the tyranny of so

/ the two letter / scene setter / that shows us you’re getting ready to go / to tell us what we need to know / it’s restrictive / predictive / highly addictive / it’s conversational crack / once you’ve tried it there’s no going back

so… / like in ballet, first position / or a driver sticking the key in the ignition / or a security guard clipping tickets for the exhibition / it’s that little pause of recognition / where you acknowledge what’s been said / and prepare yourself to put us straight instead / a bit like Jesus, with the fishes and the bread / counting heads / checking there’s enough in the basket to see us all fed

so… / it’s that twitchy, glitchy neon sign / you flash from time to time / to show us how magnificently you’re inclined / to put us back on the right line / with such intellectual poise and clarity / it’s a kind of charity / all the worse for over-familiarity / the hell with SO – it’s a worldwide calamity

so… / the verbal tic of the expert in the know / the grudgy old judge at the dog show / who examines your teeth, your tail & your coat / the weight of your balls & the line of your throat / sighs & gives you a clippy little note / then backs up / to give the cup / to the shiny, short-haired pointer / and you applaud the absurdly well appointed pet / the one with the big red one on the rosette / then you pack up / disheartened, disappointed / drag yourself home unanointed

so… / a needle pulling thread / where you loop our doubts through the eye in your head / and we’re smoothly lead / in and out of the warp & weft of the bedspread / & even the most cynical must surely agree / you demonstrate complete mastery / of the cross-conversational mystery / the stitch-up / the catch-up / the delicate design of the debate / something we’re too close-minded & cack-handed to appreciate / I mean, all we see are snags, ties & tangles but you show us badgers, butterflies and brambles / it’s so, so sweet / then you lay us down on the bedspread to sleep

so… / and so / and so really – so what? / is SO really the best you’ve got? / why not stop it / drop it / dive right into the conversation / with no so and no hesitation / or try a substitution / as a diversion / (suggestion: / lobster basque / and yes, before you ask / I know it’s bisque / but at the risk / of sounding dodgy / I just like the idea of a crustacean in lingerie)

close encounter

I got tired of waiting / so I posted some pics for online dating / me in this cute / astronaut suit / I hired complete / for the week / from a fancy dress place / short leg, 36 waist / for a selfie on the patio / in flagratio / sprawled on a lounger with my helmet flipped / tubes unplugged & respirator ripped / scenes of innocent, Star Whores depravity / timing the shutter to fake the gravity /

because hey – I’d been through all the usual trials / the ingenues & crocodiles / the sushi bars & supermarket aisles / the drunken dials / through tear-stained piles / of ex-files / (the truth is IN there) / racking up failure like so many airmiles / I’d spent a lifetime accruing / I mean – what was I DOING? / it felt like I’d sat for a million years / nursing bottles of overpriced beer / like Greg Kinnear / or some other sad-eyed silver fox / in a seamy, steamy sweat box / in Vauxhall / Wild Cat / Canal Street or Nollendorfplatz / or wherever the hell I woz / and looking back / as far as I was concerned / that was a lesson a long time learned / I mean – the music’s always way too loud / I feel lonely in a crowd / alcohol makes me hazy / pills make me crazy / sleepy / half the men too perfect; half too perfectly creepy /
unassailably unavailable

so anyway / unfortunately / the responses were far from complimentary / the usual deadbeats & derelicts / fake profiles and dick pics / but just when I was feeling sexually & spiritually bereft / RSI from swiping left / I got a like I liked the look of / I particularly liked the pics he took of / his black, clacking beak like a hook / I mean – the guy was hysterical! / chimerical! / so fly he was flip / as lean as a whip / I mean cracking / as a cosplay Kraken he wasn’t lacking / he’d taken such trouble / with his ray gun and shimmering nitro bubble / those rows of stark white teeth / a proboscis tossing around underneath / emitting (how fitting!) a weird & warbling song / that went on and on / and then changed into English / by a fiendish / bit of kit / a cross between a fitbit / and a Britney / strapped to his back like an external kidney / reconstituting the lines as he said ‘em / like everyone did back in Armageddon / (he said / slapping his head / with a tentacle / and in an effort to appear more conventional / produced a map and tapped a star / ‘if you go past Betelgeuse you’ve gone too far’

all in all I was very impressed / we chatted by text / arranging to meet the week after next

