Lyrpole and the Jarg Flim 16

it’s only when I’m away that I realise

all of this; how Blue Bell Lane I love you,

how Abercromby Square I haven’t found

a square quite like you and I love you, how that tree in Calderstones

I love you, that old tree, how Prince Rupert’s Tower,

despite everything, I love you, how when the Number 10 bus

turns onto London Road and I can almost

taste the city and the lions in front of St George’s Hall

I love you, how Stadt Moers Park I hated you

and now I love you, how Island Road

I never walk you calmly but I love you,

how where Lancashire meets Maghull

and I can’t swallow because I feel it, I love you,

how the walk from the Ship and Mitre down past Rigby’s

as Wales fades and despite what they’ve done

to the docks how I love you, how that alley

between Adswood Road and Huyton Lane that follows

the sewer and the cricket ground, does anyone play

cricket here, I love you, how the hollow of Cressington

Station I love you, how the old tram lines

by The Belvedere I love you, how there are so many

mysteries about what actually goes on in Birkenhead and I love you,

how on Blacklow Brow I ran all the way home and I love you,

but none of that’s true is it, it’s only a liar’s hymn,

but some believe in permanency and that’s fine,

if there’s permanency, and I doubt it,

then the riches of this place will stand forever

and someday, soon probably, someone

will say all that and mean every last word

Lyrpole and the Jarg Flim 15

I’ve always hated sand,

never found joy in a beach,

in cresting a dune and seeing

how that’s it for land for a while at least,

once, years ago, I got the train to Crosby

and the beach was nothing then, no one knew it,

so I stripped off and I gave this lung busting shout

because I thought I had to warn the water,

warn my body that it was about to be whacked

by waves of ice, by the possibility

of some wicked current grabbing me

and before I know it some kid

is poking me with a stick under Runcorn Bridge

and hundreds of crabs crawl out of my mouth,

that’s no way to go, running into the sea

only to end up in Runcorn with Widnes

looking down at you, feeling sorry for you,

no soul’s so damned it should end up there,

and anyway what’s the reverse of that,

would it be Reginald Perrin rewound,

dripping, naked, a monster called

from the depths, draped in seaweed maybe,

or a beautiful woman, for the 80’s at least,

terrified that one single drop

might splash on her legs and screaming

won’t help, really high pitched

screams will only make things worse,

won’t mask the truth that you’re tuna,

that you’re a dolphin and the whole

world is echoing, how sound just bounces around

Lyrpole and the Jarg Flim 14

there are no minutes left,

no time enough for waiting

for anyone to listen,

for the sea, when it has you,

when it’s swallowing you,

drowns out sound and it’s only

as I write drowns that I make

the connection and it’s only

as I write connection that I can hear you,

that my phone lights up and your

voice calls my name, not in a good way,

it’s how you use my name when

stuff gets wrecked, when we’re wrecked,

now wait a minute, now hold onto your words

before they flow away and everything

gets out of hand, gets drowned,

don’t you know how I rode my BMX

around the world for you,

how my arse ached, how many times

I went flying off it, how many wounds

my jeans hide, my knee-torn jeans,

go on, take them off and I’ll tell you

where each little scar happened

like that one on my left knee,

zigzagging and deep, I did that in Copenhagen

because I mistook the Little Mermaid

for you, okay, I admit it,

I tried it on with her and it worked

but does that matter when my knee is so marked,

look at this next one, there on my right knee,

it’s long and red and it happened

in Rio, no I wasn’t dancing,

I was riding hard because I thought you

were Christ, I thought you could redeem me,

I thought your arms were wide open

to receive me, all sins forgiven

and all that, was that so naïve,

are any of my scars naïve,

tell me this one, this bone revealing cut,

is naïve, tell me it wasn’t worth

going down to the dirt on the Silk Road

because I was dying okay, I was thirsty

and I thought you were the sun,

God, I always thought you were the sun,

I was shouting ‘Fuck you, don’t

you set on me, don’t you set on me”,

of course none of this is news to you,

you know how my heart can’t resist you,

you know I’m not talking about a literal you,

you know how the sea is calm,

how I’m never calm, how I’m too eager, too unsated

Lover of Stone

 

Let’s say you are Suilven now,

            a middle of the night hardness,

ignoring guilt to furiously caress your memory,

            cutting up into where you’re not needed.

