Saturday, 7 November 2009

THE ROAD TO ROMANCE * - John Calvert

Bedroom door closes before Milton Keynes
Atomised passions tamp under artic axles
Our heroine panting at Knutsford or Keele
Coffee untouched. Fingering his last letter
Tears beyond green gasholder at Bescot
Bronzed hunks are striding
Not to Walsall or Wolverhampton
A million bosoms heave --the press of tyre treads
You drive straight through broken hearts
Get over it, girl
Put your foot down.

*Inspired by the fact that the M6 toll road is built on a foundation of several thousand pulped Mills and Boon novels.

Night Out on Arran - Steph Pike

Disco Dave has shingles tonight
sweats rusty water
projects psychedelic flowers
on Eden’s walls
her hair suits this light
so she stays out late
into the dusky night
drinking a toast to
her head’s hot halo
then shimmers home
along the shore
while the still sea
whispers otter’s secrets
and mussels snigger
like knuckle cracks

New York Song - Neil Campbell

walking and staring and sweating for hours, finding the Upper East Side YMCA, paying, getting in the room, trying and failing to sleep with the windows open; humid between the skyscrapers, listening to the rattling pipes and the fat cracking radiators, the police sirens, the cries, the whispers, watching the movements of strangers behind dingy shades, ten floors up among the flower baskets, balconies and fire escapes.
In Central Park the next day, chilling out with big name directors and actors in the bright sunglasses-shaded morning, looking up at the Dakota and around at all the regal dulled splendour of faded apartment buildings. Lying back on a bench among the flowers and listening to the increase in traffic: human traffic building and building through the irregular bouncing feet of a succession of comedy joggers; marathon men and women, sweating in unison on the dust track around the glittering reservoir.
Sitting near the Imagine circle, listening as a grey bearded old man in a dirty suit played a wistful flute for the shot one caught among the rye, the black arms of trees marking the gold morning sun around Strawberry Fields.
Descending into the dark subway with the chipped white tiled walls and the wind streaming down the tunnels, then seeing the train, the people, the crowds, and the movement to and fro, here and there, and a man with no body from the waist-down, going up and down the train swinging his torso like a pendulum, a Pepsi bucket of coins carried in his mouth landing with a jingle after every swing of the arms.
Getting off the subway, climbing up to the light and across the Brooklyn Bridge out of town, looking back at the mix of faded grey and sparkling silver on the skyline. Pausing to take a photograph of two gorgeous, giggling, bronzed Hispanic girls bemused and / or amused by my accent, the graffiti-stained, rusting steel girders alongside, and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance over to my right.
Standing with the East River glistening benignly in the sunlight before me, then turning left onto the street, before walking back across the blue and white painted Manhattan Bridge, glancing back at the Brooklyn Bridge in all its ageing glory, with its tilting stone parapets and suspension wires like strands of fine hair glistening in patterns.
Peering through the plastic fencing of the Manhattan Bridge, down at fat tugs plodding through the flat expanse of blue, a flash of a mile of sunlit white alongside. Gazing down into Chinatown with its smell and its bustle and its graffiti covered back yard walls in the shadow of the city, beneath the ornate towers of the magnates of the past, hustling, bustling, toiling, oiling, boiling, broiling.
Catching a subway to Battery Park, deciding not to regret life, and then getting on the Staten Island ferry to the land of the anti-climax…waiting around for the dark, looking back over at the Manhattan skyline, seemingly immovable, distant, distinct, tiny. Watching ferries going back every half an hour, sirens ringing out and the human rush to go back: men, women and children jumping over turnstiles, clambering on board, and then making the return journey to the science fiction cityscape: the Blade Runner night time, with skyscrapers like mountains of stars. Catching the subway back and listening to an old man singing baritone and rattling an accompanying musical bag of coins, then giving him all my dimes and walking up the steps to look up at the red, white and blue peak of the Empire State, high in the star-bright night. Then the next day in Greenwich Village, sitting outside a café on the corner of McDougall and Bleaker Street gulping coffee, looking around at the white on green street signs, the yellow painted traffic lights, the poster filled lampposts and the iron wire trash bins. Getting up to look around at the clubs, The Blue Note where Bird and Bessie and Miles and ’Trane played, the Café Wha? where Hendrix and Dylan played, and the Bitter End where Springsteen played, all playing, all in my head, music swirling and swirling around with espresso logic.
Going to Ground Zero to see the old church with all the flowers outside it, in the shadow of the huge empty space where the ghosts of twin towers whispered sad falling songs to those stood there looking at nothing. A building site of sadness, mud and dust and dirt alongside the ashes of American flags, and then other American flags, with redneck, loyal, sensitive, beautiful, brutal, foolish, sublime, poetic, heartfelt and genuine messages; scrawled and printed on the fabric between the blue stripes. Then making my way out in the wake of a reverent and respectful silence, smiling at a jolly sculpture of silver stone construction workers sat together eating sandwiches.
