A collection of poems and other writings...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

chains

There had been a moment
when our fingers touched
as I handed you the plastic cup
of cola from the sticky table
by the wall bars in the gym,

and then
just for a moment
you saw me
as you thanked me.

We swayed side by side
as others talked
relaxing in a subtle gravity
that held us now
each in the other's orbit.

I could not look at you again
but my cheek bones knew then
and grew warm
at the thought of you.

And you had chosen
my finger
and led me through
to the dance floor.

There had been a moment
as we danced
when
you had curled yours
one by one
around mine
and my other hand
had found your waist
and my clumsy toes
your toes.

And you were there
my nose to your hair
my lips to your ear
my arms full of you
as the pale last song
smoothed the evening to its silken end -
how not in love,
oh no,
the singer was.

I talked you home
along the December High Street to The Manse
and we stopped
by the bookshop
because you loved to read
and I told you that I did too,
and maybe there
was something here
displayed
which might have stayed us
out this evening just a moment longer.

As if for reassurance
when we resumed our walk
you lightly linked your hand
around my arm
so that as I lifted mine
towards my heart
I might fix you there.

But at your front door
you turned to face me
in the first of our goodbyes
and at last you met my eyes
and curled into me that
our supple mouths might touch
and with tongue tips
taste each other's
teeth.

You
drew the breath from my lungs
fanned the furnace flames
of my desire
and forged
then
these binding chains
link
by golden link.










Thursday, 22 October 2015

swallows

I perhaps should have suspected
as we watched swallows gather
in punctuated groups on high-wire lines
that this would be an end

I noted how they were crotchets on a stave
you rejected the cliché
but at that moment
as if to save me
from an open window a nocturne played
and became the cooling breath
of that September evening
finding its way to an imperfect cadence
classic pianissimo
the music dying
into an uproarious silence
between us

and your attention drifted
to a purple horizon
where the moon was climbing -
a cream minim
floating in ink

my hand found your shoulder
and thoughtless fingers
played the coarse seam
of your cotton white blouse
creeping from soft nape
to the shrug at the joint
I sensed your tension
and the chilling breeze

and now you are no longer here
to empty my thoughts
and I swallow the lyrics I wish I had sung

Monday, 5 October 2015

bees

The Vicarage, Morwenstow - the beautiful house
built for the eccentric Reverend R S Hawker
See also The Wreck of the Caledonia
My siblings and many cousins will no doubt remember our big family holidays in North Cornwall and Devon
and staying at the vicarage in Morwenstow
and the little room called The Eyrie that looked down into the courtyard
and how the bees had built a huge hive in the ceiling
which became so laden with honeycomb that the plaster bulged ominously
and how inevitably it had to go.

For homework from my writing class last week, we were asked to write a piece on "consequences" and we were given a poem TheWasps by David Constantine as inspiration.  This is my response.




we are the bees
(because she is here)
that fizzed in and found her (be-
cause she is here) and we have
been fuming about
the blooms

of this summer
garden (because she is here)
supping colours up from yellow
cowslips and black-ey'd susans
till we are foxglove
dust laden

with sunny set
honey-suckle pollen (because
she is here) and we are thick-covered 
with dusky jasmine warmth with
 carousing courage from
our craving labours

and we have found
the hole between blockstone
and mortar (because she is here)
worn by rain these two hundred
years that leads to the
cavern within

the roof among
the smoky joists above
the plaster and we have stocked our
larder (because she is here) full of
plenty with this season's
sucking and churning

and spittling and
wraggling and you human
can see the bulging pendulous
bagsacks of our great labours
groaning (because
she is here)

combing (because
she is here) in the flaking
ceiling and you come and crack-
make with your bullnose
chisel (because
she is here)

and your mallet
and your shrouded hat
and your tight-cuffed sleeves
and your tarry fumes and you
chop us out drowsy
(because she

is here) in this
evening as this sun's day sets
sizzling into the sailing sea and
yes you hesitate (because she is
here) but still you
burn us up






Sunday, 27 September 2015

Absolutely Anything Achieved

My dear wife came across an advert for this company in the Big Issue - it seemed such a bizarre advert that she looked a little further and found their website.  This is my imaginary prospectus for the company and I hereby offer every possible disclaimer - it in no way reflects their actual services, and is not my endorsement of them as a company!

