Poems

Simon
1977 – 2011

You won't know y'self, believe me – for a night,
        the world turned upside-down, as it should be.
You'll lug around a hundred or so barrels
of beer and barely a drop'll pass your own lips,
                the old Formby Hall packed with folk

having a whale of a time, you
winding through it all, a tidy ghost
                picking up precious glasses, mopping up
the odd amber spillage, catching the best end
of tall stories, mad pickup lines.  Men, elbowing

        for another Raspberry Ale, women
drinking more than you'd think.  Ten thousand pints later,
a giant cardboard cheque in the hands
                of another good cause – not for me
and certainly not for you.  My tip?  Work

at the bar that serves the beers you least like.
        If you're lucky, it'll be furthest from the band – 
all that fiddlin' between your ears.

You may as well, in the dead quiet of early evening,
                which sure won't last, I'll tell you,
walk round the floor for a slow taster
of every beer you've not had before.

        Hold this one in your mouth for a good short while.

Whatever comes into your head is fine.
                but don't get carried away thinking
there's such a thing as a last drink.

There is.  Just don't think it.

 

Abraham
1809 – 1865

That wild turkey gave a small jolt when I as a gormless boy shot it. 
It stood there, its blood rushing out onto the earth my father had claimed.

It has taken me two years to climb these stairs.

King Log, they said, washed up by accident on the banks of the Potomac,
buckskin trousers too short for his legs, standing collars to hide his scrawny neck.

The sculptor knows me from the sound, two or three steps at a stride.

I remember them.  Walking with their heads bowed, a chained line of men,
like so many fish upon a trot-line.  Coins heavy in my pocket, as our boat sailed on.

He spreads oil over my face, then coat after coat of wet plaster.

My father, attacked with a lesion of the heart, passed quickly. 
I had not the time nor the inclination to raise a monument over his grave.

One breathes through tiny straws, under six or seven pounds of weight.

We must have another treaty to extinguish the possessory rights of the Indians
to these valuable tracts of land.  They will be granted their reservations.

An hour later, I lean forward, and we both take hold of the likeness and pull.

A terrible fever takes our boy.  His mother Mary is locked in the room
of her grief.  I persist with my constitutionals, always walking.

A few hairs of the tender temples come out with the plaster.  My eyes water.

They will find in my office, the floor strewn with apple seeds and orange rinds,
my boys Willie and Tad clambering over me, without reprimand.

Well, you know, the whole process is anything but agreeable. 

I kept on until I entered the East Room.  A sickening surprise.  Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse in funeral vestments.  Around it were stationed soldiers as guards.  Who is dead? I demanded.  The President was his answer.  Killed by an assassin.  Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd.  Someone else will be attacked, I reassured her.  Dreams are never literal.

Only a few days later, there I am – the animal himself!

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