Gordon stepped low through the doorway, a little pot in each hand. He laid one on the table, his fingers gently nudging it so that the silver teaspoon handle pointed up at me, gleaming eagerly. Inside was a warm lump of pudding bathed in tendrils of melting ice cream.
We were sitting in the corner of his café after hours. He’d owned it for years and years, almost for the whole time I’d called him my friend. It was hard to remember the man who’d left high school burning with desire to be a private chef, to train across the world in different bars and restaurants and write a book of his culinary adventures.
“Don’t wait for me to start,” Gordon said, “Tuck in. We sold out but I made some more before you came because I know how much you like my sticky toffee.”
I smiled. It didn’t have the warmth that I intended it to, though.
Gordon stared at me, so I plucked up the spoon and scooped a mouthful. It was nice. Very nice. But I’d had it every Thursday evening since I could remember. And sometimes more often if we met up on other nights. Sometimes even perfection becomes tasteless.
“Did you have a hard time getting back today?” Gordon gazed at me across the table.
“No. It was alright.” I ate another mouthful.
“How’s the girlfriend?”
“She’s fine. She’s in a state of grief that we’re back from Ibiza but I think she’ll recover.” I tried a little laugh, but it came out short. I was very tired. Probably jetlagged, actually. I had no energy.
“Well, I’ve missed you, mate.” Gordon’s eyes were searching. “You were gone for weeks, I didn’t realise it was planned for so long.”
“Well - I bumped into an old friend and stayed longer.”
Gordon raised his eyebrows. “Older than me? Wow.” He grinned.
I snorted. “No, mate. No one’s older than you, Gordon grandpa.” I laughed, leaned forwards and slid my bowl back onto the table, finished.
“You’ve left some pud. No one leaves pud!” Gordon glared accusingly at me, only half joking.
“I wasn’t hungry, mate. I … I ate before.”
Gordon picked up the bowls with one quick hand movement and stood, apron flapping. He swept back to the kitchen counter, taking them with him without a word.
I glared at the black floor, guilt gnawing my insides. I should have remembered how important Gordon’s offerings of food were to him - to us, to our friendship. Back when my parents couldn’t buy me lunch and he would bring in cakes and breads and share them with me over the dinner hall benches. I’d forgotten these things while I was away.
One for the Two
The monkeys came into my garden,
One by one.
It was a wonder,
How they’d wandered in.
Perhaps through that one hole in the fence,
I should have patched it up long ago.
One wonders where they came from originally
From one zoo?
From another owner?
Were they all close to one another?
Twice, they visited.
The first time, I was too astounded to
Do anything to them.
All I could manage was to watch and to stare
At the two of them there
They had furs of black, and gold too,
Truly shining, in the sun.
The second time I had to do something.
They were too noisy, too strange, the two of them.
So I got my gun and shot
Thrice, I fired at the tree,
But the monkey leapt free,
Darting across the sky into the eves
Of another free tree.
How I hate the
Thought of monkeys
Running wild, running free,
Three of them now, in my trees.
I reload and shoot to kill one
I shoot to kill two, too
But three evades me one too
Rage bubbles in my belly.
Four monkeys appear for the fourth time,
Hands in hand, one by one, two by two,
Three by three and four by four.
An army of chimps for me to shoo away.
I groan for mercy, I groan for some better luck.
Why for the love of god are there four and more monkeys,
Wandering through my garden?
For the last time, I pick up my rifle. For once, I’m too tired to fire.
I feel free.
I hand the rifle, I hold it up in the air in one hand, for five monkeys to see.
“Fine, you five shoot me.” I say,
And the five fire away.
They came running in, one by one
Fruits and feed
Left on my front lawn
I grabbed my gun
Go on! Leave!
I snapped and shot and
Shot spread across the garden
I am the guardian of my lawn
And the monkeys are not welcome
My father, he loved them,
My mother, she loved him,
So the monkeys kept on coming
When my pair of parents ruled this house
But I’m not them.
I hate the monkeys.
Each time they come it reminds me
You are not here.
You can’t hear
And so without fear
I pick back up my gun
And fire another round,
And another round,
One monkey clambers up a tree
To look at me
I raise my gun
But I can’t shoot
It’s smiling eyes and
Its wet mouth
Dare me to take such a pretty thing
Out of life
It’s only a young one.
I lower my gun.
It’s not for fun.
Then what is it for?
I stare around my lawn.
There are bodies littered back and
At least four are still alive,
Shot with shot in their back,
But still breathing somehow
My heart is hollow.
I’m sorry mother
I’m sorry father
I turn and shoot the struggling monkeys
To put them sound to sleep.
Four gun blasts
And a quiet yard.
