The Voyage Out

On the voyage out, we were becalmed
for seven days and nights,
one for each decade of an old soak’s life.
Untouched by either current or breeze,
by degrees, I grew mad
so that when the wind did whisper to me,
it was in sea dreams I could not read;
strange alphabet, strange tongue,
not known to me, or anyone,
hieroglyphs on the pavements of a seaside town,
out of season all year round.

And there I was delayed,
incanting, have remained,
casting back these stones into the sea,
words formed in extremity,
holding back the one thing I can read:
“Oh why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Walking

Out walking in the rain today,
the greenway and all points to where
the weather leads, evading clouds,
we go the two of us.

Up over hill and down again,
I drag the weary wanderer on
towards an undiscovered ground,
we go the two of us.

And when he talks, he talks in verse,
to note it down is all my work,
out walking in a shower of words,
we go the two of us.

Proviso

So close to Winter now,
thoughts turn to death.

At 4 am I find myself
at the kitchen table,
my favourite spot,
with a fresh pot of coffee
and in the company of cats
asking myself:
what do I need to do
with the time I have left?

And the answer comes
exactly this, exactly this.

It came as easily as that
with the proviso
that I might like to
feed the cats.

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.