First There Is An Island

She said she knew England
A road without markers
Her justice in pieces
Her magistrates smiling
She said she knew England
An arrogant cousin
In fishhooks and baubles
And tears for the chosen

Policemen are dancing
With bells on their truncheons
And floral print fuehrers
Bake cakes by the fire
The babies chant low songs
Of dread and despair
From pushchairs grown fat
On your Saturday dreams

England- the space in the mirror
The back of your hand
Turned over
Awaiting the cane

Monster munch and crazy paving
Freaked out on cider
And sunbeds in suburbs
Still grateful for bingo
And indoor plumbing
Eyes to the left
And feet underground

Walking down the road of your name
Past crimes glimmer through the mizzle
Letters, hoaxes
Diaries abandoned by April
Fallen through history’s trapdoor
Snapped up by the crocodile king

Cities are mazes
The Minotaur sadness
Futility creeps
But we follow the string
And the carvings-
Lumbered with it
Not too shabby
What’s your poison?
Early morning café grease
The cosmic wheels
Pidgin shouting rooftop prophet
And the writer
Writes of man
And setting out
The rites of Pan
Still shadow-tied
And nursery
Tea total
Oil and blood
And pirate logic
Tick, tock and barrel roll
Still past the pole star
Lost boys waiting
Zippo rag
And shanks all glinting
Play the music
Louder now
But cannot hear the hook
He cannot

Here we are on motorways
On rail replacement
Buses, here we are
Our scrying mirrors on our laps
And here we are
Gone binary
Gone flatscreen instant message
Junkies, here we are
On Easyjet
Gone global
Here we are
We’re crashing all the programmes
Eating up the world

‘Spare some change,’ he said
And teatime drunk I dropped
Some silver in his hand
‘I didn’t actually expect
You’d stop and give me anything’
He half apologised, but pleased
For the first time I looked at him
His oceanic face
His eyes still swimming
With the tide of youth
But blood-dark scabs
Like Islands
‘Here be Dragons’
On an open map
‘Good luck,’ I muttered
Hurried on
Into the dark
How many changes can we spare
To spoil a god
We kicked out years ago?

And England, well
I never met her
Though she dressed me
Kicked me in the shins
And ran
I found some pennies in my pocket
Half a conker
Sunday shame
A rusting button badge
I sometimes wore…
But now I’m nowhere

England- where?
England- what?
England- who?

Half the world still screaming out
In terror when they think of you
If anybody thinks of you
At all

Roast beef and mustard gas
And in the mud at Glastonbury
Twenty thousand died
Their bodies hanging on
The metal fences
Just on the first day
They closed the gates
Brought back the Beatles
How the crowd all cheered
‘All you need is love’ their leaders sneered
And from the stage they opened fire
You can see it on TV
The slaughter going on for years

First there is an island
Then you are the island
First there is an island
Then the island
Is you

(from The Last Auk and other poems, (c) 2012). 


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