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Joseph

You told me at bedtime
of a secret land, where
planes, tanks and troops
resided, primed to kill for
our republic of Essex.

You said tomorrow the
enemy will be within
the marshes and creeks
of Benfleet, mortars
aimed at Basildon.

The invasion never came
and after breakfast,
you went shop lifting
with Steven Bennett instead.

I listened to the radio all day,
waiting for news of war,
stocking up on mum’s fruit
and hiding beneath my bed,
until you came home to fight.

Brother and I, we were
nothing but children,
and searching back through
the years, the memories
are as sweet to eat
as those segments
from the oranges peeled
clean from their pith.

And as sour as
those socks that
hastened my surrender
to your peculiar orders
under torchlight.

The Girl With No Name

Wish you’d been with me at the open window,
and that you hadn’t gone astray. We’d have
smoked rocks of crack by the open window,
waiting for the moon to come out to pray.

We could have spied on the neighbours from
the open window. Thrown weighted red gas bills
on passing cars, the open window a stereo
of traffic, off to Leeds, or maybe to Mars.

We would have kissed hard at the open
window, soothed the scorch marks fried to our
chins. We’d be framed in sepia at the open
window, planning a life in the rubbish bins.

We could have seen the dawn fly by the open
window, writhed on a mattress for the very
first time. Scraped the pipe at the open window,
confess our sins, our heinous crime.

But you fell from your own open window,
whilst I fell into recovery. These days I
close the curtains of the heart, the
open window to the drudgery.

The Comer Inner

gormley.jpeg

Sunday morning
walk in Bretton
with our hats,
new scarves,
old gloves,
boots and
our dog,
Big Ron.

You
whisper
in my ear
all warmly,
“This one’s by
Gormley”. I reply,
“Oh, I adore Moore”.
You grab my coat, shout

with a Yorkshire frown,
“Ohh give over, love!
We don’t like that
kind of language,
not round here,
not in our tiny
market town,
eh Big Ron?”

Bakelite

We’re telling you things can get better,
that there is no need to worry. Because
you are not the maker of these days
and neither are we. And if push came to shove
we will stop the above clichés right now and

change this station by thought alone.
We can play you the music worth dancing to
whilst time tricks to click you backwards and
forwards, with its mission to stop and devour
your hours. There are no commercials here,

baying you to buy unhappiness for a lived
life and a miserable death, in front of those
who will only suffer the same malady, then the
paleness of a too late impossible epiphany. We can
hold you, love you, feed you the poetry that you’ll

swallow in your slumber, reverse this screw to get
you through untwisted, live with grace and pass that grace
on to the conflicted. We are not gods, just reasons, but our
batteries are running down to silence. So pull away from
your screen, phone, desk, this illness. For you are slaves.

For a Few Dollars More

Just off Union Square
I eat the finest pizza served
for a few dollars on a paper plate.

The remainder of the night is spent
listening to overwrought poets.
Even so, I cannot shake the taste of
‘Joe’s Super Slice’, its warmth
on my tongue, the ripened peppers

and undercooked dough. Strolling back
to the hotel, I demand more, and I return,
but the sauce is not as sweet as it was before.
I’m disappointed that this evening has
faded to such a sad denouement.

Then, I remind myself firmly, yet fairly,
that despite such awful poetry, this is
perhaps, the second greatest meal of my life.

Peggy Seeger

At Kala Sangam in Bradford
late Sunday afternoon, one singer
sits on a hard chair waiting for the other
to take the stage, tune her guitar to
the required key before saying, “Hello
Ladies and Gentlemen.” There are
moments, in a life, that linger.

These two beloved women
stand on linoleum and talk
only briefly, about the songs maybe,
how they endure against the grain
of progress, how they stand up and fight
against the worst, the forever fascists,
time after time.

The folk singer’s eyes, alive with your
knowledge, as if you’d ridden trains together,
danced every reel, drank black coffee
in Buffalo, Oklahoma City, Oxford.
If you could, you’d link arms, climb
up the hill, to the Shish Mahal, break
the family bread.

As the room empties, the chairs scraped
away, there are goodbyes, the gentle touching
of soft hands. You turn and walk across
the room, smiling a secret never known.
At this exact moment, I knew it wasn’t the first
time I’d seen your face, but understanding
its beauty like never before.

Some

Some newcomers break vows upon seeing white lines.
They roll ten pound notes that refuse to find

a way back to their pockets, but are shared,
lifted and gifted to the nostrils of strangers,
who are persuasive at plundering.

Some, can be blown free, levitate
to touch fingertips, then outstretched arms,
gathered as if puppies from the riverbank,

saved from torrents pulling the undertow.
The unlucky some become stray and feral,
always hungry dogs barking the currency

of straws exchanged to needles.
Singing old timer shanties of the beckoned
and blackened sea. Howling the chorus,

“Tomorrow I’ll start again lads.
A tenner is all I need, lasses.”