November 24th

Obscured by leaf fall, the path fails in the thicket.
I walked this way three months ago.
All’s changed. Mist sits on the bare bone canopy,
All day, the daylight grows diffuse.
What’s left to know, but knowing you are in the woods?
Each footfall maps its own path. Choose.

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To Blake in Bunhill Fields

Sometimes the air proliferates with names.
Sometimes there’s ministry when a moth lands
On your sleeve.
Sometimes your reason frames the insect on a slide.
Sometimes, you just believe.
Sometimes the beggar games your soft heart for
A broken penny.
Sometimes what’s left unspoken tells a tale.
Sometimes there isn’t any reason for a fallen sparrow,
Sometimes love triumphs when it fails.
Sometimes the frame of things disjoints and falls,
Sometimes our arrows bulls-eye their desire.
Sometimes, for all our fire, the fire corrodes.
Sometimes, through slight of hand, the right word
Stalls on the tongue.
Sometimes the tiger roars on the Shoreditch road.
Sometimes there’s song.

Dottle

He unplugs the dottle from his pipe:
Spent tobacco, clogging the vessel
With ash-black tar, black molasses.

In his dotage, he finds that spittle slips
More readily from the corners of his lips:
The wet tickle, then the drip onto the pillow.

He scuttled the dishes in the sink days
Ago. The willow pattern plates his wife
Left, drowned beneath the ash-black water.

How he lost his bottle at the funeral.
How their unspent words sat at his Adam’s
Apple. How the black molasses

Of wet earth trickled over her oak coffin,
As they plugged the hole, doffed the candle.

Poem with a Descending line

It’s the law of diminishing returns-
The fostered child put out to grass,
Grown wild, passes unrespected.
The civic spends more than it earns.

Who knows how these things come to pass?
It’s the law of diminishing returns.
The bed sheets peel like pages from a book,
The box gets padlocked at the hasp.

There are always lessons to be learned:
The bruised thigh, the eye bruised by its knowing.
It’s the law of diminishing returns.
Prudence weighs gains against outgoings.

She was six months gone & still not showing.
The body has its own economy, its final terms.
Lean times will foster leaner outcomes.
It’s the law of diminishing returns.

Champagne

‘Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends’ – a toast..

I

It was a champagne reception,
With champagne cocktails.
Taffeta sprayed from the waist,
Like champagne.
Their vows giggled on their lips.
Like champagne.

II
Like champagne, the perfection of desire.
Like champagne, exquisite blisters.
Like champagne, the kiddie in the river-
Bubbles ascending, golden light.

III
Champagne: its base, its superstructure-
It melts into air.

IV

They poured over the trenches, like champagne.
Shrapnel, cordite, bullets, like champagne.
Like champagne, we remembered them.

V
Hawblossom like champagne.
Cow parsley like champagne,
Cassiopeia like champagne
The ditch, the hedgerow, then the stars.

VI
She rose from the commode like champagne in a flute,
The carers applaud, like champagne.

VII
Seborrhea, like champagne.
Hypertension, like champagne.
Asthma, like champagne.

IX
Under the microscope: basophils, lymphocytes-
Champagne.

X
A dry day in April, then the rain broke. Hail pattered
On the roof of the nissen hut.

Two Easter Poems

Easter Saturday

Do you not yet understand, that whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the drain? Matthew 15:17 KJV

Even in the belly of the dead Christ bacteria
Breed. The cold flesh stirs to a murmur of trapped gas,
Blood pools in purple blooms along the back
And yes, bowels void and pop.
Even the skin will slip its moorings.

Leave the abstract to the Gods and air;
Despair, love, anger – vain ambitions,
Are nothing to the Dead.

In the cave behind the stone,
Meek matter reclaims its own.

 

Paschal

In the queue at the corner shop, the lady with the zimmer frame
Buys two shop-soiled Easter Eggs and a can of Special Brew.

We do not meet her eyes, but stare instead at the floor. She has no shoes.
Her feet: swollen to a deep blue-purple, raw with roseate scabs and road-grit.

We wait as she fumbles for her monies in a purse more worn than used.
The shop assistant’s open palms: cupped, expectant of a falling gift.

 

Hecuba

Sons fall before their mothers, some from city walls,
Others kicking in their own coughed foam.
They bring them in on trays, like tea, or news.

Who, in my old age, will call me his slave?
I who once turned heads with an eyelash flutter,
Bent double with a stoma, peg-fed, fucked.

Ask an old mouth for the measure of the times
And it stops. The face drops. It’s a kind of
Disappointment. Words can sink or swim.

Oh bald man with a beard and ‘Say your name’ and
‘What’s today?’ and ‘Who is this year’s man?’ These are
Stones dropped in a hollow. I echo.

‘House!’ calls Cassandra, and louder, ‘House!’ again.
Bingo was yesterday; today’s a sing along.
Wrong days. You see the problem, don’t you? Wrong.

Who of any of us knows how their lot will fall,
Out here amongst strangers and strangers to ourselves?
Each day they change the label on someone’s door.

This is the house of sitting futures. This island.
This is the handle. This is the spout.