Once upon a time my cock
Was happy as a cuckoo clock,
But cogs of time that once renewed it
Caught my wedding gear and chewed it.
Now my dick’s
Forever stopped at half past six.
Once a resolute erection
Gave my aimless days direction.
Now the prick that pointed at
Tomorrow night’s conjectured twat
Leads the way
Down toward the fatal clay.
Once it brimmed with optimism,
Spouting gouts of joy and jism,
Now this fountain’s downward pointing –
Just a hose
Ensuring urine clears my toes.
Once I chanted thrilling bits
From handbooks for Ikea kits,
Extracts from the Highway Code,
The shops along the Old Kent Road,
The causes of the Civil War,
Requirements for a leg-before,
The workings of the off-side rule,
And half-forgotten junk from school
To stop me coming.
Now women’s bits are only plumbing.
How I shouted, ‘Praise the Lord!’
How I came a spinal cord,
Bumping down from Heaven’s gate,
Pumping out my body weight,
To hit the floor –
And here I’ll crawl for ever more.
Ignore St Paul’s, forget Big Ben,
The Vatican’s a rabbit pen,
The Kremlin and the Hermitage
Compared to this a hamster cage.
No sultan’s palace
Matters like a happy phallus.
Yet crabwise, crouching, clutching books
To hide our pride from nasty looks,
We hunch and bunch and keep well hidden
What public transport raised unbidden.
Let’s meet the people duly proud.
Oh see each glad commuter stands
Announcing loudly, ‘Look, no hands,’
While eager maidens crowding by
To keep his tackle hard and high
(A feather duster
Ensuring that he passes muster)
England’s future’s thus secured.
my wristwatch lost its mind
Where my compass needle spins
Where the squatting milestone’s blind
Where the camel’s carcass grins,
I turn each rock
Hunting for my vanished cock.
Where, across some stony slope
Roads erode and tracks unravel,
Lost and lonely pushing rope,
water, knitting gravel,
I strain to sniff one
of my absconded stiff one.
O missing prick I’m praying that
Strong, insistent, firm, unflagging,
Happy in a bath of twat,
Splashing in a swamp of shagging,
Time can’t soften
Your aptitude for hard and often,
Your sempiternal urge to screw,
Years impede your
Pork projectile, pink torpedo.
And may no backward-looking
Sympathy for what I’m stuck in
Obstruct your fucking.
Only another lovely woman
Of which this town has a thousand dozen.
Only a million London beauties,
Languid at their window-shopping,
That for me are
Only lovely as a car.
A rumble as of thunderstorms
And London’s cunts were shut as stones.
‘Oh for someone young to do me,’
Women cry. And look straight through me.
‘Oh for someone strong and nasty,’
Women cry. And walk straight past me.
‘Oh for something harder, bigger,’
Women sigh. And I don’t figure.
But I’ll endure these brief years.
I’ll pull my hat down over my ears.
LETTER TO DEVON
Written on a Christmas card
Here’s hoping, Clive, they’ve stopped your dope and dole,
And beer’s what there’s an awful lack of, Annie.
If not, I’m sending from this northern hole
To the land of clotted cream and black Afghani,
Of jam and acid tabs and skinny dips,
GREETINGS AT CHRISTMASTIME begrudged through twisted lips.
‘Sid,’ you say, ‘so tell us, how’s the weather?
Raw we suppose, all icicles and sleet,
And the snow, down here a swan’s shed feather,
Is ready-blackened when it meets the street.
Cold cracks the cobbles and the sunrise stalls,
And dogs with lifted legs are stuck to workhouse walls.’
True. And clearer means colder. Rivers freeze,
Running in a tunnel under dull glass
Round bicycle bones. We’ve teeth on the eaves
And spiky like a bed of nails the grass.
A low sun in a corner of the day,
As weak as watercolour yellow, turns away.
Today I nipped outside to grab a nice
Shovelful of coke and nutty slack.
Instead, with contact lenses formed of ice
And stalactites of snot, I staggered back
To hug the empty hearth and curse in vain
(Through windows double-glazed with panes of frozen rain)
The tribes of fearsome folk who crowd the town,
Who toil upstream against the level gales,
Coughing creatures with a barbed wire frown
And faces like places where April fails,
Who spring and summer through will still complain
For the lead necklace of December days again.
Tonight I risked my life and had a jar.
The landlord’s wife was cheering on a fight.
Her husband hadn’t time to tend the bar
With helping someone set a cat alight.
It was a girl trying to get it lit:
One of the posher sort, the type that doesn’t spit.
I blushed: she laughed. I shook: she bit my ear.
With football forwards’ thighs she pressed my knee
Till I ejaculated thus: My dear,
Your weight is wealth, it’s like gold, like rich fee,
And heavy as treasure your precious head.
