Category Archives: Poetry

A broken golden scaffold

A broken golden scaffold
Diamonds trodden into the mud.

They say that I should depend on God’s love
Instead I find myself mourning human failure

I ask of the square and the isosceles triangle
Why can’t people be as mathematically sound

You can’t put a parallellogram is a prison
But you can put a man in jail

All across the football field the crows are swarming
And the sonnet sang in the wings

The man with the meteorite head said nothing
No love was passed down

Life is like a used tea-bag on a kings throne
Wisdom slips between the cushions

 

Seven Years of Unemployment

For seven years I’ve struggled up the hill
With a coal-bag covering my head
Breathing in the coal dust of my rearing
The poverty that clogged my swollen windpipes

From holes in the dusty part of coal-yards
I’ve shuffled and scuffled up the slag-heap slope
With the poor-men of the one-horse-town
Who spend the thousands of taxpayer’s money

The weekly landslide through the year
I graze like a horse on imaginary jobs
Wept with fears of homelessness and hunger
With hardly a hope of a change in the tide

Oh, how I longed to retread the bitter past
To cheat the policies that talked me down
To throw off the yolk of my poorer class
To feel my heart beat free of bit and the rein

My seven years of unemployment
Seem like seven years in a coal-yard
Each year I grew stronger with insight
Like a canary singing in the darkness

Throwing off the dirty sacks of doubt
The polls of an authority’s manipulation
The hundredweight years slung over my back
As I fought to be free of the cancer

1997

I CHASED AN UMBRELLA

I chased an umbrella that floated through London. The drizzle of rain fell continuously on a stone moss covered cherub that was occupied by a nesting pigeon. The umbrella flew from the top of a bus. I followed. I heard it talking about the Belfast Peace Agreement, from beneath its canopy a cache of guns fell into a hole in the road. The umbrella floated through The City twirling round with a tilt to its axis. A small floating white dog began to bark at it, as a phoenix skulked across the road and set fire to a parked car. The umbrella flew into Conway Hall, dancers were rehearsing for a musical, it went into the ladies to drain away the water and emerged carrying all kinds of leaflets on anarchic and religious lectures in its handle. The umbrella grew two big greedy eyes and danced a little in the corridor. The umbrella continued its journey in the drizzling rain through Bloomsbury into a café where I sat with it for a while. Its two big eyes sometimes stared at me when I wasn’t looking. I took it into a shop to buy it a companion umbrella but it didn’t want one, instead it took a fancy to a transparent rain hat. On through the drizzle that was falling even heavier now it allowed me to hold onto it until we reached the British Museum. Undaunted by the mass of humanity sheltering under the portico, it folded itself up and entered inside and with its two big eyes found its way into the Oriental department where it fluttered over a Chinese Goddess. Then it followed me back passed the Babylonian room and down a long corridor to a secret chamber where birds of paradise flew in a blue mist. Finally it had to leave, I tried to hang onto the umbrella as it flew out of the Museum above the houses and came down into a huge drab city temple called The Barbican where life size plastic people on plinths stood about like in an architectural drawing. It found its way into a cinema and sat me next to a courting couple. I collected asterisks that fell from the Pearl and Dean adverts. Later on the umbrella became rebellious and flew around the complex in much restlessness. Back out into the city streets the umbrella was spinning now, a tongue of flame hung down from it and it began to say strange things making its two big eyes whiz around until it reached Liverpool Street. The rain was still falling now in delicate perpetual drizzle in a magical light. The umbrella went to platform three and got on a train to Bethnal Green. The station proved to be like a space structure high above the earth, I scanned the panorama of the East End from the balcony wall and saw the umbrella float down and away into the falling night.

