Puerto Pollensa

Anchored, then,
Tonight, the harbour is quiet.

Whenever I tripped over,
I landed on a bed of
Stray abandoned thought-cats.
I survived their falling fire
But this explains why
I have so many scratches
On my forearms and back.

I recently remembered
How we descended into
That far northern resort
Looking like tourists lost
In a monsoon,
Collapsible buggies
With razor-sharp teeth,
Drenched luggage deposited
Wordlessly on a side street
By our bored busman
With the darkest five o’clock shadow
I had ever seen –
No change left for gratuities.
Aromas on a warm squally breeze
Of palm trees, exotic and pliant,
Of ice creams with spirited titles:
Granizada, y Helado Suave o Cremoso,
The absurdity of
Watermelon socks
And mouths shaped like shuttlecocks.
Our sodden map was upside down.

If I want to, I can remember
Every item on the restaurant menu,
Every position of every dining chair,
Every taxi driver’s third child’s name,
All those feelings twenty years ago
Of misguided optimism and hope
Now that memory ploughs and harrows,
Swelling and then low like whitecaps
A stone’s throw from our hotel window.
Time’s arrow is stuck in between my ribs;
The trouble is, I do not want to go back.

Even a fast-food chain looks sophisticated
Anywhere else but home;
Home, this starless island is where
Powerfully corruptive usurpers
Paint turpentine stripes
Across our tarred faces.

Everything good we knew
Vanished without a trace
Into thick, corpulent air.

Et Snøskred

I would choose if I could
To be anything but a wasted man,

Sinews roping duct and glands.
Leave me, as everyone must,

Leave me to organise these poems –
Jumbled words from an idiot,

Good for kindling, good for dust;
I only request a lifetime’s hibernation

And a printer on a sturdy desk.
You pushed in vain, no little art,

Jumpstarting with your spark plugs
This cold and weathered heart.

My mind is like a mountain slope
For when I shout, an avalanche

Subsumes with snow
Everyone I hear below;

Terrified sounds, such voices,
Of my own villagers trapped

In subatomic neuroses,
My choicelessness of choices.

N.B the title is Norwegian and means ‘An Avalanche’

You Cannot Lose What You Have Not Got


I doubt my English citizenry,
(Minnow-country flapping

Like a long-since iridescent
Fish now ugly out of water,

On a rock, eyes diseased –
Opercula, and withered fins) –

Would neither blink
Nor care very much

If all our Earth did disappear –
Swallowed up

In a Black Hole’s epiglottis –
All skies and song,

Joyful, infinite nature,
Rhinoceros to a missel-thrush

All lost,
Souls too, with veins made

By rains and rare precious metals,
Just as long as there’s power enough

During regurgitated
Commercial breaks

To re-fill ferried kettles.

Revive A Version Of Me

Revive a version of me
On quiet pages written,
Within a work I’ll never read,
Upon a different Britain.

For though the bandits won,
Those scoundrels and the bigots,
And all our lovers, woebegone,
Drowned on foreign frigates;

When all’s accounted, more or less,
Our xenophobes decanted,
Abusers too, then eat their mess,
And feed MPs replanted,

Then perhaps, the maps I find
Will chart more coloured places,
Less partisan, this paradigm,
With free and hopeful faces.

O Barqueiro, A Coruña

To finally sleep
Is all my thinking needs.

A stone in the slowly
Unfurling
Ocean,
Insistent waves,
Incessant waves
Murmuring
Unseen.

But I am afraid
Of the
Deep,
Deep,
Deep.

Dark fish are there,
Gloomy, alone; they forget;
Through dank seaweed stare,
And by trawler nets
They are longing for home.

Yet how can I ever go home.
There are no stones left
To throw and there are
No oceans here,
Just the sounds
Of lawnmower motors
And dogs beserkly barking
At nothing at all.

