Giraffe Police

We accepted the unacceptable;
Evolved what was ephemeral
To permanently inevitable.

Dusk, orange early evening light.
We arrived at the municipal
Railway station, magnificent
In its antiquated style,
Minarets, many fountains
And bountiful hanging baskets
Where passionflowers spilled
Into their sulfurous being
As brightly and wide as your smile,
Only to be met and then processed
By two genial-enough
Officers in crisp white linen
Riding on giraffe-back;
From their howdahs’ vantage
They shouted down to kindly
Inform us, notebooks ready,
That their Bactrian camels
Had for the night retired
At their presidential stables,
And so on these languid
Knock-jointed mammals
With wrists for knees
They had to travel instead.
Those ungulates looked at us
With profound imperviousness,
Nonplussedness no less,
As phlegmatically
They chewed their cud;
Their riders read us our rights,
Although what we call rights
They now name our trouble.

We could conceive
The inconceivable
But in this desert crucible
We choose not to.
We did not question
How the officers knew
We were on the 2.20 train
From the coastal town
Where time had run out,
And now my memory hurts
From the telling.

There is no dispelling the fact
That these people dreamt of me once;
I was writing a poem on the subject
Of their nomadic travels
And subsequent apprehension
By a lieutenant and his junior,
And in this way
Come what may
The poem became the people.

Liverwort Blues

We live on a cliff above
A dank, oppressive marsh.
That’s how this place
Became itself, through
Our existence alone
And had its name bestowed.
We should have stayed in caves
Where there were no names before.

Everyone here is killing
Each other in a ceaseless
Pursuit of mistruths
And words like food
Turned stale, inedibly so,
Are crumbs scattered
From battlements and
Powerful tower-tops;
The churches lost their teeth
And the castles their crows.
Over there, the man
Who invented petroleum
Is being set alight
Every night;
His corpse is hosed,
The daemons breathe new life
And have him oxidized
Despite his ghostly moans,
All those protestations,
Only, they return in numbers
With a burning bridge in tow.

If a man tells you he misspoke
Then he is not to be believed,
For, prior to impolitic exposure
He said those very words
And so he shows contrition
With oxymoronic verbs.
Truth is his disease –
Even good people lie, he said –
But what is true and what is not
Are shuffled like cards
With the suits turned to spots.

Either exasperated or bored,
I pressed a poisoned knife
Through my psyche,
A mix of suet, memories,
Bratwurst with some liverwort,
And everything that’s past
Is unforgotten, recreated in
A future that evolved,
Fitfully and biting,
Into something even worse.

A Painted Sign In Green

Pool-black thoughts,
He moves through doors,
A scent of herbs,
Descending spores,
Trace evidence
Of cloven-footed
Carnivores.

Waiting for a call;
A scratch on the wall,
A cuneiform.

In a dream a donkey
Beat me with a stick,
Berated me with flehmen lips
For eating grass
(He said was his)
From pastures therein dwindling
And with the evening kindling
I pointed with my thoughts
To where three days before
A painted sign in green
Had clearly said to me:
‘Welcome, Pilgrims,
Rest Awhile Your Feet,
The Hay And Harvest Here
Is All That You Can Eat’.

Tuesday Morning Observations At The Supermarket

“Give him milk to make him sick”
A gravelly-throated grandmother spoke,

I chose this wrong time
To hear choking from the other end

Of her connection, waiting to pay
For pharmaceuticals and confectionery.

Disabused queue, end of the line,
Kissing in public is frowned upon;

Improbable healthcare professionals
Talking behind me, irresponsibly,

Garrulous, gaseous
Logorrheic overspills

About a young female client
Pleading with herself to kill

If she could just have seven pills.
I heard their saturnine eyes rolling.

We all have our conditions;
Some degrade us,

Some deceive and some distill,
I stood blankly at the automated till

Because all the alerts had run out.
In a patriarchal society

Fecund machines are bestowed
With women’s names

Or pronouns used pejoratively;
Olivia, Marion, Emily.

