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It’s so long since I posted anything here, so I am just squeezing this in before Christmas. It isn’t a Christmas poem however- it’s about a dead badger.

 

 

is

As I walked down this hill towards the road

Like one without a care in all the world;

I stopped and looked, then on I strode

In wonder there was nothing to be seen or heard.

 

As far as my ears could hear or eyes could see

There was nothing moving in all the world

No birds, no folk, no creature besides me.

I went over the stile to the metalled road.

 

The road was as unpeopled as the path

Until I turned the bend towards the town

And saw, blocking one entire lane, Death

In the shape of a badger, lying still as any stone.

 

A dead badger, and nothing else around;

Decaying in the middle of the road;

An obstruction to human traffic, food

For smaller creatures picking at its wound.

 

Its stale blood dirtied the tarmac where it had run.

I couldn’t see its eyes, only the belt

Of stored muscle in its lustreless black pelt;

Flies buzzing around it, catching the sun.

 

It was a phoney summer; I’d been expecting rain.

The corpse was there all week in the same spot.

I walked around it, cars swerved around it

Without slowing- the heap of slow ruin.

 

On my return, I climbed over the stile

Back up the quiet hill about a mile

To the isolated cottage. It was a quiet time

But I’d something to tell my friends about back home.

 

Happy Christmas.

Pages of the Sea

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I was involved in the Pages of the Sea workshops and was inspired to write something myself. This is it.

Late Memories

These are of course not memories for most;

Are postcards from that other country- The Past.

The Silence, the medalled men, the Last Post,

The lists of names, the Unknown Soldiers, are dust

 

That runs through our fingers leaving nought

But a smear on our palms, an idle boast

That we too have done our duty, fought

Our battles kindlier than these ghosts.

 

We know now what was wrong with all that- the Lies,

White Feathers, fools who sent our fathers over the top

Into the killing-fields, the no-man’s land, into skies

Of chlorine gas, over ground whose only crop

 

Was body parts and blood, nothing to feed

Lands fit for heroes, men grown too wise

For work and wages, men whose deeds

Could not be spoken of, or seen by unseeing eyes.

 

Of course you wonder sometimes if there’s a point

In learning history, reading the poets-

One way or another the time is out of joint –

Our tongues can find no new words, only quotes.

 

So why should we remember? And if we do

How choose among the dead, the grieved,

The nurses, the spies, the conchies, the few

Innocents who knew nothing of the graves?

 

Can the world ever be free of war?

If we pay the right attention can we make it?

Remember so intently what went wrong before

That we never never repeat the same mistakes?

 

Time will tell and history will judge.

More Old Lies, I think. If there be any judges

Who understand time and history and judgement

I ain’t heard of them- but who am I to judge?

 

It’s the same time, the past, as the future and the present;

The same but different;

Just like our sight of it –

The same, but always shifting.

 

I read down

the list of names

Expecting to find my own

Wade C.G.

Wade F.R.

Webster M

Webster W

Wilson –

No, it isn’t there

No White A

No-one whose face to see or hand to shake

Uncharted

I read these pieces at the private view of this beautiful exhibition last night- such a privilege to be involved. These poems are based on/inspired by Catherine’s pieces about water and words (‘words slip slide, perish’) and migration – the migration of peoples/the migration of cranes.

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                    Water as Metaphor

It’s water and it’s something other than water –

You wash your hands and imagine you’re Macbeth,

Or Pontius Pilate –

And while it’s

Comforting after the slaughter

To imagine that you can be cleansed,

There is a divinity that shapes our end

However we try to style it.

                           Water as life and water as death –

                           Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow

                           Is how the ancient wisdom goes;

 

But as for water washing the words away!

It’s terrifying –

I feel like Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey,

Although the metaphor here’s more highfalutin –

The words slip and slide under the tension

Slip so far from your first intention

That wounds cannot be washed with simple water

And you find yourself needing metaphors

                             Verifying

                             The necessity for putting the boot in

                             Before words tumble down the waterfall

 

             The True Language of Cranes

We cranes, you will be pleased to hear,

Speak English so that you may understand;

What’s more, we use iambic pentameters

Mostly, so you will know this as poetry

Without having to have that pointed out.

