She will break your hear using just an old guitar
Bared tattooed arms display her story in scars.
Fixing the audience with her passionate stare
A dark shadow under the spotlight’s glare.
She’s Shirley Manson, Brix, Joan,
Kim Deal, Kristin Hersch and Nina Simone.
She’s Courtney when she loved heroin and Kurt,
Plus Tori trapped in a quirky world of hurt.
She’s the lipstick on a cigarette stub,
No one knows how she survived her invite to the 27 club.
She’s a fallen angel who chain sawed off her wings,
Shining like a dying star when she sings.
There’s unanswered texts on a phone
A discarded present under the TV
A drained bottle of vodka
Bruises inflicted where the family can’t see.
There’s an engagement ring dropped on the carpet
Torn up wedding invites on the floor.
Spilled tablets around the sink
No answer to urgent knocks at the door.
There’s an unopened Valentine’s card on the doormat
Tear stains on Sunday best clothes.
A body sprawled on the floor
A pale lifeless hand on a red rose.
Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in a project at the New Art Gallery in Walsall where a group of us wrote poems based on some of the pictures in their permanent collection. Here’s one of the poems I wrote based on the above painting by Frank Holl entitled “Ordered to the Front.”
The morning dispatch shook the soldiers like cannon fire
The regiment is ordered to the front it calmly said.
So despite the earliness of the hour
Sleep was quickly swept aside
As the well-oiled military machine slowly came to life.
Uniforms were quickly pulled from chests
Bearskins removed from cupboard tops.
Wives hush crying babies while quickly dressing them
Daughters wrap whatever food is in the pantry.
Before all join the slow column to the station.
As young soldiers trade quips
Where the clock slowly counts down to departure
Casual bravado hiding nerves.
A shaking hand adjusts a hastily dressed uniform
Or tightens a rifle strap.
Unsure what is worse, the order to the front
Or a surprise inspection from a grizzled sergeant.
The older Men clasp a hand with their silent wife
While holding their rifle tight
Unwilling to let go of either.
Children instinctively know to be quiet.
Remembering their friends, who also saw their fathers off
But never saw them return.
The hardest thing I did this year,
was to stand up at your memorial service
and read one of your poems about nature.
I mean I’m a city boy, made of streets and brick,
reading a poem about the wisdom of trees.
Trees, my only concern with them
is when they drop their leaves
on my lawn.
But now I read your poem,
a poem whose words grew and blossomed
from the earth that nourished them.
Words to me that feel like
pebbles in my mouth.
Afterwards when I get home,
I take the paper with your words and
bury them under the tree,
at the bottom of my garden.
I thought you might appreciate it.
Your heart was a nothing but a maze of
twisted tiny streets. Each one promising
that it would lead me to you, but
instead spiraling me away from my
desire. Making me retrace again and
again my tired steps, as instead of drawing
closer to you, we got further and
Even us old grunge kids it seems have moved on,
We’ve come out of the clubs and staggered home.
We never got round to loading up our guns,
So we didn’t die as we thought we might unloved and alone.
Our long hair’s gone but our stomachs have grown,
When we move quickly it seems everything hurts.
We turn off the radio as it makes us feel very old,
Wearing our nostalgia like we once proudly wore our check shirts.
But if us old grunge kids are out moaning about mortgages,
And the jukebox starts to play Smells Like Teen Spirit.
We remember that with the lights out it was less dangerous,
As the guitar intro clangs we begin to rise from our seats.
Then we feel our children’s dirty looks and hear mumbled tuts,
Like an errant mosquito we feel beaten down.
But despite this denial we tap our feet and sing,
Happily worse at what we do best, ignoring all the frowns.
On our way home we dust off the CD to play,
Our offspring’s comments are cutting and unkind.
They scream. “What’s this ancient garbage you’re playing?”
We just sigh and say,” Nevermind.”
I cut out the last pages of mystery books.
I give Nuns blasphemous looks.
I sit at the back of the bus and smoke.
I teach your Gran filthy jokes.
I take up two seats on the train.
I drive slowly in the fast lane.
I enjoy farting in bed.
I remember every lie you said.
I return all your CDs scratched.
I consider myself a great catch.
I refuse to flush the lavatory.
I think I’m brilliant at poetry
Ray Winstone is auditioning to play me
in the movie about my life.
He says, ” I was drawn to the part as
I want to ditch my hard man image
and show my soft side.”
He continues,” I saw you on Facebook
and thought I could be that geezer. If I
can get in a ring with two thousand people
watching and be smacked around the head,
then playing you can’t be hard.”
Personally I don’t think he is coming
at the role from the right angle. But I’m too
scared to comment.
He won’t shut up, “You do a job like this
because you love the role, not because
it’s going to make you famous. The greatest
dramas in all the world are all about sex,
violence and death.”
Ray is starting to get a bit too excited.
“Next, ” I timidly cry out,
Ray stomps off.
Brian Blessed comes in.
“The misapprehension about me,” he begins,
“is that I’m some loud rampant maniac.
I am actually very pensive and quiet.”
I start to feel it’s going to be along day.
When I was a child there was a way
To make my little face light up.
That was simply to let me enjoy
Reading one of my favourite books.
From toddler to balding parent
From big books to small.
I’d while away any spare time
Trying to read them all.
Sadly as I got older I became fickle,
My love of print began to dwindle.
I fancied a new cheap thrill,
So I began an affair with a Kindle.
She was willing I have to say
We’d be at it every night.
My eager finger tracing her slim lines,
As we frolicked in her dim electric light.
But flings like this never last,
I longed for something finer in my hands.
My forgiving books welcomed me back
I knew they would understand.
They didn’t care I’d been unfaithful,
That for years I’d not given them a look.
I swore we would never part again,
As I was reunited with my books.
So from that day forward,
Though I don’t really like to brag.
I’m doing a book a day or more,
At last books again are my bag.
Support your local independent bookshop, I’m supporting Southcart Books.
As the sun struggles to rise, so do I.
Then when we’re both ready
I leave the house.
A cigarette on my lips and
a poem forming in my head.
While I amble I pay no attention
to the late night work of hard grafting spiders.
As I brush through their gossamer snares,
carelessly demolishing their creations.
My brain starts to fire up,
so I don’t notice
the crunch of snails.
My heavy tread disrupting their
frantic early morning rush hour.
At the bus stop I fumble for
pen and paper.
Worried my new poem
might disperse along with the
early morning mist.
Then when I arrive at work,
I place the poem on my desk.
Covering it in dust and red tape
I sit back to see
if anything germinates.