Kerouacs On The Road

Phones squealing like prodded pigs,

but I opened a book like a prayer
and couldnt hear them
squeal any more,
just the cough of a potato trucks brake
chasing the highway
down to Texas, or Hell;
and turning someones leftover pages
 - Dustie, I love you - on paper dry
as sand, sweat/spit corners
creased as chinos -

I came round thinking
you can keep your good book,
Ive already found mine

cos Kerouacs on the road:
and when you hear me bark like a muzzled dog
down the phone

I believe
Im out there - in that alabaster sunrise
where if you run out of gas
you pick up your feet and keep walking,
with no end of pity in sight -

living under the name
of Paradise.


Deadfall

Television snowballs
melt like ice-cream over raspberry
-cheeked faces; but real snow
is soft and brittle, each flake
as sharp as a dagger,
as light as the new moon; so fragile
that even moonlight
can melt it, strip its cold skin
from the half-buried bodies
of trees: but strong enough
to pelt wings from birds in flight,
send a body crashing
through my skylight
to rest here on the rug,
with only a single spot of blood
still red
where the wings were stripped;

and now I sleep I see them
up there, taken up by shapes
in the falling snow
to break the winter hills
and unload their wet cargo
like food for the starving,
like bombs for the breaking;

on this dry street
in this dry town
where we will awake tomorrow
and finally
find ourselves dreaming.


Small h

Hope is just another
of those words, like love,
and destiny,
that can
t be pronounced
with capital letters anymore;
only timid shapes
small enough to mean

I hope the sun shines
tomorrow’
or
Id love another beer
or
Its written in the stars
my team will win.

Which is probably why
it hurts to sit by the radio
listening to Woody Guthrie sing
This Land Is Your Land

because its harder to imagine
with every passing year
that people other than dreamers
soldiers and poets
once dreamt with a force
no capital letter could hold back

that land and life
were dough for the baking,
a loaf big enough
to feed everybody on the hillside,
no matter how many times
the bread was blessed and broken.

Radio says
they are going to put Guthrie
on a coin, or a banknote.
Why dont they just dig him up
and hang him from the White House gates?


The Good Doctor

Cheers for the drugs
that open my lungs like umbrellas,
the glasses that double-glaze my eyes
and the pin through the ankle
that stops the foot flying like a football
when I kick along the street;

but theres no pill for being lonely
and glad of it, no drug
thatll make me talk to people
as though we belonged to the same species;
and no operation that will stop me
feeling like a ghost in a house
that has no interest in being haunted,

and I hope to no god
there never is, because then
therell be no need for poetry:
and despite what the good doctor says,
its poetry that keeps me alive.


Booty Call

Midnight
knocking on my door
she says now
right now
with rain running down my legs
my skirt
s all torn
I ran all the way
sometimes you need it
that bad;

I like that
better on you than me
but take it off anyway,
drop it to the floor;
I want you wet like me

not the bed,
here by the door
where the carpet
s scuffed
and there
s mud from your boots;

- what are you waiting for?


Skeleton Keys At Sunrise

Keys clang metal pebbles
on oil-rich sand;
tide escapes
like soured wine from a dead
drunks mouth,

while the first fleck of sun
as tiny as a mouses tail
gradually draws in
the morning
s canvas,
only to bellow it free;

a summons
over the soil
to the sad
the sane
the clinically infected
to burrow down
into their beds
and hide their bodies
from a light
that will sour their skins
and slaughter
their minds:

best in the dark, brothers,
sisters, best in the dark
alone,
leave the insane world alone
to those so sick
they do not hear the scars of words
cross their own mouths;

stay where the ticking
is only a bomb
you planted yourself;
where time is a pay check
un-cashed in your pocket,
and keys are only skeletons
rust scrapes colours on
when the tide throws them up
on the beach.


Celltime

A cell can be on top of a mountain
or down at the bottom of the ocean
with all the other wrecks,
or face-down puking in a ditch
kneel-down in a church
with tears like spit
dripping from your face

makes no difference
what you believe
what you do
the cell is six by six
and those bars were only built
for you to chain-drag behind you
wherever you trail
on this foul earth

with its foul breath
breathing all over you
the same poison you breathe out
to tear down the sun;

those stars are not for you, boy
all you own is these bars,
these hands these eyes
this skin disease you rot inside
and these fists you beat them down with;
your own dirty sun
still shining in the hovel
of your heart.


The Dotted Line

Im engaged!  But Julianne,
soon the pink will leech from your hair,
and the IKEA catalogue excite you
more than new bands playing the Krazy House.
Youll remember how your tribe
gathered by a dead queens statue
with your hair as thick as tarred rope,
wearing purple boots so big
they looked they something an astronaut might wear
to walk about in space. And youre almost
looking forward to the day
when the kids youve already named
clump downstairs in purple feet.

Youll tell yourself its fine to let the pirate ship
run aground; rebellion was just a phase,
like chicken pox or mumps;
that even in the Krazy House days
it was more important to toe the dotted line
than to cross it. Thats why you wore heavy black coats
in Summer, and mini-skirts and t-shirts
when Christmas came to call.

You were a gentler liar back then, preaching
a gospel that only worked when you gathered
at the Krazy House to play. Youre more honest now,
happy to admit that what people really want
are the small, simple things; a job
that doesnt kill you, money for a night out
once in a while. The rest is just for dreaming
and the occasional oh well. Wild is just
for the bedroom; it doesnt work
when youre out on the street. It takes
a different kind of courage to say yes
than to go on saying no.

