Friday, 20 November 2015

In a time of war

Our thoughts move to scarves and knitwear.
As if unaware of the hostilities
a man is selling vegetables in the square. 
The whispering leaves are our enemies.

In their crimson coats, they are warriors.
Their sole purpose, to return to the ground.
‘The earth is great,’ they cry out
as they pull the ripcord and plunge earthbound.

We wear our solemnity like old clothes
with a vague sense that we have been here before
recalling our ancestors in silent remembrances.
Like they were, we are at war.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Hip hop

The studied casualness of your choreography
evokes a faint memory – the slow
transit of boot from pavement to groin
the shock of the new, flick-knife and Cromby
Where showbiz meets thuggery
see how art shines an arc lamp onto
the murky corners of reality
its shadow play echoes our anxiety
Loosely, you wear your urban finery –
we are a little afraid, but that’s the point
your badges of blood are your currency
you are not us; your art has redacted you
It has lifted you into the daylight
erased your danger, for this Friday night

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Peter Gentle – a eulogy

And so, pained of belly
and more or less broken down

I lift my head and leave this dismal isle
England – our lonely planet
Of Bo-Jo and Cameron, of Gary Bushell
of The Sun and of egregious Littlejohn
of Ronnie Corbett, who from Shirley hails
and a host of others you knew so well
of reckless evenings in Soho
and of smoke-fogged pool halls
where you learned to sharpen your cue
(you were always so nonchalant and cool)
Elegant musician, mimic, comedian
you were Croydon’s Marlon Brando
a nocturnal, blue-eyed chameleon
as elusive as a wisp of smoke
even to those who knew you

You were a suburban sophisticate
an autodidact, a habitué of Herne Hill|
a fixture of steamy Streatham cabarets
a West Norwood Casanova
an existentialist of the South Bank
You were a runner, smoke was in your veins
and concrete and puddles and lampposts
a hunter gatherer, the South Circular was your Amazon
You were a mod, a rude boy
in Crombie and Parka
a historian of popular culture
charting that of which you were made
a radio commentator, a true friend
on a night out, charged with chaos and humour
or, even, a night in
You brought sparkle, laughter
and hope. It was fun to know you
I’ll miss you, mate, and I will drink
my next pint of amber nectar for you

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Memorial to the fallen of Mokotow

These streets pockmarked by bullets and shrapnel
record, like an old photograph
the terror of a specific afternoon
the crackle of guns, a face at a window
This simple concrete memorial
protects the memory of infamy

There is no glory in tyranny
It does not wave flags, or boast
It does not parade through town
but records in simple lines
the shape of a helmet
a rifle raised carefully
a stick man falling down

Friday, 18 September 2015

Where’s Wally?

A dialogue between Apollo and Artemis

There was something warm in the old guitars
The valves that glowed in the dark
We were not like our fathers
At night, we sat by braziers

At midsummer, we were pagans
We drove westwards in our multi-coloured cars
Do you remember my old Cortina?
I was Lancelot, you were Guinevere

How did you find me here?
Who gave you my number?
I am a professional, not some pin-up
on a pre-Raphaelite poster
Your message is misogyny –

A demeaning patriarchy
You seek, clearly, to objectify
to diminish my authority
by the enslavement of beauty

Remember the squat in Amesbury
where I was busted for half a tab?
Do you remember the books by our bed?
You were my white goddess
All those years – Windsor and Stonehenge
The free festivals. Our history
When I was sectioned in Salisbury
The pigs tried to bury me

Well, you were always a little mad
To defy your parents’ authority
you made the sun into your god
with your weird version of anarchy

You didn't realise, my realm was lunar
The fleeting mysteries
of Bacchus and Dionysius
were burned up by your power

How could I disempower a deity
merely by saying that you were hot?
By the way, I worshipped you
If I have offended, I am sorry
In the modern world, all is rational
The scattered tribes of the Westway
have lost their remedies, their currency
People look at me as if I am crazy

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Walk on air against your better judgement

 To Tom

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 knot
Exchanged 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