the free hour

(october 2010 for the changing of the clocks)


3 is 2
2 is anew
1 went to 2
then 2 didn’t do
what it would
usually do.

beings from pluto must
do this with decades.
we limping millipedes
of rock 3,
we hope, ageing,
to re-live time just so,
stepping our million slippers
back to a decade ago.
not as if we never did it,
but to completistly,
with decision-consequence-timescale-knowledge behind us,
recifyingly ,
do it with wisdom again.

but no.
sci-fi was screened in the sixties,
it’s devices’ve come to be commonplace
(all but the hallowed mighty silver time machine).
the wider ‘we’ know we
will never be freshmen again
and make do, if we care to,
with the only generosity
our axes
(as in axis plural)
(as in clock hands and calendars)
will prescriptionally allow.

a yearly delight,
the free hour is for the free man
whose days are ashes
and fingers glue and who
in a cabinet deep in the cranium
can smile.
can swim in the space unafraid
of an hour replayed;
to whom tactile are tacitness
and the dumb words
in the numbness before slumber.
for he who files
unspoken words deeply mired
in the midst of expansive
conversations (whereby
but for a blink
in a snatch of breath
eyes meet with nowt said)

when we make it to 3
all normal service’ll be resumed,
we’ll stay staid, lumbered,
swine-backed, slug smeared
through a winter
where before we know where we are
in a 4 o’clock dusk
we’ll tiresomely pine
for the long yellow
afternoon shadows
which once nudged
the near white
of the light days of ours
when “allright?” meant “hello”
not “not dying yet,
still alive, how are you?”;
where for hours
our brows met the clouds
and when sleeping ’til
fourteen hundred hours
meant still arising to dwindling
daylight hours, cowering
for some berry-sweet spring
when our hour was taken;
evenings navy erased,
a black ever-nothing encroaching
on a shimmering haze;
for when bulbs performed
magic from under the mud
and we didn’t worry.

an eleventh century tower
that’s chimed a clockwork path
through numerous leap years
and meandering meantimes
three times
and it’s really 3.

though ancient it may be,
the bell is configured
by an electronic device
which has not been programmed
with seasonal time-slip nuances
and so the ancient tower
strikes a fourth time.

so what is time if just
a one and a zero and a zero and a one
and can i have one for zero
to slip into the fold
whenever i’m told something
i don’t like the sound of
and i want to enfold myself
into myself?

or does it not work that way?
hey- who has say?
can’t i take an english hour
to pluto and trade?
can’t i make in a clock-turn
that doesn’t exist
skeletons dance at beach parties?
bubblegum men
blend into foam parties?
trimester soul sisters
cajole at bloc parties?
can’t life carouse
for an hour without a number?

it seems it just has.

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seizure later

(october 2009)


nine nights on the floor
drinking myself to sleep
across the counties,
swallowing interruptions
like a phlegm oyster on a bus
(reluctantly, but
seizured by conscience).

wheeling trollies on rocks all night.
a doomsday march of
searing chefs
and bloody butchers
parading past me
dropping hot oil and curses,
wielding cleavers
and chanting me to work like them.

but all the ribeye
and shank
and fricassee
and bankroll
won’t get me in line.

Tramp! Tramp!
i’ll still wake up
Walk all you Want
drone your lives away
i will not go down with you.

nine knights on the floor
strewn about, defeated
some dead,
some trembling.
their shields and spears
rusting in terror
and i pour another
into my glass.

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dishwashers cycling

(october 2009)

in slumber i conjure
track and field events being
played by household appliances:

electric whisks doing the high jump
portable halogen heaters doing the shot put
toasters throwing the discus
fridges on the 100 metres
tumble driers doing the steeplechase
kettles blowing the whistles on the finish line
vacuum cleaners parading
dishwashers cycling.

long before i quit the night
the engines are off
dustbin men revving up the truck
deputy managers rolling up the blinds
clerks clutching cases
landlords taking stock of their stock
clock shop cashiers clocking in
skippers walking
drivers riding
dishwashers cycling.

