company rap sheet

Let me do the introductions.

The Supervisor: Sure – okay – just your average kind of Visor, day to day, but hey! you’ll soon see the light, especially when they shine it over the city tonight. You’ll see what he’s capable of when he pulls on his cape, tears off his moustache and glasses and makes a couple o’ low, valedictory passes on his Supervisory way to whipping your worthless asses

The Manager: He manages. End of. Not someone you’d necessarily wanna make a friend of. I saw him manage a man from the chair he was sat on. He could fart a hurricane and keep his hat on. We were riding the sideline one time and he came sliding over, casual as a virus, got right up inside us, sunny and shiny as an anti-personnel mine. Man – I was so impressed I was de-pressed. But that’s my Manager, three parts mano a mano, four parts challenger. I hear the Devil came on a visit. Knocked on my Manager’s door, he said Who is it? The Devil, said the Devil, making a collection. But I don’t want no flotsam and jetsom. I want quality souls and they said you can get some. I’ll see what I can do, the Manager said. Went straight back to bed. Unbelievable, the Devil said. Who the hell is he  – King Priam? This motherfucker’s even worse than I am.

The Chief:  He’s a hustler, a player, a teamster in a tux. He’s mean as a monk on junk, crashing the party in a monster truck. He’s got a bunch of those vital signs you’ve been looking for all this time. He’s got the stance of a lion, the mane of a lion, hell – the mind of a lion, which I’ll admit’s a liability given the fragility of all the paws he panhandles these days, the international scandals, the jackboots, jockstraps, the saintly sandals. But hey! Them’s the breaks, my friend. Like my ol’ man Morrison said. This is the end. Take it or leave it. No-one cares if you believe it.

This company’s a ship going nowhere, lickety splicket.
C’mon over here, I’ll sell you a ticket.

the trouble with words

constructing a poem
word on word
mortared with space
it’s tricky
how quickly words lose their edge
and fall to pieces in my hands
for example. if I used the word tree
as in: last night I dreamed I was a tree
(not true, by the way
what I dreamed last night
was a child I found
curled up & drowned
in the cistern of a toilet)
if instead of that horrorshow
I’d had a lovely dream about a tree
what sort of tree would you see?
an oak? banyan? bristlecone pine?
for me, it would be a fallen birch
with a bracket fungus snacking on its veins
like a glaucous, vampiritic ghost

all in all,
I suppose the lesson here is:
be specific
use the tree you want us to see
not some flat, google proxy
there’s precious little control else
meanings will leach the boundaries of things
and you’ll find yourself losing track

like that time I made a wall
from bricks scavenged
from the bottom of the garden
I thought it was okay
a pleasingly rustic structure
but Val, peering over the fence
who’d lived next door for years and years
and knew the farmer pretty well
who even raced round that night
when he lay on the kitchen floor
choking on a chicken bone
Val knew much better than me
those bricks were once a pig shed


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln? Mark Twain? Possibly the Bible.
The point is, sometimes the weight of everything there is to say
stifles the need to say it
for example, you’d think
to hear me carrying on,
I had a pretty good idea
what graphene was
you might be impressed by the way I flip it casually
into the middle of our faltering discussion
about water wars
but come on – you know as well as I do
I don’t know the first thing about graphene
what is it? some kind of atomic material?
anyway, the point is,
what it really makes me think of
is pencils

quite the place

we ran a place in Portugal
my husband won it in a card game
took some work, I can assure you
but we stuck at it, until it was quite the place

it had a lounge and bar in the basement,
enamelled tiles of peacocks and stags
panelled snugs pierced like confessionals
chandeliers, candles of sandalwood

the restaurant was on the ground floor
mountains of fruit, flowers, and breads
a monastery altar, with gorgeous aquaria
so you could point the waiter to your fish

the guest rooms were all upstairs
sweetly scented, linens laundered
clawfoot tubs, filigree shutters
every window with a view of the sea

something happened, though
a war? coup? I don’t remember
we were persona non grata
sold it all for a centavo

Still, one doesn’t do it for the money
and in the end, isn’t it something like this trifle?
gaudy, perhaps, and rather too sweet
but it gets you through the soup


it was me
I did it
I destroyed Dad’s shed
(cut myself on a nail
serves me right
blood all down my shirt
bloody shed murderer)

anyway, I had some right
being there at the begatting
forty years ago
Dad scavenging planks from pallets
at the printers where he worked
grimace & purpose of Noah
an eye on the sky
& a fiver for the lads
to drop it all round
and when he had enough
nailing them up, quick, ship-lap style
a couple of windows
real glass, putty of aniseed
speculative press in the corner
inviting a bridge of thumbs
across the divide

but now those hands
rest in the ground
empty as gloves
and here I am
bloodied and breathless in the ruined ribs of it all
the fucked felt, the fossilised tins
nails and screws and useless things
the wormy bench, the rusted saw
and look – a square of green rubberhermes
an offset image of Hermes
no doubt from the printing
of some catalogue
I take it inside
hold it up to a mirror
to read the backwards writing
only subsequently
do I become aware
of my face behind it
suddenly a lot like yours

growing disarray

only twice I saw my father cry
once, when he came home early from work
having quit his job
(there was a new manager;
they didn’t get on)
no doubt knowing his dream
of being a self-employed gardener, handyman,
anything other than a bloody printer’s clerk
was never going to happen, was it;
things were desperate
what with all these kids,
their constant squabbling,
getting through clothes & food
like nobody’s business;
but at least he didn’t piss his wages
up the wall like his father did,
coming home drunk,
fighting his eldest brother Ted,
throwing him down the stairs;
and what else could he do
the double-bed in the box room
a strip curtain for a door
(the normal door off
or you couldn’t get in or out),
the cost of school shoes, and everything else,
the weekly shop, the rent, electric, gas;
well – he’d just have to swallow his pride
there was nothing else for it, was there
he’d just have to go straight back
and apologise

once, watching the Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show
the sketch in the Russian sled
where Ernie is in the back
singing ‘somewhere my love’ to Diane Solomon
and Eric is the driver
in a ridiculous hat and moustache
who keeps getting pulled out of his seat
by the horses
and climbing back up
over and over again
his hat on one side
his moustache hanging off
in growing disarray

leaping the loops

when Dad mowed the lawn
and I was a kid
I used to play a game
leaping the loops
made by the cable
as he walked up and down
‘Mind out!’
he’d shout
But I never did

These days, I’ve lost count
of all the electrical equipment I’ve seen:
sanders, drills,
computers, lathes,
compactors, fans.
The ventilator
Dad was on
before he was gone
from that particular machine

but you can over-think these things
so here are a few facts worth keeping:
there are no straight lines in nature;
energy can be neither created nor destroyed
but is interchangeable;
lawns get mown
when the grass has grown,
and loops are for leaping