POETRY

‘Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking’

John Wain

 

'Slivers of Identity' was written over 45 years ago, punched out on an old mechanical typewriter. I composed most of it during my student days in Sheffield from 1971-74. It is a fragmented, extended monologue spoken by a survivor from his own private, spiritual apocalypse. Whatever its merits, writing the poem enabled me to draw closure on that chapter of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Slivers of Identity                  (1971-74)

My thoughts are becoming

increasingly

                        abbreviated...

no relationship

between yesterday

and tomorrow

just a drunk

fumbling for his key...

 

This punch-drunk city

of sleepwalkers

the perfect place

to cultivate a neurosis

A kind of collective amnesia

infects you

faces frozen in transit

tranquillized stare

pawnbroker lips

travelling on a spiral track

in the flickering

neon glare...

 

‘WHAT KIND OF MALICIOUS CONSPIRACY

IS THIS?

WHEN EVEN IN YOUR DREAMS

YOU APPEAR AS A STRANGER’

 

We drink in

silent desperation

carving epitaphs

on our hearts

waiting in vain

for the incendiary angel

with his celestial blowtorch

strapped to his groin

to ignite our

desiccated souls...

 

‘Into the darkness

into the night

burns your body

flaming bright

wings of flame

wings of fire

flying on the wings

of my desire’

 

Images of prostration

the sinews of my desire

stretched taut

primed and triggered

with your cathartic

cattle-prod

crouched like a

grimacing gargoyle

gnawing at my genitals

private agonies

working up

a cold sweat

exiled from the borders

of the heart...

 

‘I shall buy a knife

with a cruel lip

a tongue of steel

to converse with flesh’

 

The yellow viscous tongues

that flicker incessantly

a nest of serpents

coiled in their stomachs

myopic understanding

carnal terminology

the goose-stepping armies

of crushing commonsense

for them

the slaughter is complete

watch them open

their mouths

and the corpses

will tumble out...

 

‘I shall buy a knife

with a cruel lip

a tongue of steel

to converse with flesh’

 

Blitz-storm

raw-edged delirium

white-heat transfusion

the embryonic route

to lunacy

where the sisters

of quarantine

dressed in their

bloodied petticoats

install the black telephones

on terminus square

 

Finally extinguished

you burned

for an instant

your body

sheathed in flame

a glorious auto-da-fe

you never dreamed

beyond your

wildest conceits

that it would come to this

but you were beyond yourself

really beyond yourself

now you stumble

through the sewer-ways

of your mind

looking for the way...

 

‘LITTLE MISS TROT

SHE’S A REAL STONE-FOX

A STREAM-LINED DEBUTANTE

FREE-LANCE OPERATOR

SELLS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

ALWAYS SECURES A RECEIPT

WHICH SHE STACKS

LIKE A DECK OF CARDS

YOU PAY FOR HER PATRONAGE

IN BLOOD DONATIONS’

 

Through the bleach-haze

slipstream of quarantined streets

pockmarked for extinction

a head-full of homicides

and a tourniquet

squeezing on my heart...

 

I become more susceptible

to fracture

through this process

of petrification

the lines of stress

are accuentuated

dark fissures of blood

my hands a mess

of live wires

awareness of a

mounting anxiety

through the gradual loss

of CONTROL...

 

The terror ignites

billowing curtains

from the inrushing storm

the drowning perspectives

the accelerating onslaught

of the nightly vendetta

the whispering fractures

that multiply

blind fingers groping

towards the final incision...

 

STITCH AND SEAL

STITCH AND SEAL

FREEZE THE HEART

WITH PHENOL

 

How we cripples

cling together

and how we disgust

each other accordingly

going from door to door

begging indulgences

 

the cancer is spread

from mouth to mouth

the kiss of infanticide

branded on our foreheads

 

STITCH AND SEAL

STITCH AND SEAL

FREEZE THE HEART

WITH PHENOL

 

Introspection

and the endless confessions

like continuing

the post-mortem

dissection of a corpse

long after

the cause of death

has been certified...