Nubian

My head is compressed
(In cartouche contents
Made for dead
Languages and archaic
Aspirations traced in
Plumes of incense,
Haunting nisba-laden
Conjugations with lists of
Nubian fisheries, bakers,
Haberdasheries and fabrics
From a starry peninsula,
Often misread and
Always missaid aloud,
My name was poorly
Pronounced somehow),
As I tread these deserted fields
Devoid of other dog-walkers,
In colder shrouds and clouds
Formed by exhaustion,
Pressed and re-pressed
Like a dried dandelion
In a volume unread,
My pages of dread speak
Into the breach of
Time and space,
From marbled halls,
A minister disgraced,
To a Baltic beach
Beneath the dacha
Where their children
Reach to impossibly touch
Vapour trails the gods
Of cacophonous oligarchs
Inhale from within their
Sarcophagi (and we are blessed
They said to be able to travel
And sunbathe and have sex
In the toiletry aisle
Of a Balearic supermarket
While a bored middle-aged
Checkout attendant with a
Name badge which reads
Catalina files her red nails
And rolls her eyes
With a fed-up expression,
Until we unknotted our lives
Into marriages and false promises
Or if not false then unwitting
And no less juvenile,
And jobs, and downfalls,
And a vacuous
Repetitiveness of Dawns),
Spumous offerings
And votives and how futile
To think otherwise,
Or to fume with such
Unprecedented fury
Our peers denied,
And all through that time
They were the ones in a happier crowd,
They were the ones burning
A once-fabled cow,
Oiling a river on fire,
Standing up to their knees
In effluence clotted
By our keenness to deliver,
By our kindling desire.

Over a different horizon
I envisaged a raft, far adrift,
Where I was alone and immersed
Therein eternal solace
And a certain bliss.

Guadeloupe

Our little band, our merry troupe
Had just arrived in Guadeloupe
Filled with mirth and junipers.

Island clouds, mangrove lush,
A chartered man from the Hindu Kush
Landed us where a giant dune occurs

As high as three knees of the God
Of Iguanas, verdant mountains at odds
In their majesty with smaller dwellings

Of colibri, territorial, proudly emblematic
Of a land where a slightly rheumatic
Castilian caraveller (and with swellings)

Imported moose to banish snakes
Like San Patricio of the Lakes,
Only those Eurasian deer grazing would devour

With gazes obtuse as atheists as they chewed
All native flora and fauna viewed
A few hundred years ago, an hour

Of ingestion at a time, and no longer.
At the harbour I found a fishmonger,
Lobsters as bright as the famed red paint

In the sacristy and the credo
Of Santa María de Toledo,
He boiled the claws and prayed to his saint.

In a fever my genuflecting libido
Summoned dreams in a white tuxedo
Worn in that club at Les Abymes –

(The club they told me not to frequent,
Entrance shaped like a one-eyed serpent),
Where a barman garnished a large Ti’Punch for me,

Where a Caribbean singer
Whose hips within my view would linger
Gave birth to the shape of Guadeloupe.

I woke in a deep and heated sweat
And for a moment I would forget
That I had not flown before, nor my troupe,

Nor travelled to her sheltering lore
Where I lost my mind before
On the blue shores of Marie Galante,

And in that hazy nightclub smoke
Holding someone’s panetelas, I woke
In the concave dreams of an Ashanti

Slave-trader, only I was the slave
And he softly spoke and gave
Advice which has ruined me to this day,

For I was to be imprisoned in his seam,
Neither stirred nor sleeping with a beam,
But somewhere in between the fray.

Still, somewhere out beyond my prison cell
My people there have smiles to quell
Storms which filled a holy stoup

Of less green seas, their hills of gold,
Where rains remain our friends of old,
We steered our flight, to Guadeloupe.





Majorca

This government of mine
Has mastered a post-modern
Political and Sophic arts
Of fuckwittery,
Omnishambles,
Clusterfucking, and
Chicanery, as though
Ambling ineptitude
Was newly in fashion,
As if it was a finest
Prensal Blanc from
That sun-blessed island.
Swearing during the pandemic
Like so much hot air
And so much in the ashes of
Public money and taxes
Is uprising.

Why did we lose our hard earned money
As though we were those robbed blind
Homeless wayside token folk
Within a certain scripture,
To those mountain-dwelling raiders
Who did nothing for us,
Who we never befriended or even met
And yet they depreciated
And were depraved;
From our place and our markers
We watched as they built
Majorcan mansions and plazas
Using the future depths of our
Self-dug graves.


I don’t usually provide a narrative to my poems. I prefer the words to speak alone, and I like to think the reader will also find their own meanings and interpretations, if I am using metaphors or allegories. This poem is a little more direct, perhaps, and yet ironically justifies an explanation. I also do not tend to swear, not illiberally, yet the italicised words I use at the top of the poem are some of my current favourites – so descriptive and with currency. I like lists. I have a list ongoing of my favourite words – there are currently 1654 words on the list. I also started keeping a list this year of issues concerning probity and conduct in government. I don’t know why particularly, I suppose it was a constant cause of frustration; the lack of accountability and transparency. It is only from one news source, the UK Guardian online; so many news sources I find difficult to read due to ownership and bias and political leanings. Here is my list so far, though I know that I will have missed a lot. It is just for my own record. Also, a recent study in the UK has shown that swearing during the pandemic has, apparently, increased. Is it little wonder?

