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Best Famous Barry Tebb Poems

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Written by Barry Tebb |

MY PERFECT ROSE

 At ten she came to me, three years ago,

There was ‘something between us’ even then;

Watching her write like Eliot every day,

Turn prose into haiku in ten minutes flat,

Write a poem in Greek three weeks from learning the alphabet;

Then translate it as ‘Sun on a tomb, gold place, small sacred horse’.
I never got over having her in the room, though Every day she was impossible in a new way, Stamping her foot like a naughty Enid Blyton child, Shouting "Poets don’t do arithmetic!" Or drawing caricatures of me in her book.
Then there were the ‘moments of vision’, her eyes Dissolving the blank walls and made-up faces, Genius painfully going through her paces, The skull she drew, the withered chrysanthemum And scarlet rose, ‘Descensus averno’, like Virgil, I supposed.
Now three years later, in nylons and tight skirt, She returns from grammar school to make a chaos of my room; Plaiting a rose in her hair, I remember the words of her poem - ‘For love is wrong/in word, in deed/But you will be mine’ And now her promise to come the last two days of term, "But not tell them", the diamond bomb exploding In her eyes, the key left ‘Accidentally’ on my desk And the faint surprise.

Written by Barry Tebb |

SORRY I MISSED YOU

 (or ‘Huddersfield the Second Poetry Capital of England Re-visited’)



What was it Janice Simmons said to me as James lay dying in Ireland?

“Phone Peter Pegnall in Leeds, an ex-pupil of Jimmy’s.
He’s organising A benefit reading, he’d love to hear from you and have your help.
” ‘Like hell he would’ I thought but I phoned him all the same At his converted farmhouse at Barswill, a Lecturer in Creative Writing At the uni.
But what’s he written, I wondered, apart from his CV? “Well I am organising a reading but only for the big people, you understand, Hardman, Harrison, Doughty, Duhig, Basher O’Brien, you know the kind, The ones that count, the ones I owe my job to.
” We nattered on and on until by way of adieu I read the final couplet Of my Goodbye poem, the lines about ‘One Leeds Jimmy who could fix the world’s.
Duhigs once and for all/Write them into the ground and still have a hundred Lyrics in his quiver.
’ Pete Stifled a cough which dipped into a gurgle and sank into a mire Of strangulated affect which almost became a convulsion until finally He shrieked, “I have to go, the cat’s under the Christmas tree, ripping Open all the presents, the central heating boiler’s on the blink, The house is on fucking fire!” So I was left with the offer of being raffle-ticket tout as a special favour, Some recompense for giving over two entire newsletters to Jimmy’s work: The words of the letter before his stroke still burned.
“I don’t know why They omitted me, Armitage and Harrison were my best mates once.
You and I Must meet.
” A whole year’s silence until the card with its cryptic message ‘Jimmy’s recovering slowly but better than expected’.
I never heard from Pegnall about the reading, the pamphlets he asked for Went unacknowledged.
Whalebone, the fellow-tutor he commended, also stayed silent.
Had the event been cancelled? Happening to be in Huddersfield on Good Friday I staggered up three flights of stone steps in the Byram Arcade to the Poetry Business Where, next to the ‘closed’ sign an out-of-date poster announced the reading in Leeds At a date long gone.
I peered through the slats at empty desks, at brimming racks of books, At overflowing bin-bags and the yellowing poster.
Desperately I tried to remember What Janice had said.
“We were sat up in bed, planning to take the children For a walk when Jimmy stopped looking at me, the pupils of his eyes rolled sideways, His head lolled and he keeled over.
” The title of the reading was from Jimmy’s best collection ‘With Energy To Burn’ with energy to burn.

Written by Barry Tebb |

TO THE SOUND OF VIOLINS

 Give me life at its most garish

Friday night in the Square, pink sequins dazzle

And dance on clubbers bare to the midriff

Young men in crisp shirts and pressed pants

‘Dress code smart’ gyrate to ‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’