 

STITCH AND SEAL

STITCH AND SEAL

FREEZE THE HEART

WITH PHENOL

 

FEATURELESS AND OMNIPOTENT

ANDROIDS OF THE PURE RACE

 

 

Cataract

 

Broken tongues

Incapable of speech

The phantoms of their desires

With nothing to give

Except their despair

 

They stagger

Like ship-wrecked galley-slaves

Down drunken pathways

Looking for their chains

Wearing the frozen smile

Of imbecility

And endlessly reciting

The cradle-songs of madness

 

Hanged man

Your body lies staked

To the river-bed

A cataract has filmed your eyes

And the fishes gag your mouth

Seeking their spawning-ground

New text box 

 

Ambassador Hotel; 1.44am, June 6th, 1968

 

I dreamt of the woman

in the polka-dot dress

mascara like powder-burns

around her eyes

her ballistics juggling

carnal permutations

in my stir-crazy mind

 

We dance and ricochet

through eye-witness hysteria

delineating fatal trajectories

as I join the dots

on her dress

 

‘Is everyone ok?’

were the last words he said

shot point-blank

in the back of the head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You bring me flowers

 

You bring me flowers

as if I were

a convalescent

recovering from

your indifference

 

 

You bring me flowers

which only serve

to remind me

of your absence

 

You bring me flowers

and bereaved of

your love

I accept your condolences

 

 

 

 

 

Hypochondria

 

Hypochondria

an unhealthy pre-occupation

with self-preservation

an occupational hazard

for all those

over an age

when your learning-curve

slides to skid-row

 

How fiercely you protect

your moribund secrets

when you have nothing

left to expose

except your complicity

 

Like an anorexic

at the feast

your heart cauterised

by the keyhole surgeon

a witness to your betrayals

and duplicity

 

Impossible to ignore

to forget

it’s easier to bury

than forget

as the saying goes

 

Origami Man

 

 

Sometimes I lose control

my equilibrium

my sense of proportion

and I stagger and reel

like a man suffering from vertigo

 

And sometimes I say

spiteful things

to force a reaction

and give a focus

for my frustration

 

It happens more frequently

these days

no rhyme or reason

folded into my depression

so complete

 

an origami masterpiece

 

Illustrated Poem for Christmas booklet signed by the poet available price £3 plus p&p. Please contact me for details.

 

Poem for Christmas

 

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

all the hidden skeletons

are coming out to play!

 

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells

Jingle all the way

stock up on booze & sedatives

                      the family is coming to stay!

 

I’m standing under the mistletoe

hoping for a grope and a snog

but all I get is;

‘shove off,

go toss yourself

 you randy old sod’

 

 

I remember a time

           when the girls

would chase after me

now they look

with faint disgust

and run away from me

 

‘Does anyone want a kiss?’

I cry plaintively

‘I do, I do!’, comes a reply

from behind the Christmas tree

 

‘Where are you

come closer

I cannot see so good

let me see who’s desperate enough

to want a kiss from me’

 

‘I’m here in the corner

can’t you see!

getting drunk on formaldehyde

                      and dressed in a winding-sheet’

 

‘What did you say?

come closer

I cannot hear so well

it must be Christmas after all

come here and ring my bells’

 

I’m coming old man

don’t you fret

I’ll kiss you so hard

                     you’ll drop down dead

 

               

I remember a time

when the girls

would give their

favours for free

now I have to pay hard cash

for a little intimacy

 

Her personal hygiene

leaves a lot to be desired

her teeth are rotten

her sell-by date’s expired

 

But beggars can’t be choosers

to coin another phrase

so under the mistletoe we embraced

and with that kiss I sealed my fate

 

 

Mistletoe is a parasite

          on this we all agree

so it came as no surprise

when it started to feed on me

 

It took root on my hair

and quickly began to spread

it drained what goodness

 remained in me

and left me for dead

 

With mistletoe arrows

                      blind cupid did pierce me

while Loki dances a jig

and from my wounds

wild flowers did grow

a bouquet to unrequited love

 

I grow old

I grow old

they want to put me

in a home

 

 

The ghost of Christmas past appears

wearing a diving suit

he puts lead chains around my neck

and drags me to the ocean bed

 

Look and see!