WINTER HILL

I wake up in the morning, bright and content
I go through my routines like a child soldier
No worries, no regrets, no leftover anger
Then I touch water, warm flowing water

My whole body tingles with a sensual sorrow
The encampment of the day opens, a light turned on
I feel the days gone by like a heavy anvil inside of me
Stalking me down into the forgotten past

As if I no longer existed and had no heart
When my childhood ended and my adulthood died
And my adventure in love was cut down like a tree
And buried in the fire of a family hatred

I got off the bus in Marlow
Where my mother grew up as a girl
I went to the information office to ask for directions
Someone gave me a map and a train timetable

Then, it was a twenty-minute walk to my aunts
Embarrassed by tears streaming down my face
Trying to hide my face away from strangers
As the irony of this first visit since childhood pierced me

I couldn’t remember which cul-de-sac it was
Where as a boy I’d play the fool with my Aunt
I walked back and forth for another twenty minutes
Trying to understand the system of door numbers

Finally I knocked on a strangely familiar door
My aunt let me in feeling uneasy the same as me
My cousin finished his bath and then drove me through Marlow
Visiting Gypsy Lane where my mother lived a long time ago

We went past the church where my uncle is buried
And then up a winding wooded road to Winter Hill

I remember my Moms instructions at her funeral
For her ashes to be taken back home to Marlow
For her ashes to be scattered in Bluebell Wood
Ashes that I never saw, a death I never witnessed

So I looked down the steep slope of Winter Hill
As my cousin pointed out the spot
Where my father and brother scattered her ashes
Scattered her ashes on Winter Hill

Not in the security of woodland where in spring
Bluebells cover the ground with life
But from the Winter Hill where the wind will blow
And loosen her ashes from the steep slope

Loosen her heart from the town she grew up in and loved
With hardly a hope that her remains will still be there in a years time

And my auntie complained about the situation
And said she’ll never go again to Winter Hill
But I will and I’ll stare across the valley
And call the wind to return my mothers ashes
To return them back and leave them
To return them back to Bluebell Wood
Where as a girl she played a long time ago
So I can sit amongst the bluebells and grieve at last

1998

Poetry & Poverty in Londons East End

Introduction!?
(For David Kessel, poet, original member of Approach poets. About 1996 or so David Kessel asked me to write a manifesto, titled “poetry and poverty in the East End”. I’m not a political person and I wouldn’t know how to write a manifesto so I wrote it this way, unedited, never before shown to anyone, does it work, or does it not?

The Approach Poetry was fine poetry group meeting in the East End, that lost its venue due to local changes, and loss of the older east end community; with David Kessel, Steven Watts and others and presided over by Brehoney a very extrovert Irishman).

Litter, spit, dog ends, motors. Wind from the far corners of the seasons helping offering deities of bread and poetry floating down the drain of a grain of spheres (and televisions) in the sun gun fun of a woman with her hat in the soap.

Poetry and Poverty passes by the wind from the four seasons of hell and the soup kitchens of cemeteries where dead poets in foetal positions read to the worms who pass by their thoughts that have no breath. Sitting in the ground selling her eyeballs to the business men in red plastic suits who carry briefcases full of dynamite to the office. Shoppers leave a penalty area around the drunks who sit in the market where the dirt from the train stations create a latrine of lovely sanctimonious zipper sleuths who slipper the bottom of secretaries in the moonlight.

Poets under their blankets in milk bottles cascade through dormitories in hostels where v2 rockets hide the cupboards of Highlanders who crunch the legs of bulls in the midnight orgies of constables in vestibules of sin and the comets of Jazz monasteries in the fag end filled sleeping bags of a Sonnets mother.

Poetry and Poverty walk hand in hand like zebras by the libraries of the Jews who polished the grenades that tumbled down the stairs from the high offices of comedians who fly through the bricked up windows built by road sign workers who lie about the red lights that shine a million times across the fan damaged churches of oblivion.

This is the only manifesto possible, of the moment, one of a crumbling forgotten history in the gardens of gnome officials where I stargaze at the changing face of Blackfriars bottom rolling down Ludgate Hill.

I try to come up with a worthy manifesto of trial and error but all I see are rats with their testicles crushed by traffic jams that gush out the new air of poverty and where poetry sleeps like a man strangled by handcuffs in Whitechapel bar. The women on the streets are happy now that the college has polished the shield of the pilgrim knight and broken his teeth into gruel to give to hitchhiker who wander into the East End looking for lover boys on speed chain heroin bikes of stupendous speed alarm mysticism’s. Gone are the songs of the hippies and the black power panthers whose front rooms saw a whole generation waking up to the star that lulled the fish in aquariums of the Landlord who drove wellington boots across the bomb sites of Stepney.

