Twelfth Man

Stadia empty,
Thousands of seats,
Just like Maymana’s,
They hanged
Oppositions by
The skin of
Their teeth.
Bleachers for ghosts,
Capitalists disrobed,
Revealing themselves,
En masse opportunists
Inadvertantly proving
Forks in their mouths.
They used to say
Your lungs must swell
With tribal songs,
Partisan songs,
Forgotten origins,
Often abusive,
Made bold by a throng;
If you could buy
Magazines on matchday
That would certainly help
The eleven along.

When your team’s
In trouble, you’re a
Wind at their backs,
Oxygen as thick
As an Aeolian god’s
In their muscles.
They said ‘you are
The difference’,
Fine margins, they said,
Alongside dietary carbon,
Training regimes
And abstinence;
We created the seams,
Winnings and loss,
They would have you
Treat brothers
As starving stray dogs
If this prevented
A punt or a shot.

Artificial sounds
Abound around
The groundsman’s turf,
A theory from executives
No less, God Bless,
Who should have greater
Concerns to consider
Than how audiences
With flexible payment
Plans, glued at home,
Might feel more at ease
And comfortable, more
Palatable, like watching
A weather forecast
Before hangings
With popcorn.

Teams do not need
A twelfth man
When a crowd can
Be appropriated.
It’s another illusion,
Another corporate
Wolf disguised by
Their own myths;
They’ve taken all
Life’s purities,
Alchemied to
Monied dross.

Recordings of crowds!
Dictators do something
Similar, and photoshop
Inaugural scenes of
Huge adoring numbers,
Thin as a toupe turned
As thick as my hair in
Sixteen weeks
Of pandemic.
Recordings yes,
From before the
Outbreak,
Delirium, for a ball
In a net or between
Two sticks
They did not see
By eleven men
They had not met.

So if I extend this
Principle as only
Poets are able,
What else are we told
In this abstract
Lonely world must
Make a difference,
(Until we thrust and
Pour our pennies and
Our hopes down the
Open throats of those
Made rich by our
Poverty of thought,
Of those constructs
We would have worn
A shirt for, would
Vote in their flags
And sworn allegiance,
Would sometimes see
Our sons die before
Their cause, buried in a
Small and unkempt
Cemetery on the hill
Behind our village;
And yet, when all’s
Peeled back like
A dead girl’s eyelids,
Sometimes with time,
Sometimes by cynics,
Stripped, laid bare,
Rabbits dressed as hares
With nothing significant
In their stomachs),
But which instead
Mattered not once
Through heaven’s
Grafted hours
Nor the grace of
Earthly minutes.

Walrus Tusk

Just because a stranger gives
Necessitates none taken;
Foolish misappropriations live,
Strung love from her engagements;
A non-thought, a mere non-touch,
Somewhere turned the quiet ages.

We are not chess pieces chained
To carved unmoving squares,
Whittled from a walrus tusk
Or teeth from Arctic whaling;
Like the Lewismen of Trondheim
In a trance, they’re biting their

Own cages in an everlasting
Curse behind curated explanations.
I’d wager strangers all moved on
While we chomped escutcheon’s bit,
And just because somewhere she lives
Does not mean we’ll elevate

Expectations which weren’t ours
To give, adore, and cherish.
For a soul on paper is not fed,
Conveyed both near and far,
With cables on the deep seabeds,
And pulleys in our hearts.

Manifesto Poem

I am going to write
From my veins
Until paramedics
And care assistants
And teachers
And anyone
And everyone
Who lives
With goodness within
And compassion,
And moral compasses,
Are paid the same
As politicians
And financiers,
As celebrities
And over-inflated
Sportspeople who
Warm their hands
At the braziers
Where merchants burn
The souls of nations.
We will puncture those
Inflated bladder-balls,
For life is filled
With a natural appetite
To reach for ways
Beyond their devices,
Beyond the doctrines
Designed by desire
And ego, beyond
You and I as two
Distinct entities,
For if politics
And those other
Primacies are
Institutions for Lies,
Institutionalised
By their own nightmares,
Then I am the vein,
And I am the peace
To undo deceit,
I am the pen
To re-write
The contracts
And promises failed
By self-serving men.

Heaven Lake

Recurring dream,
Sent in advance
On the saddles of geese
To an ancient land
Where reincarnation
Is taking place.

Repatriating me
Tentatively, years
Before the shift,
Like a preview for
Audiences to a film
In a cinema
They may never frequent.

Scenes lack chronology;
It was sold to these people
I do not know as
A route for tourists,
But the nation’s mask
Slipped and I knew then
Of poverty and deceit.

Fields beyond
The spying sedge
Divulged soils
Barren and as red
As ever a Martian rover
Beamed back by satellite link;
Yet it did not go unnoticed,
How villagers were forced
To rake and till
That seedless, empty
Former lake.

