These pieces were created during a period of turmoil grappling with my own ill health, the death of my mother at 89 up to a year after the anniversary of the death of my beloved father at 95. Amongst other things they are also, in many ways, about that emotional levelling we go through trying to consolidate memories of lost loved ones or broken relationships into a new future without them, reminding ourselves of where we are, what is left of us and what comes next.
Face pressed against sea drift
Pricks in the shallows of that face
Crawl up to the surface of this other.
Lenses dutifully harvest spume
Extracting existential salts
To be expended in the wiping of eyes.
Pacific breakers retreat
Carrying the memory of singing
Never to return with my rhythm.
These waves are not departing tidily
Might never revive these naked toes
With another comforting lap of summer surf.
12th March 2014
Lily Con Carne
Too loud, too destructive
Never force it out of me.
I must navigate this fight alone
By my own signs
Wrestle this dragon
Unstate a history
Which if voiced would be the last of last things
Would remove all trace of the few
Scribbled excuses which survive.
Better road-bound ever to remain in circulation on the ring
Only dreaming of arrival at the crux.
An 11th Hour
(of an 11th Day of an 11th Symphony)
In a horizontal laid-out-straight-on-trestles attitude
This door now being finished in clear oak
Over finely figured veneer slips fugitively
Into the form of a thin box.
Compelled to assimilate January the 9th (Julian)
In this symphonic snapshot
My composer paints an aftermath for me
Of revolutionary boxes identically mirrored
Into an endless slightly curving infinite loss.
In single file on another day her days ran out
To an end this thin conveyance might have served
Were it not for a strength and quality of grain
That could not be diminished.
18th February 2015
Over cold or under dry
More than hot enough or soggy
Cover up or cool it down
Umbrella morphing into sun shade
Foggy hills or shimmery glade
Hedging bets so better pack
Some sunscreen and a plastic mac.
In and out the weather house
Mrs. Sunny, Mr. Rain
Cracking earth, flooding plain
One or other rules each day
Depending on the time and place
And who is presently holding sway
Though both are coupled at the base.
11th March 2015
Confessions of a High Maintenance Face
Out from the mists of worn out dreams
Stunned into stirring by wafts of beans
As the sly sun sidles through the curtain
And gleams up the motes of our floating night skins
I rouse and I sip ’til grounds reappear
And transient fragments of morning adhere
Then insinuate myself in at the rim of the play
Into mindful ablution a light year away
From the stage.
Washing outside of this cup and this platter
My reflection reflects on the crux of the matter:
Are the contents of this age whited sepulchre before me
(full of uncleanness and dead men’s bones)
Suspected in anyone else’s story?
And is there a chance that the mirror will shatter
This face I prepare to conform and to flatter
The disgrace of a compounded vanity?
I note that the zygos have worn a tad slack
Where blemishes blended in furrows attack
With lines and divides of historical fact
And that little grows down there deep in the crack
But I shave and luxuriate in the moment suspended
A king in his universe uncomprehended
Surveying what potency lies in the vastness
Of a yet empty day that can never be ended
While I stand at the pleasure of my purpose.
June 17th 2015
Fifty Not So Upright Years
Casually against the red-brick of industry
Trying to seem as permanent, as belonging
With my first working day ahead, we leaned
Impressing epic resonance on impressionable innocence.
In one continuous flow of flapping overalls
Dolly slopped Jingle style with a touch of pigeon over his dogend
And negotiating obsequiously past Hawkeye
Dived into the sweet tobacco ambience of Will’s Woodbines.
Besant, coughing on his second roll-up
Declared his status and comedic credentials
By grabbing at my dear father’s genitals
Who, by way of initiation and without a flinch or smile said
“Fuck off George”, and to me
“Let’s go. He’s an idiot”
Stubbed out his own fag next to mine.
Will you go to Bosistow
To a look out in a loft
And peer into the vacant sea
From Faraway normality?
Or will you pick at the sores of love
Soft scarred contusions spreading blue
Proclaiming yet more visibly your loss.
