The air-conditioned hum
that keeps the city noise at bay
fills my mind with silent noise
and fills me with dismay.
For I can hear the city noise
and see the flashing sights
in my mind’s eye
beyond these walls
in Desolation Heights
We say it with joyous abandon
we say it with relish and glee
Now let’s hear a starving African say
I’m famished and what’s for my tea?
She danced to a Chopin mazurka
In the arms of a handsome young gurkha
With her fingers spread wide
She got into her stride
And grew more inflamed
With her passions untamed
As she fondled her man with a smirk-a
These walls and trees are crying
Sixty, seventy years on they didn’t stop crying yet
This is a walk in the park
This is the sandy soil
This is the clean air
These are the trees
And these are the screams
of the long dead
Everything takes so long
All the pleasure has been taken out of everything
Time rushes on and it stands still.
Nothing gets done
It is better that nothing gets done.
They say an enlightened soul can hear
the noise inside the machine
beyond the shouts and whispers
that inhabit this temporal dream.
Well, we’re all enlightened souls, my friend
when we’ve a touch of flu
But I’d rather forget the machine inside
and cuddle up to you.
A Love Affair With Poetry
I had a poem.
It ran away to sea and took me with it.
We were lovers – sailed through storms,
sang in ports, in streets, in public
We didn’t care – we were taken with the time
I remember catching sight of your face many times
And being lifted, happy as only words can tell
I knew – and that was all there was to know
My poems and I ran away to the slinky sea
We were friends
Friends much closer
than my love could tie
For deep in here is where
the two of us are met
and none has entered here
and been in this fine bed
Somewhere, sometime in life you have to be a fool for love
and bend for survival
or break standing up
or under the weight
Sometimes you have to – (have to?) bend forward
and touch your forehead on the cool stone
or the warm rock
Sometimes when you are bending
you will cry
not a big heaving sob of a cry
but a small, small cry
that will not disturb you
and you will feel the weight
slip from you
the weight of everything you carried
But you will keep the you of you
Maybe your eyes will be a little bit wider
more open it will seem
and the light will be brighter and lighter
Later, when you have not forgotten all this
but it will be at the back of your mind
you will be at a memorial place
and you will split and wail
and you will stare at yourself while you wail
knowing that you are not crying
you are wailing, like a split rock
This next one is about the cartoonist Steve Bell after listening to him describe something he had done. I didn’t like it when I heard it, and the poem came quickly soon afterwards.
A Higher Calling
When he started to recount
The tale of what he’d done
His disarming little laugh
That to me seemed bold and brash
Shook his shoulders and his belly
As he gave his laugh some welly
And apologised to all
For what he’d done was very naughty
But we were to give him credit
For the way he’d passed the ball
To some poor bugger without sense
To see to see it coming, if at all.
But he was motivated by
A calling higher than the sky
So we should forgive his little error
Should we not, and not ask why?
The circus has come to town
you are lucky
you are introduced to the guy with the big flat shoes.
Boy, are you the lucky one.
He smiles; he beckons
The hairs on your neck stand up
You recognise him
He is your long lost father. How could he have known?
Does he know you? After all, you have grown.
When you last saw him you were, how old?
The tent is hushed
They know something is in the offing
The high wire beckons
The wires bite into your fingers
These shoes weren’t meant for climbing
How are you going to get down?
Where is the safety net – it was there a moment ago
Time to show you are a man
But you are not a man – you are a kid.
This is how it was meant to be
All those dreams were leading this way
You are the one.
He falls. The net is there after all.
Red macaw with pretty feathers
and eyes of blue or eyes of grey
and nose of clay and feet of feet.
How simple is the life of trees
and flying high and seeing these
mere mortals on the ground below
logging forests as they go.
Your country needs you
We sent them up in a plane to fight
Into a clear blue sky
To twist and fall in a sputtering trail
To crash, and burn, and die.
We took your sons to fight the Hun
Down in the blood and the gore
We took them away and we used them up
And now we need some more.
Can’t see the wood for the trees
In the darting movement of things
Can’t see the whole of it
The soughing of the wind in the boughs
A Designer Of Yachts
A designer of yachts from Quebec
Drove a mast and three sails through his neck
Then set sail for the rocks
Wearing only his socks
And his analyst says he’s a wreck.
Waiting For Life
Did life come out to greet you?
Did it stand in the doorway and meet you?
Did it carry you over the threshold?
Or did it stand in the shadows and wait?
He ran out of here
With his mind on fire
Swearing he’d never be back
But he came the next morning
Begging for more
And practically jumped on the rack.
She fell through the cracks
Headlong, arms not flailing
because she didn’t know she had fallen
out of reach and help
She thought she was above the cracks,
still being looked after
where she ought to be looked after
according to the rules
Her feet were small; her shoes were neat
So she slipped through
Had she had big angry shoes
They would have caught in the crack,
Someone would have noticed
And pulled her back
But that wasn’t how it was
And she fell, still smiling
to where only muffled shouts
can be heard