I don’t mean that razor ridge of sandstone

            isn’t perfectly spectacular, it is, but then so were you once,

long ago when I didn’t know how time scrapes,

            how glaciers shift and ice vanishes.

What’s left now? A man in his early thirties

            forcing himself to stand against sunset

as high as he can go, mirror lochans burning below,

            This is what happens, island-mountain

you make me alone, legs aching from the climb,

            and mad, you make me dream of standing here long enough

to let the landscape whiten and winter cover.

            I’ll make myself part of you, kneel and change,

until I, what I is left, am a cairn,

            a teetering pile set upon your grey pillar.

The Greek

 

I get home before the Greek and get back into town before

he’s even had a chance to wrap his gift or for his flight from Kalamata to land.

I find a place to drink and watch the evening as it bruises to the colour of a Kalamata olive

and the fist of the city batters dusk black and blue.

When his flight gets in the Greek is beat and trudges down Catharine Street to find me,

remembering a year when the same street teemed with angry Herostratuses,

when the police cleared away the ashes of the Racquet Club

and found the charred body of a deer covering a sleeping woman.

I meet the Greek outside the crumbling ruins of St Andrew’s on Rodney Street

and notice how he keeps glancing at the few stars the city’s glow hasn’t obscured.

As we walk home I wonder if the Greek is still waiting for Betelgeuse to explode

but he doesn’t even notice the swan sleeping in the closed door of St Philip Neri.

Later as he pours wine the Greek tells me he did see the sleeping bird

but insists it was one of the city’s cormorants freed of its stone prison.

After dinner the Greek quotes Cavafy to me as I fall asleep in his arms

and tells me how he imagines Cavafy having a slight Scouse twang.

Throughout the night the Greek teaches me to recite the poem back.

By morning our exertions have me hungry for breakfast but the Greek won’t let me eat,

he says there are other meals in the day to think of and in times as hard as these

some meals must be abandoned until even their names are forgotten,

until not even the Greek can remember the hunger of morning.

The Greek is convinced that forgetting is the only way to cope with austerity.

I tell him that at least words never cost anyone a drachma,

that he should eat because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.

Before he leaves the Greek laughs at me and hands me my present.

When I am alone I unwrap it and let those who are hidden inside take what they can.

