Me Too

I never knew who you were
till I came to sit on this chair
and stared at the embers of my life too

I never understood that fallen frowning face
the growl in your throat after
being so dashing and mustachioed.

You spat your woodbine spit in the fire.
It hissed green. You embroidered, carved, cultivated
you couldn’t care any more, there was only you.

I came to your chair. I stared.
I didn’t care any more
That was
me too






















Off His Legs

They brought me a blanket
a blanket of deep snow
for I have come to this place
where we all must go
when we’re old
and no, it s not romantic,
comfortable or warm
its cold….
























Your Father
which art in Heaven
fought mine.
They were down in the mud
with blades, hand to hand
gouging each other
not for hatred
but for survival.

My Father Killed
Your Father
Hallowed be his name.

Like you I am as meek
as any of the Blessed
and we gaze at each others eyes
not wishing to gouge them.
We make love in the mud
rather than fight.

But somehow Our Fathers
are forever and ever…….
or at least
a good while yet.















Father and Son

Some years after the war
you started to raise me
and I inexorably became
your new enemy.

Perhaps all sons
are their fathers’
worst nightmares
I wouldn’t know,
I have no sons
and am glad of it.
I do know that the only rehearsal
for parenthood
is childhood
and perspective changes
with height.

The new war lasted 30 years
and this time you were
in the logistics corps
You brought supplies
I took them but was training
as a double agent

Then I became my own revolutionary hero
complete with beret and beard
living naively in the hills
feeding from the land
coming down for the odd skirmish
then mountain retreating into
a confused hedonism
as I searched for my ethics.
I took a small serious part of you
and threw the rest away.

These were the seventies,
a time when watches were discarded
then re-invented digitally
only to be replaced again by hands.
We couldn’t get away from time
or history, but we tried.
There were only two sides in that war.
One side, the pioneers, mistook individuality
for purpose,
The other side, the long-settled mistook purpose
for right.

Pioneers always make mistakes

The best ones learn from them
and form a system.
The long-settled always make mistakes
because they have a system
and cannot see their weaknesses through it.
They are the same thing
and so they fight.

And we fought on different sides inevitably…..

Why does your modern son’s life
have to move so fast,
change come so quickly?
I should tell you
the boys who could be my sons now
but are not
move faster still.
We cannot stop this spinning career
towards the psychiatrist
the alternative therapist
the bottle
the needle
the battered parent
the bruised child,
the raging motorist
shooting a stranger
at the traffic lights.
Time goes quicker
and fills up
and clogs
the more we expedite things.

My mother believed in making the time
to make it right.
but with a wild and undisciplined passion
rose to the highest rank
refuting all the humbug
that precision means prowess.

In the 5th year of the campaign
you felt some difficulty
about taking orders from this field marshall
this experienced fighting woman
with a short temper and a great deal of vision.
The old battleaxe you called her, with a twinkle.
How I wish I’d taken your magnanimity
towards senior officers
as part of my legacy,
but of course I didn’t
for I was always in love
with one or other of them.
Didn’t know I was going to need a safety valve later
and for all I know your good humour
was just a front of placidity anyway.
You soon adapted to your own
little mutinous grumblings
for like me
you were in love.

They’re over now, those wars.
I’ve declared armistices
and buried my Kalashnikoff,
but I cried years of soul-shaking tears
doing it

You’ve buried your old battleaxe
in cold ground, remembering red hot love,
and are left with me,
some strange passionate thing of flesh
that you and she made together
not thinking of war.

When mother died
you removed all the pot plants
from the house
and became obsessed
with TV tag wrestling
and clearing bits of fluff
off the carpet
It was a vast impenetrable grief
I could not share with you.
Condolences for old enemies
are not easy even if truces are signed.
There’s so little in common
apart from the mirrors
of our bleak entrenched memories
and the common view of no man’s land.
My mother along the way
had hung up her chestful of medals
to become that no man’s land between us,
the woman we had in common,
the woman we shared often bitterly.

I felt release with her gone,
at last the pressure off,
for me there was no suddenly empty bed
no void in the living room,
no new silence in the kitchen like a fall of snow.
And I had my prime before me,
hair cut short for the eighties,
free enterprise, my beret gathering dust
in the cupboard.
A new order upon us of tension
and stress
and pension
and death.

I had never been to a funeral.

By way of pathetically imparting comfort
I introduced the concept of
drinking brandy
and you took to it….
not in a big way
like yours truly,
Mr. Guerilla excess-in-everything,
but in a moderate
considered way, and it pleased me
that perhaps it let you feel
the rest of your life a little
as well as that heart of it
cut right out
at the base….
such a sudden skillful cut…..
….it only takes seconds with a sharp knife
in the right hands
to remove most of two people….

