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Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

adventure

 just as the dusk comes hooting
down through the shivering black leaves
of the swinging trees we (the brave ones
swaggering like marshalls through a lynch-mob)
crash-bang our way to the door
of the so-called haunted house

knock knock - kick in a pane of glass
and the dusk hoots louder in our ears
and the swinging trees ride like a mob
with murder in mind - knock knock -
the heavy knocker on the solid door
shaking the house - knock knock
knock knock - louder shaking our brave
bodies the heavy knocker of our hearts

knock knock - knock knock knock

we laugh with a harsh laughter we
have never heard before push and shove
each other in a boisterous fear
lean on heave crash open the door
fall in a heap inside - pick ourselves up
courageous still giggling and bruised.
.
.
.
.
shush find words bounce our voices off the walls.
.
.
.
shush shush yell catcalls scream shriek roar batter and shatter.
.
.
.
.
shush shush shush oh shush yourselves no really - shush in the air under the stair what can we hear shush are you getting scared we knew it we knew that if we dared.
.
.
.
we can hear noises noises noises in an empty house the sound of our voices echoes in crevices rattles in doorways booms in the hollowness of empty rooms no that isn't all that doesn't explain the tall hooded silence standing in the hall or the whispering smell of dust bristling the floor scurrying like the dried-up bones of mice to the hole in the crumbling wall something snatches our voices away from us too quickly for our voices to be all nonsense the house is dead it can't harm us old bricks and wood you're letting the darkness go to your head shout if you don't believe us shout if anybody's there if anybody's there you won't get us afraid of you whoever you are whoever you are this is what we think of you boo boo boo what's wrong what's wrong tell us what's wrong listen nothing no nothing at all your voices went but they didn't return you called but nothing came back at all there's something there swallowing up words absorbing them into air heavy waiting alert (daddy-longlegs pitch on skin sinister fingers whisper through the roots of our hair.
.
.
.
) .
.
.
.
we're not afraid of you nothing nobody we know you're there what is it at the end of the passage in the gloom by the still door eyeing without eyes everything we do sucking us in with its black stare you think it's funny don't you trying to frighten us keeping out of sight come out here if you're anything - we'll show you arms move suddenly along the wall the moon riding hard on foaming clouds stands solid in the door and it's not a good moon at all why did we come we should have stayed home but here we are in an evil room trapped between the witchcraft of an empty house and the cold hard grin of the moon i'm going in you can't i must you'll become air a heavy silence a dance of dust there's nothing there nothing nothing there he gives a brave laugh but a laugh drained of blood and moves down the passage to the masked door hesitates and turns wanting our support frightened to his heart's core steps no - is drawn - backwards into a black space rapidly dissolving in our misted eyes we half-hear a short gasp - no more the moon's grin is louder as (on his restless clouds) he bucks about the sky no one returns to us and in the morning (rooted in fear we could not leave the place but spent the night huddled in one big stack in the frozen hall) and in the morning we find not a single trace of the friend who went as simply as any word into thin air
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

the rest home

 professor piebald
(the oldest man in the home) was meek
at the same time ribald
he clothed his matter (so to speak)
in latin and (was it) greek
it caused no great offence
to nobody did it make sense
to make a rude joke
in languages nobody spoke

once he'd changed the word agenda
at a home's committee meeting to pudenda
this sort of thing was tolerated by the other
inmates (except his younger brother -
a dustman all his life
who'd robbed the professor of his wife
and treated him now with disdainful anger
but to everyone piebald was a stranger)
well agenda/pudenda hardly ranked as humour
but there was rumour
piebald was said to have his eye on
nelly (frail and pretty in a feathery fashion
the sort perhaps to rouse a meek man's passion)
she wouldn't talk to him without a tie on

one such occasion burst the bubble
he spoke (no tie on) she demurred
refusing one further word
and so the trouble
piebald went white all over
muttered about being her lover
then shouted in a rage
(nelly whispered be your age)
i - two headed janus -
now pingo your anus
(less janus - i should have thought - than mars)
and pinched the dear frail lady on the arse
who died a second then exploded
swung a punch so loaded
poor old piebald eared it to the floor
the other old ones in the room
(more excited now than when the flowers came out in bloom)
were rushing pushing to the door

the brother stood across the fallen man
in total icy disdain
you academic lily-livered piss of a gnat
he hissed - and spat
into the piebald twitching face
drew back a pace
when wham - a seething body like a flung cat
lifted upwards into space