Drifting home in the muggy evening dark, hiding on the back streets, looking in windows, shops and hushed delis, where old men and women watched tellies, and then moving on, feeling the whole world trembling beneath my feet and the pavements steaming with heat. Back to the YMCA, up to my room, the TV’s all around me bouncing their adverts through my walls, and the heat pipes still rattling and rattling and the radiators mercifully off but still banging, and the sirens ringing in the heat and the humidity. Lying stagnant between the scrapers, naked on the bed, sweating, wanting to sleep, not being able to sleep, getting up, getting the guide book, reading with eyes straining, waiting for the next day, and then the dim light slowly being turned up: the sun behind buildings, still and cool.
Shuffling down to breakfast, past the pensioners running to the pool in their plastic bathing caps, with their proud, half-naked, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty year old bodies and serving myself and watching a very, very fat man smothering dozens of pancakes in a syrup that slithered around his mouth and down his front, and seeing his example and doing the same, but in my case stocking up, fuelling up for the day, churning it up, taking it in: fruit salad, muffins, coffee, pancakes.
Seeing the Chelsea Hotel, elegant, old and beautiful, red brick and balconies black. The house of artist ghosts, with gold plated plaques on the outside dedicated to James Schuyler, Brendan Behan and Thomas Wolfe; god’s lonely man, and Dylan Thomas; who sailed out from there to die; and reading in the guide book a tenuous tale about Jack Kerouac writing like a madman. Wandering around and then taking a break, going to a tiny cinema in the West Village and watching a film called The 400 Blows; sitting in a city of movies watching a movie, funny and true, with a freeze frame at the end leaving me beautifully blue.
Striding out into the sun, wanting to run, just for fun. Sitting in the park looking up at the Empire State, going down Sixth Avenue and waiting in the queue, then getting in the lift and listening to a laid-back old guy fielding the same gags over and over, yes, up and down every day, eighty eight floors then more, okay. Then walking out of the lift and feeling as though I was making small steps onto the surface of the world for the very first time. Squinting at everything in microcosm before me, right down to the Financial District and into the water beyond and the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island again and the tiny models of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
Circling around and around as others stood looking at plastic replicas of the building, not looking out of the window where a quarter of the world seemed to stretch around past the greenery of Central Park, round to the swamps of New Jersey; the state of gardens; like Staten Island, a moth beside a light bulb; the hot dusty light bulb of Manhattan, shining bright in the middle of it all. Then waiting until dark, until the city lights flickered on to replace the light of the sun, in intermittent jewelled dots sprinkled across the darkness.
The next day, taking in the Whitney, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Edward Hopper paintings in a Whitney room alone, Rothko in the Met, a long twisting Pollock, a Buddhist mural two hundred feet high, and Picasso and Cezanne. Drinking coffee and looking out of the window at the park, and then going to MOMA for free and seeing Lichtenstein’s big comics on the walls amid the crowds, and sitting down in a brief air-conditioned respite from heat. Then gazing at the pale, circular banded spaceship of the Guggenheim, standing alone before the park in all its mighty white.
Going to the public library guarded by lions, full of whispering mice, corridors, chandeliers and books, yes books, but with no time for books. Down into the dark underground again and getting off at Union Square and watching a busking set of black brothers in basketball vests doing somersaults and back-flips to a blazing stereo, round and round, over and over; their feet scraping the ceiling.
Back up to the light, finding the day had gone cold, scanning Time Out and seeing so many choices, so many things to do, and going off to the New School with famous poets and writers reading for free. Listening as Robert Creeley reads his poems and steals the show so much that I go off and buy his book, and he signs it for me and talks to me. Telling me that he has more time to write now and so his poems are often longer, and making me feel like I’m with one of the poets of forever, with his calm and his serenity and his profundity; the vision he encompasses in one seeing eye. Then walking out into the humid night, going back to Battery Park and sitting on a bench, peeking up at the stars and gazing across the East River to the blinking lights of Brooklyn.
Riding the rails the next day; the steel horse running on rails, and going back to Central Park and lying on a bench in the sun. Then going up to the Bronx and getting paranoid: perceiving a tinge of meanness in the air, before seeing the giant letters of Yankee stadium and Budweiser, Budweiser, Budweiser emblazoned on water tanks and rooftops and lorries in red flashes. Walking through Harlem and along Malcolm X Boulevard and Dr Martin Luther King Jnr Boulevard and seeing the Apollo, going into a soul food diner and eating black-eyed peas and potato salad, listening to two old men sitting at the counter speaking about black history and jazz. Smiling to a sweet old lady dressed in pink and the geezer at the counter with a tweed suit on and a feather in his hat, then strolling like a black panther down the street, past all the book stalls, walking back over to Marcus Garvey Park, quiet save for schoolchildren on the basketball court; hoop dreaming beneath the twisted bare trees, climbing up the steps to an incongruous bell tower and surveying Spanish Harlem, and sauntering back down into the subway for a ride; the sweet steel ride back uptown to the glamour of 42nd street, to walk around Times Square among the camera-clicking crowds, multicoloured screens and neon dreams...

