bored

I’m SO bored
faded and frayed as an old pull cord
banging by a window in the abandoned ward
of a hospital marked for demolition
pigeons and rats at every station

I’m SO bored
my dusty brain beaten, rolled-up and stored
in a hessian mail sack under the floor
of a factory specialising in cheap, chintzy wrappers
the kind you find round Christmas crackers

I’m SO bored
floating like a tart green apple core
nibbled by a sailor then flung overboard
to drift along in the East Australian Current
thinking I was heading home when I wasn’t

I’m SO bored
a crap cat sofa terminally clawed
tossed in a skip when the house was explored
and all the junk cleared out in a day
for a dirty great truck to take away

giving up the ghost

I was queuing with the vicar in the pharmacy
I had pills to collect and so had he
we stood there waiting patiently
father, son and holy remedy

he said faith is a waste, god an addiction
I said what d’you mean he said pay attention
I’m retired now so the hell with convention
get ready to receive my benediction

fifty years I stood in the pulpit
dressed from head to toe in the full kit
read my lines from the latest booklet
questioned my faith but overlooked it

ever since I lost the collar
I’m short of puff and my heart irregular
two new hips, a dodgy patella
lately I find I’m much more secular

then he turned and smiled quite sadly at me
said he’d enjoyed this little chat with me
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
as the pharmacist called next customer please

the butts

Mr Butt
somewhat
drawn up
like a head of celery forced in a suit
dirt brown glasses to boot
and a big-footed laugh like the hoot
of some ancient charabanc
that’d prang
through the kitchen door
a couple of times a day or more
laughing and generally carrying on
like he was the audience and The Claytons were the sitcom

his wife Vera
quieter and clearer
hair in a coiffed pile
crow wing glasses sticking out a mile
her smile
a little tight
as if she might
accidentally say something she oughtn’t
and her visit could wait because it wasn’t important
and she’d knock quietly and call coo-ee
and hesitantly
make her entry
to see
if mum wanted her hair doing
Ken laughing and mooing
What’ve you gone and done with Len?
you haven’t gone and tied him up again?
Heaven Help Us! Christ! Stroll on!
I can’t keep up with all you Claytons!
etcetera, etcetera and so on

Many years later
Mum got new neighbours
the Butts moved on to a nearby close
a bungalow
easier I suppose
I went round to see ‘em
Vera in the kitchen
Ken, much smaller and thinner
scribbling in a notebook as Vera made dinner

at least he’s keeping busy I said
Vera smiled and shook her head
said thank you dear, took the book
and gave it to me so I could look
pages after page of scribbled lines
the kind when kids pretend sometimes

What can you say except life is in flux
my parents are gone, no iffs, no Butts
and here I sit, Clayton Number Five
busily filling the screen with lines

reunited

mum visited last night
with dad
both dead
both standing staring from the bottom of the bed
(which was weird
because they wouldn’t have done that
even when I was a kid
SO WHY NOW?
does being dead give you
special visiting rights somehow?)

what?
I said
quickly sitting up
taking a trembly swig
from my water cup

they stood side by side
eyes wide
linked at the elbow
which as these things go
was pretty freaky
resonating unspeakably
with an old wedding photo
they used to have on show
on the mantelpiece
dad in a two piece
mum in skirt and lippy
lurching outta church about 1950

mum cleared her throat
(which is odd for a ghost)
in that unmistakable way she’d got
after years of drinking coffee too hot

‘I just wanted to drop by and say hello’
she said
‘being dead
means you can’t just ring for a chat
and I’m feeling a little bit cross about that
I miss our gossip about dogs
and the odd
patients you’d met
and whether you have or haven’t finished that book yet…’

Dad looked restless
like a punter unexpectedly on the guest list
and not sure what to say
whether to stand or just fly away
I got the feeling she was stealing his thunder
(a cliche you hear a lot and no wonder)

‘Anyway – can’t stay long
Just wanted to drop by and see how you were getting on
We’ll be back again soon to see you, Jim…’

(Which is why I ended up googling ‘exorcism’)