the younger brother was butted in the belly
(who staggered back hit head and made a dying fall
leaving a small red zigzag down the wall)
then this sizzling flesh-ball
fell on fluttering nelly
tore at her skirt
ripped other clothes apart
began kissing her fervently on her agenda
te amo te amo te amo te amo
(repeating it as though
it was the finest latin phrase he'd learned by heart)
crying abasing himself to her most wanted gender

she more dazed than hurt
clutching the virgin fragments of her skirt
a simpering victim in the rising clamour
old people now outraged beyond controlling
through the swing doors pushing tumbling rolling
armed with saucepans pokers knives
playing the greatest game in all their lives
attacked without compunction
the frenzied lover at his unction
a poker struck him once across the head
and professor piebald
once meek but ribald
dropped down undoubtedly dead

and even when the horror had subsided
and the arms of justice with their maker were abided
nelly stood rocking in her room
weeping for the heart-ache in her womb
that till then had hardly ever fluttered
and (only occasionally) muttered
if you have your eye on
me - my dear man - put your tie on

the home itself was closed a few days after
the house is riddled still by ribald laughter
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

christmas in a box

 the policeman on the streets
found christmas in a box
tipped it down a manhole
it wasn't wearing socks

a little old lady nearby - 
the poor sod's done no harm
she got hit with a truncheon
for spreading false alarm

the policeman then went home
pleased his job was done
called for his christmas dinner
but dinner there was none

his wife with the lodger
his children gone for good
he beat himself with his truncheon
and lay down in his blood

all the holly berries
all the christmas trees
gathered in the silent square
brought buildings to their knees

nothing comprehended
why such bitter bleeding
tore hate aside - redeemed a space
for joy to do the feeding

a ripple took the roof off
sun married the rain
christmas came with socks on
the box refilled with grain

a little old lady nearby
took off her winter coat
danced to where the policeman's blood
was rattling in his throat

she sewed him up and rolled him
round to the local bank
doled him out to everyone
whose lives had done a blank

policeman's blood and christmas socks
changed every single life
the children came home to freedom
and the lodger kept the wife
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

from imperfect Eden

 (1)
and off to scott's (the dockers' restaurant)
burly men packed in round solid tables
but what the helle (drowned in hellespont)
this place for me was rich in its own fables
i'll be the lover sunk if that enables
an awesome sense of just how deep the spells
that put scotts for me beyond the dardanelles

lace-curtained windows (or memory plays me false)
no capped odysseus could turn such sirens down
or was it a circean slip that shocked the pulse
all men are pigs when hunger rips the gown
and these men were not there to grace the town
service bustling (no time to take caps off)
hot steaming food and noses in the trough

i loved it deeply squashed in there with you
rough offensive banter bantered back
the smells of sweat and cargoes mixed with stew
and dumplings lamb chops roast beef - what the fuck
these toughened men could outdo friar tuck
so ravenous their faith blown off the sea
that god lived in the stomach raucously

perhaps cramped into scotts i felt it most
that you belonged in a living sea of men
who shared the one blood-vision of a coast
tides washed you to but washed you off again
too much history made the struggle plain
but all the time there was this rough-hewn glimmer
that truth wore dirty clothes and ate its dinner

at midday - scotts was a parliament of sorts
where what was said had not the solid weight
of what was felt (or what was eaten) courts
bewigged and stuffed with pomp of state
were brushed aside in favour of the plate
but those who entered hungry came out wise
unspoken resolutions mulled like pies


(2)
and then the tram ride home (if we were lucky -
and nothing during the day had caused despair)
trams had a gift about them that was snaky
wriggling their straitened ways from lair to lair
they hissed upon their wires and flashed the air
they swallowed people whole and spewed them out
and most engorged in them became devout

you either believed in trams or thought them heathen
savage contraptions that shook you to your roots
on busy jaunts there was no room for breathing
damn dignity - rapt flesh was in cahoots
all sexes fused from head-scarves to their boots
and somewhere in the melee children pressed
shoulders to crotches noses to the rest

and in light-headed periods trams debunked
the classier lissome ways of shifting freight
emptied of pomp their anarchy instinct
they'd rattle down their tracks at such a rate
they'd writhe their upper structures like an eight
being drawn by revelling legless topers
strict rails (they claimed) gave sanction for such capers

trams had this kind of catholic conviction
the end ordained their waywardness was blessed
if tramways claimed per se this benediction
who cared if errant trams at times seemed pissed
religions prosper from the hedonist
who shags the world by day and prays at night
those drunken trams still brim me with delight

