The Beer Tribe

He, louchely lounging,
Sweltering heat; sweltering beards
Loose-hanging camo vests,
Close-cut leggings, thigh slashed –
Beany hat, woolily cool,
Arms braided with tatts, Pictish hero…
Or urban warrior?
She, pierced beyond Brosnan,
Flip-flops in winter,
Hair dyed in Nu-Age Violet
Tied back in a tie-dyed sling,
Fresh from slaying Goliath
Yet this bar lives; pulses
To rhythms of the Veldt –
And the beers, their menagerie:
Little Creatures, Queen of the Night,
Raging Bitch, Flying Dog,
Moose Fang, Holy Cowbell,
And the poor, rag-tag Dead Pony
Rule the roost here.
And you’re not welcome:
Sly looks, knowing grins quickly concealed.
You, with your shaved chin and slim cut jeans –
You, with short-sleeved shirt and smart sneakers –
Cost a pretty penny but not a penny well spent
In their eyes.
Their eyes betray condescension
Their eyes are only
For the ‘in’ crowd, the beer crowd –
Their eyes lap up uncrafted craftiness;
A beacon of their anti-individualism.
Their eyes betray them
Sucking up; hoovering up
Their unspoken conformity.

Jurassic, lark

Not many days it takes
Of a life measured in billions,
For the rain-swamped earth
All plashy and sodden –
Verdant and plumped –
To crackle and split;
Patterned ground, polygonally divided
Moisture sweated out –
Mud transformed –
Pulled in drum-tight
To make nature’s hexagons.

The sound of the lapwing, trilling
arrr-rit at rit at rit
And the lark –
More pterodactyl than passerine –
Swoops vertiginously up high;
Not the only threads it seems
Back to a lost world; Pangaea, Gondwana –
Broken bracken; thick banks of nettle
Cow parsley, hazel, ivy –
Swiped and flattened
Beaten and brashed –
And below, stamped in the earth,
The mystery –
A transient fossil, a brand of sorts –
Man? Beast? Monster?

Slide1

Uprooted

When the storm cut through, it cut;
Not a samurai-sharp, clean, incisive cut –
But blunt, deep, savage – butcher’s cuts
Cleaving and sawing, to and fro
Until the job was done.
It raced, the wind. It raced and grabbed.
Laughing, it grappled the trees –
Like a fatigued father, numb through insolence
Shaking a child; but no remorse – just brutish joy.
It took without mercy; pitilessly and persistently;
Saplings, vibrant with the life of warming days, slapped down.
Adolescents, lippy with age, put in their place;
And the wise old ones, their wisdom scattered.
Uprooted, lost.
And we pick up the pieces now.
The old wall, tumbled, can be repaired.
The car, rippled with dents, ironed out.
The windbreak of youthful poplars, replanted.
But the lament of the wild runs deeper –
Baleful calls; grey-eyed mournfulness
Families destroyed,
And lives
Uprooted.

Uprooted

Mating calls

The shrill penetrating attack of a Greenfinch
Insistent, urgent, agitated – calls for a lost love up above.
In the hedgerow, the calmer, bass, wooing
Chitter-chat of a love-struck Great Tit.
Away, under a straggly drooping laurel,
The guttural, dirty laughter of flirting pheasants;
And in the distance, the boorish, drone
Of a chainsaw; tediously barking the mating call
Of extinction.

Takeaways

Them damn magpies.
When they’re not nicking diamonds
Or pearls or some such trinkets,
They’re squabbling over scraps.
Gabbling with their angular voices.
Chock-a-lock; arrk-chak-chak.

Wrangling, over styrofoam chips,
Or batter and bits soaked in gravy.
Bickering, over seed pod cereal bars,
Or platinum-edged gum wrappers.
Nit-picking over feast-details;
Feuding over takeaways.

Dead Man’s Handle

It was supposed to protect them.

Depressed, every sixty seconds on that long, long line.
A firm push, a clunk, timer re set;
Every sixty seconds:
Push. Clunk. Tick.

But he fell asleep at the wheel –
(So to speak; there’s no wheel on a train,
Except underneath)
Fell asleep and fell forwards.

The handle was supposed to protect them
But he fell, head first.
And as the train rocked and rolled along the bumpy track
The handle imprinted itself into his forehead.

The head on his lifeless body gently rose and fell.
Push. Clunk. Tick.
Every sixty seconds.
Until they careered through the buffers

And into a graveyard.

Malevolent goats

Lifting my finger up, it wavered –
Microscopically, I’m sure, it reverberated –
Buzzed like a ruler, twanged on a desk edge
Or the acoustic thrum of an ill-fitting dash.

