Monday, 20 May 2019


They angle faces like a lamp
and smoke eight cigarettes at once.
The clouds are quite unbearable,
and everyone forgot their gas-masks.
We cough and wheeze and madly splutter.

They pass around some paper ash-trays.
‘Washing them up has proved to be
a big mistake,’ they say. We dry
the ash-trays on the hob. This, too,
has proved to be a big mistake.

By way of an aperitif,
they pass around a tray of cocktails.
‘We’re all about the gin these days.’
our hosts explain. ‘This one’s infused
with dynamite, cocaine, and car wax.’

It’s much more challenging to drink
than beer. Three of the party faint,
four of us poison healthy house plants,
one person horribly explodes,
and seven guests demand a refill.

We seat ourselves around a table
and stare at empty plates, ‘Dig in!’
they shout. ‘It’s Emperor’s Clothes Surprise.’
We talk and smoke and mime
eating until the plates are cleared.

A board made of cheese arrives.
‘Every feast should end with a weak pun,’
they say, and everybody claps
until our hands can take no more.
Cuban cigars and port come next.

‘The finest cigars known to man
or beast,’ they say excitedly,
‘submerged in port.’ We spend the next
hour and a half trying, and failing,
to light this evening’s last surprise.

The conversation fades, the evening
implodes, we grab our summer coats
and make our way towards the front door.
Farewells exchanged, we drive towards
the morning of an unknown future.

Never Finished, Only Abandoned (ii)

Reflections on a Laundry Basket

What a dull life the laundry basket leads,
spending its time between the utility
room and the table by the whirligig.
It cannot double up as a makeshift bucket
(too many holes); its aesthetic appeal
is highly doubtful (no one ever painted
‘Still life with laundry basket, pants, and socks’);
it never gets a holiday. I feel
quite sorry for this worthy object,
this cornerstone of hously order,
whose work is never finished, like this poe

Beard Wisdom

I try my hand at wisdom, and, with that
in mind, I grow a beard. Although I’ve heard that
‘the beard does not make the philosopher’
I reckon it’s better than growing a
moustache. Wisdom, I’ve decided, though,
wisdom is all about the facial hair, as all
the wisest men in history had beards.
Okay, this may not be entirely true,
or even vaguely true, or even near
the truth at all; but still, I must start somewhere,
and beard it is (and look at all the men
throughout the ages who decided on
moustache instead of beard: there’s Hitler, Stalin,
and every German porn-star from the seventies,
none of whom we associate with wisdom).
I’m sure there have been a few bare-faced men
throughout the ages who deserve to be
thought wise (the obvious exception here
is Cain), but still, the cultivation of
a beard? It signifies a statement of
intent. ‘I shall be wise,’ I say each morning
to my reflection in the mirror, as
I check for signs of growth. After two weeks,
it’s well beyond the stage we might call ‘stubble’,
and two weeks after that, I have a full-grown beard.
The thing is largely black; perhaps a fifth
of it is grey. This troubles me. This beard
does not look wise. I realise the truth of
‘the beard does not make the philosopher’;
it is the colour of the beard which does
the trick, which makes me only one-fifth wise.
Much to my wife’s delight, I shave my face,
decide to spend the next few years immersed
in books, after which time, I hope, my beard
will be a true reflection of my wisdom.
Meanwhile, I notice that some hair on top
of my now beardless head has made a head-
start to the grave, and bid farewell to this
strange world. Perhaps it didn’t like the thought
of turning grey? Does hair have self-determination?
I don’t remember any mention of
this in the UN charter dealing with
human rights. Should hair be included? ‘All
hair has the right to fall out when it wishes.’
Tell that to Elton John. And where would that
leave facial hair? Our daily massacre
of follicles might one day be illegal
(and then we’ll see who’s wise and who is not).
I’ll spend the next few years reading, reading,
and reading, while my hair falls out, my beard
turns grey; my wisdom gradually arriving.