Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A Rip In the Space-Time Continuum.

She looks as though she's seen a ghost.

Blonde curls poke through her
Straw sun-hat, torn at the brim.
Stitching together hat, wearer and big red dahlia,
To present an unearthly vortex
Of animal and vegetable.

Round eyes jiggle within smudged black lines,
Eyelash half unstuck, trembles when
She blinks.
She leans forward confidentially.
Red lips, furred by myriad rivulets above
Powdery chin,

“I saw something that was there.”

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

On the Island of Paros

Too long in the sun,
My admiration of Parian marble,
Disgorged onto the road,
Like chunky snowdrifts,

Thirst had turned my calves to pure alabaster..

Sun flailed my fair skin
Till I imagined it hung in ribbons
From scorched shoulders.

Ahead, a black crow
Fluttered above the track,
Next to a low whitewashed dwelling.

Shading my eyes with a hand, I peered.
The crow stretched out an arm and beckoned.

Not a crow but a woman.
An ancient Greek widow, in black gowns
Greeted me by clasping my hands between hers
As if enfolding them in prayer,
Before ushering me
Into her dirt-floored hovel.

At a plastic table, sat a beige-clad couple.
I joined them, and the old lady
Placed a glass of cloudy water before me.

The German pair,
(They had the caramel leather boots and bags
All German tourists wear.)
Seemed to sympathise,
With eyes fixed
On their own glasses, un-sipped.

An amoebic swarm
Flashed within the liquid;
Primordial soup.
I wanted to wait for evolution.

The old lady smiled
And nodded encouragement.
Her eyes lit by the strong sun
Striking through the tiny window
Into this stifling interior,
Were blue and cloudy.

I picked up the glass
And while the German couple
Looked on,
I drank.

I drank down my host's
Kind, hospitable eyes.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Luxury of Work-aholicism

Short-legged heavers,
Kick the ground behind them.
Shoulders and sternum snap into straps,
Stretch inertial glue till
Tiny rock rolls to relief,
And the truck climbs the track.

In the black of the pit
Five lights bob on the brows
Of the heavers.
They slide and strain,
In a square dance of pain,
A squealing wheel
Marks time.

Muscles search for stores.
A breakfast of bread and fat
Barely meets the need
But thick and wide
Thews collide and kick
The ground again.

What do they think
As they spend their strength?
Do they feel manly pride
In their collective power?
Or are their minds blank
Like any beast
Set to toil hour after hour.

On a Calcutta street,
A mountain of jute
Totters on a matchwood cart.
Before it,
Little red donkey,
Splayed and dead
Too thin and tiny for his heart.

Miners and donkey
Had no choice
Forced to labour
Beyond their limit
Neither took any pride in it.

Life's work-horse
May crash with colic
But a working man
Is not a workaholic.

Friday, 25 September 2009


She refers to earlier times as, when she was alive.
I say, “Before I was in service.”

But actually we have that the wrong way around.
There was a time when I was alive
And she was in service,
Like a bus is in service,
Going somewhere
Full of life.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dirty Laundry

‭“‬Hang the fucking flannel up‭!”
I whisper in a hoarse cry,
The words break free like‭
Adultrous‭ ‬men in black,‭
Up to no good.

I see my snarl in the bathroom mirror.
Guilt at such pettiness
Makes me wince.

My friend has just been widowed,
Another's in remission,
And here I am screaming about flannels.

Good job I didn't really yell it out.

Yet,‭ ‬still I try to justify my fury.
It's a symptom.
A tip of an iceburg.
A metaphor.

But I feel small.

I hang up the flannel,
Then decide to throw it‭
In the boil wash after all.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

My Mother's Soup Bowl

My mother's soup-bowl has a lid,
And knobs on each side.

Squat, and plain, with a primitive design
Painted in earth colours,
It reminds me of my mother,
With knobs on.

She died,
Not yet seventy.
Carotid arteries choked
By almost a lifetime of rich food.
Carrot broth in her sixties did little good
For a woman who hated vegetables.

I recall her eating Heinz tomato soup.
She supped her warm medicine.
Pursed lips drew liquid from spoon -
A stilted ritual.
When the last drop was gone,
She put the lid on.

Now, years later,
Nourishment swelters
Under primitive earth-colours.
I take the lid off,
Release a spicy cloud,
And sip her memory from my spoon.
I empty the bowl,
Just like she did,
But when I am finished,
I leave off the lid.