School Harvest Festival


I’d bought a tin of baked beans, Heinz, the good ones.
In later years when Mom went on an experimental cooking streak
they would be replaced with a bag of pasta shapes,
but this year as it was last year I’d bought baked beans.
I lined up in the assembly hall with the rest of my class
and when I got to the front avoided the Headmasters eye,
trying instead to shove my beans to the back of the harvest display.
Cag-handed I knocked over Jason Spruce’s harvest basket
– an immense donation, rumour had it his mom hand made the basket –
Anyway his home grown apples bounced wildly across the floor
and his packet of Alpen split wide open.
The harvest festival was briefly delayed as the caretaker
threw down some chemical sawdust,
– the kind he usually saved for when kids had been sick –
and set to work with his trusty mop and bucket.
As I sat shame faced I could feel Jason Spruce and his family’s eyes
burn into the back of my neck I noticed the harvest display
was full of tins of baked beans.
A proud green tinned army, some dented
victims of playground fights some with
faded labels where they had been found at the back of dark cupboards.
There were baked beans and plenty of them,
plus in support a scattering of spaghetti hoops.
When we filed out to go back to class an old lady
from the home the school supported whispered to me.
“We all hate Alpen and those apples are always sour.
We like the beans though, especially on toast.”
I wanted to smile but as inevitable as the dark nights
that were drawing in a fight was coming with Jason Spruce
and I needed to keep my wits about me.

Cockroach


I feel like I’m on a mortician’s slab lying here in my bed,
unable to sleep, yet rattling with my tablets and meds.
Seemingly stuck in a half-life, feeling neither alive or dead,
while this poem’s like a cockroach trying to burrow out of my head.
It’s the ultimate earworm, eating my brain while creating this rhyme,
there’s a pain growing rapidly behind my eyes.
I won’t look at the alarm clock, I don’t need to know the time,
all I know is I need to use my pen to cut this poem from my mind.
You see I never realised and other poets never told
poetry is literary haemophilia, it’s hard to stop its flow.
You can try to sew your mouth shut but if the truth be told,
writing is just another scar you’ll carry until you’re old.
You realise you see fucking poems fucking everywhere
it’s like poetry is tattooed on your eyeballs, it’s everywhere you stare.
It feels like an itchy scab at which your fingers long to tear,
Poetry fights against you in your brain, pure biological warfare.
So here I lie still feeling like I’m laid out for dissection
thinking that if I took my pills I’d get cranial contraception.
Not some bullshit words, an immaterial conception,
breeding and multiplying like a bacterial infection.
I’ve been thinking too long the sun’s up there’s a new day ahead,
and I can’t move from this slab, my bed.
I reckon I’m still alive, it’s just my feelings that are dead,
and this poem is still like a cockroach trying to burrow out of my head.

The Truth is Out There


Something was gnawing away at me
something long-forgotten now returned,
demanding my attention as it
dug its way out of the dark hiding place
I thought it would never escape from.
So it was free at last,
free to demand answers from me,
free to demand the truth.

I had no idea where to begin to look so
I stared at the television news until I nearly went blind
flicked through the daily papers until my fingers were stained black
and trawled social media until my phone and will to live nearly died.
But none of these contained the truth and probably never did.

So I re-read the incomplete chapters of the book I had tried hard to write,
examined the scruffy lines of poetry I had set aside
then looked hard at myself in the mirror.
I asked my reflection. “Where is the truth?”

My reflection stared back at me
then said. “You do realise you know where the truth is.
It’s still exactly where you buried it,
I know I helped dig the hole
and we both knew this day would come,
when you would ask me where the truth was.
But don’t you remember,
you made me swear on my life,
that I should never tell you.”