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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Winding Up


Winding Up


I was left the watch your father left to you
with instructions to wind daily.


A person that I hardly knew,
just sepia memories aged four
of hospital beds near London Bridge,
starchy sheets, ceramic bedpans, dressings on sores,
candlewicks of tar tinted threads,
bound tight across cast ironed beds.
Hushed, vacuum flasked antiseptic wards
occupied by elderly men who coughed and snored.
I wonder if I then grasped his hand?
If so, there is in memory no brass band,
no conductor grandstanding the bandstand,
just his watch held in my hand.


Opening the fragile cardboard carton revealed
nothing spectacular or intense.
no gold, myrrh or frankincense,
but some mossy coloured cotton wool
nicotine stained by time’s passing.
Matchwood sharpened to a toothpick point
lay by the silvered watch; tarnished and brassing,
dented, chipped-faced, soiled, begrimed;
now end-stopped, stuck fast in a wrong time.
At five to twelve.
An obstinate metal puzzle refusing to move
or yield to pulling, twisting, shaking, force,
so not to risk breaking the already broken watch,
I laid it aside in guilted remorse.


As directed, I later wound it anyway,
knowing it would always be wrong
in its soundless, pointed, ticking song.
Day upon day, keeping senseless time so well,
the second hand kissing the minutes farewell,
the hours minuetting the days soon gone,
the years that pass in decades bent on.
A cunning faced fox that gazed and mocked,
pig-headed, stubborn in its dog-eared box,


Rolling and fingering it in my palm,
the stained silver begins to warm.
In shadowed, opaque reflections, did I spy
a man who comforted the boy who cries?
Perhaps a kindly, gruff reassuring grin
scoffing at monsters made of tin,
looming onward through blackened white static
brushing dread cobwebs from a young mind’s attic.
Drenched linseed hands, honing wood with elbow,
 underarm tossing red leather at willow,
then cordite and shot, blood feathered gun belt,
table mannered lectures and wisdom dealt:
Words made of rolled steel blades.
Absent for months then abruptly present,
not witness to days of growing dissent.
Summarily dispensing political views
without compromise: hefting the news;
the wasting world unwillingly shouldered.


Now here’s a curried forehead:
thin papered with hair,
steaming - either from rage or despair
at the latest trick; some ill mannered youth
who never would succeed in grasping life’s truth.
 Parting company with crumbling planet,
fast bound for mountains of gravel and granite,
scornful, reclusive, impatient of fools,
grinding teeth in the earth with primal tools,
smashing the axe-head with hefted hammer,
flamethrowers, drills; the chainsaw’s harsh stammer,
striding up summits, tearing down walls.
and the past is a country you refuse to recall.
You carved your initials into Albion’s soil.
You broke your back with truthful toil.
Yet never quite forgetting: a fire that smoldered.


“Don’t tell them I’m a farmer,” you once commanded,
as I set sail for out of mind and out of sight.
Well maybe you were right.
But did it really matter,
the former or the latter?
In the end, the watch is stuck, age has struck
and England all out for another duck.
The maturing years may make us kinder
and all that we lose becomes a reminder
of why we should have held fast in the first place.
She hard pinched my flesh in the crematorium
and passed the watch in memoriam.


And here it lies.
Made the trip to the desert,
halfway across the world:
a smooth pebble caressed between finger and thumb
to rest in antiquated peace till kingdom come,
alongside its matchstick companion,
like father, like son.
And it is funny how connections are made
as we silent gaze:
bequeathed, these two bedfellows.
No doubt I heard your voice: you didn’t think,
the music in your head made your brain shrink
and you’ve had far too much to drink.
But it was suddenly patently clear.
Taking the chiseled wood so delicate
and slight probing the innards so intricate,
the hands moved, the penny dropped,
and now it sits beneath the clock.
Reconciled, keeping time. Well, still, perhaps
one outruns the other - until they overlap.


I was left the watch your father left to you
and though it had little in the way of splendor,
I will daily wind it. And I will remember.




Friday, 25 May 2018

A Pair of Tits


A Pair of Tits


“We could put on the white robes.”

“What white robes?”

