Sunday, 27 December 2015

'Almost (1961)'

When you were young, a thousand helpless miles
lay between, say, the tenth of December
and Christmas—which stood there, mule-indifferent,
knowing fine it had you fast in its heart,

that even now you heard the morning roads,                                        
the last shunt in the fire-pluming night
as other than the regulated drone
your breath and bones were made of.  Round the school,

the stony faces of alcoved torment
in Friday church, the iron air thinned out
and lifted: something else drew on, ahead
of fidget-arsed nativities, tea-towels

on kingly crewcuts, cards of solder-glue.
Time softened, the blood rose to its face.  Bells
almost rang beneath the hoosh of buses,
the clouds were undersides of magic ways

where angels got into first position,
shepherds took form in sputnik-space, prepared
to be unprepared, mithering, scared stiff.
Then all at once the last Wednesday of term

with the ex-Navy barber (Dads and Lads),
and you high in the chair, buffed, clippered, set
to meet the only land you loved.  Mirrored,
the brushings of the dead year fell like snow.  

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Unsecret Santa

…well, Mrs Claus, she just couldn’t believe it.  Melanie? she said, yes, I said, with the pink dreadlocks? yes, I said, from number 24? yes, I said, that dress? yes, I said, she wants to give that dress to her mum? yes, I said, that dress? yes, I said, that rust-and-avocado dress? yes, I said, I wouldn’t be seen dead in it, she said, but she tried it on so I thought, well, seize the day, old son, so I tried it on with Mrs C but she said ‘Haven’t you got work to get on with?’ and gave me that look, you know, the one they do, so I thought, well, that’s that for you, boy, and she wrapped the dress again and I took it and there was a bit of an atmosphere . . . I get outside, look, the sleigh isn’t even half-loaded, Latvian elves for you, not a patch on the North Polish, real workers, they are, but they’d had a better offer, stitching for that posh canine footwear outfit, Jimmy Chow’s, I’ll have to dig even deeper for them next year, times we live in, eh? so any road, we’re an hour, no, two hours late taking off, I go the usual way, A4874 over the Russian Steppes, then the blasted new Satgnome starts banging on about how I should go south, south, south, pick up the A7759, the new Syrian Bypass, well, never again, mate, never again, so we have to lift up two, three hundred miles and next thing I know we’re passing the International Space Station, so I think, well, I’ve not managed much jolliness so far, what with the Latvian elves all resentful and pouty and Mrs C, as you might say, non-compliant, so when we’re right beside the Station I call out, ‘Oi, Peakey, play us a blinder’—good, eh? think about it, think about it—but he just peers out of his little window and gives me that look, you know, the one astronauts do, so I think, well, glad tidings to you and all, mate and beggar off into the midnight clear, then all at once, look, we’re tugging to the left and I think, oh dear, Blitzen again, the old complaint, I had words with him last year about it, look, I said, get yourself a couple of packs of TenaDeery, you’ll feel more relaxed, did he take a scrap of notice? no, prefers to suffer in silence, the old Lapland work ethic, so I thought, well, suit yourself, which he must have done ‘cos he straightened up, though the Swedes probably wondered where that burst of rain came from, but next thing is we’re going twice, three times normal speed and of course it’s Rudolf, out in front on his own and dragging us sideways, aye aye, I think, someone’s been at the antlerbolic steroids again, he’s going to drop us right down Cheddar Gorge, just like three, no, tell a lie, two years ago, and sure enough . . . still, I say to myself, I say, best of a bad job, I’ll pick up one of them cheese selection boxes, maybe get lucky with Mrs C once the last Barbie Hopkins doll’s been dropped off and we’re back home, though, thinking that, she’ll probably say she prefers Stilton and how many times has she told me? and give me one of those looks, you know, the one they do . . . 
Unsecret Santa