Returning to the Table
After some time I return to the table.
I check the corridor in both directions
To see if it is safe.
Are my myriad enemies, my detractors,
Hiding behind chairs,
Ready to spring out and lacerate me for fun?
It’s like shooting bullets at a ghost.
Here I come, down the main corridor
Like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters
Destroying buildings and roads,
My footsteps leave no trace on the floor.
Only dust in my wake.
I hear echoes from further down the hall;
The coast’s clear. Come on out. Come on out and have fun.
Don’t let the bastards grind you to nothing,
Forget about what they done –
Here it is, your space at your table,
The chair pulled out waiting for you to take a seat.
My leaden limbs fall foot after heavy foot upon the floor.
My face is paralysed; my tongue frozen in my head.
What the hell am I going to say?
I sit and wait for the word, an angel at this table,
The page remains as blank as snow, you know,
What the hell am I going to…
I pick up the pen and make a dark red mark, an X.
It’s all I have to say to you,
The one who will come after,
The ‘yes’ after the ‘no’,
Cover your hair and your eyes,
Drive on through the darkness,
Drive on through the night,
Stay long enough in the blackness,
And the dark will turn to light.
After Lights Out at the Horniman Museum
We only look dead. When the lights go out
(and after the overly industrious cleaning lady has been and gone)
You see the other side of the story.
It’s only been an act all along. We spring to life –
like nursery toys were once purported to do.
The dodo yawns and snaps his beak.
The moths and the butterflies leap from their pins,
careful not to damage their fragile wings.
The beetles clack. Nobody makes a song and dance.
We’ve been in Blighty long enough – we know better.
We’re local now. Nobody smashes panes –
though it’s rumoured that one of the more melodramatic eagles
threw a hissy fit last Friday and threatened to shove a wing through the glass.
The remnants of decorum held him back. A severed pride.
Most of the rest of us are bitterly resigned – we exist to be displayed.
We’re years past asking –
which side of the glass are you (stammer) which side are you on?
We understand the rules – just act happy.
You get a few thickos, dumb bunnies,
stick-in-the-muds who refuse to play along.
The merman could be one;
still bitching about being excluded from The Great Exhibition.
He always was big-headed. Dissatisfied with his position and his place
relegated to that dank side room, with the African tribal masks
And those ridiculous glass cages filled with tiny stuffed birds
perched too gaily on twigs. Ideas above his station.
He wants centre stage. Reception area.
Silly bugger’s still claiming to be the real thing
decades (nay, centuries) after it’s been proven that he’s a fake.
Us underlings – we know who we are –
This precious night is all we have.
We rustle for hours in the dark, grateful not to be watched until
the first key of the day turns in the lock.
Quick quick quick – assume natural pose.
Behind the Scenes in the Lost and Found at the British Museum
Why can’t these people be more careful?
How tricky can it be to keep track of your possessions?
If I didn’t know better, I’d think they bought just to lose.
I never misplaced a thing. I am the perfect warden. A keeper, of sorts.
To the left of that stack over there to the right -
somebody’s red mittens, somebody else’s red shoes.
Rarely do I give them what they ask for,
even if what they think is lost has been found.
I rummage in piles. I take my time.
I return to the counter empty-handed.
“Sorry,” I say. “Don’t have nothing for you.”
I hold out my hands, palms upwards. A universe of vacancy.
Their faces hold worlds of disappointment. I pretend that I care.
I never let on that something isn’t right.
The beehive glass of the Great Court lets in far too much light.
The Fix-It Man
I am the fix-it man.
I am your remedy – I will bring you back from the dead.
I will ease your pain, set you on your feet again.
I speak in clichés, it’s true. I could be the death or the birth of you.
I can get you in the door, pick you up off the floor –
O there’s nothing I couldn’t do for you.
I could put you in jail or grant you release – is your jigsaw missing sky?
I shall find the absent piece.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men –
I succeeded where they failed, which is to say,
I’m the guy who put what’s-his-face back together again.
I have quite a reputation.
Unformed universes revolve in the palm of my hand.
Guy Fawkes Gives His Sincerest Apologies
Look guys, I’m all apologies.
I never meant to purchase all that wonderful gun powder,
never intended to blow your good little government apart.
If I could’ve, I would’ve loved to have joined you,
a nameless number in a faceless hoarde. I tried; I tried and I failed.
These things happen all the time.
When they sing, they crone not my praises but my crimes.
Fawkes at midnight, and by torchlight there was found
With long matches and devices, down deep, underground
I was arrogant, of course. Evil little creeps like me always are.
I was something to protect yourself against. Keep me out.
Build a fence. Be sure to ring it with barbed wire.
O England praise the name of God
That kept thee from this heavy rod!
But though this demon e'er be gone,
His evil now be ours upon!’
I was nothing you should bother with, something that you should keep away from.
An A-bomb. Sooner or later, it’s gonna blow. Tragically, it never did though.
Although nothing is for sure, some things are for certain –
I will never grow old, and you can say what you like – I made history.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
I am not dead, only sleeping.
Sunday Evening, Driving West
Drive straight into the setting sun.
The ghosts that shriek around your ears
are just as harmless as flies. Bat them away.
The shackles that they put you in have been broken;
the chains have been changed. Cage door hangs open on its hinge.
Look up. Orange sky flames bright.
Look neither right nor left. Keep your eyes on the road. Drive.
Drive straight into the setting sun.
Its golden rays will turn you into dust.
Forget the living and the dead;
No-one can touch you here.
You are almost skeletal, your flesh burnt away.
Eyes suspended in a skull. Let the bones of you drive on.
It’s all you have to do.
The rest has already been decided for you. Mimic choice.
Raise your voice. Drive on.
It’s late Sunday evening and everybody else is sleeping.
The lights in the houses, the factories, are out. Black windows.
Only the street lamps shine. There’s nobody else around.
As you vanish behind the far horizon so will the sun,
the two of you going down together, in time, then out of it.
Have fun. The sun will claim what’s left of you,
cast no shadow. Leave a mark. Burst into flame.
Rise again – why not? What else have you got planned to do?
Disappear into thin air – the sun will take the best in you, what’s old,
drive on into the desert, some god, sizzling, waits for you -
devoured without care, without fuss,
You will be nothing, like the rest of us.