Counter Culture Cafe

The place where the antisocial
Gather to be alone
Each claiming a four-seat table
As space they can call their own.

We read, write and sip in silence
Observing our counterparts
Affronted by vocal violence
Where chattering children pass

I’m nearing the end of one cup
But pause while another stands
It wouldn’t be fair to counter
The pull of their drink demands

So queueing for table service
I duck to avoid the eye
Of waitress who makes me nervous
By bussing a bench nearby

We know those we see here often
But only on nodding terms
Some barriers never soften
And hand-shaking passes germs

Anxiety takes no notice
With all interactions dear
We pass out our days in closeness
And try to ignore our fear

We’re hardly inventing lonely
Though solitude equals peace
And we are our one and only
Unlikely to breed – we’ll cease

It isn’t a cause for wonder
That our generation stalls
When clearing one’s throat is thunder
Too sensitive for applause

And here in our counter culture
We’re safe from the fond embrace
We run from our awkward feelings
Too late to be in the race.

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We three kings

What can I give you
But words from my lips
A breath for your lungs
The breadth of my hips

To feed you and clothe you
And shelter you there
Our hope for the future
Small star that we share

In misunderstandings
All foster more strife
Too coy for the joy
Of a conflict-free life

No formal pronouncements
Of greatness to be
We limit announcements
To those we can see

In feeble concealment
Until you are grown
We’d raise you for strength
A mind of your own

And watching your progress
Will whisper as one
The charms that may comfort
Your sorrows to come

With hands in my pockets
Concealing all pain
I’d walk through the desert
To find you again

Zarafa, my love

With your tiny fingers and toes
Nails so sharp to rake new lines
In your young cheeks
With the fresh sensation
Of shock and awe
We welcome you to this place
Unknowing how to tell you
But with soft touches
Gentle words and careful
Rubs to soothe your stomach
As it navigates for the first time
Those aspects of life
That are harder to swallow
If we are not perfect
Trust us when we swear
We will try ever harder
To understand and be present
For and in all things
That matter to you
Please know that
You are wanted, and needed
And best of all,
You are loved

Giraffe

What kind of world
Will you inhabit
Once we are gone?
Will it be one
Of your own choosing?
New landscapes built
To youthful specifications,
A virtual world, or
Precarious solidity shaped
From the concentration
Of old-fashioned
Children’s toys – perhaps even
Those blue-and-red-stained
Wooden blocks
Of my infancy?
Will our groaning,
Grown-up legacy
Of piecemeal policies,
Poor housing, health,
And knee-jerk reactions
To old threats,
Half-remembered
Leave you with
Too little freedom
And too much responsibility?
However our teachings
Soak into your bones
It will be your turn
To roll the dice
And seek advancement
Or oblivion.
I hope we leave you
Prepared
And with sufficient
Tools to survive
What is
And what is yet
To come.

Indiscriminate Despair

A million subtle put-downs
In a thousand different ways
A wasted opportunity
Career path gone astray

A couple of promotions too
That went to someone else
With not as much experience
Nor vision, knowledge, skills

Adjusting one’s ambition
‘Til it fits within the norm
A lukewarm lover’s mission
To accept what still goes on

We breed another row
Of middle-rankers in our turn
Forgetting what we wanted
Was the change we couldn’t earn

Ah, Palmyra

We care more for ancient ruins
And destruction wrought on tombs
By whatever means they may
Than for lives that end today

While the blood and flesh and bone
Leaving everything they own
To escape the latest purge
Travel desert, sea and gorge

Those who voyage only land
On their uppers, close at hand
To the help they sorely need
Yet the politicians plead

Not to have to break their word
To the xenophobic horde
Those whose votes they barely won
From the hardened right, anon

Thus with bottle-necks and fence
We corral and harry hence
Workers that we sure could use
Grateful, welcome, unabused

Skilled and keen to integrate
To prop up our ageing State
In permissive company
Knowing just who let them be

As the fight takes to the skies
And the waves fill up with lies
We would throw away resource
Inconvenient and coarse

With no tally of the cost
Nor of what support is lost
Though our leaders might feel tall
While our borders stand, we fall

Calais

Sangatte to Jungles
Our government mumbles
Responses to nations’
Incoming migrations

Now paperwork hoarders
Are challenged by boarders
In Eurostar tunnels
And motorway funnels

They’re stoning the crowd
Burning tyres, leaping loud
Until lorries are loaded
All holds are allowed

This stowaway stream
Set on chasing a dream
Shows no signs of slowing
Or stopping, but growing

Their numbers increasing
To challenge policing
We’re caught at the port
Over which we have fought

Now our tourists are static
Behind much stacked traffic
They’re losing their reason
In holiday season

As cars packed with kids
See their fun on the skids
With the clock ticking down
Mum and dad due in town

Though we hoped to ignore
Swimmers washing ashore
Counting costs in big bribes
And the loss of small lives

In a bid for asylum
We’d like to deny them
Perhaps we may find
What they’re leaving behind

Survivor

I am right there
Surrounded by cockroaches
Squatting in the ruins,
The wreckage.
Collateral, damaged
In the fallout
Of a truly
Decadent society
That looked up to its
Graven images,
Photoshopped.
Idols, now idle.
How they glittered
In their lame, sequinned
Lifestyles.
Just me – a bunch of
Bad habits
And under the rubble,
One drug-addled
Rock guitarist.
Perhaps if we put our
Heads together
We can try
To find words
To remember.

The Peacemakers

Simple lines are drawn in sand
Before too long a raid is planned
Evading those so underhand
They would presume to claim this land

Off we sneak in battle dress
Such gentle men and ladies, less
To mop and mock the endless mess
Than blow things up, as merciless

To violence we’ve long adhered
We have become the thing we feared
And afterwards may not be cleared
Of careful killings, well prepared

Poor War has wandered far and wide
From hill to valley, mountainside
And sunk such fortunes, fear and pride
To foster thoughts of suicide

Promoting causes, long since lost
He breeds support and hides the cost
Our future terrorists to host
More pointless conflict, until most

If not quite all are lying dead
Two tribes with matching holes in head
Surrounded by twin pools of red
Both died for an ideal, it’s said

And what is left to selfless men
But legends of their struggle, gain?
We heed such calls to follow pain
Our children reach for arms again.

Autumnal

I dislike moths
Such old, dusty
Sepia butterflies
That flap at my face
Crash my cupboards
Caught in a protracted pause
Betwixt the seasons
Munching on jumpers
Waving beetle-brows
Beaten from carpets and comfort
Like absent pupils
Silt-minds wandering
To sunny fields
And freedom from
All manner of sticky-
Beaked rules