Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012

Zen Dinner

Dinner, a lamb chop baked in white wine with
a sprig of rosemary that might have belonged to a witch
changed the shape of my teeth

first there was a tooth
then there wasn’t

All evening I probed the space with my tongue


Just this ragged place of jagged lines
that might have been mountain pinnacles
stalactites or brittle-bone icicles

I circled and scoured for hours

black space
       jagged place
       black place
jagged space

Then I stopped
slept and forgot
the truth of no tooth

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gum Boot Commute

Well as you can imagine, Uncle Ed’s sudden passing, peacefully in his bed
caused us no end of worry, yes, a real big problem
that is to say, how were we to get his twenty four stones down the
winding way of his crooked stairs in his crooked house where
nothing, wall, floor, tables, chairs or ceiling grows up straight?
There was talk of cables and hoists, planks and ropes but
somehow we made it without any of these things. Course,
throw in the super-sized coffin and the sheer bulk
meant that the tradition of close family and friends
being pall-bearers went right out the window – which
was another option we considered when we got him
out of there, past his portrait as a young boy in RAF
uniform at the start of the war – everything was thinner
in black and white except his glasses and smile. Past the
china dogs with chipped noses and out into the village where
mourners gathered and everyone traded their
favourite memories of Uncle Edgar – how he always wore
gum boots whatever the weather even on the beach in summer,
the car he bought in 1967 – an Austin A40 that never went anywhere
because Ed refused to go further than the end of the village and this:
the time he was asked to shift the chicken shed so he set to it
crow-barring the boards apart and walloping the beams
and it was hot work but he kept on until the roof was gone, the walls
were gone and there was just the floor and he took of his cap,
wiped his brow and prised the planks and yanked the nails
and chucked the timber into neat stacks when the dirt started to move
and he couldn’t believe his eyes but it wasn’t dirt or earth that moved
but thousands and thousands of grey mice that scampered this way
and that ‘shocked by the sudden daylight’ the old boy laughed, and said
there were mice in every woodpile, pantry, piano and shed
and Farmer told Ed it was probably best he kept quiet about this
day’s work so he did, walked from farm to his crooked cottage
-in his gumboots - at the top of the hill –his daily commute.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Sometimes it’s the ordinary, the banal
that can bring a sense of peace. I’m in
another city and this room is like a corridor
painted a particularly vile shade of green.
I sit at the desk and we’re a man – I should
say woman down so I take phone calls,
pencil appointments into the diary
and staple pages together to make booklets.
It’s as if I’ve returned after a long period
of illness – everyone pleased to see me
and I realise I’m pleased to see them.
Happy again among new friends      
for however long it might last.
The sky is now silver and blue
instead of its customary black.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Coffee With Ruth

I may have told her I felt like a ghost.
Yes, that’s what it’s like, being back
in the old city that once felt like home –
sort of. I did tell her I felt like a ghost.
Said it as we walked into the library
and as the words left my lips I looked
up to see another face from the past
looking right into me. I could sense
the recognition there and I’m not sure
if anyone understood what I was
trying to say – my fault, not theirs.

We had coffee – a downstairs affair
with low ceilings, oak beams and everything
tight, compact. No windows, a speaker
playing music a shade too loud, the place
bordering on too warm filled with students –
an out of the way place and I felt a strange lifting
of the spirits as I took off my coat. It was
as if I’d been admitted to a secret club
coffee arriving in a lime-green mug
the size of a soup bowl.

Later, after we’d said goodbye
I got on the bus and the feeling
came back again. The window spotted
and smeared so the world outside
was distorted and I felt like I’d been
left behind again. I saw someone
I once knew, recognised him despite
the mire I was looking through.
He waved and I gave him the thumbs up
and grinned in spite of myself.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The King Of Rock And Oil

i used to be a mechanic he says. now i just unplug bits and replace them. i try to prise the plastic casing away to get at the guts of the machine. the wires like arteries
connected to electronic muscles.

george wears engine oil like some men wear after-shave. he’s got dark skin and
good looks. in fact, he looks a lot like elvis. george, the king of rock and oil.
but now his hair his thinning. a bald spot shines like a headlamp. he chain smokes
and i don’t ever see him stopping.

are you precious about your computer? george can barely make out the letters on
his keyboard. he’s blotted them out with oil. whorls of fingerprints groove his mouse.

he wears red overalls and i think there’s a lot of pent up anger zipped up in
there. tragedies have touched his life. bureaucracy has made his work
difficult. everything written down in triplicate. in theory, he can’t even smoke in
his own workshop anymore.

but he’s still got a smile as wide as the sea.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Pearl In A Purple Bandana

Pearl in a purple bandana
sitting on the sloping roof
of her tree house.

She looks like a pirate,
a brigand, who’s
found her way ashore
found a leafy house,
a leafy village
to plunder and pillage.

