Category Archives: Poetry
Every August they go on holiday.
Every August they get an Easy Jet to Europe.
And every time they ask us to hold the keys.
I said Yes.
I go in first to feed the cat
at lunch my wife opens the windows to let in some air
and come evening I lock up and that’s that.
He’s got brandy and a rack of wine,
smokes a cigar I’ve never heard of –
a wooden box full of them.
So I lit myself one.
‘Honey, did you leave a butt in the ashtray?’
‘It was a good cigar,’ I tell her.
‘A good cigar. A nice bottle of brandy as well.’
Though I haven’t told her of their Chiltern pots ‘n’ pans
or her Miss May skimpy briefs
and the bottle of pills and letters I’ve read.
No, I haven’t told her these things.
‘I fed the cat today,’ my wife tells me.
‘And do you know what I found?’
She holds up a pack of suppositories.
I get in from work at 6.30
but last night I thought I’d lock up before I went in.
I reckon the cat had been in their room.
So I straightened out the covers.
‘Honey, that’s a nice dress. Is it new?’
‘Oh, er…no,’ she says. ‘Er…no, I, er…found it in the wardrobe.’
I hadn’t seen her in that one before. Never in that colour.
I’m still rolling one of the cigars in my pocket
while my wife pours herself a glass of water.
‘Honey,’ I say to her, ‘Honey, did you know they have a Blue Ray?’
‘Honey?’ I call, ‘Honey, did you hear what I said?’
I go in the kitchen – she’s in her dress and crying.
‘Honey?’ I ask. She cries into my shoulder.
I pat her head. ‘Will it be OK?’ she asks.
I said Yes.
When I first loved her
I thought of her as a statue – frozen in time.
If a fly landed on her the marble would twitch.
I feel so happy today.
I have seen butterflies and harebells –
I feel so happy today.
Honey blue and amber sunshine.
Rolling among the pebbles I found
a seagull’s skull.
It had been plenished smooth, milky
At first I didn’t recognise it for what it was.
I thought it just an odd shaped stone.
Still smelling of salt, smooth and round
with wide-open eyeholes.
I thought I’d keep it for you
so I held it in my palm.
I thought I’d give it up to you
so you could put it on your shelf.
The sun came out behind the clouds
and threw my shadow over the stones.
With the skull in my hand
I rummaged across the shoreline.
I walked along the low tide
turning the skull, rolling it in my palm.
I put my finger in the eye socket
and turned it around until I heard a snap.
The honeycomb bone had given
and the little thing was in two.
Two equal halves, split.
Split along the lateral cranial ridge.
So then I thought about what I could do.
I thought I could fix it with a pot of glue.
Facing away from the sun to the marram grass
I saw the nesting terns among the rasping blades.
So then I thought I’d walk up to them,
go up there among the dunes.
That’s why you didn’t get the skull –
I dug into the sand and hid it there.
There’s these two women I can see
(they’re making me laugh)
slouching through mud on Whitstable beach
pulling up timbers looking for oysters.
They have their hair up in nets
and have to lean on one another for support;
they’re wobbling and hovering, trying not to fall
and they rack out laughter and have to pull
on each other or else they’ll fall.
They’re holding hands, arms outstretched – silhouetted –
the isle’s purple shadow on the horizon
and the squeaking gulls lowing in the air.
They keep pushing further out to sea,
pulling out with the tide in the mud
looking out for oysters or mussels in low tide.
They quiver with the sun behind them,
and have to dodge a low-flying gull that squawks;
each bent and holding on to the other
trying not to fall, desperate to walk.
They’re far out on the mud flats
with gulls low-diving overhead.
I’m not too sure how old they are –
say, what fifty or sixty? – big aunt maids
shin deep in satin mud, submerged
in the slough with a bag of shells
tied around each waist and the sound of bells
from floating buoys knocking the air to say
the tide’s coming back like a bear to its cave.
So then I found I could turn and walk.
I found that I was young and easy going
as I went between over-full skips and garages
full of burnt mattresses and single wheels – each
calling out to whoever left them there.
Glorious were the days I strolled out through
blocks of tenements and flats with clothes lines
outstretched like yawning arms and hung with
brightly coloured washing.
So that I felt like this, felt like running,
felt powerful and green – golden and shining –
merciful to every daisy and dandelion licking
through parks of reclaimed bricks that graced
my green field, that drifted heedless in the wind –
lovely and warm – golden and shining on unblessed
homes that would never feel my singing voice or
rise awake to wander in the simple light.
So what I did was to find a tree to sit
beneath and rest my back against the trunk
and close my eyes and dream of tunes;
little tunes I had sung when I was young:
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, there and back again.
Sung like a catechism or a huntsman’s call –
a bugle at early morn to call soldiers to.
Slowly. Slowly. Slowly yawning on fresh green grass.
So with my time I was happy and carefree.
I sat still beneath the tree with my eyes closed
and listened to an airplane putter in the clouds
and the swearing of children in an empty asphalt playground.
I sat as a monarch, my thoughts drifting like smoke
higher than the high-rise tenements around my court.
I stayed as long as the sun takes to revolve
and felt no need to move or to be borne away
but remain in my green field beneath my green tree.
So it was as I sat it started to rain.
and my thoughts turned to the children who went home running.
I sat there, on this shadow of a day
under the tree, beneath the rain clouds dreaming
thoughts wrapped up in chains, fleeing for cover
with too much spare time on my hands.
There was nothing for me to say or left for me to do –
the doors had closed, the washing had been brought in too
but I still remained, alone, under the tree in the field.
All this could take place on a Sunday afternoon
and I did not care; I had no reason to.
I was free to sit beneath the trees
and I had liberty to watch the sparrows feed
on these marshmallow days. Sleeping and dreaming
I could hear suburban songs rising
and watch scrounging dogs peeing on black bin sacks
because, I felt, I was not a slave to their dying
but young and far out with no need to go back.
Flies have multifaceted eyes.
This gives them a 360° field of vision.
That’s why they always see you coming.
A fish-eye lens on a peep-hole does the same thing –
widen your binocular eyes
to a 360° field of vision.
But I was thinking:
what would happen if the flies’ eye
was to take a quick peek through a fish-eye?
What would it see?
Would its vision become so large it…
could see the Truth?
This would answer a major philosophical question:
is it possible to get a grip on reality?
Sometimes I’m a lame duck.
Not a metaphorical duck either.
But a real duck that is actually lame
from stepping on a rusty nail or something.
At what point does a bush become a tree?
Perhaps trees are born and not made.
Once a bush, always a bush.
Perhaps bushes branch out.
In every forest across the land, but not across lakes and things…
‘Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a majestic oak,
swaying at the caress of the south-westerly breeze,
Force 3, blustery showers.’
The sticky out bits are called ‘leaves’
because each Autumn they all leave.
Such trees are called ‘deciduous’
because all the leaves decid to fall off.
The other type, ‘evergreen’,
are known as such because all the leaves evergreed not to.
Thence into dotage,
when the old chestnuts come out with those, er, old chestnuts.
‘When I were young, all this were car parks,
now you can’t move for trees.’
And so on until death,
but I won’t lumber you with that.