The Priests Woman

Love, you hold out your hand to me
Suddenly the world is blanketed in snow
Icicles hang from your fingertips and I feel cold

Love, you hold out your lips to me
Suddenly everywhere is cold and blue
Your long white dress clinks like ice
The wood of your bones creaks in the wind

Love, you look at me with your eyes
Ice frozen cages that capture the past
Eyes as hard as memorial stones
Bright as the blinding sun upon the snowfield

My heart like a tulip bulb aching to flower
Wrapped in the chains of your winter

Love, your body like a pillow of snow and ice
Love, why do you look back into the blizzard

Will you lead the world to the edge of darkness?
With words as bright as torches
When your foot steps into the night
It’s the earth the fire wind scorches

Your face shines like a crusader’s shield
And you think you stand on Mt Sinai
As your chiefs prepare the battle fields
Where eagles circle in the smoky sky

As you drive your knife into madness itself
And you shoot your gun at insanity
Like a shadow it moves with bodiless stealth
A bloodless thing you can’t see

When love is covered in blood and tears
Wrapped up in the shawls of revenge
How will you calm your animal fears?
Or stop its sacrifice at this Stonehenge

I want yesterday

I want yesterday
To happen again
laid out like cling film
across the earth

I know yesterday
where it sleeps
how to tuck it in
how to dream it

I can see its performance
its field of sweat
its goal posts
its overcoats of blood

I can slip my hands into its pockets
I can use its shoes
I know where to find my home there
Between the ruins

Tomorrow I do not know
If history has any say there
If knowledge will be of any help
(Between the wreck of the Belgrano and the ruins of Bagdad)

Tomorrow may be changed beyond recognition
Between the tank tracks and the Euro economy
Between the vandals and the terrorists
Between the rich people and the new technology

Bring back the yesterday
let me stand on its hill of garbage
in contrast to which
I seem to shine like a star

Memorials to murders

Memorials to murders
Stand like bus stops in our land
Wreaths on every corner
It’s hard to understand

Babies and teenagers
Old ladies and old men
Blood stained city corners
Where’s it going to end

You can walk across a pavement
You can walk by a door
Where someone fell dieing
And won’t be seen no more

Killers are growing numerous
There’s a handful in every street
And justice ties its shoelaces
And is tripping over its feet

Where’s the heart in the system?
Where’s the heart in this land?
They try to play fair like in cricket
And let evil gain the upper hand

Allegory

On the riverside the cameras eye hovered around the talking bench, panned across the river and back again to the talking bench.

“I lived in the room above where my father is now. I came down and people should listen to me.”

I leaned on the railing and watched the ships go by, the pleasure boats, and the outgoing tide.

The camera eye went to the floating dock, it was empty, it filmed the pleasure boat docked there, the ebb and flow of the waves.

“I have a message for mankind, that they should all listen to me”.

And there in the small room was the red water.

I was entranced by the floating dock, the unusual perspective of corridors, of gangplanks that formed architectural webs of metal post and roof all around me. The little office, the feeling of the floating dock bobbing up and down on the waves.

The camera moved on back up he gangplank to the riverside walk and along to the stairs and down to the beach cove.  The camera eye filmed the jetsam and flotsam washed up on shore, panning along the distant warehouses opposite, filming the river meandering around the horseshoe bends.

I went to look at the wall covered in seaweed and moss, its green slippery texture, the waterlogged wood, the great blocks of broken concrete on the shore, left from another era, the dancing midges.

“No one knows me, I have lived before, I came from the world above, the room above”.

The grey blue river had silver speckles over it from the afternoon sun, I watched it flow upstream, people walked or jogged along.

The camera now stopped at an inlet enclosed by old warehouses. The camera filmed a white duck that preened its feathers and then snuggled down into the sand, the litter, garbage, dumped stuff.

I watched the small streamlet that ran down the wet beach from higher small pools; water that seemed to flow from inexhaustible supply right at the top of the inlet. I looked at the ladders built into the walls that would transfer men from boats into warehouse doors. I put my face against the railing and I felt trapped on the outside.

The camera now began following the main road.

There is a garden in the sky where a girl with red boots is playing. Her father has gone back down to earth and left her on her own. An ogre sometimes comes and stares over the wall at her. Before he left, her father planted a small posy of flowers in the ground for her.

The camera resumes the Thames walk, stops to film the riverbank. A woman is out walking her two small dogs, one is a small fragile whippet, thin as a skeleton, the other ambles over decking over the river that is out of bounds to people due to its instability.

The girl with red boots is playing in the garden in the sky. She will come back to earth with a message for mankind and no one will listen.

