Digging through old notebooks I found this ditty ‘The No Excuses Blues’

The No Excuses Blues

Woke up this morning

Turned on the news

Thought man

I’ve got those no excuses blues.

I’m walking free

My children eat

Got somewhere to live

Stand on my own two feet

No hurricane, no earthquake

No volcano, no typhoon

No river water two feet deep

Fast flowing through my front room

I got it easy

I’m coasting

I’m riding the crest of a wave

Unlikely to go hungry

From my cradle to my grave

Famine’s a word in a textbook

War’s something I see on a screen

Prison’s a place that I visit

A wage slave is something I’ve been

I don’t even have a habit

There’s no monkey on my back

I’m self employed

I’m overjoyed

There’s only me

Who can give me the sack

So I haven’t got any excuses

Though my bills rarely get paid

And I’m having trouble with the mortgage

For sometimes being afraid

To pick up the phone in the daytime

Or feeling I need some place to hide

Man

I’d be begging to go on the numbers

If the out became the inside.

‘More Road Junk’

Mist and moisture on the windscreen

Tail lights ahead

Blue boards

Taunting me with distances

To overpriced fuel and coffee.

Punctuation marks

Persuading my eyelids to remain open

And my right foot to stay on the accelerator pedal.

I must be mad

To think tomorrow won’t ever happen

Unless I change locations on a daily basis

But I have a book

Slim enough to fit inside a jacket pocket

That tells me movement is imperitive.

It lists times and places

Like they are hewn in stone

And I must obey

And I do.

The alternative I suppose

Would be regular employment

And arriving at the same place

At the same time

Every day

And that would not do at all

An old poem after finding a book given to my great Aunt as a school prize at the end of the nineteenth century. ‘Rosetta’

Rosetta 

Rosetta had the music
Way back when in eighteen eighty two
They gave her the prize
One book of lies
Telling her how Columbus discovered America.

Rosetta I suppose
You had to be my great Aunt
All lace and tight tight hair
But somehow that isn’t how I see you there
Hanging out
At number nine Friar Street
Sudbury
Suffolk
Close to where Dickens
Was digging crooked elections and real ale
Ten minutes walk away.

Rosetta I must ask my father about you
He’ll probably wreck the illusion
But I’ve got to know
If you really did do your magic stuff
On one of those tall Victorian pianos
With curtains on the front panels
And
I’d like to know if ever
You questioned the reason why
You were not going to be able to vote
Even when you reached that crucial twenty one years
Even though your Daddy fought elections
Using eyes and wits instead of ears
And did you ever think about sides when the poor rioted
In your provincial streets
Or does that stuff only come with syncopation.

Rosetta I want to know what happened to the music.
I want to know if it got swallowed up
With flowers and hand made chocolates
And wifely duties.
And why you told your father
About your own brother’s preoccupation
With race horses and how he went betting at Newmarket.

Rosetta I want to know
What my grandfather ever did to you.

One should never confuse a people their government ‘America 2005′

America 2005

I wanted to write a poem about
How the rest of the west views America,
But then I saw a flamingo flying across the bayou
On the Creole Nature Trail
And I know I was only twenty miles from Port Arthur
Which has the highest cancer rate in the developed world
But I’d never seen a flamingo flying before
And everywhere I go they treat me like a long lost son
Or a prodigal grandfather
And how can I be mad at a family
That throws its arms around me as I come through the door
And plies me with food and laughter.
But I do want to write the poem
Because I know
When I go home
I’ll be looking from another angle
And I’ll be saying stuff I could regret later
Because the language in a family argument knows no bounds
And as every mother knows
It will only end in tears.

With the film on George Harrison on BBC2 Saturday, I thought I’d put this one up. ‘In Memory’

In Memory

‘All you need is love’
an anthem to live by
and he did
and we did
and earlier
as I hitch hiked
through Derbyshire mining villages
young men in the chippy
on a Friday night out
in brown collarless suits
high white shirts
elastic sided boots
and a pocket full of shillings
for the juke box
played 45’s
from the four
while girls
wrapped in
bright red P.V.C.
shuffled on their heels
and
in Finland
on my first northern Christmas
‘Roll Over Beethoven’
Liverpool style
Cut through the ice
In cafes
Where they threatened to beat me
For looking like a gypsy

Each phase of my growth
From fifteen on
Was marked
By an L.P. from the lads
And it’s the sad
Black and white footage
On the television
That mirrors
The rain
On the pane of my memory

They told the world
Of the journeys
We were making
In our heads
Reinvented
Relationships
With honesty
And sang
And sang
And sang
And all the while
We knew it was special
And all the while
We knew it was poetry
And as if to confirm our beliefs
They gave us poets for our time

And now
My sweet Lord
In this time
When peace is at a premium
He rests in our memories
With love
And the peace he lived
For the whole earth

For Lovemore facing deportation to Zimbabwe, ‘It’s Not Fair.’

It’s Not Fair (For Lovemore)

Adults, crazy in their ways

Reply

More often than not

When children complain

“It’s not fair”

“Life is not fair, get used to it”

Like that makes everything alright

Like it’s OK

And we kid ourselves

We are preparing them for the real world,

For the inevitable,

For an unforgiving landscape

Where compassion doesn’t have a home

And it works.

