Weekend Poetry: Juggernaut and other poems

Juggernaut

In autumn, the politicians flock to this city.

They raid the café beside the conference centre:

 

espressos, collusion and friendless scoops of mint choc chip

spooned in precisely between fringe events and panels,

 

name badges dangling, twitchy faces hovering

above wild stacks of paper, every other word underlined.

 

Danny, masseur extraordinaire, bringer of happy endings

surveys the gaggle, cards in hand. Not a whiff

 

of Shadow Cabinet―two arthritic backbenchers

and the pro-fracking man off Newsnight, drumming

 

his freebie pen against a mug. What's a boy to do?

Outside, the weather bludgeons photo ops with cloud,

 

an Atlantic juggernaut of wind. A bored Met policewoman

enters, stab-vested, with a semi-automatic carbine.

 

He puts the cards away, blends with a tour group

from Cologne, reminded suddenly of this year's Pride,

 

the first float in the parade, how all he could think of

was a bloom of light opening behind the radiator grille,

 

an instant of heat and helplessness then nothing.

Oh I know it's absurd scoffs a journo on her mobile outside

 

before dodging a stream of departing Germans,

the café swiftly quiet. He orders a soya latte and waits

 

beside the policewoman who leans over to collect her tea,

so close for two seconds he can hear her gently breathing.

Naranja

I am lounging outside Costa in my black shirt

as if dressed for the funeral of winter

though, really, I'm glad it's dead.

Really, I'm stuffing my face with quiche at its wake

and hoping for money, to forget it existed.

Spring is falling out of the sky and even a blown

crisp packet spreads the message. On the street,  

there is a spilled sack of aquarium stones, green

and orange, like someone from My Little Pony

took a dump. I am sitting here beside my tea

and thinking how orange has its roots in naranja,

a citrus tree that sprang from an elephant's corpse.

I, too, would like to be useful after death, to hand on

kidneys and fun but that's for later. I am thirty-eight.

My newborn grey hairs have prospects.

Come in and talk to Vicki about your barnet!

says the advert next door. Maybe I will.

Maybe I will ask her about fringes and Brexit

and other concepts I would not kiss

and the man asleep a few tables over who may not

be breathing though he doesn't smell yet

and in my tolerant society dead people

are welcome too. It's so much better than it ought to be,

the clear, cold sun and this teenager with pink hair

who dips a coat hanger into her bucket of marbled water

and spawns a lengthy bubble. It glides along the street

like a fish that's come down from the clouds to feed,

gathering acolytes as it wobbles then twists

stubbornly into the future, heading north.

Hello Boys

It's hard to ignore a musical penis,

this water boatman that drags

his insect prick against the sacred corrugations

of his belly. The lads are out in force tonight

with all the niceties of dreadnoughts,

a metal concert no one booked.                       

 

For these are not the tunes of mouths,

not shaped to curl through the cave

of an ear. Each pneumatic chirp's off-key,

strives to shipwreck the listener

with certainties―a spam attack

of megapixelled cock pics,

the gaps between the molecules

of pond their glory holes.

 

They scrape beside each other

in seismic orchestras, masters of disharmony,

each one clutching his instrument,

hell-bent to club down the rest

or scratch his dick out, yank himself to the grave.

 

In summer, the tattooed sons burst

from eggs and grip their packages

as soon as they can, all-set to thump

the masses and the soloist that always wins,

to interrupt the melody of Nobody's racket,

the patient silence that thickens and rises.     

Nuthatch

Yes, this really is me, plodding

round a private swimming pool

 

in Speedos, in my twenty year old

body―a leaky skin suit I'd return

 

to the shop if I could, swap

for something geometric.

 

It gathers sweat in September heat,

the back of my neck deepening

 

to red, as pointed out by the man

on the lounger who lives

 

on another continent. Two decades

older, the light glints from a Rolex

 

he only takes off to sleep.

We're not going to make it.

