November

November 5, 2011

It’s still too easy
to aim west but go east,
waking up in Stepney Green
like a man in a river raft
going for the narrows

When you cross the bridge to the other platform
your internal compass lies
and your stomach lies
but you know
that the heat has gone on
in two small rooms in Earls Court,
and you count the stations go by
like prayer beads
in a mantra of movement and chance,
while strangers avoid your eyes
clutching the freesheets

At the V&A

October 29, 2011

Some times the echo
between stones worn smooth by memories
brings widowed syllables,
like crumbs from the table
of people
who still enjoy a joke
while Kali dances still
safe her containment chamber

Shoes

September 18, 2011

I know she’s arrived when the buzzer
warns me
to wait
as she comes
up the stairs

I tell her I’ve just
ran the vacuum
so she takes off her shoes
and her toenails
are painted
deep red

I point to the sofa
a dirty old thing
used to skin and sweat but
I’ve turned the pillows and
we sit like royals
side by side

She tells me to get her some wine
but I haven’t any, not even bad one
so I make
her tea and
we sit
in silence
until the sound of my neighbor coming
stops flitting
through the floorboards

city drug

September 16, 2011

We fly in through clear skies
London opens spills unlocks
endless light strings and
I can’t stop watching
white and yellow lights spread wide like
some giant’s child that
willful and violent, laughs
having spilled the chains of gold
and pearl necklaces
belonging to his rich mother;
from jewelry box to chaos, in one breath or a thousand

One hour later, when I emerge from the underground
a full moon silently burns the three lanes of Warwick Rd
like a searchlight
while cars make their escape in sequence

Suddenly, she comes out
three doorways ahead of me
short skirt raven hair black leather jacket
body so thin
it makes you human again
and her high heels flash
bright red and play a staccato as she walks,
face obscured by darkness

She gets in a car and drives off.

This is the sickness, the City drug, the hunger
that makes you stick around – and I raise a salute
to the moon and the madness
while the corner shop owner frowns
at the young men hanging
outside his door

02 July 2010

September 14, 2011

You sit and stare into your coffee
and the smell
reminds you
that
bills are stacked on the kitchen table
the sink is full of tea stained coffee mugs
you haven’t fed the cat
in two days

Then the phone rings

It’s mother
and you’re a child again

When the fires came

August 25, 2011

When the fires came
I heard on the news that
angels wore flak jackets
while men rushed men with sticks.
Stones were thrown.
cans were thrown
Planks were thrown.

Dogs attacked men
dogs were lost.
Boots crushed store fronts
goods were lost.
Fire!
cars were lost
homes were lost
lives were lost;
but not much else I guess

I sat in my sofa (a man of the people)
like a million prophets
with visions of tear gas, and batons
splitting heads
with the wrath of the righteous

My street was quiet
and lacking in boot and in blood.
When I fell asleep
I dreamt of cordite without smell,
kissing goodbye
to rubber bullets

Mostly stolen

June 25, 2011

Keep walking,
there’s no place to be
(don’t try to see through human beings);
move with intent, the way fear makes you.
Today, like every other day,
you’ve woken up and
didn’t open
any doors

Take down the old oboe and
let love be what we do
when we know
hundreds of ways
to kneel
instead of kissing

In seventynine

June 15, 2011

In seventynine,
my birth,
was accessorised by:
my umbilical cord
wrapped five times round my neck,
and my mother’s refusal to cry out

Later, a doctor pointed
to her and said
to another woman:
‘Be quiet! If she had screamed like you do,
her child would not have made it’.
Then I was brought out,
a caterpillar wrapped
in a hospital blanket
and held like a prize
for the brave and the silent

Years later,
she was the one wrapped
in a blanket.
She was breathing heavily –
a wheezing fuse
of life
almost at an end
and
and
and
she opened her eyes (the last time) and
her head jerked towards me.
Her eyes opened, then she passed,
and they closed again.

The dog was deaf by then
and slept peacefully.
He thought that two people he loved
were in the room.

Ringlets of smoke

June 6, 2011

She said “you’ve changed, I think. maybe
you look older.
No it’s not that.
I don’t know, something.”

She was drinking wine
and i was hitting the tequila hard
trying to confuse
the voices telling me
to stop and breathe

She offered her glass
But I wanted
the anger to blend with the swill
and I lifted the bottle like
men in the movies,
even though I wasn’t one

She smoked and
ringlets of poison
waltzed towards heaven,
only to dissolve.

I drank some more.
Maybe I needed to die a little
but I didn’t think so,
I needed to come alive
a little,
to stomp on some feet or
earn morning trophies

She looked away,
finished her cigarette and got another out.
She looked over to the couple next to us,
the guy passed her a lighter.