(Oh, and as an aside, I travelled to Majorca many times on holiday in the 2000s and it is the most beautiful island, with wonderful people and places. My reference to it in this poem is I suppose the juxtaposition of an ideal, which can become changed by something, but it is not a comment of any sort on Majorca itself – or if it is, it is only positive about that European neighbour – and it was only my poetic licence. Plus, I like the island’s name for the title).

List:

28/02/20 The EU launches its first joint procurement of £1.2m worth of gloves and gowns/overalls. The UK is not one of the 20 member states involved. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
24/03/20 No 10 says it has not joined EU procurement schemes as the UK is not in the EU and is “making our own efforts”. The government later U-turns to say it failed to receive an email inviting it to be part of the initiative. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
26/03/20 The government says it has 8,175 ventilators, but turns to British industry to help produce 30,000 in a matter of weeks. The engineering company Dyson reveals plans for an entirely new medical ventilator working to specifications set down by the government. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/apr/13/timeline-of-uks-coronavirus-ppe-shortage
11/04/20 Payment was guaranteed for 3.5m antibody kits designed to show who was immune but they later proved wildly inaccurate https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/11/reveal-cost-of-35m-unusable-covid-19-tests-health-chiefs-told
18/06/20 The government has been forced to abandon a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app after spending three months and millions of pounds on technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/18/uk-poised-to-abandon-coronavirus-app-in-favour-of-apple-and-google-models
11/08/20 The government has been urged to demonstrate there was no favouritism at play in awarding Serco a contact-tracing contract worth £108m, as a leaked memo revealed the outsourcing firm was enlisted to help with the Covid-19 response as early as January. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/11/uk-government-serco-contact-tracing-contract-leaked-memo
12/01/21 Lockdown rules in England have been changed at least 64 times by the government since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a human rights barrister has calculated, amid growing calls for clearer guidance for the public. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/12/england-covid-lockdown-rules-have-changed-64-times-says-barrister
16/01/21 Priti Patel faces growing pressure over deletion of police records https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/16/priti-patel-faces-increasing-pressure-over-deletion-of-police-records
16/01/21 Priti Patel faces growing pressure over deletion of police records https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/16/priti-patel-faces-increasing-pressure-over-deletion-of-police-records
19/01/21 Crossrail 2: more than £115m spent before project mothballed https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/jan/18/crossrail-2-more-than-115m-spent-before-project-mothballed
22/01/21 Ministers criticised for plans to create 500 new UK prison places for women https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/23/ministers-criticised-for-plans-to-create-500-new-uk-prison-places-for-women
23/01/21 Minister under fire for ‘shameful’ virus spread as staff told to work on with more than 500 cases at agency in Swansea. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/23/minister-faces-fury-over-mass-covid-outbreak-at-top-government-agency
23/01/21 Set up shop in Europe, government advisers tell Brexit-hit businesses https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/23/brexit-hit-firms-advised-government-officials-set-up-shop-in-eu
26/01/21 Former Tory MP’s posting as UK ambassador to Cuba raises fresh cronyism claims https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/26/former-tory-mps-posting-as-uk-ambassador-to-cuba-raises-fresh-cronyism-claims
28/01/21 How UK spent £800m on controversial Covid tests for Dominic Cummings scheme https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/28/how-uk-spent-800m-on-controversial-covid-tests-for-dominic-cummings-scheme
10/03/21 No evidence £22bn test-and-trace scheme cut Covid rates in England, say MPs https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/10/no-evidence-22bn-test-and-trace-scheme-cut-covid-rates-in-england-say-mps
25/03/21 Liverpool council may have squandered up to £100m of public money https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/25/liverpool-council-may-have-squandered-up-to-100m-public-money
02/04/21 Tory donor lobbied minister to speed up his £65m PPE deal https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/01/tory-donor-lobbied-minister-to-speed-up-his-65m-ppe-deal
31/03/21 No 10’s race report widely condemned as ‘divisive’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/31/deeply-cynical-no-10-report-criticises-use-of-institutional-racism
21/04/21 Boris Johnson is ‘constantly lobbied’ by text, sources admit https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/21/business-leaders-and-politicians-regularly-text-boris-johnson-sources-admit
22/04/21 Fifth of UK Covid contracts ‘raised red flags for possible corruption’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/22/fifth-of-uk-covid-contracts-raised-red-flags-for-possible-corruption
25/04/21 Labour calls for Electoral Commission inquiry into PM’s flat refurbishment https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/apr/25/labour-calls-for-electoral-commission-inquiry-pm-flat-refurbishment-downning-street
25/04/21 Boris Johnson urged to reveal if he endorsed Super League plans https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/apr/25/boris-johnson-urged-reveal-if-endorsed-european-super-league-plans
26/04/21 Johnson denies saying he would rather see ‘bodies piled high’ than third Covid lockdown. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/minister-denies-boris-johnson-said-thousands-more-covid-deaths-better-than-another-lockdown
30/04/21 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/30/scandal-charge-sheet-johnson-wallpaper-lying
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/may/12/boris-johnson-faces-court-judgment-over-535-unpaid-debt
17/05/21 Home Office letter wrongly tells British citizens to apply for settled status https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/17/immigration-letter-sent-to-long-term-british-citizens-causes-alarm
25/05/21 Tory Islamophobia report criticises Boris Johnson over burqa remarks https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/may/25/tory-islamophobia-report-criticises-boris-johnson-over-burqa-remarks
02/06/21 No 10 advisers who have quit Boris Johnson’s government https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/02/no-10-advisers-who-have-quit-boris-johnsons-government
16/06/21 Cummings texts show Boris Johnson calling Matt Hancock ‘totally hopeless’. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/16/cummings-texts-show-boris-johnson-calling-matt-hancock-totally-hopeless?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

