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Poetry

Sodom & Gomorrah

 

The jukebox sways the smoke-filled air

Against the traffic’s streaming song,

Combustion fumes and filmy streaks

Of sin discard blue mellow sounds.

 

Concrete towers top the turgid sky

And mad dogs roam the plaguing streets,

Pipes disgorge their hothouse fumy breath,

A navvy churns the city’s paving soil.

 

Sprawling hutches cold and clumpen,

Horizontal man hopes sufficed,

Rudely stacked rows must surely die,

This landscape conjures blackly to the grave.

 

Stagnant steam seeps from roadside plots

Every man his neighbour digs a ditch

Yet minds his castle ’cross the lasting gloom

Lest Satan rid him of his worldly pride.

 

Tramps admire the dumping skyward sites,

Rubbish mounting high blocks the lee

Where fish are bade to drink stewy froth,

No sweating task shall now mock Adam’s brow.

 

Bloated planners ooze a private feast

And muse on ways to conquer man’s device,

Scour and flinch, politically decide to

Shed the purse paid by public pence.

 

Tiny boxes lost we know among

The Townhall wishbone prizely sought,

Paradise pastures paved and spiked

Of souls downgrade their dusty face.

 

For well has bent the town this way

To man’s own rod hits slaves and will

Command in vain the poor who so

By chance ne’er rise to stardom’s hill.

 

But annals crumble i’ the dust

Rubble stacks so well this cannot be

From some celestial force this way was planned

'Tis man's deluded liberty.

 

Those jungles will in time beget

Those midden streets will someday be

Surprising yet and trap the web

Of Time’s repeating history.   [1981-2]

 

 

 

The Farmer’s Work

 

Today, my Lord, the moon is high above,

And grey skies smother hoar the furrowed down

Where peels the farmer late with carefree love

To ply his sturdy hand and scatter ground.

 

In bleak and solemn fields the scarecrow lurks,

Surrounding wastes the wind and breaks aloft

The burly thistled leaves and brushes soft

To strangle, break and gouge the farmer’s work.

 

All sickles, shovels, picks and heaving scythes

To steer, to break, before the snowdrifts drive,

Alone, one hand rotates till night, I see,

Forgotten roots of royal pedigree.

 

Fragments of field-dead soldiers churn in file,

Fresh-sow these crooked lines from trenchant strife

Cursed to march the regiment Christian mile

Blistered with bindweed, thorns, manure of Life.

 

The potted path is trod, now seas of rain

Sluice slabs of mud and by the clocktower face

Bespatter him, the one who will remain

Apart from Life’s mad rat-infested race.

 

Rely on Time’s decay of fecund fruits

To seed a brave new world – Life for Life’s sake

The graveyards gorge, swell, burst rotting shoots

And man the sole crop of nature’s mistake.

 

The aching chores have ceased, the charcoal flue

The windly lanes, the barn owl cries anew,

Perhaps the fallow fields will yield their due

One hand moulds landscape's solitary hue.  [1982]
 

 

 

Distortion

 

Behind the gasworks, beside the smoking shop,

Here lies the grime-brown bar of the Bearded Goat,

Down among the dead men lurks the devil.   

He'll lay you odds of evens to clear the rack

And wielding a wizened stick he'll stagger

The buzzing spellbound trickster steaming mob.

 

Too much effort to change the score: your mother

Says you mustn’t so you won’t.  You shuffle, sit,

Stand, stare: here and there; sometimes something happens

A little off the wall, like the mutant green

Flies making a bee-line for the hard stuff.  They

Never buy a round: drinks always on the house.

 

The bar steward sports like plaid a mottled towel

And croaks a dirge of satisfaction to watch

A lazy stripe plunge to its death.  He’s off on

His own horizon – his stars say he shouldn’t

So he won’t.  The game drags badly though. 

You have to think of the angles till it’s do or die.

 

But you live on.  Not the game you thought it would be.

The locals cradle their cards like oracles –

Grudgingly donate like diamond-encrusted hearts

Cards on the table.  And play the game.  Badly.

They’ll tell you that practice makes perfect.  Dribbling

Dew-drops of wisdom.  If only you had the bottle

To overturn the tables and moneygrubbers like Jesus in the temple.

 

The bell tolls Time.  Gone already.  Down among the dregs –

The black cat howls at home, her bowl stone empty –

Double cream of ale for the road or quits:

Life lends one more round.  Like promises blown

We all might learn.  One day.

When to stop.  [1983]

 

 

 

What Those Who Don’t Care Think

 

Scattered with wishes of silken richness,

Blown high apart and united in sparse

Corners of minds that clock the hours

And simply smile until we go.

 

A million flaxen virgins never fade.

Forget the power that holds this frame

But not our minds.  The dark in us

We see.  We go.  [1983]

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