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I should have asked him: he’d have known

she says, years after I am dead

he’d so much stuff there, crammed inside his head

but all that’s left of memory is bone

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When I was young

I’d go into a field and draw

small boys would come to twitch and say ‘Are you a real

artist Mister?’ – if I knew I’d tell

I’d pull my bike

out of the hedge, re-pack my box,

& dawdle to the edge of town

past oak and dancing counterpoint of elm

the natural language of that place and time.

My student and my wander years behind

back in the city, on my bike again

I ride to Greengate House from Hanley Road

through Stratford’s acrid air, return

over the railway bump,

past the Precision Screw

Co Ltd and then

the Balls Pond Road to swing into Green Lanes

riding the traffic with a boatman’s skill

and wondering if ugliness can kill.

There’s pride in action; I am not aware

that trees are dying as I ride

the city gapes, a concrete trap

with me inside

while in some country lanes I once knew well

trees wither, get cut down, or fall

the country dwellers pick their sockets clean

there is no way to tell where they have been

– nobody sets a tombstone for a tree.

And was it you who forced me to discover

a tree-shaped absence in my mind?

to tell the truth, I really don’t recall

how the elms looked at all.

Why did it take me so long to remember

what I had so efficiently forgot?

It took me till I hit my head to know

the elms had gone.

I did not see them go

He Sees Her Break Her Arm

Again I see you trip, again your fall
freezes into a still –
there must have been a sound –
I can’t recall.

Spun from the wall,
there you are lying on the ground

“My arm is broken”
that is what you cry,
I know the words, but I
can’t bring your voice alive

Somebody holds your hand
the pavement’s hard
the ambulance has thirty miles to ride
your face is white with pain.

And now, though I retain
these fragments, which would make a moving picture
I could assemble, if I wanted to,
yet all these memories are stills –

it’s only later that I’m moved by you.

 

 

Together in the Shower

The shower turns me on, and yes
I never felt a hand cupping my breast
or felt a nipple tugged by what I held.
What do I know then? only this
that growing-up gives way to growing-down.

An intimacy we had not expected
binds us together in the cubicle.
What I’d have given, thirty years ago,
to slide myself against you, flesh to flesh!
now it’s because you need to wash you hair
and I must be your naked canephore

Dressing again, you say “I can’t quite reach,”
a wounded arm folded like card behind
“Can you do up my bra?” Hold hard,
The trick was meant to be
(when I was young) a sly
flick of the fingers on a silken back
no fuss, and cornucopia unleashed

But on this day I hold your bra-straps taut,
and slip the hook firmly into its eye
in memory of what I could not reach
and never may.

 

 

Little Priapic Ode

Stop these nocturnal visits, please
at inconvenient hours. It’s some dark corner of the night
when through the gate of horn,
your lewd mosquito trumpets in my ear,
calls action stations,

and soon as I’m awakening you play
your boring mime ‘Haephastos and His Limp’
and fade to grey.
Not funny, and no way
to earn libations.

This isn’t how you were when I was young:
nose stuck in my affairs,
you’d stick around all afternoon:
my flesh would crawl with honey and with bees,
my brain would freeze,

when I was young you had me on my knees.
It’s such a fall,
a mighty tyrant dwindling to a tease.

So summon up your ichor, little god,
and if you please,
either come hot and strong
or not at all

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