Crow Lake

Sarcoma days,
Tower of Babel skies,
I tiptoed across our dam
At the top-end of Crow Lake
Where we once stripped
And with youth’s fearless
Exuberance
Ebulliently we dived.
There, beneath obtuse
And lucid ways of waters
We swam together
Through shoals of mouldy
Long-drowned dreams
Before arriving, hands held,
At a blocked sluice gate
We remembered,
And a rusty pump,
Green from age and
Exhaustion,
Before Victorian weirs
Weaving weeds between
Words and memory,
Water and air,
You, the wharf-god’s daughter;
There, we found a forgotten,
Unexploded bomb.

Nowadays,
I want to blast myself open
So that you can see what is inside.
You missed how I found
The secret to eternal life
In that furniture store on the high street,
On a kitchen shelf disguised
Amongst the pans and knives.
If uncovered by anyone else
Then doubtlessly
This elixir, this
Canary-coloured liniment
Would be instantly,
Relentlessly,
Mercilessly commodified,
By gaudy adverts plastered,
Just as they sold us that very same
Water, and air, and life.
I stored it for a little while,
As always, capriciously
Unable to determine
A fixed course of action,
And then I decided
A reasonable middle path
By stirring tea leaves
Judiciously in that fluid –
I studied that substance
For years in a porcelain cup
On a worn antimacassar
Right there beside me,
Then thought, before
It was too late,
To pour everything into
A kitchen sink
In need of bleaching.

Here then, the other side
Of nowhere,
Huge cooling towers
Bruising the sky,
Testament to an older lie.
What did you find
Inside my stomach –
An empty bottle,
Some faded magazines
And a buzzard left to die.

Butterfly In November

The guardian on duty
Fell into eternal sleep,
So he could not tell me
That ivy ceased crawling,
A stranglehold wore off,
That devious armies retreated,
Helmets for a broth;
Ice caps melted;
Oaks no longer spalted,
A sward in sunlight
For a short time
Stirred the early grass.

A butterfly in November
Landed on my finger,
And then a dainty
Ladybird; and I knew
In my thorn-protected heart
How planets and a moon
Might finally restart.

Lignified / Petrified

Whenever you go
Far from this billowy,
Dune-draping coast,
Maze hedgerows
In my fertile mind
Regrow.

I circumnavigate
A sculpted globe,
A bench or two,
A berbery rose.

Statuesque Eros,
Chrysanthemum prose,
Within your Sphinx
Firstly I turned
With internal rings
Into wood,
And the wood
With eternal mechanics
Turned effortlessly
And irrevocably
Into stone.

The Advocate

All my experience
Distilled into
Three enormous vats,
My lawyers drink from each
To analyse the facts.

Those ruthless rims
Were trimmed with gold,
A sight to behold
As my eyes
Turned the taps,
Pouring slowly
Untrue words from
An advocate.

In my heart I understood
I was never good enough.

I awoke as someone new,
Toothlessly eschewed
And bawling
In a Balkan
Orphanage cot.

Some Do Fall

Yesterday, my younger self,
Slowly, inexorably –
Focused, inevitably –
Overdosed. And
So it goes everyday.
It cannot go away.
In that moment, I re-read
My lines diligently,
Preparing my soliloquy,
Eighteen ancient years
Yet more child than adult,
Scared and confused
And alone in an era
Of cocktails and beers,
Of riding in car trunks
And rolling down hills,
Of men being salacious
At best, of disregarded
Lectures and inspectorates
And spider plants
Stoned on window-sills,
Questionable fashions
And a plethora of cigarettes,
Bedrooms thick with such acridity
You could not see your peers
Across the room as they kissed
Excessively and toked.
Mine were Marlboro
Because the British
Have never known how to smoke.
Cold, punishing dormitories,
A chicken’s head,
Everyone was bloated
With sex while I sat
With my knees to my head
On a dim and distant bed.
Much of the nuances I missed,
A hand held, a love letter,
Unattended trysts,
The blushes and
The sadness.

That age is a rope bridge
Like the frayed
San Luis Rey –
Many make the crossing and
Pass over quite adequately,
Some are even enthused by
Such precarious views,
Some with heads in clouds,
Some too confident as well.
And some do fall,
Succumbing to atrocities
And I was one;
No audience,
No gods with pince-nez
For a pauper’s show,
Just a tablet at a time,
Slow, slow,
Slowly absorbed,
Purchased from
Supermarket jaws
Over several weeks,
A letter to no one
In particular.
One tablet at a time
Because my future glowed
Brighter than a forest fire –
Untamed, unquenchable –
And because I was pressed
From the pages of
My father’s blasphemous
Kiss, a contradiction
Of love and self-loathing,
Pressed like a dandelion,
Seeds separated
By the careless impact
Of a book once loved,
Now in a cardboard box
Gathering mould
And dust
In the attic of a house
I did not frequent.

As the last pill then
Descended through tubes
I have never seen and
Never will see,
My only thought was how
I would want you to know
That I did not mean to do this,
Did not even want to,
But sometimes life
Has a weird way of
Leaving me estranged
And saying No to what is best.

It seems good enough for some
And not for others,
But my mind,
Held in a crisis-vice,
(I had to be good for something –
Even if it was to be this) –
Led me to ignore my own advice.
I thought about it twenty
Thousand times
And then twice.

I woke into odes of disappointment,
Applied an episodic ointment,
A compassion of paramedics,
A wrangled worry of parents.

Permanent autumn.
Charcoal throat.
Embarrassed, strained voices.

Twenty-five years is a long way to go
From being youthful and comatose.
Life became lodged –
Visions persist of pine trees
And a missing residential goat,
A warden’s office, pool tables
And loyalties and loss,
As someone I loved did say –
‘Society thinks it is more
Sophisticated now, when
Instead it is far less’ –
Such is the price.
And now I must go,
I must prepare this
Next last meal
Upon a gas wheel
Of jambalaya and rice.

House Of Ghosts

A road through rose-coloured mountains,
Arisen in moments less smoky, more bright,
Silently stole my bestowment,
Softer a focus in light.

All those times I solemnly demurred
To where this heart by evening burned,
In this heart my beating chest,
In these ribs now laid to rest.

All endless routes impassable,
Assembled stars loom darkly
Stern statues in a hallowed sky;
Beyond countless thorny doors

A final chance before losses advance
To yearn, though little is learned,
Which explains to you why
For those mournful mountains
I endeavour again to return.

Seabed Song

‘We are always
Attracted
To doors
And other
Less perplexing
Exits’,
The old man said
(As our freezer-trawler,
Ophelia In Blau,
With leeward lurch
Later forced
A futile search),
‘And old fashioned
Windows
With seaweed
And latches,
Letters to lovers
Parceled in batches,
A room
Fashioned
Like a skull
On a ship
Just like this,
Sinking
Without
Its hull, or indeed,
A trace,
Moss in the corners
And pheasants in
A briny brace;
A grandfather clock
With empty face,
Barrel and fusee
And organs exposed
On its side,
Water through sockets
And essays in pockets.
Letterboxes
With unhinged grins
As everything spins
In this underwater lozenge,
Including the finest
Jasperware
And Spode
We should have left at home
As all the shelf slides
Along with our lives
Down
And down
And
Seabedwards’.

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.