to climb the twisted stairs and seek a seat
as tram got under way through sozzled rotors
and find olympia vacant at my feet
(the gods too razzled by the rasping motors
- the sharps of life too much for absolutors)
would send me skeltering along the aisle
king of the upper world for one short while

and all the shaking rolling raucous gait
of this metallic serpent sizzling through
the maze of shoppy streets (o dizzy state)
sprinkled my heart-strings with ambrosial dew
(well tell a lie but such a wish will do)
and i'd be gloried as if leviathan
said hop on nip and sped me to japan

so back to earth - the tram that netley day
would be quite sober bumbling through the town
the rush-hour gone and night still on its way
mum lil and baby (babies) would stay down
and we'd be up the top - too tired to clown
our bodies glowed (a warm contentment brewed)
burnt backs nor aching legs could pop that mood

(3)
i lay in bed one day my joints subsiding
lost in a day-dream rhythmed by my heart
medicine-time (a pleasure not abiding)
i did my best to play the sleeping part
then at my back a nurse's rustling skirt
a bending breeze (all breathing held in check)
and then she blew sweet eddies down my neck

the nurse (of all) whose presence turned the winter
to summer's morning (cool before the sun)
who touched the quick with such exquisite splinter
the wince was there but no great hurt was done
she moved like silk the finest loom had spun
the ward went dark when she was gone or late
and i was seven longing to be eight

that whispering down my spine by scented lips
threw wants and hopes my way that stewed my mind
a draught drunk down in paradisal sips
stirred passages in me not then defined
at three i'd touched the grail with fingers blind
to heart-ache - this nurse though first described the gates
to elysium where grown-up love pupates

but soon a cloud knocked pristine sex aback
(i had to learn the hard way nothing's easy)
i went my own route off the sanctioned track
and came distraught - in fact distinctly queasy
without permission (both nonchalant and breezy)
i sailed from bed to have a pee (or worse)
and got locked in - and drew that nurse's curse

not only hers but all the fussing staff's
for daring such a voyage in my state
whose heart just then was not a bag of laughs
did i not understand the fist of fate
that waited naughty boys who could not wait
thunderous gods glared through the quaking panes
a corporate wrath set back my growing pains

forget the scented lips the creeping bliss
of such a nurse's presence on my flesh
locked in i'd been an hour or more amiss
they thought i'd done a bunk or slipped the leash
when found i'd gone all blue like frozen fish
those scented lips discharged their angry bile
and cupid's dart fell short a scornful mile

come christmas day the christmas tree was bright
its mothering arms held glittering gifts for all
and i was seven longing to be eight
and i was given a large pink fluffy ball
my spirit shrank into the nearest wall
true love reduced to this insulting gimcrack
my pumped-up heart was punctured by a tintack
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

from crossing the line

 (1) a great man

there was a great man
so great he couldn't be criticised in the light
who died
and for a whole week people turned up their collars over their ears
and wept with great gossiping

houses wore their roofs at a mournful angle
and television announcers carried their eyes around in long drooping bags
there was a hush upon the voice of the land
as soft as the shine on velvet

the whole nation stretched up into the dusty attic for its medals and black ties
 and prayers
and seriously polished its black uncomfortable shoes
and no one dared creak in the wrong places

anybody who thought he was everybody
except those who were nearly dying themselves
wanted to come to the funeral
and in its mourning the nation rejoiced to think
that once again it had cut into the world's time
with its own sick longing for the past

the great man and the great nation
had the same bulldog vision of each other's face
and neither of them had barked convincingly for a very long time

so the nation turned out on a cold bleak day
and attended its own funeral with uncanny reverence
and the other nations put tears over their laughing eyes
v-signs and rude gestures spoke with the same fingers


(2) aden

tourists dream of bombs 
that will not kill them

into the rock
the sand-claws
the winking eye
and harsh shell
of aden

waiting for the pinch

jagged sun
lumps of heat
bumping on the stunned ship
knuckledustered rock
clenched over steamer point

waiting for the sun to stagger
loaded down the hill
before we bunch ashore

calm
eyes within their windows
we walk
(a town must live
must have its acre of normality
let hate sport
its bright shirt in the shadows)
we shop
collect our duty-murdered goods
compare bargains
laugh grieve
at benefit or loss
aden dead-pan
leans against our words
which hand invisible
knows how to print a bomb
ejaculate a knife
does tourist greed embroil us in
or shelter us from guilt

