I woke up the next morning,
mouthful of strong cigarettes and bad whisky.
My lungs felt like lead weights.
it sounded like Tom Waits, singing in the gutter,
so I knew there was hope.
The sun rises
It rolls over me
It goes down and disappears
in the sultry, inert air
that moves not leaf nor hair
like the breath of the dead
or the sigh of angels.
The moon follows sun
The planets align
The stars wheel overhead
In the night’s darkest hour
when time slows down
to the separation of continents
or to the beat of broken wings.
Twisted long dark hours
skin drip and turn, turn
over and back
the weight of air
sleep evades me
as does the slightest night breeze
sheets adhere to me
as does the vaguest night dream;
the first birds call
in the sticky summer night heat
in the twisted long dark hours
The road keeps rolling under two spinning wheels
and your eyes are peeled;
for anything and everything
and the heat of the engine burns your knees
as the cool air kisses your skin
and with the visor down you can see the bugs hit your face
while the wind plucks at your jacket with its airy fingers
as you change up and change down
and your ankle stiffens like a rusty bolt
and you sweat; you sweat
and the inside of your crash helmet smells like a wet dog
but it’s all OK because that’s a motorcycle;
that’s my motorcycle.
I walk the pavement,
Why would I walk anywhere else,
when I can avoid the chewing gum,
the discarded face masks,
the cracks and the dogshit?
I breathe in the petrol,
and the hum of electric cars.
Two-stroke scooters battle big-engined cars
as they vie for the same space,
for their little piece of road.
Everyone’s going somewhere,
everyone’s got a destination,
home to their evening:
the nagging wife,
the bottle of wine,
the TV sound,
the steak dinner.
A thousand thoughts in a thousand cars,
a thousand distracted minds
all wanting to get where they’re going…
or maybe not.
A thousand different things to do,
but no one’s doing what I’m doing:
while avoiding the chewing gum,
the discarded face masks,
the cracks and the dogshit.
Cat walks freely,
Cat sees who he wants to see
and hides from those he doesn’t.
Cat takes a stroll through the garden;
not his, obviously.
Cat goes where he likes,
where and when and why.
Cat sees things in the dark
he sees things we can’t
Cat sees spirits of the departed
and he doesn’t let it worry him.
Cat could hunt;
but decides not to.
It’s in his nature
but not his character.
Cat snarls at the birds
twittering in the trees
why should he climb up,
when he’s found a place in the sun instead?
Cat decides he’s hungry
and moves from his sunny spot,
in through the catflap
and into the kitchen.
Cat looks at the empty bowl
and thinks he should have learned to hunt.
A two hour lie-in or two hours wasted?
Head afuzz with insufficient sleep
At least that’s how it felt when I woke up
flicking on the little alarm clock light
with a dry mouth, warm pillow, cold nose
Who turned the heating off anyway?
A two hour lie-in on a dark winter’s morning
Not exactly an incentive to get up
A reading light under the covers,
A well-thumbed copy of Factotum in hand
Bukowski going from drink to drink, job to job, hole to hole
And me thinking it’s time to get up now anyway.
The subtle scream of a distant ambulance
the harsh cry of a crow
the hum of the elevator
and her soft breathing beside me.
The fingers of dawn yet to creep through the blinds
the alien glow of the alarm clock
the annoying too-early church bells
disturb the darkness of the room.
I get up.
4am and the world is unmoving,
until I step outside.
The air is warm and still and
the terracotta tiles are cool beneath my feet
A half-moon headlight casts my shadow
A scattering of stars against a black velvet backdrop
Mars; loud, red and angry
and the owls compete for who can hoot the loudest
and I, alone, breathe the morning
and I, alone, feel the morning
and I, alone, become the morning
and I, alone, am the morning.
Black mountain against a grey marble sky
No technicolor sunrise this morning
I beat you to it
There are more than fifty shades of grey
in this sunrise.