Up here, it’s quiet and that suits us fine

(None of us bothers to watch the in-flight movie)

We like to concentrate on what we are doing,

But in a relaxed way, as if this is not difficult at all,

Flying 3000 miles at 20,000 feet.

No movies then, but we enjoy the occasional poem

Many of which are about the weather

So you would probably enjoy them too

Although it isn’t quite the same, as cranes

Have about fifteen hundred words for what you call clouds.

Yes, we like to concentrate on what we are doing –

You might think we are out of harm’s way up here

But it is dangerous enough all the way

From Siberia to south eastern China

(China is always nice, for there cranes are considered auspicious-

Which is much better than being considered delicious-

We are symbols of fertility and long life;

Fidelity too- we try not to spoil that for them)

Yes, it is dangerous enough on these crowded flyways

So we concentrate on what we are doing;

But we take an interest in what’s going on below.

Don’t be alarmed- we’re not going to start

Coming over all wise and knowing more than you;

We’re not anthropomorphic cranes; we’re real ones –

We speak English, in iambic pentameters

Mostly.

 

No, what’s striking is how similar you are.

Here we are, migrating from Siberia to southeast China

Back again six months later

And there you are, moving to and fro all the time,

And it’s dangerous enough for you too, we observe –

Deaths at sea, deaths on roads, but not enough

To make you think you’re better off at home

Where, after all, more deaths take place than elsewhere.

Yes, there are many similarities –

You, like us, don’t want to become extinct

But you don’t appear to have found a nice winter home

Where people think your arrival auspicious

Rather than suspicious.

The Gift of Tongues

Storytelling last night – Spooky Stories for Grown-Ups – with my friends Michelle and Ribs of Hand of Doom Productions. This is the story I wrote for the occasion.

 

The Gift of Tongues

The only thing that Leanne Simpson had learned at school was that life is boring. Lessons were boring; teachers were boring; boys were boring; even girls – talking of nothing but the grades they needed to get to university – were boring. Home, parents, it went without saying, were boring.

Everyone thought she was too clever for her own good.

          -You need to learn to bite your tongue, her form teacher would tell her; You’re so sharp one day you’ll cut yourself.

          -If I bite my tongue I’ll cut myself, Leanne replied; so it sounds the same either way.

Her only friend was Arestra, and together they made a cult of boredom. Arestra, who had no father, and a mother who worked night shifts, insisted that she had no other name but Arestra. She dressed in nothing but black, and had covered the walls and the windows of her room with sheets of black paper. There was nothing cool or attractive about her black clothes – a shapeless, man’s jumper that hung from her skinny shoulders down to her knees was typical. Once she had dabbed Flash bathroom cleaner behind her ears and been told ‘you smell nice’, so she had poured some into a perfume bottle and labelled it

                         Arestra

                   Eau de Mystère

 

Arestra was considered to be a bad influence on Leanne.

They sat in her black room in silence for as long as they could stand it.

           – Shall we make a suicide pact? Leanne once asked her.

Arestra shook her head.

          – No. Too interesting.

It was the coinage of a phrase they came to use constantly.

Leanne knew that this couldn’t go on, that real life would have to begin; but she didn’t know how to end it.

Arestra heard of a piece of music called Vexations.

          – It’s perfect, she told Leanne; it’s by someone called Erik Satie – Erik is spelt with a ‘k’ -and it lasts for 18 hours and 40 minutes, and it doesn’t change. At all. It’s just one thing that is repeated 840 times.

          – How did you hear about it?

          – I did a search- world’s most boring piece of music.

She had found a recording on which the pianist played the motif 40 times.

          – So we’ll play that 21 times and experience the whole thing as Monsieur Satie intended it. This will bore us out of our minds.