Absolutely Anything Achieved






Absolutely Anything Achieved -
just ask and this will be the case,
for there is nothing we won't undertake
and nothing we are unable to complete.

Should you need aid, assistance or advice,
should you require a helping hand or two,
we are available at a reasonable price
(subject to what we're asked to do.)

Absolutely Anything Achieved -
(within the bounds of law) just make demand.
There is no job too large or yet too small
that cannot be accomplished by our talented team.

There is no task that we will not address:
we can find your long-lost lover, cousin, son;
we can decorate your bathroom; paint your stairs;
or sell your company and, thus, release your funds.

We'll dot your tees and cross your eyes, of course,
and sort the details of your mother's will.
We'll fix the boundary dispute with the 'friend'
who lives next door, or we'll 'help' him move.

For gardening jobs we are happily engaged.
A chauffeur can be prearranged.
Need a bread oven in your granny flat?
No problem, let us draw up all the plans.

Fulfilling requests for vinegary pickled eggs
is a speciality in which we quite excel,
and sourcing other picas for the young
expectant mother can be done as well.

We'll ensure your acrimonious divorce
is hassle-free from start to sour end,
and we offer our cast-iron guarantee
that you will not be beaten in the settlement.

Do not despair if you should need to know
the value of your dying grandma's ring,
or we could arrange for you to go
and meet almost any player from the premier league.

A request that quite frequently recurs
is the acquisition, at a suitable price,
of a peerage, baronetcy, earldom, or the deeds
of some reknowned estate within the British Isles.

No problem there.  And did you see the news
of our great success in finding for Miss C____
a rare recording of Paul Robeson singing
all the greatest hits of Booker T?

Which brings us to the matter of our fee.
You'll find the trickier jobs may cost a little more
but please do not be too afraid to ask -
there is no obligation if you are too poor.

We sense you're wondering if there is a catch.
Do our services seem too good to be true?
a little over-ambitious in your eyes,
well,
yes, maybe in ours, too.



Thursday, 3 September 2015

the last blackberries

am out too late again this year and all that’s left
are gritty on the vine, some bleeding under
clumsy thumbs, some bullet red, some green
some sourly shaded from the autumn sun

I pick a handful, two, just for the sake
of other more refulgent times and roll
them in this optimistic tub, where bruising stains
cloud plastic sides and maggots mouth their fill

more berries here but just at dog piss height
so left by others and by me and those
above protected by tall grey nettle shoots
that catch the fingers as the hand withdraws

then through the wood to see the tree that once
I fancied held my mother’s breath in sun,
where once I stood my hand held still against
the bark, and dumbly wept her loss again – again


Snap

The garden gate is new
and unfamiliar toys
stake claim to the lawn

some new flop-haired child’s tricycle
some other one’s ball
there are people living

in the place now
that I do not know
and although

I once inhabited
the ground they squat upon
knew every inch of hedgerow

I am a stranger now
and the kitchen cupboards
glimpsed through cupped hands

against the glass
are of a new design, soft closing
and where the cutlery drawer once was

it is not now
and where it was not
it now is

I imagine
I stand at the bedroom window
on the upper floor once more

and feel the tense twine that attaches me
to every item in the room
and every tree in the garden


snap

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dead Fairies

A late Summer Thursday afternoon
and dreaming
I revisit the  garden of my childhood Spring

two merciless, samurai leylandii 
preaching 
across the grass

the cherry tree, rope ladder strung from its lower branch
the prunus, spotted with blossom buds and busty bullfinches

closer to the house, a small slope against which we handstood
or rolled down on daisy afternoons

over here 
to the right, the old widowed shed
racked with bikes and plant pots and rakes
shelves of powders
against ants and slugs and fungus