I would ask you,
though I suspect I’m beginning to know,
What’s it like having another person
etched into you
illustrating you?
Another being
as the statement of you?
Where had my father gone
eight years before my birth?

One day I came in and
there was a stranger
sitting there
in your leather armchair
I didn’t recognise…
I concluded it must be
a man gone off archtypically hunting….
a hunter home from the hill
before he fathered me..
Small wonder I couldn’t know him.
Small wonder I once even questioned
where I came from.

When you buried your old battleaxe
I think your personality returned
from 38 years of exile.
What a changed place
your body must have been to live in,
What wonderful and disturbing things had happened there….
all those children and grandchildren!
Did you have a hand in all that?

And being so used to
that body’s endless strength…
when it started failing
to run up mountains
what strange new power

You found a new wife
but there could never be another field marshall
and you were now too grown up to take orders.

This time you held on
to a little part of yourself
and offered the rest
to be transformed and moulded
in the great and painful tectonic settling
of compromise
upon companionship.

We are Father and Son.
We can heap more blame
more anger
more pride
more praise on each other
than anyone else comes near.

I call it blood love
not a love of blood
and though I came from a battling
I thirst for peace
and am a heavy drinker
when I find it.

I will bury your old frail body one day.
When I do
I’ll remember being carried
high high on its strong shoulders
a little glimpse of the perspective
to come
for a tiny timid
blonde creature
who didn’t know what was coming
but who knew your physicality as one thing
that would always be there.

























Cold Snap

He had always enjoyed a sudden drop in temperature
responsibly leaving a tennis ball in the fish pond
so’s they could still get their oxygen
and stay in their sluggish half life through till spring.

He’d take the children sledging
encouraging foolhardy levels of speed and steepness
brushing them down when hurt
holding them with his rough idea of comfort.

They grew up with high and exciting pain thresholds
a bright love of the patterns in ice crystals
a lust for rushing wind on rosy cheeks
and a fearlessness on frozen lakes when they creaked underfoot.

He was always there in the vaporous air for them
even into adulthood, when other people started to matter
and make claims to their dependence. Father, unreliable and indestructible.
Mother,serene and cautionary…..

They were a perfect team in a cold snap.

Then one January day he wandered off during a time
when the weather was indeterminate, not knowing  whether to plummet
or soar into summer. It was as if he had been restless in between seasons,
perhaps gone to a more extreme climate
where he would be certain of his role, clearing snow, cutting firewood
gritting roads, showing children how to shine in the frost
and keep on the move to stay warm
….anyway he didn’t come back for years.

He showed up at his wife’s door many Novembers later
dressed in worn mitts and foreign skins, offering to make himself useful.
Frostbite had taken several fingers, but he was able and deft with those left.
She gazed a tired gaze into his pale blue eyes, and closed the door on him.

Then there was a cold snap.

Some days later the children were called to a room across the city
where their names had been found next to his stiff body,
they asked the policeman for the cause of death.
“Hypothermia probably”  he said,
“Alot of it this time of year”.
















When You Were Three

you’re 90 years old.
we talk of weather and sport,
the longterm primitives of a longform life
needing to get free
there are scores to consider…teams to appraise
so we watch the match
on your Sky TV
you and me

you doze, you start awake
you need to know what you missed
was there a goal, a penalty, a foul ?
you need to know
you need to see.
it’s the same bright fight in your eye
that you had when you were three






















Memories of a Biscuit

Didn’t there used to be something
called a majestic wafer in the fifties
aimed at the early rotting tooth?
I’d have killed for it at nine,
now I hardly remember
whether things were plain
or chocolate coated
in my youth

I loved it then,
had such an appetite,
like later when
I would have died for my first wife
though in fact I lived for her.
if I could just recall her name
well that would take the biscuit.






















Checkout in Beanqueue

how the man clutches a pint of magnolia vinyl silk emulsion,
holding it high like in a crowded bar,
elbows in, stomach proud, muttering an occasional “Awright pal”
… how the woman eyes him with a weary gaze…
”Stupid but useful” she thinks
as she steers the trolley and watches the prices….






















A Liking for Light

So that was that

to the room in which
he’d  echoed
during his last years,
they brought heavy
mahogany furniture
and a deep engulfing
shag pile maroon
and wall to wall carpet,
while far across the city
leaf fall in an early winter wind
attended his burial in rank brown soil

they put up curtains
and drapes of velour
with pleats and shadows
cloaking great pluffy cushions
preposterous lace mufflers and trims
clogging the generous windows

they forgot completely
he had
a liking for light























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