          – Yes, Leanne agreed; it will. I really think it will. Aren’t you scared?

They waited until Arestra’s mother had her next night shift.

          – It’s possible that we can do the whole 18 hours without her bothering us. She has a half-hour journey, a 10-hour shift, and then she has to sleep.

So, one Saturday evening in October, they took a jug of black coffee to Arestra’s room and closed the door.

          -Okay; what are the rules?

Leanne had thought about this.

          -We should call this event The Judgement of Boredom. We’ve never done anything this extreme; it’s the ultimate test. We might die of boredom or we might be transformed by boredom.

          -Transcendence! hissed Arestra.

          -Yes; so we have to give this everything. No talking- at all- but at the end of each cycle we make more coffee, use the bathroom-

          -If we need to.

          -Yes, if we need to.

          -I agree, said Arestra. Give me your hand.

She put their hands palm to palm and they looked into each other’s eyes.

          -Oh Leanne. What a friend you are. There can’t be another person in the whole world who would do this with me.

          – You smell nice, said Leanne.

At first Leanne sat still and was quiet. The music sounded like something that would be played at a funeral, but after the first several repetitions became so boring that she could hear nothing in it at all. Her mind was elsewhere, but that elsewhere was no more interesting. After about one hour, she became restless, but Arestra was so still that Leanne dared not move. She wanted to laugh, have a proper fit of giggles, but that too she suppressed. After they had listened to the record twice, she went to the bathroom and washed her face. She noticed that her pupils had shrunk almost to pinpricks. Still neither of them spoke.

Sometime during the third hour, Leanne rose to her feet and threw her head back and with her eyes closed began speaking rapidly:

          -shandalaka kondolon badibuallalla shilto shadakaladikaka

She went on :

          -bomrompapreea dupaknee urumurem.

She went on like this until she stopped and opened her eyes and looked at Arestra.

          -Glossolalia! Arestra hissed.

Leanne looked at her blankly.

          -Glossolalia. Speaking in tongues. What was it like?

          -It was like knowing the meaning of life but I could only say it in those words.

They abandoned the Satie and talked about the meaning of life. Neither of them could say what it was.

          -So what do you think? said Arestra; you said that this would be the judgement of boredom, so what is your judgement?

They answered in unison :

          -Too interesting!

Halloween was the most boring thing in existence. Everybody knew that. It was the epitome of boredom. Pumpkins, tuppenny witches’ hats, skulls. Last year Arestra and Leanne had made themselves sick eating a whole pumpkin each. This year Arestra decided that they should spend the night in the graveyard.

          -Hallowmas, she called it. It’s not what you think, she said, overriding Leanne’s objection that it sounded too interesting. Look at it this way: it’s Hallowmas and the dead walk abroad. Alternatively, we stay there all night and nothing happens. Which do you think is more likely? When we did that Satie thing, we expected it to be boring and it turned out interesting. This will be the other way around.

Leanne agreed and at half past eleven on the night of All Souls’ Eve they walked through the lych gate of the parish church. There had been no burials there for many years and the graves were higgledy-piggledy, with headstones at odd angles.

          -It would be funny, said Leanne, if we were lying here and were crushed by one of these stones falling on us.

          -It would be perfect, said Arestra; they’re the ultimate thing. Underneath this was somebody’s body – you know: Josiah somebody-or-other, seventeen-hundred-and-something, and he’s totally dead now; body all eaten up with worms. But the thing is his headstone is dead too- the words that told you about him have been worn away. Death death death all around.

Leanne lay prone on one of the graves.

          -It’s cold, she said. There’s only this slab of stone between me and the worms.

Arestra stretched herself supine on the grave next to Leanne’s.

          -I wonder if they can sense our bodies. I imagine them salivating underneath us waiting to get started.

Leanne giggled.

          -I bet you’re the only person this Halloween who’s worried about the worms more than the ghosts. It’s cold, she said again; I’m not sure how long I can do this for.

Nevertheless, she lay there motionless, cold and bored.