backstreet
a sailor drunk
gyrates within a wall of adenese
collapses spews
they roll about him
in a dark pool

the sun moves off
as we do

streets squashed with shops
criss-cross of customers
a rush of people nightwards
a white woman
striding like a cliff
dirt - goats in the gutter
crunched beggars
a small to breed a fungus
cafes with open mouths
men like broken teeth
or way back in the dark
like tonsils

an air of shapeless threat
fluffs in our pulse
a boundary crossed
the rules are not the same
brushed by eyes
the touch is silent
silence breeds
we feel the breath of fury
(soon to roar)
retreat within our skins
return to broader streets

bazaars glower
almost at candlelight
we clutch our goods
a dim delusion of festivity
a christ neurotic
dying to explode

how much of this is aden
how much our masterpiece
all atmospheres are inbuilt

an armoured car looms by

the ship like mother
brooding in the sea
receives us with a sigh
aden winks and ogles in the dark
the sport of hate released

slowly away at midnight
rumours of bombs and riots
in the long wake
a disappointed sleep

nothing to write home about
except the heat


(3) crossing the line (xii)

  give me not england
in its glory dead nightmared with rotting seed
palmerston's perverted gunboat up the
yangtse's arse - lloyd george and winston churchill
rubbing men like salt into surly wounds
(we won those wars and neatly fucked ourselves)
eden at suez a jacked-up piece of wool
macmillan sprinkling cliches where the black
blood boils (the ashes of his kind) - home
as wan as godot (shagged by birth) wilson
for whom the wind blew sharply once or twice
sailing eastwards in the giant's stetson hat
saving jims from the red long john
   give me
not england but the world with england in it
with people as promiscuous as planes (the colours
shuffled)
 don't ask for wars to end or men
to have their deaths wrapped up as christmas gifts
expect myself to die a coward - proclaim no lives
as kisses - offer no roses to the blind
no sanctions to the damned - will not shake hands 
with him who rapes my wife or chokes my daughter
only when drunk or mad will think myself
the master of my purse - will lust for ease
seek to assuage my griefs in others' tears
will make more chaos than i put to rights

but in my fracture i shall strive to stand
a ruined arch whose limbs stretch half
towards a point that drew me upwards - that
ungot intercourse in space that prickless star
is what i ache for (what i want in man
and thus i give him)
  the image of that cross
is grit within him - the arch reflects in
microscopic waves through fleshly aeons
beaming messages to nerves and typing fingers

both ends of me are broken - in frantic storms
hanging over cliffs i fight to mend them
the job cannot be done - i die though
if i stop
 how cynical i may be (how apt
with metaphor or joke to thrust my fate
grotesquely into print) the fact is that
i live until i stop - i can't sit down then
crying let me die or death is good
(the freedom from myself my bones are seeking)

i must go on - tread every road that comes
risk every plague because i must believe
the end is bright (however filled with vomit
every brook) - if not for me then for
those who clamber on my bones
   my hope
is what i owe them - they owe their life to me
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

from the Ansty Experience

 (a)
they seek to celebrate the word
not to bring their knives out on a poem
dissecting it to find a heart
whose beat lies naked on a table
not to score in triumph on a line
no sensitive would put a nostril to
but simply to receive it as an
offering glimpsing the sacred there

poem probes the poet's once-intention
but each time said budges its truth
afresh (leaving the poet's self
estranged from the once-intending man)
and six ears in the room have tuned
objectives sifting the coloured strands
the words have hidden from the poet
asking what world has come to light

people measured by their heartbeats
language can't flout that come-and-go
to touch the heartbeat in a poem
calls for the brain's surrender
a warm diffusion of the mind
a listening to an eery silence
the words both mimic and destroy
(no excuses slipping off the tongue)

and when a poem works the unknown
opens a timid shutter on a world
so familiar it's not been seen
before - and then it's gone bringing
a frisson to an altered room
and in a stuttering frenzy dusty
attributes are tried to resurrect
a glimpse of what it's like inside

a truth (the glow a glow-worm makes)
this is not (not much) what happens
there's serious concern and banter
there's opacity there's chit-chat
diversions and derailings from
a line some avalanche has blocked
(what a fine pass through the mountains)
poetry and fidgets are blood-brothers

it's within all these the cosmos calls
that makes these afternoons a rich
adventure through a common field
when three men moving towards death
(without alacrity but conscious of it)
find youth again and bubble with
its springs - opening worn valves
to give such flow their own direction

there's no need of competition
no wish to prove that one of us
holds keys the others don't to the
sacral chambers - no want to find
consensus in technique or drench 
the rites of words in orthodox 
belief - difference is essential
and delightful (integrity's all)

quality's a private quarrel
between the poem and the poet - taste
the private hang-up of receivers
mostly migrained by exposure
to opinions not their own - fed
from a culture no one bleeds in
sustained by reputations manured
by a few and spread by hearsay

