poems

Cutting room floor snippets

The rain falls off the leaves
Creating puddles
For the frogs

I take out the garbage
It is dark
A man stands on my roof

Sitting in the café
I hold my shopping
And look out at the city

Glancing up at the moon
I think of the people
Who fell in the water

Reading by a tiny light
The train jerks
And I lose my page

Her lovers send her gifts
While she
Busy, puts on perfume

The man holds the door
While he dreams
Of the movies he could make

Her blonde hair
Shone like beams of light
a sun show

Mornings

I am always the second to wake in the morning
The room dark
I hear the footsteps in the hall
And half awake, I hope it’s not six a.m.
But it is always six a.m.

The house is cold.
I find the button for the gas heater in the still-dark hall and
Pressing it, instantly hot air pours forth from vents in the ceiling.
When I was a boy, there was no heat in the mornings before school
No one had time to light the fire.
So, I would linger in bed, hoping to be forgotten.

Later, when I was a little older, we had a black and white TV in the kitchen
Where I could watch a cartoon as I ate breakfast
And wish away these days of school and rising early.

At nights, bus riding and walking in wet streets of stinging cold
I would light the fire if I were first home.
There I would fall asleep beside it.
Once, a spark caught my school jacket and burned a hole in it.

There is little in that now
But my father grew up in a house without a bathroom
His father was without electricity.
What would a child know of these things now?
And yet, happy moments were found.

Harbour Street

Where I used to live
In a room in the corner of an old brick building
The streets would stretch out in all directions
Some winding down beside the river, some disappearing through horse lanes
One stopped at a rock cliff
The last one ending at the harbour.

A man lived in a building opposite, and he would dress up each day
Winter or summer, In a thick coat
And head down to the water to fish
His wife would wait for him
She would clean the house
Talk to the neighbours
Go out sometimes on her own.

They had lived in that house for fifty-eight years.
She had a stroke one winter afternoon
The man would only fish once a week, then
He had to stay home and look after her
He grew thinner
I never saw her again

One night, at midnight,
There was a funny smell like toast being burned and burned
Then the street filled with smoke
And there were sirens and fire trucks stuffed into that old street
So nothing could move; even the hoses had a hard time getting out
An electric blanket had smouldered into flame and killed them both

The Pendle Hill Battle

We met the enemy on Pendle Hill
Where I had played as a child
Among the soft grass and flowers.
The enemy dug a trench right through where I found a sparrow nest
We set up the machine gun down by Torren Stream

They had the higher ground and cut us up like mice
Kurt had a leg blown off
Tommy lost his face
A tear in my side gave me no pain
But I also copped a bullet in my eye

As I sat in the grass, I went back one last time
I could hear my father’s radio play
I could see the swing and slide
I could feel the grass under my feet as I went running down the side
Pendle Hill erupted in black as bombs fell from the sky.

ten minutes

I watched the fire die out this morning

and thought of those mornings of waking early

to clean the shoes for those who slept in the house

blowing on my fingers to warm the knuckles.

I walked out of the house into the sharp cold to watch a train

move slowly

along silver frozen tracks.

It moved like steam in the mists of snow,

slowly, slowly but unstoppable.

That night, years ago, when we went to hear him sing

and he sang so well.

I’m going back to hear him sing now,

with his tired, choked throat that can never be cleared.

Ten minutes!

she called

I turned partly, nodded and turned back.

Ten minutes, ten sixty second periods.

no time at all.

How many sixty second periods in a life?

No time at all.

 

Movie Stars

She was beautiful and innocent,

She would wear plain, shapeless dresses, but on her

They looked like summer rain on the canna lilies.

She turned 18 in 1997.

Back then,

On a rainy day, when I was even younger than her,

We went to a bookstore.

Timber trestle tables were set up, and cheap books were spread across them

All in a jumbled pile.

She picked up a book on actors of the 20th century

And took it to the old man at the cash register and bought it.

At nights, she would read the book to me

Telling me the life stories of these actors and the movies they were in.

These people were so far removed from our lives

But they seemed so glamorous.

She would tell me one day she’d go to Hollywood and see where these people live,

See their mansions.

Sometimes, she would take me to the movies

And we’d see films,

Cartoons and whatever was playing.