“Those titty inspection robes that massage attendants wear. Then we can see more pairs. We can offer to free them for medicinal purposes.”

“Free them?”

“You know. Heh, heh, heh.”

“Is there such a job as a ‘titty massage attendant inspector’ anyhow?”

“Probably there is not. There are no robes anyway.”

Sam’s mouth expressed a milky sigh of disappointment and he touched his trunks without meaning to. That can happen. Even the most well-meaning of us can touch trunks. It’s not ever something you think about. A rub of the stubble here, a twist of the double chin there, a quick cock correction. It happens.

“Chekov’s cock,” thought Sam. Not that he was sure his thoughts meant well.

Jump in the pool?

Cool off.

No.

The thing is, though, as Sam considered his sticky predicament, if you find yourself by the pool, and you’re thinking tits and it’s haram, well normally you try not to look. Mainly you might see that they are racked up underneath a black cloak. Well, unless they’re foreign ones. But what is foreign these days? You look around, trying to observe without being observed and once suspicion is aroused, carry on as though scanning a middle distance skyline. If the observed catches the observer, as it were.

Sometimes you look without realising you’re looking, too. Like some kind of mesmeric miasma you are hooked, lined and stinkered. This time, though, Sam had more reason than usual. “They seem to be everywhere today, Mr Niven.”

“Mr Sam,” Niven replied, “We should go into the pool. Inspect them. You know that inspecting boobs ten minutes a day can prolong your life by as much as ten years. It was in The Sun.”

“So, you get in the pool, saying ‘excuse me, it’s my job to inspect all boobs’, poke around and leave? You can’t even swim.”

“I do not need to.”

The sun, the real one that is, not the red top, was so hot it was melting the distant desert into glass. Beside the curved rooftop pool, Sam looked up at the blazing ball. It wasn’t so much beating as going twelve rounds with Anthony Joshua and coming out on top. Points decision. Probably. He wandered from their deck chairs, noticing his armpits were starting to stink, and looked across the Kwatar skyline. The scrapers thrust skywards. Thickly scrapers, in a manly show of scrapery metal. Appearing to throb in the pulsing haze.

Sam touched his trunks again.

A woman in a lemon coloured bikini, with a slight but well-proportioned figure, was reclining on the tiled pool surrounds. Her legs wilted like palm fronds in warm water. She leant backwards, arms supporting at the rear, pushing her frontage towards the man talking to her from below; submerged and earnest. Another woman, older, in a brown and white camouflage two piece affair lolloped casually from the far end towards him, bouncing in time to her steps.

She didn’t even look at him. Just eased herself into the water and stroked back the way she had come.

Damn.

Sam now scolded himself for wearing a rather slight and clingy-when-wet pair of swimmers. He placed a towel over his lap when he sat down again.

“Hot. Must stop knees burning,” he muttered to Niven, who was nowhere near fooled.

He nudged Sam in the ribs. “Look, Mr Sam,” he grinned in a salacious tone. Sam did not immediately turn his head in the indicated direction. He was transfixed by Lemon Bikini, who was now using both hands to tie her hair into a bunch with elastics. Her companion was practically being tickled with forward thrusting boobage. Niven poked him again.

A contented looking middle-aged lady, blonde streaked hair, was raising herself out of the pool in front of them, pushing down with her arms. She smiled at nothing in particular as she heaved herself up. Well, of course her boobs flopped forwards, affording a decent view. Niven chortled under his breath. “A fine show. A bit soggy.”

“Well, that’s a couple of added minutes, then,” hissed Sam, thinking ticking life clocks. He lit a cigarette and sucked in smoke through his teeth.

“We have to do better. I’m not sure that soggy ones count.”

“Does The Sun have any opinions on soggy ones?”

Niven consulted the tabloid and skimmed through article. “Soggy ones aren’t mentioned.”

Sam frowned, creasing his burnished face. He looked like a gargoyle for a moment. “This isn’t good. This. Sitting looking out for tits. Here. We’ll get sent home on the plane of disgrace. It’s a level 42 offense”

“Ah, shaddup.” Niven scoffed. “You’re only sore because your girlfriend left you, Mr Sam. Left you. Er…for another woman.” He sniggered again and watched as the middle aged woman got back to her reclining lounger. She eased herself on, rump skywards for a minute and then turned over. “An ample portion,” muttered Niven, in approval. “We like ample portions, here in Kwatar.”