Trundling came the enemy
His determined uphill rumbling smacked
Of orders under execution,
Slow, searching, deliberate,
One baleful eye impartially disposed,
Barrel nosing, poking his tankful of doctrinal power.
Ducking quick, Vic said
“See you at the pearly gates Sam!”.
Later, in the death camp
Within sight and smell of God’s evil
He would gently turn a young girls head
With his new-born hands
Adjusting the last rag of her soiled decency
To look a bit more dignified atop her mound.
Later he would recall her murmer “Danke”
As her blossom shed its petal of finality
And his spirit bled its masquerade of faith.
I will go to Bosistow
(But not upon the tide)
To a pier that rides a star strung sea
The length of it I’ll stride
And on my glistening sea of dreams
I’ll bob along the rim
Of history healed
Where time stands still
And smiles go on remembering him.
Trundling the enemy comes, rumbling for attack
As spies are shot, explosives set, grenades go flying back.
But out of the particles of war has come
An old familiar face now young
Has come at last to their trysting place
For her soldier boy once more.
Dismissing curtain lurkers
With their world-will-keep-on-turning chat,
Securely binding warders with his charm
And by lobbing out with deadly force
Whatever served his purpose,
My father made his bravest stand
And after fifty not so upright years
I hear him swear a second time
“Turn that fucking light out!”
As we said goodnight.
Goodnight Dad! X
27th October 2015
Dolly, Lloyd Dolphin, chargehand for the cutting room and bulk floor.
Besant, George Besant, Bulk floor assistant chargehand.
Hawkeye, Nelson Hawkes, factory security supervisor.
Vic, Victor Webb, an SAS compatriate in WW2.
My father took me to work as a casual labourer at WD & HO Wills, Swindon during the summer holidays from school in 1965 where he had already worked for 31 years and from where he eventually retired in 1980 after a total of 44 years interupted only by his army service. Without any doubt this was my Father’s greatest contribution to my education and my development.
And the Point Is!
Rotate your aegis at some point on its rim
(Suppose a round one for the sake of logic
And suppose also a self-tempered burnish
For throwing back an assailant’s visage
To bite and grind upon itself)
Let previous incumbents become reflections
As you begin to discover yourself
Within the sanctuary of your own charge.
17th January 2016
Blue In Green – The Committal
To the softest chord
To quiescent conclusion
Fractious presents transposed
Into mentally clattering silent reflection
And a timeless forever
Each melody must fade.
A cosmos of private knowing
Hands back the gilded clockface
Submits to immutable laws
And tapers off the shelf of history.
But only time arrested guarantees a cure
For beginnings without ends
Yearnings and their only-dreamt-of caresses
Hopes without means
Degrading debilitation without respite.
A project of being is complete
And now those same immutable laws
Begin their fossilising business
On the midden of human endeavours.
What has been is mere exhaust
Every timeless interlude a practise run
For this grand finale when
All manner of things are made well
All ills are cured
All secrets lost
All knots are sealed
All passions rendered inextinguishable
And dissolving down into the anecdote and record of times
We become at last exquisite on the lips of finality.
22nd March 2016
At The Height of The Broken Flight
In the rain dance
Blackbird and goldfinch enervate semibreves ink deluge
Their sex-talk a symphony on an existential stave.
Pigeons copulate at a snail’s gaze, not in a snail’s pace.
I observe the snail
The progress of it
And the progress of it
The pigeons on their fourth attempt
Tits filching fat at the feeder
And reaching out a naked palm of origins
Sharing cosmic particles and receiving some in return
I am grateful,
Though different from my own
They are as familiar
And I am in love with them
Treasuring their unrefined but loving countenances.
I am replete in the leaf of this Acer
In the gut of this nesting bird
Flying with him as the caterpillar
To his home woven by me
In the shed where I make minds-full
In a mind built in the image of shed
At the height of the broken flight
Made to ascend in vigorous moves
On old steps laid one beyond the first
Beginning at ground level
Ending in any and every new invention
And safe within irredeemable wear and tear
I find myself content in the arms of my choices
With this mortal soul of my contriving.
