Poems from the attic

They weren’t what I was looking for: I was trying to find a bag of MIDI cables to connect a keyboard to a Mac so I could fake a cello into a copy of Logic Pro. But there they were, a folder of poems written around 30 years ago, long forgotten. It was like a strange form of archaeology – unearthing forgotten fragments of your own history and trying to interpret them from a point much further on in (your own) history. “Here’s what I was thinking/feeling, sometime between being 21 and about 27-28.”

Whoever said that you remember moods rather than precise emotions had a good point. I have a general memory of myself from back then –  tense, introverted and alternating between daydream-y idealism and spiky opposition – but this was like finding an album full of photographs of the inside of your own head from days now long forgotten in any real detail.

Do they stand up, make any sense? I always think any ‘artwork’ that needs an explanatory label or a preceding talk has failed at the first hurdle: if it needs supporting communication, it’s not saying anything coherently enough to be worth listening to. And the test is not the author’s opinion but a reader’s. So over to you …


Then we were Bakunin’s children (they said)
Lobbing statements into conversation
Like grenades into a crowded bus.
We raised a herd of great white hopes
That grew up to become elephants.

Today we are free-standing children (we hope),
Hurling conversations at each other
Across a canyon of indifference.
We are tending sacred cows
That are elephantine and white.

Soon we’ll be senile and childish (you claim),
Spitting history at our offspring
Across their freshly-dug canyons.
They are raising new white hopes,
Another herd of elephants.


With you, I realise it must always be different.
My lip-read words are all that can impress,
Forced into honesty with all attendant distress.
(I shield my eyes to harbour thoughts
As unbecoming as an old man’s warts.)
This well-rehearsed guitar earns no doffed hat
For all its designs in sharps and flats
And tricky fingers find no ear to cheat,
Their music unable to camouflage deeds. No,

These lips must move as slow and precise
As your eyes (cutting into me like skaters on ice):
Carpenter’s tools stripping back the veneer
As they press for admittance of ‘now’ and ‘here’.
I hammer out discords for words I can’t find
And accept that I’m only deceiving the blind.


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