          – You see, said Arestra; I told you it would be boring. We should be lying here terrified every time we hear an owl hoot or leaves rustling; but in reality we’re talking about worms and how cold it is. If only you could talk in tongues again, something might happen.

Leanne moved her head so that she was looking down at the stone.

          – Can you hear me? she said in a spooky voice; live worms or dead humans, answer me. She pressed her face against the stone and began whispering rapidly.

Arestra said:

          -They’re not listening.

Then she stretched out on the grave again, looking at the darkness, picking out the branches of the yew tree and the clouds. She heard a noise like a shovelful of earth being tossed on the ground. She sat up. At first, she thought what she could hear was the sound of Leanne whispering, but it wasn’t that- it wasn’t coming from Leanne’s mouth, but from below her; more of a scraping or scratching sound. And then she saw, directly below Leanne’s face, a movement of the surface of the gravestone, and then an eruption of broken stone, and then something pushing through, through the break in the stone, the fingers and thumb of a hand – but a hand with no flesh on it, just the bones – reach up and into Leanne’s mouth. Her face was pulled against the stone; her hands were either side of her head, trying to pull it away; her legs and her body thrashed wildly.

Arestra jumped up and leaned over her. She too began trying to pull her head back.

          -Leanne; she screamed; what? O God.

Suddenly Leanne’s head was free. Her mouth and her jaw were loose, and blood was streaming out. Her eyes were wide and bright, as if they were torches. There was some earth and moss about her lips, and what looked like a worm, but it was mostly blood. Her tongue was missing.

Arestra screamed again; she was shaking; her whole body was shaking. She ran for help, back through the churchyard, through the lych gate, back into the streets and the street lights. She waved down a police car. By the time they returned, Leanne was lifeless. That was the end of Leanne Simpson. It took her entirely by surprise. She had never imagined that her life would end like this. Arestra screamed for a while, and then she cried a lot, pulling the heavy black jumper around herself. Now she too was feeling very cold.

Leanne Simpson was dead. It was impossible to discover what had happened. Arestra’s account of what she had seen was so incoherent, and the story itself so implausible, that nobody could believe that. The gravestone was unbroken; it looked as still and old as always. Her tongue was not found. On the other hand, what had happened to her was so shocking, so diabolical, that it could not be explained. For a time it was thought to have been a prank that went wrong. Arestra kept saying “It’s all my fault”, but no more. In the end no solution could be found and the coroner’s ruling was that she had suffered an unnatural death.

Arestra was admitted to a mental health ward and has not recovered or improved. She is cared for now under her real name, which is Pat Green.

Her mother has a new boyfriend. They buy lots of stuff online and have noisy rows. From time to time the authorities remind her of her daughter, but ‘I just make the right noises’, she has been heard to say; ‘and then they leave me alone’. She has become very fat and has had to stop working. She is able to make ends meet on her benefits and a small pension.

Remembrance

I have been neglecting this site- too busy organising a National Poetry Day event, and this week reading World War I poetry at one of the ‘Pages of the Sea’ workshops, leading up to the commemoration of the centenary of The Armistice. I love this poem called ‘The Send-Off’, by Wilfred Owen.

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way

To the siding-shed,

And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

 

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray

As men’s are, dead.

 

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp

Stood staring hard,

Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.

Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp

Winked to the guard.

 

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.

They were not ours:

We never heard to which front these were sent.

 

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant

Who gave them flowers.

 

Shall they return to beatings of great bells

In wild trainloads?

A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,

May creep back, silent, to village wells,

Up half-known roads

 

 

Miserable Love Poetry

I have just performed this show at the wonderful Faversham Fringe Festival – my first ever solo show. These are the poems I read.

Remember when we said

We must meet

To remember that time

When we sat

And remembered how we met

And everything that led

From that

 

Remember how you said

Yes- but no!