And sing along its lyrics to the throng of which I’m one

My shorts, shoulder bag and white beard

Making me stand out in the teeming swarm

Of teens and twenties this foetid Friday night

On my way from the ward where our son paces

And fulminates I throw myself into the drowning

Tide of Friday to be rescued by sheer normality.
The mill girl with her mates asks anxiously "Are you on your own? Come and join us What’s your name?" Age has driven my shyness away As I join the crowd beneath the turning purple screens Bannered ‘Orgasm lasts for ever’ and sip unending Halves of bitter, as I circulate among the crowd, Being complete in itself and out for a good night out, A relief from factory, shop floor and market stall Running from the reality of the ward where my son Pounds the ledge with his fist and seems out to blast My very existence with words like bullets.
The need to anaesthetise the pain resurfaces Again and again.
In Leeds City Square where Pugin’s church, the Black Prince and the Central Post Office In its Edwardian grandeur are startled by the arching spumes Or white water fountains and the steel barricades of Novotel Rise from the ruins of a sixties office block.
I hurry past and join Boar Lane’s Friday crew From Keighley and Dewsbury’s mills, hesitating At the thought of being told I’m past my Sell-by-date and turned away by the West Indian Bouncers, black-suited and city-council badged Who checked my bag but smiled at ‘The Lights of Leeds’ and ‘Poets of Our Time’ tucked away as carefully as condoms- Was it guns or drugs they were after I wondered as I crossed the bare boards to the bar.
I stayed near the fruit machine which no-one played, Where the crowd was thickest, the noise drowned out the pain ‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’ the chorus rang The girls joined in but the young men knew The words no more than me.
Dancing as we knew it In the sixties has gone, you do your own thing And follow the beat, hampered by my bag I just kept going, letting the music and the crowd Hold me, my camera eye moving in search, in search… What I’m searching for I don’t know Searching’s a way of life that has to grow "All of us who are patients here are searchers after truth" My son kept saying, his legs shaking from the side effects Of God-knows- what, pacing the tiny ward kitchen cum smoking room, Denouncing his ‘illegal section’ and ‘poisonous medication’ To an audience of one.
The prospect of TV, Seroxat and Diazepan fazed me: I was beyond unravelling Meltzer on differentiation Of self and object or Rosine Josef Perelberg on ‘Dreaming and Thinking’ Or even the simpler ‘Rise and Crisis of Psychoanalysis in the United States’ So I went out with West Yorkshire on a Friday night.
Nothing dramatic happened; perhaps I’m a little too used To acute wards or worse where chairs fly across rooms, Windows disintegrate and double doors are triple locked And every nurse carries a white panic button and black pager To pinpoint the moment’s crisis.
Normality was a bit of adrenaline, A wild therapy that drew me in, sanity had won the night.
"Are you on your own, love? Come and join us" People kept asking if I was alright and why I had that damned great shoulder bag.
I was introduced To three young men about to tie the knot, a handsome lothario In his midforties winked at me constantly, Dancing with practised ease with sixteen year olds Who all seemed to know him and determined to show him.
Three hours passed in as many minutes and then the crowds Disappeared to catch the last bus home.
The young aren’t As black as they are painted, one I danced with reminded me Of how Margaret would have been at sixteen With straw gold hair Yeats would have immortalised.
People seemed to guess I was haunted by an inner demon I’d tried to leave in the raftered lofts of City Square But failed to.
Girls from sixteen to twenty six kept grabbing me And making me dance and I found my teenage inhibitions Gone at sixty-one and wildly gyrated to ‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’ Egged on by the throng by the fruit machine and continuous Thumbs-up signs from passing men.
I had to forgo A cheerful group of Aussies were intent on taking me clubbing "I’d get killed or turned into a pumpkin If I get home after midnight" I quipped to their delight But being there had somehow put things right.

