Changing Trains

Magpie_recycling_logo

Changing trains at Stevenage
I had the urge to send,
by way of an apology,
this message to a friend:

‘You came back from the shops too soon
and caught me unawares,
I should have been a-hoovering,
not sitting on the stairs.

I should have been a shepherd boy
upon the hill at eve,
bringing in the wayward flock,
not reading poetry.’

But a magpie stole my glasses,
stole them just for fun,
he had no need for glasses,
he had already some.

Yes, a magpie stole my glasses
as I stood by that rail,
I couldn’t send that message then
so took the homeward trail.

The Consolations of Art

On the consolations of art,
I shall not start
but lay me down in meadow grass
to watch the sunlight pass
along a spider thread.

And if the birds fall from the air
just at my stare,
I should not care
but let the world be aware
to treat me warily.

And if the family
at picnic in the field
think ill of me,
let me finally impart
that the consolations of art,
though considerable,
are not enough for love,
not by a half.

no joyful music

if there are a thousand ways
to hold back time
one would be to journey
down some unknown railway line
and by the winking
of a cheap hotel sign
slip into the forests
of the night

let the night take you
where there is no need for time
or for anything at all
till comes a dripping dawn
devoid of chorus

no joyful music then
to mark the day –
not that it would be
wanted anyway

family portrait

that man I saw
sleeping by the sea
turned out to be a rock formation
little group of three

sleeping by the sea
sleeping by the sea
while his woman rocks the baby
back to sleep
tenderly

letter to none

I never wrote to you –
perhaps I should
love ties rope round
and then it pulls
leaves us stretching
like a kid under a tree
for one bright apple
nobody sees

I don’t like apples –
never did
don’t eat fruit much
and won’t until
sweet berries lean
towards my door
and that will happen
to me no more

[first posted 22 November 2014]

freehand

once
many years ago
I drew a perfect circle
freehand

I’m only telling you this
because of what happened next

I destroyed it
it disturbed me
it still does

The Old Tin Shed

They found asbestos in the old tin shed
and told me it would take thousands to remove.
Yes, but it’s only an old shed, I muttered,
I don’t want it, you can take it away.

The next week masked men came
to the old tin shed and told me
to disturb nothing. My neighbour
had once done that and now lay dead.
One fibre is all it took, they said,
like a bullet to the head, only slower,
much slower.

It’s funny how something you know so well
can hold the seed of your destruction
like this house, this pen or the face
you knew back when.

Now the old tin shed glowers
from the bottom of the garden,
spiders and mosses have taken over.

This earth is a dangerous place, I said,
and waved them away instead.

the sum of all my fears

that mouse you saw in the hall
turned out to be a rat
admittedly small and docile
but still a rat
when I went in for the kill
it curled up in my palm
puny and piebald
its little pink fingers entwined
its tiny red eyes
watery and so very human
I should strangle it I thought
that’s what you do with rats
but feeling its neck begin to crack
like last Sunday’s chicken bones
I hesitated

I can’t do this I thought
so let it scuttle down the garden path instead
from where black and arched
like a cartoon villain
it turned to leer

now like the sum of all my fears
it will return
and I’ll be waiting

Out There

‘In the end bed,’ the nurse sighed,
and when J. arrived
he was visibly shaken.

Could this be the same old man
he had seen out earlier
on the beach.

Gone was that look of
wild knowingness,
replaced by an anxious frown.

‘You shouldn’t have come,’
he growled, not looking up.
‘It’s none of your business.’

‘I felt I ought to,’ said J.,
reaching in his pocket for a mint.
‘It was the least I could do.’

‘How I miss my old life,’ he replied.
‘The one I had earlier —out there,’
then he quietly closed his eyes.

All next day the gulls bombarded the roof,
as if searching for something,
and calling, calling.