Over the years that old book,

With its heavy hard cover,

 would come out and we’d go over the names and photos.

Every time an actor would die, she would carefully, neatly

Write in the date of their death next to their name.

Years past

And many of those old actors died.

Beautiful women with long blonde hair,

Men with burning eyes and large chins.

I would listen to the news and when an actor died,

I would rush to her room so I would be the first to tell her the news.

It was a morbid connection.

The movie stars of the 20th century

The old world stars slowly fading and disappearing.

She never made it to Hollywood

Instead she met a man

And she married him.

Still, when a celebrity dies, I think of her

And I’ll text her

Hoping I’ll be the first to tell her the news.

work tomorrow.

The first day on the job,

I wait in the meeting room reading Anna Karenina.

The tour happens painfully,

miserable people look up from their desks and smile.

This is

(I can’t remember names)

she found her son dead in their bathroom three years ago.

This is – and her husband left her for her best friend

This is- and he has a drinking problem, and he takes a lot of holidays to Indonesia.

I look around the office and smile back at them.

 

The night feels like a hot bath

the people are ugly now. Twenty years ago many were beautiful.

Everyone is angry.

Nothing is true.

The fear is to be felt most keenly

As the years pass and begin to pass quicker still,

A fear of opening the front door one day

And stepping into a quiet hall

And thinking

‘I am alone.’

 

Standing outside my old house on that beautiful street,

too late in the evening,

being watched by every dog and old woman.

I run my hand along the fence and remember I did this 30 years ago.

The broken sidewalk has been fixed,

the streetlights are brighter,

but that is all that has changed.

I think about the legs as they cross themselves in late night cafes

I watch the waitress as she wipes down tables.

She has a blue-black eagle tattooed on her bicep.

She looks around blindly

And occasionally laughs at something the cook says to her as she passes him.

 

I have heard the words of beauty,

And I too have had to get up from my stool

And catch the bus,

It arrives at 2 am

And leaves at 2.03.

Kitchen

The small kitchen only had room for a fridge and a bench,

But it had a window that overlooked the city.

I remember visiting her for the first time, finding her

cutting vegetables next to the stove. She grinned when she saw me and

opened the fridge door,

it banged against the cupboard.

The radio was on, a song she remembered from high school played,

She sang along.

The next time I came to see her she had a guitar in the kitchen

She played it and sang a sad tune.

We watched the lights come up in the city and the old clock chime eleven.

All the other windows in the place faced onto brick walls.

She would have friends over and they would all sing

Their voices melting into one another until it got late

And they started to sound like tomcats, howling at the moon.

The place had a dark dining room with antique furniture,

The bathroom was small and damp,

her bedroom was tidy and filled with books.

But the tiny kitchen was the heart of that apartment.

The pier

 

At night the lights on the pier come on,

and this cheap part of the city becomes a carnival.

The darkness sits on the water,

waves dance with white caps.

The pier looks to be a mile long

all made of timber-

it stretches out forever.

The sea sings its careless scratchy song.

White lights hang above the balustrade

giving the appearance of the path to heaven

or some great party where everyone is late.

 

A cold wind blows from the islands,

something swims underneath,

an old man stands to one side with a fishing rod.

I stand near him and look down to the black water.

The line disappears as if it is tied to some point on the ocean floor.

He doesn’t look at me. He hides in his huge woollen jacket,

his hat is pulled down around his ears.

I have seen babies wear hats like this

so their ears are kept warm.

But his skin is brown and wrinkled like sand.

He looks as old as this pier.

 

On a birthday

Running the hot water in the shower,

Waiting until boiling,

The steam rises toward the ceiling.

Early morning, the lights flicker,

Still dark outside.

Heading to hospital

For a birth. A new day,

Yesterday a setback, a failure.

Sadness, anger.

Today is unknown.

The cold air, red faced

Scream as the air enters your lungs

An air that kills.

The world is cruel.

Mothers have done this forever.

Empty seat on the bus,

As school children eye me from the windows.

I walk along the street and recall

Being screamed at from buses after school.

Buses don’t have windows that open now.

They stared at you silently.

One day soon, my child will go to school.

May that day be gentle,

May the future be sweet.