Written by Barry Tebb |

INCOMPATABILITIES

 For Brenda Williams



La lune diminue; divin septembre.
Divine September the moon wanes.
Pierre Jean Jouve Themes for poems and the detritus of dreams coalesce: This is one September I shall not forget.
The grammar-school caretaker always had the boards re-blacked And the floors waxed, but I never shone.
The stripes of the red and black blazer Were prison-grey.
You could never see things that way: Your home had broken windows to the street.
You had the mortification of lice in your hair While I had the choice of Brylcreem or orange pomade.
Four children, an alcoholic father and An Irish immigrant mother.
Failure’s metaphor.
I did not make it like Alan Bennett, Who still sends funny postcards About our Leeds childhood.
Of your’s, you could never speak And found my nostalgia Wholly inappropriate.
Forgetting your glasses for the eleven plus, No money for the uniform for the pass at thirteen.
It wasn’t - as I imagined - shame that kept you from telling But fear of the consequences for your mother Had you sobbed the night’s terrors Of your father’s drunken homecomings, Your mother sat with the door open In all weathers while you, the oldest, Waited with her, perhaps Something might have been done.
He never missed a day’s work digging graves, Boasting he could do a six-footer Single-handed in two hours flat.
That hackneyed phrase ‘He drank all his wages’ Doesn’t convey his nightly rages The flow of obscenities about menstruation While the three younger ones were in bed And you waited with your mother To walk the streets of Seacroft.
“Your father murdered your mother” As Auntie Margaret said, Should a witness Need indicting.
Your mother’s growing cancer went diagnosed, but unremarked Until the final days She was too busy auxiliary nursing Or working in the Lakeside Caf?.
It was her wages that put bread and jam And baked beans into your stomachs.
Her final hospitalisation Was the arena for your father’s last rage Her fare interfering with the night’s drinking; He fought in the Burma Campaign but won no medals.
Some kind of psychiatric discharge- ‘paranoia’ Lurked in his papers.
The madness went undiagnosed Until his sixtieth birthday.
You never let me meet him Even after our divorce.
In the end you took me on a visit with the children.
A neat flat with photographs of grandchildren, Stacks of wood for the stove, washing hung precisely In the kitchen, a Sunday suit in the wardrobe.
An unwrinkling of smiles, the hard handshake Of work-roughened hands.
One night he smashed up the tidy flat.
The TV screen was powder The clock ticked on the neat lawn ‘Murder in Seacroft Hospital’ Emblazoned on the kitchen wall.
I went with you and your sister in her car to Roundhay Wing.
Your sister had to leave for work or sleep You had to back to meet the children from school.
For Ward 42 it wasn’t an especially difficult admission.
My first lesson: I shut one set of firedoors while the charge nurse Bolted the other but after five minutes his revolt Was over and he signed the paper.
The nurse on nights had a sociology degree And an interest in borderline schizophrenia.
After lightsout we chatted about Kohut and Kernberg And Melanie Klein.
Your father was occasionally truculent, Barricading himself in on one home leave.
Nothing out of the way For a case of that kind.
The old ladies on the estate sighed, Single men were very scarce.
Always a gentleman, tipping His cap to the ladies.
There seems to be objections in the family to poetry Or at least to the kind that actually speaks And fails to lie down quietly on command.
Yours seems to have set mine alight- I must get something right.

Written by Barry Tebb |

LETTERS TO FRIENDS

 I


Eddie Linden

Dear Eddie we’ve not met

Except upon the written page 

And at your age the wonder 

Is that you write at all

When so many have gone under 

Or been split asunder by narcissistic humours

Blunder following blunder

Barker and Graham, godfathering my verse

Bearing me cloud-handed to Haworth moor

From my chained metropolitan moorings,

O hyaline March morning with Leeds

At its thrusting best, the thirsty beasts

Of night quenched as the furnaces

Of Hunslet where Hudswell Clarke’s locos

Rust in their skeletal sheds, rails skewed

To graveyards platforms and now instead

Skyscrapers circle the city, cranes, aeroplanes,

Electric trains but even they cannot hinder

Branches bursting with semen

Seraphic cloud sanctuaries shunting

Us homeward to the beckoning moors.
II Brenda Williams Leeds voices soothe the turbulence ‘Ey’ ‘sithee’ and ‘love’, lastingly lilt From cradle to grave, from backstreet On the social, our son, beat his way To Eton, Balliol, to Calcatta’s Shantiniketan And all the way back to a locked ward.
While I in the meantime fondly fiddled With rhyme and unreason, publishing pamphlets And Leeds Poetry Weekly while under the bane Of his tragic illness, poet and mother, You were driven from pillar to post By the taunting yobbery of your family And the crass insensitivity of wild therapy To the smoking dark of despair, Locked in your flat in the Abbey Road With seven cats and poetry.
O stop and strop your bladed darkness On the rock of ages while plangent tollings Mock your cradled rockings, knock by knock.
III Debjani Chatterjee In these doom-laden days You are steady as a pilot nursing tired ships homeward Through churning seas Where grey gulls scream Forlornly and for ever.
I am the red-neck, Bear-headed blaster Shifting sheer rock To rape the ore of poetry’s plunder Or bulldozing trees to glean mines of silver While you sail serenely onward Ever the diplomat’s daughter Toujours de la politesse.
IV Daisy Abey Daisy, dearest of all, safest And kindest, watcher and warner Of chaotic corners looming Round poetry’s boomerang bends I owe you most a letter While you are here beside me Patient as a miller waiting on wind To drive the great sails Through summer.
When the muse takes over I am snatched from order and duty Blowing routine into a riot of going And coming, blind, backwards, tip Over arse, sea waves crashing in suburbia, Saturnalia in Sutton, headlines of mad poet Striding naked over moors, roaring "I am here I am waiting".
V Jeremy Reed Niagaras of letters on pink sheets In sheaths of silver envelopes Mutually exchanged.
I open your missives Like undressing a girl in my teens Undoing the flap like a recalcitrant Bra strap, the letters stiff as nipples While I stroke the creviced folds Of amber and mauve and lick As I stick stamps like the clitoris Of a reluctant virgin, urgent for Defloration and the pulse of orgasm.