 

For six months, I have played out

in my mind different ways

 

to escape. For six months

I have paused on the threshold.

 

Then, in the corner of his garden,

a nuthatch plunges down

 

the grooved bark of a poplar,

head-first: a blue slate

 

dropped straight from a roof,

a trick that's all in the stone

 

of toes and legs, sharp claws.

And I see it must be this way.

 

I must learn to fall with my eyes

fixed on the ground, must trust

 

the bones I've never seen,

my feet in touch with textures

 

and contours I'll grow into,

that will grow into me

 

as I descend, leaving the silvered,

empty heights behind.


Spinning

So we stroll down Kings Road, past the stamping beat             

of Tequila Heels at her sewing machine. Lines of stitches

 

on silk order her illusion, the charm before each putdown’s needle.

The root of glamour is grammar, you say—a thought

 

which carries us beyond the cafés’ whoobub to where

the nineteenth century flaunts mock ironwork and stucco,

 

Attic flourishes that conceal the queens on Grindr. (Good luck boys!)

I like these mazy streets, how their cadences of chance make us

 

near-collide with a jogger who’s Kat from your office,

directing little mice inside her muscles. Here we never go straight

 

to the point―the lane’s always strewn with rubble, blossom,

the latest soaring personae under construction. There’s no moment

 

of departure anyway and shoot me if I ever claim I’ve arrived.  

It’s getting late as we pass the West Pier, its grand collapse

 

that whispers founder is the root of fonder, that the ocean

will swallow this city at length. We, too, have devastating impact,

 

not just travelling down the path to mine but altering it,

disturbing the air with our lallies and devious brains.

 

Montaigne called the mind a silkworm, entangling itself in its thread.  

He came to the disco five centuries too soon. Clubs make me feel

 

ancient, you reply. Well, my house is small but there’s glitter

and voltage, and you’re always awaited in its white rooms.

Zoo

Tonight, the hours arrive like animals, loping in with caution,

trotting up to give my ear a sniff. They curl around the roofs

with clumsy feet, thrilling poplars, disturbing those asleep―

hairdressers, air stewards and pale centuries that rest

beneath the ground. I love them all like I love the woman

with slicked-back hair who in the match-light drives

the no. 7 bus, who stamps out her Mayfair cigarette

at a shelter where no one waited, types on Snapchat

Sorry about yday angel before she returns to the slow rise

of the coast road. It wanders in absurd isolation,

a lost dressing gown cord beside the wind-bitten edge.

Here, in landslides after rain, a room can plunge irretrievably―

floorboards, quilts and coat hangers scattered over rocks.

The chalk face reveals ancient accidents: bison and mammoth.

Each one stirs my overdue love. Rock bolts and soil nails

can't stop the cascade of flint, attention-grabbing tears

beside the waves' discreet rollings, the shivering skyline

an enormous mammal's pelt you might run a hand along.

Though it doesn't care, I love this fractal shore,

and in particular the old men who right now swing

metal detectors above pebbles, headphoned and zealous.

I love their stubbornness, discovered pennies and collisions,

the oscillating fields and currents of their chatter:

Sharp out today     Necklaces     Shame what happened to Lionel

I love euphoric dogs, spaniels that hoover scents,

black noses aroused by the eyeless corpses of wagtails,

paperbacks crusted in salt and young barmen off their heads on K,

clinging to each other's bodies as if they were the last humans left.

My love won't help them but it is there.

Just above, the hotels have gathered to watch the smash of waves

and the wind is another clubber stumbling down St James Street

past the first commuters. I love them all, the kind and reckless,

the deluded and histrionic, and the waitress with the shaved head

who steps over gull-ripped binbags and pushes up the coffee bar's

rattling shutter, not catching a freight train's retreating voice,

too focussed to spot that the sea through the branches

of beech trees is a hundred little seas. They hover together

like stained glass, in their own lead-lined way as beautiful

as the ocean without the frame, incomplete without the distant piece

of the observer, and the falling hours that slide away like animals.

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