the great man

I’d met him some few years ago

couple of weekends

doing the therapy thing

families how to survive them

met some great people

couple became friends

learning survival skills

& here we were at a friend’s party

down at the local Irish club

I mooched over

he was talking corner of the dance floor

waited respectfully for him

his conversa’tee to acknowledge

I was there

that didn’t happen

so I slunk sadly away

later our mutual friend said he’d asked

who I was

did I want to come over?

it was too late the moment had gone

I understood my position too well

I was the supplicant

he was the great man

& I knew if those were the manners

of the great & good

I had nothing more to learn there

no more good could come

summers

I was working my way out

being the good student

while working part time as a teacher

in term time

but come summer winter break

I had to go back to temp’ing

hauling furniture

warehouse humping

one job they got me

driving an electric truck

pick up boxes in one plant

take ‘em to another drop ‘em off

go back over the main road

start over eight hours straight

& she’d be at home waiting

honey lets go out tonight

wanting something from nothing

anywhere as long as there were drinks

& lord knows I had my own thirst

sweating in the sun humping boxes

for minimum pay do it over next day

on my last shift they asked me to stay

so different from when I was broke flat

then more likely I was out the door

& if they could dock my earnings

trim the hours make a cut

any conversation

there are things

I will never talk about

feel able to say

even on my dying day

things I failed

those I did not do

places that remind

always to avoid

such is the power of shame

I can never go there again

I fear the light in your eyes

turning from love

burning low to despise

eating at my torn insides

though I know you would not

do this

it is mine alone

leaving me to feel

honesty is for those

with nothing to say

have tried to do

nothing new

getting about my day

you make me laugh

how you amuse

at least I got something

going on

& all I was doing

according to me

was getting about my day

easing the dry time

between arriving

the going on home

counting the days

until I got my pay

& I began to think

they loved the being here

did all of that for kicks

until the day it dawned

their home lives

must be dull as ditchwater

if they come here

for the fun

& I turned away

this was a time of sadness

I’d been with the girl a while

she’d asked me to go

& what I didn’t know

straightaway

she’d found somebody she felt

could give her more

but I felt the unease

deep as the thinnest knife

between the ribs

of things unsaid

& I was spent

took a while

sleeping on couches

fretting there on the floor

it takes that while

for anything to start again

& I got offers

good people looking to bring

smiles comfort to the suffering

& I turned away

from most of these

knowing I had nothing

to bring to the table

but my dis ease

poor frame of mind

& the best about those

who really love you

is that is all

you are needed to bring

devotion

the energy

devotion

walking the pavements

falling in love

with every pretty girl I’d see

admiring their reflections

& I’d do the rejection work

all for free

this one looks contented

married

& that one couldn’t possibly

to then go where I called home

sitting there with paper

staring down at the line

not understanding

if I needed therapy

I’d already done the work

walking those streets

I don’t get it she says

all smooth

this is not like the poetry I loved

got taught in school

yes yes I say

you will get it

no yours is harsh unkind

I want rhymes about love

it’s in there I say

if you look hard enough

oh no she goes

I need a story of good lives

not two drunk men in alleys

scrapping over mean lipstick girls

fighting with steel flashing knives

where’s the love in any of that?

oh its there alright

maybe if you’d try a little empathy

feel in your bones

how tough your life has to be

to fight on a moonless night

for the comfort of a store-bought whore

your blood dripping on the stones

no place to run to

here you make your stand

howling into the emptiness

your short life has brought you to

well

it isn’t art if you have to explain

she said

it was about then

I began wishing

I had my own switchblade

add me in

 

it was a long difficult list

some litany of woe

this one was too mean

that one too fat

the other ok

but he loved his mother too much

& him?

he was married to another

him to booze

other to drugs

into too much kinky sex

that one was an asshole

while he never slept

& he never washed

it was about here

I began to lose interest

though I felt she was attractive

& in a hopeful way

she asked & you?

oh I’m just another one baby

just add me in to your list

to do anything

takes such tremendous effort

it’s a wonder

why many more don’t die trying

this was a patch of hill side

besieged by bracken

& I spent a day cutting all of that back

then three hours in spring

three late summer

year after year

& in two years other life came up

bluebells buddleia

silver birch

I put in a thousand trees

losing four in ten to deer

mice & drought

in six years I had the start

of a bluebell wood

which was a thing of beauty

while all around me

people knew me as the crazy one

putting in all the effort

in the wilderness

for no money

just another fool on a hill

not book larnin’

hardly a student either

but that is what I was

trying to work out

understand women

& each one

taught me something new

not always applicable

to the next

or I learned something hard

about me

‘cos trust

if there is something off

flakey about yourself

they will find it quick as

& I’m still there

burning the lamp

figurin’ stuff out

& this here

is me showing

my working out

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