Written by Barry Tebb |

TO MY WIFE

 I

You buy my freedom with your love.
With every book you catalogue or stamp My imagination hacks a strand from the hawser That for three years has held it In the grubbing estuary of mud and time.
Your early waking with tired eyes And late return at evening, all Contribute to the store of images I love you for: the irony being Your job is worse than mine Your talent more.
II I do not understand myself, the time, or you.
I cannot comprehend our love, shot through Like flying silk with flashes of gold light And the tattered backcloth of suffering.
Each night I remember our meeting; My hair ‘like iron wire’, the grey dust In the air of my house, the exact place On the carpet where I kissed you And how we talked on and on, Too much in love for love, Until the night was gone.
III We acted out our love By nearly going mad, Gave up the jobs we had To take a cottage on the moors At less than garage rent.
For food we learned to pledge our dreams And found, too late, the world redeems What it had lent.
By night the world unpicked The dream we wove by day, Each dawn we woke to find The stitching come away.
IV Two creatures from a bestiary Besieged our dream: A neighbour’s one-eyed cat That prowled outside to bring Its witch-like owner With her tapping stick.
Was the Bach we played too loud for her deaf ears, Or was it our love that howled her silence home? V We have re-built that house With blood.
We have sculptured that dream In stone.

Written by Barry Tebb |

OUR SON

 Quarter to three: I wake again at the hour of his birth

Thirty years ago and now he paces corridors of dark

In nightmares of self-condemnation where random thoughts

Besiege his fevered imagination – England’s 

Imminent destruction, his own, the world’s…

Sixty to eighty cigarettes a day, unavailing depot injections,

Failed abscondings, failed everything: Eton and Balliol

Hold no sway on ward one, nor even being

‘A six language master,’ on PICU madness is the only qualification.
There was the ‘shaving incident’ at school, which Made him ready to walk out at fifteen, the alcohol Defences at Oxford which shut us out then petered out During the six years in India, studying Bengali at Shantiniketan.
He tottered from the plane, penniless and unshaven, To hide away in the seediest bedsit Beeston could boast Where night turned to day and vaguely he applied For jobs as clerk and court usher and drank in pubs with yobs.
When the crisis came – "I feel my head coming off my body’ – I was ready and unready, making the necessary calls To get a bed, to keep him on the ward, to visit and reassure Us both that some way out could be found.
The ‘Care Home’ was the next disaster, trying to cure Schizophrenia with sticking plaster: "We don’t want Carers’ input, we call patients ‘residents’ and insist on chores Not medication", then the letters of terrible abuse, the finding of a flat, ‘The discharge into the community.
’ His ‘keyworker’ was the keyworker from hell: the more Isaiah’s care fell apart the more she encouraged Him to blame us and ‘Make his life his own’, vital signs Of decline ignored or consigned to files, ‘confidentiality’ reigned supreme.
Insidiously the way back to the ward unveiled Over painful months, the self-neglect, the inappropriate remarks In pubs, the neglected perforated eardrum, keeping Company with his feckless cousins between their bouts in prison.
The pointless team meetings he was patted through, My abrupt dismissal as carer at the keyworker’s instigation, The admission we knew nothing of, the abscondings we were told of And had to sort out, then the phone call from the ASW.
"We are about to section your son for six months, have you Any comment?" Then the final absconding to London From a fifteen minute break on PICU, to face his brother’s Drunken abuse, the police were kindness itself as they drove him to the secure unit.
Two nurses came by taxi from Leeds the next day to collect him The Newsam Centre’s like a hotel – Informality and first class treatment Behind the locked doors he freezes before and whispers "Daddy, I was damned in hell but now I am God’s friend.
" Note: PICU- Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit Beeston- An inner city area of Leeds ASW- Approved Social Worker