Poverty is like a song of truth in the ever changing fashions of the tide that comes and goes like a policeman on his beat around Spitalfields where the wind blows eddies of litter in the stone washed denim sunlight of a dead dinosaur on the back of a Roman centurion who hands out white pebbles to the starving children of Britons who collect blue skies between copies of the Blue Star of Love.

Here is an attempt at a manifesto whose page begins in oblivion and ends in the bottom of the sea where gold and spices from the sailing ships are stained with the blood of the East End. That poverty is to become King Death in the dungeons of the music halls and that poetry should be loved for its shameless undercurrent of river ruined words of honesty.

What do you have in mind but the trampling feet of the masses collected in a police cell of materialism where so many now spend their time. What do you have in mind but the red flag fluttering in the knickers of Kremlin gremlins who adorn the dead churches of Bow. What do you have in mind, is it to ignite the youth into mass demonstrations in defense of the injustice done to poets by the fat cats of the industrial revolution. What poem, what words can help this world like a fat man clinging ot he fingertips of a child lying flat on a cliff-top.

Take a glimpse at this poverty that a poet in a roundabout of love on an island of dust in a network of bulls noise nose to nose from Parliament to the North Sea, that this poet dressed in salamanders, roses and corn grass on his sea of liquidation across the smoke of women and childhood in an eye of emergency services that appear like a pack of cards in the gutter afternoons of prayer and milk drenched sweet-singing to the prostitutes who are spent at the penny arcades of the gangsters and women constables who dance together on the deadened spotlight of the moon.

Here comes the bull from the dark universe there comes a letter between his teeth that unfolds and opens out so readable in the night. See how the poor poet collapses in a sea of tears as his grey hairs glow like neon lights. This manifesto is made up of chalk with words of black iron upon it, it reveals itself like a dream you forget to remember , it turns into sugar and salt and dissolves into your bloodstream. The poets manifesto of poverty rides the railways of summer through the train wrecks of yesterday, how you sense the smell of train engines on your blood, the steam and oil of that warm railway station on the edge of time.

 

Patient Poems

Doctors

A prose piece about how much society needs doctors and the strange power they have.

Doctors: picture a world full of doctors, doctors walking everywhere, everywhere you go you see doctors in white jackets.

Doctors from the mould, doctors in white jackets. The only way to tell male from female is short hair or hair tied up at the back. They all look alike, like shapes cut out of paper.

There are doctors, everywhere you go, doctors, in and out of every train door, revolving door, and shop door*. Doctors not smiling because they are serious, they are doctors, and they fill the planet.

And what do they all do, all these doctors? I am the only one left who is not a doctor. I run naked down a brightly lit corridor and out into the street screaming. I climb a high building and then I jump, then, doctors like clumps of snow crowd around the last pool of red blood that they will ever see.

*The sliding doors of the underground train; the revolving doors of banks; the glass doors of department stores.

There’s a Place in Boston

A lyric about how the wealthy can neglect their children

There is a place in Boston Where the people are so perfect
And anyone who starts to scream Is treated like a convict.
There isn’t a wrinkle in a sheet And they always say their prayers
But I don’t think God listens to them I don’t think he even cares
There are the homeless on the street And therapy is just in reach
And everyone is secretly In the bell jars of society
The heart is broken like a plate And when it breaks it leaks our hate
For all who scream to be set free From the perfect people who won’t leave be
And as you walk the Boston break-yard Where the freight trains alone can scream
Where you climb aboard an empty boxcar For it’s the only place to dream

Fears

As a child I experienced loneliness and fear at school

I was just a child. I was placing my feet precisely in the center of the paving tiles as I walked, hoping that no one would hurt me anymore if I did not step on the cracks.

I had no idea what unhappiness was or why I felt it all the time.

The idea occurred to me like how the smallest of wild flowers suddenly appears in the shadow.

Stepping across the tiles like that gave me a feeling of security like how the feeling of a small key would feel to a wind-up toy.

And that’s how I discovered the meaning of feelings, of security, unhappiness and, strangely, the existence of a Me.

Where I lived there was a brick wall

As a very young child living in a slum I couldn’t make sense of all the wlls around me

Where I lived there was a brick wall and in the wall, there were several crumbling bricks.