(b)
these meetings are a modest vow
to let each poet speak uncluttered
from establishment's traditions
and conditions where passions rippling
from the marrow can choose a space
to innocent themselves and long-held
tastes for carlos williams gurney
poems to siva (to name a few)

can surface in a side-attempt 
to show unexpected lineage from
the source to present patterns
of the poet - but at the core
of every poem read and comment made
it's not the poem or the poet
being sifted to the seed but
poetry itself given the works

the most despised belittled
enervated creative cowcake
of them all in the public eye
prestigious when it doesn't matter
to the clapped-out powers and turned
away from when too awkward and 
impolitic to confront - ball
to be bounced from high art to low

when fights break out amongst the teachers
and shakespeare's wielded as a cane
as the rich old crusty clan reverts
to the days it hated him at school
but loved the beatings - loudhailer
broken-down old-banger any ram-it-
up-your-arse and suck-my-prick to those
who want to tear chintz curtains down

and shock the cosy populace to taste
life at its rawest (most obscene)
courtesan to fashion and today's 
ploy - advertisement's gold gimmick
slave of beat and rhythm - dead but
much loved donkey in the hearts of all
who learned di-dah di-dah at school
and have been stuck in the custard since

plaything political-tool pop-
star's goo - poetry's been made to garb
itself in all these rags and riches
this age applauds the eye - is one 
of outward exploration - the earth
(in life) and universe (in fiction)
are there for scurrying over - haste
is everything and the beat is all

fireworks feed the fancy - a great ah
rewards the enterprise that fills
night skies with flashing bountifuls
of way-out stars - poetry has to be
in service to this want (is fed
into the system gracelessly)
there can be no standing-still or
stopping-by no take a little time

and see what blossoms here - we're into
poetry in motion and all that shit
and i can accept it all - what stirs
the surface of the ocean ignores
the depths - what talks the hindlegs off
the day can't murder dreams - that's not
to say the depths and dreams aren't there
for those who need them - it's commonplace

they hold the keystones of our lives
i fear something else much deeper
the diabolical self-deceiving
(wilful destruction of the spirit)
by those loudspeaking themselves
as poetry's protectors - publishers
editors literature officers
poetry societies and centres

all all jumping on the flagship
competition's crock of gold
find the winners pick the famous
all the hopefuls cry please name us
aspiring poets search their wardrobes
for the wordy swimsuit likely
to catch the eyeful of the judges
(winners too in previous contests

inured to the needle of success
but this time though now they are tops
totally pissed-off with the process
only here because the money's good)
winners' middle name is wordsworth
losers swallow a dose of shame
organisers rub their golden hands
pride themselves on their discernment

these jacks have found the beanstalk
castle harp and the golden egg
the stupid giant and his frightened wife
who let them steal their best possessions
whose ear for poetry's so poor
they think fum rhymes with englishman
and so of course they get no prizes
thief and trickster now come rich

poetry's purpose is to hit the jackpot
so great the lust for poetic fame
thousands without a ghost of winning
find poems like mothballs in their drawers
sprinkle them with twinkling stardust
post them off with copperplate cheques
the judges wipe their arses on them
the money's gone to a super cause

everyone knows it's just a joke
who gets taken - the foolish and vain
if they're daft enough and such bad poets
more money than sense the best advice 
is - keep it up grannies the cause
is noble and we'll take your cheque
again and again and again
it's the winners who fall in the bog

to win is to be preened - conceit
finds a little fluffy nest dear
to the feted heart and swells there
fed (for a foetal space) on all 
the praisiest worms but in the nest 
is a bloated thing that sucks (and chokes)
on hurt that has the knack of pecking
where there's malice - it grows two heads

winners by their nature soon become
winged and weighted - icarus begins
to prey upon their waking dreams 
prometheus gnawed by eagles 
the tight-shut box epimetheus
gave pandora about to burst
apart - yeats's centre cannot hold
being poets they know the references

and they learn the lesson quickly
climb upon others as they would
climb on you - in short be ruthless
or be dead they mostly fade away
being too intact or too weak-willed
to go the shining way with light-
ning bolts at every second bend 
agents breathing fire up their pants