Sam was stinging, though. “It wasn’t her fault it took her 45 years to discover she was a lesbian, was it? I fully understood her decision. And supported it. Stupid tart.”

“Ah, shaddap. If you were there now, you could see two pairs for the price of one.”

“Would that be four minutes of extra life, then?”

Niven scratched his chin. “Probably it would, Mr Sam. Probably you would be very healthy with ten minutes on one pair followed by ten minutes on the other.”

Both men sat momentarily silent in thought, gazing at the pool. Residents and guests plodded up and down, oblivious to their scrutiny.

Niven’s phone buzzed intrusively and he glanced at it. “It’s school. It says here that ‘three man Ofsted inspection team arriving early from UK. Make sure all lessons and classrooms are prepared for inspection on Sunday morning.” he frowned. “They should have to inspect boobs, Mr Sam. They don’t need to waste their time with lessons. They should be ‘Inspector Boobs’, ‘Inspector Bottoms’ and ‘Inspector Knickers’.

“Yes, Mr Niven. But then their lives might be extended. We don’t want that to happen.”

“No. We do not want them prolonged in any way. Why they are coming to us, anyway?”

“Who cares? They are going to give us some kite mark seal of approval for International Standards or something like that. Why we should need any sort of approval from the UK is beyond me. The place is bankrupt of ideas, money… or teachers.”

“Yes. We are all here.”

“Looking at boobs.”

“Those fools in England. Letting their breast teachers go, willy-nilly.” Niven’s voice dribbled. “Now they will see the mistake they have made.”

“How do you intend to get nearer, Mr Niven? For full life lengthening, you need to be as close as that man there. He’s practically got his snout in between them.” Sam slyly indicated at Lemon Bikini.

“Yes. Soon he will begin to munch.”

Sam drooled into his beard; anticipating extended life. Probably. He watched as Niven whipped out a pair of black-cool, mirrored sunglasses.

“See, Mr Sam? With these shades, nobody can see where the eyes are. I can look anywhere and nobody will know.”

“Yes. If you had a white stick too, you can even pretend to be blind. Get right in close. Then stumble and get your nose right in between them.”

“Wait. That gives me an idea.” Now Niven took his copy of The Sun. He ripped two small holes through the pages in line with his eyes. “And now, Mr Sam, now I have this extra protection.” He demonstrated by raising the newspaper in front of his face so that the two holes where in line with his eyes. The newsprint shielded the face, but the two holes provided a line of sight. “Heh, heh. If I keep this in front of my face…”

“You’ll look like a Russian spy.”

“No, Mr Sam. I will not be poisoning anybody. My intention is to lengthen life, not end it”

“Good point, Mr Niven.”

“Wish me luck, Mr Sam.” 

As Sam looked without looking, Niven began to stumble past deck chairs clustered at the pool’s edge, blindsided by a combination of shades and tabloid. He had to admire Niven’s choice, though – he was heading for a right pair of whoppers. Not too soggy, either. Clenched together and sprouting from a tight black one-piece, these were the most certain crown jewels of all on show today. But surely he couldn’t see where he was going? Could he? Yes. No. He tripped, blundered downwards, face first and his head, as predicted, pitched forward into the gargantuan cleavage which wobbled, rippled and threatened engulfment.

Sam seethed in envy. “Lucky, lucky bastard.”

The splash soaked Sam to the skin and his phone clinkered to the floor as he instinctively covered his face. A hefty right hook and left palm thrust combination had cartwheeled Niven backwards into the water in a fluster of newspaper, crumpled shades and spinning phone. For a moment he was on the surface, stunned. Then slowly, like a hull breached ship, he began to sink.

The first choking mouthful of pool revived him. “Help. I cannot swim.” he spluttered. Then added, “and I’m blind.”

