I’m very pleased to be featured in this marvelous video from the talented team at Word Stafford that was put together for National Poetry Day. The video features a selection of photos from talented local photographers and some amazing responses from poets about these pictures. Enjoy.
When the TV preaches the world’s changed
you have to check out of your window,
yet no matter how carefully you look
nothing seems to have altered
in spite of all the media bleating,
you wonder if you’re looking hard enough.
Venturing outside warily
you observe a quiet new world
full of cautious people,
darting across muted roads
rather than cross your path.
So you scurry home to
renew an old acquaintanceship with indolence,
time to re-examine yourself
through the bottoms of empty bottles,
willing your inner flame to re-ignite
cautious of being burnt again.
Until you stir from your sofa of despondency
more albatross than phoenix
circling the world, observing,
squawking, unable to be heard
above the rising storm,
of failing and flailing leadership.
You settle on just looking,
looking for the reset button
looking for an exit strategy.
Looking at yourself
finding yourself wanting
It’s National Poetry Day here in the UK, this year the theme is vision, hence my look back on this strange year.
There’s a rotten tooth stuck in my head
I blame if for all the vile things I’ve said.
As this tooth influences all that I say
My words come out twisted and stink of decay.
I just can’t control what comes out of my mouth
This world is screwed I constantly rave and shout.
Some people suggest my rotten tooth should come out
So I can cleanse my cesspit of a mouth.
Friends hope then I might start to heal
Not realising this to me has no appeal.
As I feel without this tooth I wouldn’t be me
forever condemned to write toothless poetry.
So there’s still a rotten tooth stuck in my head
I know we will be together until my last breath.
But I wonder if this tooth had any actual effect
What if my soul was always bitter and wrecked.
What if I imagined my rotten tooth was there
Because I needed something to justify why I don’t care.
What if poetry was a virus?
Imagine contagious words
spread through the air,
so as I breathe
the rhyme is drawn in to me
bringing with it fever.
Then line by line by line
poetry multiplies through my cells,
verse by verse by verse
my nerve endings are set aflame
and poem by poem by poem
I burn all night.
Early next morning my fever broke,
I snapped awake covered
in a sheen of sweat like morning dew.
Shaking myself like a dog
my fever now a dying ember
my hands scrambled for poetry.
hoping to catch
Under the strobe like flicker
of failing street lights,
two lovers keep their date
as they keep their distance.
Masks are slid down to reveal shy smiles
while remaining beyond arms reach,
so only their cigarette smoke entwines.
Both are lost for words
both are lost in this new world,
fingers that want to lock
now only grip phones
to exchange digital kisses
and like and share each other’s posts.
All to soon it’s time for whispered farewells
don masks for separate bus journeys home,
tag their partners in posts about the virus
that might go viral?
I was self-isolating long before the virus
barricading myself away from my latest crisis.
Voluntary lock down that’s how my life is,
friends they say bring riches but solitude is priceless.
So I perch precariously on my toilet paper throne,
ruler of all I see, yet all alone.
My pasta shapes crown barely conceals my frown
caused by the persistent ringing of my phone.
I hide behind a Facebook photo that I think makes me look slick
posting sarcastic comments while I’m binge watching Netflix.
But TV can’t teach this tired old dog any new tricks
think I’ll phone work again and lie that I’m sick.
Noting left to do but smoke a roll up and wait
contemplate learning to blow smoke rings while I self-isolate.
Trying to ignore my brain that’s locked in its usual eternal debate,
where self-respect gets its usual kicking from self-hate.
It’s time to lock all the doors, I don’t deserve to be free,
lock all the windows, swallow the key.
I’m nothing more than a mental health refugee,
adrift in his own turbulent sea.
Found dead one day clutching his pen
waiting for the fever of words that didn’t come.
So this poem is over
before it’s begun.
I am the reluctant father of countless poems,
far too many for me to remember them all,
far too many for me to care about them all.
I take perverse pleasure in embarrassing my offspring
by telling people that a lot of them were conceived
on public transport, where
in spite of the earliness of the hour
I would groan, grimace and sweat,
suggestively chewing on an old biro.
Fellow commuters would look away embarrassed
whispering to each other that this sort of thing
was better done at home behind closed doors.
Good job they didn’t know that
I bought a lot of my kids up in pubs.
scoffing scratchings while they cried and puked,
ignoring their clamouring for my attention while I necked gin,
leaving them in ashtrays or under tables
while I staggered home alone.
I’d sometimes force my poetry children
to compete against each other
in popularity contests on social media.
No likes for you means into the shredder you go,
victory means the winner fights again,
the Hunger Games of poetry, until exhausted
a new popular child grinds the losers face into the dirt,
while I smile.
I bound my family in paper and ink chains
behind a glossy cover of lies.
Then left them on a bus
embarrassed to be seen with them in public.