I would see the wind hammering at the bricks trying to get through. I would see the winter weather eating away the cement and the broken bits of bricks.

Then one bright spring day I looked and I could see right through the wall at the sun on the other side and I watched as the wall sagged and then caved in and then collapsed entirely.

And there are parts of society that thinks itself strong like a wall but they never ever talk about there feelings and some of the children in that society grow up having never expressed how they feel about anything that has happened to them. Then they are made to see a doctor, then they are put in a hospital, then they kill themselves.

And it’s a sign about the wall; that the wall is growing weak and that the wall will someday collapse because it’s a wall with no feelings, it’s a wall without love.

Blue Flame

Prose exaimining how society can set thepath of your life for you

Some machinery released the trapped gas in the bowels of the earth. It travelled along pipes into a factory to be cleaned up than along more pipes until it popped up out of the gas ring where it tried to escape to freedom, and then it was set fire to, in the blue flames that were destroying millions of years of formation.

You had been in the womb for a long time until formed into a baby you; you travelled through a tunnel and into a place where you were cleaned up. Then you were taken by car to a house (did you see the engine that turned your relative into exhaust fumes). There in a house it was both hot and cold. Your mother loved you; your society awaited you. There in the house, you received mixed messages; your mother nurtured you and society waited for you like a wolf.

You expect society to be like a home, but instead, your mother let you go free and society turned you into a blue flame.

In a Cosmic Mist

I have known friends who spend time in mental hospitals

In a cosmic mist where no real people could live was a hospital with six beds and one electro shock treatment room.

The nurse and the warden came silently through the pinpoint of reality gate and down the long white corridor into the ward where Henry VIII’s six wives were sitting on their beds.

She was taken down into the dark cavernous basement. She looked up but she could not see a roof in the thick black silence.

The fat Henry the VIII bird flew onto the warden’s shoulder. It had a tasseted breast and a gold chain around its neck and a hat tilted roguishly on its head.

She lay down on the contraption and the nurse and the warden strapped her down. An order was made and a great bolt of lightning passed through her temples and she became unconscious.

In the evening, a little recovered she joined the rest of the wives in the ward. Their faces were bright white. The room was bright white and everyone shone with a jangling brightness, from the earth people talked in wonder of the new constellation of six stars, bright as gleaming toothpaste blobs, icy white. There was a droning noise coming from it as if it were trying to give birth to a boy.

The Falling Gate

A prose story cartoon about the neglected child in me

The big gate fell down and shut me outside. It was a grey morning; I looked through the iron grill at the creature inside. Who are you, didn’t I know you once? This creature was black with dirt and long black uncut hair and rags … and was crying.

The inside of the dungeon room was small; there was nothing to give light. It was black as jade.

Who was this person? Did I know them?

I felt cheerful in spite of myself, cheerful to have my freedom, to see the winter light of a cloudy day.

I struck a match and looked into the darkness. I was looking into a mirror. There reflected back at me was myself.

Am I real? Is this really me outside here or is it my imagination? Am I really the person locked away in the dungeon?

I sat on the old crumbling ivy covered wall opposite the arched dungeon under the railway bridge and as night drew in, I seemed to disappear

– Like a phantom into the night.

I wanted to be like everybody else.

I wanted to be like everyone else, maybe because I had no help in understanding myself.

I was everyone else. Everyone else was me.

Yet when I greet someone in my “everyone else” character I wish I could be myself too.

Words are not just in the head
Words are not only in the mouth
It’s all connected. It’s connected by spirit.

I believe that if we didn’t have vocal chords, not only could we not speak, but we would not be able to think either. I believe that the vocal chords give us the power of our thinking words. I could be wrong. But there is a point where loud thinking moves the vocal chords ever so slightly.

I had a bad experience with my father once. He kept picking on me, trying to pick a fight with me. All I ever wanted from him was love. I was crushed and broken, Ii became depressed and I had issues with my own voice. How could my voice say those things? It was now what I wanted. No, no, no.

Just to survive more than anything else I had to be a person by being like everyone else. I failed, I was, I am, self-protective without even thinking to be. The hardest thing for me to do, is to be myself.