What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.
These streets of my childhood
Were once crawling with rats
Now the plebs that grew up here
Are priced out of their flats
By an influx of “Yah, Darling!”
Grousing fat cats
Whose stake in their locale
Is served with ‘tomates’.
Explosions of colour
In the monochromacity
Of the modern art room
At the Tate Britain
I sit and stare
As Titian hair atop
A riot of pink and green
Flounces past a
Pausing only to consider
Her own reflection
In a Modigliani
The shallow curves
Of a polished surface
Echo the movement
Of our livelier exhibits
I was born to a wizard with long emerald fingernails
Abracadab-ing it in Salisbury playhouse
Daddy-O jumped with the Jets up in Perth The-a-ter
While his skinny frame could kick it he did Roman Shakespeare
Singing sunshine on the sand, moonlight on the sea
Leicester Haymarket enchanted even Bloody Mary
Down in Ipswich for a darker spell, he wheeled away
As Annie vomited three dinners, FDR held sway
Then a Machiavell, his Ross would scheme and plot
While a Scottish king was done away with, dad was not
Though a Streetcar named Desire strung his Steve along
Dad just waited until dark to get his murder on
Then a brief respite as Ironside in Canterbury
Before landing as the Miller in those tales so merry
Off to India he trumpeted with pachyderms
Telling all ‘Don’t Drink the Water’ ‘cos it might have germs
Back in London the Etcetera was proud to say
Jamie Boy was Gonna Be Alright, (despite the play)
Then Best Actor for the London New Play Festival
Dad as Keith informed us ‘Why Bananas Bend’ y’all
When his feet began a-tapping and his suit was zoot
Rats blew ‘Long About Midnight’ with a brassy toot
‘Fuente Ovejuna’ kicked around his Expo’ tour
With dad’s Torturer and Ortuno beside the door
Then a thirst for British Ale and ‘Images of Tiffin’
At the Old Red Lion, Stanley flashed – alive and kicking
‘Til a retrospective jackboot called for Dad’s best spiv
To revive the hope ‘Peace in Our Time’ might yet let live
Doctor Scott and his Hot Eddie rocked the horror shows
When the English Theater, Frankfurt kept him on his toes
Such a ‘Boon’ behind the camera, the Bill saw red
So dad Whistled down the wind and wore a badge instead
Then Big Daddy (as my father had become in truth)
Played his role like any Kitty on a Hot Tin Roof
Mister Mister rocked the cradle ‘til the cradle fell
Flung his Faust before the philistines in downtown Hell
He sang ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ as he toured and toured
While the greasepaint kept on stinking and the crowd still roared
Such a ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ this business can produce
And the theatre was dad’s life and soul and that’s the truth.
I wrote this in tribute to my father, who passed away on 9th May 2014. By no means a complete list of his acting credits, these were the memorable bits and pieces that helped shape my childhood. He will be missed.