Written by Barry Tebb |

NEW YEAR POEM

 For Jeremy Reed



Rejection doesn’t lead me to dejection

But to inspiration via irritation

Or at least to a bit of naughty new year wit-

Oh isn’t it a shame my poetry’s not tame

Like Rupert’s or Jay’s - I never could

Get into their STRIDE just to much pride

To lick the arses of the poetry-of-earthers

Or the sad lady who runs KATABASIS from the back

Of a bike, gets shouted at by rude parkies

And writing huffy poems to prove it.
.
.
Oh to be acceptable and IN THE POETRY REVIEW Like Lavinia or Jo With double spreads And a glossy colour photo Instead I’m stuck in a bus queue at Morden London’s meridian point of zero imagination Actually it’s a bit like ACUMEN with the Oxleys Boasting about their 150,000 annual submissions- If what they print’s the best God help the rest.
.
.
) At least my Christmas post had - instead of a card From Jeremy Reed - his ELEGY FOR DAVID GASCOYNE - The best poem I’ve had by post in forty years And Jeremy’s best to date in my estimate - The English APOLLINAIRE - your ZONE, your SONG OF THE BADLY LOVED - sitting in a cafe in South End Green I send you this poem, Jeremy, sight unseen, A new year’s gift to you, pushing through To star galaxies still unmapped and to you, BW, Sonneteer of silence, huddled in the fourth month Of your outdoor vigil, measuring in blood, tears and rain Your syllable count in hour-glass of pain.

Written by Barry Tebb |

RESURRECTION

 I thought of my ‘faculty of poetry’

As of the eye

The bream or white-bait showed

In its hysterical dance of death

When the receding tide

Left it asleep

In a shallow pool on the shore.
Why did I fail to take it? Was I strangely compassionate Or merely afraid to touch The jerking spasm of flesh With the still eye? Or was it I on the shore In the shallow pool, left by the tide, Engaged in that mystic dance of death, Twenty years before?

Written by Barry Tebb |

IN HARM'S WAY

 I was never a film buff, give me Widmark and Wayne any day

Saturday matin?es with Margaret Gardener still hold sway

As my memory veers backwards this temperate Boxing Day-

Westerns and war films and a blurred Maigret,

Coupled with a worn-out sixties Penguin Mallarm?-

How about that mix for a character trait?

Try as I may I can’t get my head round the manifold virtues

Of Geraldine Monk or either Riley

Poetry has to have a meaning, not just patterns on a page,

Vertical words and snips of scores just make me rage.
Is Thom Gunn really the age-old sleaze-weasel Andrew Duncan says? Is Tim Allen right to give Geraldine Monk an eleven page review? At least they care for poetry to give their lives to it As we do, too.
My syntax far from perfect, my writing illegible But somehow I’ll get through, Bloodaxe and Carcourt May jeer but an Indian printer’s busy with my ‘Collected’ And, Calcutta typesetters permitting, it will be out this year With the red gold script of sari cloth on the spine And fuck those dusty grey contemporary voices Those verses will be mine.
Haslam’s a whole lot better but touchy as a prima donna And couldn’t take it when I said he’d be a whole lot better If he’d unloose his affects and let them scatter I’m envious of his habitat, The Haworth Moors Living there should be the inspiration of my old age But being monophobic I can’t face the isolation Or persuade my passionate friend to join me.
What urban experiences can improve Upon a cottage life with my own muse!

Written by Barry Tebb |

THREE SONGS FOR MAYDAY MORNING

 ( I )


