we tried to get to there
we really did
but the motorway was shut
and we got royally stuck
in a tailback
that merged in turn
as a fucked zip
I watched the jam ahead
simmering into oblivion
the queue behind
slowly replacing the bones of my back
with a line of tiny replica cars
and a tiny replica me
hand to wheel, to brow, to wheel
(caption on box:
the man who missed the funeral)
‘There’s no way we’re gonna make it’
‘Don’t worry’ you said
‘Lots of people are in the same boat’
I wish it had been a boat
we might have had some hope
of getting round
that unholy fuck-up
I wound the window down
breathed the sharp and careless air
and tried to think outside the bollocks
the pattern of shadows on that crash barrier
now – I wouldn’t have seen THAT
if there hadn’t been a diesel spillage
closing all three lanes
and diverting everything
through someone’s garden
I thought about you
how you took your coffee
how you used to smoke
screwing up your eyes
your head on one side
reaching for a tap of ash
like a declaration of victory
Cuss oukhtel hayat!
You tell me!
What CAN you make of it?
there’s a monument over the playing fields
to a doctor who found a bone
(I’m simplifying, of course
there’s so much more to say
about the world of Victorian scientists,
how they would squabble like lizards
over the fossilised remains of – well – lizards)
the doctor got a few things wrong, poor chap
he thought the bone was some kind of horn
when it was actually a thumb
but it’s difficult when everyone down in the quarry
thinks you’re completely insane, and
no-one has any idea what you’re talking about
because Jurassic World
won’t be available to rent online
for another two hundred years
looking back it gives me great comfort
to think of the iguanodon
whose thumb (not horn) it was
wading up to its chops in the soupy delta
about where the rugby pitch now is
swiping up a half ton of weed
and methodically chewing
as it watches pterosaurs
wheel and turn in a planeless sky
I keep a dream diary
(have I lost you already?)
this was the entry for last night:
I’m in an ancient forest
desperate to take a picture
the trees there are big
skin like saltwater crocs
I almost break a leg
scrabbling round the roots
suddenly there’s a shadow
I think maybe bear or deer
I hold the camera ready
turns out it’s the ranger
on a horse, sneaking up
‘hold it buster’ he cries
I run, the ranger
as I duck under a fence
cut to the next scene
I have to get some sick people to hospital
in an ambulance you steer with your mind
and two bent sticks
I don’t do too bad
turns out, it’s like dowsing
I just have to remember
what thirsty feels like
and it takes me straight there
in a crazy, sawtooth line
through the hooting snarl-ups
to the cooler with no cups
back of the ER
Well. He certainly liked his walks.
I’m sorry if that makes him sound like a dog
but it’s true.
Anyway. What can I say?
He took a lot of pictures.
There. A positive.
Shared them on Twitter. He Tweeted.
Was a Twitterer.
Between you and me
I don’t see much difference
between that and those crazy people you see over the park
hunched over with a bag of crusts, covered in pigeons.
Still, it gave him a sense of purpose.
To be honest, and this doesn’t go any further,
I think it’s a crying shame.
All those plans he had, all those Big Ideas.
And in the end, what did it come down to?
A scattering of snaps on some virtual table.
Each one with a cutesy title, of course,
for ease of identification, I suppose,
like those tags you see
tied on toes in the mortuary.
I mean, honestly:
sticks & stones
the rag tree
guardian of the way
you take my point
(That last one’s me, btw, rofl).
I mean – look at this one:
a shovel, broken in the handle
dropped in the woods.
‘Like it died and hadn’t been able to bury itself’
That’s what he told me. I said Okay Right Hmm
But isn’t that just a teensy bit morbid?
He was like that, though.
A bit dry for some.
He couldn’t just close his eyes
and feel the sun on his face.
D’you know what I mean?
He had to root around in all that shadowy shit
Bring things down
to the flare of light in a horse’s eye
or the dance of a rag tied on the lowest branch of a tree.
Or, for heaven’s sake,
a broken shovel someone tossed.
I mean, honestly.
Where’s the joy? The simple common sense?
It just goes to show,
you can lead a horse to water
but you can’t make it stop banging on
about words, art, life
and the difficulty thereof
your train was late so I sat in the car to wait
dreaming, watching people hurrying in and out
with bags, without, waving, standing about
cars pulling in, loading, unloading, moving away again
opposite me, in the shadow of the bridge
there was a large poster advertising a private girls’ school
the picture, a child dressed as a judge, the title
understandably enough – The Judge
I stared at it for a while
imagining what it might be like
to see her put a black hanky on her head
and say, in a child’s voice: ‘…hanged by the neck until you are dead’.
And see her laugh, and throw off her robes,
and run off to play. I wouldn’t know what to say.
Until they grabbed me by the shoulders
and dragged me out of the car
That’s when you opened the door
and that’s why I flinched
we found a bridge
in the middle of the woods
a branch line, you said,
well it is now
kicking the roots
that hoop the ground instead of ties
I took some pics of the old brick parapet
rolling with ivy, not steam,
a ballast of leaves beneath our boots
as we stopped at the top to look around
imagine! you were high up then
and moving so fast
what would you think
if, in some unexpected stop
you could climb down
and look with us, here, in the wood
would you see where the apple core landed
you chucked through the window?
(it grew, you know. it grew)
tell me – what would you do?
to see the train and everything else
had suddenly pulled away, and moved on
and the bridge was still there
but the tracks had all gone
I took the dog on a walk
we hadn’t done in a while
ten miles south of here
up on the downs
I parked in a lay-by in the lee
Lola ran on ahead
I strode behind
clapping my hands
drunk in the early light and line
glad of everything
trying to leave myself behind
and already – look!
fungus stepped like ears on the stump of an elder;
a twist of fleece on a hawthorn;
graffiti on a beech;
a lifted cover on a mine shaft
on and on, higher and higher
up to a line of golden sheep
staring as I tried for the shot
is one of them wearing a hat?
on the way back down
exploring an unexpected tributary
of the quarry at the bottom of the lane
I came across a wide scattering of junk
everything you could think of, really
fridge, TV, sofa
the only thing lacking
a family to sit on it
I liked the TV best
its screen blown, a tangle of weeds
lolling out in real HD
it was only when I knelt down
to frame the shot
I realised I was surrounded by glass
poor Lola would cut her paws
how would THAT look?
I put the camera away
called Lola (in a softer voice;
hoping she wouldn’t dash after me
quite so crazily)
and walked back to the car
home is due north
it couldn’t be simpler
but for some reason
I put on the sat nav
why, i’m not sure
I liked the warmth
of the car heater
the roll of the road
from the back
and, I don’t know
maybe I just needed
a few clear words
a sense of direction
to go with all that