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

Literary A&E: Four case histories

Patient A: 59 yo male. History of freewriting, blogging. Known to self-publish. Suffered an acute disarticulation of the expressive centre when experimenting with comedy shorts. Self-presented to this department with chronic spiritual pain & morbid imagery.
Treatment: 500ml bolus of Camus, five day course of anti-prolixities. Ref to writing support group.

Patient B: 20 yo female. History of confessional poetry and dilatory doodles. Social media addiction on a background of gothic selfies. Suffered a prolonged dystopia.
Treatment: stat dose 10ml Sharon Olds, 10ml Carol Ann Duffy, to be replaced in the community with Joan Didion and Patricia Lockwood.

Patient C: 82 yo female. Extensive history of village-based eulogia, Miss Read and R F Delderfield. Presented to this department via emergency mobile library, suffering a distressing episode of unexplained profanity. Found to be in ATBS (Acute Toxic Bucolic Syndrome).
Treatment: 10mg The Sopranos, IM. Ref to the James Herriot Memorial Clinic. Travelcard.

Patient D: 38 yo male. History of BA History, followed by MA Viking & Anglo-Saxon Studies. Developed Pernicious Sagamania, manifesting in tattoos, facial hair and intermittent DnD. Self-admitted to this department on a tandem he called his ‘long bike’.
Treatment: 1mg Paw Patrol, followed by a short course of PowerPuff Girls. Ref to community Norse Team.

the word golem

Down and down rolls the sun
on a day most emphatically done
the word golem

From a clay of dreams that won’t come
slow & crude as a bare thumb
heart as hollow as a toy drum
the word golem

I cannot speak and I cannot run
from the lumpish creature I summon
my work lies scattered & undone
the word golem

The only way the spell can be broken
is to tear the holy name from him
truth to death become
the word golem

And though my writing hand grows numb
from all the wretched work I’ve done
I shall not call his name again
the word golem

Welcome to the gravel pit

I spoke to my brother on the phone for a bit
he’d just been down the gravel pit
to check out some fancy diving apparatus
its general operational status
and whether the neck was watertight
(thankfully that turned out alright)
he said four hundred feet down on the gravel bed
they’d sunk various things to keep you interested
like an old, redundant airforce jet
with a crayfish pilot waving from the cockpit

he asked me how the writing was going
and whether there was any money in poems
and why don’t I write about dogs instead
with an influencer’s blog on the internet
and how many books in total I’ve sold
and suddenly I felt as pressured and cold
as if it was me down there on the gravel bed
with bubbles & fish swirling round my head
and emerging through the gritty gloom
a sunken, redundant writer’s room
with a lamp, a chromebook, a desk with a drawer,
a crayfish writer with a pen in its claw

his last tweet

I have no doubt his familiar was a jackdaw
he was so acquisitive, divergent,
distractable, odd.
increasingly he was living only
where he could see everything
and everything could see him
over time he built a chaotic but glittering nest
borrowing from other nests
stealing, more than once,
it has to be said
only to make his nest more beautiful
less obviously refractive
he died – suddenly, tragically off-cam –
from a strange but Snopes-verified condition:
multimediamegaly
the funeral cortege, I’m proud to reveal,
attracted almost a hundred followers