The fall of the British empire

I am enough buttons
…….to do up your ribs
you carcass of deer, fallen in.
I am the zipper on the ski suit
…………………………..for the deer
dance with your forelegs in the air
you smart thing! I am the silken tie
…………of the kimono for the deer
we should have been Chinese
..button up then sweetheart:
……do a little dance for me
we should have been Irish to dance.


Do a little dance for me

Yes, I can dance, the way a bear dances –
but not a hot plate under the feet dance,
not a goaded uncomprehending dance,
not a dance to rouse peasants’ laughter,
but rather a real honey-dripping, trout-tickling,
harrumphing happy fat-bellied roar of a dance.
Spring’s arriving and I shake the sleep
from my eyes, my joints, my limbs and brain,
step naked from the cave and let the wind
and spring sunlight sigh into my hair,
give one great breathy stretch and yawn and then –
like the buttoned up shaman letting loose,
or like the loose-haired librarian after hours –
I’ll start to dance with little rhythm but great joy,
the way a bear might dance, when no one sees.


A dance to rouse peasants’ laughter

And how then do they decorate their houses?
With miniature country scenes and animals
made out of fur clippings and venison and marble.
On the mantelpiece their wives might put a model
of a hedgehog which looks much like a vagina.
And how then do they court our wives and mistresses?
With ‘well hel-lo!’s said in the fanciest way possible,
and fingers working neatly in their laps.
Sometimes at night the sallow yellow moon
hangs like an old man’s ballbag.
And how then do they set about complaining?
With faces like a helicopter flung across the sky.
They like to fling their toys across the room
when they are tired of such games.
In the museum, there is a glass case full of armour
with their great grandfathers’ names on it.
But they would not be constrained by their own titles.


Constrained by their own titles

By what they imagined, or dreamt.
By what they agreed to, without thinking.
By what they fought against, or for.
By the way everything still turned out just as expected.
By the secrets that got shared at every turn.
By what they admired in someone they loved.
By what they loved in someone they admired.
By the way they always finish by saying, I’m sorry, but…
By what they’d never imagined, never dreamt.
By what they never agreed to, even after long thought.
By what they choose for themselves, once, way back.
By the way it always finished with the words, I told you so.


Part VI: Brighton 1938

(Extracted from the series “The Phoney War”)

She thinks of England
and he is a tiger.  The receiver is hung again
carefully: a small click
that neither can hear.
Her less purposeful clicks resound
down the pavement.
He desires to lick off the lines she has drawn
in black pen
down the backs of her legs.


In the telegram office
they know. They know.
Two lipstick smiles: I‘m sorry but we have no record of that abode.
He remembers her
clicking her purse, head high;
the message gone unsent
and is humbled. She
ponders only on the holy rage
of Man.
There is a child (not his).


She says they will come in a blacked-out van
in the night. Which he thinks
is too obvious.
In the mornings she sticks his ridiculous gum
in the ashtray
and brushes her hair
while she mutters
I told you so much of myself.