Barry Tebb |
Here is a silence I had not hoped for
This side of paradise, I am an old believer
In nature’s bounty as God’s grace
To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming
At frustrated lust or the scent of fame
Coming too late to make a difference
Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms
Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars
Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn
With the heather beginning to bud blue
Before September purple, yellow ragwort
Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums
And a lazy bee bumbles by.
A day in Brenda’s flat, mostly play with Eydie,
My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better
Than Diazepan for panic
Seroxat for grief
Zopiclone to make me sleep.
I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea
Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back
To talk to my son’s key nurse when she comes on
For the night shift.
Always there are things to sort,
Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher,
Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards
And team meetings to attend, ‘Mental Health Monthly’
To peruse, funds for my press to raise – the only one
I ever got will leave me out of pocket.
A couple sat on the next bench
Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages,
Failed affairs, social service interventions –
Even here I cannot escape complexity
"I should never have slept with her once we split"
"The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line"
"Is he poisoning their minds against me?"
Part of me nags to offer help but I’ve too much
On already and the clock keeps ticking.
"It’s a pity she won’t turn round and clip his ear"
But better not to interfere.
Damn my bloody superego
Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging
About my pipe and my loud voice on buses –
No doubt she’s right – smoking’s not good
And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections
Isn’t what people are on buses for.
I long for a girl in summer, pubescent
With a twinkle in her eye to come and say
"Come on, let’s do it!"
I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire
To find a decent whore and learn to score
And now I’m probably impotent with depression
So I’d better forget sex and read more of Andr? Green
On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium
At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery
I’ll not unravel if I live to ninety.
Ignorance isn’t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss
From jumped-up SHO’s and locums who’d miss vital side effects
And think all’s needed is a mother’s kiss.
I’ll wait till the heather’s purple and bring nail scissors
To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks
Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.
Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks
On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores
Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair
Than in the century before.
"Shop your neighbours.
Bring birth certificates to A&E
If you want NHS treatment free.
Be careful not to bleed to death
While finding the certificate.
Blunkett wants us all to have ID
Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot –
And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom we’ve got"
"At the end of the day she shopped me and all I’d done
Was take a few pound from the till ’cos Jenny was ill
And I didn’t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done"
To-morrow I’ll be back in the Great Wen,
Two days of manic catching up and then
Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass,
The mass of beckoning hills I’d love to make
A poet’s map of but never will.
"Oh to break loose" Lowell’s magic lines
Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will
And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone
Isn’t tin foil as Lowell thought.
James you are a dreadful bore,
A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages
Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks?
A thousand or two I’d guess, they couldn’t pay you less
For churning out such a king-size mess
But not even you can spoil this afternoon
Of watching Haworth heather bloom.
David St John |
It was in the old days,
When she used to hang out at a place
Called Club Zombie,
A black cabaret that the police liked
To raid now and then.
Stepped through the door, the light
Would hit her platinum hair,
And believe me, heads would turn.
Loved it; he'd have her by
The arm as he led us through the packed crowd
To a private corner
Where her secluded oak table always waited.
She'd say, Jordan.
And I'd order her usual,
A champagne cocktail with a tall shot of bourbon
On the side.
She'd let her eyes
Trail the length of the sleek neck
Of the old stand-up bass, as
The bass player knocked out the bottom line,
His forehead glowing, glossy
With sweat in the blue lights;
Her own face, smooth and shining, as
The liquor slowly blanketed the pills
She'd slipped beneath her tongue.
Maestro'd kick the **** out of anybody
Who tried to sneak up for an autograph;
He'd say, Jordan, just let me know if
Somebody gets too close.
Then he'd turn to her and whisper, Here's
Where you get to be Miss Nobody.
And she'd smile as she let him
Kiss her hand.
For a while, there was a singer
At the club, a guy named Louis--
But Maestro'd change his name to "Michael Champion";
Well, when this guy leaned forward,
Cradling the microphone in his huge hands,
All the legs went weak
Underneath the ladies.
He'd look over at her, letting his eyelids
Droop real low, singing, Oh Baby I.
Oh Baby I Love.
I Love You.
And she'd be gone, those little mermaid tears
Running down her cheeks.
Was always cool.
He'd let them use his room upstairs,
Sometimes, because they couldn't go out--
Black and white couldn't mix like that then.
I mean, think about it--
This kid star and a cool beauty who made King Cole
Sound raw? No, they had to keep it
To the club; though sometimes,
Near the end, he'd come out to her place
At the beach, always taking the iced whisky
I brought to him with a sly, sweet smile.
Once, sweeping his arm out in a slow
Half-circle, the way at the club he'd
Show the audience how far his endless love
Had grown, he marked
The circumference of the glare whitening the patio
Where her friends all sat, sunglasses
Masking their eyes.
And he said to me, Jordan, why do
White people love the sun so?--
God's spotlight, my man?
Leaning back, he looked over to where she
Stood at one end of the patio, watching
The breakers flatten along the beach below,
Her body reflected and mirrored
Perfectly in the bedroom's sliding black glass
He stared at her
Reflection for a while, then looked up at me
And said, Jordan, I think that I must be
Like a pool of water in a cave that sometimes
She steps into.
Later, as I drove him back into the city,
He hummed a Bessie Smith tune he'd sing
For her, but he didn't say a word until
We stopped at last back at the club.
slowly out of the back
Of the Cadillac, and reaching to shake my hand
Through the open driver's window, said,
My man, Jordan.