This morning is Cagney and Sheridan in
Angels with Dirty Faces
This morning is Bogart and Bacall in
The Big Sleep
This morning is a noir dream
This morning is black and white.
the year thins to an end
and I too seek closure;
of my eyes in the darkness
(well, temporarily at least).
My thoughts flash like festive lights in no order
and my mind considers things like political parties
and grey life under the Stasi,
of free-flowing intellectualism
and cold, uncaring capitalism.
I think of flights and holidays
and rhythmic train journeys
hurrying to their destinations
where destinies await the destined.
I think about the sun
and where the winter has gone
(It will be back to bite us on the ass,
I think about you and me
wind-blown from the sea.
but the waves do not.
Staring at four bare walls
No sound, just silence
Not even the mechanical sound
of time passing
as a welcome distraction
The silence isn’t deafening
but the thoughts are.
If they had colour
it would be grey
If they had sound
it would be a low, lost hum.
The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap,
tightened to the full yet still…
drip, drip, drip,
like some mad aquatic clock
or a water deity’s idea of a joke
and where does all this water go?
Does it race along the tubes and pipes
only to be unceremoniously
into some shitty sewage treatment works?
Or does it instead splash happily along
those tubes and pipes
and find itself jettisoned
into a little stream,
just a trickle at first
which is then joined by others,
left to the same fate
and together they form a river
which gets faster,
noisy, rushing water tumbling over stones worn smooth
and dancing over rocks and waterfalls
and down, always down until finally,
in the distance,
there’s the sunlight’s reflection on water
and the river’s pace gathers
and drives on
then, finally, pours into the sea
where the drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap
becomes waves upon the shore.
A fingernail moon falls down the evening sky
and now the wind has dropped,
from a bluster to a breath
as the frigid night descends.
The trees, immobile in their submission,
silhouette against silhouette,
branches handing like the arms of the guilty
as the frost’s frozen fingers
freeze all they touch;
and even the church bells are subdued.
A thousand firesides
lead like beacons in the night,
protesters’ torches in rebellion.
Cold is the winter night
but is vanquished by the hearth of home
Clock tick, ticking in the silence of the apartment
the apartments because there are nine in the block
I’m the only one awake at this time,
these hours where I should be elsewhere
not writing, or reading or dropping benzodiazepine for sleeping
my body aches for sleep
my mind tells my body to fuck off
get up, get going and do something
I’m on the sofa with a pen in one hand
a notebook in the other and a book by my side
the clock keeps ticking
to think that somewhere the sun is rising
somewhere else it’s setting on another day
the momentum of our forward roll takes us around
big ball of light and heat that keeps us here,
going nowhere except forward;
in space time, in real time,
(who’s got the time anyway?)
somewhere to the east of me the sun is coming up
somewhere to the west of me it’s going down
10,000 lives have just left
10,000 have just begun
we just keep on rolling. Somewhere.
split into two:
black and white
drawn and then fade
and become grey,
like the dawn;
if it ever arrives.
My eyes are heavy
and my face is sliding
like some lost Dalí canvass;
long dripping clocks
leaking slow time:
in the long dragging night.
The sax-playing Santa
sat in the shade of the subway
blowing his way through Christmas classics
and then just some classics
with no mention of Christmas;
which is good.
I could listen to him all day
or even an hour
or even 10 minutes
but I can’t;
I’ve things to do
and people to see
and places to go
and even if I don’t
I have to be doing something,
and I can’t stop,
we can’t stop
because it’s Christmas
and there won’t be another one until…
well, this time next year.
Government lies and secret files
and prepare to wade through the bullshit
as it flows on down from above
There’s no responsibility in selling arms
to someone else
for them to kill someone else
and so the hands are clean
and the conscious is clear
Everyone’s friend is no one’s friend
and around it goes
Sanction this and sanction that
and “they started it first”
and “my bomb’s bigger than your bomb”
as if they’re comparing their cocks
in the changing room
and there’s still room to change
but no one wants to
It’s all government lies and secret files
and the dirtiest clean hands
you’d never want to shake.