Chapter 6 of Ark Noon

and I don’t know where we’re going to go but I know that Skelly is a proper rower so we take one of the Penny’s long boats, long enough to sit three in easy and we row out and around the island of the Penny’s farm and I think for a moment that we should go home, just turn the boat north and tell Father Leigh what’s happened, maybe that’s the right thing to do, maybe he’d come back with us and pray over them all, over their ashes and talk to Skelly, get him to understand, but more likely it’d send Skelly nuts and Father Leigh would start scanning his patchwork bible for the exact words that prophesised this happening to the Pennys and he’d find those words and they’d say something like and Sarah Penny will not live beyond her fifteenth year, beyond her first kiss and I’d have to take the bible then and burn it with Father Leigh’s other crappy books and then I’d have to leave anyway so I don’t turn the boat north and I make a guess that the Wavers are probably far enough away by now to not worry too much about, that they could be anywhere, so we row south because that’s the way dad went and the madman who came to the Penny’s stopped being mad eventually and he told Rick that only a day’s row away, hard rowing he said, the water was receding and there was land just like dad said there was in the north but the madman told Rick that the land that was coming back was as rotten as the water because it was full of people, hungry, greedy, dangerous people and maybe it’s where the Wavers came from, but dad is going that way because it’s where his ghost of mum is, in London, in drowned London, in what’s left of London or what’s not left of it, and dad will keep going south until there’s no south left to get to and as I look north then south, the dark night, the dark water, I know dad’s gone more over the edge than the madman or Father Leigh ever went and there’s part of me that almost wishes dad had been in the Penny’s farm because wouldn’t that make everything easy, wouldn’t he just have been at peace or something then, he wouldn’t have to go off looking for mum, he wouldn’t go on about there being land in the north again or the south or the west or the east or wherever he wants there to be land, I wouldn’t have to follow him, to keep following him, and I could go home and pretend almost that dad never lost it, never thought he knew mum was alive, I could pretend he just went to see Rick Penny like he always did, that he just had really bad luck and went over there at the wrong time and I could deal with that but instead I row south and really it’s Skelly who does all the proper rowing, I hardly need to row much, and we don’t stop all night even though we’re both hungry and I didn’t bring my fishing rod but we pass some roots and there’s a bird’s nest there and we sit in the boat in the pitch black night, not a single cloud now just all the stars, just the mess of stars, and we suck the eggs and they’re not good but at least they’re food so we row on south but there’s no land, just water and water and water, no birds even to make us think land is near and I’m glad Skelly doesn’t hardly talk, he’ll sit there happily rowing until I tell him to stop, he’s wordless, not a thought in his head except to row, just stirring at the flat water, the grey water, the hills far off, slowly forgetting the Pennys, forgetting he left Harry sleeping by the well and I do the same, stay wordless, just the sound of our oars dipping, breaking the water, sloshing, then rising and we’re experts at it both of us because our strokes are clean and I couldn’t say how far we’ve rowed, my only markers are the hills and they seem as far away as they ever were but then I hear the bird and looking up I see it, just a gull circling, then another, then another, and I bring my oar up, call for Skelly to stop and I stand up so the boat wobbles and Skelly goes watch it, mate and as I look out over Skelly’s massive head I see water, the froth of waves, rolling onto land, lapping against a shore of mud and stone, and I tell Skelly to look so he turns and I know he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing because I only understand from all the books dad would bring me, because I’ve never had much else to do but read books that tell me how the world was, tell me what I’ll never see and yet in front of me, rising out of the water, is something I was certain I’d never see, as if it’s just been revealed now for me, the water parting, and it’s lost like everything else below us, behind us, but here it rises out of the water and I know it’s a road, and Skelly rows us closer, slowly like he’s scared stiff at what he’s seeing, and I see faded yellow lines, interspersed, broken, and I think to myself that dad must be out there somewhere, that this is some kind of sign or something, that people are always following roads, and I can’t help wonder what it must feel like to walk on a road

