Little Things

like the poem

the dreamy bus driver wrote

in ‘Paterson’

while idling at stop lights

or picking up passengers

the one about Ohio Blue Tip matches

in their sturdy little boxes

‘so sober and furious, ready to burst into flame’

as crafted as those of his hero

William Carlos Williams

the doctor who lived a few streets down

 who wrote that famous poem

the red wheelbarrow glazed with rain

And me realizing you can write poems

about almost anything

even a red pencil sharpener

a bowl of berries with a barrowful of dreams

and finding out

that’s where Lou Costello came from too

Paterson, New Jersey.

There’s even a park named after him,

Lou Costello the chubby comedian who played alongside Bud Abbot,

the straight guy.

I used to watch those guys in the fun-house

Of the fifties,

frolicking with Frankenstein and The Wolf man.

But it was Lou Costello

I loved

The funny little fat guy

And that’s where he came from,

Paterson, New Jersey.

Went Down to Nazareth

 

 
Went down to Nazareth, back from Bethlehem
to see my old mate Jesus out among his friends
No one had died
was crucified,
they were all good family men
Jesus performed his miracles
for charity now and then.
 
* with a nod to Robbie Robertson

The Applecart

There was a saying in my parents’ day

not to upset the apple cart.

My uncle was a market gardener so it had extra meaning for us.

For a while things went smoothly

then I came along, then my sister.

We were the world’s first teenagers.

There was sex, booze — no drugs — and rock ‘n’ roll.

Mum and dad didn’t know what hit them.

And this went on all over the world.

A whole lot of apple carts were being upset, overturned.

Then came Feminism, Vietnam War protests, R rated movies

and in our country

the sacking of a government.

Boats were rocked, apple carts overturned.

It’s a bit like that now. Only there’s far more involved.

The fate of our planet.

I think before we get to wherever we’re going there won’t be too many

apple carts left standing.

*pic courtesy of Pinterest

Biros

I started to think about biros again, how mine was long and thin like a matchstick but it had no heft.

A biro should have heft if it is to write anything of import.

Mine is fine for writing light verse, things of flippancy and quirk.

But for something darker, more adventurous, a biro with girth is required.

Yes, I decided, for Father’s Day I’m going to request a biro with a stubby stem, a bit like its inventor Lazlo Biro

photo of Lazlo Biro courtesy of Wikipedia 

Skeleton in the Phone Booth

A skeleton from the closet

Phoned the other day

One we thought had been

Securely locked away.





We tried to entice it

Cajole it back in

But that skeleton was

Determined to be seen.





For it had grown flesh

Learned how to live

And clearly would rattle

All the relatives.





This poem was written twenty years ago when first contact was made. It was more a ghost from the past than a skeleton but gradually over further calls it acquired structure and then one magic day it acquired corporeality. I was not there — my partner and I had split up — but I heard about it through others, including my children. Then just last week over New Year we met. This wonderful, warm person is now a part of my life. Thanks to the Marriage Equality Act She is getting married soon to her partner of eighteen years. She thanked me for keeping the lines of communication open and hope alive.

ps that third line in the second stanza still is not right

*have you ever had a skeleton from the closet visit you?

True Colours: the Story behind No Sympathy …

When people ask me, did you have any inkling in all that time you knew him, I say, not really, then I think of the incident in the restaurant,the one that slipped beneath my notice in what was meant to be a piece of devilish fluff in ‘No Sympathy ….’

It began in the third line: Hey! Is that a glass of water you threw over me? That’s when autobiography took over and followed us out onto the sidewalk where I was shoved to the ground when my back was turned and my mate who had turned rogue did a runner.

So did I know? Did I suspect? I sure did: in those moments he unleashed diminutive, haiku-sized bursts of anger, I could feel the embers of a conflagration 18 years before that the forensic squad, armed with new evidence and methods of detection, were sifting through and building a case.

His mate, Dale , who let him stay on his property at Second Valley in a caravan while he got his life together, fell victim to Adrian’s wrath.

