day was 15 September 1940.


Poem: Alphabetizing Two Worlds

September 13, 2021

 

 

It was easy to place History before Politics,

Medicine before Physicians; and

“Snow Fell on Cedars”

had to come after

“Escape From Alcatraz”.

But how was he to choose

Literature over Culture

or Astronomy over Alchemy?

And Asimov could go anywhere,

With his reflections about water

On the half-moons of Venus.

With bookcases brushing the ceilings,

And more volumes stacked halfway up walls,

melding the books, shuffling the pages,

was turning out to be the hardest part

of moving in together.

 

Amid the piles of unsorted memoirs he halted,

His unpacking abandoned.

He remembered the dancing, the dinners,

The walking.

It was easy to place Love before Duty.

 

 


Poem: Another Sunday Morning

September 6, 2021

 

 

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

August 30, 2021

 

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

August 23, 2021

 

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

August 16, 2021

 

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 9, 2021

 

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 2, 2021

 

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

July 26, 2021

 

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

July 19, 2021

 

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

July 12, 2021

 

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 5, 2021

 

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

June 28, 2021

 

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

June 21, 2021

 

 

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?

June 14, 2021

 

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 7, 2021

 

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

May 31, 2021

 

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

May 24, 2021

 

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

May 17, 2021

 

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 10, 2021

 

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.