Parody Of Summer

Mid-April, and the beach is packed in a parody of summer. Candy-floss sellers, the still horses of the carousel waiting for the swirling music to begin. Smell of meat, onions frying. We cut through this, our intention to reach the museum that waits housing the past at the top of the cliff. The people on the beach are wearing swimsuits despite the weak sunshine. Lots of voices speaking in other languages. We walk under the pier. Moss dangling like the green beard of some strange sea god and barnacles shining like stars on the black tar of a strut.
funnels and chimneys
like the parts
of crustaceans

Friday, 13 January 2012

To Get To The City

To get to the city necessitated a rat-scramble under barbed wire and a quick decision. A split second’s hesitation would risk collision and mutilation. The two times I did it, under cover of the darkness, we always took the left run. A scar in the ground burned by people as desperate as me. Look up, yes, he’s there. The loon-moon faced guard who watches our every move. At any moment he might shower you with spit, bullets or nothing.

When you have to plot your every move. When you start to run through the simplest of tasks in your mind: getting dressed, washing, shaving, brushing teeth. Worst of all, the whole rigmarole of eating. When you have to consider each one of these actions, play it out like a film through the projector-mind before just getting on and doing it and each act seems like something giant, wearying before you’ve even done it. There must be a name for this.

An empty cup, white as a tooth with a roustabout of coffee stains riding up its inner walls.

The strata of blackness held in a coffee pot.
Amber bubbles of delicate froth. The plunger up,
waiting to be depressed like a cartoon detonator.


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Three Pages To Go

Angels of concrete and steel.
Purple glass.

She saw a shape approach
from out of the city sky.

Sun playing tricks
on glass.

Three pages,
days to go.

The turning of a key,
the lifting of a lid.

Then her name will be revealed.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Near Where It All Started. For Me, Anyway

Strange to think of her with greying hair – as it must be now.
I always think of this place as her country.
You see those hills?
Just off to your right…

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Central Bridge

Here’s Central Bridge. It spans the railway line and a factory where they recycle cooking oil. You can smell the oil and see men down there in boiler suits wearing pink rubber gloves. They organise the blue plastic barrels in the yard. A gas-powered fork-lift farts in the breeze. Disorientating isn’t it, looking down on the city?

You wonder if these men are happy in their dirty work. A radio tuned to Radio 1 blares its numbing sound across the yard and one of the men, the one with the handlebar moustache gets a feeling that someone’s watching him. He looks up, straight at you. For a second, everything freezes, stays that way until you find yourself on the far side of the bridge, walking past the iron sign that tells you something of the history and its construction.

Now you see business units laid out in prison uniformity. The smoked glass and cool paint schemes do nothing to relieve the grimness of the place…

Here is a warehouse for a fruit and veg supplier. There’s a bench opposite – fake wood made out of plastic – and you sit awhile. Your legs ache and it’s starting to rain. There’s nothing here, you think, to distract the casual visitors from the malls.

But look, here’s a hotel – The Prince Albert. The Victorian Prince would have been alive when Central Bridge was a fine new thing. You can see wooden stairs spiralling up inside the hotel; see them through the tall, arched windows. You think about the people who have gone up and down those stairs. The lives and stories lived inside there, here at the end of Central Bridge where you sit in the rain trying to decide what to do next. Whether you should go through with it at all.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Spin Cycle

Here is a window.
It hasn’t been cleaned for a very long time.
Here, put this brick in the drum of the washing machine.
Set it spinning. Go on…

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Now Dark Comes On Proper

Now dark comes on proper.
I sleep in a chair like an old man.
A black and white cat purring on my arm.
A fire in the hearth.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Colour Of The Day

The colour of the day is a memory of a flag.
A red flag with a yellow star hanging in the night air.
Otherwise, nothing. I don’t think it ever got light.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Polyfilla Police Car

Yesterday I was considering how my Dad was a genius. I pictured him padding around in his slippers, maybe smoking a cigarette – it was still permitted then – with his sleeves rolled up. He was always up to something – on a mission as the saying is.

One project sticks like polyfilla to the cracked and porous surface of my memory. Using an empty polyfilla container to house a battery and some complicated looking electrical bits, he somehow managed to wire up the front door bell so that it sounded like a police car siren. This was when police cars had a simple two-tone dee-dah noise and quiet England hadn’t been invaded by the Starsky & Hutch whooping there’s been a murder/there’s been a drugs bust sound that’s now so common-place in villages up and down the land we barely notice it.

I don’t know how many years that doorbell lasted but it provided a pleasant diversion/conversation topic whenever someone came to the door.

The odd thing now is that I realise that my Dad was younger than I am now when he created his amazing Dixon of Dock Green doorbell. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? Remembering what your parents were about when they were younger than you?

In those days he had jet black hair like an Italian. He came to see me today and I pondered the fact that his hair is now very white and getting thin in places. We talked about the old days when Grandad was still alive. This always gets a laugh. In fact, I had to wipe away a tear.

Neither of us finds conversation easy. But had there been a lull the polyfilla police car was ready to come rushing in and break the silence forty years on down the road.


Morlock Oil

Morlock Oil
A new collection of stories available now . Click on image for details.

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery
New Chapbook Available (email rockinahill@gmail.com for details)


Bunchgrass Press

Essential guides for the journey...