The Apocalyptic Waltz

MC:
Citizens of the World!
Industrialists! Capitalists! Boys and Girls!
Philosophers! Ecologists!
Fossil fuel apologists!
Government Committees!
Villages and Cities!
Sample if you dare the End of the World phantasies
of Dr Doom Scroll’s Cabaret of Catastrophes!
And remember!
you can always call our dedicated number
Oh Nein! Oh Nein! Six Six Six!
Or go online for TikTok clips
Talk to our team of Emeritus Professors
Tenured in Trauma, Nightmares & Terror!
They’ll fill ya with horror
The Day After Tommor
It’s really NO trouble at all….
but first!
I beg you – PLEASE!
enough with your eco-teasing!
your idiotic, zoonotic sneezing!
your endless questions and answers!
take your medication and take your partners
for the Mega Trending, Soon-to-be-Ending, Fully Syndicated, Sinfully Syncopated, the One, the Only: The Apocalyptic Waltz…!

CHORUS:
so it’s a hey ho and here we go
fire in the sky and nothing below
it’s places please
for humanity’s
Apocalyptic Waltz

VERSE:
selfies on a nuclear beach
factor fifty and gun within reach
the view’s fantastic
an ocean of plastic
gannets & turtles tied up in elastic
you close your eyes
but it’s no surprise
Apocalyptic Waltz

[…. endless versions of the same until you run out of clean water, food, the ballroom’s inundated / burned out, whatever…]

ghosts are contractually obliged to be mysterious

ghosts are contractually obliged to be mysterious
I’m serious
they can’t just sit down
politely ask you to gather round
a family table at Burger King
or something
and after making a lame joke about onion rings
(it’s not easy being a ghost, it’s true
you tend to slip right through your food)
then segueing neatly
into the thing they discreetly
want to communicate to you
which is the tragic murder of you-know-who
and what they’d like you to do
about that
roughing out a crude but informative map
on the back of a napkin
that kind of thing

no – uh-uh – I’m sorry
they haven’t just lost their corporal body
but every last shred of common sense
they gotta draw things out and make it tense
like steam writing on mirrors
or giving you the shivers
by blowing out a candle
or swiping a picture from a mantel
or playing the piano
when you and I KNOW
there’s no one in the music room
in atmospheres of gloomy doom
jump scares
everywhere
until you just can’t bear it
and you dig out a crucifix and wear it
and you go see a priest
who’s sympathetic at least
even though they only see you at Christmas
but this must
be forgiven
if you’re not to be driven
completely insane
by the ghost that’s dropping hints again
that a great injustice has been wrought
and a certain murderer must be caught
(my money’s on the priest;
he seems quite sweet
but think of the havoc
you can cause in a cassock)

rather than calmly & sensibly
with a sharpie, quite legibly
writing down everything that happened that night
with all the details you need to indict

ghosts are the most annoying thing
into just about everything
and if you’ve got a problem – my advice?
sell the house and don’t think twice

the terror below the kitchen lino

Sometimes Grandma would stay over
sleeping on a Zed bed behind the sofa
(obviously the bed was called a Zed
because when you folded it foot to head
it had the look of that jagged letter
but I liked Grandma’s explanation better
which was when she lay down and the lights went out
you’d see a line of Zeds coming out of her mouth)

Grandma had her struggles
her routines and rituals
but my favourite one involved an apple

Every morning she’d take a knife and saucer
place them on the table with an apple in front of her
and challenge me to peel it in one unbroken strip
but warned me if I slipped
and the apple skin broke
a terrible evil I’d provoke
just as happened to Uncle Arthur she said
when a great disaster fell on his head
how she saw the lino ripped asunder
revealing just a few fathoms under
a horrible nest of goblins and sprites
looking up in cruel delight
barking and squealing
at the boy in the kitchen who’d failed the peeling
and flew like bats up from the abyss…
and she’d demonstrate this
by cackling, and flexing her claws
at yours
truly
who actually wasn’t unduly
worried by the hideous display
because she did the same thing every day
and I’d peel the apple in one long strip
and she’d say thank you Jimmy now quarter it

the cat in the flak jacket

(with apologies to Dr Seuss)


the alarms did not ring
it was too late to run
so we hid in the classroom
from the sound of the gun

