MY TROUBLED MIND

confessions are self-serving

Category: Poetry

Railway sketch

Railway station in a country town, flagstones wide, dark and wet with rain. Cast iron bolts suffocated by thick beige paint, flaked with age.  Train delayed 11 minutes, passengers sleepy and few in number, apathetic to delay or even cheerful, ‘it’ll be alright’, lo holy British stoicism if only in this crouched corner.  Gentleman across platform studies paper, widespread khaki slacks and slightly bruised red brown leather shoes asunder, thin and aged hand peeks out of overcoat to grip paper tentatively, though firm, like a mouse’s nose out a crack in a wall.  Grey hair not too thin, combed, skin sallow and liver-spotted, chin a wreck of flesh after many years sitting reading papers no doubt, dignified in its way. Pages turn slowly as he bends to his serious study of another day’s events, quiet and watchful as a predator.

Bag for life

My cashier was a tall woman of around 27,
the tips of her hair were brittle as ice chips
and her teeth small and discoloured.
I made a nonchalant gesture
with my bank card pincered
between forefinger and thumb
as if to say ‘let me use this’
without opening my mouth.

Next to me a mother,
I don’t know how class works these days
but I’d guess upper-middle,
was 10 pence short of her shop.
She wanted a bag for life, ‘here’
I said,
and handed her the silver coin.

I felt pretty good about myself,
scampering across the road
so she wouldn’t meet me outside
and be forced to thank me again,
and I kept feeling good
all the way home,
even for the duration of the extra block
I have to take
to avoid the homeless
man sitting like some frigid Buddhist
on my street.

We Are The Boys

We are the boys born
in the bellies of hydrogen bombs
swigging weekend beers
and not worrying about the world,
look at us go!

Poking powders up our noses,
tiny plastic packets of “ANYWHERE BUT HERE”
ignoring, ignoring
the chemical drip in our throats
that ticks like a hot engine cooling.

Even our reflections are tired
of our unfounded confidence,
our masks hang limply
like half melted candles, off our faces,
and have you noticed
those ones as young as 21
looking absolutely knackered?

Our testicles hang comically
in mirrors like alien or ancient artifacts,
and those lucky enough to find craters
to try to make love in
do so, no less cowed of the dark
than our fortunate forefathers,

though the idea that dawn
could bring some form of reprieve
is a notion as antiquated as that of magic,
or miracle.

When you’re not here

I listen
to the senselessness of never-ending traffic,
to the way the fridge murmurs its thanks
between burps
as it slurps down power.

I listen and I watch
my hand-me-down fry pan,
filled and simmering                 on one side
like the first draft
of a resignation.

Sent my love downstairs

On my back
Studying the ceiling cracks
In a student’s house.

Sent my love downstairs
To fetch roasting carrots
Spitting orange,  honey smothered
Soft, black crisp outside
Brown toast, butter melt ooze.

Where is she?
I shouldn’t be left alone in this head,
On this night,
In a room so hot
With dishes piled so high.

#1

My ears are cupped in headphones, hood up,
the radio’s drowned
in the river of mid-morning cabs, buses, and rain.

Down it comes in droves
onto my jeans, wet through,
I only catch a word or two
over the wind:
Diabetes, Lucozade, Sugar, Stew.

Coming to my own conclusions
sloshing alongside Chinese Kitchen,
muddy yellow dragon,
no lights, no sweet or sour scent,
sign on the door reads
CLOSED.

Spring poem

I’m outside,
on the corner slate flower bed purple as burst plum,
conjures mother, lent, exhausted
on the speckled countertop, jousting with a can of prunes
juice drip teasing out a crack in the tin.
Pregnant and constipated,
little Isobel on her way, labrador alive!
Huge moaning skull, soppy silk ears, sad brown eyes,
busted arthritic limp, stomach rolling like a black sea.

My forearm’s over my eyes, sun sharp and new.
First English spring, no Welsh, British, who cares?
Many do, the lines in the sand
seem deeper year on year,
like slits carved in supple upper arms,
out of sight and out of mind.

 

Fish & Chips

Rambling mad under the threat of spring rain
Dirty old field, ploughed, pulling up last year’s dirty jobs
City slush grey sky, and the skylark sings
Fevered, flapping upwards full of guts
Bold backbone and hardy in the gusts
Air cool and eyes tight, cheeks pinched
We gotta go
Jolly Roger, sign clanging, cod bites ‘famous’,
Kid in there, eye glasses, eight or nine or years old
Mother fixes his collar, and here the chips
Fresh from the smooth amber glow of boiling beef fat
And salt shaking escaping down newspaper folds
Dad lifting potato with finger and thumb pinch and suck hot
Squeezing vinegar in there, down brown cone swamp
Tart first chip smoking open mouth tongue dance
Steam to the street stagger homeward bound.

Butterball

You’re on the edge of my bed,
I can’t describe it,
you’re balled up and tomato pink,
my baby
my butterball, crying.

Am I autistic or just obtuse?

Probably a foul cocktail of both,
probably from all the red wine I drunk,
probably from the way I smile so smug,
you hung on my arm like I deserve you.

I’ll take advantage of your sweet neurosis,
I’ll let you bet against my house,
benefit of years and confidence
in all the beers I drunk.

God I’m proud, and oh so cynical,

typical of single males in their mid-twenties
secretly all so desperate, aching
for warmth like yours,
under the covers, something platonic,
nothing sexual,
just something to take us
out this tasteless plastic world
and place us some place
peaceful.

I can’t figure it out

The relationship between this desk,
these keys, that glass bottle there,
touchable things, reassuring
in the way they push against you,
push back, like a man snapping his fingers
in front of your eyes
after being knocked down, cold
and
the place we actually occupy,
operate our clunky, fleshy puppets.

Some of us are better at it than others,
almost graceful in the handling of their bodies,
I find it hard enough to drag my feet like iron chains
over splits in the roadside without stumbling,
or to lift my chin. I’ve been told
that I look like a man at sea
afloat, at peace
with his watery fate
the way my head hangs and swings
like a donkey’s tail.

The material world
pushes against me
with the biting persistence
of a whining child
but I’m too far away,
deep and safe
in that other place.