As The Sun Dies

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This is a bit of a cynical poem to be honest. A while back, I went for a super fancy afternoon tea type thing in a posh restaurant with my girlfriend. It was pretty expensive so not the kind of thing we do very often. As we ate, drank, and chatted, I couldn’t help but notice other couples around us. In particular, I couldn’t help but notice their behaviour.

They weren’t talking to each other.

Several other couples had evidently paid a large amount of money for the same experience but, upon arriving, took out their phones and ignored each other. I was horrified by it. The view from the restaurant window (very high up, looking out over Birmingham) was stunning, the food was delicious, and the company was wonderful. Why would I want to be on my phone? But this is pretty typical these days. This poem is about people who have lost interest in real life and prefer to live through social media, texting, twoots, chapsnats, facebogs etc. It’s all part of a general turn inwards and obsession with self-advancement. Cheery stuff eh?

Also, it was written to be performed so maybe try to imagine it being said out loud. One day, I’ll get round to making some videos of my poems.

As The Sun Dies

There they sit
On the 27th floor outdoor balcony restaurant
For sandwiches and drinks
She thinks she’s picking up good vibrations

But it’s just his phone
Drrr Drrr Beep
Ping
Another text requesting he ask his date to

Wait

While he lets his friend know how it’s going

It’s good to see you she says
I know that work keeps us busy
And it’s silly to expect you
To give all your time to me
But it’s
It’s good to talk

Mmm he replies
Instagramming a ham sandwich
Minutes pass in silence

 

Drrr Drrr Beep
Ping

 

Until at last he speaks

You look beautiful
She smiles
And while he can he snaps a picture
Niftily sifts out her blemishes
And tweets it

Fact to phone
He screens her out again
Too busy painting data of the date
To live it

But she remembers the time before
The man she married
Before in sickness and in health
Became in signal and for wealth
And love took second prize
To pride and picture perfect appearances

In desperation she takes out her phone
And finds the photo he recently posted of their food
Hashtag lunch with my gorgeous girl
She comments Happy Anniversary

His phone quakes once more
Drrr Drrr Beep
Ping

His eyes flicker up momentarily
Then up again and longer now
He looks at her
As if seeing her for the first time
His gaze falls back to the phone

Hers lights up now
Oliver likes this
And as he poses for a selfie
As the sun dies on the silver skyline
He doesn’t even register her leaving the table
It’s erased by his filter

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#blessed

 

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Unquiet Slumber

Unquiet Slumber

A while back, I was at my friends’ wedding. They got married in a beautiful church and had the reception in a lovely venue at the bottom of the graveyard. There was a long and winding road to this venue but the quickest route was to weave between the graves themselves, edging your way down the reasonably steep hill.

That was alright on the way down but, by the time I left, it had been raining for a very long time and it was almost completely pitch black outside. This made the hill extremely precarious and turned the graves into hidden stumbling blocks.  On my way up, I had a little accident.

Unquiet Slumber

The sleepers lay in rows and columns
Names erased by years and years
Of Heaven’s tears
That sponged the stone
Fed the moss
Till all that stood were monoliths

But even these were barely visible
As the day decayed
Five pilgrims, I among them, felt their way
Between the shades of grey and black
Below the church a wedding choir sang
Shut up and dance with me
A hymn of innocence

I clasped a card
A token
My unspoken tribute I’d present
In homage to
The 405 to West Croydon

I fell behind as we proceeded
Up the tear stained hill
Still slick
Unobserved beside me, was a grave
Let me describe it to you

At the top, the gravestone leant
Itself grown old
It’s broken skin bled water on what lay below
The plot was marked by cornerstones
Four small, square stones that showed the sides

But as yet
I was unfamiliar with these details
Blindly slipping by
Till slipping by was slipping over

I don’t know how well acquainted you are with graves
Perhaps you’ve seen your share
Or laid a flower
Perhaps you’ve sat and cried
Or bowed your head
But I feel confident that very few
Very, very few of you
Have, at speed
Felt both feet fly off the ground
Fallen, flailing frantically
Your panicked cry drowned out
By a resounding round of
Here’s to you Mrs Robinson
As you plummet
Wrenching your leg over a cornerstone
And headbutting another

I have

I came to rest
Still smartly dressed
But now rocking that slightly ‘distressed’ look
And lay in imitation
Of the man, or woman, or child
I don’t know
Who lay 6 feet below
I took a moment
To confirm I was not broken
I heard my friend cry
Ben, what’ya doin’ on the floor?