I knew straight away he was something special / his silver ship shaped like a giant pretzel / wobbling down onto Hampstead Heath / scattering the screaming people beneath / except a local priest / who sadly was flattened / from hat to hosiery / saying his prayers and fumbling his rosary / a PCSO / screamed in her radio / for the military / and really / they should’ve been more conciliatory / the tanks and planes / all crashing in flames / & after desperate, transatlantic talks / they flew in fleets of tomahawks / but honestly / you might as well throw trays of forks / because when the dust cloud cleared / the crowds all cheered / then stopped / totally shocked / because the ship was still parked / completely unmarked / as sweetly as before / the alien waving from behind the door

I stepped out alone / showed the generals my phone / which they huddled around / astounded / confounded / impounded it / for GCHQ / to take a security long-view / and meanwhile, in lieu / of anything better to do / & no doubt to save face / on behalf of the entire human race / asked if I’d negotiate / which was great / I mean – it was my date / and after all the shenanigans I was running late / so yeah – I went forward unattended / up the ramp the alien extended / the door shushed aside / & I tiptoed inside

a chill ran through me / the ship wasn’t roomy / it was all a bit clustery, dark and doomy / echoing and boomy / banks of fancy dials and levers / frantic assistants that looked like beavers / only with helmets and gloves / up and down ladders that descended from above / to be honest – it wasn’t that fantastic / not what you might call high-end galactic

the alien lurched into view / wearing a kaftan of shimmering blue / draped a tentacle over my shoulder / so finally we meet he smouldered / come sit on the bridge and talk with me / the space beavers scuttling frantically / to make the place ready / I thought it’d be / just you and me / he said coquettishly / but your friends are behaving quite aggressively / sorry I said / they just misread / your intentions / they’ve never seen a craft of such dimensions / and anyway, it’s a bit of a sci-fi convention / to greet an alien visitation / with outright suspicion / and half-arsed military interventions / hmmm he said / shaking his head / they’re really are impossibly thick / I mean – how do they think I got here so quick? / look at all this technology! / I think they own me a big apology / I could I could put on quite a show / with all these levers and other things you know / but there you go / come, sit with me awhile / and let’s talk about your darling little profile / it gave me such a chuckle / a little near the knuckle / but it certainly got my attention the other day / sashaying / along the milky way / a hundred thousand light years away

I’ll draw a veil over what happened next / (basically interspecies chemsex / passionate, complex) / and afterwards, fanned by a couple of beavers / we talked about all the unbelievers / the naysayers, game players and betrayers / the dreamers and schemers / the moralistic, opportunistic, institutional inbetweeners / I just wish I wasn’t the gosh darned captain / he sighed, pulling on his kaftan / but there’s a place I’ve really got to be / and the wormhole closes early at three / look – promise we’ll meet again soon / your place or the moon / I don’t care / I’m pretty much easy anywhere… / and he gave me his fitbit and britney / and after the beavers made sure it fit me / he showed me to the door / where the armies and generals were lined up as before / and the gesture he made to them was sharp and severe / his disaffection perfectly clear / so I hurried down the ramp & waved goodbye / just as the spaceship leapt into the sky

I was taken to a secret location / twenty four hour examinations / unethical sedations / guarded by alsatians / kept in isolation / for fear of contamination / really – it was beyond imagination / but at night I’d lie there staring through the bars / up at the glittering planets & stars / and wish by the light of the waning moon / my alien knight would rescue me soon

he never did. typical alien / never saw hide nor tentacle again

eventually / the military / afraid of exposure / released me on condition of non-disclosure / confiscated my phone & tablets / advised me to cultivate less risky habitsIMG_0589

* * *

so that’s my story and every word is true
but enough about me – what about YOU?


the life & sudden death of the tinder outlaws

this here’s the likeness o’ billy the kid
smile as cute as a crack in a lid
hooks the butt of his colt in his chinos
leans in to fondle his palominos

::::: swipe left

this is a portrait of jesse james
likes to play with banks & trains
sips his whiskey, shines his buckles
wipes his tash, cracks his knuckles

::::: swipe left

this here fella’s one wild bill hickokwildbill
wears a brace o’ pistols half-cocked
waves ‘em about; shoots some plates
carries on playing his aces & eights

::::: swipe right! ::::: swipe right!