The crowd who gathered now by the edge didn’t seem to think so, anyway. Some looked sceptically at Niven’s flailing limbs whilst others were downright hostile. There was something nasty in the air there was no doubt about that. Most of them were women so, remembering he was on a mission, Sam couldn’t help himself. He retrieved his phone, took a few snaps and blundered his way to the front. “Let me through, I’m a doctor.” Then he added, for the sake of verisimilitude, “with a double degree in helping the blind  suffering pool water toxaemia.”

“He’s making that up.”

“There’s no such thing.”

Most of the muttering was distinctly English and Sam cursed his luck. There was no fooling this audience. That their next declaration was along the lines of, “How can the pervert drown in two feet of tepid pool water anyway?” capped it off. It was time to scarper and the devil take the hindmost. But first to recover the incriminating evidence.

Niven’s copy of The Sun, with the two peepholes, was floating tantalisingly close to his feet. Niven himself was now upright and standing at the pool’s edge up to his knees in water, face to groin with black one-piece. He stretched out a hand.

She wasn’t inclined to help, however, as you might imagine. Instead she aimed a slap which he deftly avoided. The movement was enough, and Sam grabbed the newspaper and made for the exit with all speed.

Too late. Security had arrived. They looked grim and menacing as they hauled Niven from the water. And no towel was offered.




It was perhaps 12 hours later at Al Waab police station, that the attorney turned up. Both Sam and Niven were, by this time, thoroughly pissed off, having had all their possessions confiscated. They had been given endless cups of karak, to be fair, but if this was an example of living The Sun’s extended, they were ready to let it set.

Still, she breezed in, all flouncy and confident with an eighties bouffant and a tightly buttoned suit.

“We’re innocent.”

“We’re teachers.”

“Innocence and teachers? That’s an oxymoron, surely?” she countered, all business and schmooze.

“I’m not a moron.”

“No, he’s the moron.”

The attorney, who preferred to be anonymous, but we’ll call her Jane, because that was her name, laughed lightly and plonked herself down. A middle aged lady, with hefty buttocks, she noticed her clients’ gazes drawn to her chest, but, unlike most who would instinctively cover modestly as if in afterthought unbuttoned. “Hot, isn’t it?”

“It is now,” sniggered Niven, then regretted it, because it was such a cliché.

Still, she smiled politely as she riffled through her brief case for an I Pad and then through the bag of confiscations the police had passed her as she’d entered.

First out was the peephole newspaper, which had received the thorough Kwatari sun-dried treatment. She placed her fingers through the holes Niven had torn, like some cougar version of doubting Thomas. She wiggled one in his direction. “Now, you see, it is pretty damning, though, dears. These resemble eyeholes. Your phone has several pictures of bikini poolside ladies. Not just a random poolside, you understand? The very one.”

Sam blushed. “What can you mean? Surely you are not insinuating that two of Her Majesty’s teachers, ex patriated to this scepter’d peninsula, this blessed desert, this oasis of palmic civilisation, two such as we, us two, were at the pool perving at boobs?”

Niven added. “I’m gay.”

Which of course is forbidden, so he retracted immediately by saying, “Well, I normally am, but it’s hard being happy in a police station.”

Still, Jane took it in her stride, being English. “You speak as though you are proud of your nation.”

Sam nodded and coughed. “Of course, of course.”

“Yes, however, I spoke to several poolside accostantees…”

Niven coughed, being no slouch, oh, by no means. “Is that actually a word?”

“It is now.”

“Sorry.”

“…who said that you felt that the UK was a place morally and financially bankrupt, bereft of all dignity. And Ofsted could fuck off”

Sam coughed. “Did we say that?”

“Well, I do hope so. It’s absolutely spot on.”

Niven was now sensing the some kind of strategy and, if he had still had his ice cool shades, would have, by now, whipped them back on. He was cock sure. “Ah, probably you are on our side? Probably you know that we are innocent?”

“Well, of course I am gentlemen. After all, what chance would you have, coming from such a place? That will be our mitigation.”

Sam coughed hopefully, “So you think you can get us out of here? It’s nearly the end of happy hour you know, and we were hoping to have a couple of lagers before bedtime.” Then, in afterthought, “You could join us.”

“How kind.”