Look and see!

he points to the murky depths

 

I see a graveyard of sunken galleons

with their painted figureheads

I can hear them faintly singing

singing their sad laments

 

 

I grow old

I grow old

they want to put me

in a home

 

I walk in leaden boots

across the ocean floor

pushing a shopping-trolley

looking for souvenirs

 

The checkout girls sit behind their tills

I can hear them calling to me

buy one and get one free

they coo provocatively

 

 

I walk in leaden boots

with a diving bell on my head

moving in slow motion

looking for the dead

 

 

The checkout girls call to me

from the ocean depths

Jump in! Jump in!

and drown in your regrets

 

‘What you want for Christmas dad?’

my son asks of me

‘viagra and a colostomy bag son.

and a packet of herbal tea’

 

Then the ghost of

christmas present comes tapping in

swinging his white stick like a scythe

wearing asbestos gloves and sunglasses

he tells me to fall in line

 

 

Look and see!

Look and see!

he points with his cane

 

           

 

I see pillars of salt before me

carved into effigies

lovers in a barren landscape

frozen in a wreathed embrace

 

I grow old

I grow old

they want to put me

in a home

 

 

‘What did you get for Christmas dad?’

my son asks of me

a blackmail letter from Santa Claus son

and a barbed-wire Christmas tree

 

Time draws cruel caricatures

from our glory days

he takes our youthful features

distorts and disfigures

and does not spare us the pain

 

The ghost of Christmas future

shuffles in to dispense more pain

feeding on my guilt

through an intravenous drip

and clinging to a walking-frame

 

He takes me to a crowded hospital ward

with row upon row of beds

all full of terminal patients

waiting impatiently for death

 

Their faces have that cheated look

as if life’s short-changed them

but who gives a fuck

we all start out with a nice clean sheet

until ‘graffitied’ by life’s obscenities

 

In the ward the nurses come and go

talking into mobile-phones

 

Look and see!

Look and see!

he points with palsied hand

 

I see one bed

         screened from view

I can hear strange animal sounds

like noises from a zoo

 

I part the screen with a sense of dread

I see my corpse lying there

in a zipped-up body bag

 

Besides the bed are three monkeys

chimpanzees by name

they’re playing pass the parcel

a traditional party game

 

 

In the ward the nurses come and go

talking into mobile-phones

 

I hear the music start

it’s a sombre funeral dirge

they’re getting more and more excited

as each wrapper is ripped away

 

Eventually the prize is revealed                                    

to the monkey in the party hat

                      he’s holding in his paw

                      my bloodied heart 

                      still going ‘pit- a- pat’

 

‘Eat your heart out’ he gibbers

giving me a knowing look

he hands me my beating heart

 and starts to run amok

 

 

 

Eat it! Eat it! the monkeys scream

shaking their heads about

so not wanting to disappoint

I place it in my mouth

 

But as I tried to chew

it grew inside my mouth

I coughed and choked

and tried to spit it out

 

It grew and grew

until I felt my jaw would break

I couldn’t swallow or spit it out

I was in a proper state

 

        Then I heard someone shouting

and a hand pushing against my back

wake up! wake up!

you’re giving me a heart attack!

 

Wake up! Wake up!

you demented old fool

my wife chastises me

you’ve been having nightmares again

go and sleep in the other room

 

But as I lie

                      in a clammy sweat

shivering under the sheets

I hope this Christmas

will grant me some release

from the dreams tormenting me

 

So Merry Christmas

one and all

I hope you get

what you deserve

whichever god you

happen to serve

 

 

 

 

 

Sober Nightmares

 

They’ve been gathering

 on the edge

of your peripheral vision

gathering with intent

now they’re banging on the door

demanding recompense

 

Armed with their psychic bombs

ready to detonate their retribution

their fevered pyrotechnics

each with a lurid story to tell

 

And you know you’ll wake

at the suicide hour

and the room will be

thick with your fears

a breeding infestation

that only daylight can dispel

 

And in the morning

Tearful and contrite

Penance served

Until the next sober night

 

Doomsday Clock

 

Tick tock

tick tock

who can stop

this doomsday clock?

 

I want to clip time's wings

and lock it in a cage

feed it with junk-food

the remains of the day

 

Feed it with the crap

of the day's repast

the trivial pursuits

the mundane tasks

 

Feed it and gorge it

until it's bloated and fat

clog its arteries

give it a heart-attack!

