Canto CXCVI

I gave some of my first readings right there,
the spot a few feet from where I sit now.
I didn’t think it then—that in the years

to come I’d spend so many verbose hours
on that same spot. Back then I’d spend the day
digging a mile long trench or pruning flowers

while reciting my poems til they’d stay
in my head later on despite the beer.
The poems sucked, rip offs of Bukowksi,

thank goodness You Tube’s birth was still so far.
The notebooks have been pulped, weep, weep scholars!
You’ll never cop my juvenialia!

The room is empty, all the plastic chairs
are stacked but I can still recall a little
of the young poet I was, reading right there

and all I really want to do is heckle.

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Canto XI

Where was I? Cutting hedges in Northolt
around the moment when the first plane hit.
I swept the cuttings from the black asphalt

then watched the footage round brother’s flat.
Real life seemed indiscernable from films
where heroes blew the baddy’s base to bits

and we all cheered despite the many kills—
we knew it wasnt’ real, but now it was.
The bodies leaping from the window sills

before the fall, the toxic cloud of dust.
And then the replays, clarifying nought
but stoking up the sudden, breathless lust

for vengeance, an immediate onslaught.
Well, hindsight is a bitch in that respect,
the worldwide dead in wars in which we fought

for presidents the world didn’t elect.
That night I chose to head out and parade
my verse at an open mic with grace and tact

but for all the righteous passion I displayed
my priorities hadn’t really changed at all
and those were to drink beer, perform, get laid.

I managed the first two, once more to fall
at the last hurdle, no surprises then,
and if the world had changed then none told

the shrubs of Northolt, littered with beer cans
And syringe needles, to be carefully placed
into yellow containers with my gloved hands

Above me, the indifferent blue of space
didn’t display a single vapour trail
and songs of blackbirds busily replaced

the Heathrow hulks, their low incoming growl.

Canto VI

Back to the basement, dungeon if you will,
the underworld for novices and hacks—
the quasi byrons, preening, on the pull;

The iphone thoughts of hip insomniacs;
the Speaker’s Corner residents to come;
denied requests for CD backing tracks;

the poverty tourists recall the slums
that bolstered their nobility of soul,
their bank account’s bolstered by Dad and Mum.

And reader, I have played each of those roles
they’re ain’t a cliche that I haven’t used—
the urban griot, bigging up the proles,

the fake-kowski laments for girls and booze.
But when I glimpse the upper echelons,
the free wine at the la de da venues

occasionaly breakthroughs of the “unknowns”
that write just like the orthodox elite.
The boys club rules for style are set in stone.

I race back to that basement in Betterton Street,
to welcome in the city gent and wino
for while the Paradiso’s lines are sweet

I get my kicks from reading the Inferno.

Canto II

A back story? Well sure, if you insist,
though I’ve a tendency to pad the tale
and in that mess the point is often missed.

A few years back, when I often sat still
and counted breaths to quiten the mind,
my later walking hours would all be filled

with revelations, epiphanies gleaned
from things I often dismissed as mundane.
So, trees became the boom of seed grenades

and when I strolled by elders I refrained
from judging them as past it or infirm—
for all the years they’ve been here they remained,

like all of us while our bodies stay warm,
the true born children of the universe
and stay that way throughout this fleeting term

as verbose bipeds on the planet earth.
And that’s what I felt when I heard the tale
from that old poet, bemoaning the dearth

of recognition for his villanelles
and free verse scrawlings of his eighty years.
I didn’t see a bitter, jaded male–

I saw somebody’s son, I saw a peer,
I saw a childhood friend, a schoolyard foe,
I saw my own regrets and petty fears,

I saw a man who was an embryo,
as tiny as a seed, so new to life
just like the child that has been newly sown

within the soft, brown belly of my wife.

Canto I

And so it is around the halftime show
of my three score and ten year earth-time session
I hunch over the tablet, tapping slow,

hoping the form will aid my self expression
and bring some colour to this mundane tale
of a boy from Slough that doesn’t believe in heaven

whose birth town serves as his idea of hell
and therefore has to list his days on earth
and squeeze the secret’s skin but never tell.

Instead, I’ll give you this for what it’s worth,
The other night, while stacking up the chairs
of the open mic where confession and mirth

are soundtracked by the street noise from upstairs,
I found myself alone with another bard
who’d crossed the border of those seventy years.

He told me of the emotional scars
inflicted by snotty rejection letters
from well bred gatekeepers with little class

and how his confidence was left in tatters,
although he still held out for recognition
before his soul set off for calmer waters.

All I could do was nod my head and listen,
and play the part of literary priest
trying not to yawn through the umpteenth confession,

to offer solace, help him to release
his many hurts into the evening air
to flap away like honking droves of geese.

But here’s the catch, I actually fucking cared
about the injuries to this man’s soul
and in that moment I became aware

that my brick-shithouse-thick emotional wall
that kept the world from touching my inner core
had vanished wholesale, left me vulnerable,

fully exposed to other souls and more.
The whole world’s seething froth came crashing in
through mouth and eye and every gaping pore

and left me feeling I could start again
and take the flailing slugs to chin and gut
and keep my grip on touchscreen, keys or pen,

to note it down before floodgates shut.

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