“Well, you know, you’ve had a busy day and you’re thirsty I expect.”

“Well, perhaps.” Jane glanced at her phone, looking at some recent message she’d received, no doubt. Then she looked at the two men who were somewhere between relief and squirming embarrassment. “Perhaps, if you told me exactly what’s what, as it were, I can talk to the officer and we can get going? You know, the truth. Unembellished. If your story was a…er…cocktail, then leave the garnish to one side. Give me a straight up and down experience. Chop off the celery stick. Leave the gherkin out”

Now Sam liked the cut of her jib. This was no nonsense plain talk. “Leave the gherkin out?”

“Yes, gentlemen. Gherkin’s have no place here, do they?”

“Well, probably, miss, probably they don’t, probably you are right. What are gherkins?”

Jane arched her eyebrows, stared at Niven and thrust her chest forward. “Penis shaped mini cucumbers. Scarcely worth putting your lips around. And you choke on the vinegar.”

And her eyebrows continued to resemble an Isambard railway viaduct as the woeful tale unfolded.




Of course, it was dark by now, because the sun sets quickly. That did not mean it was cool, though, and the sweat was soon running down Niven and Sam’s cheeks in rivers.

“Probably we should call a Karwa.”

“Definitely we should, Mr Niven.”

Both patted their pockets until they realised their fatal blunder. “She’s still got our phones!”

 “Oh no,” Sam groaned, “that attorney has walked off with them.”

“Ah. Probably that was typical of her; a man would not have made such an error.”

“Well, why didn’t you say something?”

“I was looking at her melons. They were bountiful.”

But all was not lost. The attorney was now leaving the building, clutching the evidence envelope in her fist and her eyes now swept the yellowed building site. “Gentlemen! I can offer you a lift?” She waved at her yellow sports car. “I call it ‘The Banana’.”

Once safely interiored, there were some mutterings about heading to the nearest hotel, but, in truth, happy hour was nearly over. Now, Niven and Sam were thirsty, but prices to become somewhat prohibitive, don’t they?

Jane put her foot down and soon they were speeding around the orbital road towards the coast. “Gentlemen, how about my club?”

“Your club?”

“Well, not exactly mine, as in I don’t own it, you understand, but I’m a member. I know you’ll enjoy it.”

“Probably we will, but can we have our phones back?”

“What is this club of which you speak?”

Jane fixed her eyes on the curving road ahead, glancing occasionally at the overhead signage as she sped under it, cat’s eyes flashing past in a long yellow streak of lightning. “I think we’ll be just in time for this evening’s meeting.”

“Will there be booze?”

“Boobs? Oh yes.”

Her car executed a sharp right turn, bounced off a road hump, smacking Sam’s head against the ceiling, threw up some gravel and braked, just avoiding concrete sleepers.

Somewhat shaken, Sam and Niven opened the rear doors. They scanned the surroundings for points of reference. Very likely somewhere towards the end of the old airport road and the warm sea lapped gently on the cast iron shore reassuringly, unseen but nearby. The illuminated scrapers twinkled in the distance, miles away, but always visible.

In front of them was a hangar. Jane was already marching towards it. Aware that she was not being followed, she swung her head and her hair swayed in beautiful precision like a curtain closing at the end of act one. “Come on, lads!” About to push the door open in a singular push, she froze, mid thrust and waited for them to catch up. “Now, there’s something you should know. This is a club of…er…exhibitionists.”

Now just behind her, Sam coughed. “Exhibitionists?”

Jane’s eyebrows furrowed a little and she sucked her cheeks in. “Ah, yes. How can I explain. We’ve been doing it so long, it seems normal now.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, lads, not to put too fine a point on it, you might see some boobs.”

At this declaration, Niven certainly perked up and almost pushed Jane aside. “Boobs?”

“I think she meant booze.” Sam pursed his lips with the air of an expert.

“No. Boobs. Quite frankly, if you’d only telephoned, you might have saved yourself rather a lot of poolside bother. Still, as I always say, you can drag a horse to water…”

“Water? You mean the pool?”