I dropped it down, seven times, in the first seven chapters
“There must be”, a voice said
Deep in my brain somewhere
“Some symmetry – three, five or seven – never even”

I would link these words, dropped upon
Randomly, from a small height
With an imperceptible thud of flesh
On recycled paper

Here goes, wait on:
“A piece of the Pennine north” (home, James)
“Liverpool F.C. Gods of Europe” (no, no)
“Three brown rolls, a slab of gouda” (‘g’ with a ‘hrrr’)

“And a tub of vaseline” (before being)
“Attacked by a swarm of horseflies” (eek)
“Morning Ghandi” (he said, jovially)
(before, accosted by) “Malevolent goats”

Double decker

The double decker, modest carmine and tuscan sun
thirty hands high, or more,
portholes stretching lengthways,
the captain steering below.

A hulk, a tub, of excitement and wonder,
a bus, as conjured in the innocent mind of youth –
travel, wondrous freedom, adventure –
a ship no doubt, but not any old ship, not even one.

A skiff, reaching and stretching,
beetling across a choppy river mouth,
sails flapping to catch the breeze.

That sickening sway side to side,
a fishing boat leaving the shelter of a sea wall,
slapped by cross-currents.

The heave, this trawler of humans; too high
yet outwardly stable, rocking
between the billows on a tarmac sea.

Yawing, with every little road bump;
no smoothness, no guile,
a gale, blowing Force 9 to 10.

Racing, no keel, no spinnaker,
yet on this two-up road, the thrumming diesel
coughs and whines, leaning into bends, braggishly.

Until we arrive at safely at port
like an ice-breaker, pushing through flotsam and jetsam
crisp packets to port, heeled-in chuddy to starboard.

Abandoned

It’s said that Lyonesse lies submerged,
Like a shallow dream,
Covered in crab pots, ruptured buoys, starfish
And mythical swords
Abandoned, until we need them most.

Yet, north of there,
As the stream flows
As the clouds skitter
Lie the gnarled rock clutter
The last bastion – or the advance guard
Depending how you face –

Of St Kilda

Where the people called for help
Sung for boats and sailed away
Hearth and home left, lost;
A hole in the heart
Punctured deep, thrust through
All choices gone; hope gone too.

Yet, peering down on our aqua globe
Through the magnified penetrating eye
Of sordid satellite spying
Those homes and hearths remain
Solid walls, thick-set,
Sheelings, like stone circles
Misaligned, unless you
See the world like a box-eyed Soay;
Field walls, crinkled up hill sides;
Wind breaks, braced sou’westerly
Ragged into the wind.

Why then, in this hustle bustle time
With this ‘shrinking’ globe
Cluttered by business,
Does hope not remain?
A long line under the sea;
Or imagined lines through the air;
Or just a deep keeled boat, cutting the waves;
Is surely all it needs?

Unless you come from Lyonesse.

Conkers lie dying

The slopes of Tall Chimneys –
Vengeful with grasping hands
Eager teens scratching; raking through dirt,
Scrabbling in the root boles
For nature’s Gold;
No fools here, real treasure,
Traded on the Clippers and Skiffs
The Junks of school boys’ pockets –
Shards of snot rags sieved out;
Old sweets, dented half Pennies;
Removed, to leave true worth.

Down in the park,
Bedraggled Horse Chestnuts
Coated with dappled leaves
Under fire from the artillery
Of bald-headed tennis balls stuffed in socks
Of snapped branches, hurled in spinning arcs;
The collateral damage of this onslaught,
This barrel bombing…
Leaves’ fall forced, Autumn early
A camouflage carpet
Covering the prize.

Yet they were found. All of them.
Fine Fare carrier bags, old hats, stuffed
Even the faux-furred hood
Of the old plastic Parka,
Ragged with chewed sleeves
And stained elbows –
Jewels, roundly prized.

Then the piercing.
Innocently, with a bradawl. Or a meat skewer.
Maybe a lump of plasticine or blu tac under,
Eyes half closed, concentration
The intent brute force of 13 year muscle.
Old laces, the plastic end long lost, frayed.
Rolled in saliva, sharpened to a quill point,
Eyed through, knotted –
Ready for war.

Some baked them, long and slow.
Others soaked them in cider vinegar, or linseed.
All agreed, size wasn’t the prize.
The big ones, lustrous, fleshy, glitzy even
Cuff polished – but an easy target;
They would snap and die with a dull thud
Their lemon yellow flesh ripped open.
The best were like gobstoppers,
Coppery dark, ever-so wrinkled;
Hard to pierce, ominous.
Their weight belied their size;
They hung on a straight lace, plumb.
My view? Last year’s crop, well hidden.
But who knows?
And who cares when they whistle and swing,
Trailing destruction, shrapnel, bomb casings –
And the winner’s spoils, hanging,
Forlorn, like scalps around the collar.

Today though
The conkers lie dying.
One tree, just up from us,
Is gnarled and proud and fecund –
But it’s spawn lie at its feet,
Crushed by trainers and the knobbly wheels
Of strollers and flat-land mountain bikes.
No plastic bags of sweating treasure –
No skiffs or junks of the teenage trader –
Just silly rules, “health and safety”…
And childhood memories never known.

 

National Poetry Day, 2016