I’ve just remembered

I’m busy all that week

And then we go

To China; but we’ll speak

Again in September

 

Remember how I said

That’s okay

But you will remember won’t you

And then I heard

Nothing for an age

Not a word

Until I ‘phoned you

 

And reminded you you’d promised to remember

And you hadn’t remembered

And you must have known how much I’d be upset

And you said No, I forget

 

THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS

I am Athena and I have riches and power

Choose me and I will give you as my dower

Empires

 

I am Aretha and I am skilful and wise

Choose me and we will live above the skies

And not expire

 

My name’s Apple- what you see is what you get

Choose me quick- these attributes won’t last, though they beget

Desire

 

He chose Desire

 

 

Once again you set me on my shanks-
There have been so many meetings, partings
At so many bus stops, taxi-ranks
So many passions that turned into farces
So many walks back home on canal banks.

Yes, love will return but empty-handed
The tormentor will wind the rack
Believing you have answers he is minded
To keep on winding ’til you crack-
All he asks of you is to be candid.

The only remedy for love is song
But art is too brief, life too long
We go on singing all the time there’s light
And now ’tis night. And now, he said, ’tis night.

 

Miserable Love Poetry- Type 1

There are only so many sad love songs you can take
Before you start wanting more
Enough for your heart to break
Once and for all

 

I believe that there are no synonyms for love
Why should anyone use a figure of speech
As if a magician removing his white glove
To show you he’s keeping nothing up his sleeve
But tricking you all the same with his masterpiece
Of producing a rabbit that couldn’t have been there?

And that rather proves my point, for love
Is nothing like a rabbit – it can’t be seen,
It is itself a figure of speech, enough
In its brevity, its beauty, to mean
No more, no less, no other – to fill the scene
Which until then was unpeopled, uncurtained, bare

We both like watching comedies of love-
Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Creseyde
The lights go down and we are at one remove
Getting our kicks from real-life tragedies.
Afterwards, in the midnight mean streets
We stay close, look for taxicabs, beware

If you strive to think of other words for love
Devotion, admiration, lust, esteem
You realise at once that they’re too rough
They will not hold the tears that teem
Cannot show what is, but only seems
The ecstacy, the hopeless, the despair

 

What Hurts Most

Writing down the memories that hurt
I try to be complete
I write them out in measurements of feet
My home, my school, my friends, my work

You will notice what is missing from the above
I try to be complete
But it hurts too much- from my head to my feet
To write of love

 

I heard a man on the radio say-
Talking about the music he had listened to in his youth-
That when you are a teenager you choose-
Even though you are too young to have known such a thing-
To play those songs that tell of broken love affairs-
As if – no, not as if, but truly –
Lost love seems more real than anything you know-
As if those songs about love that’s over
Speak to you even though it’s before
You’ve ever had love; before you’ve ever been in love-
And, having said all that, he played
An old, familiar song,
One of those songs
In which ‘brown eyes’ rhymes with ‘goodbyes’;
‘Lovin’ heart’ with ‘torn apart’;
‘By my side’ with ‘tears I’ve cried’.
It only took three minutes to say all that.
On the clifftop
Through a gap between the poplars and the pines
Beyond the miles of iron-grey sea
The horizon glitters:
A thin line of light you could never reach-
No matter how young and fast you are.
It is always just as far away;
And it won’t come in with the tide.
In the high street
A man bent over a guitar sings, roughly, a song.
It takes you a while to recognise
Bobby Shafto’s Gone To Sea
He is playing it as if it’s a tragedy.
You drop a coin inside his hat
Say Thanks for the memory.
Back home you turn the radio on.
This time you hear a woman’s voice
Telling you about mindfulness
How it can help you to cope with painful thoughts
You listen for a minute, switch it off
Saying sorry but now I’m fully grown
There’s nothing you can do for my heart of stone

You wait for the repeat, of the man
Talking about lost love and about those songs
That made melancholy sound more appealing
Than happiness or joy
When you were still a boy

 

 

