Friday, 1 December 2017

'The man with no umbrella'



The man with no umbrella    
                                         
The man with no umbrella
lives with a raindrop in his ear
it gossips of tides and oceans
how the dogdays
would see it mist out of the waves
how it would find them again
at the dark swing of the weatherglass

its earliest memory
it insists
is of waking to itself
amongst the toils of Eden
binding with the millions
to pour down on Adam and Eve
marry them fast to their guilty clothes
so hard
the sword of the sentinel-angel
rusted like prayer

it crawled it says
in and out of the bitten apple
which tasted of a colour
you wouldn’t wish to dream

over time it has mimicked
a tear on a cheek
and so sealed misunderstanding—
where kindred pairs have parted
hidden in separate footsteps
while the ill-sorted have pushed on
biting their lips  

for this the raindrop is sorry

the man understands but just stares down
he has lived so long
he has nothing of his own to hear

if he thinks at all
it’s of the umbrellas
he’s left among the years
the trains they might still be riding
the music that might still be stuck
among their folds
with the click of last lights
the long gasp of dark
across a concert hall

it was bad admits the raindrop
but not bad bad
just that the dove overshot Noah’s prow
the million drops
had to bulk a last squall
to turn it back

of course
it might have been making
for a land of birds elsewhere
happy to let the ark turn
to a drifting bonescape

in which case says the raindrop
I wouldn’t be here
feeling the smoke of your mind
you wouldn’t be picturing where you are not
as it fills up with umbrellas

the man hears this and doesn’t
he is looking at a long-ago summer afternoon
a Friday with time caught between strikes
four-fifty four-fifty-five
a campus and everyone gone
departure tugging hard at the world
the world digging in like a mule

he stands in an adjacent park
the campus gate he came out of
will stay bang shut
till an autumn he won’t be in
all that quitting smells heavy as musk
as a raindrop rolls off a leaf
another and another
waking him for the first time
to his open throat
thin collar
empty hands       


                                           



Saturday, 5 August 2017

'The Blue House'



The Blue House
Locquirec Harbour, Brittany 

The light beneath the door
is the only noise she makes
as she draws the curtains
right over left
cancelling the sinister
so she will not make a slovenly death.

She had a brother once
loud upon the mornings
who for a season
was mistook for a sailor
found himself on recurrent watches
with only the frets of Archangel to eat.

When he was home
he would terrify their father’s books
rearrange them by maybe breadth of spine
or double-vowels in titles
bless the shelves thus discomfited
hitch rides to his lady in Morlaix.

Sometimes brother and sister
would walk the harbour wall
out and back as the day wore through gull-crow
delivery vans   early shell-hunts
ice-cream altercations   hometime brushdowns
evening canopies jigging the set of the sun.

The summer before their mother died
he painted the shutters blue –
a bout of intent and skilfulness that shocked even him
and took in also the tresses of the yard
the gate that ever after
denied the wind the pleasures of a scritch. 

She misses him
she has nothing
he had nothing but could at least
rub his hands at his boisterousness
whenever the world
opened him the odd cranny or two.

As evening finds its first sleep
before she is left curtain under right
she stands out front
looking up at the house
feeling the blue like a hug
a prayer that fights for an answer.

Locals blow goodnights about her
now and then she replies
so one corner of the harbour-way
is a thrill of small sound
patient enough for the moment
when it must give the night back to itself.




Friday, 5 May 2017

Stepping down from duty


'Piglet?'
'Hmmm?'
'Have you seen Eeyore lately?'
'Just yesterday...'
'I think you're supposed to add "as it goes".'
'Ah...yes...sorry.'
'How is he?'
'Stepping down.'
'How stepping down?'
'Well, presumably, from where he was to where he'll be.'
'Why?'
'He says it's for others to take on the baton.'
'I love that song: "Take on the baton / We'll have a baton of fun / Take-"'
'Pooh!'
'Sorry...baton?'
'Responsiblity.'
'Of?'
'Staring disconsolately into pools of water and agreeing with that nice rambler Mr Beckett that, well, something is taking its course.'
'So what'll he do now?'
'Stare disconsolately at the sky and agree with that nice rambler Mr Beckett that we're on earth and there's no cure for that.'
'Ah...that'll be good for him.'
'Change is as good as a rest, Pooh.'
'Arrest for what?'
'Mud coming up. Watch your paws.'
 
