Friday, 24 May 2019



But just a little way 
above our heads,
not forgotten, 
yet better gone dead,
putrid pox-ulcered decade,
bleed you blue, 
bleed you red.
When friends turned on friends
with thick blades, 
with broad strife,
with wild eyed impunity 
themselves to knife,
butcher each our hearts and hack,
drill deep for blood, 
for wading forwards
was tedious as wading back.

Terminate decade,
windpipe-choke her, death rattle,
cease prattle,
rotten, fetid reeking
foetus, litter shackled.
Still defiant in
her final months embattled,
gobbling down her own
perpetual tail
crawl under ways, end dying days,
ripped belly flop
drag her slothful
rough shanked scales and wail,
thrush bannered,
rictus grinning serpent,
strip torn, hair shorn,
crab clipped calendar,
sheered and shaved,
feast her on flick bladed
lacerated open entrails.

Bleat sheep 
following sheep,
they half asleep,
counting down weeks,
counting back microseconds
in radioactive rams,
and blank canvassed rems,
drag fingernail half-life decayed
end, at pistol-whipped starting gun,
soon enough and come.
Come cancer,
Come chance encounter,
Come lover:
riffle finger her rank slime,
then taste tongue her,
and gaze on 
dried sheeted waste
love duck islands in the stream,
'Ziggy played guitar'
he screamed,
shouts out something obscene,
when crashing 
in the same car.
Tear her open, 
set us free,
of deficit and austerity,
break out the hats and hooters
like it’s 1999,
guerrillas on scooters,
high on crime
smash slop-dash kids
who glass their shooters,
the what me generation's
terrorist looters. 
Lifting sports shoes,
lifting energy drinks;
dead brained 
sucking soft boiled,
slack jawed
well spoiled,
Redundant tutors 
abandon classes
hang dog their eyes on fire,
blasted smoking funeral pyre,
kneel and pray
like Romans - 
turn, turn, turn – now,
then walk away.

Come, blind greybeards,
Come lottery, 
Come flicked snottery: 
death-vote nose picking,
cocktail pin sticking,
thin skinned paper pricking, 
cross stitch biro ticking
exit, for exit’s sake.
Hang parliament,
draw and quarter
decimate and slaughter
hopeful futures, 
of each son and daughter.
Bleed all, grip head,
plant doubtful seeds 
inside instead,
then weep and dead for
every rotten tower block,
cladded cut-price timber,
spontaneously in conflagration
smirks the savior of the nation,
then twist one finger.
Vote Saville Row, vote Tory,
every picture tells a story,
glutton chopped mutton 
breakfasts, blood and gory,
hospital ball pass, 
trust to piss trash,
in papers make 
but a little splash,
shift gear sticks, night clutch
gummy deposits, 
donations of tacky cash
from charity walker. 
Neat and nifty
where stickly insects 
roam blind cobbles
mono legged 
and hobnailed hobbled.
The Gods themselves 
fiddle in crimes,
pass the cap, 
applaud the times.

And now,
but just a little way 
above our heads,
not forgotten, 
yet better done dead,
bleed you blue, 
bleed you red;
close eye, goodbye, 
despair and cry,
another decade 
just passing by.

Friday, 10 May 2019



Crashing the breakers on pellucid shingles,
with each circumrotary stroke, one the other kisses
shift you separate collection, buff to gleam sharp edges,
syncopating to soften and rest them on sedges.

Sighing the lusty winds fingers green backward rushes,
flurried nod of feathered head seed bed gushes
drift in clustered parachutes, oblivious to shifting time,
alight and sugar dark forest carpet to harebells’ chime.

Caressing rainwash over greyed reseda copse,
greened the shoots coupling with matted silken drops
thrust saplings ever skywards, through love’s littered
leaves, diseased, warm soaked bitter glittered.

Changing keys ever, and, oh, awaken Lucy, stretch
you, move out hands through wheat, then greet
him, but young, running in dawn’s sunshine
by ancient mossy stones, sipping together life’s time.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Ace of Wands

The Ace of Wands

That’s me at the roadside, look. I should be reaching out to sneeze on the sleeve of some wedding guest, but I never shot it, see?

