Monday, 23 December 2013

Four Answers Above

The thick face of the sky, marked with a blemish
And strung with stars like fungus, is awake,
Accepts my questions. What will satisfy
The urge to use these energies? “Life.”

Life didn’t. For years I trod the numbed path
To the Works, and in a tin-roofed office
Filed my days like paper; on Friday nights
I’d ask: to what will I go home? “Love.”

I didn’t. With the children put to bed,
The mortgage money loud in its jar, we
Bickered across the room; I slammed the door.
Will there be calm before the end? “Age.”

A lie. Age tortures me. My broken bones
Bent like gargoyles, I sit here sucking breath.
A cloud fumes on the sky; now I am old
And think on life, what will be mine? “Death.”

© circa 1973-76

Friday, 6 December 2013

Alcoholic: Fifth Hants Volunteer Arms

The Fifth Hants Volunteer Arms was (perhaps still is) a rather louche pub in Portsmouth in the 1970s frequented by students and a small group of hard if harmless drinkers. The students used to gather to watch 'Kojak' on the television over the bar and then 'deconstruct' it marxistically. What fun. The youngish subject of this poem caught my eye; if he continued drinking he must be long dead.


From the black void of day and hopeless night
They reach the bar. Gathered into a grim
Intense concern, cued by a mouthing telly,
They wheeze and smoke, hands resting in a forest
Of drink. The youngest entertains, jerking
Out his stern absurdities like a drunken
Butler. Doubled-up they break before him
Into a shuffle of balding greasy heads.

Already his paste-grey skin is smeared with
A drinker’s blush, black on his cheeks; he weaves
An impossible commission: “Oh, I can
Speak the pleasantries to Eddie...” His shirt
Lags from a sweater picked to curls of snot
Beneath a shroud-like jacket, colourless
With beer and ash. His cigar arcs the air;
He sways but turns it to a twist of interest.

When he leaves to make the round none will call
Farewell; he’ll slip forgotten from the door
Whilst the others squabble over glasses:
Tomorrow he’ll return, they know he must.
But in a pause which is almost like a death
He stares, his chin drops, his eyes flex to points
Of pain, and empty worlds descend: he sits –
A life lost in a shaking bag of flesh.

© circa 1973-76