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, Through my obligatory Face mask, for only ten quid!
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.
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.
LabourersFor Arthur Knowles
On balance, we haven't much to give,
ground out of us more like, in shards of
labour we hardly call our own,
sold on like hand-me-downs, used up,
withered on the bone,
flesh weeping out of us like tears.
And when we're wrung limp,
lacking even the will to worry
more about others than ourselves,
seeing no sense in community,
we're left, allowed to grieve for the loss
darkening each corner of our lives.
So what we have is what we have to give.
We bend, we laugh, we work, we weep, we live.