Purple instead of blue - Andy N

I'm told your daughter
sat in front off me
is wearing
a blue Denim jacket
but it looks purple
to me.

Purple as like the sky.

Purple as like the light shirts
my beloved
Manchester City

Purple as my ex's
pet cat,

Purple as the sea
which we walked on
last month
where I fell asleep
and woke up
looking like a lobster
and couldn't sleep
on my stomach
for two nights after.

Purple as your daughter's
Denim jacket
who looks at me
with a cruel like stare
after you try to tell her
about me
and she says
'You're Weird'.

And I nearly say
in response
well, it wasn't my
choice to be born

Maximum Break - John B. Reade

He’s done it a hundred times in practice.
He’s done it a hundred times in public.
Now he’s going to set it down on disc,
For posterity to marvel at.
Ladies and gentlemen!
Pray silence!
The maestro is about to begin.
Frame eighty-eight!
Fats Waller to break!
Game on!
The cue ball sizzles up the table.
Five, ten, fifteen times it returns to baulk.
The pyramid begins to crumble.
Suddenly an opening appears.
In goes a red. Yes!
In goes a black. That’s right!
That one touched the side of the pocket. Mercy!
He’s got a kick!
I’ll say he has!
Clean the white ball please, John.
He’s regained position.
This black, and one more red and black,
Will leave his opponent needing snookers.
Who is his opponent by the way?
In they go!
Now he can relax.
The pace accelerates.
The balls begin to fly.
The colours crash to the backs of the pockets.
The cue ball moves at his command.
His right hand explores the extremes of the keyboard,
Delighting in its creative daring.
His left hand lays down a solid bass,
Every note struck with perfect accuracy.
At last he’s on the colours.
It’s academic now.
Yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and Smack!
In goes the final black.
What shall we call the tune, Fats?
I don’t know ……
Fistful of keys?

