Life, love and age

Young again
In my dream
I was young again,
Limbs lithe,
Lungs strong,
Roaming fields and
Soft forest paths
From rocky outcrops.
In school,
Loud laughter
With firm friends,
Making a mockery of
Stern schoolmasters. 

And then….
I woke and
Reached out
To touch
My young me
But it was only
My old me
And I wept.

Halt! Stop! Stay!
Please wind back my days.
Uncreak my joints.
Straighten my veins.
Unbald my patch.
Darken my greys.
Make whole my teeth.
Sharpen my gaze.
Lighten my breath.
My brain unhaze.
Lift from my heart
The millstone of age

Winter nights
I curve around you
In duvet-sealed warmth.
We breathe together.
Will it be like this
in the end?
One cooling,
One crying.

Sick room
I was once a lively, sporty child
Who revelled in the joys of being young,
A happy view of life, a sharpish tongue 
A love of parties, being just a little wild.
But then for many years, I was so ill
That in my room, I bled, and there I’d lie,
To doze, or count the birds across the sky
While fighting the disease, by staying still.

I wonder now how was it that I bore
The turgid flow of days and surging pain,
While on my mother’s brow was etched the strain
Of caring for me while her heart was sore.
I moved away. For her the door was shut
Upon my illness, till the surgeon’s cut.

Full circle
As I approached the car park
And there she’s tensely waiting.
She knows this is the end, now.
So here is where it starts, when
Her shopping bursts the bags and.
My girls, they run to help her.
She smiles her thanks so gently.
The girls and she then chatter.
And next week in the store, when
I’m alone and she is not,
This time she’s got her two boys.
We talk again, more deeply.
Her boys begin to moan and.
We swap our numbers quickly.
So starts our sweet affair, and
It dies, just where it started.
And her keys? I give them back.

As she approached the car park
Her blood is boiling now, as
She thinks of three years, wasted.
The bastard seems the one, with
His girls, so happy, babbling
His calmness while they help her.
And later, in the store, where
The boys force swap of numbers.
So quickly love arises.
The passion grows and deepens,
Two minds and bodies fusing.
Then morning school-run chaos,
Large family joys at dinner.
From nowhere comes the shock of
Trips on business that are not.
Curious calls, the truth that dawns.
And her keys? She takes them back.

The remark
“The truth is, I knew nothing about him.” (Borges)
 He enters the dining room, looks around.
His fleshy face is florid, eyes bulging.
The head waiter rushes over, fawns, asks,
“Where would it please you to sit, excellency?”
“In the corner, by the open window.”
Without waiting, he strides to his chosen seat,
Nearly tripping on my walking stick,
“Take care where you put that damn stick!”
I had. His words wound, add to my pain.
As his bulky body brushes past,
the air swirls and spreads
his smell of sweat and cigar smoke.
He sits down heavily and the chair creaks in protest.
He scans the menu, orders.
I eat, I watch. His soup is served.
Then suddenly, he takes out his handkerchief,
wipes sudden sweat that pours from his brow.
Clutches his chest, falls forward into his plate.
At first no one moves. Then chaos.
Who was he, in his swollen self-importance?
I would read his obituary the next day.

I turn the corner, see it coming,
ten seconds to reach the stop.
The last bus of the day,
to get me to the church
to see my father buried.
But as I run, my heel falls off,
I stumble, fall, and it passes.
I run for half an hour,
arrive in time to hear
the earth striking
the coffin lid.
Thud, thud, thud.

Home sounds
Rustle of rat in the roof,
Whine of the wind in the wires
Thump of the apples that fall
Howl of the dogs that are caged
Crack of the wood in the fire
Roar of the kettle that boils
Swish of the curtains that close
Silence of the night that falls
Snores as I sink into sleep

The three of us were due to dine
I texted you, to find out where
You were, and you called,
“You won’t believe what I just saw.
A woman tried to top herself
Right in front of me.
I’ve never seen such a scene.
She stood with her can of beer
Lamenting her life,
With no one to love her,
Saying she would end it all.
She drew a blade from her filthy coat
And cut her wrist.
Blood exploded everywhere,
she faded, fainted.
I called an ambulance,
you must have heard the sirens.
They took her in, cleaned the blood.

We sat, all three,
drank our beer and laughed.
We asked, is that what you
Normally do to your women?

Girl on a train from Exeter
Your beauty’s too much for old men like me.
Your brightness of smile, your clearness of gaze
Remind us too sweetly of old loves and days.

