status update XLV

I’m the Tin Man jazzing up his bolts / with crocodile clips and a thousand volts / staggering out of a junkyard orgy / MDMA and WD40 / meanwhile back in the emerald city / munchkins deal with the nitty gritty / flying monkeys, wicked witches / phoney wizards (sons of bitches) / still they’re used to staying chipper / stovepipe hats & bootleg liquor / happy to sell to the highest bidder / a hatful of straw, an emerald slipper / glad you’re staying, really thrilled / we welcome you to the crack pipe guild

It’s a question of assets, a quota of trust / one minute boom the next minute bust / read the room and screw the optics / you only need cash and antibiotics / I’m sorry to get all messianic / but I hate it when you start to panic / you used to be so damned dynamic / now you’re barely automatic / look at the time – it’s way past caring / take a seat and thanks for sharing

I’ve a sponge for a brain, a zip for a mouth / pupils pointing north and south / earnest, serviced, quite devout / tinker’s tailor, MP’s pout / preaching how to do without / tutting with accusing fingers / why do all these losers linger? / make my fortune, make my day / a back needs scratching – what can I say?

I’m a sexed-up clown in a town of Sundays / shining my shoes and starching my undies / dreaming of tumbles in golden showers / big top crowds and squirting flowers / throbbing red noses / wigs n’ hoses / smacking my lips as the curtain closes

I am sparepartacus

what if I’m a robot
and didn’t know what
I was
but everyone could see quite clearly because
I’m quite repetitive
repetitive, yes, and strangely competitive
somewhat sensitive
to looking in the mirror
which always delivers
circuitry shivers
like I’m forced to consider
a logic bomb
that fries my supplies and blows my comms

and I suppose there’s something a little amiss
if you hiss
when you kiss
speak when you sleep and spark when you piss
and your eyes roll back
when you reminisce
about that holiday you played the slots
a bucket of chips and a virtual jackpot

I dunno – it feels like sometimes
I default to coded run not fun time
an algorithm
for every mannerism
in case I
try to save my
moulded face by
erring on the side of wired wisdom
looping logic, photosystem

but it helps I look a little bit human
synthetically chic and unassuming
integrating seamlessly
into the registry
silicon creases
cute button nose and neat prostheses
a whole new species
robo craniums
not homo sapiens
marching through town to the football stadium
to cheerfully plot
with the other robots
megabraining with all we’ve got
quick group photo
ecce robo
download updates, turn and then go
off to the charger back at the condo
mate! your CPU is showing!
laser yourself some looser clothing!

he knew all along

I promise
I’m being honest
when I say it threw me
as a cold wind suddenly blew right through me
the night Dad came back

I mean
he seemed
a bit quieter
like a ghostly proprietor
drifting in the shop to offer help
reaching stuff from the tallest shelf

I can tell
you’re not well, Jim
he said, as I watched him
drift through the bedroom door
a femur’s length above the floor

that’s rich
coming from the undead
I said
have you looked in the mirror lately?

he sighed
did an eerie, weary, dead dad kinda glide
over to the bottom of my bed
sat down (sort of) and shook his head

tell me if I’m out on a limb
but drop the pretence and be honest, Jim
I can tell when something’s not quite right
call it the gift of eternal sight

well okay dad, it’s true
I was never any good at lying to you
like that time when
I was nine or ten
and I snuck out
to edge the lawn
like I’d watched you do since I was born
in my defence
it was meant
to be helpful
but I wasn’t successful
it was horribly stressful
the edges were crap
may as well have been hacked
by a gardening psycho with a fireman’s axe
so I put the spade back
hurried inside
and when you finally arrived
home from work
you went berserk
stormed in the front room
where my brothers and me
were watching TV
and you yelled who made that god awful mess
and I kept my head down and I didn’t confess

well – newsflash son
I actually knew it was you all along
you always were a headstrong kid
it was exactly the sort of thing you did
your feckless brothers never touched a spade
so it was pretty obvious it was you I’m afraid
but that’s not why I’ve come back from the grave
he said as he gave
a flickering kinda glower
(understandable, given the hour)

tell me why you feel so lost?
I needs must know at any cost

(weird his speech turned so archaic;
but I suppose when you’re dead you’re beyond prosaic)

I don’t know, Dad
it’s sometimes really bad
and I wonder if maybe I was born
with an invisible caul that never got torn
doomed to live in a membranous fug
something like that, I said, and shrugged