I slowly stood
An unbearable agony
Prevented me
From putting weight on my left knee
In shredded trousers, trembling
I stepped one… little… step…

And fell again
My brain was overwhelmed with input
Overloading
Over I went
A spent force physically
And then came the collision

Head to headstone
Loaf to rock
A sickening clock

And so I lay once more
As will o’ wisps went winding through my eyes
Another cry Ben mate, get up
Just audible as revellers raised hands in praise
Exclaiming I’m in love with her and I feel fine

A wet and beaten, defeated figure
Rose from the grave

Astonished glances danced from friendly faces
Ben, what the hell happened to you?

I shook the dust from my clothes
Straightened my hair
You think this is bad? I said
You should see the other guy

This chili pepper opted to be buried at sea but, you know, cut backs.

This chili pepper opted to be buried at sea but, you know, cut backs.

The Moon Under Water

The Moon Under Water

The Moon Under Water is a name used by Wetherspoons for a lot of their pubs. The pub referred to in this poem is The Moon Under Water in Balham, London. The poem is quite new but the story dates back a couple of years to a time when, for various reasons, I stopped drinking any alcohol for a year.

The friend referred to in this poem has been arbitrarily named ‘Michael’. He is not based on any one person but is an amalgamation of people who I witnessed doing various things during that year. For the first time ever, I was sober around a lot of very drunk people and it gave me a very different perspective. Nothing in this poem is fictional but it didn’t all necessarily happen on the same occasion.

As with many of my more recent poems, this was written to be performed but hopefully it survives being written down.

The Moon Under Water

Filtered through the door
Of The Moon Under Water
I find my friends
Four pints in, each

BEN MOORE
BEN THE MOORE
BEN WE WANT MOORE
BEN GIVE ME MOORE
BEN TELL ME MORE TELL ME MOORE

These formalities out of the way
Michael waves me to a seat
Backhanding an old man standing a little way behind him
He offers to buy me a beer
A kind offer but I decline
I’m fine I say
I’m not actually drinking at the moment

Michael peers at me with narrow eyes
S’good he says s’good
Very wise
He nods with his whole body
Jolting the table and toppling the sauce caddy

I myself he says am cutting back
Here he smacks his quite slack jacket
Gonna get fat
He laughs so hard he knees the table
Others rush to steady their unstable drinks

Besides he says
Getting smashed is getting old
There’s nothing more sad
Than some overweight Dad
Wobbling his way home
‘Cause he didn’t get it under control when he was our age
He nods, having said his bit
He sits up straight
Well, sort of

I move to the bar to buy a pepsi
I’m passed by a precariously, Pisa-pointing, pickled pensioner
He walks a while
In the exaggeratedly sedate nature
Of a man who thinks no one will notice
He’s drunk beyond all reason
If he plays it cool
He wanders into the bathroom

His friend comes stumbling behind
Less concerned with disguise
Eyes rolling and body contorting
Like some sarcastic, elasticated gymnastic display
He accidentally pirouettes towards the bathroom
But the spin is too much
And quite suddenly
The evening’s booze flows forth
A firth of filth flung
Along with all the air in his lungs
HUUUUU HUUUUUU Hurled against the door
Sinking down to stain the patterned carpet on the floor

Finally
A single sob escapes his fetid gob
And a blob of slobber slips out
Stretching, stretching
Fssllghllllsll
Sucked up
Retching
Then
Satisfied
We both return to our seats

Michael gestures at the scene
Sweeping my glass clean off the table
He looks at me
Or rather, sort of, all around me
I think
Here he stops to drink and shake his head
I think
That guy is drunk

There are better ways to enjoy alcohol #trendyalesfortrendymales

There are better ways to enjoy alcohol #trendyalesfortrendymales

Rain

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In David Bowie’s song Five Years, he sings ‘It was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor’. I think I understand what he means here. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where it’s been raining and we picture ourselves as the hero of some great romance or drama.

