A collection of poems and other writings...

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Mysterious Stark

Another imagined urban faerie...

Behind the
cold, grey
concrete stairs
in the corner of the lowest of ground floors
in this
multi-storey
car park,

is a dark
and mouldy
den.

In the den,
so dark and mouldy,
that lies behind
the cold, grey
concrete
stairs,
is a gathering together
of leaves
and crisp packets
flattened cans
and sweet wrappers
and the cellophane from boxes of cigarettes
half a page of a newspaper
and some more
dry
dead
leaves.

This is the treasure
of
Mysterious Stark.

This is the home
of
Mysterious Stark.

He makes
no sound except
the sound that he catches
from the feet of the people
walking
up and
down
and up
the concrete steps
and across the
car park floors.

He grabs those sounds,
wraps them up in city mumbles
and rolls them up the stairs again.

He catches the clicks
of opening doors
and
slamming doors
and he
sharpens them
and spears them back onto Level Three.

He sucks up the noise of engines starting,
and he drinks them down
then belches them out into the grey
afternoon.

On special, windy Saturdays –
he waits for people coming out
of the supermarket,
their hands tied down
heavy
with carrier bags full of baked beans.

Then
he picks up a mighty
mittful of grit
and throws it in their faces,
right in their eyes
and he laughs at them
as they blink and cry.

But he’s not always so grouchy
sometimes just for fun –
in his mouldy dark den –
he catches
the smallest corner of the wind
and ties it by its tail
to the hand rail
so that it can’t escape.

Then
he stirs the loose end
of the wind
into his pile of treasure
and chuckles to himself
as
round and round
the leaves chase the crisp packets and
the sweet wrappers chase
the cellophane
and
the half a page
of newspaper
covers itself with wind glue
and
blows itself
right around the shoe
of a man named

Ken.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Pigeon Whisperer

When I’ve got cheese and pickle –
they know!

When I’ve got halfway through my pasty –
they know!

Salt and vinegar or cheese and onion –
they know!

And down they come from every roof top,
from every branch
from every tree,
from a clear and birdless sky –

down, down they come,

and in a grey gathering,
as quick as chips,
they are flustering around my feet.

But if you look
not down,
to where the pigeons
coo and hoot
in front of you,
but up,
up over the gutters
along the telegraph wires
through the windy alleys
by the side of the precinct
maybe you’ll catch a glimpse –

Can you see her
in her rosy grey cape?
No bigger than
a pigeon’s wing
she leaps and flies
whispering the news to all who can hear.

“Scoff,
grub,
mash,
gobble!” These are the only words she knows

but in many bird tongues

“Snack,
snap,
scran,
chow!”

Each hears the word it likes
and like a stone drops from its airy heights
to the soles of my feet,
to gaggle around in search of
a bite,
a crust,
a crumb,
a crisp,
a cracker,
a crunch,
a pick,
a peck,
a pickle,
a pepper,
a punch,
a sip,
a sup,
a snip
a supper
a lunch.

And when the peeking
pecking
crowd
have done
from all around
are gone,
they’ll fly to wait
up on the gables ends
and window sills
and roof ridges
and tree tip-tops
until her cry comes
over the tiles again.

“Nibble,
noodle,
cropper,
shopper,
fiddle,
fudge,

Monday, 23 March 2015

The eclipse of the sun

Mum makes a pinhole in the paper,
holds it in the sun –
a tiny dot of light appears below
at the centre of the shadow.

A pinhole for a peepshow
she says
her eyes shining
and we wait
as heady moments pass
and watch at last
a tiny shade move
across the dot
an image cast of
a crescent sun.

I reach out my hand
place a single finger
in the ray of light
to see if I can feel its weight,
its heat
switch fingers one by one
allow the fleck of buried sun
to land on each in turn

an eclipse
projected on my fingertips.

She smiles at me
But then he
comes and steps
between the sunlight
and our game

and I see him place his
hand upon her back to
claim her –
her cotton blouse
her auburn hair
her tender skin

her wings

he clips.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Submissions

Do not send me poems written in mist!
Remove the words I cannot understand                                             
just leave the ones you need (take out "the clouds")
then fix them down with ink or blood or fist.