i ough to get to my ‘it’,
but it’s like i’m
twice as heavy
and i’d be
thundering into things
spoiling the clarity.

so i hold. and lean

lunge off the bed.
so far so good

organ stool, pouffe,
the toilet, sink and bath,
staircase, bannisters, newel post…
i rest on the threshold.

everything in the kitchen holds me up.
the freezer is a flatbed for a while
then i’ve got the table and chairs,
armchairs, wicker armchairs,
(so good).
the window sill, the walls and floor.
all this support.

somewhere out there is
air traffic control, hairdressers, auto repair co’s,
traffic on a roundabout,
lovers tapping innuendos in textual intercourse,
libraries with no librarians, only screens.

queues at the cashpoints
the ATMs
the holes-in-the-walls

small feet terrified on cattle grids
and ducks eating bread.

somewhere out there is somewhere where
the machinery turns.

portable electric fires rotating
tumble driers trundling
vacuum cleaners parading
dishwashers cycling.

dishes and plates and glasses
are piled up dirty,
calling ,i know it.

and then i ought to clean the car.
the ashtray is toppling and spilling itself
onto the floor.
there’s still that putrid reek of spilt and
gone-off milk amidst the smoke.
the wing mirrors are broke,
i am broke
plus there’s a mere slosh of fuel inside.

maybe i ought to have lunch.

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seven morons squeezed in a pantry

august 2010

(written may 2011)


ug. i was in whites.
it wuz a sunny fucker
of an august day to be inside
a country manor full of brummies
as if the class divides had shattered
and perhaps they had –
the place was rented for a “teambuilding” weekend
and the groundskeepers had seen to the lawns.

though the catering staff
were still the catering staff.

and some ignorant dick was watching
godawful pop vids at volume
in the lounge-half of the kitchen
at a silvertop age when he should’ve known better
things than flimsy songs of flimsy lusts existed
and should’ve been reading some poetry.

we served and served and served them

curlicued cucumber with the rind and pips removed;
smoked trout and poached trout and fiddly trout;
bread rolls of walnuts and raisins and rosemary
and butter in dishes shaped like shells.
horseradish sauce in dainty little ramekins;
just-so’d carrots buttered and parslied;
tuiles for ice-cream creme-frachied to dessert plates;
handmade fudge, cocoa-d, in paper cases.

(a chaotic opera from an orchestra of colourful ingredients)

white chocolate chips;
purple sage;
black sesame;
shropshire blue;
pre-goldened chicken breasts;
blackened onions.

bain-maries of roastie-tatoes
we prepped up late-at-night yesterday;
jugs of jus, not gravy.
(“shhh about the cartons of knorr”)

all through the afternoon that followed the morning
that led into evening that turned into night
we were octopussing about surrounded by
abandoned bags of lettuce leaves
spewed tubs of cottage cheese
pools of beef blood
a landslide of peppercorns
in little pink jackets
corriander stamped on
and a leaking sink above a box of pastry cases.

we ennobled the morons with food.
the morons devoured and caroused
and got closer
as they got drunker
and i got bitterer
in the pit of sobriety.

the prissy dumb waitresses caked on their waged smiles
and got on with what they’d come to get on with.

eventually a moron cluttered in blithering
“hey, do you guys not have a drink? do you want one?”
facing a shaking-head chef and a team full of “no, i’m fine”s
and a skinny guy, ears pricked, at the back nodding,
right arm aloft. “he’ll have one”
said his father, the designated dogsbody.
too right. a top-popped budweiser. cheers buddy.
then ten minutes later
the scenario repeated with another moron
and the night began showing signs
of becoming bearable.

i was in the pantry
looking for a jar of something
or something to use
for something or other.

the latch rattled. 4 morons came in
wielding a 70 of smirnoff
from a mystery location.

“hey, Chef! how’s it going?
are you enjoying our party?”

