“I was in the Royal Canadian Air Force.”
“Oh, you lived in Canada?”
“No, I lived in America. But the interventionists and isolationists kept arguing over whether to help England, and I wasn’t going to wait for them to figure it out.”
Fat lady in pink and purple
Hurtles in, with her turtle face.
Dumbly, she peruses blackboards,
Asks for that one, points like a child.
The man around the counter riles
While a bumbling buffoon drops spoons
To his right. Quite quickly he brings
A black coffee, a bastardised
Old culture. He smiles with dead eyes.
The baby cries, painfully shy
Of these monstrous hags, bloated bags
Of flesh and skin, manners spread thin
On dirty earth, mirthless but in
Merrymaking, slowly taking
Pieces here and there of my air,
Now muddy, now scarily thick.
But I think quick, build brick by brick
A new view of clueless clarity -
We are fat, ugly, unlovely,
Plastic moulds of the same old soul.
What kind of man stays awake, crazed and dazed
In the memories of this hazy place?
I fling rings of light, a quiet lens flare,
Against this backdrop - the white walls of school
Standing tall, while leaves fall and grow again.
Not so shrill then, the children’s running steps
Clap the concrete, where cloying, heavy heat
Surrounds us boys, boisterous in our blazers
And black slacks and shoes. We hiss at the news
Of a cover, whose nervous digestion
Of orders forces us into disorder.
Later on, beyond the strictest school rules
We young men laugh with one another.
More driving, more thriving at certain skills
While we drink and think more about careers
And that towering institute, ‘uni’,
Three fabled letters now better kept close
to home. Now we know that we walk alone
Into the real world, a matrix of tricks
And trials where smiles and jibes don’t count for shit.
We say our goodbyes to the seven years
Of growing, knowing unclear in the backs
Of our minds that time will do his handiwork,
To deconstruct our joy and the bonds between us boys.
This muddled hum of
words of the young and
old folding and moulding as one
throng messy smelly the sour musk
of the bus up above the human crush
where dust mushes into stale seats
beneath arse cracks poking
out above jeans God
I feel sick.
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Oh God, he looks so old and weak today.
Beside his sheets the dregs of some Bombay
Sapphire sits and oxidates away.
Maybe he’d like to think it does. In dismay
Instead he slumbers soft against the oaken
Bed, his paling body bruised and frozen
For more than just a moment. The devotion
My Gran shows, as Grandpa’s mouth hangs open,
Nearly brings me bemusedly to tears,
And speechlessly I’m sober in the fear
That Grandpa might not make it through the year.
His mind is muddled; muddied and unclear,
Much like the eyes that glance beneath a glaze
Of yellowy red at the sky, blue today.
But past the glass the trees are in decay.
And things are dead and buried in the ways
Of nature. But I’ll remember winter’s brink,
The clouds stroked over the sky in pink
Smoke, the orb of heat that leaves to sink
Behind horizons, passing in a blink.