unkind

I liked the woman

we were kinda friends

kept bumping into each other

knew the same kind of crowd

late one night she asked me in

& trying not to be unkind

I said I had to go had shit to do

later she asked me the why

I’d turned her down

of course I lied to be kind

said nothing of what I felt

she was looking for a man

be her way out of where she was

had the two growing kids

in a poor neighbourhood

had been unemployed for years

& I hadn’t the weight

to pull that rescue off

instead offered the usual blow

I like us better as friends

& you know she never forgot

yeah she found her kid galahad

moved out of poverty row

kids grew up she found a job

living happy now with the man

& when she saw me pushed out her nose

turned to look away

yeah baby I sighed that’s ok

that’s ok

send the girl in

whenever we were broke

which seemed quite

too often

we’d have to sell something

records

jewellery

or

renting flats hovels

I’d send the girl in

as it seemed

her poverty

was worth more than mine

these weren’t just earrings

they were heirloom gold from granny

records were originals

bought by her first love

she’d go turn on the eyes

for a better price

or

she needed a place to stay

love gone wrong

affair turned sour

where if I turned up

my poverty was my problem

or

maybe I was just too ugly

there were more beautiful

other more worthy people

the all of it & that

they said they were looking for talent

while I was looking another way

something that might work to capture me

I got the high priests of poetry

understood the all of it & that

the rhymes they were setting out to do

while I was searching the streets

listening to what they called low lifes

spitting out their heart felt poison bars

crazy at what had been done to them

poverty pain prison working blues

the nearest I got were the war poets

& even then the lines they sung

were distant detached highbrow lost

I was looking for words that hummed

sang of me & you walking broke

unable to eat the high yellow sunset

worrying about the shoes on our feet

hanging on in until tomorrow comes

but that don’t sell in the bookstores

draw in the crowds make fortunes

help make my teachers & me to meet

burnedout

living low

shit always happens

places get burned out

the rain thu’ windows runs

the roof comes in

& all you can do

being poor

find someone

somewhere

safe tonight

share out the pain

sleeping in a single bed

as the windows

let in the cold

wanting more to come

& she resents your poverty

almost as much as you

just almost

because she was asked

if tonight she could share

& you found her depths

her limits on care

understanding

it is not only places

get burned out

to be an adventurer

to return to places

is now

to be an adventurer

for what was

is now not is

the eye gets drawn to the differences

the houses bars shops

filling in  with places

where there used to be spaces

plots for vegetal

peasant peon poverty smallholdings

& the offer has changed

from rural to mccy’d’s

burger king Kentucky fried sunglass hut

o’neill swimwear rayban surfer dudes

chain supermarkets offering the same

no need to sprechensee le lingo

everybody habla hello ciao

grazie a’voir prego danke

nein danke bitte merci thank you

have a nice day

& we swear to never return

but what is

will not be

next time

itch I cannot scratch

without going back to yesterday

doing those things

came close to killing me

& I’d love to feel over

the times I was high as the sky

climbing through the clouds

feeling I was the lord

of all I could survey

but that’s not the whole picture

there are always the images

I’d prefer we all forgot

lying in ditches screaming to the void

lost inside gone from the world

living in rags & poverty

my money going to just one place

to stop me from waking

seeing my one true face

& I had to be reborn

find my way back to me

& that itch I cannot scratch

belongs to the slave

I used to be

donkey of strange goods

in the salons of paris

where I had gone laden

with white thick sliced loaves

proper Tea for the English

they quizzed me on my manners

politics views of the world

& feeling only as a tourist

donkey of strange goods

I held no idea my quizzicals

were testing me for friendship

networking my soul

I failed their tests on many levels

feeling I was just passing through

understanding too well my poverty

may not bring me this way again

it was me not them

failing to see my horizon

could be lifted

was later later later

all she heard

was later later later

while I was making my case

knowing this poverty

the struggle would end some day

I was doing the right things

we would be in a better place

& all she heard

was later later later

went off to find better

leaving me knee deep

not yet drowning

but close to deep mess

she left bitter

I have no way of knowing

if she found better

but the later later later

the poverty

this struggle did end

& all I can guess

she was a trotting pony

needed a faster pace

firmer ground

than mine

badger ham & Hem’

Hem said

“always do sober what you promised to do drunk

that way you’ll learn fast to keep your mouth shut”

part of my learning was badger ham

late in the afternoon I was talking as ever

on something I’d read about poverty

how in the country if you tried hard enough

there was always something to eat

how a badgers back thighs can be used as ham

& two days later one got dragged dead into the bar

with a raised eyebrow you wanted this?

I set to out back with a pocket knife

a saw from next door & plastic bags

setting the back thighs into brine that night

for about a week or so

then hung them inside a fine mesh cage

in the breeze between two trees

for another month in that cool spring

& people kept on asking me about them

when you gonna bring ‘em in?

& as the weather began to rise up

I took them nicely cured into the bar

set ‘em up with a sharp carving knife

& turned everybody had fled

I had gone that one step too far

oh it goes

but why oh why lord

must it take so long

born poor is a stubborn stain

lurking in the shadow on the floor

& working doesn’t come easy

when your stomach growls

ribs stick through your jacket

& the foreman always wants more

you have to get up early

beat the sun get in the lines

not looking for handouts only time

take this job then the next

leveraging up the pay more hours

always searching for better money

& who cares if it doesn’t last?

not you anybody looking in

the holes in my raincoat

the constant there to remind

poverty is a stubborn stain

lurking there outside the door

leaving its imprint on the psyche

even if the money does come in

life gets easier once more

& scrubbing out its memories

only cleans the shadow

there on the floor