I step behind it
to rediscover the dank hiding place
where golden rod stems snagged socks
where spiders the size of apples waited for sandalled feet
where fence panels, slipped from between posts,
have sidled to the ground and dried to a silver grain

and here next to the bald tennis ball and a decaying shuttlecock
I find the tumbled grave of small bones and dried hair
of shattered gossamer film
I pull small rot-welded corpses of dead fairies one from another
here where magic died 
and wishes 
made yet unbelieved

were finally abandoned


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

essentials

We
coincide 
inside
T K Maxx

you two
smiling
linked
arm in arm
setting off 
up the
escalator

me
I’m heading down
to look at
pants

you two
just out for the joy 
of shopping
seventeen
swapping opinions
on leopard skin tops
on minions 
on Tshirts
checking out boys’ crotches
all elbows
and giggling

me
aching neck
sore feet
fifty five
stacking my backpack
with cheap necessities
reduced knickers
up against
economy cheese
and essentials tea

I'd have come
down there with you
once
but it's
too late
for that.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Nice Change - guest spot

This is something of a departure for me...

I have a writing friend,  Pleasant Street aka Rose Red aka Geletilari, from the USA via Twitterland - @AreYouThrilled.  

She writes some very lovely poetry and posts them on her blog here - In My Parlour .  She heard one or two of my readings of my poetry on Soundcloud and asked if I would record a reading of one of hers.  I was of course very flattered and delighted to do it - the Thespian in me still alive and well somewhere in there.

And so here is the text of her poem and a link to me reading it on her Soundcloud account...

A Nice Change 

She had always lived there
Her father's house and garden
Her mother's scent of carnations
And chicken and dumplings in a pot

Once she said to her mother
I have to go soon
A man has offered me a ranch
and a dozen cows on a hilltop

But you are a vegetarian
Yes but he makes me smile
And the cows bring me peace.
I will set up my easel in the meadow

She painted fantastic visions
of oceans she would never see
and skies higher than the atmosphere
full of stars and comets

One day her mother showed up
Suitcase in hand
announcing that peace
would be a nice change of pace

That evening when she came in
Wet painting leaning against the apple
They ate, remarking
Those were the best dumplings ever.

Chris reads   A Nice Change on his soundcloud account

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Podding Peas



I knocked and after several moments she came to the door.  But before she opened it she said in the smallest voice
“Hello?”
“Hello, Miss B­­­­,” I said, “It’s me – Chris – I’ve got your shopping.”
No word from inside.  But after another moment I heard the door chain slide and the door cracked open a little.  Then wider and wider.  Then there she was backing quietly away into the room.  Gently smiling her way back into the debris, muttering.
“Can you… would you just…?”
“Shall I put it here?”
“Please.”
She’d left a space among the clutter on a side table by the door.  Just the right size for the box.  It was the same every time – one box-sized space left sacrosanct to save the muddle of having to create one under the pressure of the moment.
I showed her the bill and she turned to find a pen for the cheque.
“How are you today?” I asked, “how have you been doing?”
“Oh, not too bad.”
“That’s good.”
“Not too bad.”
She paused for a moment, her pen poised over the space for the date.
“Oh, what day is it?” she was mildly irritated that she didn’t have it there at the tip of her mind.
“It’s the twentieth,” I said.  “I should know that!  It’s my big girl’s birthday!”
“Oh, how lovely.  Which one?”
“Naomi, the one who’s up in Edinburgh.”
“Oh yes.  Lovely.” 