For today when we smile we show a display
Of gaps, crowns and fills, or simply decay.
Our skin’s lost its sheen, our hair is all grey.

So, when you raise up your shining blue eyes,
Then lift your hand to brush aside hair
To meet the bare gaze of some old man,
Quickly averted as if in dark shame,
Forgive him, with pity, for all that he’s done
Is remember the joys of a life nearly gone.

The other girl on the train from Exeter
Your train arrives late
But so is your connection,
And the platform has changed,
So a porter rushes you over,
Dragging your chaotic case.

You sit next to me,
Panting, trembling, cursing.
“I hate travel”, you say.

Then come countless cell-phone calls to catch you –
Your mother or your lover? The latter.
A holiday gone badly wrong.
Glad to be going home.

Your search for your ticket,
Scrabbling in handbag and pocket,
Give it, creased, to the guard,
Who deciphers it.
“Change at Salisbury!”

Your slashed arms and calls
That tell of prescriptions -
Analgesics, anti-depressants,
And uncompliant medics,
Show that you just need
Human care and kindness,
Not the surly shout of the woman
Whose suitcase you shift
While hunting in yours.
I hope you make it!

Paris flight
Heathrow heaves and throbs,
But you avoid the mobs,
Flying business class
Insulated from queues,
Checked in on-line,
Security fast track.
No public concourse,
Qualified to relax
In the business lounge
A vintage whisky
Sipped at leisure.
Boarding late, and
Only when called,
To sit in the front
Exquisitely tended by
Stylish stewardesses
The flight’s sedate
Unstressed and -  suitable.

Attic guitar
Out of tune,
a dusty dischord,
condemned to rot
strings unwound, snapped,
yearning to be plucked,
strummed, loved.

To certain decay.

Waking Dream

Tied down by ropes and watching the scene,
Feeling the pain of loss
Of passport, laptop, wallet or case
I know I have not, but I have In my dream.

Left on the plane, washed down the loo,
Stored with others at a hotel do,
Only to be lifted by a hotel thief.

The dream lightens, lifts, and I turn over
To see my case standing by the bed.
My wallet and laptop are safe inside.

Yet still the dream returns,
When the pressure is on.

Lyrical 1974
A recovery year,
for money and for me.
The year before,
embattled miners and
power cuts made
a dark, dismal winter.

I lay in hospital,
in Stockport,
in December,
also cut,
below and above.

They said,
lucky to be so,
between black outs.

The New Year’s first half
I convalesced,
walked, derailed and doped
listening to music that
indelibly stained my brain.

Some songs washed through,
but still make me smile.
Wimbledon’s Wombles,
Glasgow’s Rollers,
Osmond’s ordinary orthodoxy.
Abba exploding with Waterloo.

The greats remain,
Bowie rebel then as now,
sheriff-shooting Clapton,
Hollies’ air that we all breathed,
McCartney’s winged band,
jetting on the run,
killer Queen and 10cc’s
early, eerie shuffle
for Wall Street.

These few joined my
deeper grooved sixties.
Let’s celebrate their time, for
forty years on,
they’re still as strong,
and mostly living,
like me.

Listen to yourself
She said, “You talk to yourself.”
People see you in the street.
Your mouth’s moving,
but you’ve no mobile.
Do you think anyone’s listening?”

She didn’t know. I was listening -
to my own confession,
for the first time, with no distraction.
No lip service – “yeh, yeh!”
No kidding myself.

I told myself about all those things
I said I liked, even enjoyed.
They were a myth. I hated them,
and I knew that I had by-passed joy
successfully by drowning myself in
work. And now my life is nearly done,
I wonder where all the time has gone.
If I have a next life I’ll confess early
And listen.

Hopeful, dopeful, dreamful girl.
Always wanted to achieve the impossible.
Always believed you could make it, quickly
Over the bodies of those who had tried
So much harder and longer than you.
Believed in yourself, in your empty talent..

What was the basis? Where was the logic?
Did anyone tell you how good you were?
No, just that your singing was “wonderful, dahling!”
And so you produced even more of the wailing.
It was sad, it was trash, like the tin cans, that rattled,
Collecting the money from trusting people,
For people that starved in distant lands.
They deserved it much more than you ever did,
But not once, not once, did you give it in.

You lived on the dole, poor, wannabe, never be,
Your Mum and Dad told you, forget it and quickly.
“You’d better give up, for you’ll never succeed.”
And so on, back to meaningless cleaning, keening,
Whining and weaning yourself
From the sad idea that you’d ever be famous,
Like thousands of others watching TV,
Licence-free. You couldn’t afford it
But down in the pub you’d get tipsy, then drunk
And fall on the floor in a vomitful trance.