“i cut off the crusts,
i de-lumped the custard
i tended the roastie-tatoes for you,
of course it’s been a riot out here.
why don’t you give me a drink?!”

we broke a divide between staff and guests
that would horrify the aristocracy.

i played the rebel, not letting on
that the boss was my bro, so could hardly
chastise me too easy
and i blabbered about lacking in jobwise morals
and preferring to handle plectrums than spatulas
and i blabbered about travel
and giving no damns
and how as soon as i stopped spending everything i had
on booze and music i’d screw off again to anywhere
and tramp until happenstance handed me a chance.

“your mind is so open, so free”
jabbered a moron.

(it must’ve been my slacker bandana)

“well i’m not an ostrich;
this ain’t exactly auschwitz”

i downed a couple of straight vodkas
and they started to love me
for who they weren’t
and what they thought me to be
and they left me a bottle propped
hidden behind a box of cornflakes
when they slid back out to the dining hall.

in between brief periods of walking about the kitchen
pretending to be packing things away
and eating doritos of the sideboard
shifting saucepans from one place to another
and hanging teatowels on the handles of the aga
making quips to deaf ears who were busy
(like drinkers do when the think kicks in)
i was hiding in my pantry
lounging on the low shelf
with my secret stash
shirking the futile work of a world
which i’d known’d’ve
got on without me,
feeling better
seeing in the cracks
in the old magnolia gloss’d door
one team serving another.

the latch rattled. 4 morons came back in
wielding another 70 of smirnoff
from the mystery location

(the great offy in the sky;
nirvana’s liquor store;
the 24 hour bottle-o of elysium)

“i am about as much a ‘Chef’ as a cracker is a banquet”

i carried on skulling vodka in the scullery with stupid strangers.
there were names but they were vapours.

the drinks were flying
the glasses slugged
a glass got smashed
and was kicked under a cupboard
packets of powdery foodstuffs
fell on the washed-up crockery
and the drinks kept flying.
two more morons cluttered in.
“hey Chef!” etc.
and the drinks kept flying.
and whatever a damn was then
i didn’t give one.

outside the pantry door
my family carried on
raising eyebrows
at the pantry door
and turning the wheel of food.

piling up profiteroles on platters,
wedges of cheeses on wooden boards,
physalis and grapes in pretty shapes;
picking mint pluches and shaking icing sugar;
breadknifing shop-bought baguettes;
garnishing squiggles of coulis while
finishing sauces and slicing up starfruit
and de-pitting morello cherries while
toiling over boiling kettles.

losing rolls of clingfilm
looking for rolls of clingfilm
finding rolls of clingfilm
and using rolls of clingfilm

waitresses pinned to the timesheet
were diligently clearing the dinnerplates;
putting upside-down cups on saucers on trays
polishing teaspoons
drip-draining champagne flutes
scrubbing stubborn oventrays
drying things away.

all of them,
my kin and compadres,
wiping clean
everything in sight
until they’d done it all and i
said goodbye to my
hurdy-gurdy new
buddies of the cupboard
and carried
the last packed up box
back to the van.

some nights
i feel like roadkill.
this night
i was fleeing the headlights.

on the road back home
we were overtaking the brother
(me with the father driving)
on a dual carriageway
and missed by a slim inch a maniac
(or probably a magnificent drunk)
who was hurling a car down the wrong side
straight towards our windscreen.

it could have been the last night of my life.
i would have died laughing with a robbed bottle of beer in my hand,
never having known hard times.

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two dukes won’t bury me

august 2010


i have no status here, no presence
i know the ‘mac from congested car
and shortcut alleys not wide enough
to swing free
outstretched arms across.
i know it like seeing familiar
photographs on returning
to unchanged walls.

i know its chinese pizza burgers
its vietnamese kofta soup
its beer/cider/wine/whiskey
-the way it goes-
but know nobody.

i have stood on the roof
of its highest building
and slopped
through its burst banks.

got pulled by the police for staring between.

i know where
an old woman with no garden
sits knitting
on her doorstep.

i know where
there’s the numbers
blooming in a flowerbed
like a tribute to british
telecom services.

i know its people
are locked indoors
leaving and receiving
their precious messages.

i can dictate routes
for all ways out
through sideshow villages
in carnival counties
from here to the edge of reason
in any given direction
but tell nobody.

