Rediscovering myself

I am looking for the joy that sang in the world
When I wore out my hand-me-down shoes
Saving my fare and walking home
Through Portuguese neighbourhoods
Listening for conversations
Whose words tasted foreign on my tongue

I can almost remember
Watching the sky grow dark with cloud
Anticipating lightening playing
Across high Victorian windows
As voices droned at the edge of hearing
From my seat on the mat

I am sure it may be found somewhere
This sense of wonder, just out of sight
Perhaps around the next corner
If I can hold to optimism
Grit my teeth in a rictus grin
And let tired bones carry me onward

I may see myself reflected in memory
Surely I am stood there waiting
Perched on a doorstep, just out of sight
Down a dusk-dusted alley
Outside the daily grind-you-down
Of this commuter-belt world we inhabit

Where yesterday’s news is recycled, repurposed,
Shrunk to fit the typeface and house style
Even opinions can be retrofitted
For safety’s sake, toned down to win arguments
Bland, dulled to match our senses
Sleepwalking through middle age

While violence echoes around the chambers
Of our video games, our online escape
The falsehood in which we lurk, concealing our true faces
With old images, carefully posed
Retouched for personal vanity and public use
Long before fine lines trailed roadmaps across our skin

Meaningless arguments abound across the Twittersphere
While the atmosphere of the living room
Takes second place and we sit, heads in our screens
Commuting our sentence, communing with contemporaries
To the whine of an air conditioning unit
And the slow, but certain death of adulthood

Who are these selfie-prone, entitled shadows?
I bite down on their tales
Squaring the circle, trend-bucking
In this year’s Melancholy
Today I will be wearing blue once again
Practising mindlessness, in search of me

Self-Censorship

There’s nothing wrong with ‘language’, –
To communicate’s the key
So why restrict the ones vereicht
(For many words begin with C)
Come, clarity can conquer crude
Catastrophe of cant
Through substitution of a vowel
It’s obvious what’s meant
When ranting on the topic of
Her least-admired slot
The poetry of metaphor
Reveals what is not
So obvious an object, yet
With strong component parts
Even ingenue construes it too –
What’s hidden of our hearts.
Pray, do not scold our children
As they strive to master terms
Still unfamiliar to those
Well-versed in Chinese burns
The patois of the playground
May be where they first attempt
Expansion of vocabulary
Mastery of feint
And tossing out tame adjectives
Must call a tool as speyed
With far more sense of phrasing
They’ll be that much less afraid
Of talking through their tensions
And timing out their tries
To test the twists and turns of tongue
That trip us up with ties
Inherent to our thinking
The second we’re quite grown
Abandoned truth that stank of youth
We posit the unknown
To bore for Merrie England
While chewing over fat
Discussing nothing needlessly
In stultifying chat
Quite lacking in all substance
Exotic or uncouth
Consigning dreams and hopes and schemes
To corners, dumb, aloof

Humanitarian Crisis

I worked late today
In the usual way
Then stood long for a bus
While ignoring the fuss
All the placards and song
Of a protesting throng

When the first one came full
Joined the back of the queue
‘Til I hopped on the second
No wiser, I reckoned
To pressure or purpose
That brought out the workforce

I sat in my headphones
Absorbing through eardrums
The tunes of a playlist
Unchanged through two ages
And stared through graffiti
At people beneath me

Not knowing, nor caring
What fate we were sharing
Familiar landscape blurred
Into the sounds I heard
Hopped off three stops early
Finished one journey

I trudged ‘cross the common
To see if I’d find one
More bus driver’s hubs
Standing still by the pubs
Sure enough, there I saw
Not just one, but some four

When one finally, late
Put his pedal to plate
He pulled up to the tavern
Waved me past his cabin
For NFC, broken
Would not zap my token

I settled inside
Chose a tune for my ride
But two stops, no further
We stopped in a lather
Five kids, come from school
With no change to fare-pool

Tried to board, barter, beg
But compassion was neg.
As commuters grew restless
One woman, well-dressed, stressed
Their selfishness loudly
“Eff off!” she yelled, proudly

Some gentleman, small
Added footage to gall
Thus the youths took offense
At this lack of good sense
And a row quickly rose
As his phone met his toes

While we waited, suspended
To see what might end it
Some ran for the next bus
Some added their voices
And called for policemen
To make them see reason

It took three more stops
And a call to the cops
But not one among us
Could hit on the obvious
Tempers grew heated
As workers felt cheated

Ashamed, I forgot
Or I simply did not
Check I had enough money
Available, on me
To throw them a bone
So we’d all make it home.

Grammatical batticle

Proper nouns are prim and pristine
They belong to long ago
Shackled to conjunctions, listing
What it is we need to know
Factual they take position
‘Pon the Field of Cloth of Gold
Kneel to hear their King’s ambition
Clutching reins, unsheathing sword
Then look upon their enemy
That vaguest General of old
Whose lines and lines of men we see
As nameless, shivering and cold
Exploits edited by victors
Those who fought and those who fell
Posterity’s unnoticed victims
History that none can tell
I tot them up, these dated figures
Sow their sounds deep in my head
In hope they’ll stay there though the rigors:
Algebra and baking bread
Latin may decline declensions
Greek is up against the wall
But even now, some nouns’ intentions
Hold my mind from days at school

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

Nothing So Special

There is nothing so special
Needing ribbon or bow
If a child is successful
On what merits they show

There’s no label, no button
Not a banner in sight
If they work for a living
Study hard late at night

All their limbs are still present
And their brain seems to work
They are dutiful, pleasant
And ignored by the world

No, there’s really no reason
We should praise to the skies
Every triumphal season
For a sharp pair of eyes

There’s no faculty lacking
That’s obstructing their view
So no need to start clapping
When their talent shines through

If we over-encourage
Then we risk that one day
They may pluck up the courage
To feel grateful and say

That their motive for trying
To improve on their best
Was the people believing
They would rise to the test