Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In The Lodge

It's hard to believe
It's been six years,
If I'm correct in
My reading
Between vague lines
 
And if there's any truth
Behind the icons
Red on blue
Atop the screen
In the Social Network,

Since we shared
A moment that should
Have been forbidden
By all the usual standards
And the rules
Expected of friends or exes.

But despite passing time I still
Cannot help but recall
The thrill, the elation
Of how it felt, extreme,

Not because it
May have been wrong
But because it
Was electric and exciting,

And despite the years
That have passed since
And the lingering fact
That it
Should never
Have happened
At all

With you
Too close a friend
And me
Grieving,
And believing that you
Were taken too,

Despite that, tonight
I remember you well,

And me drunk under lights,
A cheap line,

Pressing our lips,
Seconds of time,

And then never
A hint
Of anything else.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Climbing the Wall

I have known fear,
I must confess,
Yes, I have been afraid
To visit him
And get to know the world
As he had seen it

For reasons obvious,
Of course,
But also more obscure
More selfish
More vain,
Being concerned that
My efforts would merely
Pale in contrast to his,

That I would
Simply be
The poor relation
Who does no more
Than ape the
Genius
Of a previous
Generation,

That maybe
I just miss the point,
The crux of this craft,
In ways
He knew naturally,
Made look easy.

Fear there was, too,
That I would be
A copy-cat,
That I would
Steal his style,
Try to mimic
All his best verses
Or produce
No more than tributes
And carnival mirror
Images,

Despite the contradiction
That I show
No such reverence
To those names
Of great renown
Who moulded and shaped me
In the early days
Of this lonely
Apprenticeship.

And there are
Common details
That I cannot escape:
Each of us liked
To take our name
In its translation,
Loved to see
The places where
Old tradition
Lives on,
Dabbled
In the same vocation.

And I too
Have known darkness,
Known exhaustion
And despair,
Though not as he did
Nor as anyone else does,
But that too
Is a fear.

For even though
I can visit
His words and ideas
And marvel at
His choices
And combinations
And fresh compounds
And flawless attention
To economy,

And even though
I can revisit
My own words,
And all written when
We both
Were boys
Becoming men,
I cannot know him,
Hear his voice,
See him respond
To words and action
Away from the
Type-writer
Or the pen,

And I am afraid
Still to explore
Or delve too deep
To try and see
This world
The way
He must have seen it
In the end,

For I too have known darkness,
And some coincidental details
Are the same.
So yes, I am afraid.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Love Doctor

Because it was a Friday afternoon
And because I knew that soon the usual sensations
Of restlessness and loneliness and anxiousness
Would make their unwelcome return
I sent word to the Love Doctor
And made an appointment,
Late, of course, for Friday night

And went upstairs to freshen up
And get dressed up and groom myself
In the vestal safety of my room,
With alcohol and aftershave applied
To prepare my face to meet the faces
I would meet in one of those unholy places
Where the guru puts on his clinic,

Where his masterful approach to the physic
Of the symptoms of my ailment
Is displayed in the effortless attainment
Of interest, closeness, and contact details
As he scribbles in his black notebook
And prescribes a night of dark and hidden passion
Away from the plastic cups and too-bright lights,

Then he returns to raise a toast and proudly
Boast of his successful incisions and ponders
My reluctance and indecision and tries to trick me
Into action by pushing me to envy him,
Recommends jealousy as the first treatment in my cure,
To remedy my deficiency of intrigue and allure,
Tempting the prevention of some malignant chastity,

Poking, prodding, and examining for signs
That one is not blind to his social superiority,
Waiting for the "Oohs" and "Aahs" and
The tightening of my chest as yet another
Model subject succumbs to the chance of an intimate exam,
Another young lady who does not fear the touch
Of the devilish Love Doctor's ice-cold hand.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Budapest

"Do not ask me for charity now:
Go away until your bones are clean."

(Fleur Adcock, from 'Advice to a Discarded Lover')


The Hoarder's curse
Struck again today
When a misplaced memento
Reappeared and dared
To poke its head up
From its hiding place
And scattered memories
And feelings all over
And made a mess.

I tried to catch them,
Control and gather them
Back into my pockets,
Tried to hide them all with
The scrap of paper ticket
From an almost forgotten date,
Buried them again under
Rubbish and vain layers
Of regret and hate

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Buried

I was told once or twice in my teen years
About copies of chapbooks and local
Journals that must still survive somewhere,
Proof filed away with scribbles, notes and pages,
The private and the published words
Of a talented and tortured poet,
One young man immortalised and remembered
Among voices preserved in parchments,
Tales from a decade before my time,
The literary legacy of a waning century.

