Dishwasher Blues

I’m left to empty the dishwasher
Now that you are gone . . .
Your last knife and fork
Spoon and plate and bowl . . .
And there upon your coffee cup
The outline of your lips . . .
I take it . . . and wonder . . .
Did I forget to put a tablet in
Last night?

it’s all gone pete tong

I waited in that room for you to return
reading between the lines on your face
on the photos taken in a cramped booth
in the amusement arcade on the pier
burning black and white in my hands
just a couple of crumpled square inches
was all I had left and it didn’t feel right

oh well, there was still sand in my socks
and the stain of ketchup from the chips
on the t-shirt bought specially for the day
the taste of salt kept recurring on my lips
like waves crashing on the pebbled shore
as the sun set over the blurred horizon
and the gulls settled down for the night



conveniently for Leslie
there was less of a need for a name change
when transitioning from one sex to another
unlike her penfriend Dave who became Davina
or Dave’s friend Mick who became Michaela

with a voice slightly too deep for comfort
we came to learn that Leslie was a ‘transgender’
a state of being not easily comprehensible
to our small town sensibilities
but we gave Leslie the benefit of our doubts

you can tell by the size of his hands
said one gran to her husband who tutted at the bus stop
by the ladies underwear shop that Leslie had just popped into
he doesn’t look too comfy in them high heels he said
and that dress looks like something your mum would wear

there was no denying that change was in the air
and Leslie was at the forefront of a new era
of emancipation despite the aggravation often encountered
when buying a pint in the Queen’s Head on a Saturday night
with red lipstick left as a statement on the rim of her glass

he would wait for the coast to clear
before heading out the back for a swift piss in the ladies loo
still getting used to the intricacies of his newly bought lingerie
that dug up his hairy buttocks and snagged his testicles
like winkles caught in a fishing net

by and large and as time passed by
we got used to seeing Lesley around the town
and even when she wore that pink shell suit and matching shoes
we didn’t much bother batting our eyelids in her direction
we just nodded and occasionally said hello

so it was with some surprise that we noticed
quite out of the blue that Lesley had moved on
the rumour mills gossiped and wove some stories together
about how she’d gone to the big city to have the chop
and would we see her back with bigger tits and without her nob

fucking queer / couldn’t stand her / glad she’s gone the dirty bugger
the banter down the boozer over pool and pints quickly changed
and before too long the whole town had turned against her for no real reason
and we never knew what became of Lesley or if she fully transitioned
but I always hoped she found some happiness in her own way


Listen . . .

I’m not a migrant
I’m not a vagrant
I’m not a benefit claimant
I’m not disabled
I’m reasonably abled
I’m white not brown or black
I’m in no minority or shanty shack
I’m not female or shemale
I’m not neutral gender
I’m not a crossdresser
I’m not young I’m middle aged
I’m middle class not disadvantaged
I’m of no fixed religion
I’m in a privileged position

but I won’t complain
when I see others campaign
for more share of the attention
or even a mention
because me and my kind
well it’s rather slipped our minds
that we’ve had it really quite good
for longer than I dare to remember
each January through December
so I’m happy to sit and listen
and hope we can be forgiven
let others with fewer choices
stand up and find their voices
it’s time to hear their stories

of how and why and when
life became this way for them . . .


look out
and try to find
blue and crimson skies
where birds fly from the corners of my eyes
and a copse of trees on a wilderness road
is a little piece of England in Wyoming
where the shadows breathe life into the rocks
and the wolf within me sniffs the summer air

I am
alone and I am
a traveller and I am here and now
in no other time or dimension or space
there are pieces of broken seashells in my pocket
the sharp edges a reminder of sand between my toes
my burnt shoulders a reminder of childhood
when I walked these shores without a care
doing what children ought to do in silence