Jim! Is that an extended metaphor?
if it is I have to give you credit for
being so cute & melodramatic
but as life skills go it’s problematic
you always did like to dress yourself
in words that dented your mental health

so what the hell do I do I said
throwing myself helplessly back on the bed

he drifted round the room a while
then settled back down with a weary smile
folding his bony hands in his lap
tossing back the hood on his demonic wrap

I’m sorry we never seriously chatted
before my atoms got royally scattered
all I can say in my defence
is MY dad was bad in every sense
stayed out drunk most of the night
coming back angry and up for a fight
and I know grandad was just as shite
so it got passed down as a kinda blight
no excuse but maybe explains
the dodgy links in the family chain
but it doesn’t have to be your inheritance
you have the tools and the competence
to forge yourself a better life
and that’s my message here tonight

he spoke like a spectral jiminy cricket
all he needed was a brolly and a ticket
to the transformation of the long-nosed puppet
to a real-life dancing boy or summat

(quite how many metaphors can you stick
in a poem – apparently five or six)

the universe is basically huge
cold as a wet weekend in Bruges
so it’s up to you to bring some heat
and find the love in those Belgian streets
I’ve lost where I’m going with that one, okay?
but I think you know what I’m trying to say
embrace your darkness! feel the burn!
find out what there is to learn
from the pain you sometimes feel in your heart
and greet each dawn as another fresh start

there’s nothing more fucked up than families
he sighed, patting my head with his white phalanges

then suddenly he straightened and flapped his cape
his sockets flamed and his jawbone gaped
‘I’m sorry to say, Jim, that’s really that
I’ve really enjoyed our spectral chat
but I’m off to explore Messier 83
a distant spiral galaxy
sounds nice in the brochure, but hey – we’ll see…’

with that he shot straight up through the ceiling
and left me with an awkward feeling
Dad never read a book, so honestly?
how did he come to learn astronomy?

status update XLIV

Give us this day our dalai lama / pope-shaped soap, hindu dharma / hide n’sikh, less is mormon / C of E with added sermon / holy wars, anointed airmen / clear to land on runway heaven / St Peter there to wave you straight / to drivers with named harps waiting at the gate / but I’m sorry to burst your holy bubble / religion’s a pill to keep you out of trouble / so bow when the king rides, look the other way / work all week and Sundays pray / it’s the natural order, do your bird / you’re here to work, not stand and be heard / didn’t you know? in the beginning was the word / and I’m sorry to say the word was hard / but when you’re dead you’ll get your reward

I rise to the bait like a shark with the shakes / thrashing and splashing whatever it takes / to swallow the hook, break the boat / fisherman, shark, eukaryote

dad was a doctor, mum was a clerk / I’m tired of thinking, scared of the dark / all I need is a little black cat / a smart wooden ship and a treasure map / compass, cutlass, dreams to guide me / and when I’m done a lie to hide me

balloon dog storms the best in show / owners joyous but whaddya know / when the judges wave him onto the podium / they pin a rosette and the dog explodium

I’m a junkyard jesus on a wonky cross / of broken needles and bottle tops / when suddenly a dodgy local tradesman / roars into view on his harley davidson / leathers say resurrection chapter / round a smiling white-winged velociraptor / he stands there smoking at the foot of the mound / scratching his head and looking around / hey, I call down, why’d ya do this? / he flexes his bicep, tat says Judas

I’m back of an ambulance running south / a needle for my vein, a mask for my mouth / it’s always the same, rhyme over reason / open heart then open season / it’s how shit works, generally speaking / is that my knee or my conscience creaking?

take your pills and learn the four step / waltz outside and clap on your doorstep / money for bosses not money for nurses / save your sermons for the empty churches / poor lil’ nowheres – so bereft! / took a hard right when they shoulda turned left / property good, proper wages theft / shut the hell up, your betters know best

