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.

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.

Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.

Last one standing

When they came by
For a cupful of sugar
Took my old man
And waltzed over the hill

I was still standing
Polishing silver
Gonna be standing
Forever, until…

Next time a caller
I’d hoped would be smaller
Tripped on her doorstep
Got carried away

I was still standing
To see to a Mother
Gonna keep standing
Another long day

One time you told me
That things never mattered
Half the amount I
Pretended to say

I was still standing
Alone with no lover
Not understanding
Which words made you stay

Then they came by
With a warrant for searching
Hoping to find
What I’d hidden away

I was still standing
In need of your comfort
No one to hear me
And nothing to say

Turn from the shadows
If you fear to follow
All those who greet us
And pass on their way

I am still standing
Myself and no other
One day I’ll falter
But never today

Flounce, Fluff and Flattery

There is a world of difference
Between those who seek the
Company of women
To bask in it
Hanging on their every thought
As one transported
By the beauty
Of a strange and fantastical mind
And those who fancy
A quick in-and-out
Ego-boost before
Zipping their feelings,
Upping sticks and moving on
To the next conquest.

The difference is obvious
Even to the most casual observer:
One is the stuff of
Fantasy and freedom
Of late-night talks
And deep discussions
Long philosophising over
Personal projections
Maybe with a bit of
Barefoot dancing
And a casual pinch of laughter
Thrown in for good measure.

On encountering the other,
I will take the lonely
High road to nowhere
Hiking in stupid, pretty,
Too-tight shoes
Risking my own skin
To preserve sanity
Rather than share transportation,
Food or drink
In exchange for temporary
Flat-footed flattery
With bondage-grade
Strings attached.

I enjoy womanisers
Who enjoy women
In all their complexity,
But have no time
For bed-notch chasing
Egotists with
Straw for brains
And cloth for ears.

Head of State

Alone is his pyjamas
After the sycophants
Are all in their beds
The dictator, silent
Examines his image
By moonlight
Wrinkles and lines
Cratered temples
And soft-joweled planes
Surrounded by wealth
In the marbled rooms
Of a haunted palace
He did not inherit
But strives to display
To best advantage
For diplomatic reasons
Dreaming of leaner,
Keener days
Before he became
A political prisoner
Trapped and tamed
By the violent success
Of his own actions

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.

Outsider

Otherness, that Big Brotherness
Shy, awkward, standing-in-the-corner, self-hugger. Stressed
With anxiety. Though sobriety
Lends an inevitable hand to propriety. I stammer
Stuttering a greeting that gets lost upon our meeting
In the chaos, overheating, panic seeping ‘til I’m cheating
Stepping out for some air, with strangers turning to stare
At me becoming aware, of laughter everywhere… Surrounded
Following a pealing that can set all senses reeling
‘Til I’m floating near the ceiling, tongue-tied, fingerless, unfeeling.
Shake my hand? No conversation with the cowards of creation.
I am sinking with sensation when I hear the celebration –
Party pooper! Join the group-er! Super duper! Have you heard?
I am chatting through my hat and it is really quite absurd
Can’t stop thinking while you’re drinking that I’d rather be back home.
In the company of others I am stubbornly alone.
Please believe me that I didn’t want to crowd your little clique.
It’s not personal, no, not at all, I’m shy and quiet. Quick!
While they’re quizzical, get physical just grab a bag and go.
I’ll be cruising while you’re schmoozing, floosing, boozing yourself slow.
Thumping heart, still overheating, terror-beaten and guilt-eaten.
Stumble, tumble an apology then fumble past the seating.
Through the constant sea of voices calling for too many choices.
‘Bout to lose my cool again if I give in to Twist and Shout.
God, it’s lonely on the fringes of the automatic out.

Hollywood Rap

Push me to places
I ain’t seen before
I’ll paint on some faces
To look like your whore

But deep in my mind
There’s so little you see
I keep it locked tight
Holding onto what’s me

The terrible things
That we do in this world
Are only a symptom
We pass off – absurd

So I’ll do my worst
‘Til I’m hailed as the best
You’d think we were cursed
But we’re just like the rest

And I can breathe magic
Just give me the word
It smells rather tragic
But haven’t you heard

The twisting of sisters
And mothers and misters
Is brotherly love
With a burning that blisters

It’s time for my act
So get ready to listen
My mould has been cracked
I’m the last one to glisten

With genuine feeling
That’s cheap by the dozen
You’re welcome to healing
But no kissing your cousin

I’ll take you to heights
Just to jump off the top
And tell you of sights
‘Til you beg me to stop

There’s nothing to do here
And less I can build
But I’ll keep my mind clear
And my body filled

With poisonous substance
That’s hardly substantial
You’ve really no beef
The whole thing’s circumstantial

It doesn’t make sense
When I come from this background
But who cares for pence
When you’re far from the fair ground

The going was rough
I thought I was a goner
But nothing says tough
Like a second-hand Doner

I don’t mean to pry
But why are you still reading
When you could be flying
And fucking and speeding

Nobody cares
So what if I get careless
I’m doing my thing
And it’s none of their business

You just keep paying
The price of my ticket
It’s cheaper than praying
And you know you can stick it

Something we call beauty in this world

Thank you, hallowed searching tool
For showing me that there is, still
Willing, chilling, filling, brill,
A sugar-coating for this pill

Somehow, you find for my desktop
Pit stop, hip hop, belly going flip flop,
Scotching, sketching, scratching, stop
One more taste of cherry pop

However pixelated, shrunk, compressed,
Understated, down, depressed
Liberated, cool, undressed,
I remain, more than impressed

So attainable, and claimable
Grasping, gasping, blameable
Sinkable and stainable
And food for hungry brain-able

Cut and paste and double click
Play games with words ‘til figures stick
Save your sanity and pick
More images to trick your wick

Whatever algorithm, aphorism,
Downright no-good plagiarism
Someone else’s solipsism
Undermines my pessimism

I can revel in these slideshows
Lose myself in random rows,
Rosy, delicate, composed,
Stare at nature, beak and nose