I hid there with Sally
we hid there, we too
and I said how I wish
the shooting was through

but all we could do was to
hide
hide
hide
and we did not like it
with a shooter outside

and then something went POP!
how that pop made us stop!
we looked
then we saw him
step in with a Glock!
we looked
and we saw him
the cat in the flak jacket
and he said to us
‘Why do you all hide there like that?
I know it is scary
and the odds are quite stacked
but we can have lots of good fun, that’s a fact
I know some good games we could play’
said the cat
‘thanks to the folk of the NRA’

and Sally and I
did not know what to say
as our blood ran out in the classroom that day

Reworked funeral poem

Death is nothing at all
it does not count
it’s just nature’s way
of putting the empties out

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I (dead)
and you are you,
(playing the kazoo
or whatever the hell it is you do
to pass the time when I’m all through)

Call me by the old familiar name
(but if it’s all the same
as embarrassing names go
I’d rather you kept it on the down low)

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed of late.
(but not at the graveside because it doesn’t look great)
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
(And if creditors come calling, pay for me.)
Let my name be the household curse it ever was
(Me more than anyone sorry for your loss)

Life means all that it ever meant.
A life well lived now a life well spent
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
(except for that business with the phoney annuity)

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
(I’m still around but I look a fright)
and if I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
think of me more root vegetable than mineral

All is well (for you)
Nothing is hurt (except you-know-who)
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
(just try not to scream when I knock on the door)

rap stanley

uh uh
uh uh
yeah
a tisket a tasket
we gonna need a bigger basket
if you gotta question why’nt you ask it
the times they are a changin’
an’ it may seem strange
but I ain’t complainin’
all you gotta do is hang on n’ wait
it gives us time to set a few things straight
these paws are sore n’this tail ain’t great
an’ if you a rescue too I’m sure you relate
I served my time in the county pound
on the ground
while all around
the lost n’found
jump up n’down
barkin’ on about
the shit they shot
the christmas ribbon that time forgot
some poor lil’ street pooch
stuck in a handbag by an insta douche
hey – you want some a’this tripe stick?
I use it a lot, man – it’s pretty good shit
uh uh
yeah
what can I say?
it’s like eminem and dr dre
in a note they wrote to the RSPCA
it say
yo Stanley
you and me man we’re family
we gonna bust you out outstandingly
single-handedly
you hearing me?
while the pugs go woof
and the power chihuahuas all lift the roof
but me I lie low an’ I suck a bad toof
cos’ I’m sick n’tired of feelin’ the truth
it’s like that ol’ poodle say
damned right tomorrow’s another dog day
they’s only so much kibble
a street dog can nibble
‘fore he barks his trouble
out across the land
out of paw n’ out of hand
so whaddya say about that?
uh uh uh
yeah
at the risk of soundin’ sloppy
I ‘ain’t no lil’ puppy
I cut my teeth on the streets
I lost my bark in san francisco
y’know?
that ‘ain’t how this sorry lil’ rescue goes
in my line o’ work it’s paws not toes
it’s winter through the bars and yer claws half froze
full disclosure:
I’m not the lurcher gonna hurcher
so come rub these ribs
you’ll see why I’m always lickin’ yoghurt lids
so c’mon – take me down
I’ll follow you round town
‘cos you saved my tail from the city pound
hell – I’m your biggest fan
I’ll be the baddest boy in the Clay-Ton Clan
uh huh
thas’ right
I wanna sleep safe on yo sofa tonight
I wanna eat nuff kibble
to stay outta trouble
and keep my limbs nice n’supple
wi’ the Omega 3
you gotta fork that bad boy in for me
to make my fur pure luxury
so yo’ – go ahead – take a picture
this lurcher’ll let ya
I’ll never forget ya
I’m Stanley – yo – how d’you do
now fetch me a tripe stick ‘fore I gnaw YOU