For David

I puzzle over your certainties
there are no ghosts
while I see you
seeking comfort in words
are words not ghosts
Of meaning?
You love to quote
dead people
there are no ghosts
the irony eh?




Oh man

Oh man
I looked in the mirror
and all I could see were lines
yet to be written
I left a mean handwritten note
I’m outta here
took my shit n split
on another wild ride into
which was more than I left
with you
you were a kind soul
that needed kitchen dramas
bingo, the tv, that special works
which doesn’t fit.
Oh man
I looked in the mirror
all I could see was a desperate
needing a blow job
a new place to set
a stiff drink
good companions
and fresh words to bring
in the bright day

Navy Days

I was what?
15 months in
had endured a year of hell and sadism
that passed for boy sailor training
and this was a spring Friday
I was headed out to meet my girl
they stopped me at the gate
in my tie dye bell bottoms (orange n purple)
scoop t shirt, beads & platform shoes
where d’you think you’re going?
I told ‘em I was off to see my girl
they asked for her address
I had none
and they asked:
Supposin’ there’s a war, how do we find you?
my response
If there was a war,
I didn’t want to be found
which earned me
a 3 hour sit n think about it.
I did get to see my girl
and the Monday after
I put my quit papers in.
The signs were there.

Nettle Soup

I turned up,
not out of the blue
just a day later than I’d said
her folks put me in a room,
out back
away from the main house.
They weren’t being mean
just protective of her
they offered to feed me
but I didn’t want any fuss
so I made nettle soup
made it last the 2 says I was there
we weren’t drinking, or smoking
or fucking either
for that detail
I was
just glad to be
with her
and out
of the latest trap
I’d sprung on myself
Oh, and coffee
lots of coffee
we walked
brooded on a future
that would never come
to pass
and after the 2 days
I said goodbye
to never
see her again
or live
on nettle soup

The Hallway

The Hallway
Was nothing special, a space 5 feet by 6
at the bottom of the stairs, with a wall coat rack
It led off to other rooms, strip carpet on lino
and a hanging light.
About once a week they’d stand me there
putting coats on top of coats
and a balaclava over my eyes
so I couldn’t see, tense for the punches
coming in.
That wasn’t enough, over time
their game grew more bitter, complicated
I had to hold bags of potatoes
A steaming kettle, an iron, so that
If I faltered, dropped anything, there was justification
to beat me.
I learned to hide inside that blind world
to not let the punches, digs to ribs
hurt me, so they extended the time
creeping away, then back to attack
there was nobody to tell, not a soul
that would care: I was a rotten kid.

a return

I thought i never knew him

we weren’t close in that lets go fishing, football way

many years i struggled to be different from him

then found that unless i embraced my similarities

there was no difference to be had

and he’s gone now.

then one day it happened

somebody i thought i knew, loved, trusted

took all of that away

for him, she’d left two kids and empty home

a pile of debts, that she’d used to start

away, a new life.

we will never talk of this

never would, could

and that holding in is the better for it

not everything is there for the share

though i’m telling you life is but,

a slight return.

Gosport binmen

One long summer working ‘on the bins’ carrying this big orange tub.
Filling it up with shit from your dustbin and flinging it into the dustcart, easy on the thinking, harder on the back.
They loved younger guys doing the job, we’d do it quick and not complain.
The older guys were hardened by the job, they’d worked through winters, the rain. Seen just about anything there is to see in a dustbin.
They had no time for us seasonals, come autumn we’d be gone and the hard work was theirs again.
One always comes to mind: he was short, with a greasy flat cap, had that curved back from years of carrying loads. His thing was knickers, if he found a pair of knickers he’d tie them to his orange tub, had a whole string that got dirtier, not that they’d been clean to begin. I can’t remember one word he ever spoke to me.
THE day, a couple of weeks in and we’d all found some kind of rhythm, hold those guys up and you knew it, we were a kind of team, a man team that hardly spoke but didn’t need many words anyway. You knew who and where you were in the pecking order. We stopped for the usual break, us younger guys would sit on the kerb, smoke and drag the usual shit talk
knicker man would pull sandwiches out of a box while reading a paper he’d found in a bin.
One of the older guys nudged me to look over at him doing this, his dirty hands reaching in to the plastic box and lifting up to mouth, nobody liked this, we all sat away from him, this was just too much.
He bit into his sandwich, began to gag, looked at it, pulled the bread apart and there it was: a dead bird, rotten, maggots spilling from the bite.
He puked. We retched, puked too.
He stared at each of us, fury, hate, violence to be had.
We looked away.
The foreman called us back to work, we finished the round in near silence. The shit would hit the fan back at the yard.
End of day, lined up like schoolkids in the site managers office. He was red in the face, horror in every word:
“what possessed you to do this?”
“Who did this?”
More silence.
“If nobody says, I’ll dock each of you a days pay”
“it was me” said the foreman, gangerman.
“just why would you do such a rotten, disgraceful thing”
then we all got docked a days pay anyway because the gangerman said: “cos it was going cheep”
We all laughed ourselves stupid,

I am become dull

We’d worked together for years
It was fun
until she called my bluff
could’ve happened
at any time
then it did.
She was fine looking
until the rug got pulled
some event
drinking until late
come back to my room
the invite
so I did
she appeared plus
more drinks
in each hand
placed them one on each
I ran away
I’ve thought
Of so many
the truth hurts
I am become dull
a cunt tease
all talk
no trousers (off)

Rum & Ramen

One of those sarf London Korean supermarkets
late in the evening
buying packets, a box
of ramen noodles
& my conceit is that
they vaguely know me here
they smile & nod, you know how that is
I’m enjoying the smells, the sights
Of foreign, not quite understood, stuff.

In the doorway, looms another gweilo
yes, I know it’s a Chinese word
not Korean
a white ghost, white foreign devil
wobbling slightly
& he says:
Bmnbmbmb, mnbnmmnb, bmnmb
the staff nod politely, as they do
& he says:
Bmnbmbmb, mnbnmmnb, bmnmb, again
only this time a little more loudly
for emphasis

The staff look at me
I shrug back: I don’t know
they smile at me again, this time I get it
Hey, he’s one of yours, fix this.
so I stare at the guy
in that gently patrician Ingrish way
the silent WTF you want?
He mumbles: bmnbmbmb, mnbnmmnb, bmnmb
and backs wobbling out of the doorway
and is gone
through piles of amaranth, edamame,
pei tsai, pak choy & winter melon
I buy my box of Shin Ramyun noodle soup
we nod again to each other
our business is over for now.