the flying men

we were the drunk men

the flying men

there in the bar

most nights we could

after working twelve hour days

only getting picked up

on Friday Saturday nights

by the girls & women

needing their own buzz

allowing stolen kisses

drunken fumbles

dark corner of the bar

in the alley

backs of cars

heavy petting

sometimes the sex

before returning home to him

waiting at home

who had lost his job

laid off this year

stuck in front of the tv

none the wiser

afire

if I sat here long enough

would the whole world pass by?

could I see you

you

& you

everything

all of us

all grown up

febrile?

or you

maybe still crazy

the once love of my life

soul mate I felt

skipping by in a second

not wanting to catch my eye

in case something

some part of us

might still catch

afire

Girl with a black eye

saturday afternoon

sitting at the bar

waiting

& his girl walks in

sits next to me

says he’ll be here in a while

& I notice then

she has a big black eye

I raise an eyebrow

she misinterprets this

points at a beer tap

one of those please

so I buy her a beer

as every man in the place

leers wild at me

even the barman jeers

as he puts her drink down

was it him?

no she says all quiet

but he’s not convinced

neither is anybody else

& I don’t mind fighting

for the things I’ve done

said I was gonna do

but this looks like

I’m heading for a kicking

so I order more drinks

soften the bruises to soothe

just then he pops his head in

we still going fishing?

I call him in

order him up a drink

say to the barkeep

this is her man

look after him eh?

I need to step outside

for a minute or two

almodovar

crimes of my mother

the first big one

was running away

with the tv repair man

leaving her kids behind

the second was leaving me

with the memories

of her frightened terror’d face

& with the people

who gave those to her

they hoped I had no memories

of her & those times

but I did

there were other crimes

but these are the ones

that matter most

in the life of a frightened kid

& there never came an apology

any understanding from her

that they were the same to us

as to her

& to make the point clear

she ran away again

no forwarding address

no phone

& she was dead five years

before I found out

benign neglect

They finally killed the old bull

not on a sunny summer afternoon

with a sword & cheering adoring crowds

reflecting honour & courage

but on a cold January

of benign neglect in a hospital

he’d been left to die in

hips broken after falls

one & then the other

deposited there by his second wife

(the first ran away from his rage)

of forty years deciding

she could not do care for him

though she did visit after bingo

hair appointments & spending his pension

a slow lonely death not in glory

as befits a strong willed man

the worms in his head taking away

anything he had left of his life

& when he did finally die

his workmates formed a guard of honour

though none knew after fifty years

of working side by side

he had any children until

that last day

the reading

I don’t enjoy it much

saying the words out loud

that I found in my little space

out on my own

that I crumble

under the cold stare

in hot rooms

with my low voice

now unused to speaking loud

& worse it was for free

though they promised

free beer at the bar

& at a fiver a pint

I thought it best

to earn my keep

there was quiet for most of it

with an occasional yeah!

or an oh no!

did he really just say that?

& at the end

they gave me a bottle

of decent red

some decent applause

& I learned that what I read

is not always

what they heard