The beauty shot
As my Dad sinks into himself,
distilled in ruched satin
and industries of dust, he'll smile
at Mum's hand-tinted, beauty shot -
plonked out of love inside the coffin.
I saw him sliding through
continents of ice to be dug out -
grey teeth bared at earth's
callous perfection, wearing another face:
the glass frame tipped in his ribs
and dust, lips painted redder,
skin pinker than ever we'll see.
The slight foxing on the framed head
will have broadened into circles now.
Rotten little shockwaves
radiating from some intricate bacillus.
Imagine Dad's ocean after detonation.
The Devonshire skirting the test zone
as the blast waves forged around
the antics of his burdened cells.
In the Co-op's Chapel of Rest,
we fumbled through our interview.
Ten stone lighter, his pencil moustache
was trimmed to hide a fear of lesions.
I'd never known him sport one
except in shots of his twenties,
uniformed and angular. His hair slicked
back and in some kind of quilt
he looked quite debonair,
ready to take a nightcap
in some louche boudoir.
You can see it now, the fissure of the alley
connecting with sirens and distemper,
the charred wall stinking. The intaglio
and canker of gangs and raw love.
Snatches of waste, out-takes, little fissures
of the palimpsest within the leaking dark
as these two bent double, laughing
over the shitty little hole where the woman lay,
mustering affection. Her trolley
indiscriminately parked and so many blankets,
cardboard concertinas where her bulk
dents the refuse sacks, tied with bags,
thousands like a rag rug or filligree
of twisted texts round the shagged-out coats.
Lemon-skinned, lover girl,
all freckled with must and plum nosed,
as the first drops catch a hair in her throat,
some coughing and then (theatrically)
clasping of the chest before the stink
fills her pants and some notion takes hold.
All that fumbling, as renegade thoughts
coagulate and clarify. The benzine-sharpened facts
engulfing, then a worrying benediction
almost troubling to stop the muddy face.
All this shrieking and choosing within rage.
Rage about a trussed-up mother,
the hammered walls of a ghetto, a pink dress once.
The swimming hair of flame while she forces shadows
to jump from exit to exit, dawdling and running,
running and dawdling in the unsuitable location.
The boys keep running, a can clatters and spills
a little more near some extractor.
Footsteps flaming as blisters climax
into all of her skin.
Making the grade
We'd nip round the Spar like two-tone refugees.
Skinheads and ska, separating out
the Selector from some top ten tea-time hits.
Cadging ciggies and passing round
a single can of Skol. It was Crown Court
and a Pot Noodle at Spud's or Biffo's
in some in-between-times sort of waystage.
Psyching out CSEs and lording over
thick twats on resits and end of term scraps.
It was all a game of knives. Choosing Paras
over the abattoir, or Securicor from shelf stacking
in the cobalt chrome and neon wash
of warehouse nights and lock-ups.
And those kept on dug in with criminal intent.
Before we knew it we were shunting past
Rene's chippy, windows fogged with frying
a thousand gallons of batter, simmering
where we lingered in the carnal smell
remembering paper two's discarded
fourteenth question. Caught between the averages,
it was our last shot to make the grade.
They said a strip light held toward
the fizzing arms of the pylon
would draw down the current,
the whole corrupt chassis of angles
would hum without burning you,
and this transmission was freely given
without wires and no connection
could be purer, or so easy
to make. It was all in the tube,
fragile and capped with pins.
We imagined the poison gas
stored there - like in ping pong balls,
cloying, acrid stuff that might
be good to sniff and get off on.
But the pop as we shattered tubes
gave nothing away, and no light
ever bent from its secret fixture,
so we smashed the lot. One year,
beneath the spread arms of the frame,
we saw blankets and then stirring.
A convict squirming in the bales
of his coats - plum-faced, hair wild
as a nest - the bloke shuddered
and we ran off to plan the kill.
A pathetic foundling, alien
and piss-stained as the den beneath was,
dumped with porn mags and fags,
and the dirty hopes of old forces,
and the engines of waste.
All the best,