those who withstand the course become
the poets of their day (and every one
naturally good as gold - exceptions
to the rule - out of the hearing
and the judgment of their rivals)
the media covet the heartache
and the bile - love the new meteor
can't wait to blast it from the heavens

universities will start the cult
with-it secondary teachers catch
the name on fast - magazines begin
to taste the honey on the plate
and soon another name is buzzing 
round the bars where literary pass-
ons meet to dole out bits of hem
i accept it all - it's not for me

above it all the literary lions
(jackals to each other) stand posed
upon their polystyrene mountains
constructed by their fans and foes
alike (they have such need of them)
disdaining what they see but terror-
stricken when newcomers climb up 
waving their thin bright books

for so long they've dubbed themselves
the intellectual cream - deigning
to hand out poems when they're asked
(for proper recompense in cash
or fawning) - but well beyond the risk
of letting others turn the bleeders
down so sure they are they're halfway
to the gods (yet still need preening)

a poem from one of them is like 
the loaves and fishes jesus touched
and rendered food for the five thousand
they too can walk on water in
their home - or so the reviewers say
poetry from their mouths is such a gift
if you don't read or understand it
you'll be damned - i accept all that

but what i can't accept is (all 
this while) the source and bed of what
is poetry to me as cracked and parched -
condemned ignored made mock of 
shoved in wilderness by those 
who've gone the gilded route (mapped out 
by ego and a driving need to claim
best prick with a capital pee)

it's being roomed with the said poem
coming back and back to the same
felt heartbeat having its way with words
absorbing the strains and promises
that make the language opt for paths
no other voice would go - shifting
a dull stone and knowing what bright
creature this instinct has bred there

it's trusting the poet with his own map
not wanting to tear it up before
the ink is dry because the symbols
he's been using don't suit your own
conception of terrain you've not
been born to - it's being pleased
to have connections made in ways
you couldn't dream of (wouldn't want to)
Written by Rg Gregory | Create an image from this poem

doughnut denial

 (an ascetic poem for karen's birthday)

fancy having a birthday on a thursday
when you do the buying of the doughnuts
and others lick their sticky fingers
thinking good old karen letting
us share the eating of her birthday

not me of course - i sit at home (alone)
reflecting it is purification day
today and i do not have a doughnut
thank you karen for letting me have
a taste of self-denial on your birthday

and such a spiritual gain- in this way
you and i share the high-church position
while others lick the sugar off their lips
guzzling their souls away benightedly
with you great circe in your birthday play

luckily i have no envy of doughnuts
i sit here (alone) appreciating the pure
a step aside from doughy lust and greed
enjoying your birthday in its proper light 
-a time of abstinence starvation longing
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the buddha's tooth

 (for matt – 15)

in the first seven years you choose your howdah
having by then bare inklings of a journey
but where or why - confusion there to cloud a
judgement no more ready than a sore knee
to enter the lists of a whole life’s tourney -
but after this howdah-do (this introduction)
what’s to carry you where - from muddy fluxion

and glimpsing that a howdah does for two
(from seven years on the stirrings can be frantic)
you start to map the high ride (define the view)
and long for gilt and pomp (a touch of tantric)
relationships at best quite sycophantic
you dream of elephants clad in rich brocades
ideas to match your own fanfaronades

at fifteen then you’re really setting out
the sun’s dressed up to let you think life’s bright
your flag’s up front to give you extra clout
the chores are borne below (and out of sight)
you’ve made a noon of every slinking midnight
the continent is yours (let no one mock it)
yours the wheel to which all else a sprocket

in sri lanka in the kandy perahera 
every august in a festival procession
an elephant richly dressed (the stately bearer)
carries on its back in howdah-fashion
a casket (such the grandeur of its mission))
in which the buddha’s sacred tooth’s enshrined
an image that your journey brings to mind

that tooth’s the root of all deep human struggle
and life for each proceeds by that shrined truth
which (clearly seen) yet causes thought to boggle
in what dimension lies the total proof
that that enamelled shard is all-wise tooth
and not a figment of the brain’s rash wish
to puff dull want as in a cloud of hashish

old tooth (your truth) life’s slow (but rushing) voyage
that lonely cavalcade that buzzing dreams spell out
towards elusive man but keep you in your boy-age
a noble sense of self impugned by doubt
and yet (inside you caged) a regal shout
pomp should be there to honour your advancement
and you are right to sip from that entrancement