In those days we wrote letters
One night I wrote
I’m in love with you
And signed my name
And sealed it, then
Wondered whether to send it
These days we have email, text
Which are quick and sort of free
So better
Neither do we have to observe the niceties
Of beginning Dear You
And writing Love Me to end it

 

Poem To You

I address this poem to You
As if you will ever see it
I talk to You in this poem
As if you will ever hear it
I write to an anonymous You
Certain you’ll never read it

The chances are I shall bury it in my blog
Read it to seven people in a bar
The chances really are a million to one
That you’ll come across it by chance
Yet I address it to You

And even if that million-to-one shot comes in
How could you possibly know that I mean you?
I know other women, you know
But all the same I am saying this to you
Whatever do I mean by doing so?

 

Sestina

I shall write you a fucking sestina and you still won’t care.
I shall stare at the laptop waiting for your answer.
After a week you will send me a one-line e-mail:
I like it! a smiley face and a single kiss
Is all I will get for my outpouring of love.
Do you wonder that I am bitter and your slave?

You cannot – or can you? – have wanted me for your slave.
Even if you knew what I felt, and didn’t care
You must have known that everything I write about love
Is addressed to you, and’s for you to answer;
Yet all I receive is a hug and a chaste kiss,
A tardy, unwilling reply to my passionate e-mail.

I wish I could write you a letter instead of an e-mail.
The list of emojis doesn’t have one for ‘slave’;
And there’s no weight of meaning in typing an ‘x’ for a kiss.
Between the lines I can tell you how much I care,
But not enough for you to have to answer
In words that have anything at all to do with love.

And that’s that. I’ve had enough of writing about love –
Writing to myself (even though I send you the e-mail).
I have no question waiting for an answer:
All I have’s this sestina over which I slave;
And I wonder sometimes if it is this I care
More about than getting from you a tender kiss.
But my heart aches still when I dream about that kiss
And of you, and of begging you for your love;
And I wonder if I have taken too much care
Not to hurt you with what I write in the e-mail:
Romantic love, like this tricky form, can make a slave
Of anyone who can’t find an easy answer.

O love! O Love! tell me tell me the answer.
Is it that simple- to want no more than a kiss?
Would that free me to be your equal, no longer your slave?
Would I know at last what it means to love,
To please you, to be kind, forget the bloody e-mail;
To forget the pangs of passion and truly care?

Answer me, dear, and, I beg you, in words of love.
Kiss your poor slave who sends you this e-mail.
I press ‘send’ and place this poor verse in your care.

 

 

The perfumed letters that you let me write
Like pleadings of a penitential rite

The perfumed letters that you let me read
The perfumed envelopes, the bleeding
Words on lilac paper: my boyfriend’s a pain;
When can I see you again?

I read your letters and I felt your dole
I kept them in the shoebox of my soul
I heard the late-night music, drank the wine
Considered the exchange of scents- yours/mine

The paper that I write on smells of rue
I write the words I’m listening to to you

 

The Sweater

How is it human beings haven’t changed?
Still can’t tell right from wrong
All the way from the Stone Age
To drone-dropped bombs

She lent me – this is a long time ago – a sweater
She gave it to me because I was feeling cold
She told me I could keep it- this was later

It was navy-blue and crew-necked.
I can say, now I’m a poet,
That it smelled of hope and of regret
But it didn’t- it smelled of her sweet scent

I treated it with care and with respect
Pressed it to my face and to my breast
Trying to preserve the perfumed present
Which was her

I’m sorry that you feel that way
Is a line that ends with a full stop.
I begged her to continue- “and?”…
Even though I knew that adding to it
Sounds as though you are taking something away

The sweater lost her scent after a bit
Should I wear it? I wondered; or write about it?

 

 

What was She Then-
When I was Young
And spending My Heart’s Youth-
That now is lost
To half-blind eyes
That squint at books for Truth?

Was She – the gold
And lustrous hair;
The sparkling eyes
Aglow with Tears
That now are dull and dry?

Or was She – the Soul
I could not see
That gave such joy, such pain?

