SRH, y’know

you men she says

accusing us of being menstrual

menopausal

you guys got hormones too

yeah, we know, I go

setting to put the record right

(& mentally swinging a lightshade)

in the Navy we talked of SRH

some guy not getting his day straight

can’t function at anything

we’d shout SRH

go get it sorted

come back smile on your face

oooh she asks all earnest

what’s that about?

a fella gets lonely out at sea

‘bout a week from shore

he’s lost his loved ones

there ain’t much privacy any more

& those hormones get to backing up

& if you don’t take yourself in hand

then it’s hard to concentrate

on the job you gotta do in the day

wait…she says

you’re talking of…

masturbation?

sure, I go

a mans gotta do what a mans gotta do

afterwards, he’ll be just fine

ach, I was taking you serious

& all you do is sarcasm

oh no, not me, says i

solemn as blood

SRH is a thing we’d shout

when a man wasn’t sitting right

but you talk about sarcasm

did I ever tell you when

I got runner up in the sarky’ finals

out in the desert one year?

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Like a dog returning

hey he says

I bumped into your ex

some time back

she was looking ok

did you talk? I ask

in that space of

wanting to know

not wanting to know

sick like a dog returning to

I’d want her to be ok

over her alcoholism

over herself

over me

oh I just said hello

& she was puzzled

he counters

like just who the fuck

was I?

no changes then?

nope

these are the little landmines

scattered with no map

just general areas of no go’s

where I might set them off

or others can step on for me

reminders of past wars

brief encounters with consequence

battle scars

post traumatic stress zones

like a rotten tooth

there

but not quite yet

gone

Part to play

I thought

maybe stronger: felt

we’d resolved these issues

of people on people hate

joining in marches to protest

signed the many petitions

settled back to end poverty

& then

& then

all this came back around

some sucker punch to the jaw

soft underbelly of love not war

& there is a slow dawn

government wants this

people need this to be

to satisfy their thinner inner needs

& as a people, the masses

we are now only one more lobby

to politicians pretending

to need our votes

heed our notes

of pain at their greed

money before those who work

corporations not you & me

& all of them taking my pay

all of the never ending day

& no march will end this

no paper petition can kill

more more more

we can get richer

by robbing the poor

over & over

lets go to war

They start slow

nibbling around your edges

I don’t like how you speak French

your accent is awful

like some rough marseille’aise

though they speak no French

cannot order food, drink

find the way to the station

& your Spanish

you sound like a country bumpkin

but she makes sure

to leave any ordering to you

no matter

the menu is in two languages

so you begin to speak less

less French

less Spanish

less of anything

as she sits triumphant

having diminished

neutered you again

she thinks this is love

bettering you

the why oh why oh why?

So many easy ways

There are so many easy ways

for a man to find his way deep

into the self pity

ads on the tv for hair care

potions for that greying, receding

pills to keep the chap up

when with the ladies kind of thing

alcohol, gambling, drugs

can all ease the way

but none are good for me right now

some ague has me in its grip

& after some meagre breakfast

been a few days now

that first cup of java hits

& my gut begins to howl

squirming me in my seat

wrenching so’s I cannot stand

until a lull between the grief

I find relief on the toilet seat

& this is not like the gushing

those relentless mornings

of the stinky beer shits, oh no

this is a flood, torrent

not caused by self abuse

as I gush my life out in seconds

then done

& I can go about my day

but for those few seconds

of agony

I can touch the same sky

as them in the pits of despair

where has the money gone?

why must I need to place this bet?

what will lift my mean spirit today?

& of course

the why oh why oh why?

Tap, tap, tapping

slow dabbing with a wooden stick

metal badges stuck to it of places visited

moving slow on the pavement

& I pass by trying not to barge them

off their slow stride

further down I stop for coffee

out with the notebook

pen scrawls across the page

as he plops himself down at the next table

a myriad of sighs, grunts, clicks of stick

settles

much like an old steam train

puffing into its last ever stop

& then

Ben? Is that you?

& I look over

to a questioning face

framed in silvered whiskers

bottle top glasses & smile

erm, yeah, I go

as his fat meaty hand arcs over

to bridge the great divide

we shake as I plunder memories

it’s Tim, softly; you remember

he questions

as I try

& reconcile this beast in front of me

with a skinny boy on a fat Triumph

from so long ago

talking of going to Valencia Moto GP

heading to Indianopolis for the 500

maybe Daytona along the way

& he’s talking now

crossing my reverie

talking of him

had me doing hello’s at the hardware store

buckets down there

paint that’a way

gardening over there

until they discovered my people skills

were not what they thought they were

& you?

I scribble I say

a filthy dirty writing habit

& you make money at this? he glints

oh no, I’m not posh enough for that I say

nothing changes then man, he says

though clearly things have

did my leg getting run over by a truck

remember Susie? She left me

for a younger bloke, took the kids & dog

which was a blessing

walking with a pocket of warm dog shit

in a plastic bag

trying to find a bin is never fun

& that brights him for a minute or two

& I never ask

did you go to Valencia, Indi’ or Daytona?

because I’m scared of the reply

reminder of a time gone by

you’re looking good fella

he says eventually

must’ve had an easy paper round

compared to me

& he chuckles

which carries lung coughing then silence again

we talk some more of where I live

how he’s living

ways to spend our days

he sits behind his door

listening to the radio

doing housework as when

watching tv

doing jigsaws

drinking too much, like everybody eh?

until his woman comes home

from her job cleaning old lady bottoms

in nursing homes

he jokes again

she tells me coming home to me

is much like her day job

& his coughing starts right back

I finish my tea

shake his hand

set myself to walk away

well

see you

in another twenny years then

he says

soft in my ears

& for a week or two after

no matter where I am

if I hear a tap, tap, tapping

of walking stick

on cold pavement

I check for escape routes

some way out

rather than risk

such conversation

again

One thing

I wish I had said to you

y’gotta fight these next few years

just to stay alive

these are the mean

lean years

where women don’t yet get

what you are to them

& you don’t know

you don’t belong to them

your salvation is within you

but it comes slow

so long & low

like a heartbeat in distance

& if only you can nurture

listen to the sound

I promise you

life

will come around

give you everything

you can ever dream of

but first

y’gotta fight these next few years

& not throw yourself

in or up

 

for Max, part of the 80% of suicides are male statistics