My name is Tarot, like the cards.

You lose a T here or an O there, in life, don’t you? Lose the O and it turns me into something of a tart.

Anyway, ever heard of an old TV show, called ‘Ace of Wands’? Me, neither.

Well, tell the truth, that’s a lie. Course I have. But I never bothered to watch it. In any case, even if I’d wanted to, it’s been wiped.

Wiped? No, not like your nose during an Arabian sandstorm, or your eyes when they stream in the heat, over there in the desert. No, not that. Wiped, as in destroyed – you know, take a magnet to magnetic tape and it’s all over. Scrambles everything, at least that’s what I heard.

Anyway, I used to find it repellent. My name. But you kind of slip into them sometimes, like old condoms. Lies, I mean.

Mother was a big fan. Well, of course. Therefore, my name. I became.

So, Tarot was this magician that would crack murderous psychedelic crime using mysterious powers and a magic pond – sorry, wand - time travel, journeying the inner workings of the psyche, piecing together the bigger picture from memoory's fragments – rubbish like that - nightmare gas? Yes, that was one of his, I’m told, a gas that would cause you to dream yourself to death.

She believed in it, though, last of the hippy chicks – cried when John Lennon was shot, although I can’t remember (being only eight at the time), but I think it was the final straw for my father because he cleared out shortly after and was rumoured to have worked hard at being a no nonsense garage mechanic. I think he was reasonably successful, too, but Wolverhampton is a long schlep, isn’t it? Well I’m not going there at my age, anyway.

“Now it’s just you and me, my little magician,” she’d said. But it was father who’d done the disappearing act.

I think I stumbled into teaching more than anything else. It wasn’t so much stage fright in the final exams, as sleight of hand. I’d slept my way through Sociology as you do, well most of us do, except for the rabid lunatics that actually fall for it, you know, the ones who turn out to march up and down Royal Parade chanting ‘lesbians can’t be licked’ and beating up police horses with one punch to the throat.

I remember that in my finals, now you ask, that I’d scratched my arse, looked at the questions and written something along the lines of ‘it’s just like sawing the lady in half’ and ‘most of us are good at pulling rabbits out of hats’, that sort of thing. Anyway, I’d scraped a 2:2. I chucked a few random quotes from Haralambos in there, too. Ended up teaching English in a comprehensive for a bit.

It was pretty decent. Not the English, well I was never much good at that, to be honest, but the craic was good. Still, there was some old professor, Alan, took more than a bit of a shine to me, maybe ten, twenty years older at the time - come to think of it he probably still is that much older, unless he’s dead – and I wouldn’t put that past him - forever grumbling about how education should be free in a meritocracy and surely, I should’ve known that with my degree.

My degree?

Oh yes, sawing the lady in half, brackets hons, close brackets. That was it. I should’ve told him I don’t know anything, I can’t ever see.

Still, I remember how he’s droning on about how David Cameron - bless him, bless him - was all about trying to reduce the unemployment statistics by making everyone stay on at boarding school five years longer and…and here’s the real killer…making them pay for it too.

And what’s wrong with that? Never did me any harm. Apparently, they’d given him a grant for his. His degree, the old tart. Waste of taxpayers’ money.

Well, I never lasted long at that school anyway. It got tough. He got tough, too, driving up and down the drag on his scooter, chasing young men and all that. And these people telling me every couple of years that I needed some improvement, so I did my vanishing act out of there and found my way to the desert.

It wasn’t bad, to start with. It depended on your point of view, really. There were some who were just here for the malarkey, others there to make a difference and world peace, still more who had just got lost. Me?

Well, I’d tell you. It’s hard to remember, though. I’m not sure, anymore, not after all this. Like fog. Or dry ice. 

Don’t look in the mirror. You should never look in the mirror.