And where’s that now
And how transformed?
Is it, too, aged and stained?

No answer comes-
Not yesterday,
Today, or other days.
There is no map
That marks the place
The thread snapped in the maze.
Yearning for Love

These days we begin our infrequent meetings
With smiles and touches, near-ecstatic greetings;
As though it’s showtime after far too few rehearsals

We exchange banalities, step apart
To say Let me look at you- what’s the art
You have of staying young and beautiful?

We tell each other that we didn’t prefer
This cafe when it was cheap and cheerful-
Its smell of bacon frying, sound of Radio One

We like, we say, the way they’ve done it up,
Play punk music as background noise;
And, as we sit and stir our cafe noirs

I just about make out Patti Smith snarling
We don’t need your fucking shit
And we laugh, as if it’s funny, for a bit

We used, I’m certain, to be adamant
That prose was a hardly-spoken-of, distant
Relative of poetry, the real thing

Our lives, we meant, were poems, all moments
Heightened, all nights red, red roses:
No-one would ever say My life’s like prose

These days we choose our words more carefully
“I like your coat”, I say; “it suits you”.
Its lapels, its pockets, its buttons, the way it
Holds your scarf to your neck, the way it

Comes down to your knees. Once a coat
Was a thing to get quickly out of
Its warmth and colour of no interest to me

We’ve been through what we’ve seen and what we’ve read
How you finally cleared your credit card debt
How the lump in your armpit was benign
We agree how sweet it is that all is well.
I notice they have games- we could play Scrabble?
When you think that once…aren’t we terrible?

We say goodbye like mourners on Good Friday.
I get all the warmth of your coat. Don’t be a stranger.
We must do this more often. No. Really.

PHARMACOPEIA

These ones are best for headaches, back pain
These are for mild to moderate pain
There are non-opioid painkillers
And weak opioid painkillers such as codeine
There are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
And these ones should only be used as part
Of a long-term plan to manage your pain

There are those who have chosen alternative treatments
Everyone who experiences pain of course has the right
To decide what if any treatment they wish to pursue
It is vital, however, that people are fully informed

There are many forms of alternative medicine
There is, for example, acupuncture
How acupuncture works is not entirely clear

Self-hypnosis, marijuana, willow bark,
Aswagandha powder, all have their advocates

These are for people who will not take prescribed medicines
Especially if they are likely to kill the pain

 

 

If she knew how I was living
In this place where they give you a shilling for a song
Enough for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit
She wouldn’t have known that you can’t go wrong
In a spot like this

But she doesn’t know how I am living
So she doesn’t know that you can’t go wrong
In a spot like this

Where they give you a shilling for a song
And you have everything you need

 

GUN FOR HIRE

And no metaphors either
This ain’t no phallic symbol
(A gun being a stiff black thing
that hangs below a man’s waist
and which he occasionally raises 90 degrees
and shoots- oo missus no don’t)

No, this is a proper gun
Buttoned in a holster next my heart
I hope never to have to use it
Not even to threaten
All I want is to make a little art

I thought if I just dressed in black
And you could hear the ringing of my spurs
As I come to get the Clanton gang
It would take your mind off things

The important thing about being a gun for hire
Is to show you how to love without desire
If you stand in the right light
Your tears show all the colours of the rainbow

I have spent my life counting
The motes of dust in a sunbeam

It is some comfort to me

I lay three days upon the ground
I will die with her
I will not eat or drink or sleep

I lie down on the beach and
The sea wrack gathers over me

This was in the days when
Your wore your hair uncut down to your eyes

 

Portrait

Perhaps it was the mouth she thought too wide
The rounded body that she couldn’t hide
Bride of my youth
My love went in and out with the tide

What you saw was all: she had no side
She had no way of knowing when you lied
Sighed at the truth
My love went in and out with the tide

These days I can take it in my stride
Love awakened that so quickly died
Wide of the mark, in truth
The portrait that was painted while she cried

 

 

