I learnt my trade, I learnt it good.
I worked as hard as I ever could.
I snared more kiddies than the rest.
My ice cream and lollies were the best.
But there’s a recession in my industry
and now there’s no more work for me.
Although my references are stellar,
no one wants their kids locked in the cellar.
Creepiness and cruelty are non-transferable skills.
I’ve had to sell my cart and nets just to pay the bills.
With experience in catching, I applied to join the cops,
but criminals are cunning and not lured with lollipops.
I thought I’d work at school or in a nursery
but I couldn’t get a clean report from the CRB.
I worked a day in Tesco, but they didn’t like my smile
or the way I lingered in the sweets and chocolate aisle.
I’m fit for work, unfit to employ
a thousand applications and still no joy
and yet I fear the worst is still to come for me;
I’m being investigated under Operation Yew Tree.
We used to be free, lightly treading over treetops,
Making sport on flying brooms,
Turning somersaults over the moon.
Then Newton taught us
About the force that binds us,
Laid down laws dictating that we cannot and will not leave the ground.
We still do of course, when he’s not around,
Dropping to our places when he enters the room.
The braver pupils hover an inch above their chairs,
Dare each other to float to the ceiling
When he turns his back to write on the board.
Winter comes to the church too soon,
skulks and shivers in shrouds of grey.
Flowers wilt in the shadowy gloom.
Winter comes to the church too soon.
Outside summer’s still in bloom.
‘Come out!’ birds sing, ‘and seize the day.’
Winter comes to the church too soon,
skulks and shivers in shrouds of grey.
The open side gate invites you to trespass
down the paths that diverge and peter out
in a forest where the grass has grown to tree height,
engulfing a palace with its windows blackened,
its flag a threadbare standard.
The scattered body parts of butchered statues
and models of extraterrestrial subjects cast in cold, hard earth
are the work of the giant trying to bury himself in the car park.
After closing time his head emerges fully from the sand.
He shakes his shoulders, heaves himself upright
and strides across the unkempt lawn
sending deer bolting like hares into the thicket.
He plucks boulders from the ground like artichokes
and with tools of fossilised bone works his craft.
There is always something new the next morning;
a ladder laden with boots, a woman’s name in Hollywood size lettering,
a petrified figure clawing at the graveyard grey wall
that separates this from all that is real.
I’d almost forgotten my shell,
How I did so long without it who can tell?
I find it where I left it at the foot of a cliff.
It’s full of sand and smells of dead fish.
I drag it to a pool and wash it clean.
It soon regains its sheen.
It seems smaller. I’m not so thin.
But I squeeze my way back in.
It feels familiar, warm and safe inside.
I crawl across the shore and wait for the coming tide.
In the late afternoon,
I strode up to the porch
sheltering a heavy oak door
fortified with brass,
bearing a heavy mortice lock
with key hole wide enough to admit
a slender mouse or the gaze of a snooping eye.
It stood ajar; a grudging invitation,
so I pushed through into the cool interior
where shadows rested in vacated pews.
I breathed the stone-chilled air,
admired the altar’s lavish robes
and lingered in the shower of light
bursting through the main window,
spilling colour onto timeworn flagstones.
Breaching the simple tranquility of the Lady Chapel
I could not help but pray.
No clock or candle stood
to mark the time I stayed in contemplation;
listening to the silence
infiltrated by calling birds
and the creak of heavy oak,
the distant hum of the village
and the clunk of a bolt dropping,
footsteps vanishing down the path;
a prelude to my own,
retreating back down the deserted aisle
bathed in the monochrome light of the moon.
I do not hear its single foot
slip beneath my bed,
turn dust into silver
and make a soggy doily
of last month’s gas bill.
But the morning sheds light
on its nocturnal wanderings
charted in dry mucus,
its glittering autograph
scrawled across yesterday’s paper.
I set mouse traps with lettuce leaves,
surround my bed with half-empty beer glasses,
scatter pellets like deadly confetti.
I sleep well for a week
then find a survivor;
inch long and mossy green,
relaxing by the radiator.
It’s then I notice the leafy odour,
and the rug; tacky underfoot.
I dare not look beneath the bed
but lie awake, ear to the mattress
At dawn I start to drift
and sense the bed being lifted
on a thousand slithering backs,
doors sliding open, and the morning air;
cold and sharp against my cheek.
He plays all day
in a yard the size of a twister mat
dribbling the ball on the same spot,
rolling it up his arms, down his spine,
letting it fly free then hooking it back
while his shadow tries to tackle.
His hands fly back and forth,
The ball pounds the same spot
like a drum roll,
a pneumatic drill
an aeroplane propeller whirring
The ball becomes weightless, maleable,
a mirage, an illusion;
moving under the power of a sorcerer,
defying gravity, obeying its master.
