My warders have me in thrall.
It’s a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
I’m at their beck and call.
I’ve tried to rise against them.
But they are big. I am small,
So I rub against them like a cat
Curl myself into a ball.
I understand you, I say. I really do
But it does no good at all.
My addictions, anxieties, fears —
My warders —- have me in thrall.
Two more drownings down at the Bay.
‘Swim between the flags’, lifesavers say.
Live between the flags, and you play it safe
But against such restrictions, the spirit chafes.
‘Don’t Drink Too Much’, ‘Gamble Responsibly’
‘Wear seat belts, bike helmets, drive responsibly.’
‘Don’t Smoke, Do Drugs’, the flags hem us in
& we’re scared little children, there seems to be no end.
‘Doctors won’t prescribe benzo- diazapines
Or other drugs of dependence’, and please no codeine.
‘Don’t Talk To strangers’, Be careful Online.
Swim between the flags and you’ll be just fine.
There was this kid who stood at the back of the class
When I came to read my poems
And whenever I got boring he’d rotate
His arms like the blades of a helicopter
& the more I banged on the faster
His arms would whir
Until it looked like he’d take off
His teacher and the other kids paid him
In the pause between poems he’d say,
You done yet?
And I’d say,
And he’d say, Good and slow down.
And when I stopped, he’d stop.
The eagle had landed.
Whenever I do a reading I see
That kid at the back
His arms set to rotate.
It keeps me honest.
I am outside late at night
About the poems
I have not written
The ones I’ve turned away from
Because of embarrassment
Or fear of shedding my jovial persona
and find somewhat alarmingly
that the poems I have not written
far outnumber the ones I have.
Shadows on the ocean.
Too much motion.
Anything could be anything.
Shadows or sharks.
Stingrays or box jelly-fish.
You just don’t know.
No, sir. Not going in.
No swimming today.
Only when I noticed
The rusty red rat rubbing its rump
Against the end of the bed
Did I cut down on
The painkillers; though the pterodactyl
With the one jaundiced eye
thrashing its wings
Against the latticed windows didn’t
Help much either.
Not the bridge too far
Nor the one over troubled waters
Not even the ones you burn
So there’s no turning back
But that rope suspension bridge
Dangling over the gully
like a sagging power line
That me and my faithful mutt, Salem,
Can’t bring ourselves to cross