I have written enough about love
And said nothing at all.
The dancing, the drinking, the weddings
Meant nothing at all.
There were moments, of course, there were
Moments when life was a ball.
But I’ve written enough about love
To know that was all.
And now, wrapped up warm, wearing gloves
In the old peoples’ hall
We chuckle at youngsters today-
How they rise! How they fall!
We shrink in the past ,and the present
Means nothing at all.
But the past is no good; it’s the place
Where the old voices call
You have written too much about love
And said nothing at all

 

For Yvonne

I never never never never never
Want to meet anybody ever again – ever
I mean it I really really really really do
I never again want to hear anyone say
It’s me- it isn’t you
OR I need my space
OR I think we should take some time out
(A trial separation is the idea
But the key word is separation…)

This is the living grid of shiftlessness
That passes for maturity, even sophisticatedness

We were not, after all, meant for each other
But I still love you like a friend or brother

Stuff that- what happened to romantic love?
Why is it dead and gone
Living on only in song?

Yours is the most meaningful, deepest-
Friendship – I’ve had in years
Don’t trash it because you can’t have everything
I’m really fond of you; I love you dearly

But we’re not teenagers any more
And you’re acting like a child
Don’t you know how selfish you are being
I’m a decent man and mild

And, may I say, you always
Will be a priority
Not exclusive though
You can’t have everything your way

Besides, I’m not looking for a relationship right now
And anyway you’re too good for me
You’ll always be special

I ask Yvonne Do they ever say
I need to get my head sorted out
or better still
I need to get my karma sorted out
I bet they do

Maybe we’re just not meant to be
No-one’s to blame
I’m not good enough for you

Yes, any old excuse will do
For leaving you

CONSOLATIONS

Hayley Mills Helen Mirren Gina Lollabrigida
Sophie Marceau Ava Gardner Debbie Harry Cher
Rita Hayworth Christine Keeler Cyndi Lauper Doris Day
Lulu Claudia Cardinale Twiggy Ludevine Sagnier
Mandy Rice-Davies Romy Schneider Isabella Rosselini
Ingrid Bergman Virna Lisi Diana Rigg Natasha Kinski
Louise Brooks Christina Hendricks Monica Bellucci
Audrey Hepburn Susan Sarandon Mae West Vivian Leigh
Scarlet Johannson Lesley Caron Marilyn Monroe Sandie Shaw
Bridgette Bardot Kim Novak Raquel Welch Hedy Lamarr
Natalie Wood Marianne Faithfull Sophia Loren Heather Graham
Joanna Lumley Elizabeth Taylor Diana Dors Honor Blackman
Jacqueline Bissett Jane Birkin Joni Mitchell Grace Jones
Petula Clark Kirsty McColl Jean Shrimpton Clara Bow

Carole Lombard Kathy Kirby
Diana Quick Isabelle Adjani
Jenny Agutter Jayne Mansfield
Grace Kelly Tuesday Weld

I could go on, but time is short
And on and on and on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heatwave Poem

With apologies to friends who have been suffering during the heatwave…

In the heat of summer I have great rejoicing
The sun has burned the clouds from out the sky
The parched sand on the beach where bodies fry
‘s A playground on which children’s voices ring
My heart is with them at their holiday
Their innocence inoculates my griefs
As, shown here in this safety from time’s thief
Are jewels,unguarded, put out on a tray.
Though somewhere past the middle of the year
And somewhere past the middle of a life
What seems to matter most are trifles
Important matters far too dear.
It’s cheap to revel in this boiling playground:
Unhurtable they seem, the little hands
Performing cartwheels naked on the sand
Their bodies momentary upside-down
Pleasure’s a pleasant thing and easy
(Though cartwheels aren’t so easy anymore)
The sun, the scalding sand, the free outdoors
The quiet air untroubled by sea breezes
O breathe it, til your tissues and your cells
Have store enough of heat and light to last
And keep that pleasure through the winter’s blast
As the sea’s kind roar is held in shells