April 5 2008

Declaration of Independence

For writers under pressure all over the world. ‘Declaration of Independence’.

Declaration of Independence

Because we attack dogma

Question preconception

And conjure with suppressed images

Some would have us dead or in prison.

But we

Scribes and scribblers

Not being ashamed of our own weaknesses

Pry into the corners of the mind

Poke into the cracks of civilization

Will not mask the truth with a veil

Woven from the cloth of cliché

Do not look to presidents and ministers

Bishops and mullahs

For confirmation of our worth

Walk

Despite the hurricane

To the edge of the precipice in search of knowledge

And fail to be disappointed

When all we find is confusion.

We take our politics to the bedroom

And our bedroom to the hustings

Cannot separate the first swallow of spring

From the battles it flew over

And the corpses about which it knew nothing

Accept the tragedy

We will probably

Never live up to the vision we create

For others to do with as they will.

We

Like all children

Have no interest in the aspirations of our mentors

But stand in defence of our right

To rediscover the world

In our own language.

Human Without Tag

Who Do They Think They’re Fooling

Suffolk Eastside

Another Suffolk piece,’Suffolk Eastside’.

 Suffolk Eastside

 

 

I’ve walked this coast from Bawdsey to Lowestoft

Past bird sanctuaries

Power stations

Bleached tree trunks

Sand cliffs

Forest

Salt marshes

And shingle shores that drowned the feet,

 

Watched friends cradle fishing boats into the river at Orford

Who,

Being unable to earn a living with their nets changed islands

Teaching boat building in the hot sun of Jamaica

Before coming home to convert old vessels back to sail.

I’d never seen anything like it

Out in the mud at Melton

They drilled holes without so much as a tape measure

Hitting the beam on the deck above every time.

 

What eyes.

She told me they met on a canal trip with her parents.

They thought they’d hired him for his skill on the water

Not to run away with their daughter.

Those were the days

I took my lunch at will

Driving up and down the coast in a brown Commer van

Handbrake on the steering column

Dropping off conduit to contractors and farms.

 

Between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness

I sunk into the stones

And had to get a tractor from the holiday park to pull me out.

Now Maggy’s shells fish for an imaginary world

Inhabited by artists, sailors and good old boys and girls

Still singing  in secret pubs we only stumble on by accident

 

I have driven along this coast with its hostile sea

and ridden the waters

On ferries that took us to the mainland

To tour in Transits and bicycles,

Bringing back artists from Eastern Europe

Who came to spread their wings in a land where drinking stops by the bell

And music has to licensed.

 

I have memories of this coast too painful to tell

Of friends claimed by the sea

And me

A landlubber held tight in that place

Where thistles

Push their way up above the tide-line.

Fair Share

Digging through the notebooks again ‘Fair Share’

Fair Share

You, me all of us

Being the sum of all of our pasts,

Peasant and nomad

Soldier and merchant

Mother and seamstress

Queen and chieftain

Are responsible for nothing

Except our own knowledge

And what we do with it.

We have all bought and sold each other

In the United Nations in 1950

In the Dahomey Empire in 1750

In the mines of Nottinghamshire in 1984

In Iraq, Cairo, Beijing, Timbuktu, New Orleans,

Mexico City, London, Paris, Lisbon and Liverpool.

Isn’t it time we simply closed the market place

And simply shared the spoils of our histories?

Parents know the way

And I defy any to say

They have not

In times of exasperation shouted

“I don’t care how it started

And who had what first

All of you must divide equally

What you have got

NOW.”

 

But we are orphans and must learn this ourselves

And it seems only fair

To leave those with least

In charge of the measure.

My only wish

Is when we

With our bellies full and our automobiles

Point out “all is not always as it appears”

We should sometimes be listened to

Peace in Our Time

another old one ‘peace in our time’

Peace in Our Time

 

After a while it’s easy to understand 

Why soldiers need their wars

Why it needs fighters

And peacemakers

And after that the peaceful

Who can work without battles

Who can walk beyond the obstacles

Who can walk the streets without looking for a sniper on every rooftop.

Three hundred and sixty degrees of suspicion

Leaves a narrowness of vision

And when life is taken in short strides

Punctuated by dashes across the open spaces

All you see is another place to hide

Survival is called victory

You live to fight another day and visa versa

And in the end when the fighting is over

You are left boxing shadows

While others toast the phoenix.

 

Growing up, I lived in a new town

And watched it grow with me

I listened to developers in the front room

And thought the world had only just begun

Heads of state came the east and sat drinking tea in an ordinary house

Later they were assassinated.

Outside the town I listened to others

And while they talked of battles and comrades

I knew they had never left the field and I was listening to ghosts.

 

Later when I returned

I found the town had passed from the men of dreams

To the shadow boxers

And as I walked the shell of a creature dying in infancy

I wanted to shake myself free of the bedclothes

And wake up in the world I’d been promised.

 

It’s easy to understand the soldiers

And the barren landscape they inhabit

But what I want to know is

When they have finished

Why don’t we simply take away their guns and lock them in cinemas

Watching old documentaries

While the rest of us

Get on with building

What ever it was they were fighting for in the first place.

 

Elemental

‘Elemental’ A sort of Suffolk piece

Elemental

 

I need a poet she said

Like you can just pluck stars from the sky

And mix monsoons with cherry blossom.

Drowning in rainwater and petals

I grasp a beam of light and swing towards the

moon.

 

Elemental

Accidental

Clashes of the imagination

With big skies and sunrise

No surprise

In this place

Where tidal water meets fresh water feeling

At the edge of the hedge.

Eastside

Westside

It’s a divide

Defined by concrete rings and things manufactured.