I understand
the importance of being alive
although I cannot comprehend the meaning of it
the days are numbered with my personal DNA sequence
another unfathomable equation that directs me
and sends me spinning through these landscapes
like an out of control meteorite on a collision course
that urges me to bend down and pick at the desert gravel
to find the piece that fits snugly in my mind

of course I can
it’s as easy as buying a ticket and jumping on a plane
there’s no glue to bind me like gravity to this planet
I can come and go as I please and take my leave
wave to you from afar or hold you near
my reason is to journey and never arrive
the call of the wild lulls me to sleep
and in your arms I slumber peacefully


eighteen today

my son is eighteen today
and I am, well . . . it doesn’t much matter
I wish him well as he whistles out the door
a bus to catch, an exam to sit, a skateboard to ride
and I am, well . . . it doesn’t much matter
I tell him concentrate, no silly mistakes
check your workings out and have a good day
as he whistles out the door waving, not a care in the world
and I am, well . . . it doesn’t much matter
the sun is shining and the birds are singing
tonight is pizza night, Pepsi’s and chocolate puddings
and I have a poem or two to write
but I still feel like crying . . .

Go Daddy Go!

daddy do
what daddy must
and daddy must do
what daddy must
because if daddy doesn’t do
what daddy must do
there’s a chance that daddy
will never do what daddy must do
and daddy doesn’t want to be
a bad daddy that doesn’t do
what’s right for his son
and for his family
so go daddy go!
do what you must

(someone go wake daddy up . . .)

bloody spring

in Beijing
with Mei Ling
she was 4 foot
six inches tall
yes she was very small

inside the square
when we were there
it was 1989
and the party line
we dared to cross that line

and in my hand
I held her tiny hand
she squeezed mine tight
all day and night
for we were very scared

on June 3rd
we overheard
the sound of shots
they rang out all around
those shooting sounds

students on the ground
as tanks rolled in
on the morning’s wing
I lost Mei Ling
in the uprising’s fall

yes she was very small
despite her standing tall
she was bigger than most of us
and there could be no doubt
when her cries rang out

that our time had died
as the shadows sighed
our voices quelled
in Beijing
in that bloody spring


(with a nod to Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’)

our fathers

give the boy a toy soldier
some tanks and battle cries
dress him up in cowboy clothes
the only good Injuns are dead ones

bang bang you’re dead son
give us a chance dad
you gotta learn quick son
yeah but give us a chance dad

give the boy a placard
hold it in the air boy
tell the boy what to shout about
doesn’t matter he looks bemused

what do we want son?
I haven’t got a clue dad
when do we want it son?
I don’t know I’m just a boy dad

give the boy a slap dad
slap him across the thigh
tell the boy there’s more where that came from
threaten with your hand held high

want another one like that son?
what did I do wrong dad?
shut your mouth and do as you’re told son
I’m really sorry dad

give the boy a rifle
tell him how to clean it
cherish this more than your mother’s life boy
because by god you’re gonna need it

point it and pull the trigger son
but it feels so heavy dad
kill the fucking deer son
but it’s got a young one to feed dad

give the boy a uniform
make him feel like he’s a god
feed him whores to steal his childhood
take it away for good

if she doesn’t want it slap her son
is that the way it’s done dad?
you gotta tell ’em who’s the boss son
I’ll tell ’em like you said dad

give the boy some power
a gang of drooling men to lead
vote for him for he’s the one
yes he’s the one we all agree

take this power and use it well son
there’s hatred in my blood dad
remember all I taught you son
yes your will it will be done dad


NB: this one follows on from the last and hopefully continues a thread of thoughts on a particular theme – one which is admittedly a rather odd take on Father’s Day:


the good soldier

there’s no such thing
as a good soldier
said the girl with the bloody doll
you come and rape my mother
then you want to marry me

there’s no such thing
as a good soldier
said the boy with the wooden gun
you come and kill my father
then you want to enlist me

there’s no such thing
as a good soldier
said the old woman in the black shawl
you come and burn my family home
then you pity me

there’s no such thing
as a good soldier
said the good soldier to himself
I don’t know what I’m fighting for
then I fight some more