Mathew J Barrie

Recently I have been comparing my life to a film... In films there are heroes and villains... Main characters and supporting ones. I have come to the conclusion that I am not one of the main characters in this film... I am destined to play the role of supporting character- MAN#2... When I was at college studying performing arts and to a lesser extent university where I studied media performance I regularly found myself cast as the "comic relief"... It never really bothered me as I always enjoyed being able to make an audience laugh... Even in reality I am fortunate to have always been able to make someone smile and laugh, which is a wonderful thing... A gift to share... However... I found and still do find myself craving the need, the desire to be taken seriously... I have found that people respond to me when I am "acting" and "performing" and being witty... Which is good as it is the desired thing... However I am not always in the mood to "act", "perform" or be witty... Then people seem to avoid me... Like I'm a performing monkey, there solely to entertain... A jester... So if life is a film yes, I'm the guy who has the best dialogue, and I'm the one who may steal most of the scenes from the leading man... But at the end of the film? He is the one who saves the day, he is the one who gets the girl... It's only fair, after all, he's the one on the poster. He's better looking, more "convincing" in the role... Conventional... So I am the "comic relief", which would be fine except life isn't a comedy... I've tried to be the leading man... It doesn't seem to work... So I have to choose- Do I want to be a mediocre leading man? Or do I want to be a great supporting character? Like Cosmo Brown from Singin' In The Rain? Do I want to spend the duration of the film assisting the leading man in his journey to victory and the girl? Or do I want to take one more crack at being the leading man and hope it will work out? Either way, ultimately I can't be happy, I either fail in my quest and I still end up 3rd or 4th down the cast list or... I continue to entertain people on demand and die a little inside each time someone laughs... One thing about this film I do know however... I sincerely hope there's no sequel...

Fuck me, London - Dominic Berry

Hey. London.
Fuck me, London.

I’m here on a trip. Please, take grip.
Ride our car. Topless.
Bare back seat. Rip our roof wide.
Shoot your London spurt inside.
Fuck me alive. I came dead.
Fuck London breath into my head.
Remind me how to breathe,
throat deep.
Never sleep.
Never weep.

Fuck me, screaming. Fuck me, dumb.
Fuck me, London, then fuck my Mum.

Yes! Mum. Fuck. We can swear here.
Bold queer. No fear.

Imagine divorcing my Step Dad, Mum,
then you’d always feel like this.
London fucking you! London fucking me!
London, smokey fit.
Let’s stay. Be gay!
Cramped crowd stiff.
Graffiti smacked on barest brick.
Polluted mouths. Fucking loud!
Gimme the keys. Mum, please
don’t take us home to the cruel country.

Marc Bolan was killed by a tree.

Let me be fuck... like Freddie Mercury!
Acid served by naked dwarves.
Mum, aren’t these things you applaud?
Aren’t you stardust? T-Rex gold?
Don’t let marriage turn you old.

That wedding ring’s a circle of hate.
Let London fuck us, Mum. Don’t wait.
That wedding ring is a circle of fear.

Bet my real Dad’s fucking here.

Smart Clothes (for Charlie) - Cathy Bryant

We have clothed ourselves in cloaks of cleverness
And we strut about preening and glittering with wit.
Stopped long enough to attract each other
Admired our credentials embellishing our already brilliant personae
And tried to love.
Which means taking the cloaks off.
Underneath -
Two deadly assassins of love, our internal observers
Analysing, assessing, covering like leprous leotards,
like clinging lycra,
like camouflage
As we search for gaps in each other's defences
And stop up the chinks in our own.
Shooting down emotions with logic
And the future, our future, with reason and hellish realism.
Just sometimes, not often but sometimes,
I've felt that we've managed true nakedness.
Thrown off all the fabricated material and intellectual crap.
The Emperor and Empress have discarded their peacock clothes,
Lying together mutually limbed and comfortable,
Allowing the simple truthful words out:
Please love me but don't trap me.
I need you. I want you. I love you.
Therefore I am vulnerable.
Don't hurt me.
Love me massively but not blindly.
Don't be my slave.
Don't be hurt by me.
I fear both betrayal and boredom.
Let us not destroy each other,
Though let us have the power to do so.
Let's put everything into it.
Let's show and be the real us.
Let's do it.
Please be as I have dreamed.
Please stay.
Getting to where love needs to be,
To that basic kernel of all human love -
Dumb holding and hoping.
Dumb holding and hoping.