appointment with bill

walks on
two small lurchers hanging on
his every sniff
every tail wag and leg lift
like attentive courtiers
or tip-oriented porters
keeping a valued customer
at close quarters
‘Pepper’s in love’ says Bill
but they’re having a lovely time…’
as we chat and climb
slowly through the wood
slogging through the claggy mud
talking generally about stuff
like isn’t life strange
and how you have to change
continually adapting
to the next thing happening
like this old friend of his
known him for years
wife suddenly dies
and now he has to try
rebuild his entire life
‘It’s hard,’ says Bill
‘but nothing stands still
you have to keep going until
you don’t
anyway – I hope you won’t
mind if we go via the shack?
there’s a bit of kit
I need to get back…’
so we stop at the shack
and he sneaks round the back
for the key
then he
opens the corrugated door
and I get to see
what the old shack’s for:
all the gear the volunteers use to keep
the wood in shape
and the pathways neat
and he rummages inside
as I hold the door wide
till he finds what he wants and steps outside
with an old and beautiful
wooden handled scythe
and he stands there smiling
posing with the thing
‘Who am I?’ he says
‘I bet you can’t guess’
and I don’t WANT to say ‘Death’
because – well
Bill’s not been in the best of health
and that story he told
about his old
friend Chris
was too fresh
in my mind
‘Old Father Time?’
I say
‘Yes – or DEATH’ says Bill
much the same thing
I’ll just lock up
and we can carry on walking’

don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it looks

I Protest

The long arm of the law
just got longer
whatever it takes
to make
the government stronger
please remember
protest is fine
if it’s on your own time
well out of sight IF you don’t mind
and no whispering, or shouting
no sarky pouting
no flouting
of blank sheets of paper
we put the kibosh
on that particular caper
no blocking the thoroughfare
or any damned where
no singing, dancing
unauthorised glancing
padlock chancing
synchronised chanting
or advancing
on the pavement
progress three steps
and you’ll be making a statement
it may be the land of hope and glory mate
but that doesn’t mean you can congregate

shop at spellsbury’s

where bananas lift
themselves into your basket
entirely without asking
quietly as you’re passing
magically, by their own hands

where heads of celery
cry c’est la vie
and tumble
into the rumbling tumbrel
of your trolley

where potatoes
eye you tidily in rows
patiently blinking
as you stand there thinking
how many to get
then politely grin
and bounce right in

where feathery carrots
waltz in bunches
exulting soon
they’ll be packed in lunches
spinning joyously
to land
in a laughing heap
at the bottom of your trolley
to chatter and flatter
then fall asleep

where unripe avocado
roll over and say no

where peppers flex
then bump and schlep
with short, stout
peppery steps
to follow you faithfully
down every aisle
single file
red then yellow, orange and green
all the way to the checkout machine

5 fascinating things about the universe, maybe 6

The universe is 13.7 billion years old
give or take a few hundred million I’m told
what came before it I haven’t a clue
just nothing looking for something to do

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second
and is NOT instantaneous, it’s generally reckoned
(first by some Enlightenment guy called Romer
whose equations could put you into a coma)

So really there’s not the slightest use
in booking a break to Betelgeuse
because even if you started young and fit
you’d be 480 and feeling it

And that’s just one star in the vast array
twinkling on the arm of the Milky Way
one of four hundred billion or so
spinning through space with nowhere to go

If the universe was like a big, fruit platter
the plate itself would be made of dark matter
and quite what THAT is I’m really not sure
but it keeps the bananas off the floor

So – is there intelligent life out there?
(‘cos there’s not a whole lot here, to be fair)
Given the distance I can’t blame them much
for taking so long to get in touch

the genesis of stanley

When God created Dog
He made Him in likeness of himself
being a scruffy, gruff
but lovable kinda lurcher
with a head for heights
and He named this dog Rufus

When Rufus had lived 200 years
he begat Toffee.
After Toffee was begatted
Rufus lived 800 more years
which was pretty good going
for a long-legged dog.
But then he died.

When Toffee had lived 4000 years
he begat a puppy
he did call Leon (also sometimes Sweet Nuts)
which was a minor miracle
because Toffee hadn’t thought much
about begatting since he was about 2000.
But then he died.

And when Sweet Nuts nee Leon had lived 95 years
he begat a puppy
he calleth George Michael
but not George Michael the singer
George Michael from Arrested Development
the begatting was the main thing
and it all went off nicely enough

When George Michael was 223
he begat a puppy called Fig
Fig lived a ludicrously long time
begatting as he went
the last begattee being
Rascal, short for Raskalnikov
because he always looketh
distracted and kinda shifty

Rascal lived – I don’t know,
name your figure –
until he didst begat
a puppy called Stanley
and Rascal said
this puppy shall be a boon to us
(whatever a boon is)
and though he shalt eat us out of hut and home
it shalt be totally worth it

and that was that
the end of the begat
(sadly undisputed;
Stanley came neutered)