Clench the meaning, don’t ever let it slip.
And don’t add extra words to fill the line.
Find a different way of making sense
so what you say comes tripping off your lip.

You shouldn’t need to fiddle about with rhymes
I never really like them anyway
I find that rhyme can just get in the way
and make you say things you don’t mean

And please don’t bring “your heart” into the verse
or tell me that your soul is “yearning still”
or make out that the night is “full of pain”
God!  Suddenly this headache’s getting worse.

If you’ve got something to tell me, tell me straight!
Don’t faff about with spongy epithets;
no symbols, similes or metaphors
just good old English – get it on the plate!

No more than forty lines, too, if you would,
and set them out in Times New Roman Twelve.
Double spaced!  Please – I need some space to write
these helpful little comments for your good.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Apocalypse - Now & Then

Many-headed beasts attacking angels on horseback.  Flaming sunsets over erupting volcanoes. Golds, browns, blacks.  In the first room the pictures were all Medieval or Victorian. 
There was a low fence a few feet away from the walls upon which the paintings were hung, and it felt such an obstruction to Charles that he just stepped over it.  A young woman stood behind him, watched him do it, but made no attempt to prevent him.  He had moved with such deliberate intention.  She studied him.
An Attempt To Illustrate The Opening Of The Sixth Seal, 1830
Francis Danby 1793- 1861
Charles stood examining Danby’s An Attempt to Illustrate the Opening of the Sixth Seal for several minutes, his nose inches from the dark canvas.  Tortured bodies on shelves of rock.  Thunderous clouds.  Spears of brilliant white light.  Then an attendant came into the room and explained officiously that if he did not step back then he would be ejected from the exhibition.
“The artist did not want his work protected from the viewer,” Charles blurted out,  “he created art to touch the viewer, to reach into his soul and provoke a feeling, a reaction, a response.  You galleries have a duty to the artist, for Christ’s sake, and you do nothing but put obstacles in the way of its true message.  You soften it until it becomes meaningless, vapid pap!”
“Nevertheless, sir.  Visitors to the gallery are required to stay behind the wire at all times.  We don’t want the pictures to be damaged.  Do we?”
Only when Charles had returned to the main floor area was the attendant satisfied.  If he had been looking he would have seen the official turn to regard the young woman, too, a look full of moment, before he returned to his chair in the corridor.  Charles drifted belligerently into the next room.
The young woman who had continued her own promenade around the exhibition followed him through a few seconds later.
“I’m not sure that they are really protecting the paintings from the visitors,” she said quietly, urgently.  “I think it’s actually the other way around.”
Charles grunted.
“These works, some of them,” she said, “are just too dangerous.  Political.  If the viewer really engaged with them they would not be able to take the emotional and spiritual overload.  They would burn their tiny minds.”
Charles said nothing although he fundamentally agreed with her.
“Have you seen the contemporary pieces yet?” she asked.
Charles still would not respond.
“There’s one you might like, Ifnotnowwhen?, I think it’s remarkable.”
Charles grunted again and drifted away having immediately taken against it.
He wearied of depictions of the Islamic concept of Mahdi and finally found himself in the furthest room.  Contemporaries.
He was simply irritated by most of them. 
Tell me it is just the day that’s dying was, to his view, a vacuous photographic exploration of HIV as a millennial “Sign”.  Black become the sun’s beams was a clich├ęd video installation attempting to depict environmental disaster in the post nuclear age with reference to Norse mythology – Charles of course recognised the title.
And then there it was, Ifnotnowwhen?  But he was not impressed.  Again the gallery’s controls and constraints on the viewer wound him up.  Did the artist have no say as to how the piece was to be displayed?
Ifnotnowwhen? comprised a plinth upon which was piled a mound of sand and upon that was placed a tiny plastic bomb marked BOMB!  Another low fence circled the plinth but outside it was a second smaller plinth with a detonator marked PLUNGE ME!  And underneath the plunger was the title of the piece Ifnotnowwhen?
Charles’ bile rose again at the sign next to the name label
DO NOT TOUCH THE EXHIBIT

His hand itched.

