(Click on the audio button next to a poem to hear this poem in the voice of the poet, plus other members of the Joy of Six for multi-voice poems.)
Mass-produced automata packed into
nine-abreast endless ranks of the inevitably
delayed flight all we want is sleep
all they want is to say fasten your safety
belt in the unlikely event we will be issuing
headphones fit your own before assisting a
romantic comedy starring and directed by
breakfast followed by your choice of tea or
charity scratchcards followed by an altitude
of duty free miles per hour and followed by
the ground temperature in fucking Cairo.
Washrooms going down like flies and queues
getting longer. Clear air turbulence: the captain has switched on the seatbelt sign and someone is
an unpleasant shade of green. We do apologise. Nevertheless.
I'M SORRY BUT I'M GOING TO THE TOILET.
We do hope you have enjoyed your flight.
rain all the
past Crewe, till
off with the CDs
left us silent and
tense and back in
blinded by spray,
in fear of our lives,
despairing of any
way out, something
different, but that's
what you were -
smearing out of the
deluge, drenched in
that lay-by, grasping a
sign which no one
could read, that once you
climbed in we discovered
said Blackburn, though
we never made Man-
chester, not once you
pulled out the knife,
relieved us of
watches and cards
and near fifty in cash,
hopping out with that
grin, with two raps
on the roof, saying
lighten up girls
you'll still make the
funeral, then off
up the slope with
your sidekick, the rain.
How we learned to tie a piece of string to the rafter
Snug as a drum
random musical notes ____________safe and warm
a gamelan to ignore ____________turn off into sleep
But the drip
But the drip
But the drip ____________and the splash
in here by the bed
Quick lights buckets trousers ____________attic stairs
wasps' nests in torchlight
silver drip ____________against the dark
bucket under the drip ____________exactly under the drip
Back to bed. ____________Back to bed
but the drip
but the drip
but the drip
His deep voice gets you up in the morning,
always in a hurry, no time for nonsense.
In his grubby string vest he muscles down the valley,
singing loudly, sweeping away all objections.
At night you hear his murmur, grownup through floorboards.
His temper is huge but predictable.
He always knows where he's going. When thwarted,
knows no bounds. Then you need
oilskins, gumboots, a quick boat out of town.
Sometimes he'll bring you a surprise: fish,
a little canoe, a dragonfly. He keeps
a kingfisher up his sleeve for nostalgia.
Sometimes there'll be algae for days.
He says nothing about the drowned kittens.
You cannot fathom him: if you ever find
your own reflection in him, it will be very small.
A long way back, another river joined him; her name was lost in his.
He works down at the mill, strong and dependable.
People stop to watch, impressed by his power, his easy grace
with the battling wheel. You are proud of him then.
Now, the dredgers have come.
He sits scared and stiff after the operation.
So grey and quiet in his narrow bed, you hardly dare look.
No swans for weeks.
Middle aged people today don't know they're born.
What do they think they're up to?
They should be occupying their time with:
______jigsaws, ______the litter problem, ______gravy, ______coach trips to the Norfolk Lavender Fields.
But no, they're at Glastonbury
boring the arse of young people
about Dylan or how they saw The Who
in their hey day in '68, doing degrees
with no possible practical application,
motorcycling across India to find themselves.
There's even one reading you this poem, and look
he's wearing red trainers with white stripes.
Out of nowhere
The basking shark came up
Beneath our keel,
Swam with us in from the Western Isles,
Echoes going down
Coming back up.
Sensing something nearby
I imagined you
Were deeper than the ocean
Like the centre of the earth
Located by sailing the surface.
You're one of the only sure directions.
Indulging in another kind
(He was to gloaming as we to the swell)
The enormous creature shadowed us
Miles out from the Tiree Light
Then sounded and, unlike you,