 




Sunday, 5 March 2017

'Juniors'



Juniors 
(from my forthcoming collection)

1
Jacqueline Burdett

We were in the same class
at primary school.  Shared
the same birthday.  One year
were told to stand up
so the room could sing
and toast the nothing we’d done.

Slight, she was, freckled:
tawny keeps coming to mind.
Already bringing on a bit of a stoop
to oblige the afterwards.

You’d glimpse her
slipping out to play,
edging the shadows
of the manager’s son
and the town-clerk’s daughter.

She answered each question perfectly
then retrieved her stillness,
putting the world away from her
till called upon again.

She rarely smiled,
perhaps never,
certainly not the day she and I
held an end apiece of coincidence,
like a pageant-flag
golden from a brush of sun
fluttered in a pocket of wind.


2
John Mulligan

John Mulligan was first light,
always.  He filled your eyes
with pan face, turret hair.

His voice was hornets
fighting in a pot,
a Sewanee whistle
when he was carpeted—

which happened as often
as footballs popped
or Tuesday’s beef
was fat over flesh.

His dad would goof away
the Mulligan summer
on any stage going:
Pontins, Barafundle strand,
Palma once, an incredulous busload—

was our class’s Santa Claus,
flushed and belt-looped,
speaking Laplandish
with a Skibbereen tic.

When we walked
through the morning gates,
it was a given that we be
demolished, cobbled up again
from bits and bobs of hygiene
and attentiveness.

But John had Skibbereen
in his shoulders, which would quiver
before the next joke took—

hence the dig of teacher’s fingers
in his back, at which his dad
would decamp from shoulders to heart
and in that little fortress
call showtime,

and on the ceiling
of Holy Trinity Church next door,
the cherubim would get it,
let go their swags of radiance
and howl. 


3
Ian Sanders
 
A wraith,
Ian Sanders was.
When he spoke he’d tilt away
as if meaning to tiptoe
round the outside of harm.

At eight he looked
years after, perhaps
a husband with a thin smile
who provided but walked alone,
who frowned when asked
his children’s ages.  Sometimes
the corner of his mouth would drop
and the day would drop with it.

How to explain then
the twinkle that led him everywhere,
past over-piled coats locking arms
to break their fall,
paintings of home with all the windows
urged to the edges, pots of cress
bred to hang down its hair?

It was because he got adults,
had seen round the back of their world.
He was the boy
who hides in a theatre at night
and tours the magician’s room,
noting how cabinets falsify,
how a hanky begets a dove.

So when teacher’s glare
grew aim and ruler
or Father came puttering in
to remind us how our fingerprints
were all over the apple of Eden
or we were told we’d be getting a day off
because someone who’d never know us
was being important
in a church near the Palladium,
I’d see the twinkle brighten
on the oldest face in the room,
watch as it burned into all the feints,
the sleights, the doings.  



Susan Reilly

There was only the one world
and it was Susan Reilly’s.
Fifty yards from her front door
to the school and each day
she made priceless work of it.
Hers was a nose for the good air high above,
a hand to summon in the shields and lions,
put a fan through its witching play.
She couldn’t meet your gaze dead on—
her eyes would drift up to the blue lands
where Tony Curtis lived, where Diana Dors waited
to gift her a sample of Knight’s Castile.
Royalty, Susan.  Mum was the school’s
chief cleaner, carpenter dad popped in to fettle
on his way to or from the big life.
To those of us who came out of the mists
a mile or more away, whose parents
worked on remote stars with vague orbits,
hers was a country of certain bounds
and charters.  Once she turned up
in her slippers.  When she realised,
she led our mirth, our handclaps to the brow,
let us into her Rubovia to play among its oaks.
You’d think that, for a few cloakroom minutes,
we’d tumbled a trunk of silks
in a place the colour of nothing.

A Rubovian Legend was a BBC children’s television series which ran from the mid-50s to the early 60s, using marionettes for the characters.

Holy Trinity RC Junior [Mixed] and Infants School, Bilston, South Staffordshire, 
1958-1965.