you arrive another

suggested by Louis MacNeice’s ‘Prayer Before Birth’

you arrive another
i accommodate

not cosset or indulge
build or tear down walls for
shield from error or rehearse
in wise lies and urges for blood

not mute the voices
that prick you trick you dope you
make much and little of your skin and size
rope you into thinking their certainties
quiet you when you oppose

i lay an ample spread
seas to go down to
giants to look up to
fields to bend your back
hills and soft rain ways to tramp
forests to cool you
deserts to level your head

i offer small days and big
sundry plain dapple a flame within
i ask you be you and be good
good makes sense for all things
evil’s a septic wound of mind

i offer you a chance to love
and many chances to be kind
i offer you an ending

the universe spreads rumours and wild fires
i’m a small safe corner
your bright idea for now
hear me

brick

in her last week she complained
someone had put a brick under her pillow
to stop her sleeping
shifted and griped through the night
a brick under the pillow

tired of tiredness
tired being the only one who’d listen
mad at the absurd princess and the pea
mad at the thief taking my champion
and ashamed of my bitterness
it came to me how i might sweeten what remained

fetched a brick from the shed
slipped it under the pillow when her head was turned
nudged her to attention removed and showed it
with great ceremony and said ‘Gran you’re right
someone did put a brick under the pillow’

she smiled and settled deep and small
almost not there

spring

break a leg young thing
this is your moment
after all those morgue afternoons
rehearsing old school mystiques
fine tuning your pauses
making each phrase count

your entrance upstage
deliberate slight in silhouette
moving into light and out
making us sit up

a stir
a single shoot
peep of crocus
hiatus
second delivery
you hold our breath in yours

delay the extended arm
purple patch declamation
flourishes of yellow madness
in winterspent fields

in the morning we’ll blog and tweet
your budding craft
your youth

volunteer

Foreword

Today is a sad day for me. This morning I got word an old college friend, Anne, passed away last week. A few years back, I wrote a poem in honour of her courage and dedication and I feel it’s only right to share it once more. Anne, Great Woman, rest in peace.

_____________________________________________

volunteer

for Anne

not her going (it was coming a while)
but the manner of it
only what she stood in and a weekend bag for forever
that’s where the rest of my life is she said
and i’ll arrive with as little as i can
for i want to wage war with bare hands
sow reap share
and baggage would be baggage

honours languages girl
fierce mind to cut pretence first sentence
heart i’d have learned more from had i not been afraid
and mine more grown less promiscuous
she was plain white paper big print
and had no use for a world at her feet
that would force her in plastic directions

goody-goody fanciful extreme
i thought she’d last three months
une saison en enfer Sixties girl
unacquainted with hardship and daddy at her back
journeying with Rimbaud and Baudelaire
tilting at windmills in the original
can’t hack hunger and malaria dysentery and flies
and what does she know of planting?

forty years and never so much as a card
but now and then i read of a new clinic
a village with clean water a loan paid off
another school with books and desks
and see in a group snapshot a white-haired girl
with a smile to construct a continent

TO LIFE

TO LIFE

i cannot say how many times i’ve loved you
as i love you now
or how often in the past i loved you
if i had the chance to love you over and over

and i cannot say how many times
i will love you in times to come

that i love you now is what matters
that i love your wild green and blue canopy
your perfumed reds in borders
you tumbling and still waters
your uneven paths and manicured ways
your antlers paws hooves long necks
and calls of longing in the night

that i love your pains and disappointments
laughter and celebration
and the air you let me breathe

i will go on loving you
against the threat of hoods salutes and banners
against the unthinking voices of division
against hate and race creed and colour

for to love you is to know
you are the way
and i thank you for your gifts

treasure island

Foreword

One of my dreams, and i have many, is to own a barren island in shark-infested waters. My friends and i hunt down undesirables – corrupt and self-serving public officials, bankstas and racketeers, rapists, molesters, drug and child traffickers, enslavers..the list is long, and when we capture them we drop them naked from a helicopter onto the island where they spend the rest of their days.

treasure island

bald knob in shark sea
one hundred acres of rock
a hundred miles from anywhere
my mates and me fly over on a thursday
to drop from a height buck and doe naked
our round-up for the week

if they land rough
a precious joint or two out
tough!