then be that casket the buddha’s tooth ennobles
have that howdah’s view of how dah world grows
choose your elephant well to ride your troubles
(let flag and rich brocade shine through such woes)
what others think can’t hurt what your heart knows
it’s a bumpy business this festive spirit’s trek
a well-sprung joy best cushion for your neck
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owl power

 they say in the local sanctuary
owls are the stupidest creatures
all this wisdom business is
the mythological media at work
but the shortest nosing into books
tells you even the mythic world
is bamboozled by the creature - no
two cultures being able to agree

the bird was cherished by minerva
hebrews loathed it as unclean
buddhists treasure its seclusion
elsewhere night-hag evil omen

the baker's daughter's silly cry
ungrateful chinese children
the precious life of genghis khan
sweet fodder to the owl's blink

in the end it's the paradox
i'll be what you want romantic fool
that scares elates about the owl
sitting in the dark and seeing all

not true not true the cynics say
the bloody fraudster's almost blind
dead lazy till its stomach rattles
its skill is seeing with its ears

ruthlessness stupidity
(transmogrified to wisdom)
make the perfect pitch for power
so proofed - why give a hoot for gods
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from Proverbs of Hell

 (a) radical

ban all fires
and places where people congregate
to create comfort
put an end to sleep
good cooking
and the delectation of wine
tear lovers apart
piss on the sun and moon
degut all heavenly harmony
strike out across the bitter ice
and the poisonous marshes

make (if you dare) a better world

(b) expect poison from standing water
  (iii)
lake erie
why not as a joke one night
pick up your bed and walk
to washington – sleep
your damned sleep in its streets
so that one bright metallic morning
it can wake up to the stench
and fermentation of flesh
the gutrot of nerves – the blood’s
green effervescence so active
your skin has a job to keep it all in

isn’t that what things with the palsy
are supposed to do – lovely lake
give the world the miracle it waits for
what a laugh that would be

especially if washington lost its temper
and screamed christ lake erie
i don’t even know what to do
with my own garbage

pollution is just one of those things

go on lake erie
do it tonight

(c) drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead

(i)
isn't the next one
easter egg

  i don't want to live any more in an old way

yes it is

  to be a socialist wearing capitalism's cap
  a teacher in the shadow of a dead headmaster
  a tree using somebody else's old sap

  i want to build my future out of new emotions
  to seek more than my own in a spring surround
  to move amongst people keen to move outwards
  putting love and ideas into fresh ground

  who will come with me across this border
  not anywhere but in the bonds we make
  taking the old apart to find new order
  living ourselves boldly for each other's sake

then love is

  if you ask me today what love is
  i should have to name the people i love
  and perhaps because it's spring
  and i cannot control the knife that's in me
  their names would surprise me as much as you

  for years i have assumed that love is bloody
  a thing locked up in house and a family tree
  but suddenly its ache goes out beyond me
  and the first love is greater for the new

  this year more than any other
  the winter has savaged my deepest roots
  and the easter sun is banging hard against the window
  the arms of my loves are flowering widely
  and over the fields a new definition is running

  even though the streets we walk cannot be altered
  and faces there are that will not understand
  we have a sun born of our mutual longings
  whose shine is a hard fact - love is a new land

new spartans

  i haven't felt this young for twenty years
  yesterday i felt twenty years older
  then i had the curtains drawn over recluse fears
  today the sun comes in and instantly it's colder

  must shave and get dressed - i'm being nagged
  to shove my suspicions in a corner and get out
  what use the sun if being plagued with new life
  i can't throw off this centrally-heated doubt

  accept people with ice in their brows
  are the new spartans - they wait
      shall i go with them
  indoor delights that slowly breed into lies
  need to be dumped out of doors - and paralysis with them

no leave it
there's still one more
the need now

  the need now is to chronicle new times
  by their own statutes not as fag-ends of the old
  ideas stand out bravely against the surrounding grey
  seeking their own order in what themselves proclaim
  fortresses no longer belong by right to an older day

  i want to gather in my hands things i believe in
  not to be told that other rules prevail - there is
  a treading forward to be done of great excitement
  and people to be found who by the old laws
  should be little more than dead
      this enlightment

  is cutting like spring into a bitter winter
  and there is this smashing of many concrete shells
  a dream with the cheek to be aggressive has assumed
  its own flesh and bone and will not put up with sleep
  as its prime condition - life out of death is exhumed

it's the other side
is so disappointing
no thanks
leave it for now

(ii)

