Earls Court Cafe


Down-at-heel adventurers
Wide-eyed in cafe windows, sip
The elevated loneliness 
Designed by Sartre and Burroughs.
Only the Australians
Will ever go home.

A snowy wind, a wintry mind
Abandoned for an altered state
Of Beat and Hippy paperbacks,
Romantic travel, Kathmandu,
But savings totted on a napkin
Still wouldn't stretch to France.

Consolidating confidence,
These early days of independence;
Another coffee guarantees
Another hour of life.







Hispaniola


Wind-chilled on the mudflats
In a hazy winter sunrise,
The Irish - gaunt, chain-smoking -
Tumble from the ganger's van
Piratical, dishevelled,
Still wearing suits from last night.
Do they never sleep?

Fixing steel frenetically in sparkling frost 
Till the sun grows warm enough
To warm the steel - 
And soon the hangover is sweated out,
Forgotten, and they start to talk.
Scarred, rust-red hands enfold 
Sweet mugs of tea. They start to laugh.

Gleefully obstreperous
They hoist and haul bridge-bouncing cables,
Precarious on parapets in failing light 
While civil engineers like tented generals
Pace and fret in nominal command.

Never tired and never sane
They lean from the van going home
Inviting London to pub and party,
Bright lights, and Hammersmith rain.







April Fools


Soundtrack of the spring 
was Brand New Day -
Van Morrison caught the mood 
Of light-filled convalescence,
Office Removal casuals
Driven at dawn down Regent Street

Or soaring over Westway,
Dangling, laughing, waving
Like partisans on Liberation Day.

Driver Len
With lurid wartime anecdotes,
McAllister, man-mountain,
Known to the police...
Andy, actor - so he tells us -
Yawning, brushing hair back,
And the bouncy Irish bluesman
Whose uncle once met Yeats -
Lounging languidly, apparently,
And wearing a cravat...

And interrupting anecdotes
The boss, ex-military, Hampstead class,
Brisk, arrogant, immaculate,
Theatrically bursting out
From camouflage
To roar at any riff-raff standing still:
Don't come back tomorrow - I can employ
A thousand fools like you.










Oasthouse Aromatic


Boxers, gamblers and scrap-metal moguls
Muscle in from the black-tie clan
Of Bethnal Green's lugubrious gangsters -
In-laws, outlaws, Jack 'The Hat' McVitie -
And overwhelm, back-slapping. 
September, so they're centre-stage
To tell eye-popping stories.

Scenery-chewing gypsies
Crack wood-nuts with their teeth -
Race red-hot tractors till they overturn,
Draw knives when they're demoted in the field.
Surviving children roam in expeditions
Bingeing on brambles, cornering
The occasional pheasant.

Opinionated students, liberal
With blacklists of the unacceptable,
Amuse avuncular farm regulars
Who mock with warm guffaws
The world-improvers
In clouds of airborne powdered hops
Intoxicating summer air.

Frenzied tractors bounce and roar
Flat out.  At teabreak - sunburn, banter,
And Old Man Henley 
Stately walks his kingdom.
What impossible task will he set us?
For a daughter's hand, a place in next year's crew -
Bring him the golden hop-bine?

After the hops,
We bring October apples -
First shock of autumn cold. 
Caravans and children
are dragged resisting from the rainy fields. 
One year to wait, in exile.









Happy Crew


A hapless, hilarious down-at-heel gang
Selling anything door-to-door
In Dublin and beyond.
Our yellow Fiat 127, indefatigable Biggsy,
Steam belching from his bonnet.

High-energy wit
In the runaway comedy
Of wilfully unrealistic thinkers -
Ecstatic conversation,
The sharing of random rewards.

In a hilly village, Biggsy breaks...
Black smoke from burning oil.
We peer into the mysterious engine.
Soft rain hisses on the engine block.

After the giggling rounds of drinks
I call my flat from Gogarty's Bar.
Can you come and rescue me?
I'm lost in the heart of Ireland.










Island


Music down a windy street -
Springtime trees and scattered petals,
Bright warm yellow door.

Sunny attic, view of clouds.
A blues fan from the Liffey delta
Introduces  Astral Weeks
By playing it through the wall.

Gina, in the room downstairs, is reading
Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
And recommending her beloved Zorba,
Jules et Jim, Jacques Tati's Trafic...

And Japanese Macrobiotics -
Enthusiastically pinning to my wall
An article from the Standard:
Plenty Sanpaku, Mr Whitelaw!

Brown rice, gomasio, bancha tea -
The spine-rush of energy
Lifting my hair in a thistle-burst
Like mad MacDiarmid on Selected Poems.

Well clear of winter shipwreck,
Embedded in warm sand
We wake up laughing.







The Sea Cook


Saturday addiction
The Golden Dawn
Foodshop, Bookshop
Alley on The Quays

Delicious in Dublin
A Japanese Cafe
Brown rice a portal
To the clear-headed Tao

Surf with Ohsawa
A wave of experiment
At a cooker in Ranelagh
Wake up amazed






I Hear the Surf Booming


Drawn to the warmth of gold we reach Hawaii, 
Tahiti, Treasure Island, Coromandel,
But first we land where there's no rivalry,
Where no-one qualified, with any class,
Would want to go.  Beckoned -

By technicolor markets and Corniche
Through checkpoints on a saltpan road
To lunar mountains.   Tyres 
Too hot to change, the sand
Too hot to stand on.  

Beheadings in the village square -
Lashings, gold, and flyblown meat.
Cockroaches carpet the shower,
Scattered by naked bulb and feet;
The zizzing of malarial mosquitoes.
Slaughterhouse shrieks erupt 
From the neighbour's yard -
Last moments of panic.
Arterial spray.

Quieter, stunned, on a civilised beach;
Bad dreams take a year to fade.