Dead Flowers

Though I am fond of
An eponymous song by the Rolling Stones
I have a lifelong dislike of dead flowers
Their brittle stems a stiff reminder
That everything we look upon
Is doomed

Hedgehog

I once moved country
With a sleeping bag
A dictionary
Two dresses
A blue t-shirt
One pair of jeans
And a change of underwear
To live in a nine foot
Square box with no
Toilet or fridge
I cooked ravioli
In the tin over
A five euro
Electric kettle
And washed both
Food and clothing
In the bidet
Entertaining friends
One at a time
As I acquired
A single mug
With no handle
Singing songs
With strangers
Who were also
Far from home
So do not dare
To presume
That I will permit
Myself to acknowledge
The inconvenience
Of personal growth
There are other things
Upon this Earth
That chafe

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.

Musical Chères

Searching for my roots
Through old records
I pause, ears cocked
For my muscle memory
Awaiting the right decade
Simon and Garfunkel
Soothe my silences
Leonard Cohen for my
Loneliest of nights
Lucio Dalla nostalgia
Juliette Greco and Piaf
For flights of fancy
Childhood Winters in Paris
With a pianist thumping
Square-toed rhythms
Ballet port-de-bras
Watery arpeggios to mock
High arches, pale faces
Pink noses and blue lips
With Tchaikovsky diluted
We shivered on the parquet
In a sea of legs and faces
Sprung floors and tall mirrors
Threw our joint grimace
To the feeble footwork
Of the adults at the barre
Then Fleetwood Mac’s
Rhiannon echoes past
The jazz records listing
To the left of the top shelf
And as the sound swells
I raise my hands, start to turn
Eyes closed, I dance
Delighted that for once,
Nobody is watching

Battle of the Bands

‘What does music mean?’ I asked
The day you demanded to know
Which bands I liked,
What songs I knew by heart
What right I had to hold you?
The darker tones you rationed me
Those reserved for seduction
Sent delicious spinal shivers
As you so righteously accused
Me of musical treachery.
Standing in the rain by the bus stop
People looking us up and down
We stood like strangers, past-less
Wild hair blowing across your glasses
Peering into my face to try to
See how I might fit into your
Careful constructed fantasy
Defiant in your metal tee and boots
I smiled at your adherence to these
Uptight social conventions.
Unblinking, I considered my response
As if there were a wrong answer
Forming on my tongue.
I knew your little lover’s heart
Was restless, wanting to trade bedfellows
You were so obvious, waiting
For my careless chosen gift
Lovingly bestowed by
Another doting devotee of
Bad boys in black jeans;
A perfect excuse for you
To end whatever strange
Fantasy we were living.
I could see the angry words
Taking final form in your
Deep brown eyes, watch you
Later, sat in the comfort
Of your local haunt, The Bush
Surrounded by bandmates
And potential conquests
Younger and dumber than I.
‘She just didn’t get me, man’
You would say, accompanied by
An obligatory eye-roll,
Well-rehearsed, and all
Would sympathise
Pouring cheap words and
Libations. ‘Drink of us’
While First Year Goths
Bat heavy lashes and
Casually bounce off the beat,
Showing their interest.
Alas, the musician’s daughter saw
All this and still felt minded to foil
Your planned escape with a trick.
Ignoring her eidetic recall
You didn’t know how to respond
To cry or to laugh
As I sang all your favourite tunes
Word-perfect, as always.

The Show is Over

A choral sound still echoes
Soft through dusty, darkened nave
Cathedral of my mind now empty
Hollow of those souls I’ve saved

Hallowed was the path they’d tread
Without infernal litanies
Pity, moved by mouths we fed
Self-referential liturgies

And as the candles dribble flat
Upon the chilly stones beneath
I recollect what thoughts grew fat
As mourners laid their threaded wreath

Old bodies plump with hoarded pride
To know their lives were meaningful
Expressions rapt, ears open wide
Intent on straining moral gruel

Our simple kindness passing fair
Gives voice to what they call divine
With dissonance to clear the air
When all they taste is bread and wine

And as we pass from Earthly grace
To twist and shout in crypts below
I lay my blessings on this place
At this, the ending of the show

The Cuckoo and the Nightingale

Tinkle on the ivories
You’re waiting in the wings
Listening as others wheeze
The skinny croaker ‘sings’
She got the job through hours spent
Mouth open, on her knees
Her sound resembles native Kent
While dulcet tones that please
You warble on, just marking time
Stood, shuffled to one side
The notes that soar not hers, but mine
A gift they chose to hide
So as dramatic climax nears
On anorexic face
Fat lady singing through the tears
While mask remains in place

Opus Number 23

You tasted pure indigo
It was all I could do to keep from
Licking at my palms
Sounds so smooth
Like chocolate, unwrapped
Lickable lines and drowsy dots
Melting into my ears
The soundwaves soothing,
Soaring and dipping
Cleansing my nervousness
As these spidery fingers kept
Stuttering their way across the keys
Klutz-kissed Chopin
Blowing through the dust
Of an afternoon’s discipline
Lost in a chessboard world
Of whirling black and white
Sweaty digits writhing on ebony
Toe curling pages
With their yellow smell
And the dullness of Instruction
Her leaden pencil marks
Numbers above the notes
Winking hide and seek
Angular strokes slashing
At my tired eyes
Teasing me with their inflexibility
A rubrik for perfection
Joints wobbling under the weight
Of the deep, deep, blue
This was the piece
The memory and the melody
My right to the slowing
Feet poised to pedal
A passage in time
This ocean of indigo
That gave me that first taste
One bittersweet number
Nose crinkling at the
Orangey tang of
Fourteen-year-old failure

Internal Stereophonics

They tell me Joan of Arc heard voices,
Saw them as Divine
I wonder what that maid would think
If she heard some of mine

Instead of holy war, they preach
Of mischief; games of chance
When all is quiet and sedate
They call to me to dance

And bop along to songs it seems
That only I can hear
With lyrics flowing past my tongue
And pouring in my ear

The more I try to censor them
The louder they will sing
Until I struggle to accomplish
Much of anything

But let me keep my playlist –
As it helps me through the day
Encouraging each vibrant thought
While plodding through the fray

Technology’s no Idol
I don’t run on batteries
As smiling, I may mosh to keep from
Smiting enemies

Driven

Your face is a poem in the orange light
The frown creasing your features is a map
Dreadlocks form a waterfall of past thoughts
Kissing your cheeks like the memory
Of long lost loves and campfire songs
When your moonlit stumbles shone
An aphrodisiac for the would-be-hipster
Craving the coarse touch of a real man
Tonight finds you alone, a mere vision
Bobbing along in the cab of a van
To the comforting tones of The Wailers