I broke away from the tour
Just before a torturing place
Disguised as security checks;
I ran uphill, a country lane,
At the summit I found two houses
Built in an odd representation
Of Western architecture.
An elderly woman departing one
Looked into my soul with
A purpose beyond divining
And said ‘we are not allowed
To converse in this space,
It is frowned upon, and you
Could be arrested, especially
Once they hear your accent
Which I recognise from Boston,
Massachusetts‘. I was nonplussed,
For am I not clearly from a small
And stateless island?

I made my way downhill, through
Living rooms filled with shifting
People and weird toys. Finally
Arriving back at the hotel
I understood these protocols,
You cannot look at the locals,
You cannot engage in dialogue
According to the ubiquitous
Signage in red and white,
They are trained to melt away
When the Western ones walk by,
Our suitcases as curious to
These servants and obedient managers
Who are sometimes shot
In secret locations, in forests,
For reasons counterfeited
And approved, rubber stamped,
As curious as we found their
Customs and their dress, their
Acquiescence to their fate.

I rushed to catch up with my group
Queuing for an airport coach,
A final check of passports,
A glimpse of army patrols,
An overwhelming sense, relief!,
Beyond the controlling sleep
To arrive back safely in mornings
Where I know of choice and loss
And love and grief. I stretched
Out of bed, showered,
Combed my post-pandemic
Longer hair, reached for my phone
Where nightly it charges, but
My phone, like all my
Karmic chances,
Had disappeared.

Amazonia

Californian seraph,
Amazonian wraith,
Stalking through forests,
Turning those graves
Where quarriers
Profits had gold
Coffins laid
Alongside cousins,
Flemish Margraves and
Iberian Dukes,
Escudos in pockets
Left by their brains.

With ivy and apples
You’d rise and reclaim;
Brazil-nut trees high
Over canopies rein
While moss runs amok
In their orbital cups;
Epiphytal orchids
Climbing kapoks.

Institutionless,
Nature’s state;
No surgeons here,
No interest rates;
The only needles
Are pines which bore
A broth, a braid.
No wills feeding
Outbreaks in swine,
No dates, no petrol,
No courts and no crime;
Just miles and miles
In greens and whites.

And so they raped you
With tractors and bulls;
Cattle for steak,
Dipped mint and a port;
Wines from their grapes,
A knife and a sword.
They lamented your loss
As they burnt you twice
On cruciform wood;
We can still hear today
The faraway hums
Where they
Buried you under
Highways and slums.
Dismantled to fatten
The lenders for life,
They will no more
Sustain us
Than unwatered rice.

Fourth Plinth

I don’t know where I stand
On plinths. The unabashed
Alabaster-eyelashed
Anti-abolitonists may be
Rightly pulled off by their
Victorian marble cleats,
Yanked into prostrate
Positions in the street,
Through the arches
Celebrating ancient
Atrocities, hauled on
Rattling oaken logs
Like dismantled henges
And pyramid schemes, to be
Tossed with appropriate
Ceremonies in to acidities
Within the English Channel
Or from Outer Hebridean rifts.
The sea-bed will be their
Stateless graveyard, no loaded
Roses for them or confetti,
Just blind crustaceans
Tapping the cracked wizardry
Of stonemasonry; bridge of
A nose, a furrowed brow;
Dichoptic sights gouged out
Amid the thaws somehow,
Great geological ages,
Finding their way
These days with eyes
In their claws and their
Claws in their mouths.

I’m finding my stride, my feet.
I’ll never see a statue carved
To memorialise my achievements
Lacking, or phrased
Substantively,
My beautiful failures,
Unless statues in future
Are chiseled (as carefully
As Rodin’s amanuenses
Incisioned with the diligence
Of gastrointestinal surgery)
For honouring cleaning chores
And actions self-defeating.
I for one am glad and pleased,
As judging by societal
Algorithms there would be
Crowds burning books
A hundred years beyond me,
Their pages filled with
Wondrous stories and twists
And prophesies and myths,
All on a pyre
For politics.

But while we lead the
World in protests without
Achieving change, unless by
Change I am writing accounts
About the people I can see
Being worse off,
Parents with less wages,
Children with less
Developmental learning stages
And universities mastering
Navel-gazing, will they also
Demolish or recycle,
(I don’t mind, either),
Statues in bronze and
Verdigris which pepper
Parks and colleges, (some are
Busts, let’s not forget),
Of long-dead men who
Exemplified jingoism, or
The rapists of indigenous
Lands and speech,
The million bigots
Who suppressed an entire
Gender no less for centuries,
Or justifiers of war,
Their bellies made fat
From bellicosity and
Concentration camps.

Then at last, perhaps,
The Lions of Trafalgar
Will collapse and sink,
For those discontented animals
Chased and ate helpless
Gazelles and the elusive
Blue duikers of Botswanan fables,
While the gazelles and gnus
Expressed their gratitude
From within the depths of
Their oppressors’ stomachs,
Their horns on dining tables.