for ‘JC’ of the TLS

Nightmare of metropolitan amalgam

Grand Hotel and myself as a guest there

Lost with my room rifled, my belongings scattered,

Purse, diary and vital list of numbers gone – 

Vague sad memories of mam n’dad

Leeds 1942 back-to-back with shared outside lav.
Hosannas of sweet May mornings Whitsun glory of lilac blooming Sixty years on I run and run From death, from loss, from everyone.
Which are the paths I never ventured down, Or would they, too, be vain? O for the secret anima of Leeds girlhood A thousand times better than snide attacks in the TLS By ‘JC’.
Fuck you, Jock, you should be ashamed, Attacking Brenda Williams, who had a background Worse than yours, an alcoholic schizophrenic father And an Irish immigrant mother who died when Brenda was fifteen But still she managed to read Proust on her day off As a library girl, turned down by David Jenkins, ‘As rising star of the left’ for a place at Leeds To read theology started her as a protest poet Sitting out on the English lawn, mistaken for a snow sculpture In the depths of winter.
Her sit-in protest lasted seven months, Months, eight hours a day, her libellous verse scorching The academic groves of Leeds in sheets by the thousand, Mailed through the university's internal post.
She called The VC 'a mouse from the mountain'; Bishop of Durham to-be David Jenkins a wimp and worse and all in colourful verse And 'Guntrip's Ghost' went to every VC in England in a Single day.
When she sat on the English lawn Park Honan Flew paper aeroplanes with messages down and And when she was in Classics they took away her chair So she sat on the floor reading Virgil and the Chairman of the Department sent her an official Christmas card 'For six weeks on the university lawn, learning the Hebrew alphabet'.
And that was just the beginning: in Oxford Magdalen College School turned our son away for the Leeds protest so she Started again, in Magdalen Quad, sitting through Oxford's Worst ever winter and finally they arrested her on the Eve of the May Ball so she wrote 'Oxford from a Prison Cell' her most famous poem and her protest letter went in A single day to every MP and House of Lords Member and It was remembered years after and when nobody nominated Her for the Oxford Chair she took her own and sat there In the cold for almost a year, well-wishers pinning messages To the tree she sat under - "Tityre, tu patulae recubans Sub tegmine fagi" and twelve hundred and forty dons had "The Pain Clinic" in a single day and she was fourteen Times in the national press, a column in "The Guardian" And a whole page with a picture in the 'Times Higher' - "A Well Versed Protester" JC, if you call Myslexia’s editor a ‘kick-arse virago’ You’ve got to expect a few kicks back.
All this is but the dust We must shake from our feet Purple heather still with blossom In Haworth and I shall gather armfuls To toss them skywards and you, Madonna mia, I shall bed you there In blazing summer by High Wythens, Artist unbroken from the highest peak I raise my hands to heaven.
( II ) Sweet Anna, I do not know you from Eve But your zany zine in the post Is the best I’ve ever seen, inspiring this rant Against the cant of stuck-up cunts currying favour I name no name but if the Dutch cap fits Then wear it and share it.
Who thought at sixty one I’d have owned a watch Like this one, chased silver cased Quartz reflex Japanese movement And all for a fiver at the back of Leeds Market Where I wander in search of oil pastels Irish folk and cheap socks.
The TLS mocks our magazine With its sixties Cadillac pink Psychedelic cover and every page crimson Orange or mauve, revolutionary sonnets By Brenda Williams from her epic ‘Pain Clinic’ And my lacerating attacks on boring Bloodaxe Neil Ghastly and Anvil’s preciosity and all the Stuck-up arse-holes in their cubby-holes sending out Rejection slip by rote – LPW

Written by Barry Tebb |

LETTER TO MICHAEL HOROVITZ

 It is time after thirty years

We had our Poetry Renaissance

Rise, Children of Albion, rise!

It is time after nightmares of sleep

When we walked the streets of inner cities

Our poems among the burnt-out houses

And cars, whispering compassion

To the addicts shaking and the homeless

Waking and those who have come apart

In the nowhere of today

Begging in stations

Sleeping in boxes.
It is time to find Our lost, those children I taught three decades ago To paint on ceilings With sticks of incense Rainbows of silence For John Cage To write on walls In luminous paint Pink haiku For Allen Ginsberg.
It is time to awaken and emblazon the sky With symphonies of sorrow, To draft the articles of war.
Poets of the Underground The doors have opened The ghost of Walt Whitman Grey-bearded, in lonely anguish Walks with us.