All that time Adrian proclaimed his innocence, He was the only suspect. He lived at my place for a while, He rode a bike, did the gardening, spoke to the kids, Everyone loved him. A top bloke, they said. Then the night ….

Once my friend was charged with the cold case and sentenced, he finally admitted to us: Just think, he said, 15 years for five seconds of madness.

That little haiku of a revelation warned me that of all the affairs we have to manage in life, our temper comes first.

That Person in my Head

There’s someone walking around

inside my head

padding around in his slippers

wondering

what to do with himself:

should he write a poem?

read another chapter of ‘The Freedom Circus’ ?

write a witty comment

on Beth’s ‘Wild Sounds’?

What?

Another episode of ‘Father Brown’?

it wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t flush

the toilet so often

or go to the fridge.

Look, it’s ten o’clock, I say to him,

could you please

settle down

so I can get some sleep?

The Rant that became a Poem

I’m always amazed how they go in

Without thinking

Then close the steel doors on themselves.

Haven’t these people any imagination?

Sometimes they are bunched up in there

like sardines in a can.

Speaking of cans I can’t help thinking of the Kursk

how those poor submariners were coffined

in a can.

Speaking of coffins, that’s what they remind me of.

Lifts.

Vertical coffins.

Going Down?

My counsellor says I have too vivid an imagination.

Isn’t that what writers are supposed to have?

Anything can happen.

I think of ‘The Towering Inferno’ and those people

plummeting to their deaths when the lift cables

snap

or in ‘Speed’ when they are cut.

And my counsellor says to calm my farm!

Speaking of farms I think of cattle being trucked

to the slaughterhouse and not knowing

till it’s too late.

And speaking of not knowing, and I promise I won’t

speak of ‘speaking of’ again but I bet poor old Nicolas White

never knew when he stepped into an elevator back in 2008

that he would be trapped in it for 41 hours.

No food. No drink. No cell phone. No company.

 I don’t know if those people got out at the other end

or not

but I’m taking the stairs.

Happy as Houdini

I didn’t know everything came with an escape hatch

but apparently it does :

my Holden Cruze, for instance,

the one I was trapped in last week  has an escape hatch

on the central console;

and I have an escape hatch

everytime my gardener bangs on about bananas —

it’s called, ‘checking on the roast’;

there’s one for closed arguments:

‘responding to a call of nature’;

there’s even an escape hatch from life

when things gets too onerous but most of us

are programmed not to take it — though on World R U OK day when

the phone calls are meddlesome as mozzies,

I’m  tempted

*pic courtesy of Wiki Commons

The Reader

There’s only one way to live in the world —and that’s to stay alert, interested.

So I couldn’t help but notice the reader in the pub sitting at ‘our table’, vigorously engaged in his book. He was dipping into it with his biro, busily marking passages, totally oblivious to his surroundings, And he never had a drink in front of him.

I went over to him.

Hello, I said, I’m a fellow reader. I just have to ask what book it is that’s got you so enthralled?

Ah, he said. Let me allay your curiosity.

And then he showed me.

Christ, I said, it’s a bit crumpled. Like it’s fallen in water.

It’s a well worn book, helaughed. And Christ is right. Look at the title.

I did but I could barely read it. Can I take a shot? I say, to show my mate in the wheelchair.

Of course, he said.

Is it fiction? I asked.

No, it’s factual,well researched, about the devilish goings on in the Papacy and in the clergy in general. Terrible things went on. When my friends bring up religion I whip out my book and quote passages from it.

But it’s condition?

Ahh, he said, I read it in the bath and sometimes it’s fallen in. And sometimes it’s been left in the rain and I have read it a few times. It’s an old book. It was battered when I bought it. Would you like to borrow it when I finish?

Awfully nice of you, I said, but I might give it a miss. Too much else on my plate. Are you by any chance an old Catholic boy?

Yes, he said. How did you know?

It takes one to know one, I said. Happy reading.