Cars drove past. People passed on foot.
We would not part
for another hour

No summer lies

May 17, 2011

I think of your hair
fluttering in the breeze,
and of your hands when you
sat next to me on the warm mountain,
hands clutching pencil
as if it was the last spear on earth,
your yellow pad a shield, but flimsy;
Words, ripe and harsh,
were falling from your tongue

I wanted
to preserve their taste
for desert days;
but you just smiled and said –
forget it, close your eyes,
keep drinking deep
from this brief summer,
While I keep scratching
words into the paper

Your anger melted
when the graphite of your pencil
wore down to the stump;
But it was late, too late and you were
cracked already,
already open and unsure if you
should swim or drown in memories,
spilling your talent like your life blood
across the barriers we had built

This is a heavy re-work of a poem written by Claudia Schoenfeld, and the original can be found here.

A story for Biscuit

May 16, 2011

So Biscuit,
your daddy, he goes
to east London on Tuesdays to
a rented flat
in a house of brown bricks
where children play cops and robbers outdoors in the summer, and
women gossip and hang laundry out
their windows to dry.
Your daddy goes, Biscuit,
and knocks on door 22B

She lets him wait, Biscuit
She lets him wait two minutes, maybe five and then
opens the door
in her knickers,
lets him in without a word and he enters
without a word

So he comes in, Biscuit, and the flat
smells of smoke and her perfume
(like heaven)
Her black skin reminds him of coffee and gold
and her ass sways
as she walks to the kitchen
while his palms sweat
and his fingers burn

He grows hard, Biscuit, grows so hard
that he thinks he might die,
that his heart will stop
And Biscuit, I don’t know if he even
still likes her,
but a girl’s gotta live,
and daddy pays rent and he fucks like a prince.

When he closes the door to 22B
two hours later
he knows, and she knows
that they never
closed
their eyes,
even for a second

Travelling home

May 11, 2011

I walk through the city.
As people struggle home;
I’ve been told to tear it off, to shed:
Victorian flats full of mice,
right side driving,
girls bare legs in the winter –
shed it all like gift paper;
but I don’t know if I can

and I don’t know if I should,
will it eat me alive if I stay?
but middle class peace suffocates, even from afar?
but homeland is darkness too, of another kind?

I gasp for breath on the tube,
another mill horse looking for shoes and a carrot
just like the people
all around me, carrying
Their own. Problems:
that one’s fat, that one’s overworked, that one can’t get a date,
that one can’t afford school tuition, that one has a daughter that
blows her boyfriend every night on the other side of a paper thin wall,
all of us bees,
covered in
pollen of mediocrity and ticking clocks and advertising dreams and weekend hours;

Then this time frame closes
and I get off the train, and the fat lady gets off and some of the others too.

They say that there are no
winners left,
but that is a lie –
they’re everywhere,
just throw a rock, or buy a lottery ticket
And you’ll hit one for sure

Meet me

May 5, 2011

Meet me
at the cheap table in Brussels
when my cigar has ran out
and my glass is half empty again.

We will sit in silence,
drinking slowly
Then I will reach out
to touch your lips and
you’ll tell me
That my hand smells of smoke and
that I should stop frowning
all the time

We will sit while the breeze
makes us colder and colder,
debating
whether the tattoo on the waitresses’ wrist is her only one.

Then you’ll tell me 
that she’s probably a slut anyway,
before we settle our tab
and walk home
through the empty streets

Tea and poppy rolls

April 26, 2011

Tanya pours me tea
and offers me poppy rolls and candied ginger cubes.
She tells me that
her feet hurt more now,
so she doesn’t leave the house too much;
and money’s scarce, but she gets by.
Some times,
she takes the underground,
four stations to Tensta,
and buys fruit at the market.
Meat is cheap there too.

I stir a spoon of sugar into the tea,
and tell her of my brother starting
on his own;
a little owner of a one bedroom slice of propriety.
She wants to help, of course,
How will he do his laundry, can he even iron?
I tell her that it will be fine, and
promise that we’ll tell her when we go to Ikea

The TV murmurs in the corner,
as Russian figure skaters
put on a show
for an easy audience.
I used to skate too, she says, but I started too late,
and I danced, for real, on stage

When I depart,
the cold spring sun shines in her hair
as she waves to me from her balcony

untitled

April 10, 2011

When the war comes
They will decide to send the warnings
via SMS.
People without cellphones will not know,
and will be caught in the streets as the bombs drop.

Then they will decide
that text messaging is too expensive
and people will have
to become fans of the war
on Facebook
while the prime minister posts updates
on his wall
and waits for the likes to flow

That will only last for a week or so
until
the only way to find out about the war
will be Twitter.

Old ladies will sit, faces pale from the light of screens
and update their streams
to see if their sons died
and update their streams
to see if there is any food
and update their streams
just in case we won or lost

If you don’t have a cell phone
or a Facebook page
or a Twitter stream,

you will not make it.
I promise you.