Alan, takes one look at me back then and, with a conspiratorial tone, says something along the lines of “Tarot, my sapling, it’s all in allusion and allegorical. Look, if you’re going to allude to something, keep it dark, and if you’ve a strong moral message, then show, but, whatever you, don’t tell, don’t ever tell. Just keep it dark.”

All I’m thinking is, “that’s a song by Genesis”.

Look, revelations, now. I’ve got to tell you this, they’re coming to take me away, right, if I spend any more time drooling uncontrollably on these paving slabs? So, you know those cars? The ones they named after turtles? The Kia Turtle. Oh, come on, you know Kia Turtles.

No? Well, me neither, in fact, the nearest I could find was a Volkswagen Beetle which has a hump. And, over there in Kwata, that’s a rarity, I don’t think the Germans have got there yet, but I can’t be sure.

I’d like it to be a turtle. It should be one, but it was probably a Pajero, so there you go. And it’s broke. By the road on the hard shoulder, causing a right mess, in fact. There’s a queue of traffic and patience on the roads was always in short supply, right? Oh, the noise, the commotion: I’d like to describe it for you, but I don’t have the words.

Let me think.

Hellish. Yes, it was like hell. I’m no writer. Strictly straight laced literal with never a simile.

Ah, you’re thinking, but he teaches it, doesn’t he? It’s what he teaches. But, no, I entered that box and fell out of the world. Or, was it with the world? I can’t remember. Age will do that to you.

So it pulled up, and I got out of the bus. The bus to work, to the school; I didn’t mention that, sorry, context. We weren’t going nowhere, you think, being British, so where’s the haram and I’d probably had a couple, which is always on the cards, it being a very civilized and tolerant state, I’d maybe had more than that and I’m feeling wizard. Even lit up a cigarette. Kind of nonchalant. You can still smoke there and it’s lovely, especially in the bars, not that I ever do. But I do, just because I don’t, or can’t, or both.

“Anyway, what seems to be the trouble?” Get me. Is if I’d know. But, she looked at me from beneath the hajib and I could tell, straight away, no nonsense, something important.

“Can you tell?” she said, in fairly good English, but in truth, I couldn’t really, and I still can’t.


It was one of those times where you wished Thunderbird One was roaring overhead with all that sixties confidence and there’s Virgil, speaking in bad American, because in those days we’d civilised the world and all it took was Scot. Well that’s what they’d have you believe, anyway.

But they was before my time. So, I fiddled under the hood like Ranieri. Well, you know me. I can’t tell my angels from my demons because it takes education anyway and, to me, that’s total football, or Johan Cruyff, when he turns on point, so smooth it may as well be magic.

“What are you, some kind of tinkerman?” she purred. Which was damn sharp, I thought.

I wished that I’d said, “take me to your palace.” But instead, I coughed at the same time as the engine. And, as it spluttered into life, I’d looked at her, well, it was the eyes I looked at. The mocking mouth. No. Not mocking. I don’t have the words. If I’d even been in the classroom, I’d called their bluff, those eyes, but, they were my mother’s eyes, I’m almost certain – or my wife’s, that time she left me, ten years ago, or even tomorrow.

“You’re ace.” she’d smiled and, anyway, once it was fixed, she took me to her palace in any case.

I told her it wasn’t convenient. In the heart of Arabia, the heart of the world, deep, deep beneath the sky; like sea, deep we drove, forward, ever forward and, as it seemed to me, down and further down. Riding upon the backs of turtles.

If we ever arrived, I can only remember a cottage made of stone, somewhere to the west of Dartmoor.

“Tarot,” she said, “wake up, now.”

I ignored her because that’s my game, but this place was stone, everywhere, stone, clunking great chunks of granite clinker. And old. Where the television should be, all there was were books. Ancient books. Dusty, too, the sort that remind you of when you had a blackboard duster and you’d smack it in front of the dopey kid’s face before Professor Laing came out with ADHD.

And I’m glad he did, too, because I’ve probably got that.