Stack - Simon Rennie

Here are the roots of the tree of knowledge.
Every leaf takes sustenance from their
Intrepid delvings into unknown soil,
Their widening boundaries of the edge
Of the possible, their decades of care,
Their exhaustive paean to incessant toil.
But for the labour of long-dead minds, where
Would even the flimsiest pamphlet be?
Years of learning and etymology
Are the secret story that all words share.

These are more than just dusty aides memoire,
Redundant tomes from an obsolete age;
Here lie the Principia of all things,
The first utterings of the way things are.
The writer may be made a fool or sage
By posterity’s take on what fate brings
But each idea is more path than cage
And there are pleasures in false diversion.
Truth is not all one gets from immersion
In the rivers that flow from ancient page.

I don't comb my hair - Ben Willems

I don’t comb my hair, the loss
of motor function come to think of it
was gradual but even sudden as it did
appear was not a shock. When you have
disposed your own limbs like a puppeteer
started dressing yourself down in shops
wake suspicious after dreams and can’t
decay on carpets you will accept
your lot.

Missing Contemplation - Richard Iveson

Life is cruel and kind when all that uncoils when the head unwinds, is partial glyphs of recollections from a recording device that skirts over facts and figures. Our memories lapse in light of moments of complications and contemplations, which our good nature knowingly sweeps aside to ensure continuation of survival. Had we the knowledge to be able to glimpse into the darker regions that we purposefully disregard, as if it were a mission statement for existing, a blazing trail of hurt would consume. Life is cruel and kind. Its mysteries protect the sodden soul.

Once Upon A Time In Manchester - Dermot Moroney

Black night, blue light,
Cocaine covered bullet
Explodes inside a brain.
Red milk, grey shards,
Pebbledash the floor
Lifeless stricken stain.
Hitman, death squad,
Walk out through the door
Into the acid rain.
Gangland, drug war,
Shooting through the street
Into a ruptured vein.
Wild-eyed, gunfights,
Terrorise the weak
Taxing the insane.
Nightclubs, white lines,
Gangsters run the town
Doling out the pain.
Doped up, bombed out,
Razored in the face
It’s Manchester’s refrain.

Migrate - Rebecca Smith

I speak about
the nature of birds
how you are like one;
you trip over your feet’s awkward twigs
Balance, once you’ve found it,
On the edge of flight.
Your words are thick as gravel
still as a lake beneath trees
Slyly I hide things from you
I hide the bright parts of myself
That moment I saw a skyline
refract and break on the sea
thought, this is the cleanest image
I will ever own.
You speak about
the nature of love
as if we’ve found out its secrets.
You’re winging your way

Traveler - David Tait

You collect fridge magnets
from countries you don't visit –
teaspoons, thimbles,
postcards filled
with small-talk
on the time difference –
blue biro slashes
carving out the weather.
Your ethno-tat dresser
parades puppets –
frames of the family
wearing nothing but beach-huts,
paper-weight pyramids,
a brass Eiffel tower.
You live these images
even though
we got you your own passport.
But then you can't speak French.
Can't stomach all the fuss.
And how would you climb Mt. Fuji
anyway, on your bad leg?

Summer with the internet - Matt Byrne

Summer with the internet

We travel through three worlds aware of one
but all merge together, collaborating

I tread gravel under boot through this summer,
and batter down the spring under a bathroom shower.

This is the cum on the touch light, the clenched pencil
in primary school, the sweet rust of sharpeners on teeth

the legs of Ms Payne, her scarlet skirt of serial killers,
the lobster-like thoughts of laced panties.

This is the wine threshed weeping without tongues,
a cream pie at the Bukkake party of rust

Wordsworth is a girl to fuck and fall in love with
she works in a bakers shop on my holiday near the lakes.

We travel through three worlds aware of one
but all merge together, collaborating

We are crowned and cowering,
laminated and alive

Halo kneed and late for tea.