Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Walk on air

Somewhere by a tousled strip of sea
Troubled gulls fly busily
In a curdled town trading on past glories
A new life is waiting for me

Beach combers and fishermen
Will form my community
They could almost be on holiday
They have moved to the edge, untied the knotExchanged their old place for a smaller plot
There’s no shame in living in a caravan

Man’s lot is to travel hopefully
Not all of them are lonely, or sad
I will trade down my anxiety
For tranquillity – lucky old granddad

I’ll be a tethered nomad
Where the elements are broken down
Gathering samphire and sea lavender
On the edge of some faded town
The sea my friend, the sky my starry bed
Granddad is sleeping in a shed

Thursday, 16 July 2015

My dad's clothes

You are waiting for me in the wardrobe
Your slouched shape persists in wool and cloth
A form that you once inhabited
Your old green cardigan, now touched with moth
Form without breath, for they have vanished
Your thick glasses, waiting by the bed
Your sherry, your daily crossword puzzle
Lives of the great engineers – the books you read
Like your spirit, they will rise to the attic
Your wedding photo, that lived on the TV
Boy at boarding school holding ball solemnly
Your army beret, angled jauntily
Your precise rituals, never broken
Are even imprinted on your old skin
Your blurred initials, APH, placed
Neatly, for the care home, on your cardigan
And, soon to be boxed up for some charity
Your slide rule, your sanding block, your morse key

Friday, 26 June 2015

Philip Larkin

That was Philip’s room

For you, it was always the lonely interior
At nine o’clock the curtains would be drawn
On the starched damask and flock wallpaper

Note the imprisoned begonias and the neat lawn
A study in brown, some Highland scene –
Antlers and crepuscular melancholy

Everything here is cream or mushroom brown
Nature is subdued by suburban irony
Such houses have been lost to history

Old sheet music curls on the piano stand
If only the wild notes of some New Orleans band
Could impose upon this Victorian gentility

Through an open doorway I can picture you:
The tea-rings, the ash-burned coverlet
The stacked discs, your well-thumbed library

That was Philip’s room. I can imagine
Your history – faded and nicotine yellow
The faded porn, Palgrave’s Golden Treasury

Phil and Ted

The church authorities are to place a memorial to Philip Larkin in poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey, close to Ted Hughes, the last poet to be so honoured

Why would they put your slab next to his?
You the melancholic librarian
He, the bludgeon, the contrarian
Come on dean, you’re taking the piss!

He had one good trick, his blood and gore
With his nervy wives and his cruel menagerie
You viewed your companion in perpetuity
As a curmudgeon – the pub bore

You had little time for the old sod
Now frowned over by feminists
Who think you are both misogynists
You must share a cold stone bed

With the laureate, your enemy
In the draughty antechamber of God
Two lonely old men, Phil and Ted
Locked together for eternity


Fresh from welding cars these old-school hipsters
Wander quietly into the bar
These characters are small-town heroes

Their vices are hidden, like old tattoos
Slow to anger, they seek no favours
They are virtuous desperados

They chew the air, these low-slung lone-stars
And there are scars on their battered Fenders
They could kill you with one cold stare

They can nail a riff at a hundred yards
In any fly-blown, one-horse town
They can lift the mood of the hardest crowd

Narrow-eyed, they check out the room
Casually, for opportunities
Cool customers. Quicker men are dead

Those who were too keen to impress
Who did not have the economy
Of true heroes: their legendary finesse

These men have stolen many hearts
With the tunes in their fingers

With their deaths heads and silver dollars

They’ll ride in, clean up and ride out
Leaving, merely, the air ringing
A twist of smoke. No forwarding address


Today, I have been mostly going crazy
I observed, curiously, a jigsaw of clouds
And reached for their corollary in mere words – poetry

I watched paper darts cross the window hopefully
Longing for somewhere hopelessly
As if I could spear them with my melancholy

The day was night and night was day
I did not wear the mask of comedy or tragedy
Because I was mostly going crazy

Something odd stirred in the fig tree
I saw the devil’s face, a divinity
No opiate would sedate me

The sun came. But here’s the thing
Its black rays of some unknown frequency
Had no warmth. They merely fogged my plate

Berries stretched my nerves taut
Never asleep, I needed them to wake me
Coffee and wine, wine and coffee

Trapped in my solitary imperium
I scribbled in my book furiously
As mad as grass, you would say

I watched the clock and swung on its pendulum
Not wishing to dwell on the gloomy
Could it be that the world is mad, not me?

Friday, 15 May 2015

Fairy tale

You were the sleeping beauty
And I a shadow – your courtier
On all of our puzzled journeys
At best, I was merely a follower
On our tangled routes I would
Interrogate your mystery, your art
As if some secret formula
Could unlock your frozen heart
There was no hope for me
No magic, no fleeting touch
Could cure my melancholy
And no kiss could ever wake you
Even in the deepest wood
I loved you; you never understood

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vote for us

See that woman, isn’t she fat
How dare she go out looking like that
Here is Ed with his Oxford pals
He looks like a toff in top hat and tails
His eyes are crossed, his hair is lank
Like a teller who works in a bank
See him eating a bacon sarny
What a weird expression – he must be barmy
His plans for Britain are a sham
So meet the Camerons, Dave and Sam
With his polo shirts and shiny hair
Dave’s a regular millionaire
A normal guy with a normal wife
Leading the London and Cotswolds life
Don’t vote for Sturgeon or for Wood
Hardship and poverty are good
Good for us and not for you
The silent masses who we screw
Vote for longer waiting lists
And savage cuts to benefits
Vote for more austerity
It’s best for the economy
Ensure that socialists are beaten
By trust fund boys who went to Eton
By non-doms and by hedge fund chaps
And oligarchs in baseball caps
We require servility
So vote to keep them rich and free