turning point

my life etched in the rocks
spotlighted by the late morning sun
shadows and light
flashing by in an instant
the time it takes to graffiti a name
to twist barbed wire into a knot
to give a cloud a name
coyote, tumbleweed, drifter

a straight road through badlands
rolling rocks motionless
like the traveller
uncertain whether to continue
rooted like the sagebrush
tempted, almost, to stay put
become dust and carrion
or golden whispering grass

orders

the waiter was
abusive
he took my order
for food I didn’t want
he sneered without belief
that someone
better than him
would bring it out
I wanted to reply
that wouldn’t be hard
but didn’t
and when it came
it was too much by far
for one man alone to eat
a huge kilner jar full
of a ratatouille like substance
which may or may not have contained
the preserved embryo of something
stillborn hidden
amongst the amniotic mush of
tomatoey aubergine zucchini
garlicky oniony salty basil
red baby pepper skin
and thyme

and although all of this
was but a dream
it reflected my own reluctance
to stand my ground
to have belief in my own
self worth
and confidence to interact
with others more confident
and talkative and seemingly
more knowledgeable
than myself
better to look in from the outside
than be
the centre of attention
better to quietly get on and do
than be
forever blowing my own trumpet
it’s where I have ended up
in this void called
twenty first century life
and it’s where I will forever rest my words
in peaceful obscurity

hum

the hum of the bathroom fan
the last chopper out of saigon
the flickering death of a strip light
the deathly lick of a flick knife
the gurgle of water leaving the bath
the bloody froth on a gaping mouth
the flush of shit from the toilet bowl
the empty hollow of hunger’s howl

the fresh linen sheets smell of lavender
the stench of the landfill scavenger
the creams that ease the pains and sores
the exodus from the fields of war
the rattle of rain on an old tin roof
the submachine gun’s final proof
the free thoughts gently running riot
the police shots that bring disquiet

the art that hangs on suburban walls
the relics smashed when a culture falls
the sunset walk along a sandy beach
the napalm girl with arms outstretched
the shelves of plenty in the grocery store
the hands reach out for a few grains more
the charity that we give
the bloody lives we live

intrigue

and lastly
I thought about
the first person
I should have thought about
in the first place
and I did
and I didn’t
and it was inappropriate
in some ways
but mainly it wasn’t

oh my
how you became
so beautiful
so suddenly
in my eyes
and to think

years and years ago
we were lost for words
and couldn’t speak
in the summer heat
skirting the border
windows down
heading for the coast
where
you said

pelicans fly in formation
up and down the coast
and people say
peace
and hey man
it’s where we went
until the weather turned

from Woodstock to Laurel Canyon

from east to west and in between
I stared into many faces
held motel towels against my own
until my eyes bled sunsets

and my head hurt like the road

the beat of the day tormented me
I cried under many rocks
made outlines of my feet in the desert sand
until my skin burned

and my heart burst into years

you are the movie of your life
at least that’s what the people said to me
from Woodstock to Laurel Canyon
I painted away the fallen leaves

until the weather broke

until the seasons spoke to me
of car crash ditches full of fallen friends
where the blood ran to the sea
time frozen in a standing ovation

as we went our separate ways

Meeting Rimbaud

When I met Rimbaud
the bastard didn’t recognise me
I’m only the greatest living poet I said
Fuck off he huffed back in French 
or Arabic or some long forgotten
East African dialect 
I’m only the greatest dead poet 
don’t you know it
and he went on to accuse me
Yes me! Me!
of not being influential like him
reeling off a whole list of names
such as Dylan, Morrison, 
Ginsberg, Patti Smith
even Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls
I pointed out that influence was a by-product
of our own values and not necessarily
an indicator of true merit . . .
he looked at me vacantly 
with washed-up and scummy eyes
(not much dissimilar to my own
déshabillé state of mind)
Him a dead poet turned dead gun runner
Me a dead ringer for a doppelgänger
Perhaps we had more in common
than we cared to recognise
although I had no intention of playing
the dead Verlaine to appease any
modern day symbolism . . .

she took my hand

she took my hand and folded it
and turned her back and split
the rain was deceiving
as she was done leaving
but she never looked back

no, she never looked back
she never looked back

why she went and done that
we could have worked it out
the ring on her finger
that did not linger
coz she gave it me straight back

yes, she gave it straight back
she gave it straight back

I watched her turn the corner
she drifted out of sight
if I was much younger
I’d probably be up for the fight
but it just wasn’t right

no, it just wasn’t right
it just wasn’t right

so now I’m all alone
the leaves have all but blown
the wind has done moaning
and there’s no-one on the phone
only me on my own

yes, she never looked back
now I’m here on my own

like . . .

land slides beneath my feet
like so many leaves of paper
laid one on top the other
blown from the writer’s desk
so many words written thereon
fossilised like sea creatures
stuck in layers of thoughts
splitting me like shale or slate
sliced through like sliced meat
an autopsy of all my years
grown like the rings in a tree
concentric yet linear years
graphite grey like the clouds
teetering and tottering on edges
cliff edges that crumble
that dream
when land starts moving
and your arms flail like windmills
and you tilt
and you call out
but you’re already on the move
paper and words blowing all around
the white of sky and surf
of gulls and paper
and chalk skulls
like
like
like
. . . .
 
 

spirit fish

the spirit fish swim in the sky
some say they are the souls of drowned sailors
stomachs storm gutted on black rocks
their empty Cornish cottages let to Londoners
they fly in great shoals of grey clouds
scales glistening like a million deep sea stars
but you’ll never catch these moving rainbows
rising from the depths each time a ship is lost
born inside bubbles gurgling up gagging throats
out the gaping mouths silently screaming final breaths
a sailor’s last meal reincarnated as messenger
Neptune and Poseidon’s caves forever abandoned
from watery depths through spuming crests
the lust for the seafaring life of adventure
now turned to eternal heavenly wandering
and on a clear day you might spot them
the spirit fish that swim in the sky
PXL_20210425_073257364

vulnerability

vulnerability wears many different guises
which one is your mask? which fits your face best?
for sure for sure there's no one size fits all offer
no refer to manual, age requirement, when you pass go etc
we're told to look out for each other, check in, check up
or is that tune in, to what? what can you hear exactly?
is it my heart beating in irregular rhythms? oh my oh my!
or the voices and noises that crash like drum kits dropped
from the tops of skyscrapers one after another after . . .
well, you see, if you keep passing them to me 
I will have no choice but to keep pushing them over the edge
yes, the edge, where height restrictions do not apply
playground bullies jeer far below - jump! jump!
passing clouds flash walk, don't walk, walk, don't walk
I can't make up my mind, vulnerability has gotten a hold of me
I lack self-confidence, I'm the wrong sort of modern guy
the situation calls for some measure of fluidity, neutrality
but I'm rigid as these 'scrapers, can't learn new tricks at my age
not woke enough, I'm old skool but not hip or hop or hep
vulnerability comes in many different colours too
lying in bed listening to the wind bend the poplars
how much extra would it take to bring them down, to fell?
to start again, a new-born in a winter storm, naked
and useless, with nothing to confess, no sin or sorrow
no reason to be there, do any of us? I don't know . . .
but death will break us, some random car will fail to stop
walk, don't walk, look right, look left, look behind
hold your head up high, exalt the light that shines
in shafts between the buildings and trees and step out
something or someone has your name and is waiting