the game


I call her

every morning before 8

talk about the day to come

& she’d say

she missed me

couldn’t wait to meet again

do those things we liked

quiet spots off’f the street

& in the background

I’d hear kids getting breakfast

preparing for school

I guess husband gone

on the commute to the city

& when I hung up

I was never sure

what the game here was

but I made sure to call her

every morning before 8

hear her soft tones on the telephone

until I quit her

much as I cared for her

she was married to the ghost

on that early morning train

& after that

she never spoke to me

ever again

I guess for her I failed

the game

staid for stayed

we were nothing

but bored kids

hanging round our small town

looking for things to do

excited by new

finding booze a rush

stealing it wherever we could

having no funds of our own

looking for drugs

growing plants from bird seed

in the woods

I got out first chance I could

& when or if I go back

to that same small town

I see him skulking the margins

still bored

no funds of his own

looking for something still

had a rant going

fella going on about youth

disrespect today

had the whole hate thing

going on

& I had to ask

being built that way

tell me about your youth

did you have a good time?

& that slowed him some

as he told me of riding bicycles

the girls sleep outs in mountains

campfire drinking nights away

& these kids? I asked soft

it’s the problem of cities

the kids can’t get out

they turn on each other

like rats in a trap

so mebbe more to be pitied

than scorned?

& he turned away from me

could not accept the thought

I wanted in

like all kids looking on to the adult world

I wanted in

free to drink smoke

do whatever the fuck I wanted

with who how what when anytime

but it wasn’t like that

oh no

many of the adults were still kids

needing permissions

scared of their own shadows

frightened of the man in blue

the priest in black

the myriads of followers those who could not

dare not make a decision

for fear of offending not knowing

nobody cares in the end

or now

people are a disappointment

was a hard thing to discover

not just to me but themselves

the child they were with dreams

what they were going to do when they grew up

unwanted few

it was work

digging fetching carrying

but I was young

no matter what they pushed me to

I did it

I could see them hear them plotting

but I would not could not tap out

you want this moved where?

& back to there?

yeah ok I can do that

& off I’d go

sweating in the sun

their idea was to find my break point

the place where I’d give in give up out

& I didn’t want to allow them

any satisfaction

I’d meet these bully boys every day

in schools churches streets police stations

they thought they had the secret code

knowing some kids you could fuck with

twist hurt & nobody would give a damn

while our secret was to endure

wait for them to get bored move on

find easier meat

& sure enough the boss man came over

you finished fucking this fella around?

he set them straight gave them

the hard work to do


my thanks go to Nigel

the sickly musical kid

who first got me

to put these words together

make my own lines

I was the roughhouse kid

the out & about’er

& Nigel was the indoors kind

the kid who couldn’t

absent from school

more than he was there

he’d get me to mime along

as he played his guitars & songs

early Beatles hits

derivative Stones & blues

& now he’s married

to a rock star

got them a couple of kids

if you mentioned my name

passed on my thanks

I feel sure

he’d say


no fuss


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

shouting at kids

there is no win

no matter

being young beautiful

& educated

with shouting at kids

wanting to play

there is no win

there never can be

any back up plan

after the shouting

& I’m watching

wanting to suggest other

maybe de escalation

a conversation

but no

she has already let me know

I have nothing to offer here

such is the indifference

being young beautiful

& educated

shouting at kids

there is no win

there never can be

any back up plan after that

the land of don’ts

a land laying behind

where we never

scuffed our shoes

shot the cat

killed the hours cussing

swearing blood oaths

shoplifting penny sweets

wondering what it was

girls had we didn’t

playing knock down ginger

running running running

building bonfires

trying to fly

caped hatted cowboy gun’d

plinked bottles air guns rifles

feathered bow & arrowed

shooting the moon

building dams on the river

catching fish crabs

line & hooks we’d made

bicycles in the woods

picnics bread jam water

feasting as kings

full to the brim

class clown on offer

there was always the role

of class clown on offer

going for the laughs the giggles

as there was nothing else going on

wordplay with the old men

understanding we were going

to take over one day soon

knowing full it was the teachers

putting us on with thin veiled despise

the good ones had patience

while the bad ones knew sensed

they could behave badly

to ill-fitting kids like us

we were destined to be non achievers

coming from shithole lives

they could beat us with words

digs in the back out of sight

nobody the wise or caring

just one more adult with anger issues

we dealt with them by mockery

knowing that they lied

& all we had to do was endure

until we could get out of this place

to the real world

which was at least honest

in its cruelty