13

this man, this me, spat out by the sea,

born of want, borne by want,

has a weird relationship with Need to Know,

like I Need to Know what happened last year,

like when the world, no not the world,

the cities, not plural, it was London

really, was burning and someone said

Lodge Lane was burning or that there were kids

out on Smithdown Road and I remember

thinking, so what, let them run free,

Toki wouldn’t have minded, he’d have got

on his horse and got out his bow and had

them gutted and roasted and ready for dinner,

then someone else said that there were kids

shooting at the CCTV cameras, the ones

cloaked as streetlamps, and someone said

the kids had killed a few CCTV cameras and someone

else said that one of the cameras, the one we all knew

from school, the one who was a proper dick,

that his uncles and all that were out and they were burning

the kids and gutting them and roasting them and all that,

and that’s when I realised that all this walking,

all this wandering, meant I didn’t have a safe place,

didn’t have a home to go back to,

listen, once I did go home and someone had painted

FUCK THIS on my old front door

so I got this feeling, this taste,

this sick stomach, that if I went down

the alley and into the garden they’d have

painted FUCK THIS on the grass

and the fences and the outhouse

and my mother and the grave of my goldfish

so I kept wandering because I didn’t have a land,

so I was one of those who tread most widely

the trends of exile like someone

who doesn’t streetview where they’ve been,

who doesn’t care if on some

far distant night, some far distant new year’s eve,

a boy stands between Kensington and Old Swan

trying to count the miles to home and smells

the stench of the abattoir and takes off his shoes

because the way ahead is scorched

and his trabs are new, and his trabs are really new

Lyrpole and the Jarg Flim 12

what solace can I find now

in this false song, this coaxing song,

come here, come here and forget

all I ever had, give away

every scrap I ever owned

until I’m just a man in an empty

house of white walls, that was it,

when we first came here we had this idea

that all the walls would be white

and all the floors white too

but then somehow the hall became green,

the green of dirty dock water,

and then somehow the bedrooms became

duck egg blue, more the blue

of water when it breaks free of ice,

when the ice is still clinging in parts

to the surface, and then, when the ice cracked,

your sad voice was saying that you knew

somehow, somewhere deep inside,

your depths of perception, that the walls

would never be white, would always find colour,

something about this whole story

makes me grieve, for what,

for what never was, for what I failed

to achieve, for how there are tins

and tins of white paint, matt

and emulsion, all opened with their lids

not put back on properly, all piled up

haphazardly in the shed so the paint is spilling

and that’s a song isn’t it, one of grief,

that spilling paint, that covering of the floor

in white, that crusting over, that splitting,

that bitterness in your breasts, in your pale,

so very white, so very pure, breasts

A Children’s Story I Wrote Three Years Ago

This is a children’s story I wrote a couple of years ago when all this recession business got started. I’m not sure if it’s more of a children’s book or an allegory masquerading as a children’s book. What I do know is I used to like tin soldiers when I was a kid, I used to paint them. I liked plastic soldiers too.  My favourites were Romans.(Btw I don’t know how to fix the spacing on this)

The Tin Roman

 

It was the little boy’s birthday and it had been raining for weeks. A big fat black cloud full of rain had been hanging over the town day after day after day.

Every day it rained.  All day it rained.

When the boy woke he could hear the rain spattering his window.

But today was his birthday and he hoped he would get a Joy Box 2000.

Everyone at school had a Joy Box 2000.

You could be a cowboy and lassoo outlaws from the back of a barely tamed Mustang with a Joy Box 2000.

You could be a space commando and creep through dark corridors searching for pig-aliens to zap with a Joy Box 2000.

You could be a fighter pilot and whiz through canyons on strange worlds doing loop the loops with a Joy Box 2000.

You could do everything and anything if you had a Joy Box 2000.

*

Mum was at work and Dad was still in his pyjamas reading the newspaper.

There was a present wrapped up on the breakfast table.

Dad kept reading, circling jobs.

The present was too small to be a Joy Box 2000.

The boy unwrapped it.

It was hard and sharp.

His dad sighed.

Ring this job, go see about that job.  Trudge through town in the rain to queue for a job.

That was all the boy and his dad did every day.

Trudge, trudge.

Rain, rain.

The boy pulled the last piece of wrapping away and revealed a tin Roman soldier.

“Hope you like it,” said his dad over the newspaper, “I loved them when I was your age.”

The Tin Roman was old.

Its little sword was bent.

Its helmet was dinted.

Its armour was rusty.

It looked miserable and worst of all no one had painted it.

*

Mum rang after breakfast to see if Dad had found a job.

Soon the boy and his dad were trudging across town.

They passed the old abandoned car factory and the old abandoned cup factory and the old abandoned cog factory and the old abandoned cot factory.

Rain soaked the boy’s socks.

Up went his dad’s umbrella.

“Looks like we’ll be here a while,” said his dad.

The queue stretched for so long that the boy couldn’t see where it began.

Somewhere at the end of the line there was a job.

“This is our day,” said his dad.

Umbrellas covered them.

A bird flying over would see only a big line of umbrellas.  Umbrella after umbrella after umbrella for street after street after street.

The Tin Roman was in the boy’s pocket with a yo yo and a toffee bar.

When the boy put his hand in to get the toffee bar the little sword stabbed his thumb.

The boy took out the Tin Roman and then all of a sudden the queue was moving.

