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.

Father’s Day

It’s been so long
Since I’ve seen you,
And since he
Has seen me,
I completely forgot
The day of the week.

No cards with a joke,
No hugs for a bloke;
I lost contact with
Kindness, ever since a
Moment of madness when
My best friend would seek

Approval for Life’s tough
Terms and conditions
To be revoked, and
Succeeded, whether
He meant to
Or not.

The closest friend
For sons growing up,
A teacher, confidante,
Learner and leader
Standing up for you
When no one else would.

There at his first
Mistaken application
Of shaving foam,
And advice for a date
Which makes sons groan,
And I didn’t go on.

This was exchanged
For a place with no
Coastlines, no cosy fires,
But that which consumes
And turns truth into food
For clowns and for liars.

The high street in this
Sorry town is dead.
Days felt the same
For so long, a numbness,
A means of just getting by
Without really coping,

Because there are no
Hugs, from me or your
Diaspora of daughters and
Brothers, across from
One universe
And into another.

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.

Dreams Of My Father

Two excessively-sized
Ketchup bottles stood
On a lounge floor,
Tangible labels
With a maker’s name
Imprinted, a brand
I did not recognise.
Before disappearing,
A dog knocked over
A shiraz-gladdening glass
On to a green sofa,
We watched that wine
As thick as bloodlines
Slowly fall on to a
Sofa I now owned
And you did not.
Slow motion too,
The substance absorbed.
I implored my mother
Who had just appeared
From nowhere at all
To rush through the hall
To the kitchen, for salt
Would reduce the opportunity
Taken by that liquid’s blot,
But you have to be quick
In these situations
And, sadly, she was not.
I did not think it
Implausible
That the one time
She stood in the same room
As you through forty years
Of stubborn lamentations was
At your cremation and wake,
Yet here she was in a space
Fetching salt for a wound
In the universe’s clockface,
Where through me these days
Flow all such forms
I’ll ever deserve.
You took down a door
From its hinges with
A gentle, deliberate force
Just to shout to the boys
Upstairs in their rooms
Presumably, those friends
Who had not aged at all,
Turn your music down,
Although we heard no
Sounds penetrating
Floorboards,
And no-one gave the
Implications of that door
And excessive force
A second thought.

Interchangeable scenes
Between life and a screen
Where inside we see
A film, and next, a magician
Who walked on night-waters
Where I have floundered,
Who made toothpaste appear
In a celebrated
Mathematician’s
White shirt pocket.
A window in that lounge
Morphed into a doorway
Which opened on to a street,
I mean literally on to
The central reservation
Of a busy urban arterial way
In to a city I recognised
In some respects and not
In others, for it existed
And at the same time it did not.
We were to meet in a restaurant
And had separated to browse
In different shops. An album
Landed in my hand, two discs
Of music I did not buy
And did not want.
Inside a store,
Miscellaneous goods and
Purple fonts, lewd record sleeves
And no DVD of the one I wanted
To buy you left in stock.
Some of the residents dressed
In Fenland ways I had not seen
For decades. I passed by bars
Filled with unreal people
Returning to you,
A cathedral, restorations,
A palace with three children
And I thought the extent
Of a garden
As extensive as theirs
Is a privilege in this city.
I carefully parked a car
In a nearby parking lot.
A game in a programme,
Or a programme in a game
To entertain the citizens,
I refused to play and they
Wanted me to place my hands
In two see-through bags filled
With red ants and foliage
Before I departed.
A disappointed bag-handler
Shifted again in to
An actress who held me close,
We kissed as though our
Lives were martyred,
And her single kiss
Flew me back to you,
Where you walked on
City walls at pace,
Talking passionately
To nobody else
About the psychopathy
Of Roman emperors.

I can’t remember how we
Ended these scenes, nor how
I awoke in to blue mornings,
To a world where imaginations
From children are stolen,
If indeed
I ever did.

Landfall

Soul’s Landfall,
Where I defended myself
From remembering you,
Groynes reaching
Out into the grey-brown
Wash of Forgetfulness,
And gabions, their
Amnesiac nets protect
A sandstone cliff.

My memories then
Collapsed into
Themselves like
Immemorial dark stars,
Like crumpled photographs
Which re-posted
On social media
Are tagged with negative
Phrases like Missing
Hurt, and Regret,
Where other minds
Have memories as clear
And well-composed as
Chandeliers, with
Configurations in
Crystal set.

Arriving at theatres,
It’s as though,
Expecting me
To speak at length,
Audiences near and far
With craning necks
Gasped when they became
Aware of my tonguelessness,
My arms and elbows
Meaningless, and
Pinned to my sleeve
A still-beating heart.

So with hatches battened
And shops boarded up
I stooped into storms,
Eyes in water, weather-worn,
Where lashing gales made
Their own Landfall,
Battering just behind me.
Incapable of gazing backwards,
Pacing forward unprepared;
This is how a limbo feels
For the lonely
And the scared.

If you have someone to hold,
Hold them again once more;
If at night you lie beside
The unspoken beauty of love
Then love with words reformed;
And if you’ve lost no less before,
With Patience and Time,
You’ll be together once more.

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.