“Shut up, Mr Sam. You’re only delaying the inevitable.” Niven licked his lips. “Now, Mr Sam, now we shall munch. Soon, it will be munching time.”

“Indeed we shall, gentlemen…” Jane paused. How to break it too them? “There are…some rules. You see, it’s mainly girls in there. Well, apart from some eunuchs, it’s all girls, actually. Topless. And bottomless.”

“Soggy ones?”

“Well, I suppose so. I mean, my own can look…er…soggy without support. It is the way of it.”

“But can we touch?”

Jane still refused to push the door open. Niven was practically dancing with joy at what might lie beyond. For his part, you might say Sam was aroused by the possibilities, but was still slightly askance, remembering the radio advert for Viagra he switched off in contempt. Damn. Still, even at his age, miracles can often happen, though. Certainly they can.

“Before we go in, there are some rules.” She smiled.





“Ah – Mr Niven? How long are we going to be locked in this box?”

“Your eyes deceive you. It is not so much a box, as a cupboard.”

“You can tell that, can you? I can’t see a bloody thing.”

“Yes, Mr Sam. This is a cupboard. We are upright. There are hinges here and here. Soon, this trapdoor will open and we will see the marvellous sight of dozens of lovely boobs. Each pair thrust into our faces as promised. We will munch and our lives will be extended.”

“Well, speaking of that, what can I feel against my right leg, anyway?”

“It is not my fault, Mr Sam. It is this hole of glory that caused it.”

“Ah. I see. Well do you think you might move to the right a bit? It’s tickling my leg.”

“Probably I could, Mr Sam, but movement is somewhat restricted in here.”

“What’s that?”

Now, outside, they could hear excited voices, whispering. It was a titillating sound. A few giggles. Even Sam stiffened.

However there was also another noise, incongruous in context; definitely the hard rasp of steel on steel. Well, Sam reflected, strange in that, when you are expecting at any minute to be smothered in soft fatty flesh, pillowed by bountiful fruits, then the grating set your teeth on edge and caused the naked neck hairs to prickle.

The trapdoor opened.

But not the one that Niven expected.

Light flooded into the tight coffined environment from below, not at eye level at all. Sam heard voices as the hand reached in and grasped his tightly, just before he fainted. “You see, eating these extends lives by as much as ten minutes.”

“It was in ‘Take a Break’.

“Was it?”

“What if they’re soggy?”

“Soggy ones weren’t mentioned.”

“Who’s first?”

“I’ve got the pan on.”


Then a pause.


“They actually walked into these caskets?”

“They always do.”

“Hmm. What a pair of tits.”





Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Freeze


The Freeze


Now that the cord is nearly broken
and the door more closed than open
the spell that is no longer spoken
 parting gifts now empty tokens
memories we no longer rake
little left of goodness sake
scratched out letters on mustard pages
words that speak in shabby clichés
scattered crumbs of once sweet cake
winds that fail to stir the lake
spring blossoms will soon fall and fade

red petals stripped from crimson rose
dank lilies lie in mute repose
chains that can no longer hold
of corroding metal rusted gold
gathering speed our ship begins
to sink in rippled plunging rings
lifeboat fights to stay afloat
drawbridge raised above the moat
unsteeded knight jilts hard won spurs
veins of blood stagnate unstirred
hammered stakes that pierce the heart
necking swans must drift apart
sly slinking wolf now cringing cur
cheetah with no drive to purr
decaying orbit of darling stars
lengthened dusks of pale memoirs

ever fixed mark is shaken
by the lodestone of love forsaken
tears that freeze before they fall
choking dust of cloyed mothball
padlocked heart still faintly beats
but the keys are out of reach
when my soul’s eyes start to close
and kindest thoughts between us froze.


The things we needed once to say
in ways that brightened up the day
caressing kisses hidden touches
reddened face and modest blushes
forever burning throbbing pleasure
sun blissed days without measure
minds that hunt for buried treasure
melding thoughts in fiery leisure
reclining in love’s arms once spent
smiles that silent speak content.
remember how we once were glad
about these that will make us mad.

But now that the cord is nearly broken
and the door more closed than open
our soul’s eyes sticky blind with disease
make kindest thoughts between us freeze.