Sunrise or shortly after –
Sky is painted purple pink
Tintoretto operatic pretty.
What a sight it makes
over Edwardian roofs and repointed chimneys!
What a sight…
Empty, obvious, a stage set.
Week later, after sunset –
Bare trees, mud, 90s buildings,
Rain. A greyblack evening
Streaked at its edges by white headlights.
Manmade stream overfull
Overspills its banks.
Beyond, allotments stretch
low, patient, untidy,
Life in them waiting
for faded men and women,
for more water, for Spring.
The artist prefers the latter,
Slattern. He sits barefoot
in ripped jeans and holey jumper, with
full beard, writing in a kitchen
that smells of yesterday’s onions.
So what makes him so superior?
He’s waiting outside
for the dog’s output to arrive.
He’s bleary eyed
it’s three or half-five
in the AM.
The sky is a diseased yellow-grey
pragmatic and starless.
A giant pine leans over the yard intrusively.
It scatters dead brown pine needles
which block the shed’s plastic guttering.
Wind gets high –
God’s breath animates tree
Ever-so, ever-so prettily
Unprosing our scene completely
Unprosing our scene completely.
He can’t – won’t – write
not because he’s empty
but because he’s too full.
He’s afraid a drop
will become a cascade,
afraid of the liquid’s hue,
of its make up.
What will it leave stained?
Worse, what will it wash clean?
What bones will it leave
gleaming white and ugly,
Obvious to all eyes?
He’s trying to make big plans –
project a narrative that starts with him
and ends with him.
But the sky keeps changing,
the clouds are too near,
even the air changes from one moment to the next: hot-dry, wet-cold, damp-warm.
Attempts at compromise get him nowhere,
the spiked gorse blocks his path.
The sun is low and bright –
a peculiarity of the light makes
the underside of oak leafs
in the next field long-lense crisp.
Conclusions elude him,
his thoughts are too linear, too starched.
All is green but not lush –
green, muted green, grey green,
yellow green, black green, white green,
green rusted to red brown.
Even the white-pricked pink purple
thistle flowers belong to the green,
exist only in relation to it.
Near a roll of discarded barbed wire fence,
rusted and confused with grass and thistle
are some branches, cut to a length.
Each is bearded with white green moss,
jolie laide, these are as close as he gets to an answer.
He’s angry, angry in an obvious, unreachable way –
shirtless, sunglasses, headphones,
with a blue plastic bag full of beer (double bagged)
and a beer in his hand.
He spits, spits with a force of a punch,
it slaps the floor wetly – he’s made his position clear.
Across the road in the off-license,
fifteen feet from the spit,
a man is buying four Stella.
His face is red, red from sunburn and drink.
He’s thirty-five and angry.
‘Not much of a deal, is it, four for five-fifty?’
The man behind the counter starts to explain
it would be six-seventy otherwise –
it doesn’t placate him, it doesn’t touch him.
Inside a plumber’s flat, stuck to the walls with Blu Tack,
are two dozen red and white flags, plastic and small.
He was once handsome but is now four to six stone overweight.
His wife too is fat.
Their washing, mostly his underwear, dries on a rack
out the front, in the car park.
Later they’ll watch the game with their two daughters,
Maybe her brother will come round, with his girls.
Yes, the days of our lives are like candles,
At once golden and warm then sallow and extinguished,
But not all candles stay snuffed,
Some reignite like dormant volcanoes
That unapologetically have become active,
Erupting in legacy –
Your achievements and mistakes,
Your days of pleasure or pain will fade.
As your mind dims, becoming dull with cataracts.
But the bright flame, though lost to you
Will be rediscovered by someone else
In words – translated words –
Which recall a furtive meeting or a closed room…
Cheap wedding dresses,
Sharp white with plastic jewelled bodices,
Look like children’s dressing up clothes.
They gleam under the shop’s harsh lights,
Their newness unmistakable.
The brides excited by these dresses
Must be young.
Small groups of teenagers wait in
The doorways of rundown apartment blocks,
The buildings blotchy with soot.
There are forty or so groups on either side of the boulevard,
Their spacing even and deliberate.
All are wearing hooded winter coats,
They peck at passers-by.
Sinister at a distance,
It is their youth which disturbs most when close-
Some are as young as twelve.
It is the school holidays-
Next week many will be back in class.