The bomb gave a disappointing pop rather than a bang but Charles saw the sand beneath it was trickling into a small black hole that had appeared in the top of the mound.  The hole gradually enlarged and the bomb itself suddenly disappeared.  A certain surprised satisfaction spread across his face.  What he had not noticed was the alarm sounding somewhere in the building.
The hole continued to enlarge draining more and more of the sand.  It started to whirlpool.  He was transfixed while staff and other visitors were keen to make their way to the exits.  No-one bothered him.  The young woman came to stand beside him to watch the event although she was watching him more than the dissolving artwork.
Suddenly all the sand had gone and the plinth itself began to collapse.  Then the surrounding floor.  Still the hole grew.  He smiled as the wire fence went and was about to move back from the growing abyss when the young woman, by forcefully seizing his hand, insisted that he stood perfectly still.
“I felt I could rely on you!” she whispered.

It was some days before the two bodies were recovered from the sewers.



Friday, 13 March 2015

Revealing The Heart

Mr Burton always maintained a rigid professional detachment from the subjects upon which he was operating, but there was something about Fiona that was different.  The victim of a road accident, the thirty year old had remained comatose for three days before finally succumbing to her head injuries.  The family were gathered around her as the life support was turned off.  The sudden flat tone of the heart monitor piercing the soul of her mother.
Fiona had signed the Organ Donors’ Register and the family, through their tears, gave consent for organs to be removed from the young woman’s body.  Mr Burton scrubbing his hands in anticipation of the work found himself strangely moved and as he proceeded to cut into the pallid skin he felt a tear trickling down behind his mask.  He glanced at his assistant but she had noticed nothing.
He opened the chest cavity and on revealing the heart was struck by the perfection of the organ – the size, the shape, the colour.  He held it for several moments as if examining it, sensing the life it had sustained.  The nurse becoming concerned  that delay would render the organ no longer viable lightly touched his arm.
The heart was placed into a canister and sent along the corridor to Operating Theatre Three where a recipient was being prepared.  However a technical issue with the monitoring equipment in that theatre resulted in the crucial window of opportunity being missed.
Mr Burton became uncharacteristically angry at the waste.  He felt this heart should not be disposed of as just another piece of detritus from the day’s surgical procedures.  So at an opportune moment he entered the chilled storage facility to which the heart had been temporarily assigned, removed it from the shelf and placed it in the container in which he had brought his sandwiches that morning.

At home later that evening he resolved that there was only one fitting course of action.  Drawing his Hiroshi Kato knife from its scabbard he set to work.

The fat spat a little as the pieces were placed one by one into the pan where onions were already frying.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A roundabout way to getting laid

This was inspired by the incident in the first stanza and, like many great stories before it, first appeared in serialised form... on twitter... about two hours ago... 

(it has, however, been re-edited so those sticklers amongst you who have already started counting characters will notice that some stanzas are in fact more than 140 long!)


A pickup truck approaches
a roundabout.
Alan the passenger
chats &
gesticulates wildly
causing the driver to flinch
and perform a small swerve

which leads
to the driver
in the car
in the lane
next to him
Andy
currently singing along to his cd of LesMiserables
to oversteer

which means
the massimo cinnamon latte
from Costa
slightly misplaced
in the cupholder
on his dashboard
tumbles
scaldingly
into his lap.

On arriving at work
Andy has no choice
but to change
his sodden trousers for
his obliging boss’s
luminous
& voluminous
jogging pants.

Consequently,
at the meeting at which
Andy
was to give a presentation
his place is taken
by archnemesis
since PreSchool
Steve Nicholls.

Steve is
all charm and smarm
and while the directors
smile and joke with him
and slap him
on the back
they are unimpressed
with his figures.

The Deal is Lost.

Andy is
disappointed
he had worked hard
but enjoys a few moments
of schadenfreude
at Steve’s
discomfort

and that night
after her initial guffaws
at his garb
Andy and Sandra’s
lovelife is rekindled
as she soothes
his scalded leg
with lotion

Nine months later
if this were a story
they could have
named the child
for the Passenger
in the pickup
but Andy
had no memory
of the incident.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Aertex

One of my best friends at primary school was Richard

In the Summer
Richard and I sit
under the apple trees
against the sandstone wall.
Richard can sweat
like a grown-up
- big fat drops
running down his forehead
down his nose and splashing
onto his aertex.

He can sweat almost as well as Dad -
he’s been to live in Turkey -
it was hot there and he had to.

