. . . . . . . . Pleasant Valley . . . .

[the sign read]

WELCOME TO PLEASANT VALLEY
WE HOPE YOU HAVE A NICE DAY

[entering]

we strolled along the level path
the smell of chamomile wafting
from beneath our feet
honeysuckle scent spraying
at nostril level
the precision dappled light
playing with our shadows

hey, how are you today?
the young man with the perfect tan
called
as he jogged on by

[midway]

over a bottle green hedge
a plastic pig lounged on a sun chair
beside it a cow and a caravan
and sounds of the countryside
unmistakably percolating above
the babbling of a brook
and the breezy sigh of fake trees

hi there, lovely day today!
the young girl with the perfect teeth
called
as she waved us by

[further on]

the whoosh of a parakeet
startled us but made us smile
as it ziplined across our eyeline
well this is nice
I said to my wife
you can’t even see any wires
and the AI’s are friendly too

woof woof
the puppy with the wagging tail
called
as it brushed gently past our legs

[the sign read]

THANK YOU FOR VISITING
PLEASANT VALLEY
WE HOPE YOU HAD A NICE DAY

[leaving]

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Brothel Creeper’s Rhyme

gor blimey Miss Reilly
oh Polly oh gosh
good golly Miss Molly
I ain’t got much dosh

well Holly goes lightly
she’s awfully posh
and Lilly likes Willy
in his Mackintosh

go gently Miss Bentley
don’t bish bash and bosh
my poor John Thomas
he might need a wash

Daddy, I’m all grown up now

I am these bricks, potted flowers
cars, bikes, petrol mowers
my kids have bandaged needs
big trees and little weeds
favourite books upon the shelves
photos of our former selves
furniture in browns and reds
inherited from the family dead

I am this filing cabinet grey
of deeds, doubts, things to pay
carpet, laminate, papered walls
highs and lows, occasional falls
the view is mine, I’ve earned that too
it’s good enough to see me through
a bed, a wife, an attic space
lines now etched upon my face

I am these thoughts, written words
however crazy or absurd
a desk of pens and scattered notes
a lump inside this tired throat
the memory of when you were here
before you went and disappeared
I’m all grown up, nowhere to run
watching others have their fun

3 poems inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s Wind from the Sea painting viewed in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC on this day in 2016.

Wind from the Sea

In an upstairs room
At the end of the hall
Sat the man
On a cast iron bed

Bare boards and naked bulb
Unlit in the evening’s decline
The field outside viewed
Through a half-opened sash window
Two net curtain ghosts
Floating like torn shrouds
On a saintly breeze

No-one had been this way for years
He wasn’t even sure he was still breathing
Not since the birds had stopped singing
Or the rain falling

For all was dust and peeling paper
Cracked and dry
Parched as a hobo’s lips in summer
Crippled as a beggar on a city street corner
Sky white
Unending
Questioning

The man sighed away his seconds

(20th June 2017)

 

The View Behind

The man turned to see
her lain upon the bed
The glimmering girl with
apple blossom hair
The wind from the sea
caressed her cheeks
Whispered lullabies
far too sweet

Rising from the edge
of dark reverie
He threw a shadow
upon her face
A rippled splash
in which he sank
Like silver trout
after the fly

And down the hall
retraced his steps
The pictures hung
on tired threads
From light to dark
and back again
A mirrored room
cast iron bed

He sat and watched
the view behind

(22nd June 2017)
with some borrowing from
The Song of Wandering Aengus
by William Butler Yeats

 

Pictures at an Exhibition

The older I get
The less I understand women…

He could feel her nails clawing at his back
But he would not look round –
To apologise twice would be grovelling
And what was done was done

The fact that she still wants me to, well
It’s tantamount to reliving the original act
And I’m not having any of that
Not after all these years

Besides
Life was only ever meant to be a work of fiction
Like pictures at an exhibition or walking down the hall
From one identical room to another

You continue to take away from it what you want
Regardless of any stillborn intent –
The fact that you keep bringing it up
Doesn’t make a jot of difference to me

He knew this would raise her hackles
Even from the dead she still taunted him
Every fucking day the same
It was why he had moved out here

To get away from your fury
But you had to follow me and haunt me
And fill my head and house with anger
Whilst outside the landscape remains empty –

The less he understood women
The older he got…

(24th June 2017)

IMG_20160726_155709

Wind from the Sea by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)
tempera on hardboard, 1947
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

 

 

New York Poem

I was feeling like the guy
who walks up and down my street
pausing on the corners
eyes to the ground
not knowing which way to turn

when a security guard
off-duty State Transit Authority
tapped me on the shoulder
eyes alight with bourbon
voice crackling like fire
fingers stained with nicotine
brow wet with September sweat

we shook clammy hands
he shared some pleasantries
my nervousness dissipating just a little
as he lurched away with a halfhearted wave
brown paper bag and bottle

down the block
the streetwise black kids
practiced lazy breakdance moves
in their casual tracksuits
a hip-hop crew of hoodlum dudes
doing a pretty good job at
coming across as menacing
which worked fine on me
the out of town foreign tourist
with the wrong white accent
and the backpack a dead cert giveaway
so too the crumpled map

better grab some food quick
before my all-night bus to New York city

Niagara Falls was awesome btw
looking over the edge
wondering what would it be like
to go over it in a barrel?