It was wind and wuthering outside. And I saw Grandfather locked in a fixed portrait on the wall, cast in iron, above the unlit fire in the hearth, his hand hovering over the chessboard, hovering, fixed in perpetual paint, forehead creased like a raffia mat, his eyes so contrived that they appeared to be looking into a middle distance towards some sort of fading flight.

“Your Grandfather, Tarot,” The voice was kind. Kind of familiar, in a smug sort of way. And it belonged to a man dressed in a filthy sheet that looked as though fifty beggars had abused themselves into it for a week or two longer than the laundryman had taken to arrive.

I know things like that. I recognised him instantly – well it took a minute or two, but, you know.

“Otohime told me about the rescue. You always were one for the gallant gesture.”

“Was I?” I frowned, “Then tell me, ancient one, how it is that I arrived here, in this place, on the edge of Dartmoor, how can this be?” Well, I should have said that, if I had any kind of poetry in me, but I don’t and didn't. I am not Ace of Wands; I’m making that plain right now.

In any case, he wanted to show me books but all I could see were turtles. And Grandfather. Tessellated amongst the stonery.

“And here is Faustus,” he was saying. “I think he’s a fable.”

“No, Alan,” I heard myself reply, “No. Hell is a fable. Hell.”

“But this IS hell, nor are we out of it,” he smiled. And offered me half a litre of diet coke.

“ ‘That’s Life’ with Esther Rantzen is bollocks, isn’t it?”

“Of course it is. But that was 1977, we moved on since then. So never mind the bollocks.”


“So, you know me now?”

“But how can you be here? I heard that you sold the world.”

“But we all did that. Did you ever think that if we didn't, you’d be happier? If these books were never opened ever again, if they were to remain closed, if that one piece of magic could be achieved, the chaff would be the wheat?”

I thought that perhaps he’d give me one of those NHS sticks, metal and adjustable. The better to limp with. But no. He just smiled and waved at his wife. I kind of knew, though. “Lucy?”

“I don’t know,” Alan replied, “Could be, but she wears it all the time. And the nightingale sits so late that I don’t think I can find my way home, Tarot.” And he smiled, the way old friends do, those that died long, long ago. “Take him.” And he passed Grandfather’s portrait. “Your reward. For helping and all that.”

“Thanks, mate. Where?” To be fair, it was a genuine request. The only time I’d found my way to Dartmoor via the desert was in dreams. Where were we to go, Grandfather and me, really?

But he’d only left a smile, floating in the sky just a little way above my head, in his wake and, as I rubbed my eyes, I was back and the bus had gone. Overhead, the desert sun did its usual job of smelting whatever iron was left in me to rust. I shielded Grandfather. That sun was a demon.

Eventually, I gave up on the desert and went home. Back for good.

You take that sometimes, because you only came here for a bit; it was always in you to go back. It was always in the breeze and constant coming. The call of home. I just got on that aeroplane to the sound of cellos and sawing double bass with Grandfather in my suitcase.

Now, here’s the rub. I was never one for thinking anyway. Well you know that. So don’t you try too hard.

Spells? Yes, I remember them: and there’s always some fat woman running herself to grease on the treadmill, boobs bouncing in time to hot Ed Sheerhan disco beats as she checks her every message on What’s App when the magician finally pulls his hood off.

And if her pulse gets too high, they flash a warning, you know.

But this?

Something else. If you’ve ever seen John Barnes wink at the camera when he runs onto the pitch behind Lineker, you’d just know. Or maybe Tom Baker, arms held wide, shouting monologues about indomitable humanity.

My old town never seemed so distant as the rain pitchforked into my skin from heavens above and I looked in vain for my house. Anything I might have recognized. To be honest, I thought I hadn't been away that long, but it felt like 300 years.

Some people were running towards me, they were on the pitch, they thought…well, who knows? Was it all over?

They were waving me away, waving me goodbye and Alan had warned me, all those years ago, when he had given me the picture, never look at it, never look at your Grandfather. So I looked.

And looked; looked into mirrors that look at mirrors.