Written by Barry Tebb |

LEFTOVERS

 Empty chocolate boxes, a pillowcase with an orange at the bottom,

Nuts and tinsel with its idiosyncratic rustle and brilliant sheen

And the reflection in it of paper-chains hand-made and stuck with

Flour-paste stretching from the light-bowl to every corner of the room.
Father Christmas himself was plastic and his vast stomach painted red With a bulging sack behind his back and he was stuck in the middle Of a very large cake.
The icing was royal and you could see the Whites of many eggs in the glister of its surface and on the Upright piano the music of Jingle Bells lay open.
With aching hands I wrote thank you notes for socks to sainted aunts And played on Nutwood Common with Rupert until Tiger Lily’s father, The Great Conjuror, waved his wand and brought me home to the last Coal fire in Leeds, suddenly dying.
I got through a whole packet of sweet cigarettes with pink tips Dipped in cochineal and a whole quarter of sherbet lemons at a sitting And there was a full bottle of Portello to go at, the colour Of violet ink and tasting of night air and threepenny bits Which lasted until the last gas-lamp in Leeds went out.
I had collected enough cardboard milk-tops to make a set of Matchstick spinners and with my box of Rainbow Chalks drew circles On my top, red, white and Festival of Britain blue and made it spin All the way to the last bin-yard in Leeds while they pulled it down.
I was a very small teddy-bear crouched on a huge and broken chair Ready to be put out into the wide world and my mother was there To see me off.
The light in her eyes was out, there was no fire In her heart and the binyard where I played was empty space.

Written by Barry Tebb |

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

 Sorry, Neil Oram (with an orange in my pocket)

I can’t make ,your loch-side commune by bonny Drummadrochit.
Sorry Brenda Williams, I can’t share your park bench protest near the Royal Free At sixty I need a fire and slippers, -4 outside just isn’t me.
Sorry, Chris Torrance, I can’t make your Welsh eyrie Just spelling Gymmercher Isaf Pontneathvaughan quite fazes me.
Sorry, Seamus Famous, your hide away in Dublin Bay No doubt is bloody grand but I can’t face the journey to a far off foreign land.
Sorry James Kirkup, your Andorran niche Is just too complicated for me to ever reach.
Apologies especially to Emily Bronte’s ghost - You are the mostest hostess that I could ever boast Your heather moor and cobbled street’s allure Are something I’ve put off until the braw New Year.

Written by Barry Tebb |

YOU

 “Remember, you loved me, when we were young, one day”



The words of the song in Tauber’s mellifluous tenor

Haunt my nights and days, make me tremble when I hear

Your voice on the phone, sadden me when I can’t make into your smile

The pucker of your lips, the gleam in your eye.
The day we met is with me still, you asked directions And on the way we chatted.
You told me how you’d left Lancashire for Leeds, went to the same TC as me, even liked poetry Both were looking for an ‘interesting evening class’ Instead we found each other.
You took me back for tea to the flat in Headingley You shared with two other girls.
The class in Moortown Was a disaster.
Walking home in the rain I put my arm Around you and you did not resist, we shared your umbrella Then we kissed.
I liked the taste of your lips, the tingle of your fingertips, Your mild perfume.
When a sudden gust blew your umbrella inside out We sheltered underneath a cobbled arch, a rainy arch, a rainbow arch.
“I’m sorry”, you said about nothing in particular, perhaps the class Gone wrong, the weather, I’ll never know but there were tears in your eyes But perhaps it was just the rain.
We kissed again and I felt Your soft breasts and smelt the hair on your neck and I was lost to you And you to me perhaps, I’ll never know.
We went to plays, I read my poems aloud in quiet places, I met your mother and you met mine.
We quarrelled over stupid things.
When my best friend seduced you I blamed him and envied him And tried to console you when you cried a whole day through.
The next weekend I had the flu and insisted you came to look after me In my newly-rented bungalow.
Out of the blue I said, “What you did for him You can do for me”.
It was not the way our first and only love-making Should have been, you guilty and regretful, me resentful and not tender.
When I woke I saw you in the half-light naked, curled and innocent I truly loved you If I’d proposed you might have agreed, I’ll never know.
A month later you were pregnant and I was not the father.
I wanted to help you with the baby, wanted you to stay with me So I could look after you and be there for the birth but your mind Was set elsewhere end I was too immature to understand or care.
When I saw you again you had Sarah and I had Brenda, my wife-to-be; Three decades of nightmare ahead with neither of our ‘adult children’ Quite right, both drink to excess and have been on wards.
Nor has your life been a total success, full-time teaching till you retired Then Victim Support: where’s that sharp mind, that laughter and that passion? And what have I to show? A few pamphlets, a small ‘Selected’, a single good review.
Sat in South Kensington on the way to the Institut I wrote this, Too frightened even to phone you.