Born into a fish bowl

born into a fish bowl
-at first you don’t see
in the early morning
the darkness is in you

you open your eyes
and love is in your heart
the sun shines brightly
on your fishbowl

you place your hands
against the glass
and all around you
are signs of mayhem

broken trees that try to laugh
the burning witches of Salem

when I was a child
I played in the fields
Around the estate

Somewhere in a dream
Of child’s play and games
I discovered barbed wire

What have I done?
That you do this to me
I couldn’t understand

I tried to hold the wire
It drew blood
I was disgusted

I cried out
A little cry
This is not love!

Early in my life
Experience was a timeline
Now I cannot stop myself
From examining every nuance

The details collect
Like broken straws around an egg
I’d go mad
Without a drink of water

A cool glass of water
Simple and real
Clearer than the sky
A miracle

You wounded fighter
Can you hear it?
What does it mean?
Every man is strapped up

It’s the slaughter road
For whatever is coming

Freedom
Is an unleavened bread
It’s hard and tasteless
Like it’s not meant to be

One fleck of gold
In a man’s vein
Too hard to be flesh
Too tasteless to be pure

The leavened freedom
Of the world
Who really needs it?

I did not fight
On the battlefield
I fought
In the playground

I was a boy
Made of balsa wood

I was not thrown
Into prison
But I was locked in my home
With the shadows

I could not reach
The light switch
I had no books to read
I crumbled in the darkness

Day merged into night
Strangers came home and went away
As the vine of mental imprisonment
Grew thicker

I was unarmed
Against the nightmares I saw
Prayers like broken pots
Took me into death

Until I grew taller
than the cracks in the pavement
Until there was more pavement
Than crack

Child alone
His mouth began to crack
His jaw parted in two
His tongue fell out
He tried to pick it up
It slid along the floor
He tried to scream
Only flowers emerged

No, it wasn’t war
There are the neglected like me
Even in a real war

Who can salve our sorrow?
Who can release us?

All our lives
We ride in a horse and cart
Tied up like bales of straw

Do you remember when?

Do you remember when You were scared Of adults
Of how threatening They seemed
Do you remember when – As an adult
Seeing them again In your dreams

Do you remember when You were scared of adults
You’d stop and run away Down another street
And the street lights Would come on And caste long shadows
And you’d look for a secret hideout To hide in

Do you remember when You were scared of adults
The mere sight of one On the way from school Would make you run
Because in those days You hardly saw anyone
And the dark nights Were trailing from moon to moon

Do you remember when You were cared of adults
Mother adults, Father adults, Both the same
No one ever spoke to you Or laughed at a joke with you
And all that adults meant to you Was pain

And do you remember when You became an adult
How you didn’t seem to fit Into your skin
And the face in the mirror Was a river
And the life you were given was a sin

I’ve only just learned about the cobras

I’ve only Just learned About The little cobras
Their parents Forget They had them
And their awful god Protects them

The little cobras In bonnets
Sliding along With walking sticks Into thickets
A dozen of them Under the tarpaulin
Singing Demonically About The ruin They do

In a year, Only a few survive: Grown now Into vipers
Dragging men Into underground Night clubs
Where the lord Of fire Condemns them
And uses their Blood as fuel

The little white kid

There is a lot Of loving To do
There is a lot Weeping Overdue
The little kid Inside me – bleats
The little white kid, Buffets and sways

The little kid Inside me
Has me by the throat
It’s a pity That I never Lived before
I ever knew Of little kids

Supermarkets Get up and run
When they see The little kids come
Oh, I had a lot of loving to do
The weeping is still Overdue

The dark side of childhood

It was on The dark side of childhood
That the little boy cried
It was on the dark side of childhood
That parents tell lies

That teachers liked to thrash them
And the police liked to grab them
And crying tigers pitied only them
And ran purring to their sides

It was on the dark side of childhood
That nightmares tried To burn them,
to make them mad
And to make them cry

With bullies in the corners and strange men in the fields
Only lonely children ever know how it feels
To be alone

Essington Park

and there was a policeman’s ghost in Birdcage walk
that followed me home along the railway track
of the disused railway line

and how did I cram all of the night
like a polyphene bag into my pocket

and what other disguises
does the dead policeman’s ghost have

when I was small I pecked like a bird
as I went and returned from school

at nothing really except grit
to fill my belly that as like jelly

I hated satchels full of homework
That I didn’t understand
And a school uniform
That was painfully too small

And like the angel in the book of Zechariah
Who explained the meaning of the vision

To little children playing in the park
Sliding on the slides and going round on the roundabouts
And not thinking of what kingdoms rise and fall

I talked and talked alone as the darkness grew
That seemed to grow over me like a blanket of sky sleep

Alone at night in the park a mile from home
Happier there than I’ve ever been anywhere

Lost in the mysterious disappearance of the sun
That diffuses and pops out and leaves evening in the park

So peaceful with the mothering trees
And the playground all to myself

Notes. Essington is just west of Mossley Estate across farmland, down country lanes etc. Mossley Estate is not mentioned by name on the map but is where it says Cranesbill Nursery. Broad Lane when I knew it was a lovely long and straight ancient tree covered country Lane that seemed to go on forever.

The winter sticks

The winter sticks
Into the eye of the earth
Her mouths chatter
Cold as an Icelandic nurse

One has
Dark brown bark
Like the letter I
Broken in half
On the white page

I do not feel
The snows scissor pins in my hands
Next
Comes the footprints
Around the dead grey green scrub
Enclosed
By a black magicians curtain
Of memories deep well

There’s not a face
O love
In this picture
There is a mother
Mysteriously blue
In the poverty kitchen
And a Gremlins outline
As black as soot
Who returns each night
From Teutonic fires

I have
The eyes of a blackbird
As I sit in the old straw stuffed chair
Flitting my boy flesh
Wanting to sing
In the starlit room

The trusty heart

She kisses her doll
Goodnight
And goes to sleep
She dreams
Small dreams
Dreams that will grow
One day
Into bigger dreams
The doll has a name
Princess or Cinderella
Or Betty or Alice
But the doll
Is not a real person
It is only what she makes of it
And will make of it
Looking back one day
And remembering
Something more
Than an inanimate object
But the trusty heart
She gave it
Amid the chaos
Of childhood