The river has filled a small boat dock with water and receded, in the water I watch a swarm of fish dart and glide in circles through the shadows, beneath the swarms larger fish cruise lazily.

In the riverside park the camera films the flowers. Two teenagers immediately stop and ask the camera to film them. They strike a pose by the tennis court and talk about their leisure activities.

I watch the tennis players as they bat the tennis ball back and forth. In my hand is a bright yellow flower that I picked from a tree which I leave behind on the ground behind a little wall.

The girl in the red boots must come down to the earth now. She’s been left alone for ages without her mother or father in the garden in the sky and they never went back for her, not even the ogre who looked over the wall was interested in her.

The camera is filming an old brick bus shelter decorated by children’s painting of a river scene with boats and birds.

I head down Three Crane’s Walk back to the riverside again, the camera stops to film the dark alleyway between the tall buildings.

The camera starts filming the bank and the outgoing tide. A tall red sailed fishing boat motors by going down stream.

In Wapping High Street the girl with red boots and a camera is filming the outside of Turners Star, she goes inside, beads of sweat cover her brow, she films the pictures on the wall and banters with the men propped up against the bar.

The camera seems momentarily disorientated, it walks to the north filming, to the East filming, to the West filming anything in sight. I try to steer it back on course and head it back to the river walk.

“I am from the world above, I have come with a message, everyone must know and listen, I am from the room above, I can foresee events that will happen, people must listen”.

Then follows a pier that goes out into the river, that goes down to the pleasure boats moored in a floating dock at the end of the pier. In the distance two men are skimming stones across the waves. A cook runs from boat to boat; from the Captain Kidd pub people in the beer garden stare down at the river.

My time is running out, my time has run out, I’ve missed my appointment, I get irritated by the camera that goes by without seeing me.

I settle down on a bench in front of an old barge that has attracted the bird life, a Coot is building a nest; a young grey gull waddles down the beach pecking at things between the stones. The river police-boats are moored outside.

The camera waits to finish filming now, the second battery is running low. It comes to a clock tower and films it for a few seconds. A tower above the rooftops somewhere in Wapping.

2002

There’s a cherry tree by the surgery

There’s a cherry tree by the surgery
Its crushed cherries on the pavement floor
A sweet cherry-red smashed on the street
A red massacre of dark balloon juice
Mashed and crushed beneath our feet.

There’s a cherry red anger outside the surgery,
A bleeding on the bone of paving stone
A dry stained sludge of red cherry juice
Poor people tread them down with disdain
Into the concrete with worsening pain.

There’s a cherry tree growing outside the surgery
Where clusters of cherries queue for cures,
Hunched over, scurrying; scowling and worrying
Indifferent to anyone’s pain but their own
A sluice of red juice by the surgery door.

Albatross

Like a ship attracted to burning ports
Where no authorities can ask you questions
You stared into my fires and felt safe

Maybe the fires were rosy and warm
Maybe the nights weren’t so lonely
Maybe the dreams became friendlier
Maybe you saw amongst the ruins a place to rest

You settle into port like a dove on the water
You built up a relationship amongst the smoldering docks
But the country began to grow
And people began to question you

Then a little breeze blew and you were gone
Back to the ocean, older and more alone
Recoiling from the pinpricks on your skin
Back into the storms at sea like an albatross

2002

The Concentration Camp of Poetry

The concentration camp of poetry
Sits in a clearing in the woods
No need for guns; they are only words
And those that escape will starve in a foreign land

The present moment

The present moment is nothing
My relationship with the day is broken
A cracked mirror of the sea with no reflection

I run through the pages of time
Looking for the granite of love
A morsel from the masters table
A drip from the ketchup bottle

London wearies to the marrow
I think blessed are they who live
Far away from here, this city
Is a honey pot covered in flies

Toothy Edna Ironsides New Blog

She had just posted her first post on her brand new blog. It was a brilliant start, an item about the Glasgow whiskey industry. She remembered, (just as her friends, who all had blogs, had taught her), to pick her categories and make up her tags; and then she waited. Next morning she awoke and it felt like a Christmas day to her; she was so happy she felt like singing. She opened up her blog page to read the messages and count the likes and follow the followers and … nothing, nobody, zerox with an empty ink cartridge. She went into a slump; where were all her friends? Where was the support? Where was the bloggers glory? She had told all her friends and family to look for her page; she had given them the exact address with the http:// and the name on her Welcome page, but nothing. She looked out of the window, it was raining, and the sky was grey, autumn leaves fluttered onto the street. She made up her mind not to follow up or try to find out what had happened. Maybe a disaster had prevented them all from looking, maybe a vanishing. She’d wait, she’d wait until finally from among the millions out there someone would open, read and like. She wanted to be liked.

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.

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