What we need is John Clare’s stare

Without the instability of incarceration,

The ability to wing it through the changes.

Wind and rain rearranges the border

Disorder at high tide.

The county is getting smaller by the year.

Here there is an illusion of permanence.

Grounded by the plough

Take off is harder than ever

Now airfields no longer mix propellers and plovers

Lovers

And a lay for today keeps the homesickness at bay some say

But the sky defies definition

The sea’s on a mission

And the ground doesn’t even ask permission before it splits

This is it

Elemental and blue

As blue as

As green as

As yellow as

Purple haze on the highway

Desert burns on the skin

Bats in the belfry

The turmoil within.

 

 

 

As a youth I watched the ships dock and sail morning and night

Got seduced by the light’s reflections on the far side of the river

While my side snaked through the country to Wormingford and beyond

 

Disturbed only by boy entrants and fishermen.

I searched the shingle for clues

Sat on a wall where the road ended

And tidal waters flowed to the sea

And talked for hours to girls I wanted to explore the world with.

Traveling north

I lay on a mountainside and bathed in the midnight sun

Traveling south

I freewheeled down the Mini-Atlas

In an Austin A35

And wondered at the eagles circling below us

Traveling to edge of sanity as I knew it

I was taunted by the red hot earth’s centre as I walked on fresh set lava flows.

Now I travel with a new generation

And look up at fault lines

Dividing the Hill Country from the flatlands in Texas caverns.

 

Earth and water

 

Air and fire

 

So many carbon combinations

 

Colour me liquid and paint me into the cracks of the planet.

 

Colour me solid and fashion me into a stepping stone to tomorrow

 

Colour me gas and burn me in a lamp of my own making

 

I’m there for the taking

And always have been.

The peninsular knew that way back

When it kept me a river’s width from my dreams.

Eating Children For Breakfast

Eating Children For Breakfast.

 

My father clad in number eights

Dug his own drain from the Nissen Hut

Five miles inside a land fit for heroes.

Still in my perambulator

Offspring of the occupation

I like most creatures was a bonny babe

And deserving of more than ration books allowed.

An extra egg

A rasher of bacon

And these from the farm down the the track

Residence of Irelands most wanted terrorist

And the papers tell me

They eat children for breakfast.

 

Now I am nearly six feet tall,

Ugly, middle aged and running to fat.

I would have been shorter and leaner

If not for the IRA, the welfare state

And my mother’s obsession with fresh food.

 

And I read about the villains in the papers

And I hear the voices of actors

Speaking the words of monsters on the television and radio

And every image tells me

They are still eating children for breakfast

While reasonable men in clerical grey suits and public school accents

Try to persuade black haired people

To accept a multi-national police force

Thousands of miles away.

 

Where are the powder blue berets in Belfast and Derry?

Where is the safe haven for the people who fed me in my cradle?

Why can’t I hear their voices?

Why can’t I hear their voices?

Why can’t I hear their voices?

Ireland

Kurdistan

Sudan

All is in translation.

The scream has been amputated from the source.

It’s like we cannot be trusted with reality.

Like this fragile truth can only be handled by bankers and politicians,

Men who live in the harsh world of international luxury

Like the facts must be left to cool before they are defused

While my father dressed for the country digs his vegetables

And waits for a minor operation

In a land where the heroes are made in Hollywood

And the welfare state is disappearing

As fast as the rule of law he clings to

While others eat children

For breakfast, dinner, tea and supper.

 

Written in the late nineteen eighties.

Now in the second decade of the 21 st Century it’s the same

situation, different location.

Easy

This poem presented itself to me. One of those true story things. ‘Easy’

Easy

 

“If you think this is easy,

Put on a blindfold,

Get a cane,

And you try it.”

This is one of those reality mornings,

Blood on the pavement at five a.m.

With the drunk and homeless

Shuffling through the dawn streets

While I take long strides

Towards the first train south.

 

My seat is reserved

And by the ninety eighth

Page of my paperback

I am in the city and riding the underground.

 

The discomfort of inaction

Blunders into the carriage at Moorgate

As a voice assures the lost bulk

All he has to do is step off the train

And he will be met at Edgeware Road.

 

His cane is on my blindside

And he is halfway down the carriage and staggering

Before I am even partially in the picture.

 

Surrounded by the sighted seated

He reaches for a pole.

 

The error of his aim is minimal.

 

His fingers close on thin air.

 

The style sisters laugh

While most of us stare into that space

Where nothing is seen.

 

The inaction is unbearable

As I feel myself standing.

 

Simultaneously a young black hand

Takes the blind man’s elbow

And guides him to a seat.

 

I wanted to thank him

On behalf of the whole carriages embarrassment.

 

The blind man talks football

With anyone who will listen

Until one stop from Edgeware Road

The train all but empties.

 

There is panic as he asks if anyone is still there.

 

I am already next to him

Absolving my sins

Talking writing and destinations.

 

At Edgeware Road there is no-one to meet him

And I pass him on to the next stranger.

 

There is a complication on the line

Involving closures and buses

And I see him put back on the train for one more stop.

 

I swap carriages

Picking up the conversation

On the assumption my voice is as recognisable as my face.

I am wrong.

 

We discuss the approaches of faceless multitudes

And his journey.

He has come from Woolwich

And is visiting the fire station at Ladbrooke Grove.

He does this every Saturday

And is wearing a fire brigade jacket.

 

At Paddington I ask a railway employee

In a day-glo jacket and peaked cap

To escort him to the bus.

 

Between reading the menu at the coffee stall

And peering at the departures board

I remember his words.

 

“If you think this is easy,

Put on a blindfold,

Get a cane

And you try it.”