Later, when we’ve been in the rain for a bit, we realise that actually we’re just wet and cold and pathetic.

Rain

Standing in the rain
Windswept turns to pitiful
As the rose tint fades

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These plants and I disagree about what exactly constitutes ‘good weather’

Flowers

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Humans do a lot of things that, at first glance, seem entirely normal but, if you think about them too much, begin to seem incredibly strange. I think it’s really weird that to express love, sympathy, pride, and other emotions, we give each other flowers. I think it’s a beautiful thing and I often give people flowers, and would be more than happy to receive them myself, but it is odd.

Flowers

Flowers
Remembrance or gratitude
Given with a card embossed with a platitude
Love or seduction
Why did we choose such a terrible tool?

These flowers represent my love
They look good enough
But some imminent day
They’ll wither away and you’ll discard them
You cow
Destroying the vegetation of my enamoured flirtation

I’m so very grateful
I bought you a handful of death
It’s like buying a pet for someone who did you a favour
Yes, thanks for your labour, now care for these plants
They are your responsibility now

How best to remember our dearly deceased?
He at least deserves hushed and regular mention
But more, more than that
On his grave I laid
A mass of dead matter
To biodegrade
And remind us
As above
So below
Do you know, I think that’s a marvellous idea!

But why stop there?
Lay a cut of old meat
Let us watch how it rots on the ground
For my lover, a pail of severed squirrel tails
They’re so soft and sweet
Here, have these feet!
I cut them from a rat I found under a rock
Then arranged them to form a floral display

I’m not saying that flowers are bad
I’m not saying that laying them’s bleak
But just take a moment to look at our race
The importance we tie to a thing or a place
Or a plant
Why a plant for those who’ve endeared?
I’m not saying it’s wrong

I’m just saying it’s weird

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You have no idea of the horror that awaits you little buds

 

Milk

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So, I was thinking about how to explain this poem and, to be honest, I don’t really think explaining is going to help all that much. But I’ll try. I wrote this very short poem a few years ago when I was listening to Steven Wilson’s then-new album The Raven That Refused To Sing.

The title track (which you can listen to here (and I highly recommend you do)), is a stunningly beautiful exploration of death and grief (I’m selling it really well). I wondered if there was a way to channel all of that profundity and beauty into a poem about something really ordinary, like a glass of milk.

I failed.

Milk

When milk is skimmed, the fat is trimmed
When semi-done, it’s much more fun
But when it’s whole, it heals my soul

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I honestly don’t even like whole milk…

200th Post: The Men Who Smell To Earth

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So often in science fiction films, books, songs or whatever, the presence of alien life is announced with either a sound or, most commonly, something visual such as a light, an explosion, or the aliens themselves. However they declare their presence, it’s usually an appeal to either our sense of sight or our sense of hearing.

But what if, and please go with me on this, alien life was revealed, not by a noise or a vision, but by a smell?

The Men Who Smell To Earth

The evidence arrived
Before the news of what it evidenced
Took residence in any nation’s TV stations
It came with confusion

Not a sound, not a light
But frightful all the same
More so, in fact
A smell
No, far worse, a nasal Hell
That filled the air

But more than that, it got inside
Behind the eyes
Right through the sinuses
They couldn’t see
They couldn’t hear
And with that came the fear

Way out on Mars
A rover drove over a stone
Which rattled and revealed a hidden hollow
Turning round
It swept the stone from the ground
Uncovering a cavern
Out stepped three mangy Martian men
A dirty throng
And brought with them the pong

So potent, even emptiness
The void of space
Could not erase the taste
That burning tickle in the throat

The world looked to its leaders
To tell them what reeked to high Heaven
A chemical weapon?
A zombie apocalypse?
Toppling governments threw up their hands
Until they heard the reason for the scare
And with it came despair

Humanity waited so long for this moment
Our coming of age
We at last take our place
In the union of space

But this wasn’t what we planned
For the ascension of man
Now we know we’re not alone
But is it worth
The men who smell to Earth?

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A gift from Earth’s ambassadors