and half a ton of fish ‘n’ chips we reckon’s enough
to keep an assembly alive barely

water’s where they find it
in shallow pools among stones
and how they manage hygiene if they bother
isn’t our brief

no
palace pleasure pad
porsche parachute ponzi
pod PA photo op bonus
booze weed snort nicotine
cell tv twitter bluetooth

upon the rock is misery
and how long they last is…

they’re quick to gang up and heave the lame
eat the fish before it goes off and the chips soggy

some talk at length of projects they were working on
at the moment of their unconscionable taking
schemes to keep ignorance cutting edge
and bore one another silly
with no one to record or broadcast a word

shrubless treeless
no cave to deny the blistering sun
others have bent under for centuries
they crave perpetual dark

a few look at the stars when they come out
and see them first time
my mates and me reckon they’re the ones
who jump from the Tarpeian voluntarily
but frankly we don’t give a toss

Blanche & Ophelia

Blanche & Ophelia

truth doesn’t lie
in the voice of the gentleman she’s not expecting
nor in the one who rejects

it’s a dim half or almost whole dark shade
dawdling in the parlour or a menace in wait
outside the shuttered window
where ordinary scraps of day gather to singularities

a woman far from her self
makes no last call as a stone-laced coat takes her down
and her boa of plucked flowers and straws
breaks apart on the way to the sea
scatterings that may be one in another otherness

if only before going in
she dams the stream within
and looks over her shoulder to ask
whether a lad who thinks too much is worth it
or catches through the dropping sun
the crenellations of the nunnery he suggests

and if prescriptions are not for her
let her wash her hair such fine hair
paint her still porcelain face still young
put on a lilac jacket or something igneous for Mardi Gras
take the first trolley that comes and have as Springfresh Belle
chance meetings with strangers
perhaps among them a citified man
not royal but of good family
a man to rely on

by the indifferent water
Ophelia sees what Blanche recalls at sultry mothy dusk
each natural hour ground to damp
affected powder in the fist of solitary
each black book engagement a tableau
of too much reach for gold
narrow eyes outside a known better days hotel
and the farce of exit pursued by a bear

for who is brave to love for long an actress
who can’t tell the difference
men whose hands go everywhere uninvited
while hearts stay at work or home and heads bend
to the value they are or aren’t getting
whose notes of charity crumple on the spread?

in the veiled lamplight she craves
Blanche forgets Ophelia’s silent curtain

country music

i

Bathykolpian Clem
for a modest fee

sang Ave Maria at weddings
her chords vibrato

swelled fructus ventris
pierced bridesmaid hymens

rode the saturday bus to town
to duet with a shopkeeper friend

honey lozenges how’s your father
and five quid parting stipend

Clementine dear
i love ya queer
in your see-thru nightie

and when the moonlight spills
on those silver hills
Oh Sweet JC Almighty!

in rut boys intoned
ogled her smalls on the washing line

milked by hand
the nourishments of her blouse

came in old socks
kept clean sheets

ii

calf tongue on fingers
glasspaper percussion

cut pullet necks
scarlet pizzicato

kittens in potato sacks
sang dirges in the barrel

iii

Annie Mangan’s hooked a man
with land and a two-storey

they say he’ll marry her
in the spring

Annie with the gammy leg?
it’s not for runnin’ he wants her

close enough good enough
sow boar mare entire

ewe docked for the ram
bright and dull feathered cock and hen

‘i love you because…’
was Jim Reeves only

imbalance

not an unsalvageable wreck
where claws scrabble silent and blind

learning should fit as cosy
as a favourite pair of old shoes
that think nothing of walking on water

a bobbing cork
sensitive to nibble and chance
dipping to where things are

delightfully accidental on streets
where grass leaves spontaneous paint on feet
and conversation with a chance-upon in a bar
flows instinctively true

those more than knowing
where the nearest internet café is
in a strange town and safe accommodation
well away from the poorest quarter

too far in cold directions wintering in books
i’m guilty of failing my passions
(though passions are where i play)
and could wish i’d been dropped on my head
as a child or had someone clobber me
from a height with the King James Bible
or more definitive yet an entire set
of Encyclopaedia Britannica

if time’s kind
i’ll coast to comic in-between
be a tongue in cheek dreammaker
and iconoclast like the braying WC Fields
juggling a blade and hacking a way
through fantastic walls of hostile flesh
dragging my literary canoe behind

digging

they got up in the dark
those early salt-cured men
to gouge another shovelful
pyramid the clay one day their fellow
incrementing an ordained hollow
brothers left would fill in
and mark with upright and horizontal

the ordinary fished and tilled
harvested wildflower honey
learning from the hive diligence
and the unimportance of individual
while the literate sat where the light was
and delved quilled illuminated visions

all came together at dusk
to chant pray eat in quiet
sweat of the hour dried by cool reflection
most content with dreams
scooping doubt from the heart
a few examining purpose and place
among the stars when flint-faced night
quarried again submission