On looking up for the first time into Southern skies.

On looking up for the first time into Southern skies

From here in the night
It's a strange, awful sight
To lift up your head
And see in the stead
Of the stars that you know,
Strange new figurations
That suddenly grow
Without some forewarning
Or permission of nations
But stand there unsteady
At infinite stations
Until the next morning.
It's very unnerving
To see them all curving
In east to west fashion,
This southerly ration.
And you feel that you are
Well, quite at a loss,
When you look for the Star
But find only a Cross.

	
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From Brighton coffee bar 1971 to London coffee shop 2017

From Brighton coffee bar 1971 to London coffee shop 2017

And here I am, sitting by a window,
notebook open flat upon a table,
watching the same rain fall into a street,
still with nothing much at all to say.
I notice though that this mid-winter day
is familiar, as rain turns into sleet,
as each and every day I've been unable
to imagine the means of denting the status quo.

Is it because, in the intervening years,
raising children, seeing them depart,
in turn raising children of their own,
a kind of bewilderment has grown?
The mind overtaken by the heart,
the vision often blurred by welling tears.
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Grundrisse

Grundrisse

Karl Marx was a funny bloke,
always writing, always broke.

He lived at a pace that was pretty hectic
polishing Hegel's dialectic,

and he taught us to see things through the prism
of historical materialism.

Now Friedrich Engels was his mate,
who he loved to love and loved to hate,

but wealthy Engels funded his pal
so Marx could write Das Kapital,

a work so learned and profound
we can analyse from solid ground.

But Karl, too, liked to fight and drink
and brought his family to the brink

of poverty with his spendthrift ways
after spending all his days

researching and writing in the British Museum
to create a secular Te Deum,

leading to a promised land
with socialism close at hand.

Though before that, the dictat
of the proletariat,

an interregnum on the way
to communism, one fine day.

Yet Marx and Engels' biggest hit,
which even opponents have to admit

gave revolution the good to go,
was The Communist Manifesto,

a work so beautifully crafted and writ
that few could disagree with it;

a succour to the working class
that equality would come to pass.

And the best of all seduction,
grabbing the means of production!,

eventually, it must be said,
but not before Karl Marx was dead.

And we're still striving, all ends out,
to bring this prophecy about.

It's one step forward, two steps back,
for what we need and what we lack

are the means to bring it to fruition.
It's not through want of intuition,

intellect, or derring do,
it's lack of will to see it through.

We sometimes make some ground, in part,
and see a revolution start,

but rarely does this task succeed;
for victory, we must indeed

act like those we would replace,
indulge in violence, with a human face,

until our hearts become a void,
a graveyard of the paranoid.

Once we start to lust for power
we get fucked up, our spirits sour,

and efforts to reorganise
the just provision of supplies

leads to fighting between old friends
for necessary means and ends.

"It doesn't have to be this way",
I think I hear old Karl Marx say

whilst on his latest drinking crawl
round public house and music hall;

"Don't put the horses behind the carts,
when Time is called, that's when it starts"!

Collections of Bone

Collections of Bone

I go where the rot subsides, the flesh fallen,
the reek now of the soil's dense aromas.
Dealing only in dry bone I wait, calling

the scavengers by name. The vulture precedes me,
the fox outflanks my quiet manoeuvres.
The earth is bouldered with corpses. Skins melt

like guttering suns, noiselessly sweating in shallow
graves, become weightless like a million
words unhinged by misunderstanding,

unclarified, false and failed loves.
It is here I can sense the terrified,
the upthrust final fist, the instant

unanswerable bullet, the sword's unending
fatal arc, the momentary loss.
And sometimes, resignation, a last blue

sky lapping these eyes dull perimeters.
Here a finger shrivels inside a ring,
here an earring sparkles lobelessly.

I, from the safety of awaiting pause in mute
systems of decay, calculate
the profits of collection, research, display.
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The Iconoclast

The Iconoclast

They gave the cheerful villain hell
For cursing in a public place
Where dissolutes are flogged as well.

Gathered there to buy and sell
The relics of a saintly race,
They gave the cheerful villain hell.

And preachers came to pray and tell
Of pious avenues to grace
Where dissolutes are flogged as well.

For challenging the faith cartel,
Which so enraged the populace,
They gave the cheerful villain hell,

For acting like an infidel
and attempting to deface
Where dissolutes are flogged as well.