 

Tick tock

tick tock

who can stop

this doomsday clock?

 

 

 

Grape Picking in Epernay    2018

 

‘Enchantee  as the French would say

 The grapes of wrath in Epernay’

 

It was the mid-seventies

As I recall

That graceless decade

Of glam-rock & tank-tops

 Platform soles and kipper ties

It’s a wonder I survived it at all

 

Languishing in a bedsit

Above a shop

On the dole

And on my own

 

My roll-ups got thinner

 by the day

While waiting for my giro

From the welfare state

 

I rolled my ciggies so thin

Someone thought it was a sign

Of time spent inside

And in truth I was a voluntary exile

Quarantined from life

 

When one day

 I saw an ad in the local rag

for a working holiday

picking grapes in France

 

In the village of Chouilly

 We did decant

 To a farm near Epernay

In North-West France

 

We were a motley bunch

Of dissolute students and police cadets

Billeted together

They looked with disgust

 at our degenerate mess

 

 

 

From reveille every morning I would recoil

For coffee and croissants

Then out to the vineyards

To begin our daily toil

 

We were paired in two’s

To pick the grapes

Along the rows of vines

My fellow worker

Was a student in philosophy

who would constantly opine

the theories of Exististialism

a popular philosophy

of the time

 

‘Hell is other people’ he would proclaim

While munching on some grapes

A sentiment to which I could painfully relate

His incessant chatter over these matters

Did make my poor head ache

 

With the police cadets zest and vigour

I could not compete

 they complained I spent

too much time asleep

 They snitched to the farmer

I was a bit of a slacker

So his wife patrolled between the vines

Waiting for me to step out of line

 

‘Panier!’ she would shout

Looking directly at me

Her gallic wrath I did truly fear

From all that bending down

I got sunburnt behind my ears

 

 

The French latrine

Was a mystery to me

Having a number two

Proved a perilous thing to do

Crouching for the hole you hoped to hit

And prevent yourself being covered in shit

 

Occasionally Madam Geroux

Would switch on her radio

 She  swung her hips to and fro

As she listened to the voice

Of Matt Monroe

 

‘Wednesday’s Child’ was playing

As we laboured in the fields below

And though the song was not to my taste

The lyrics I could painfully relate

 

'Wednesday's child is full of woe

Wednesday's child cries alone, I know

When you smiled, just for me you smiled

For a while I forgot I was Wednesday's child'

 

For I was born on that fateful day

According to the nursery rhyme

My mother’s memories of that time

Where of King George VI’s demise

 So something of that funeral air

Must have tainted me

 For I’ve been in mourning ever since

 

There was a girl who caught my eye

In truth they were in short supply

A Cornish girl as I recall

She held my pilgrims heart in thrall

But my penitent fervour gave her a scare

 for salvation she said

 I must look elsewhere

 

Besides she was three months gone

 she did confess

from a tryst with a tutor

 during the spring recess

 

That night I dreamt I did deflower

The virgin warrior of French pride and valour

with Joan of Arc I did consummate

in a vat of fermenting grapes

 

Every evening we would dine

With the farmer and his family

 Each course was served

with bottles of plonk/wine

Not being used to drinking the stuff

Most nights I staggered

Back to my bunk

On the last night they served

 Us the vintage champagne

Which we gulped unknowingly

Like lemonade

We underestimated its strength

At the end of the evening

we were truly spent

 

The farmer’s family then stared with fright

At the cadets in drag appeared in sight

They minced and strutted like Danny La Rue

 While the farmer wondered

How they ever lost at Waterloo

 

 

Dressed in drag they strutted

While Monseiur Geroux did mutter

‘Sacre Bleu!’

‘These English boys are total nutters!’

 

I remember walking arm in arm

With the girl who’s name

I no longer recall

The drink having dulled her senses

She was receptive to my limited charm

 

We stumbled under the moonlight

And tried to join the dots

Between the stars

In an attempt to divine our fate

 But stranded with our sensations

We settled for one last

drunken embrace

 

 

Truly my mind is like a sieve

Only the dross and sediment remains

Anything of any consequence

Got lost down memory lane

 

Like Brugeul’s beggars we stumble

Oblivious to our fate

To the cesspit of human folly

Where disillusionment awaits

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