Only when the streets fall silent,
the neighbours yell,
and it grows too dark to see the small cracks
forming in the concrete
does he leave that yard the size of a twister mat,
with no room for a hoop.
Having never done a stroke of work
or had a day of sickness in his life,
he could not fathom the growing pain in his chest,
his ribs tightening around his heart
until the agony drove him to bed and a restless slumber.
Waking later in the grip of a seizure
he put his hand to his heart
and five ribs clothed in fresh skin
took a hold and clasped tight
with crude joints until he passed out.
Running through dark terrain,
tripping over sharp rocks,
his mind tore through nightmares
until a dim light began to grow
and the ground became soft and warm to the touch.
Half sleeping he ran his hand over the limb draped over his chest
caressed the supple skin over smooth curves
until a sigh aroused him.
Turning to the figure at his side
he met her gaze, and when she kissed him
her lips tasted of sunlight.
Against odds of more than 99 trillion to one
a man fell against a wall whilst drunk
and passed straight through.
He awoke hours later unable to remember how he got there.
These things happen.
Fish rise from the sea bed to quote chapter and verse,
Corpses re-awake briefly in the morgue when no one's looking,
The car keys you thought you lost turned into a clump of moss
you never noticed wasn't there before.
These things happen.
So why marvel when a prophet's face appears in a fish finger
or long lost relatives are seated together on a plane?
In Russia scientists have dummies propped against walls,
and furniture sealed in rooms under surveillance,
waiting for it to move, change shape or combust,
waiting for that moment of improbability.
And when it comes they will know no more
than that man who went home to nurse his head
and never found his phone,
which fell from his pocket on the other side.
The Sound of One Leg Walking
I am woken every morning
by the purposeful stride of a well-made shoe
swiftly passing my window.
Each step sounds a click,
sharp and steady as a metronome.
The alternate step is as pronounced and punctual in its absence,
a silent echo to its heavy soled counterpart.
One time I woke early and wheeled myself to the window but dozed off,
waking just in time to see a leather clad heel vanish round the corner.
A flat hen peeled herself off the tarmac,
staggered across the road
and called at the nearest house to borrow a bicycle pump.
The valve wouldn't fit her misshapen beak
but the kindly neighbour jammed it down her throat
and pumped her back to her original shape.
‘Thank you’ she clucked,
before taking off home as fast as she could,
slowly deflating all the way.
You could spend a day on each part;
Expertly carve each timber leg,
mould its mighty tusks
and with light brush strokes add its tail
hanging absurdly from its beached whale bulk of a body.
Then clothe it in a fine skin etched with the wrinkles
of countless imagined years.
And when you paint its deep set eyes
it will look back helpless
with its flat body sadly shrunken
unable to call to the rest of the herd.
So slam your brush in the centre of the canvas
and spread paint regardless of shape or colour
until the easel hangs heavy with its
Step back, and as the paint dries into a thick hide
a face emerges with a wink
then it raises its trunk,
a clumsy stroke you made half by accident,
and waves before galloping across the savannah.
And in the morning it will return
with bananas for breakfast.
Simon was puzzled to see a pair of brown leather shoes in the cheese section of the supermarket. Then he remembered that his own shoes had been getting a bit worn lately and he took a closer look, just to see if they were his size. They were, but he could hardly start trying on shoes in the middle of the supermarket.
Just then an assistant who was passing offered him a stool. He sat down, put on the shoes and walked to the end of the aisle. He’d just decided they were too loose when he spotted a rectangular packet amongst a display of pasta sauces by a well-known chef. It was a pair of insoles. ‘Go ahead,’ urged the assistant. ‘They’re a bit loose, aren’t they?’ With the insoles in, the shoes were a perfect fit and Simon placed them in his basket.
In a surveillance booth far away a man with shades, jet black moustache and a quantity of gold jewelry round his fingers and neck watched on a screen. He turned to another monitor and watched a woman coming into the store. He zoomed in on a ladder in her tights and spoke into a microphone.
On the shop floor an assistant pushing a trolley along the aisle of fruit and veg tossed a thin packet amongst the tomatoes. A moment later she put her finger to her ear to hear the man say, ‘Better put a smaller pair near the yoghurts to be on the safe side.’
I had a leaky spoon.
I called the plumber. 'Plumber! Help me! I have a leaky spoon!'
He came and drained it with a hose pipe. 'I can't fix it now,' he said, 'I'll have to get some new parts and do it next week.'
I looked at the spoon still dripping on the tablecloth. He put a saucer underneath, 'hold it there until the dripping stops' he said.
He saw himself out and I waited. Five hours later the dripping stopped and I finished eating my cold turnip soup with a fork.