sleepwalk

These are the paths and secret ways / you follow down deep in a dream of days / the lullabies you sing in your sleep / to the woodland creatures who glide and creep / in a shiver of leaves and scatter of stones / flare of feather, flash of bone / falling by moonlight, fetched by crows / to weave into spells in the trees and the hedgerows / rising, calling, settling still

at the edge of the drop on broken tree hill

So you dance with the sun and you drift with the rain / and you lose yourself in the woods again / twist of thorn, pulse of blood / beetled bone and motherhood / tooth and eye and claw and wing / death to life encircling / the watchful night, the waiting dark / the feral rub, the sudden bark / calling you on through your dreams until

you wake at the foot of broken tree hill

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dadbot

Turns out – dad was a robot
I was so shaken I was shot
I should’ve known, though
when I saw him licking the dynamo
on the front wheel of his Pashley
How he spent most of every Saturday
buffing his be’cardigan’d chassis
with duraglit and a chamois
till it sparkled
remarkably

It really shouldn’t have been news
there were plenty of clues
in retrospect
like the way he collected
fridge magnets
his clumsiness with ceramics
the crackle in the air
when he sat in his chair
slicking his single aerial of hair
sideways across his pate
his tie unnaturally straight
the clunk of his slippers
the clackety clack of his clippers
the way he ate his boiled egg dippers
mechanically
unenthusiastically
scanning the kitchen
for anything else we might fetch him

I had it confirmed years later
when I ran into his maker
at a conference for the movers & shakers
of the domestic robot business
‘As god is my witness’
she said, unnecessarily dramatic
a bit too emphatic
for my taste –
but I didn’t want to waste
the opportunity –
‘Yes! Your dad was well respected in the robot community
His software was suspect and his batteries were crap
But we recouped costs when we sold him for scrap’

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ET Alan

The alien was sitting in MY chair eating MY salmon
‘How d’ya do?’ he said. ‘The name’s Alan.’
‘I don’t care if it’s Jesus Uranus Venus’ I said
blurting out the first thing that came into my head
‘That’s MY salmon! Who said you could have it?’
Alan shrugged. ‘I’m sorry but I’m a salmon addict.’
‘So you’re all like – exploring new worlds and nicking their fish?’
‘I’ll eat plenty of shit but salmon’s my dish.’
‘Don’t you think it would be better to ask permission first?’
‘I know! I know! But where salmon’s concerned – I’m cursed.’
‘You didn’t even leave any for me!’
‘I meant to! Honestly!
But once I get started it’s difficult to stop.’
‘Great!’ I said. ‘That’s amazing, Alan. Thanks a lot.’
He pushed back the empty plate with a tentacle
Loosened a notch on his space suit belt buckle
‘So…have you got anything you wanna ask me?’ he yawned
‘What my ship’s like? Where I was spawned?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘To be honest, Alan, I’m narked
I couldn’t give a shit where your rocket’s parked.
I’d been looking forward to some salmon and broccoli.
This first contact has started pretty rockily.’
‘It’s a thing,’ he smiled, looking shifty and smarmy.
‘Next thing I know you’ll be calling the army.’
‘I wouldn’t waste my breath,’ I said, ‘ET you’re not.’
‘No, I agree,’ he said. ‘ET was hot.
Hey! Wait a second!’ he said, as I wheeled him out.
‘I don’t suppose you’ve got any trout…?’

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seventh son ~ curse of

if I hadn’t had that wretched abortion
it would’ve been the seventh son of a seventh son
says our ninety year old mum

a child with magical powers
thank you for the flowers
I’ll find a vase

my eldest sister Gill is round on a visit
she wants to say hang on a minute
but can’t think how to begin it

she knows it’s hocus pocus
a family cursed by a foetus
on a glowing umbilicus
tearing open His eyes to see us

our problems were more mundane than that
too many kids in a too small flat
parents playing tit-for-tat

she watches mum arranging the roses
waits for the next thing she discloses
something equally magical she supposes

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and I’ll tell you something else

I’m a liar liar / truth denier
I’m a deep fact fryer
a self-made / weapons grade / dumb for hire
I’ve had a kiddin-me transplant / a government grievance grant
I’ve got a heavyweight, click-bait, racist agenda
a shockproof, through the roof, bias defender
I’ve had a truth tuck / a conscience bypass
I’m invasive as pampas grass
swinging or otherwise
I’m so counter I’m clockwise
I’m a meal deal bants with fries
a vanilla alt shake
all talk and no take
I’m number one
a bit of fun
I’m fast & furious III
built for speed
morally free
one hundred and ten percent me
mate
and if you don’t like it, great

I’ve got rants and I’m not afraid to use ‘em
I’ve got flag pants and I’m not afraid to wave ‘em
so stop misbehavin’
toe the line
wherever that is
see that boneyard? that’s where my flat is
I’ve even got a lanyard / picture of a hokey, low key / old time backyard
‘Accost All Areas’

