When the ice-shelf shifts.
What’s going to happen to
all the ornaments?
There may be a no smoking policy
but these Asian guys are usually ok?
All right if I smoke mate? Been a hell of a flight.
‘No problem: been anywhere interesting?’
Kashmir, I tell him. He ponders a moment.
‘Indian or Pakistan?’ Indian.
‘Aah…’ We both fall silent and return.
I to the campfires, the saffron pickers;
and the Floating Gardens of Srinagar,
he to the daily shelling, the terror,
confusion, loss and enforced separation.
On the road, always moving: even now,
each long mile, taking him further away.
It’s Junction 31 mate. Almost home.
The mealy-mouthed Mercer flies his kite,
when summer’s luscious sparkling rain abates.
And the tarmac and the red brick and the slates,
are swilled and spilled with gold and silver light,
which shines on Mrs Mercer’s polished face.
All buffed and waxed and plucked and pinched and preened.
She scowls and says, “The sun should know his place,
to shine so uninvited, on One he should esteem!”
Her husband, cowed, replied he couldn’t say.
His soaring kite, whorled, wheeled and dipped and spun.
As she loathed him with a look and turned away,
Mr Mercer and the kite became as One.
He sees the sunlight liquefy his spouse,
and altitude reduce her, ‘til at last:
she was a resin-coated insect – with his house
a lump of amber, set in a silver clasp.
When I was a kid
they returned with sombreros.
Sangria and castanets;
lacquered lace fans.
Now it’s a villa.
A Timeshare apartment.
Booze and cheap fags.
I made my money that day, on the Penny Falls,
when my carefully slotted penny brought
down the whole row: momentarily fused,
it crashed hard; like a lump of solid bronze.
Half a pound heavier, and feeling rich,
I made my way up to the Marina,
where a rather sad looking dolphin, waved,
chattered and leapt through hoops, for our amusement.
From there, the Reptile House and its star attraction;
two alligators – in touching distance
through the railings. Bored and uninspired,
they lay motionless by the shallow pool,
every inch of their backs covered in coins,
thrown by frustrated punters wanting action.
Sequined alligators – Now that’s showbiz!
He seemed quite normal – unlike the perverts
we’d normally see wandering round the park.
They were easy to spot – bit grubby; bit twitchy.
‘Come over here I’ve got something for you?’
Leaving my friends I followed him into the bushes.
‘Now close your eyes and open your mouth.’
I did, but cheated – just as his dick was coming out!
At which I took off like a greyhound, across
the grass verge and back to the playground.
I wised-up pretty quickly after that.
Avoided shadows; was always ready to run;
and kept his face imprinted on my mind.
He’s there still…? Mid thirties with short dark hair:
About 5’9”; wearing jeans and a checked shirt.
Poems from The Visitor’s Book
Blue sky, yellow field,
grey gatepost, red tractor,
Three laughing children:
six legs dangling.
Grey sky, blue field,
three tractors, green children,
red gatepost, red trailer:
Sunrise skims the distant ebbing tide.
Hunched figures at the waterline revealed,
as cockle-gatherers with suction boards,
that pad the spongy sand and tease
the creatures out from underneath.
The man, who stakes his nets by ancient right.
A farmer of the sea, and not the land.
Drives out to haul his catch in from the night.
The pier’s exposed backbone rattles
out across the sand.
Deckchairs lashed to railings, shuttered booths.
A solitary gull gives out a cry; and
passing hangs her lyric on a bar,
which holds the note suspended in
an empty hollow sky.
Then stillness, but for occasional gusts;
clattering cables, loose on poles and boats.
Slowly though in unison,
landladies loose their charges, from
their gaily painted fronts.
Now all the town’s awake – yet I’m alone.
A memory, on this ghostly promenade.
The youngster in the fading monochrome:
holding a monkey, with his brothers at his side;
on holiday in Morecambe circa 1965.
I was never an enthusiast as such.
Couldn’t get excited over first day covers.
As an anodyne to rainy days and boredom,
I took up stamp collecting with my brother.
Chiefs, presidents, and fierce braided generals:
girls with garlands; palm trees by the sea.
A world within a 20p assortment
of used stamps from the former colonies.
Jamaica, Honduras, St Helena:
The Christmas Isles; New Zealand, Tanzania.
Exotic names – we’d board our ship in Blackburn,
embark, and moments later we’d be there.
Saw an Empire where the sun never set.
Returned as it descended on the West.
Poems from Portrait in Black
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
Streaks of silver sunlight on the frosted field.
Silver flecks on the dormant blackthorn.
A flash of white light on the window-pane, and I’m back;
walking with my mother along the row of fish stalls,
glistening brilliantine against the soot-black gable
of the old town hall.
Blown inland each market day. Bonneted and shawled:
otherworldly; the wide-eyed john dorys, hooded monkfish,
flat-faced flounder and gnarled, crusted oysters
peddled their wares. ‘Us ‘usbands ‘ave catched ‘em!’
They shout. I’m holding tight to my mother’s hand
as we move down the row.
Then they’re gone: back to the sea; back to another time.
My mother too slips her grip, and I’m alone once more.
It’s like that with memory. The seemingly random triggers
that turn the magic lantern; taking you back, drawing you in.
They leave, but they don’t go far.
My boy Adam. Gold in his hands, and heart.
Dorothy, who showed me glamour then died as her child was born.
John, Tom, Dad. Anchors, rocks and pillars. My metaphors.
And towers –
Not reaching the heavens.
Just trying to see that little bit further down the road.
To another place: a better place.
Portrait in Black
It’s in these, the quiet months;
the winter months:
that the stooped form of my mother
appears on the chimney-breast
above the hearth,
when I rise from the chair.
she steadies herself,
before edging her way along the wall
and disappearing behind the drapes,
as I leave the room.
She’ll be there when I re-enter.
a little tentative at first;
then stepping clear and easing
her way back along
the wall, before
tucking herself in behind the armchair
as I take my seat beside the fire.
I’ll be chaperoned this way
until early spring, when she’ll depart.
Returning in late autumn.
A little more hunched.
A little more hesitant.
Easy does it…