On the Outskirts of Boredom
It seemed there was little left to undertake,
not a thing that was worth the bother of,
like unwashed plates or crumpled unmade beds,
unweeded gardens, lawns that should be mown,
that cupboard door still hanging by a hinge,
children's washing rotting in a pile
and lists of things to do thrown in the bin.
Half a dozen novels in a heap
confirmed his inability to end
those tasks begun half-heartedly at best
before the pall of ennui cast it's gloom,
much like ecliptic light cast by the moon
intervening where there should be sun.
Bills unpaid and mounting on the shelf,
the car besmeared and quite a riot of rust,
the path unswept, a rot of autumn leaves,
that smashed tile letting rain in through the roof
and all he wants to do is have a rest,
take evidence, think certainty is proof
enough that, finally, there's little left
but mounting an attack on those that shriek
adherence to the chains of common sense;
that petit bourgeois sanctimoniousness
implied by Sunday roasts and polished cars,
sane views on immigration and the fact
we all know who's to blame for unemployment.
The leaflet's half completed on the screen,
the hard disk's unfragmented space is small.
It crashes twenty times an afternoon
until his anger dissipates like smoke
and clarity that what he's doing is crap
descends like waves of sunlight through a lens.
The half drunk cups of coffee stain with rings
the window sill he'd placed them upon.
He finds another cup beneath the couch.
The coffee's grey with spores of mouldy milk
and, further in, the plate baked hard with sauce
he'd had with pie and chips the week before.
The campaign faltered then. He recognised
the effort was not worth the anxiousness
implicit in a project of this kind.
He briefly thought of tidying the place
before the evening news made sure he wept.
Yet when his tears were hardly dry, he swept.
And so, you whispering to me
mixed lucid diction with a truth
appearing almost silently.
Your breathing held a promise both
wise and soaked with sensuality
like a rose's rapacious growth.
I blushed when you, with such gentility,
formed perfectly with your mouth
the means of whispering to me.
The street is full today
of faces that I know.
I see them everywhere
in dreams that we all share,
that pulling undertow,
subconsciousness at play
but vivid in my sight.
How is it that we lost?
What led us here? What cost
is mounting? Where is light?
Who are we among?
The vision of yesterday
is overtaken, gone.
Yet struggle still remains.
We calculate the gains,
those we count upon,
those we'll not betray
despite the fact we're weak.
So where now do we turn
to beat back what is dark;
that confounded oligarch
who ever strives to burn
those very things we seek?
I like travelling backwards in trains,
Tinkering about with the drains,
Encountering muggers in parks,
Failing to beat snooker sharks,
Being at the back of the queue
When petrol deliveries are due.
I like shouting out in the street
And hugging people I meet,
As long as they're suitably keen
And don't at all mind being seen
Locked in a friendly embrace
Without feeling daft or abase.
I like to talk dirty in bars
On politics, god and the stars,
On dismantling all nation states,
Tangling those up in debates
Whose preference is football and sex.
I like to find ways to perplex.
I pick on a topic and lose,
Like betting that rabbits wear shoes,
Or if the debate has been won,
Turn it round till I'm got on the run
And arguing backwards at pace
That there isn't a human race.
I like it on strike when I'm losing
My wages. I find it amusing
To picket the scabs and the bosses.
Their faces make up for the losses
A stoppage of working engenders.
After picket line duty - the benders!
I'm partial to chocolate with cider
which makes me feel free as a glider
When losing it's hawser and soaring.
The problems begin when withdrawing.
There's much to be said of addiction
So any obtuse predilection
To opine abusers are for it,
I'd really rather ignore it.
I'd like to withhold all my taxes,
Smash up cell phones, computers and faxes,
Glue locks up when no one is looking
And sign autographs Trevor Brooking!
But I'll settle for clearing the drains
And travelling backwards in trains.
The pubs are to reopen
Soon and thank landlord for that.
I can't move for bottled beer
That is cluttering the flat
And bringing me to the edge
Of alcoholic torpor.
Now I can queue, register,
To once more be a pauper,
Sup a pint or two of ale,
As I said to my mate Syd,
Right through my obligatory
Face mask, for only ten quid!
At last, you said, arrival.
The place was gaunt, no trivial
adornments, superfluous curlicues
distracting us from country views,
the long sweep of distant hill,
the air steeped in summer, still
as silence. We unpacked cases pleasantly
weighted with those presently
thrown on things
we'd brought to spoil us, panderings
to seal this as summer.
We were strangers here, newcomers
entering their escape
from lives of previous shape-
lessness. You brushed your hair out,
swinging the mane of it about
in a new found act of careless
satisfaction, as if you could bear less
the tight knot of work than this
first step to summer bliss.
The bleached, whitewashed walls,
the static-like, grating calls
cicadas made, the olives
sweet-sour smell like polish,
light, luminous and bare
as a white sheet, the air
a perfume of dust and roses.
It was like a place that half supposes
itself loved, half loathed, for all it is;
free, ascetic, full of lethargies.
I knew then we'd never leave
and I continued to believe
us there, even when back
in the cold city suffering lack
of light, astringency, darkness
scouring us out, remarkless
for whole evenings, as in our eyes
that gaunt place deposited it's lies,
it's blandishments, the ticking hope
of what is warm, an air you envelop,
savour, taunting us to submit.
The illusory, haunting, shape of it.
You said I should pick you up at five
but when I arrived to find you
still bullied by your work's endlessness,
I knew how little precision means
when timing the moment freedom strikes.
We sat at last, looking at the sea
the way an absconder does.
You took the cider to your lips,
toasting how the small ships passed,
their decks awash with fresh news.
Later we passed a pond where young
moorhens scarpered through the pondweed,
harvested fields skating with light,
that spot where a Saxon king was overthrown.
A Vegan Recants and Becomes a Vegetarian
I wish I'd never
Undertaken giving up
Both eggs and bacon
I was ready to go out,
About to leave the flat,
Had done the washing up,
Had found my hat.
I had put my lenses in
And brushed my teeth (I'm sure),
Put on my coat and opened
The front door.
I stepped out for the Tube
With all day trippers gone,
When I noticed that I had
My slippers on.
Loading Strawberries 1912
For six summer weeks it's strawberry time in Swanwick.
The air smells sweet and sodden. June is sweltering.
Carts coming down Duncan Road clatter in line,
await their turn to pull longside the sidings.
Horses stamp and shake, pile their shit onto the road.
The Railway Hotel courts the growers thirsting
for beer after hours in the fields, fussing their pickers
into production. Their hands are grime and scarlet.
They stink of jam.
The loading is slow, baskets
balanced inside the trucks. Then a sudden
shout or fist signals a dispute.
Someone is out of turn or settling scores.
Growing's full of conflict, conciliation,
grudges and gambling on weather, livings laden
into these weeks. Families can be broken
by a bad season.
The line loiters to the train
all afternoon, boys squeezing the baskets
into small spaces until the steam is rising.
In thirty-six hours Glasgow will be gorging fruit.
The guard waves green, the signal has nodded.
The station porter sweeps turds onto his roses,
watches the departure, smiles with a knowing
that strawberries aren't the only kind of growing.