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Sometimes I Dream My Cousin Hears the Beatles
Sometimes I dream my cousin hears the BeatlesSome days in spring, when I was still a child,
We'd hear the backyard gate click once, and close.
Down walked my cousin; older than my uncles
(My father being the youngest one of twelve),
My cousin would come in and he'd sit down,
His overcoat too heavy for the spring,
His forehead sweating, all his body shaking,
And soon enough he'd start again to tell
The story of his shattered, blasted youth.
There, in a straight-backed chair, his mind would stay
Locked in his eighteenth year: the failed exam,
His parents' disappointment, and his guilt.
I heard he once could dance; there was a girl
To whom he was engaged; he played the piano;
But all this was as nothing, to the hate
His parents felt, each for the other one.
They made him their excuse to stay together:
Forced him, like glue, to bond two unmatched people,
Loading him with the insupportable weight
Of all their mean frustration and their spite.
At 48, alone in the house they'd lived in,
Poisoned by stress, and cigarettes, and fat,
His heart failed, and he fell dead on the floor.
Sometimes I dream my cousin hears the Beatles.
He's still alive; it's 1966;
He's there upon our chair he used to sit on,
Worrying out his past, apologising
Just one more time for letting his parents down,
But this one time the radio intervenes.
He hears the soft cascade of beats and notes
Then, all at once, his sleeping heart awakes
And suddenly he knows he's innocent,
His parents' accusations flown away.
His heart beats strong: he yearns to dance again.
He looks at his own hands, at his own body,
Guiltless, his nightmare past a fairy story.
He understands his mother is the world;
He knows his father is the lovely sun.
Baffled at who he was for twenty years,
Amused by what he is, he rises up.
'Every scene, even the commonest, is wonderful, if one can only detach oneself, casting off all memory of use and custom, and behold it, as it were, for the first time.' Arnold Bennett
Defence of the Island
Defence of the IslandReginald Mitchell's school was my school too
With pictures of the Spitfire everywhere
He died when he was only forty-two
I was a teenage drummer, didn't care.
We played once in the open air at Keele
Sixteen years old, and glad to get the chance.
We dragged the cable out across the field
And kept it fast and loose, and made them dance.
The tripped-out Rag Queen, in a bridal gown
Stood by the cymbals, laughing as they chimed.
I gave the drumsticks to her, she sat down
I felt her life so close – and in my mind
Felt pity for the fallen from my town
And grateful that the Spitfire was designed.
Into the Blue Sky
Into The Blue SkyInto the blue sky the flights of small birds
From windows of cafes we saw them go by
The past is a string of remembered lost words
Echoing once through the sweet summer sky
Sun over courtyards she in her jeans
Smiled at the wonder laughed through the hours
And I never guessed at what anything means
Only the sweetest of questions was ours
Birdsong – Elegy for Jerry GarciaNothing in winter but to paint this place,
Its desperate beauty; how the sky rolls on
Forever; how magnificent, frozen grace
Breaks every branch, leaves every summer gone.
You gone also – who played on painful strings
Songs of some other place, some Eden, where
The tender fluttering beat of tiny wings
Of small, miraculous things leaps into air.
August the ninth. My wife came in and said:
'Heard about Jerry?' Stunned, I went outside
Stood in the summer night, and overhead
The stars were bright, the sky looked big and wide
Open to flight... Let others speak the words.
Gone from this world a song of little birds.
HeadingtonSunday in the heat
Suburban Oxford townhouse
Me and the French girl
Tape player running
Neil Young Cortez The Killer
Soundtracking slow love
Thieves in the July garden
Where the roses grow
Lost to each other
Sure to split at summer's end
Tomorrow I leave
Beneath the old hills
South-west across open land
Oh my sweet England
It May Be
It May BeThis is the finest Spring I can recall
Similar in its sun to seventy-five.
Then, I had just come round from one sad love
And lived out on the coast beside the sea
Each day becoming happier than before
A sudden template for the way to live
By taking what is offered for no cost
Instead of what is only lent for trade
A lesson I have never set aside
A lesson for the ages: that the moment
Is all eternity and by the sea
Under the sun you hear the rolling waves
It may be that democracy's now ending
But still I felt the beauty of the dream
Nothing So Lovely
Nothing So LovelyNothing so lovely as the Spring
Though here we swallow anything
And choirs of so-called patriots sing
In praise of lying.
And we send what we ought to save
To that dictatorship which gave
To every land a communal grave
And distanced sighing.
That state where he who lifts his head
Gets it shot down; where one who said
'This virus kills' is oddly dead
For even trying.
While here we chose to lead us one
Whose image has been slyly spun
Till any hopes for truth are gone
Like fine birds flying.
My country still so dear to me
Sweet need in every flower I see
In England where democracy
Is gladly dying.
