I did everything

they asked of me

& still it wasn’t enough

so I swung out on my own

trying to find a way to better

& of course that wasn’t right

but you know if all you give

a man is nothing

that all stacks up real quick

finding my own way was a struggle

& many ways in that cold beginning

I didn’t get much of anything right

but all I had to answer to was me

over time if slow I got smarter

I could sleep a lonely long night

then finding people who recognize

that trying to do something

because you believe in what you do

can create your own family of care

builds your only circle tight

& still my founders look on

mumbling slow

shaking their heads

that boy ain’t right…

rum rotten lot

in parts of the globe

maybe bits of flat earth

who knows?

when my family name is said

people draw breath

look around

& gasp: they are a rum crowd

we are a family scattered

wild seeds

split by family secrets

do as I say not as I do

& when we die

these will go with us

& those left behind

not knowing where to stop

tear away to foreign lands

corners of the globe

adding to the legend

whispers on the wind

there go the crazy kind

such a rum rotten lot

grease on the wheels

You are not

alone

while there is company

people to talk with

share ice cream

relax

& spend time by

they

who will be there

when grandad falls

granny needs taking

to the hospital

shopping

& all this you hear

as inane chatter

is the grease

on the wheels

of family relationships

& no greek play

tragedy

can help explain that

Days like these

once there was a time

of bright days

beautiful brides

futures stretching away

then came the chubby babies

squealing in fonts

us squeezing into suits

to mark the day

and more lately

sombre mornings

dirges filling the air

as you

& you

go on to that mystery beyond

it seems

that this

is how we note the changes

of friendship

kinship

in our days

& years

& while we might

attend more than one

of your weddings

we will only do

one of those

for you

Mile after year

Mile after mile

year after year

I’d & then later, we’d

travel to go see ‘my people’

to sit in rooms recently redecorated

in the bland new style

counting the milestones

was it millstones

of our ways

talking of what’s new

happened to old

people who’d moved on

from place

this life

mostly ghosts to me anyways

it being so long

since I’d lived among them

we’d talk of our doings

events

to passive faces

holding still

making sure we didn’t frighten

with tales of our ways

& then mile after mile

year after year

we’d head back home

no sense of accomplishment

only that duty

honour had been done

until next year

seeing how the road changes

new signs

twists & turns

staring straight ahead

wondering just who

will blink first

Dude wants to die

Dude wants to die

got himself some rope

its all over

all over

nothing much works anymore

so I take the bottle out of his hands

take the rope

this knot see?

you’re doing it all wrong

& you need a longer drop

your feet will just scuff the floor

& he tells me

I’m a callous bastard

for not caring more

hey wait

I say

you’re the one with the missus & kids

in the next room

needing your paycheck

end of each month

the one with a half assed noose

hiding in the garage

with a kill me score on the radio

your way will be slow agony

& not just for you

any insurance will be void

who is going to pay the rent?

he comes round slow

fog clears his head

what was I thinking?

yeah

I say

this bottle is dead

you could’ve left some for me

Cousin N’s funeral

I do so few family things these days
the clan are spread so far & wide
in the world now
it’d make a very long road movie
just to go & see ‘em all
I’m in the back of the car
uncle F is driving a newish red Ford
he is the last of the five
four brothers & a sister
still births, miscarriages not counting
starting from the 1920’s
& he wears his survivor badge hard
I only know him as my dad’s brother
or from wandering the woods as a kid
where I’d find him in conversation, more
with ladies who were not my aunt
next to him in shotgun
is my mother
she married as second wife
the first having done a runner
into these country folk
being that way inclined herself
she is here to represent my now gone dad
as cousin N died early
being only 64 from a heart attack
as ever, her feelings, emotions
exist only within her immediate vicinity
we’ve been to the funeral
done all the things you do
mumbled a hymn, heard the eulogy
looked over from our side to the other
wondering just who these people are
recognising a look, feature, a stance
& wondering which crooked branch
they come or hang from
we were on our way to the ‘after’
drinks & food as a wake for cousin N
who may or not have been my brother
it is hard to know as all concerned
are now dead
it is our way
the tiniest secret can have a full blown smokescreen
& the biggest just left out to dry in the breeze
my dad only met his eldest brother G
five times in his seventy odd years
two of those times were at the funerals
of their aged parents
such is our exodus from this county of birth
not that I knew N well
he was older than me
we’d last locked eyes some 30 years ago
he was off out to see his girl
I was on my way in to see my grandma
home from navy leave knowing I’d not
pass by there again
she was gone three months later
& I could not get a pass to go home
to see her out
I guess this is the why we do the funerals we can
to represent those who can’t be there
we had vague instructions on the venue
were passing places I’d not seen in aeons
all somehow familiar yet somehow not
I see the two trees with the road between
there, right there, I point out as uncle F sails by
we need to turn round & go back, I say
they look at each other & mumble
F turns around & heads back
I point the trees out again as he drives by
they ignore me
I think I’ll stop & ask says F finally
good idea, confirms herself, to him
I’m looking at my hands: do I not exist?
he stops & asks a dog walker: over there says the blokie
pointing right at the two tall trees
now
in the distance
they murmur thankyou’s & bye’s
& we drive on back in silence
& it hits me
this is playing out some scene
from when I was a young’un
where adults would drive
& the only sound in the back
which was best ignored
kid chatter
can I have an ice cream?
are we there yet’s?
I need a wee
& as ever when with my people
I feel that I don’t exist
to acknowledge me fully
would be to open too many cans of worms
the why I left home early
the dubious parentage of me
between the now dead brothers
my absent birth mother
& what did I want by being here?
I chuckle all the way into the hall
where I meet the clan all over again
surrounded in warmth, food smells
a fug complemented by booze nipped from flasks
& toasts to N being given by the open bar
& of course I have the idiot grin on my face
from my realisation in the car
it is not time for smiles yet
there are stories to be mis’told
drinks to be drunk
toasts to be said
before any of us can retreat to humour
& raise the barriers again

The English way

full of
children should be seen
& not heard
spare the rod
spoil the child
family hold back
where we wait
until after all else
have eaten
because there is not ever
enough to go round
learning to hold it all in
never let go
give it the 100%
not once
always holding something back
it’s a learned thing
expecting less not more
from bruised times
bleeding
held to a corner
a part
that can never be reached by another
they tell me
the English why?
we can be cold
unfeeling
but if I’ve given all that I can
within these tight
restrictions
where are you?

Just another shack job

we shacked together a couple of years
& were just starting to get real tired
of each others shit
& then came Christmas
we were invited over to her mothers
they were to let us sleep together
recognition of our living in sin
things started well
I bought her mum a poinsettia
her dad & me got on nodding terms
then I took her brother in law
out for a few drinks
he got wasted
trashed
threw up over himself
tripped over pavement
got bloodied
& of course
all of this was my fault
the reasoning being
he’d never done this before
my reasoning was more
maybe he’d not yet had the opportunity
last I looked
the cat was having a ball
then came Christmas day
family gathered to open presents
all went quiet as she reached over
picked up this little bag
I’d put on the tree
opened it up
looked inside
silver charms for her bracelet
silence
more silence
as it began to dawn
their daughter was
just another shack job
there was
to be no romantic Christmas
engagement ring
their cosy nest held a cuckoo
I was not to be part of the family