Hope

(to T. E. Lawrence)

Streaky’s been where you don’t go
Streaky’s seen what you don’t see
Streaky knows what you don’t know
But Streaky isn’t telling – he

walks amongst you
talks amongst you
sits amongst you
sips his tea

But then he says ‘No, not for me,’
And his voice is soft and slow
As he repeats ‘No, really, no,’ –
And Streaky’s back where you will never be.

Redundant

I don’t produce milk
or wool
or eggs
I don’t have claws
or fangs
or fur
or feathers
I can’t hunt
I can’t flee
I’m just me, bare flesh
meat
on the hoof, or trotter
or whatever they call my feet
I mean
I’m fat, well fed, a bare skin
full of fat and blood
ready to be bled but
redundant, it’s as if
the whole world had gone vegetarian
unwanted
unsaleable
no use, I mean
no balls, I’ve tried the bacon factory
and the charcuterie
and the sausage makers
and the undertakers
but there were no openings
they won’t ring me
I know
and I’m still on the hoof
on the loose or whatever
and I can’t make it alone in this jungle
they should have some reverence for life
even the tiger
is almost extinct, perhaps I’ll wander
down to South America
redundant
as a penguin on the Amazon
out of place but
I
am
out of
place
and maybe I’ll appeal to
an anaconda.

(from) Better Than Sleep: A Yard Behind A Bar, Casablanca, Afternoon

Sometimes I sit here ithyphallic,
god of the beasts.
The flies attend
and tortoises when in the mood
bite.
A geranium they threw out blooms.
We commune.

If flies were bigger, didn’t wait –
like tortoises, say –
I’d be “food! I am food!”
white and gymnosophic.
Lord of the flies, a turbot head
begins to breed.

I smile. The geranium
nods.

Escapee

I’ve an aunt who will stretch out and purr
Or miaow
And another you’d swear had been bred for her udder –
A cow –
A mother a mare who carried me long
A father a cuckoo who laughed and flew on
My cousin’s an owl, my uncles are sheep
Shorn
My sister a jaguar sleeping
At dawn
When the rats nip the moth-eaten
Broken and beaten
The good back to life – and don’t see
Escapee
From a factory farm at a loss in a wood
Me

Living on Land

(i)

When I was and
a little tiny boy
only what I heard in
songs made sense

only what I read in
books made sense
whatever they might do
whatever they might say

fairies flew around me
pixies came to play
woods went on for ever
the tide stayed out all day

The world I knew
was not this world
though this world lay
in wait for me

I was at home in
another land
where pigs could talk
and understand

and never be pork,
and no one lied
(apart from Morgan
le Fay of course

but she was pretty and
she was clever)
and things went on
for ever and ever

and no one ever
went away.
No one ever
died.

(ii)

Then my dog died
and my guinea pig died
and my rabbits died
and my Dad went away.

Then I was sent away.

Near the school
there was no sea.
In the school
no privacy.

Everything was noisy
and smelly and violent
and you got no peace
not even in the loo

I longed for
the silence of the sea.
Even there though,
even there

time flowed,
I grew,
till slowly but surely
time ran out,

and they sent me
away too.

(iii)

The strange thing is
you can’t go back
once you’re out
you’re out for good

you do your job
you get the sack
and what the heck
you knew you would

you always have
you always do
and the world goes on
but not for you …

The waves roll in
break on the beach
and roll back out,
but not for you.

Time doesn’t pass.
It is we who pass,
pass on, pass by
along the dry

and dusty road
the sound of the sea
a memory,
the cry of the gulls

and the wind-blown spray,
along that dry
and dusty road
until we die.

The Lily Pond

There were goldfish in the pond where I grew up,
shubunkins and huge golden carp, newts
of course, and tadpoles, and in spring great skeins
of frogspawn. Concealed among the water lilies,
I would watch as dry, clothed people
strolled past or sat upon the wooden bench
and chatted or kissed or simply rested awhile
and gazed at the pond, the water lilies, me,
without seeing.

But time goes by and life,
and the world we knew goes with it:
one day, the officers of the law –
a social worker, a teacher,
a policeman – came and fished me out
and sent me away to school.

Now I sit on that bench and gaze and dream
and see great golden carp glide into
the sunlight then with a silent flick of a fin
slip back under the lily leaves and out of sight.
Watch a frog swim up to breathe, climb out,
look round. Put out my hand. It hops away.

Tadpoles have gills, frogs don’t.
Which is unfair. Children too,
though most don’t care, don’t
understand that for them there’s still
an option to living on land.

A fly on my arm crawls and tickles. Another
joins it. I move, they buzz, zip, return.
I lower my hand into the water, close
my eyes and dream I never went to school,
never learnt to be a person, clothed and dry.

Fancy Dress Party

Fancy-dress party    I went in blinkers
Not sure what they were like    Put on from behind
I suppose    I could only see the ceiling
And if I crouched on the floor    the bottom
of people’s chins    up their nostrils
Unless they glanced down at me    They sometimes did
and smiled    Some laughed    Then something strange
something was happening    down below
I was being drained    Where’s Aisha? I called
Where’s Aisha?    What’s she doing?
(Aisha’s a witch)    Tim looked down
into my eyes    He’s very tall    Selling
drugs I expect he murmured    and laughed
You better keep your hands up    that’s it
then you won’t get hurt    Right up
Is it Aisha?    Is it?    Don’t know
Don’t think so    it’s someone in white with a hood
(Do witches wear white?    They might here)
Something draining me    something in
my mouth now    mud    bits and lumps
Aisha I gasp    I got something in my mouth
something horrible    Just swallow it
you can’t spit here    especially now I
hear her giggle    And keep your hands up
as you were told    it doesn’t hurt    Aisha
Aisha! I gurgle    there’sh more i’ my mou’ now
Aisha!!    There’shtring coming up
All right you baby come with me    Her hand
on the small of my back    I choke
and it all comes pouring out

Out Late One Night in Allahabad

Out late one night in Allahabad,
where the Ganga and the Yamuna become one
with the Saraswati, the invisible, the heavenly,

and souls are cleansed, and soul and river
flow on into the east together:
out late one night in search of cigarettes –

Mister, have you got the time?
She separates herself from a group of youths,
comes to me, pointing at my watch.

Uh? I smile. Kya?
The time – taking hold of my wrist,
What’s the time? – holding and peering –

holding too tight. I laugh.
The youths approach.
I try to shake her off. Shake harder.

What are you doing to that girl?
Nothing.
Show us your papers.

No! Your passport!
No! Why? I just –
Take his jacket. Look in his pockets.

There are too many of them. (One would be too many.)
I let them take it, take my papers,
everything –  my shirt, my shoes –

His trousers too – they debate
whether to leave me my glasses –
I plead – my underpants –

even they are worth money,
but the glasses, frames like that,
cost more than such kids see in a month.

Keep the dhotiyou no fakir
then suddenly bored
they drive me off with kicks and taunts

and a hail of stones to get me running –
running, running out of the city –
no fakir, no gymnosoph, nothing,

not even a proper dhoti, just
a naked English pansy,
crying and clutching his bottom,

a kothi, O Lord of the Night.