The Endless Bar

All those before who fled,
What did they do to me?
They poured their troubles onward,
Red blood could part a sea;
Still, you’re in untended plots
In a quiet corner of Cheam.

How far I looked up to you,
A child at the endless bar,
We’d walk across midwinter tracks
When you couldn’t drive a car.
You tended donkeys with more care
Than family bruised and scarred.

Adults sometimes shed the skin
Their parents dressed them in,
But you glued your self to mine,
Inheriting your chin-chin.
Each evening when I’m drunk
With words, I think of you,

Hoping this is not the last drink;
Without words what can I do.

Poem In Blue

You had your blue days,
Confused days when you
Didn’t know one week
From another, or the flames

Of your remaining brothers.
I understood the emptiness
You felt in your liver.
It’s the same for all abused.

We say we don’t want to,
But then we have to,
And then we do.
We should have told you

Instead of just practicing
In front of mirrors
To ourselves. Hopeless
Thought loop, new shoes,

Temazepam in blue foil.
An age of recoiling
Into my self; Time is a
Double-headed snake.

This day is the same day
As twenty blue years ago
When I first parked
In a lay-by to avoid going home.

Do you remember mix-tapes
Where we wrote down love songs?
I drove over the bridge
Into the harmful arms of the past.

Il Vino Fa Buon Sangue

You were born from a glass of wine
My grandmother glugged, from time
To time, though her predilection was sherry.
She met a man who shaved off his name
And slurred his words without any shame
Before sleeping on a last ferry.

She said she had wine in her blood,
Il vino fa buon sangue;
He died in the depths of a biblical flood,
Forgetting lingua franca.

Touring pubs of our childhood,
You urged the same for your son and your daughter;
Everyday miracles misunderstood,
Wine turned within us to water.

Death Of An Obsessive (Twelfth Sonnet)

Lunch after Sunday, a walk with our dogs,
Over stiles clambered, some lumberjacked logs,
Through cowpatted herd-fields, a traced rabbit path,
And beyond the axe-pond where sometimes we’d bath,
To find that cottage, abandoned and dark,
From lintel and jambs hanged swallow and lark;
Roofs sunk to woodworm, gnawed holes from the rot,
A cracked window showed the home of a sot.
Children had played on the rosebay-raped swards,
Supper’s at seven, your heels on the boards;
White linen’s fresh, pegged to washing lines sang,
Before words turned beneath ivy to slang.
These losses framed by a mind’s fatal breath;
An airbag inflated, scene of a death.

The Wake

There was a blowing out
Of puffed cheeks,
A wringing of hands;
A contest to see which relatives
Could stay longest standing up
Without talking.
A fiddling of rings
And necklaces clasped,
A bland conglomerate
Of traditional foods protected
By cellophane: quiche
And salads, potatoes
And parts of beasts
Which were sentient
In feathers and fleece.
An unspooling new world,
I watched the future flag unfurl
Its warning as you leaned
From your designated seat
And said without speaking
It could be worse, son;
Perhaps, Dad, somewhere in a
Different inverse universe
Where time flows backwards.

I laughed out loud
And relatives noticed
Momentarily. I turned to you
Where you were not,
Sitting on your vodka rocks;
Some words sank and some words
Stuck with a malodorous waft
I attributed to a corner
Of unwashed carpet
Where the church cat
Unashamedly squatted
And relieved its feline
Bladder. I enquired
After your diverticulitis
And you said there are no
Stomas or indeed consultants
In the paradigm you found
Yourself in, nor catheters,
And that, hey, you could
Drive me home, and how strange
And perverse I thought
That we use words to hide
And divert meanings and truth
As if truth should be
Obfuscated with moss
When grieving families say
‘He was under the influence’
Or ‘they were disappeared
In the Troubles’.
What do you know?, you said,
And back to the subject at
Hand, with this predeliction
I could drive you home
Six or seven months later
And I lose control, the trunk
In a tree, steam rising as
Documented in tv programmes
And films. That would be worse.
You nodded; I looked at you
In utter disbelief, and
Surmised that the gap is great
Between sotted and besotting.
Before you evaporated I said
Knowing you my father,
I’d never get into that car.
The relatives left silently,
Taking home their flowers and
A brace of pleasantries.

Everything good you have, embrace,
Instead of what you’ve lost;
For when embracing emptiness
We fall with greater cost.