• AHEM

    After Ginsberg
    I saw the best suits of my parents' generation
    destroyed by poor tailoring, synthetic fibres
    and hysterical lapels,
    dragging their shopping down the high streets
    of Albion in Pacamacs with hairdos under
    hairnets and headscarves,
    Brylcream-headed husbands burning pipe tobacco
    in walnut bowls and inhaling through
    the clenched teeth of repressed ardour,
    who feared the wind rush in the negro streets
    of Victoriana blowing the sounds and smells
    that threaten the unfamiliar and didn't
    even know Elvis Presley existed yet,
    who got drunk on home-made egg-flip at Christmas
    and sang the old songs around the piano
    while their kids were happy with a tangerine
    and dinky toy,
    who saved so that one day they might have
    a little car and be saluted by the AA man
    as they drove by,
    who were all the time boiling vegetables to eat with
    Spam while listening to the radiogram valves
    singing hot with Family Favourites and after sprouts
    there was Much Binding in The Marsh until
    Billy Cotton cried out WAKEY WAKEY and
    Bandstand glowed out in the deathly grey
    of cathode rays,
    who on Fridays went dancing up the club in sixpence
    a week Montague Burton suits and crammed into
    eighteen hour girdles and mail order dresses with
    their blue hair piled on top, but just too soon to have been teenagers,
    who tripped out to Skegness Vimto-fuelled in charabancs
    to shine under Billy Butlin's neon "our true intent is all
    for your delight" while being served brown ale by lasses
    from Doncaster in grass skirts under plastic palm trees
    in The Beachcomber Bar,
    who never used the front room but kept it pure and the
    antimacassars pressed for visits by doctors or
    vicars or teachers for tinned salmon and tinned pears
    and tinned milk and polished their front steps
    and never ran out of string,
    who knew their place and never thought the universities
    were for the likes of them but prayed for office jobs
    for their children and stood for God Save The Queen
    at the Empire and said how wonderful their policemen
    were and fought in the war for the likes of me,
    who had more words for toilet than the Inuit have for snow
    and put their teeth in jars then slept in their vests
    under candlewick counterpanes in cold bedrooms
    with dreams of winning the pools and bungalows
    in Cheshire with inside loos and labour saving devices,
    who at dawn trod into brown slippers onto cold brown
    linoleum and could only face the day through the
    sweet brown haze of a hundred cups of tea and
    twenty Capstan full strength.... more »

  • DISTANCE

    Suddenly June catches her breath,
    wakes reeling from the vertiginous
    blurred curvature of the earth,
    its unappeasable distance
    where she hangs, voiceless.

    Below, lines of silver
    slowly pull into focus,
    she sees three rivers.

    These rivers are survivors
    coursing through canyons
    of beasts and wild flowers,
    like blood through veins.

    They carry her with them.
    This isn't a dream.... more »

  • TALKING

    I just talk too much I talk too much
    never shut up if you cut me in half
    with a spade I'd continue to talk
    for up to nearly an hour from both ends
    I'm more send than receive
    have never had an unexpressed thought
    in my life the path behind me is littered
    with the hind legs of donkeys
    and those times when you should just
    shut up
    that's when I talk even more
    let it tumble out no matter how incriminating
    there would be no need to tie me to a chair
    and slap a rubber hose into the palm of your hand
    for I will sing like a canary at the politest enquiry
    tell you more about myself than you ever wanted to know
    give up my own children just for a chat
    in fact I can guarantee that the most hardened torturer
    will soon be sewing up my mouth
    to stop me telling him what I know
    but I shall only rip my mouth open
    spit out my broken teeth and carry on talking
    through my tattered bleeding lips
    and what I don't know I don't let worry me
    for I never let lack of knowledge get in the way
    of giving an opinion why should I
    I've a habit of repeating myself
    I've a habit of repeating myself
    that was pretty obvious right,
    but you try talking non-stop
    and not saying something pretty obvious
    along the way and if you're one of those
    quiet people that just looks then you're just
    asking for it without actually asking
    if you see what I mean
    but you can't just stand and look at each other right
    and if you're not going to say something
    then I have to simple as that simple as that
    so it's your own fault don't glaze over
    when I'm talking to you if you want this poem to stop
    sometime in the next hour then for God's sake
    do something useful, go and fetch a spade.... more »

  • THE BATH

    Crow-eyed nurses watch the faint echo of a man
    in six inches of bath water, silver-white lithium
    drifts metallic through his blood stream, the span
    of his hand in front of his face takes the low hum
    from his mouth, returns it as a pebble to his tongue
    for him to swallow, keep in the swim of his belly
    below the muffled drum of his heart with all the rest.... more »

  • VANISHING POINT

    The rear window flickers into life as we pull away,
    the uncertain image of a boy on a bicycle appears,
    behind him a painted backdrop of the avenue,
    its sycamore trees and pebble-dashed houses:

    Piggotts', Mitchells', Mrs Donnelly's with all
    its confiscated footballs, her poodle yapping
    at the fence. Children's games are caught
    in mid-air, at the height of their action.

    Uncle Philip turns onto the busy road. The boy
    pedals like mad to stay with us, but we stretch away
    and leave him stranded, disappearing.

    Then there is just white light
    and the loose flapping sound
    of a film end escaping its gate.... more »

  • VICTOR

    ‘True Stories of Men at War'
    As fathers stroll home from work
    there is no birdsong and the November light
    is all but gone.

    Small boys run amok in avenues,
    take cover behind privet hedges -
    the smell of cordite, heavy in the air.

    Over the traffic, the sound of battle:
    grenades whistling overhead, the sporadic
    rattle of toy guns from doorways.

    At tea time, those whose turn it is
    break cover, make a zigzagging run for it
    shouting - ACHTUNG ACHTUNG.

    They go down in a hail of bullets,
    competing for the most dramatic death.
    The pavement is so littered with Germans

    the men must pick a way through
    to reach their gates and take their sons
    down paths into quiet houses.... more »