Live At Depths
Live At DepthsI say, live at depths
Even if it may hurt you
Don't buy love from the cheapest stall
What you risk is what you own
The beautiful will be injured
You can't hold yourself apart
This world is spinning you anyway
And nobody dances alone
I drove a van through Leeds
On a wet September morning
Tears in time with the wipers
At the end of all I'd known
And you too have that story
On some other morning somewhere
You came apart and died inside
Turned for a time to stone
And I still say, live at depths
Whatever is forgotten
Whatever rides behind the moon
What you risk is what you own
SisyphusNobody lives forever or for free.
Nobody here or anywhere can say
how long, how much. The story in the end
is Sisyphus, pushing the timeless rock
hard against heaven, watched by the gods
who see a soul not even heaven can question:
defeated but still wild, the endless captive
sweating out his defiance on the hill.
Nothing has changed. We struggle on the same
hillside that he did, scared and wondering why
our lying mentors told us pretty stories
way back when we were kids. We'll never find
solace above; but we have you and me
and either we are nothing or we're rebels.
Rivers whose names were unknown
Rivers whose names were unknownShe got on her bus and was gone
I walked home across the city
And wondered what she was thinking
All night through and into the morning
And then as I left town on the train
Through brittle South Staffordshire countryside
Gazing through the autumn window
I tried to guess how to come to know what she knew
The names of the trees, the rivers and the birds
Bitterly dreaming that all my friends
Who quietly knew the names of such things
Could reach her better than I could
I did this till I was lost to myself
Not singing any more not playing guitar
Just writing untrue poems on trains
Unaware that no-one can really know
The self or the deep-slung centre
Of someone else
And that very impossibility
Is the glorious freedom of the world
And the root of all desire
For without desire there can be no love
And it took one night
Of sex like fire, discovery and completion
To break my illusions into pieces
To teach me that the world will not wait
To show me how to live
With a girl so different, so good, so alive
Who seemed that she'd always been with me
Who seemed like she'd never be gone
And we went to where I had never been
We walked hand in hand as lovers
By rivers whose names were unknown
The MirrorIf you can look intensely, for a while,
Impassively, forgiving, free of judgement
At all the time you've wasted, hour by hour
Then day by day, till soon a year had gone
And then another. Gently lament the loss
Until you feel your heart grow sorrowful.
Yes, you are guilty, certainly foolish, surely
The puppet of your fears, a broken wastrel,
An unconvincing pose that squandered time
And robbed yourself insanely to protect
An image fractured in the shards of a mirror
Smashed years ago, and broken, just like you:
Sad crystal remnants of a time gone by.
Those shards, though, mirror nothing; for in truth
Such wasted chances leave without a trace.
No image in no mirror, less than air,
Less than a moment, flimsy – and now nothing
Remains. A past that never was. Now gaze
On empty space and - still a fool - forgive
Because there's nothing to forgive. For you
Are not a history, not your dull account
Of days and years. The only truth of you
Is here, is now, and really always was,
And here you are. Be free. And rise again.
Easy to fall
When the slip is deep
Fine to feel
Sweet time slide
When there is only
The touch of a heart
Gentle as rainfall
A gown falls
To a sunlit floor
While somewhere between heaven
And the day outside
In its holy grace
TreasureThere was a sad place
I used to live there
Days were spent waiting
In a mind prison
Through those empty years
I ran many miles
Lost in loneliness
A million footsteps
Touched the blessed land
Searching for my peace
Suddenly at last
A deep truth opened
Oh how I believed
Did you know how much?
More than I can tell
To life becoming
Never went away
You friends who know me
Maybe can sense it
It is all I have
It is a treasure
I give it to you
Yours to always keep
Some Sad Artist
Some Sad ArtistWanting to be a hero I turned round
And gazed back down the roads where I had been.
Imagining myself a different man
I dreamed each sorry loss had been a win.
Like some sad artist unawakened yet
I painted hearts on days of helpless fear
A coward far too eager to forget
That any love that's real is now and here.
And then I turned again. And here are you.
To turn my gaze I must have been insane.
Although it's what too many people do
I wasted time and will not do again.
MayRemember this. The worst years of your life
Have been when you forgot you're only human.
Each day you pledged to live and broke the pledge
Tightened the springs upon that warm routine
That openness alone will break apart.
And here's a chance; a road, a day, a face,
Blessed with the feet so fast, with eyes that shine,
Sun on your back, the breeze speaking your name
Hips in a swing, your shoulders loose, the near
Promise, the danger, the clinch, yourself reborn.
Find Your Way
Find Your WayFind your way back
To that kid with the backpack, the dreams
And the hope of a world made of love
It's no farther than your closed eyes away
And when you get there
Smile at the kid
Who's looking at you so hopeful
"It won't be how you think
But it'll be OK."
Then turn around my love
And I'll see you back here.