It reminded me of a former colleague,
Cigarette-blonde hair and eyes

Like falling rain, deceased,
Cancer grabbed her and drowned her

So quickly her doctor
Did not have time for prognoses,

Akin to a storm unforecasted
Or a cast of crabs

Swarming on a tourist beach,
Dragging her into the sea.

Less and less people are wearing
Poppies of the season because

More and more are forgetting –
I met a man who went to war

And nobody wore a flower at all.
Departing the store, someone

Walking four and a half seconds
In my wake is singing words

He heard on the supermarket radio
And I want to find a way

To travel between two worlds,
Suture the irreversible wound,

Turn on a kettle,
Welcome myself home.

On the way, however,
I drove by a broken-down car,

Middle lane, hazard lights,
Annoyance of drivers,

And I observed to my horror
A shell of that disillusioned client

Moments after she did what she had to.
I later learned her name

Was and still is somewhere
Miriam.


Letters From A Misanthropist



If I laid stock-still
Through quietest nights
On my side
Would all
My naked thoughts
Fall out?

An earthquake of pain
Reverberates
In my tectonic mind.

In a dream
Through gritted teeth
And a sense of purpose
I did not own,
I wrote letters
To my son
And also everyone;
Letters of apology,
Letters singed by the sun.
So little left to inspire,
I decided to enquire
Into my mind and
Write down names
Of several men I admired,
To prove a value
More for my son
Than myself,
Than anything else.

Alphabetically
This dream-missive listed:
Alex Jeffries, for persistence,
Colin Powell, for cross-party respect,
Denis Mukwege, for making a difference,
Despite the circumstances;
François Villon, balking against
The injustices of
The See of Orléans;
Mr John Wheatley,
Same reason as Denis’s,
Only a different season
And in a different respect;
Louis Bleriot for his determination
In all matters aviation
And in love;
Richard Ratcliffe for his hunger striking
For a principle, for his wife;
Several Russian mid-nineteenth
Century poets, ditto Chilean,
Ditto Chinese and Japanese
And European and American
From predominantly before
1980 or maybe 1984.

I poured a molten moth
Back up into my skull
Through my broken
Ethmoid bone,
And woke up, exhausted,
In a sweat I must confess,
And wondering how
I had evolved
Through experience
Into this
Misanthropist.



Hustings


Blink and you’ll miss it,
This modern cynical
Pinnacle of contempt,
Political legerdemain.

People’s lives under pots,
One, blue, two, three;
Never mind about life
And death issues

And O how they issue,
As long as there’s comfort
In a cable, an act.
The universities will empty

And our world will contract.
A man in a church lay dead,
A city is your bed,
I wish the rest good luck.

South Of Somewhere

South of Somewhere, Fairburn Road Car Park.
Small town, off from the main route.
Or large village? The first two hours parking is free, but you still have to go to the ticket machine and press a button for a ticket. The information display has yellow print on a black background. The municipal Council crest includes two mythical beasts either side of a shield, also yellow and black. There is a whole language for heraldry. There is a misprint between two symbols for a disabled person, which reads ‘Dabled badge holders FREE’.

I wish it was colder, or raining, or cold and raining. I prefer the rain. People tend to stay indoors a bit more.

I haven’t been here before. It’s only 8 miles north west from my house, but the journey includes country lanes with tall hedgerows leading into hamlets.

A local transport intersection, freight trains and East Coast LNER trains rumble by. Commuter belt, I expect, for workforces in the not too distant cities and larger towns. Smaller Northern Rail pacer trains, liveries of purple and white.

You can draw a straight line almost, from the southernmost city the one furthest north. This is somewhere inbetween.

I feel supernaturally tired. I will be unable to drive again, post surgery, she said. I said I will make for a moaning chauffeur.

You video-called me yesterday evening. You were wearing a silver chain with a silver crucifix. You ask me if I like it and I lied and said yes.

Days merge. And then I feel bad for feeling envious of those who moved on.

People I have seen arrive here are now returning to their cars, laden with shopping and misplaced hopefulness. They seep out from corners and sidestreets, like waxy by-products of my inexhaustible life, like tears. As I drove away, I remember thinking, if there is anyone as hermetic as me, I would like to meet them.