When apples fall
off the trees
we pick them up
and find feathers
and stick them in
then throw them up to make
spinners.
They fluster their way back down to earth.
Sometimes we let them hit us

on the head.

....and this is Richard now
with thanks to Ails McGee from
According to McGee Gallery


He was a great friend although I didn't think much of his drawing when we were at school.  Turns out he can a bit!  Check out his work

More twitterings from me

I love the discipline of 140 characters.  Most of these are inspired by observations as I walk around town - with a healthy sprinkling of fiction...

#arse

Your arse sweeps
around the corner
behind you
like a flock of
sugar-buzzed
nephews

#poorly

A furtive filigree
has permeated my organs
wrapping its foul fingers
around my kidneys
poking holes
in the portmanteau
of my aching head


#cadaver

The cadaverous old lecher
we have known lies
muffled in a blanket
of solitude & misery.
Self pity
sports flimsy clothing
stained with tears


#bones

The dying bones
beneath your skin seek
the soft touch of the air
Their ends stretch out
your corners
like new white teeth
erupting from gums


#candle

This man
has drowned
your heart
in darkness.
I have a candle
Let us strike a match.



#swans

It's
22:22
And
In
That
Minute
I
See
4
Swans
Swim by


#mosque

I glance left
a beautiful young woman
runs out of the Central Mosque.
She sees me and
instantly
slows to
a walk.

#inspirations

At the car hire shop
there is a jar
on the shelf
behind Chloe
marked "Inspirations"
It is sealed
and has three
small
pieces of paper
inside


#chew

Three young women
sit eating steak
in Saha Steak House
teeth on chewy flesh.
An elderly man walks by
& puffs out his cheeks

in a silent whistle.

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Wreck Of The Caledonia










From here in Hawker’s Hut, the sea
sounds strangely dumb, although below
it pounds the feet of Sharpnose Point,

while in this cliff clad hermitage
(where future youth will score their names
and learn to inhale cigarettes)

the Reverend Hawker meditates.
A madness drives his view on life
but here he sketches homily

for Sunday morning at the Church.
The hellish grinding of the rocks
below plays heavily in his ear

though mewing gulls soar peacefully
on thermals rising from the cliff.
The wind whines through the furze above.

That night, the Caledonia hugs
too close to shore for safety’s sake.
The heavy sea remorselessly

thuds up against her wooden boards
and drives her onto fatal rocks
shattering her hulk and spewing out

her reckless crew into the waves.
Skulls split on granite, lungs are filled,
And life is dashed from valiant men.

The Reverend Hawker, being brought news
of sailors’ souls tossed on the beach
like flotsam battering the strand,

takes all his faith in God above
and wraps it muffler-like around his
heart and fits himself with gear

and finds the path that daylight’s shown,
and with his lanthorn in his hand
he scrambles down the rocky scree

to minister to parted souls.
And one by one he lumps them up
upon his back, the drownded men,

and with an unknown strength he heaves
the bloated bodies of these sea struck dead
all up the path down which he trod

and lays them on the churchyard bank.
A dozen corpses now bestrew
the grassy mound beside the lane.

And as the dawn strikes up the sky
and night winds drop and grey clouds scud,
he takes a shovel from the shed

and labours hour on hour until
twelve graves are fretted from the earth,
the which, like spokes upon a wheel,

he centres head to head
to radiate a dozen dead.
Their feet to clock face numbers point

though their time is up upon this night.
Then once more down the beetling cliff
he makes his weary way to fetch

the Caledonia’s figure head
a wooden totem, sword in hand,
to guard the souls here laid to rest.
 









He plants the ghostly figure there
at the centre of the watery grave
to mark the very fulcrum where life ceded to death

And now, the storytellers say,
should any on a full-faced moon
walk twelve times round the fearsome site

the figure’s midnight blade will flash,
come down upon the soulless brave
and smite them dead upon the spot.

But I have sense that Hawker still
stands looking from his pulpit cave
prepared should ever need arise

to step out down the rocky cliff
and act as deadly midwife to the drowning souls

that might fall foul of Cornwall’s treacherous tides.





Here is a link to Hawker's own poem THE FIGURE-HEAD OF THE CALEDONIA AT HER CAPTAIN’S GRAVE