instead the bus had taken me over
the Peace Bridge into Buffalo
into the U. S. of A.
and I had cleared customs with ease
surprising considering the way I looked
and smelt

I used a $50 bill at a burger bar
bought food and soda for the journey
dumped my bag in the luggage compartment
almost fell off the bus steps
when this drunk guy pushed past me
offering to sell gold chains and smokes
on the way

I was leaving on the 9pm
ETA at NYC approximately 8.10am
arrived tired and disorientated
phoned Adam’s sister from a call box
who vented her annoyance at being woken up
and no she couldn’t put me up
and would I please fuck off
the phone line going dead

I bought myself a pair of moccasin ankle boots
from the Native American Tourist Shop at 8.30am
twenty three dollars and seventy nine cents after tax
decided to hole up in The Sloane House YMCA
on West 34th Street
in hindsight not the best of choices
but it got me out of the rain

my room was a cell in what appeared to be
a lunatic asylum for dropouts
freaks and lost travellers like me
turned out it was the largest residential YMCA in the USA
which explained all the nutters
didn’t dare use the communal showers

but man
the view from the top of the Empire State
was jaw-dropping
despite my camera not working
and the man with the warts all around his eyes
pressed tight up against the telescope
his wife clutching at his side

New York City – imagine that!
Tell me, what’s it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?
I borrowed those lines from Michelle Shocked
Wow, New York, just like I pictured it
Skyscrapers and everything

and I borrowed those from Stevie Wonder

WORLD TRADE CENTRE
BROOKLYN & HARLEM
STATUE OF LIBERTY
CENTRAL PARK
MANHATTAN

THE BRIDGES
THE RIVERS
THE DOCKS
THE YELLOW TAXIS IN THE STREETS

grand canyons
monument valleys
next stop FLA

all of which of course
means nothing much to anyone
except perhaps a younger me
who no longer exists
or recognises himself
in a mirror

 

tracing footsteps

arriving Gare du Nord
and stepping out into
the late afternoon rush hour
there is rain on the pavements
and puddles in the gutters
motorbikes lean in patient lines
clouds gather in strips of sky

as we look up
and as we walk along
Rue la Fayette
the air is heavy
it feels toxic
with promises

Metro station Poissonnière
café – bar – tabac – brasserie
Metro station Cadet
turn right and right again

our heartbeats echo sirens
our tongues are tied
in tired throats
we want to roll the names
between our lips
like French kisses
but we are parched

when we arrive
at the Hotel Strassbourg
Rue de Montholon
leaning out on the balcony
smoking Gauloises Disque Bleu
every bit the Parisians

my belle de jour
my plus belle de nuit

as the night falls on the day
we join the crowds in Pigalle
sex shops and harlots hussle
we hold hands and smile
ce soir mon amour
I whisper in your ear

and tomorrow Père Lachaise
because you want to leave
a cigarette for Jim Morrison
and say bonjour to Proust
and non je ne regrette rien
to Édith Piaf and Oscar Wilde

and the day after that
the corridors of the Louvre
with Turkish Bathers for me
and Liberty Leading the People
for you before

we arrive at our conclusion
under a brightening blue
September brilliance
not quite Yves Klein
more Pompidou pipes
or Monet at Giverny

let’s stay here forever you say
or until the money runs out I reply
but the Gard du Nord beckons
and the ferry will take us home
from this fantasy

Scan_0004a

 

 

 

tellurian

I have watched
as you trampled growing seeds
and poured scorn on these summer days
I have watched
as your shadow grew and cast a darkness
like a deepening sorrow over beauty
I have watched
as you laughed in the face of happiness
with a heinous grin of self-satisfaction
I have watched
as you tried to destroy all that you created
or claimed to have loved in the name of what?
I have watched
as many have cried and I am not sure why
such bitterness fills your heart
I have watched
as my wrists have bled the last vestiges
of hope and forgiveness
I have watched
but I can watch no more as the sun sets
on this last earthly hour

ice creams on the pier

in the distance
Beachy Head

we all wore sunglasses
– enjoyed the sea breeze

talked about
this and that and the other

and later – when the tide
had come in on our thoughts

we shed some tears –
the seagulls kept me awake

I lay there at 5 in the morning
imagining swallowing pills

one after another
until the bottle was empty

my face white as chalk
the tide now far from shore

and in the distance
Beachy Head

 

don’t be late

the day starts and ends as a series of rituals
composed of prearranged stepping stones
with carefully laid-out objects as waymarkers

getting lost along the way is not an option
alarm clock set for 6.28 precisely
face and torso wash
a measured combing over of what’s left
clothes laid out in an orderly fashion
dressed for breakfast in suit and tie

there’s porridge in a packet
no mess microwave
bowl and spoon rinsed and dried
back in the cupboard
cup of tea no sugar
shoes to check and polish if needs be

on the toilet he counts backwards
filling the vacuum as his bowels empty
spare moments like this when nothing happens
are like traffic jams with blaring horns
cleaning teeth will calm him down
flossing will bring further contentment

a deep breath by the front door
fingers on polished brass handle
count to ten and open wide
step outside and close behind
down the front path and through the gate
the point of no return

don’t be late