I wish you were still here.
I cannot live with these monkeys
As your memories
One day they will all be dead
And I won’t remember you,
I’ll move on
Out of the wreckage I lumber,
Wounded, and a wounder.
A fool. An ass. A flounder
Who hurt three best friends
In one foul swoop.
But still the cards are hidden from me.
I can't play this game any longer.
So I hold onto to my surest cards,
My oldest singers and my bards,
Hug them close to my chest and
to whatever governs the rules of happiness,
That even when the stack of cards come crumbling from my hands,
When my ace becomes a one,
When my queens become jackasses
And my knights ride away from me into the setting sun -
I will still be standing, with one last card.
There is always someone
Willing to play for you, to play with you.
They stand by you
Through the thick and thin.
And those that return,
Those that stay,
Those that can’t help but flutter
Back and forth, within your lines,
That's when you spy their ghost in the machine.
So hold on, if you can.
For the stronger you hold, the more ghost they become.
It's a light touch, it's a smooth current
Your hand is your one for a reason.
After everything, it’s still you.
But who are you? It's hard to tell.
Each day brings a new you,
A new face,
Bubbling at the edges, ready to change your mindset.
And out go the old ideas,
Things you would prefer to forget
Discarded on the road behind.
The road is long and its confusing.
Sometimes there are accidents and the traffic stops -
And you have to wait to decide how best to carry
Sometimes you have to take a new route entirely.
As you grow taller, stronger, wiser,
You learn how to dodge the cars and cyclists and buses
Hurtling towards you, one day you even block them in their path
Raise them on your head
Throw them in a gulley beside the road
These dangers are no concern of yours.
You are new.
You is a new you.
But still, it makes you wonder sometimes
When you look back along the road
At all the parts that slipped from your back
Littered in your wake
Like the skins of a grass snake
Have you lost too much of yourself?
Are you no longer you? After everything?
But it is the road that makes a person
As well as the face and skin you walk in
At this very moment.
Roads cross and overlap and one day they all hit a dead end.
But in the litter left behind
In the person striding forwards
The you is there, after all.
That makes you
When the world sinks around me
When I feel I'm drowning
I turn to the things of the younger me
The happier me.
I dig up my cards
I boot up my xbox
I tune up the songs on my personal mobile radio
Lost all over again between the
Words and thoughts of my youth the
Channels of joy, the old tracts of passion
But still here. Still breathing.
The passage of time between then and now
It brings me back to safety.
For if I lived once, was happy even once
I shall one day lose myself in happiness once
Big old ears longer than your tail
Rolling in the snows
Drinking muddy ponds
He came from far away
But he's here to stay
Our Jimbobby Dog
Spring in your steps
Its cold on the frosty pitch. You take up your position beside the other boys, the bigger boys. The colder boys. They don't like to look at you, standing in your red jersey while they wear green.
and the race is on. Blood and sweat and tears. Someone goes down just in front of you, slipping on the icy, slushy ground. But you forge on.
Another day, another time. The bigger boys are not so big any more. You are among them, still dressed in a jersey - the team jersey for your county. But somehow even in white vests, the glow of red and green still shines on through.
The greens stand apart from you, holding their heads high. And BANG
off goes the race again. This time its bigger. This time its colder, and more slippery with more ice than ever before. The battle is on. Bodies fly up and down hills, feet pumping, arms pumping. You have never run so fast in your life.
Someone goes down just in front of you. It's a green, dressed in mud-splattered white. You hold out a hand, and
stop. "Are you alright? Come on Merseyside!"
He grabs your outstretched arm and leaps back to his feet. He stares you in the eye. Not a word is said, but you feel the ice wall between you crack and fracture. As you run on, side by side, not leaving him behind, the day doesn't seem so cold anymore.
Winter always leads to springs in your steps eventually.
Inside the womb
Comb carefully and you might
From the hairs of the mother
And taller and
And thus talent
My opponents always go green eyed and complain about my luck. I'm a bit of a local legend at poker, always with a brew of herbal tea at my side, a blessing for my luck. People say its witch blood - all red and thick and tinted as red wine. But they're just your typical coach potato, never taking the time to study. They don't know that the rain is the luck and the practiced skill is the sun that makes the poker rainbow.
I smile, lay down my hand. A rainbow of black and red. A royal flush.
I pat them on the shoulder, I shake their hands. I know they are screaming red rage inside, but they just nod and smile. "You're one lucky clover, ain't ya," one guy says, shaking his head.
I scoop up my winnings and run to the bathroom. I dance a little victory jig and flush my royals that were hidden up my sleeve down the toilet.
There is skill in making it rain and shine, every day.