Feathered Misfortune

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
But no.
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.

Bred and Buttered Up

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’.

I Dun No Public More a Lie Tee

Make your mark
Then make them pay
For the joy
And for the peace

Of you trotting
On your way
Buoyed with cash
Of slow release

One might struggle
Protest long
Keep spinning out
An oft-tried ruse

That this moment
They are wrung
Well out of readies,
Truth, Good News.

But this just means
There’s something there
That’s worth the trouble
Every time

So do, persist
Without a care
For what was theirs
Will soon be thine

And groans, protesting
Empty purse
Aren’t like to foil
A seasoned pro

Imagination’s
Always worse
They’ll come around
Before you know

And where it seems
A stalemate stands
Increase the pressure
Of your grip

Upon their senses
Underhand
It’s no great trial
To play a trick

The argument
That less is more
Impress on them
Who’s number one

A pocket finger –
(Pen-knife-gun?!)
Will trump their greed
And you’ll have won

Observations

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
Barbara Hepworth
Pausing only to consider
Her own reflection
In a Modigliani
The shallow curves
Of a polished surface
Echo the movement
Of our livelier exhibits

A Capital Man

Our bold Mayor of London
In spite of his burdens
Has chosen to cross
To the North bank again

The party political
Must have been calling
For stickier wickets
Inside number ten.

Conservative tastes
And the right education
Would make him a candidate
Proud to display

Strong family values…
Unchecked dedication
To national causes
That brook no delay.

He plots to return
To his life in the fast lane –
Trade in the bike for a
Chauffeur and Jag

No skimming the fine print
For that would be cheating
And soon on the map
He’ll be planting his flag.

Alas, the election
Requires some sacrifice
Two hefty titles
To shoulder at once

But that shouldn’t be hard
For a Machiavellian
Spinner of dreams
Used to acting the dunce.

So he’s setting his cap
At those hard-to-reach voters
More mums on the run
Far too busy to check

If this scruffy buffoon’s
Just an overgrown schoolboy;
The first among men,
Or a knife to the neck.

Street Scene

Stroll down any dusty thoroughfare
From Maida Vale to scruffy Shepherd’s Bush
They’ll ambush you on pavement then and there
Relieve you of your digits, prod and push.

Foot soldiers, armed with clipboards and ambition
Will tug at strings that tie the heart to purse
Their target: the conversion to commission
Of less-than-living wages as you curse.

The haves that make up half the knotty problem
Are touched for cash by those who live below
Embarrassed by their wealth, some may endure them
While others just ignore them as they go.

With one foot on the ladder of ascension
The other in the bucket of distress
They’ll tell you of the horrors one won’t mention
To try to hold attention and impress.

The passers-by whose means are independent
Whose social conscience privilege must prick
Are rarely found donating rent or pension
Confronted daily, skin must be quite thick.

While those who swallow pride and do the needful
Are debited directly for their pains
Their duty to society a creed. Full
Of charitable empathy and claims.

A Life in The Spotlight

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.

Two cigarettes

17:23

Fingers shaking, she fumbles to light it
Lips quivering, cornflower eyes over-large
Underlined, ringed in runny mascara
Bronzer and orange paint

Long blonde hair fashionably streaked
Hanging down like a dingy waterfall
She clamps her clutch beside her
With a slender elbow, shivers

At unseasonal weather in a short skirt
Trying not to cry, this nymph
Ankles wobble on the too-high heels
Waiting for a bus in the rain

Sucking in gasping lungfuls
She smokes her sadness
Twisting suffering to submission
In a single cigarette

18:02

His rumbling growl is subsiding now
The stream of curse words unbroken
Since he staggered down the aisle
Pushing past each passenger

Heading for the back bench
Of the almost empty upper deck
Something inside him is angry
It cannot keep still or quiet

A familiar double click precedes
The billowing clouds of calm
He thunks a window shut
Clad in a cloak of smoke

That may obscure the world
Of see-through stickers
With their pious proclamation
‘No Smoking’, red ring, slash

War Song for Woolwich

Fear of an idea
Almost intangible
Until it bursts
Fully formed from the head

And flowers to fists
Shouting streets full of strangers
That tumble, concluding
The unwritten, read

Reacting, unwitting
To  pub propaganda
More salt in the wound
With each bucket of blood

Until rivalry forms
Lines appear, out of nowhere
Uncrossable gulf
No-man’s-land to divide

We’re in it to win
But we fall and lie broken
And understand nothing
While clutching our pride

New Eyes

Stepping off the boat
Back in nineteen forty something
With the promise of my mother
Still a gleam in Grandpa’s eye

Leaving hot sun and the in-laws
Back in Africa with siblings
Upping sticks as far as England
To find other trades to ply

With poor London half-demolished
Ration coupons in new handbag
Grandma clutching at her husband
With so many things to buy

As we sift through theatre programmes
From their first few years together
How I wonder how they saw my city
Looking through new eyes