At least every time I see a man

Put on an aeroplane

On a deportation order

Leaving his children fatherless

Which patently,

Obviously

“Is not fair”

Especially on the children

I get some kind of confirmation

Of the effectiveness of the conditioning,

Some kind of confirmation

Of the insulation that shields us from the horrors

We force others to face

Where it is always “not fair”

And they had better get used to it

Because that is the way the world is

Because we have been told this since childhood

So it must be true.

I ask you

Is this sane?

Half a brain would tell us borders

Are man made

Displayed as dots or lines on maps

And while I accept the unfairness

Of those things we can do little about,

Earthquakes

Some Floods

Volcanoes

I cannot believe

Anything made by us

Cannot be altered by us

And each of us can do it in small ways

Like looking at a picture of a deportee in the newspaper

And seeing another human being,

A father,

My friend

Who I have compared stomachs with on the way to the sandwich van

And never tired of the joke,

My friend who sits in a deportation prison

Because adults believe the lies they were taught as children

“The world isn’t fair, get used to it”.

Well I say

“The world isn’t fair, change it”

And maybe then

We can bring up our children

With some real respect for each other

And other children

Would be reunited with lost fathers,

That is unless you believe

The world is a better place

If we all jump on board a runaway train

Where the drivers name is ‘Resentment’

It’s amazing how people think they ‘Know Nothing’.

Know Nothing

She said she didn’t know anything
Not when it came to stories
But she knew people who did.
She told me how I ought to speak to so and so
How I’d see him walking beside the canal everyday
With his binoculars
Or the ‘Lace’ lady
Who’d been living on the water longer than she had
“I bet she’s got a tale or two”.

But she knew about the monks
And how Cromwell had knocked the top off the church tower
And how they say that John O’Gaunt camped there
And so did James the something or other
And she thought that Alrewas was mentioned in the Doomsday Book
And she had friends on a boat in Cambridgeshire
And  they were always inviting them down
But something always happened with the family to stop them
And they used to have a cabin cruiser
But sold it up to live on a narrow boat eight years ago
And how  that was her husband fishing off the stern
But she didn’t know anything
Not when it came to stories.

For all those with the winter blues. Myself, I’m trying to avoid them these days. ‘Fishing’.

Fishing

It is not that I’m unaware of why
We fisher folk spend hours
Untangling the threads of our feelings
But when the ice is on the fingers
We should not be surprised at our desire
To cast our lines without preparation.

Sometimes as the air freezes with worry
The blues creep up on you
And here the sea is wild
And there are no rivers to wash in.

Greedy for touch I crave the arms of many
But everyone I know is ill
Or in love
Or emigrating
Or they are simply an ocean away from my fingertips
And I know I could be sitting in the peaks
Without logs or red wine
With the missing butterfly inside me
And the snow two feet deep outside the door
And I know I could be waiting for the phone to ring
With more than work
But the fuel I need is for travelling
And the messages on the wire
Must pay the rent
On a house
I only wish to visit.

The fish no longer run along this shore
And tired of thieving
I look for honest work
I have had too much
Of other people’s money and emotions
Besides there is never enough of either.

 Somewhere in all this
Is the memory of lovemaking on a grand scale
And maybe all we have to understand
Is winter will always do these things
But that does not stop us
From wanting spring to come early
And summer to last a life time.

A new one that probably needs some work ‘ Holding the Fire.’

Holding the Fire

It’s not easy

untangling the stuff that keeps us in a game

we never asked to be part of

when nomads

settle from Israel to Essex

only to be driven out

into a world

they are told is no longer fit for their purpose

while their offspring

fight in universities

to shed the romantic image we still cling to

of tribesmen and wild eyed women

without ever knowing the value

of a daily struggle

that refuses to stray into the consistency of routine

but relies on rituals most of us have forgotten.

There are however reminders

tongues of flame

casting shadows backwards each autumn,

dances round fires

kindled long before Guy Fawkes,

saints days and Celtic invasions.

Back to the beginning of time itself

and on these nights

with bacchanalan abandon

we move between worlds,

the now and the then,

the before and the after

holding onto the warmth of friends

for safety

 

 

Pieced together from collected memories outside Suffolk libraries

Sundays

Sunday walks and best frocks,
Long hours in bed and breakfast cooked by the old man.
Rice peas and chicken after church,
Roast dinners, horseradish sauce, Yorkshire puddings
And more potatoes than you could eat,
Visits from aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents,
Trips to the seaside,
Having time to read the newspapers,
Coming home from Sunday school clutching our stamps,
Cold winters and toasting crumpets on the range.
Boredom and the same old programmes on the radio,
Family favourites’
The Billy Cotton Bandshow,
Rays a laugh
And Sing Something Simple.
You weren’t even allowed out to play,
But we went on bike rides with our fathers
Or walked to the harbour and sat on upturned fishing boats,
Grew up drunk pints before lunch,
Took trains to Brighton after partying all night in Brixton,
Went to art galleries, museums, concerts at The Royal Festival Hall,
Listened to the speakers at Hyde Park Corner,

We sat round the radio
As war was declared.
And when the air raid sirens sounded we went out to see if the planes were flying over or ran to the air raid shelter.
It was a boiling hot day and the bells didn’t ring for four years.

Sundays
When we gathered fruit from the orchard, played tennis
And you could smell the B.B.Q. all the way down the road.

Sundays
When fields were always golden and the sky was always blue.