those tender years

I’d be thirteen goin’ on fourteen

looking at the bikes outside the local pub

& one always got my ‘nads twitchin’

this lash up purple chopper

long front end high bars peanut tank

king & queen seat chrome sissy bar

& the cat riding it greasy long hair

shades & tatts our local hero

when one Saturday noon

the meter maid put a ticket on his bike

he came out beer in hand

asked her what’cha doin?

tried to give her ticket back

& when she got snotty put her over his knee

spanked her bottom couple’a times

yeah the cops got called

took him away in cuffs

but memories like that?

man

they last

down there at the docks

the night watchman

ten o’clock until six am

down there at the docks

I was a know everything

know nothing kid

just about legal age to do the job

watching the empty dockside

try not to sleep until dawn

first night there

the docker foreman said

listen up son you got a job to do

we do ours & yours is

to watch outsiders trying to come in

not try to catch us

go tour the yard see what you can find

& I found nothing all was secure

just the contempt in the guys eyes

here he said this is yours

a sack of fruit & veg

fell off a truck

keep it right between us

& there’s more to come

we all good?

& yes

we were

this idea

that there is always drink near

bottles glasses every kind

ruined the man

made me what I am

& either

I’m not very clear

or there is no listening

going on

the times I was broke

staring at the wall

not clawing at the floor

feeling the snakes crawl

being poor can kill

any dependency

if you want it to

all you got to do

let the money run out

pay the rent the landlord

wait for pay day to come round

& try all over again

to find the right hook

the amount of will

people can never know

the amount of will

it takes to be civil

to them

when the black dog

is there biting sharp

behind the eyes

to keep calm level

not make your problem

their problem

when they ask questions

you would rather

not answer

would you like a coffee

milk sugar?

when inside

all you are is screaming

please please

just make everything

go away

today

trees to climb

these things

that get stripped away

when I was younger

the delight of an ice cream

trees to climb

another girl to chase

& now

this existential angst

slipping into my shoes

sleeves of my coat

& I wonder on

purpose for

these faint demons taking over

crippling the host

the booze does not ease

& what drug can help

with pains unseen?

let’s not get carried away

there was some talk

about diets

& I hate the idea of that

being surrounded by women

when I was growing up

who’d try this

go on a purge

detox

endless fads

I was ok with a regime tho’

moving to low carb

giving up on the staples

bread & the spuds

trying other ways to live

& then she said

we’ll have to give up on the booze

& the only response

I could give

let’s not get carried away

with this

eh?

present

I’m trying to be here

present

talking my truths

and…

the girl can’t help it

her eyes snap in exasperation

those moues of her mouth

announce her displeasure at my words

and…

if I were to say

listen up bitch

your presence here

is at my discretion

I could just as easy throw you away

give me the respect back

you’re getting

but I don’t

I finish the sentence

instead get up & walk away

and…

it’s then she notices I’m going

oh you’re leaving me here?

I thought you didn’t need my company

oh you she goes

you are just so oversensitive

how many of us?

I was talking

to a slammed door

wait

I have more to give

always too late

too little

I guess

she had made the move

accepting that there was

nothing but words

to come

& no phone call

tearstained letter

flowers chocolates

plushies with bows

other romantic guff

could create conversation

re open that slammed door

& how many of us

take the time

think all that over

take the lumps coming

take another bus?

see how they snide

she tells me

you are the most cynical person I know

always questioning

searching for motive

& I hear her trying to be kind

yeah I guess I am trying to understand

I give back

because she goes on

I don’t know anybody in your life

in positions of care trust

who didn’t fuck you over

except you? I say

& she laughs leans in to kiss

as far as I know….

I say

& we laugh again

same species

where you going?

they asked wanting destination

names to hang ideas on

I dunno I say back

out of this road onto the next

heading west & south

see what happens

on the run

& I hear the fear

feel the bristle of hair standing

but but but

no plans?

oh I got maps see where I am

find interesting places close

but y’know it’s the adventure

not the destination

& they’re looking at me

as I’m looking at them

one of us thinks

we are not

the same species