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The Traveller               Flowering

         Pipe Lines           Alone

 

The Traveller

                  for John

 

The elephants first surfaced,

swathed in a sea of silver stars –

an umbilical cord of silken saris; the traveller’s

rough nails snagged the weave, triangulars

 

of gold appeared. He pulled again

scattering nutmeg, beaded bracelets, more,

the orient of a sailor's kitbag –

to treasure-house our shabby kitchen floor:

                                   

Mahmud leading the tired herd

homewards across a swelling river,

heads turned towards the rising sun –

Eastwards, the traveller said. His shiver,

 

unexpected, pulled me up sharp,

I looked at them. See how they skulk,

he said, if you face them the wrong way.

It’s Eastwards, Mecca, or see them sulk.                            

 

                        ***

 

And so they stayed, he saw to that

till his wife, dusting them the day he died,

turned them westwards, faces to the wall.

I stretched my arms to turn them, sighed –

 

heard his traveller’s voice, That’s it, that’s fine,

the ebony was cool to touch – the hands

I saw were his, not mine.

 

June English

published in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 7

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Flowering

 

If I could pout my petals, spike my leaves,

I’d be a Christmas Cactus in a pot.

One of those nice to look at don’t touch Eves

whose heart is stitched into, not tacked up, sleeves,

blooming and blazing until overshot.

Then turns its back, becomes a ‘touch me not.’

 

But no. I’m more the Hollyhock: naďve,

back garden type. The faithful bloom-again,

a Summer dress,  colourful but plain;

packed away to bring out every year.

The high necked sort that don’t drive men insane,

with ample bosom-room to house kind hearts.

The ones that send men pubbing for a beer

a pint or two and several games of darts –

a homely frock for birds of little

brain.

        

June English

published in Orbis

 

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Pipe Lines

 

Thirteen Roosevelt Road –

there was something about that house –

from the moment you stepped inside,

 

hungry for the steak pie, baking  

in the black-leaded Kitchener; breathed

in lavender polish rising from lino floors,

that, when mingled with Old Holborn puffed

from Dad’s pipe, spelt home. 

 

            ***

 

Look, that’s him, sitting in his velvet armchair

puffing his pipe. He’s chanced his usual Saturday

half-crown on the ‘donkeys,’ a five race accumulator –

and the first three have won.  That’s me and our Jim,

sitting on the edge of the settee, yelling,

 

Come on, Homeward Bound. Come on ...

 

eyes glued to the fourteen-inch telly

watching every black and white movement,

screaming our hearts out, yelling He’s gonna do

it Dad. Look he’s up front –

 

You’ve won Dad, You’ve won,

and him shouting, Four down. One to go –

don’t count yer bloody chickens, wait

fer ‘em to hatch.

 

Sixty-five pounds he won.

New shirts and frocks all round –

what a knees-up we had! Sofa and chairs

pushed to the walls, carpet up. Grandad,

strumming his banjo, Mum on the piano.

Awful how it all slides away, dissolves

 

into Dad’s empty pipe, set down

on the hearth of a house

he never saw...

 

June English

first published in Agenda

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Alone

 

Alone at Dungeness. Listening to the sea,

unloading despair in the crash of the waves,

closing her eyes on the warmth of the sun,

soaring with seagulls as that fresh start calls.

 

Unloading despair in the crash of the waves,

soul searching over, ready to flee –

soaring with seagulls as a fresh start calls –

back to their flat to pack a suitcase.

 

Soul searching over, ready to flee,

time to move out, time to leave him,

back to their flat to pack a suitcase.

What if he followed her, what if he found her?

 

Time to move out, time to leave him.

Packing a suitcase, booking a taxi –

what if he followed her, what if he found her?

Frightened of leaving, scared stiff to stay.

 

Packing a suitcase, booking a taxi,

listening out for the honk of a horn,

frightened of leaving , scared stiff  to stay  

better to wait and sort matters out?

 

Listening out for the honk of a horn,

chewing things over and over again –

better to wait and sort matters out,

cancel the taxi go back to the beach.

 

Chewing things over and over again –

wanting to  leave him, but nowhere to go.

Cancel the taxi go back to the beach,

back to the cold sea that calls to her;

 

wanting to leave him,  but nowhere to go.

No one to turn to, no one to tell –

only the cold sea that calls to her;

closing her eyes on the warmth of the sun –

 

 no one to turn to. No one to tell.

Alone at Dungeness listening to the sea,

closing her eyes on the warmth of the sun –

drowning her sorrows in lung-loads of brine.

 

June English

published in Acumen, September 2012

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