La Ville Rose

Switching from black next
Into pink-red ink,
I wrote to you
On a postcard
From a cruise ship
In Tolosa, a city you know
As Tolouse.
Strange how dreams
Shift and slip
And casually blend,
For you and I know well
It’s a few hours drive,
Through foothill climbs
And Alpine screes
With views, O such scenery!
Bridging rivers in spate
And by old Limoux,
To reach the sea
Though give if fifty years
Or perhaps fifty two,
And Toulouse could be
A Venice anew.

Forgetting to keep
My writing hand removed
From a postcard’s edge,
I smudged the ink
And forgot what to do.
Though I had not seen my
Friends for half that time,
There they were travelling too
On our erstwhile cruise.
I could not find my shoes,
And so they disembarked
With cheery ‘see you soons’,
À bientôt!
With dreaming ways
Approximating every day
You moved away from the group,
Grabbed my hand, urgently said:
Retrouvez-nous au bureau de poste
Sur la place de la ville
And though the memory
Is firmly impressed,
You did not speak French
And our meeting proposed
Did not take place,
But blew away
Like seeds escaped
From a dandelion’s tooth.

On the postcard
I wrote about
A dream preceding that very
Same night; I felt this need
To communicate its birth,
Its bald and blind occurrence.
We were back at that bungalow
Our grandmother built
And owned; after death,
The parcel of land
Divided up, small acre
Made unhindered by
Childhood imagination,
Where once we played
But do not any more,
We drank lemonade and
A home-made sponge,
Harvested peas and
Mowed the lawn,
Buried now beside
All future capability
To cope.
Well, a revolting mogul
Bought that land and soon
Demolished our home of hope,
With apartments compressed
Where once we roamed,
I entered his bleak building site
As if the shift in ownership
Remained unknown, observing
With deeply absymal passivity
His carpentry, in the hall
Where we shared a meal
At Adventide and Easter,
He crafted four ingenious stairs
Around a trunk revolving,
Other rooms – tarpaulins smothered,
And I realised an awful truth,
And ran as fast as I could
To the family car,
Outside that place
Upon an unadopted road.

And so I relayed this dream,
This apparition, on a card
In a dream that followed;
A card I did not
Otherwise post,
I woke in sweat,
Somewhat soaked,
Desperately attempting to
Achieve a meaning in
Those hollows, and finding
Nothing instead but sadness
For those unborn forms
A waking morning swallowed.

Spiral

In the Autumn of my thoughts,
I poured my exploring self
Into one of my known past lives
Where somehow I became caught
Inside the awful seven lies.
Not the life where you
Track me back to a
Red-throated gecko’s crest
In my headwear,
And not the life
Where poems were tied
By one red ribbon
To my samurai chest;
No, deeper again,
To where our wagons petrified;
This is the clearing
And this is the song,
A place we are nearing
Where we do not belong;
Here are the stones
And here are the flowers,
Though petals have withered
And the stones block each hour.
They visit here in their hundreds,
Luxury coaches, air conditioning,
One hundred students
With pre-conditioning
And pink pleated curtains.

My meditative ability
Underneath here,
As much as an oyster and eyeless,
Shucked for humanity’s
Gut and its gears.

Time is a spiral
We surf southwards on,
God’s corkscrew pulls out
To produce the Big Bang.

I can tell you, all physicists,
What’s on that other side;
No more nor less
Than my lost love’s
Champagne-scented sky.