I stand as perfection incarnate
My side of this transparent bound
Aware of the mimicry in forms of green
Patient with this rate of going about it
Startled only by the sudden spurts of grass.
A snail mists into an oblivion of my own devise
I choose not to belong to that future
But to make allegiance with another
And as much at liberty as the world’s dandelion
With all my ephemera behind me dry
My extended perennia out there wet
Suspended in a chasm of self deficiency
Apprehending a coalescence of heartbeat
I am become a being of interminable breath.
26th April 2016
At The Edge of Now
Time is in the past and of the past
Content, shape, order and the pace of lives is history.
Standing here at the edge of now
Fathoming this abyss of unknowable existence-to-be
I am unnerved.
The road ahead is only in the head
The way behind an archaeological biograph
In the fossilised detritus of spent decisions.
There is no speed from where time has ceased
No stumbling where time is not
No professors commentating on singularities
Where death is never and zero an evacuated infinity of plenitude.
The choice is between turning away
Sleeping sightless in the motion of old days
Oblivious to the ways
Careless of the means to the ways of becoming
Or to face quivering the still point of timeless calm
Feeling pregnant, powerful, magnificent
At the edge of now and the possibility of everything.
18th May 2016
I Go Up
(and I go Round)
Being inclined to wonder if that sunborne flittering
Is the larger or the smaller of the white butterflies
I go up and I go round just as my father did.
In any case the post-tea observances are overdue
So I go up and I go round rattling the ritual keys.
I open up for today’s business
Check all deliveries
And conduct the rite of looking up and down.
* * *
Actually I go up to plan and to think
Considering if this would be better there
Or over here where I began some days ago
Or should I branch off on another plan,
Abandon this and start afresh?
I go up to re-confirm if all that now remains,
Complete or incomplete as it was left,
As it stood the day before, is still a work in progress
Still marked for when the page at last must turn.
I go up to where my compass reigns,
To see if sullen memories thrive
In their imperative relevance
Or if they lie becoming or already quite as dead
As their long forgotten binomials.
I go up to breakfast without restraint.
I gorge upon a feast of death and life
To nourish my definition
To steal away the breath of chance.
I go up as far as the farthest extent of my desmene,
I note which demarcations need repair,
Inspect for boundary violations, unlock locks,
Check the lockables and stockables
In their various agglomerations
And make a measure of what is and what is not.
I go up because my story is mine to unfold
Poking about the focus of this plot
Alone, sufficient, unafraid, adding it all up.
I go up to see my loves and to pluck out my loaths
I prune, I snip, I chop and amputate
Maintaining the balance of pride in my pride
Striving to arrive at an accomodation with pain.
* * *
I have made a truce with being.
I want only what was and what is
Because it was and because, as such, it is,
A static delineation, an artwork of perpetual existance
Frozen in the severity of my dominion over it.
I go up because I must, because I can,
I go up because I learn, relearn, recall, forget, reverse, advance
My life from end to end on each and every circuit.
I go up without guilt, fear or delusion,
I go up because I follow
The measured pace, the studying gaze
Of a man who was no mystery to himself,
The man I try to be, my prototypical mortal soul
Mindful but accepting of life as it is
Undeluded with false hope
Allowing only one faith, a faith in myself
Believing it will all turn out right in the end.
22nd September 2016
Sober in shades
Out of her black-drop
Half drowned but clinging on
Its all over now
And the same
Always the same question
Comes lingering sickly
Always the same answer
Familiar as death
Maybe its the same thing
Fumes of Lethe reeking abroad
Tomorrow still perversely feasible
On the high high seas
A corpse bobs lovingly
Still wrapped in the warm ghosts of her.
15th January 2017
* “Domestics” was completed with a sigh of relief on 15th January 2017 and revised for presentation on 7th September 2017. Time to move on to a new collection.