So what did you use for money, for vodka?
You tripped up old ladies, and picked up their bags.
Found their purses and nicked them,
Then in your coat stuck them.
It’s only funny money, honey, you’d say.

Buy some cans and go home, and on the TV,
Who loves yah baby? A funny old bald star.
Telly Savalas, saveloys, lots of noise
As you bit into it, crushing, garlic
Smells on your breath, kiss of death.

Like when you were young and had money,
On the Metro, averting your nose
From a smell that attacked you.
Bateaux mouches. Now you’re louche,
Let him leave, have a douche,
Wash it away, your home is your castle.

Throw yourself back on your bed,
Lie down, on your side, and fall asleep
In dirty sheets, who gives a shit?

Fifty years on
Yesterday once more, and every day,
a chord, a phrase, a harmony, sometimes just a note,
turn my mind to a rose-tinted time,
when blues and ballads rocked through soul
and good vibrations, to raucous adolescent groups braying,
thumping drums, sizzling cymbals, booming basses thudding out the beat,
finally sedated by flower power and mystic sitars.

The sixties were my dream dawn,
a rising sun, full of fun, fun, fun, furtive fumbling,
energetic action, hasty homework that marked me out a flyer.

And then, at fifteen, I crashed to earth,
With hellish fevers and a blood stained nine years,
ending with offending innards excised.

Now, forty years on, I look back to my steady ascent
from the depths, always lifted by those early tunes,
and wonder why the magic of music
could do only so much.

The conservatory - two views

Chair-cradled haven.
Page dissolves and my eyes droop
in and out of sleep.

My breathing slows down,
the book falls onto the floor.
Body now relaxed.

Drowsy pleasure waves
wash a gentle siesta
into my tired mind

I lie dreaming.

Flies buzz near my ears,
but the door must be open
or heat will kill me.

Wasp on my trousers.
I slowly reach for the swat,
dispatch it. Thigh stings.

The wind is changing,
so planes take-off over me,
peace sharply shattered.

I go indoors.

Villa pool
Warm water wraps our bodies
Browned by basking in Florida sun.
Pleasingly Pims-soaked palates
Produce sweet sleepy sensations.

Our open book’s pages
Are blown by the breeze
To lose our places
As we succumb to slumber.

A winter draught and the view is brown,
Strraw-white grass and grey-brown trees.
Sparse green leaves draw curling tongues
And wrenching trunks drag down branches.
Ruffled by the lightest breeze,
The ripple of wine as we lift a glass
To toast a glorious African day.

That pair
You served me well. I wore you when I played guitar
And danced on gritty Northern night-floors.
I wore you when we met and married. She saw
How down at heel you were, but for two more years
You supported me, then as gardening shoes,
Muddy, watered, left outside.
So now, goodbye, to shoe recycling, for
Reincarnation as a fresh pair somehow.

The travel magazine
The dustmen have gone
And left you behind
Flat on your back
Pages waving like palm leaves
In the wind, evoking
Sunny beaches
Spanish palaces
Swiss splendour and
Stateside theme parks.

But then the rain comes
Sticking your pages together
And you remain open
At the tale of the old couple
Whose contented cruises
Help them live out their time.

Graham Goble at 50
We might have sworn
you’re a merman, reborn.
You lived the other side
of the rising tide.

Your choice of dwelling
invites the swelling
sea through your door,
over your floor.

Happiest in summer,
when you swim across the bay,
SADdest in the winter,
when the sky is grey.

You half-centuried human,
raise your head and laugh.
For your future will be
better than your past.

Lying by
Side by side we lie, silent,
barbed-wire between us,
signs forbidding entry.

Moon-shine, white line,
curtain-gap guided,

divides our wide bed
in endless night hours.

Today, we tried to
reconcile our lives.
Words passed by,
meaning missed,
mutual sight blinded.

You asked, was I happy,
directly saw my lie,

lightly hidden by
unstifled sigh.

I've identified why life is fine
with someone that's not you.
I revel to have again
an ally along the way.

We are drained, tired,
retire in silence,
strangely polite,
no hint of spite,
no child in sight.

Slowly climbing stairs
we'd take two at a time,
friendly familiarity of bed
now a faint memory.

Inactive, perspiring,
unrhythmed respiring,
feelings unchiming,
poem unrhyming.

We're flat on our backs,
tram lines, rod-straight,
that cannot meet,
cast in concrete.