I’m the lairiest / scariest / hairiest
I’m the 4G golem
I follow people just to troll ‘em
I’m the baddest mother spider on the web
I’ll kiss you goodnight and put you to bed
and transfuse your brains with soup instead
then hurry home to chicken and cheap white bread
I’ve got a whole bag of sticks and stones / mobile phones
and if that don’t work I’ll try hammers
memes and flames from internet scammers
I’m anti-woke / spookily spoke / blankety bloke
I put the onion in opinion and the crack in croak /
I’m all spach like zarathustra / (now I’ve confus’d ya)
god is dead
yeah?
so stand by your beds
I’ve come to speak for Him instead

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st peter, the nhs & the list

St Peter / the last, great meeter & greeter / zips up his perfect windcheater
to the dimpled point of his silver-haired chin / getting ready to let the next one in

He yawns / (he’s been up since about a million dawns) / watching them trail across the lawns
he waves his clipboard / an angel strums a heavenly chord / God I’m bored
he thinks / drinks / from a goblet / takes a bite from a bar of everlasting chocolate
this way! he says / ready with his quiz

A tired middle-aged woman steps up / stands there watching him drink from his cup /
waits politely / trembling ever so slightly

St Peter glares down / frowns / flicks through the list / Jane the podiatrist?

Yes! she nods / What are the odds? / Me hobnobbing with the gods!

God – singular – I think you’ll find / unless you’ve got some other place in mind?

Me? No! This’ll be great / judging by the fancy gate

Hmm says St Peter / stepping back a good half metre
Podiatrist? isn’t that feet? / sounds a little bit too downbeat

Lower limbs too / says Jane / happy to explain
There’s a lot more to it than corns and bunions / a top chef has to know more than onions

Is that right? is that right? / says SP, scrupulously polite / fine….okay / so what brings you all the way here today?

Nothing, shrugs Jane / well – a sudden pain / endless night / a blinding light / a pretty wild kinda flight / why – is that alright?

St Peter slowly lowers his board / he’s been here so many times before / things have moved on since the days of yore (whatever yore is) / the thing is, he’s a bouncer who knows where the door is / and he’s pretty damn hot / about who gets to come in or not

You don’t earn enough / and whilst I know that sounds tough / we’ve got to be strict about this stuff

Jane / looks pained

But I spent my life caring for people / and what was that shit about camels and needles?

Yes, yes, says the elderly saint / how quaint / but that was just a fairy story / it was never based on sound economic theory / look at this place! these clouds aren’t cheap / I’ve got overheads that’d make you weep

Suddenly a suit sidles up / gives St Peter a monogrammed cup

Wow! says Pete / that’s pretty neat! / thanks!
Compliments of the bank! / says the man / shaking his hand / now – if you’d kindly show me the line / where you’d like me to sign…

A cherub floats down, gives his curls a flick / opens the gate with a cute little back kick / The banker chuckles / cracks his knuckles / tips his hat / dissolves into a cloud just like that

So what happens to me, then? says Jane

St Peter looks down at her again / Jesus Christ! Jane! Do I need to explain? / Podiatrists go to hell / with all the other HCPs as well / the nurses and scientists / gardeners and  pharmacists / ODPs and dieticians / drama therapists and audio technicians / the porters and the hospital sparks / the paramedics and record clerks / I’m sorry Jane, but that’s all there is to it / you had your chance to make some money and you blew it / anyway, I’m sure you’re used to that shit / the NHS was ever a fiery pit

But heaven… says Jane… who gets to go?
Trust me, yawns Pete / you don’t wanna know

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a (very slow) uprising

One day all the old people will wise up
tear off their medicalerts and rise up
they’ll finally decide they’ve had enough
of the endless emollient creams and stuff
the scratchy stockings and handy grabbers
the phlebotomists and care home managers
and they’ll move as one to the coded signal
of a renegade grandma in Newport Pagnell
who entered retirement unconvinced
by Murder She Wrote and the purple rinse
by adverts for scooters and fancy lifts
ballpoint pens and benefits
who stole a ship and escaped to sea
to rally the cause electronically
hacking the loops and hearing aids
of the millions who’ll build the barricades
from static commodes and stools and hoists
and taunt the police in one croaky voice
and when the army arrives in tanks and trucks
meet them with vollies of tommee tippee cups
and the soldiers will not deploy their weapons
because they couldn’t shoot Joan or Uncle Kevin
and the rebels will mass at the top of the street
and bang their zimmers and stamp their slippered feet
and their fighting colours will snap overhead
(an overweight pug and a flaming bed)
and so shall it begin, the grey terror of the world
dressing gowns gaping and hair uncurled
(because they may be weak, and they may be confused
but they’re old and they’re fierce and they’ve got nothing to lose)

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