there follows a brief interlude in honour of mr vasko popa
(the yugoslav poet who in a short visit to this country
has stayed a long time)
and it will not now take place

  this game is called x
  no one else can play

  when the game is over
  we have all joined in

  those who have not been playing
  have to give in an ear

  if you don't have an ear
  use one of those lying about

  left over from the last time
  the game wasn't played

  this game is not to do with ears
  shooting must be done from the heart

  x sits in the middle of the ring - he
  has gone for a stroll up his left nostril

  how can he seize a left-over ear
  and drag it under the ground

  hands up if you have been shot from the heart
  x comes up in the middle of himself

  in this way the game is over before
  it began and everyone willy-nilly

  has had to go home
  before he could put a foot outside


(d) enough! – or too much

   reading popa
   i let fly
   too many words

   i bang away
   at the seed
   but can’t break it

   hurt i turn to
   constructing
   castles with cards

   if you can’t split
   the atom
   man stop writing
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personal request

 for what my heart held clear
and didn’t have the wit to show

for what my path proposed
and got lost in its diversions

for what my beginnings dreamed
and my ends cannot lay hold of

for what promises i made
and have not had the shine to keep to

i ask your understanding

for what i have been
and could not be another

i ask your love
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jack – beyond the digits

 so here we are at last at the ten-boy
never to be the single-figure-aged-again boy
and all the trailing clouds that cling to the not-big child
can be blown away - you're up in your own sky now
clear-blue on some days (if on others windy and wild)

now you'll have to see yourself as the tall-boy
the take-it-on-the-chin and care-for-all boy
and looking at what's to be done and getting down
to doing it without boring parents laying down the law
it's your walk from hereon to your own new town

then you'll be able to grow into that free-boy
not hankering to be that sit-on-your-mother's-knee boy
and you'll find yourself with keys to fit in every door
you've been denied or dreamed of (keys towards the man)
and a richer jack will sprout from the jack you were before

so aquarian and water-dog and feb-the-fourth-boy
the i've-got-to-figure-out-my-south-from-north-boy
now you've double-jumped may your life bloom well
be kind to sweet matthew and let that deep sun shine
that's been nuzzling inside you in its young-boy shell

and we wish a happy birthday to the ten-boy
to the video-games and freaky-foresters'-den-boy
to the boy who takes pity on his dad's bald head
whose laziness is legion - seasoned with sharp wit
a boy who's perfect when he's fast asleep in bed
and awake not quite an angel but at least well-fed
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two crocodiles gossip by the banks of the thames at abingdon

 two old lazy crocodiles are basking by the water
they get round to talk about the macdonalds' daughter

gemini gemini
have you ever set eyes on young stephanie

jiminy jiminy
who lives here in abingdon - the one who is two

gemini gemini
everyone knows she's a smart one that stephanie

jiminy jiminy
oh ever so smart - there's just nothing she can't do

gemini gemini
so smart - she could be a crocodile could stephanie

jiminy jiminy
she sees what she's after - then snap - and it's true

gemini gemini
if she came by here now - we wouldn't eat young stephanie

jiminy jiminy
oh no - we'd be too scared to even say boo

gemini gemini
so why don't we wish happy birthday to stephanie

jiminy jiminy
then straight in the water before she rings up the zoo

gemini gemini
don't be so daft - she likes creatures does stephanie

jiminy jiminy
ok - but no tears - or she'll raise hullaballoo

 and the two old lazy crocodiles who couldn't hurt a fly
 sing happy birthday to stephanie as she passes them by
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after the parties

 let's all go to the party friends
where left over bottles and stale fag-ends
are proudly on offer from the last time round
and our hosts believe by a ritual sound
fine spirits will flow and new cellophane wrappers
will tingle the fingers of eligible clappers

let's all ignite at the party friends
and burn with the best of the latest trends
which prove that the world is a running sore
whose plight can't be laid at this party's door
so let us look deep in our empty glasses
and puff short of breath at the weaker classes
whose salvation must lie in a further imbibing
of the rush of hot air this party's prescribing

let's all depart from the party friends
and seek other ways of making amends
for the mess that we're all in up to our noses
let's kick the conviction the party is moses
with tablets worth taking for any condition
while the world holds its breath for the big collision
let's kick off the hangovers all parties swear
is part of the bargain f or breathing free air
and dare to be lost and risk being found
in the springs that are cracking the crust of dead ground

and when we're all shot of the parties friends
maybe then odd beginnings will perk up from dead ends