She carefully wrote the date.  The soft white whiskers on her chin twitched a little as she pushed her lips together.  Then suddenly she said:
“I sometimes think I’m dying,”
“Oh!  No.  Really?”
“Sometimes.  Then I think, oh, I could live another ten minutes.  And I do.  And so I’m still here.”
“Ah, yes, you’re still here.  My wife’s grandmother used to say ‘I’m not well but I’m not lying down.’”
“Oh yes.  I remember my grandmother when she was very old.  She lived with us but she couldn’t get out of bed and I remember her sitting in bed podding peas for my mother.  So she wouldn’t be a burden.”
She paused a moment.
“They were tough back then.  Tough old birds.”
“I have to say I think you’re a pretty tough old bird, yourself, Miss B.”
She gave a small giggle and handed me her cheque.







Saturday, 15 August 2015

August disgust

I thought that you had said
in August we would count
hazy days of dusty sun

and lazy afternoons would sidle
with Pimms and white wine spritzers
into drowsy nights

but here now is the lie
as the wind rattles fence panels
between their posts

and rain beats
on the incessant glass
and the second blanket

thrown off in May
now lies across the bed

again

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Friday Fairy Cakes

I lift my
the cloth of my
shirt
my T-shirt
my drenched T-shirt

*

three o’clock
three
Friday
and she
triangulates the kitchen
with busy-ness
waiting for the homecoming of us
on the four o’clock bus
pondering tea
and so she
anticipating hunger
reaches into the centre
cupboard
for the large gripstand bowl
and fetches
fat and eggs
from the Lec
in the scullery
stands them next
to the range to warm
washes her hands at the kitchen sink
by the window
glancing up the garden
to the point she knows
in an hour we will become
visible

to see beneath my
under my right ribs
a gaping hole in
wrenched in
the flesh of me
where

*

they
therefore
they
because it was
the preparation day
that the bodies
should not remain
upon the cross
on the Sabbath day
besought him that
their legs might be broken
and that they
might be taken
away
so came the soldiers
to brake the legs of the first
and of the other
which was crucified with him
but when they came to Jesus
and saw that he was dead 
already
they brake not his legs
but one of the soldiers
with a lance
pierced his side
and forthwith
came there out
blood
and water

where the guts
the guts have been
and the heart
the heart has been
they have been
damaged

*

four ounces
four
each of caster sugar
and soft unsalted butter
creamed together
with an ancient wooden spoon
then eggs, two,
free range
beaten and added
by drop
by drop
with a teaspoonful of essence -
Madagascan Vanilla -
followed by flour
another four ounces
self-raising, sifted and weighed
folded
into the glossy mixture
and then the batter
dolloped
by spoon
by soft spoonful
on top of a finger of scarlet jam
in the bases
of paper cases
stood
in the tarnished indents
of a well-used muffin tray
then posted
into the oven
preheated to
three hundred and seventy five degrees
Fahrenheit
until domes of golden cake
glisten proudly above tulips of paper
ready to be
lifted gingerly
and lined up uniformly
on the waiting
mesh cooling-rack

through loss
through injury
injuries
and through loss

*

it was the consultant haematologist
who
in maybe some clumsy attempt to
comfort her
had pointed out
that as she
had older children they
would after her death be
able to attend to
the infant
with whom she
was now
pregnant

and the triangular
the triangular blade
the wound made by
the triangular
bayonet blade
is such
that the sides
the sides of the cut flesh
cannot be

drawn
together
 to staunch
the flow

* 
six o’clock
six
and at tea
there are ham sandwiches
and soft-boiled eggs we pass over
before we
can peel the papers
from the waiting fairy cakes
to reveal the terrifying
broken heart of jam
that has burst into the sponge
to leave a chasm of syrupy sweetness
blood red and oozing
while she pours tea
while she still can
from the aluminium teapot
its dull tannin-stained
surfaces scoured
to a shine
in the last few moments
transfigured
before we arrived
home

and the
wound
the wound thus fails to
it bleeds
it still bleeds
and thus
fails to
it fails to
 heal


to heal