Come the day we may dispel
Their ignorance, erase all trace
They gave the cheerful villain hell
Where dissolutes are flogged as well.
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Three Love Poems

There's Rain Falling

There's rain falling again
as all the month it tries
to wash away this love
which cannot be assuaged.
As if a flood could cleanse
my heart of you.

There's an unbreakable strain
that runs through our lives
since that first word
spoken in trepidation,
that first kiss taken
gladly in a single bed.

When you have left and all
this world's between us, something
of me will have gone
with you, something of you
will tear silently through me,
as every morning I wake

and softly mouth your name.
Those Lovers

Those who are
not us revolve
out there somewhere
stratospheric,
closer for being
planetary.

Being equilateral
we are two sides
of a triangle
arising from the base.
What pleasure awaits
when the apex is reached.

This image, of course,
amounts to nothing.
Ciphers encircle us.
There is nothing
but ever widening
emptiness,

like all those seas
that must be crossed
before we once
again have kissed.
The Book of Sand

Between his beginning and my ending
we pressed you like a flower
in the pages of our Book of Sand.

Every time I open you
I never read a line
I've read before.

We closed and opened you again.
We never found you twice that night
as you rewrote yourself,

our flower forever opening.

We pressed and hid you in between
two leaves, to always find you
by opening any page.

And in the morning somewhere
a cockerel crowed, somewhere
in your eye our love was flaming

as he, sleeping saintly
beside you spread between us
beside me in the stillness,

sang you inside him.
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Frescoes

I was caught completely unawares.
Linda said the church at Sous-Parsat
was worth a look. We drove a circling route
that took in Bourganeuf and bought some bread
to later spread with fruit beneath the trees
beside a source of water from the hill;
cheeses, cucumbers chopped and chilled with juice,
tomatoes on the vine, bottled beer.

Before that though she took us through the door,
a portal filled with shadows like a dream
you only half remember as you wake.
I expected all the usual things;
a faded pastel Virgin looking down
as if in expectation of rebuke,
an alter screen of oak where woodworm drilled
graffiti, unaware of sacraments,
centuries of dust and disillusion.

But what we came upon was like a shaft
of light, a clap of thunder suddenly
unleashed, a pasture full of sunflowers
glimpsed through the window of a train,
the way your heartbeat catches at the sight.
The walls, vaults, the ceiling set alight
to tell the stories, even though our atheist
ways reject these things, we know beat through us
like a pulse, a pause for meditation,
constant, unavoidable, only sensed
as breathing is, or guilt, or love.
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Wakatipu

March in Queenstown, remember the ice we climbed, 
you seven months pregnant at Fox Glacier,
sees winter start it's pour at two thousand metres,
as autumn suns itself across the surface
of the lake.

We'd arrived, hitching rides down the West Coast,
the winding roads seeing you sick again
and again, your hair, blond then,
streaming from rear windows in southern winds
and sun bleached.

Where we pitched our tent under trees
by the lakeside was latent with wild grass
and hints of gold, the Rush called off years ago,
the soil offering torn shards of it's past,
forgotten now.

The morning after I filled the tent with several
stomachs full of dry Montana White
I found you gone and searched the lake shore
without success till the surface tension broke
and you rose

reeking of Wakatipu, your hair a waterfall
rinsed of my stench and fragrant now, cold washed
clean of all my blunt betrayals, how I had
failed in the ever fathomless past and would,
you knew, again.
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Keeping it Right

Keeping it Right

We've been on strike a few times now.
We're not concerned about the reason
but for the smell of the picket line.
And when it's over, armbands stowed,
work is brighter for a time,
scabs slinking in
as we look bosses in the eye.
No one can quite hold our stare.

So when you, my father

So when you, my father

So when you, my father,
come next to pass us by,
ask again if I
would rather find you standing
strong, as once you did
to my childish eye,
with a voice that made me tremble
in both love and fear of failing you.

Or find now forgiveness
in your frailty,
your hard lines softened
by confusion, the indignity
of dependence offered
as absolution
for your judgement of
my different song.

In this there is no choosing.
The exercise of love
exorcises all
but the fear of losing love.
Ask again and you will
find me answerless,
unable to explain
the journey from your public
wrath to your private pain.
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