tourists troll and grasp about
at windows and tables and locals
eye them and me
in the same blink of breath.

sometimes i have tried to have fun with them
but it’s like putting my hands in spiderwebs;
trying to cross the rubicon
on the back of a burning matchstick.

which is why
i jump fences,
steal from its shelves and its pockets

i have tried to have fun with them;
i fucked one dweller
and dropped another down the stairs.

freed hell
because a man needs wild days.
without madness in measures
there is just
a gradual dilution of sense
’til the soul is a soup
of soluble saccharine suds.

i have no status here, no presence.
i have white irises,
white pupils,
tissue paper chest,
see thru soul.

for fear of demolition
i keep to myself
my cornfield palms,
kalaeidoscope jellyfish legs,
savannah midriff,
the big bang in my brain.

i take all this
-the manic menagries of me-
the fire and the cloud.

i take it and run
chased through the laneways
by dukes with spades,
maddened margraves,
a hundred clergy
who herd me to the churchyard.
the priest, the deacon,
the exorcist are there.
canons surround me.
the hole is ready.

i am the whole,
the every, all
of giant
and they want me
i elude them.

i have no status here, no presence.
a wild invisible man
forever reeling, stealing
thru ancient empty streets
1471, 2560, 1999 or never
belonging to none’s past
and future-proof.

i run
’til silent kingdom come
drinking the orchestra
of the night rain.

i have conversations with faces
on trees and the backs
of signposts and run
with the swirl in me
’til the bottle hits the road,
shatters the night where
nothing stirs.

i churn on

delivered from evil,
saved from the grave
for another day.
my white eyes
flecked with gold
reflected in a puddle
know wonder
know secrets
and sucker them close.

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my first poem

when we warned him of the imminent publication of his first poem, jetsam sent us this, his first words to us in some time:


it’s still less than 2 years
since i wrote my first poem,
apart from, when age nine
i wrote, thinking of wordsworth:
“ i wonder as i wander on my way to school”
(at which my classmates laughed me down).

i fell down the back of a sofa,
fought ‘til i learned to roll.
i battled myself in my babyhome
‘til again was abroad and alone.

i buckle sometimes;
i cry in parks.
i hold in my gut
though i’ve got no gut to hold in.
i give myself rum
when i should have my din dins.
there are dins
of frighteningly fuzzy drums
when i close my eyes
at beddy-byes.

i write ‘cos i’m
trailing venomous sea snakes
n’ corroborated by corrugated
comet tails of catsomeness
as if something up there is fishing.

it’s already 20 years since i wrote my first poem.
i am wandering and wondering and
wordsomely teaching myself living.

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crack in the back

july 2009


i fight with the toaster
fight with the light
through those big, big windows.
make hell with a teacup
and swallow its thump

i am ready to refuse the day.

“a crack in the back,
that’s what you need”
the other human ventures at me

they’re always saying things
like that and “chin up”
the useless fools.

i don’t speak
i turn
i slump and slip
my way
the crack
in the back
of the sofa

and i fight like angry glue
down there
with the dust and the
pieces of crisp and tissue

‘cos i dropped my toast
on the way down;
it landed on the marmalade side.

and all i was wanting was
a quiet place
to rest
and eat
and sleep some more
day away.

from above
the muffled voice is ranting
and all i get is the
essence of familiar phrases:

“what are you going to
with you life?”
nonsense like that.

down in the sofa
alone in the mire
you learn at these times
to make friends from the detritus:

little men with
bottle top top hats

girls with mini skirts made of
sweet wrappers and bag ties

and they’re the kinds of people
who nibble like mice
on the hard cheese of the real life
ride atop the solid wave
of the free life

an escalator made from
a torn strip of
corrugated cardboard
takes us out
further down
to where the rats have been
and we kick through their droppings
like autumn leaves.

the human mutters to itself
vexation meant for me.
paces around,
rattles in the kitchen
and i wonder why i ever stayed up there so long.

we meet a plastic monkey
steal a matchbox bmw
hotwire it with a paperclip
and all day
joyride under the floorboards
doing crack
in the back
of our black convertible.

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