They were bumped along.

The Tin Roman dropped to the pavement and a big heavy boot crunched down on him as the queue swept the boy and his dad away. The boy looked back but there were too many people and the line was moving too quickly and the Tin Roman was gone.

*

 “Happy birthday love,” said his mum at dinner, “sorry we couldn’t get a cake but definitely next year.”

She kissed him and the boy smiled.

He tucked in to his beans on toast.

Dad didn’t eat.

Mum didn’t eat.

Their beans went cold and their toast went hard.

*

The boy carried his favourite book up to bed.

Rain pitter-pattered.

Voices shouted downstairs.

The boy opened his bedroom door and there was his Tin Roman, uncrunched and unbroken on his bed.

“You’re painted,” said the boy, holding the Tin Roman up, “who painted you?”

He put the little legionary on the side table and read until his eyes were too heavy to read.

Turning off his lamp he looked at the Tin Roman, all red and gold and silver and shining and the boy smiled.

*

In the night there was a noise.

It wasn’t a crash or a bang or anything scary.

It wasn’t his parents shouting or the rain splattering.

It was the boy’s window opening.

The boy turned on his lamp.

The Tin Roman was gone.

Wind blew through the window.

A cat yowled.

The boy looked out and saw the Tin Roman marching up the garden.

The boy followed the Tin Roman.

Rain, rain.

March, march.

They marched for ages and ages.

And then the boy saw a tin knight marching to meet them.  Then there was a tin marine and soon there was a tin hussar and a tin apache then a tin cossack and a tin viking.   Very soon there was a whole line of tin soldiers.

And the rain ran away from them.

The big black cloud that had been hanging over the world for weeks raced ahead.

The line of tin soldiers and the boy came to an old abandoned quarry.

The Tin Roman held his sword up and all the tin soldiers came to a halt.

The boy looked down into the quarry and there was the big black cloud growling and rumbling and raining and spitting.

Down marched the tin soldiers and the boy.

The big black cloud could go nowhere.

Up went sword and cutlass, tomahawk and bayonet, sabre and scimitar.

The Tin Roman made the first cut and all the tin soldiers followed.

The boy picked up a stick and he too cut at the cloud.

Very soon the cloud was no longer big.

It was small

It was a thousand harmless little clouds and each one blew into the air with a whimper.

“Hoorah!” shouted the tin soldiers.

“Hoorah!” shouted the boy.

And the Tin Roman smiled at him.

*

The next morning the boy woke to sunshine.

The Tin Roman stood still and shining and silent on the side table.

The boy ran downstairs to his mum and dad at the breakfast table.

“Morning sleepy head,” said his dad picking him up and twirling him in the air.

“Guess where I’m going today?” laughed his dad.

And his mum was smiling and laughing.

And the boy laughed.

And on his next birthday he got a cake and a Joy Box 2000 and a whole army of tin Romans.

Puffins of Lent, a poem

 

I meant to write a story, something about a child and a cliff,

how God made a fish masquerade as a bird. Need and want.

I want to taste salt in oil, have blubber slide down my gullet.

I need to walk and keep their chattering beaks to my right

and the water to my left, not want their silence or need their meat.

That was never it, it was about the haze of childhood,

fragments of consciousness, like a boat cutting through sea-mist.

Now listen, son said James Stewart hold on, as the wash

came at them and a foghorn told them they were alive.

That was it, the feeling of life, of nourishment after a fast.

I fasted of words, didn’t speak or put pen to page.

Broke: words came scattered, these shatter and stutter,

they repeat recorded conversation, half-caught

gasps of shock, of her son being framed by the pigs,

squealing like a boar dragged from the river, hook in its throat.

If it came from amongst fish then it must be a fish,

serve it with dill, peppery piss flower, liver of herbage.

He climbed down the cliff, every step was his fall foretold,

found good grips between wet rocks, brushed a hand against just opened

eggs, found that last puffin. He stayed there, hungry, watchful and weak.