These days I try to gather the works
Of a bright emerging generation
And horde them, safe in a cardboard box,
Save that some might be forgotten,
The sort of stanzas that might not make it
To the library shelves and archives,
Treasures kept for rediscovery
In some unprophesied circumstance
And stored with my own written contributions
Whatever meagre value they may have.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Windows

Who can say what way a poet's mind works
Or if, indeed, there is a common trait
That links the minds and hands of diff'rent folks
Aside from wishes that we try to date
In carefully arranging pictures, words,
In separating chance or luck from fate?
With all our tongues and codes and styles of talk,
Different backgrounds, unique sense of place,
Perspectives on a great spectrum of dark
And light, all textures, hues, and shades,
What ties us all yet lets us make a mark
That sets voices apart upon the page?

How can two sets of eyes see the same things
And yet within find always new meanings?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Checking Mirrors

Real fast food:
Porridge with peanut butter,
One hundred and thirty
Kilometres per hour
And coffee in a cheap flask
Quickly getting cooler.
Motorway mornings,
Foot on the accelerator,
Breaking fast behind the wheel,
A meal fit for a commuter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Like and Share

What's special in an old family portrait?
Is it the sunny day and rolled up sleeves,
The hair-styles and fashions of the era?

The bold colours of film from a dark room
In an age before high definition
Or digital filters? Or memories shared
By algorithm over sentiment,
By targeted advertising, and then
Quickly forgotten or lost in a flood
Of vacuous distractions, all sound and
Fury, signifying nothing? Perhaps.

Maybe it's imperfection, innocence,
Forgetting (caring for the pets) to pose,
The pure smiles of those no longer with us.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pre Mid-Term Blues

Early morning darkness greets
The man who rises from his sheets
Before the dawn and quickly eats
A couple of spoons-full to beat
The dull fatigue that slowly cheats
Him of the youth within his cheeks
As hours turn to days to weeks
And gradually the thing he seeks
More than any other is sleep,
Enough to sooth if not defeat
The growing sense of his ennui
As day by day he feels less free
To be the man he wants to be
Or meet the faces he should meet,
And once again, on twilit street,
He fumbles reaching for his keys,
Locks himself from comfort, heat,
And goes to work, to die, to teach.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Playing With Fire

There is something so
Satisfying in stoking
The ashes of a dying fire,
Not in some metaphorical
Or symbolic sense,
But very real comfort

In the welcoming warmth,
Or the gorgeous orange glow
Of hidden embers
Flaring like favourite memories
Ready to live again
With the right fuel and fresh air,

The naive thrill of
Playing with danger,
The power in knowing

All that you have burned
And what you could yet destroy,
Erase, hide away,

Scattering the remnants
Through the gaps in the grate,
A quick cosmetic cleaning
Of the fireplace,
Just dust left to smoulder underneath,
Hidden behind the bars of the guard. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Winter Wrath (a stream of consciousness writing experiment)

Tonight the rain pounds on the roof
And splatters around the gutter
And drips in splashing drops
In the back garden around
The water butt, already full,

And I pour another drink,
Another strong one,
Something potent and delicious
And slightly poisonous,
Something to quench the spark,

The dirty burnt golden hues
Of an imperial pale ale
Strong enough to make me feel better
For just a little while
About following the same old formula
And falling back on old motifs

And reminiscing once again
About the girl who used to stay awake at night
To watch the raindrops and listen to the rain
As it hypnotised her out of misery,
And reminiscing once again about my first love
And how she once told me how she longed
To kiss with passion in the rain.

I pour another half a glass to drown it out,
Destroy it all, pretend the feelings don't exist,
To feel warm and fiery and distract myself
From all the thoughts of all the lovers whom I miss,
And all the others whom I could never quite convince,

And the haunting sensibility of my conscience
Knows how I'll regret this bittersweet elixir
When I wake in the morning or close to noon,

And this time last night I recall the rain stopping
For long enough to reveal the brightness of the moon
And I was too cold to be impressed
And convinced myself it was not full,

And tonight I convince myself I am not full,
As I pour another drink and think
Of how the rain pours and pounds and splashes
And never washes away anything,
Never clears my conscience or cleanses me of sin,

And I just lie in bed or lie in words
And curse the fact that I have no direction,
And curse that I am still too strong to drown,
And lament that I still have the sense to swim
In this flood of thought and words and booze and ink,
And regret that there are too few ways to sink
Into the cold and splashing flow of this -
My darkest stream of consciousness.