Wake up shattered
with bad news splattered
across the headlines,
the world’s deadline
as its hopes lie in tatters
with the continuation
of the transformation
of the sea into plastic
and the forest into sand
and the animals into memory
while the dollars exchange hands
and get sent offshore;
tax nicely evaded.
No answers needed
when no questions are asked.
Who needs a fucking conscience
when the blood-soaked petrodollars
slip so easily
into slimy outstretched palms?
Early Sunday morning walk,
Squinting in the morning light
Cappuccino with a double shot of coffee
and eyes that finally open
with the hoarse caw of the crow
and the hoarse voice of the barmaid
who must smoke a packet
or spend her life shouting
above the noise of the cutlery
being put in its place
as the coffee machine whirs
and the people sit
over their Sunday morning papers
as the cappuccino goes down
and the day opens up.
The stairs crush my knees and steal my breath
and I get to the top and I ring the bell
and I enter the surgery but the waiting room
is empty except for the noise
because the window is open
and the noise from the street competes
with the radio newsreader’s urgency
to tell me the headlines and I can’t hear them
but maybe it’s a blessing because
I don’t want to hear them because
everyone has a missile pointed at someone else
and it’s always someone else’s fault
and everyone is trigger-happy
or God-fearing happy-clappy
and it’s mine versus yours anyway
and now the smell of the floor cleaner joins in with the noise
and the headlines as they vie for my senses
and it makes no sense and my knees hurt
and I can’t hear myself think
and I can’t feel myself breathe
and then the doctor comes out
and asks me how I am…
I’m here, aren’t I?
I like to feel the cool air soothe my skin
as I stand outside on the balcony
and breathe the morning air.
I like to hear the leaves in the breeze-blown trees
chitter-chatter amongst themselves
in a language I don’t understand.
I like to see the rain roll down the window
and the streams run in the gutters,
now clean and ready to start again.
I like to watch the clouds chase each other
across the sky, racing in the wind,
making shapes only I can see.
Oh, and it’s Friday.
having nothing to say
yet you could talk all day
having something to say
yet no will to say it
staring at the pen that won’t write
or the keys that won’t type
or the pages that only turn
in the late summer breeze.
The deep-water sound of someone pissing from a height at 4.30 in the morning
before the first blackbird has it in him
to wake up and start singing
and no car hums the tune of rubber on tarmac
and the night has its own sound
a “fuck me, well hello again, it’s you” sound
and I join in the silence,
eyes wide open and mouth closed shut
and I breathe in and I breathe out
and it doesn’t do much good and I turn over
on my side and wonder if I should read by reading light
or just get up and kiss the night
so I say hi to my pen and paper and I want to write a story,
about the world and what goes on in it, within it
and all I end up writing, again, is my own.
I turn my pillow
over and over
and fuck off mosquito, you bitch
(it’s the females that make you itch)
and now the early morning crows
are crowing, or cawing
while the neighbourhood is still snoring;
and I’m turning
like an undecided Brexit MP
as I can’t for the life of me
so I get up
and stroll on the balcony
in my shorts
it’s just me and the crows anyway
in this summer heat.
The longest day,
the shortest night
The summer solstice.
The sun rising between two tall stones.
The Pagan rites of five thousand years,
Time keeping time
Too hot to sleep
A midsummer night’s dream,
Summer sticky heat.
The sweat from a thousand pores,
The longest day,
the shortest night.
This book’s “a real page-turner”
it says so on the back cover.
It’s not though really, is it?
Thinking about it.
It doesn’t turn its pages,
Pedantic I know.
Maybe I have writer’s envy.
I can’t write a page-turner
I can’t even write a page
Lately I can’t even write
Blocked like a drain;
Electric light, electric noise
The TV scream
and noise just hurts my ears
and tears my soul and
I can’t hear myself breathe
I can’t hear myself live
I can’t hear myself,