But it hurts more than you like it to
when you walk by the dead queens statue,
and the kids huddled together in beautiful black
might be a lost tribe of dreamers
smiling together for one last round
before they go their desperate ways.
And for a little while it makes no sense
that you cant put on your purple boots
and become once again
the girl who wasnt sure what she believed in,
but felt certain that it was brave.


Dead Man Breathing
From; Naked Lunch: dir. David Cronenberg

Worked in the movie
so hell, it must be true;
you get up real close to the bug
crawling your wall
and breathe hot living breath
all over its face, its eyes
its pores
the way you blow on a woman
s pussy
to cool her down
before your tongue warms her up

and the damn thing climbing the wall
is supposed to tumble and fall
the way it does in the movie;
something to do with the deadness of breath
after you
ve sucked it like juice
from an orange,
let it trickle down your throat like warm wet honey
and all that
s left is the piss
you breathe out at the world:

but when I get my mouth up close
and the little black smudge
is sitting there waiting to die
I feel bad for its innocence, feel bad for mine too,
so crawl away little guy
and I
ll crawl away with you. Find a mirror
I
ll breathe onto
until my face is a smudge like yours;
and maybe together we
ll drop to the ground
the way they do in the movies.


Speech, Speech

Everyones fine
until I open my mouth,
but soon they hear for themselves
that I have no speech
of my own, just customary phrases
that sound so fine
on other peoples lips, but dangle
like strings of spit from mine.

My own mouth betrays me;
every word I spit
communicates no faith in anything
I say. Fine day, they suggest,
and I look around me wildly,
snatching from a forest of words
a butterfly caught in someone
elses net. Yes, I agree.
Surely theres no safer word
than that. But they look at me
quizzically, as though I was
a human barometer smelling a
wild intake of rain.

People dress themselves in words
as though they owned them,
but for me words are stolen goods;
and every voice I hear, especially
my own, is a policeman
demanding their return.
So is it any wonder I blush
and nod like an immigrant crossing
a border? Only silence respects me.
I can hear it for eight hours
before the day yawns
and I ask for the office keys;
then I hear a voice pretending
to be me and always believe
its mine. So I hide in my mouth
until I can say the only word
that will please me.
Goodnight?
Oh yes. Good night.

Raise a hand; fake a smile.
Nobodys listening anyway.
Why would anyone listen
to someone with nothing to say?


Rules

Did the volcano that melted Pompeii
do it by the rule book? Does the avalanche
tearing up trees like blades of grass
follow the sun?
Do women and dogs howl at the moon,
do men mountaineer naked?
 
The sky is for growing wings
the sea is for breathing underwater;
there is no locked cell Houdini
cannot escape from,
no miserable life suicide won
t cure:
the only natural life is re-imagining
the face in the mirror until its someone
you choose to like.

Nature is black cold unforgiving;
look into the face of the grizzly bear
and nothing human looks back.

The trees aren
t real we invent the birds
the highway is a cotton stream
the sky is solid ice;
all we imagine is all that is real,
all we can live without
is hardly worth living for:

undone by grizzly bears that say nothing
as they bite off our heads
like bottle tops
and piss our blood to the wind.


Scream

Scream, you can scream
all you like. Ill just stand here
laughing inside
like an old-time lunatic
when the rich folks visit Bedlam.

You think you touch me;
but the deeper you plant your knives
the further I retreat, down into
the living furnace
where all the things I imagine
I hate
hold no ground:
where everything is imaginary
faith is a menu
where you sample every course.

So when the screams try to convince me
I really might be
the man they re-create every day

I fall back here,
where nothing matters
and nobody belongs;
and I would sacrifice
every blessing
to keep this curse alive.


Nothing But The Truth

So I did it again. I let them
get to me, dig long fat needles
under my skin. And I raged
the way I like to, storming
down the corridor waiting
for doors to slam in my face.

Truth is, what I despise most about myself
are the things I only learn
when my teeth smash together
like two cars refusing to give way.
Rage narrows the vision of yourself
you only see in strangers eyes. You yourself
are both cursed and cursing;
the small, average man
in all his shabby glory. Undervalued,
underpaid; all the sad clich├ęs
you are heir to
storm across his face.

But the rage that strips me naked
also dresses me in cold clean rags.
This is the simple truth I spend
half my life running from
and the other half circumnavigating,
like a lost sailor who thinks
that if he sails in a straight line
he will finally land somewhere.

But rage has its shelf-life too.
Gradually the face unseen
in any mirror reasserts its place
on my skull, and I feel my most
precious illusion - the one you hold
in your hand - wind itself around
my skin like a snake
coiled into armour. And only then
can I observe that while rage
tells the truth, it does not
-cannot- tell the whole
of such a strong, foolish conceit.
And I can see now, as I can never
see then, that I only rage
at things I secretly believe in.
If I am angered by this little man
of little use it is only because
I believe them when they describe him
to me. Like a widow half-relieved
to be following her old man
onto the funeral pyre,
I collude with insects
who would have me crawl
as low as they. When the truth is
that I can choose to be more
or less than I imagined I would be;
take myself back to a time
when the absurd construction
I laughingly call the real me
wore that lovely paper crown
for all the world to view. And like
Adam in the garden
he secretly tilled himself, setting right
the tasteless errors
no self-proclaimed God
could ever humbly acknowledge,

I saw myself naked
and was not ashamed.