too slow, my friend… too slow

five short chapters from the age of gods & mortals


prometheus was generous / he was basically alright / he leaned down from the clouds to the ground / to give all the smokeless mortals a light / and if his punishment was a bit over the top and livery / for such a naive and unauthorised delivery / still, the laparotomising eagle always took flight / and the poor guy’s liver grew back each night


the medusa / was a serial user & abuser / every day a bad hair day / (the classic gorgon confusion / any new relationship a foregone conclusion) / but perseus got the heads up / on the practicalities of this particular pre-nup / wore cool mirror shades / that paid off in spades / and just as he practised in rehearsal / did all his sword fighting in reversal / ended up tossing her hissing head in a sack / and whistling heroically, sauntered back


scylla and charybdis / a couple of mean-minded sisters / who took a terrible maritime toll / one a monstrous snake and the other basically a hole / they lived either side of the strait of messina / guarding the water inbetweener / royally and orally destroying / anything buoyantly annoying / until odysseus / stealthy & inconspicuous / taking the line of least resistance / managed to / find a way through / and okay – so a half dozen heros got eaten by scylla / but at least the boat made the homebound flotilla


labyrinthitis is rarely fatal / except if you’re a cretan youth or neonatal / because that’s where a bunch of them got sent / every year as punishment / the labyrinth was this crazy maze / built by daedulas in happier days / before icarus and his fickle attitude / to altitude / failing so spectacularly in his fatherly devotion / by hurtling curls-first into the ocean / so anyway / the labyrinth / basically a plinth / in the middle / of an underground puzzle / with a griddle / for the minotaur to get snacky with the kiddle / until down came theseus / muscles gleaming with greaseus / who straightway cut him to piecius / lopping off his head / and then winding his way back with a ball of thread


the chimera! the chimera! / most terrifying creature of the antic era / body of a goat and the head of shakira / and the tail from a snake / and fiery breath that would burn and bake / and giant paws that would pound the ground and make the houses shake / which the general population found pretty hard to take / until – step forth bellerophon! / ripped & ready for the slay-a-thon / he leapt up onto pegasus, his horse / tough as a rhinocerorse / but aerodynamically better of course / together they swooped on the hapless creature / and ran it through with his most prominent feature / (a long & lethally lead-tipped spear / which pretty much did the trick, I hear)



bacteria and the fine art of surviving


This is what happened the other day :::::

It was just after nine / I’d come to see Maureen, a patient of mine / suffering self-neglect & cognitive decline / her niece / Denise / met me outside the flat / we buzzed and rang but had no luck with that / we shouted through the letterbox / the hallway resounding with our pounding and our knocks / but the flat was quiet & the door stayed locked / Denise / had no keys / because her aunt wouldn’t give her a set / even though she was prone to forget / whether to eat or not / and left things on the stove when it was hot / and needed reminding to take her medication a lot / but – you know – this whole thing was a long time in the making / (Denise was grateful for the trouble I was taking) / we stood there in the hall / wondering what to do, who to call / Denise was realistic / she said this behaviour was characteristic / Maureen was definitely home / but just wanted to be left alone / the risk was low she was on the floor / so we probably didn’t need to kick down the door / it would’ve been too destructive / counter-productive / so instead / I said / I’d talk to the GP / quite urgently / actually / because we needed to see / that Maureen had capacity / to say the hell with the world and other curses / and no to a visit from the district nurses  

I shook Denise’s hand, said goodbye / picked up my bags, walked outside

Back in the car / eating an energy bar / planning my visits / I listened to a professor of theoretical physics / it was compelling / there was still no way of telling / he said / the essential difference between alive and dead / no experiment yet devised / that could have the issue verified / it was somewhere in the realm of chemical & electrical causation / in DNA packed full of coded information / software / versus hardware / somewhere deep in there / and if that wasn’t enough / he went on to talk about all this other stuff / about how space & time came into existence / how early bacteria showed a strange resilience / there, at the dawn of multicellularity / moving and evolving with marked singularity / tackling insults to their integrity

I thought about Maureen, locked in her flat / and what I was going to do about that / and I heard our efforts echoing down the hall / all the way back to the start of it all / to the shore at the dawn of Time’s Big Bang / the very moment when it all began / that wrenching, drenching, cataclysmic spasm / that flash of heat in the heart of the chasm / that revolutionary, evolutionary phantasm / of subatomic ticks and tocks / & Denise and me, shouting through a letterbox