‘Are you trying to say I’m fucking fat?’ she said.
I said, Oh tell me how to serve you best,
What track to take till Time’s tread shall tire;
What foe to fight, what golden fleece to fetch;
Tell me, tell me, I’d win you your desire
Though bought with crimson coins my dead head bled.
‘All right. I’ll have a pint of bitter then,’ she said.
I said, Oh party of my life and soul
Remove the ticking apple of my heart
And bite. We are one of a kind, a whole,
A part of a heart that is never apart.
‘The only thing we have in common,
Is you’re a man and I’m a woman.’
So I left, wheezing through the freezing night
Where winds will whittle you to the white bone;
Where the streams and the smiles are locked up tight
And cold enchants whole bus queues into stone.
A skull-like moon leaned over with a grin
On suffering Sid, alone at the cold world’s rim.
But stop: through all this summer only hides,
Waiting where May-blooms clutch their roots and hold
And keep the secret – Life – that still abides
Though mean mid-winter grips, vice-cold.
I too will clutch my root and hold and stay
And be daft with the daffodils, dreaming of May.
It’s a dream of how Eden begins:
Bursting the doors of dawn on the first day,
His whiskers filled with lightning-bolts and grins
On green scene, flower bower, hoe-high hay,
The lord of Devonshire mornings has come
Where I lie, smiling at last, asleep in the sun.
ON A BIRTHDAY
Now like a classic Chinese sage
I’ll turn to verses to console old age,
Scorning the raw disordered city
For the true poet’s envy, spite, self-pity.
And this is fitting for a sad old fart
Since art itself’s a dying art
And soon the maker’s role will be
Killed by the Singularity –
When supermarket checkout tills
Outdo Rubens on our baked bean bills,
And any bar-room stool ad libs
Dirty jokes to crack your ribs;
The lonely hotel guest’s beguiled
By wardrobes wittier than Oscar Wilde,
While every lift’s a soloist
With better melodies than Brahms and Listz.
Yet let our younger art creators
Lose their jobs to elevators;
I’ll enjoy these final days
Of history’s temporary literary phase
In which inflamed imagination
Strong from pre-Web masturbation
Served a readership who’d never seen
Pixels flit across a screen.
For nowadays who feels at home
Hugging alone some droning tome
All in immobile monochrome?
Given the choice,
Who but losers toil through Joyce?
What wilderness of empty days
Drives a man to Auden’s plays?
No one good at outdoor games
Endures the gruesome Henry James.
Only folk that love forgets
Wrestle the dreadful Four Quartets.
Of those who groan through Wordsworth’s Prelude
High proportions look like hell nude.
Therefore see the world forsake
Verse like a turbid ox-bow lake
Where we, with self-inflicted futile duty,
Fish the infected pit for truth and beauty.
And this is why: beauty and truth
One day slapped us through the gloom of youth;
Amid our dolor, dead men’s verses
Eased our adolescent ache like curses;
Leaving grief we’d briefly dwell
In walls of words where all is well,
Where lust and fear and the world’s wrongs
Are vented safely into songs,
And secret teenage dreams and doubt
On legs of lines can stride about.
So come with me, you sorry crew
Bereft of better things to do,
Your lives and loves so much amiss
You’re sitting here and reading this.
Unkillable, the need to speak
Drives our tireless treks that seek
Through sumps of dullness undeterred
Borrowed ways of being heard –
Poetry, the perfect word.
I’ve rhymed for lust, for praise, for gain
But scribble nowadays to test my brain,
Penning each sonnet, song or saga
For reassurance that I’m not yet gaga.
I might unknowingly conclude a line
With some deluded not-quite rhyme,
Or reach for rhymes I can’t quite hold
Like William McGonagall pursuing his hat in a strong breeze that is also cold,
Or like McGonagall in a Dundee tavern groping drunkenly for an exit,
Or like some would-be humorous versifier who pictures McGonagall drowning in
the silvery Tay and splashing blindly for the lights of a far-off shore and
thereby hopelessly over-eggs it.
For though extruding through our charmless youth
Clammy voidings we confuse with truth
(The notions trite, the rhyming hackneyed)
Comforts us for being acnied;
And though through deserts of our middle years
We pump our output into Beauty’s ears
(Our hair departs, our bellies sag,
But handsome stanzas might secure a shag);
Yet how much more old age
Demands a recompense across the page:
Here where a whip of wit confines
Our desperation in a cage of lines;
The rabble multitudes of rage and woe
Kicked into regimented row on row;
Compressed, condensed, our grief so terse is
Crystallised at last to verses.
So let the fact I’m balder, sadder, fatter
Tame itself to subject matter,
Until my life – so ill-begun,
Bungled, fearful, left undone –
In this false light appears
Worthy, almost, of these sixty years.