Poems 00

Songs to be sung

1. Ludovic the cat

To hold his still-warm body in my hands
As I buried him
Was heartbreaking.
He was only six years old.
A black Bath neutered moggy with piercing golden eyes.
Malignancy of the bone marrow.
Something like what I have myself.
He was my little dog.
An independent cat of character.
Never happier than roaming outside.
He came and went through his catflaps as he pleased.
Didn't eat much.
Pinched his food outside.
But at night he would come
And cuddle up beside me in my chair.
When dying he picked his spot.
A corner of the living room
From where he could see all that was going on.
And he waited for death.
I loved him.

2. Homesteader

Coatham Hall is where I come from.

The nettles in the woods were headhigh
And I used to carve out a network of paths
By slashing furiously with my trusty stick.

From the jungle where the trees had been cut down
I built secret homes of the undergrowth.
Caves. Avenues for bicycles. Connectedness.
I was ten years old when I began daydreaming.

Susan's garden is my pet wilderness in Bath.
Below the patio I had built last year are my widow's weeds.
Wild rose bushes and rampant blackberries.
Intermeshed into my private constructed sacred place.
It was there I went to discuss when the schizophrenia hit me.
I believed I spoke with John Keats down those steps.
Then I went back to the kitchen to pick up the knife.
It is twenty years since I built Susan's garden.

On the World Wide Web I have set up my little crannies.
Interlinked archives of poem and history. Rabbit warrens.
Hypertexted linkages the reader submerges in for months.
Hundreds of files maged by certainty of existence.
An electronic epitaph. Works of a lifetime. 

Grownup writing down the dreamscape
Believing it was all magic and real,
Then finding the crystal broken.
Nearer sixty now than fifty I have slept
For near half a century in the Neverneverland.

It is cruel to awake and find that the dreams have vanished.
All's left is a homestead on the Frontier
And a batch of unwanted selfpenned books.

3. Poetry

I am here.
I was there.
The person that wrote those poems
Then was lost for words.

The cats are buried in the back garden,
The girls a faded dream of the heart,
All's left is summer and the rain.

Like Hannibal I challenged an empire,
Like him I was defeated,
All I had was a song.

Not in fashion no more
To sing of broken hearts,
From small acorns do great oaks grow.

I was there.
I am here.
The wild Irish fiddlers go on forever
As I recall lost dreams.

4. Poem

What do you do?
I write poems.
And drink beer.

Once a month
I churn out rubbish.
There is no hope for me.

I once had a cat.
He was brave.
But he died.

My guts are collapsible
From the beer.
My belly bigger every day.

But it's that or read books,
Inspiration don't grow on trees.
Once I lived the poet's life.

Words forever words.
And love sharp as a razor.
I could do it.

But now it's time for me drink.
I listen to Mairéad and Sandy.
The fiddle and the song.

No more sad refrains.
That is impossible.
I was born to weep.


1. Hopscotch

still alive?
	  another year.
	  another century.
	  another millennium.

where is Khidre?
	  chasing love.
	  chasing love.
	  chasing love.

love is dead!
	  so am I.
	  dead from the neck up.
	  it don't pay to be old.

is there anything but love?
	  bread and bones.
	  bread and bones.
	  the many stars.

will I sleep forever?
	  and a day.
	  and a day.

was love real?
	  the only real.
	  thirty years.


2. Ring a roses

who is Khidre?
	  Green Man of the Sufis.
	  eternal trickster.
	  slayer of the Dragon.

who is Khidre?
	  lover of the Unattainable.
	  every poet who ever lived.
	  dawn on the bedroom window.

who is Khidre?
	  sunshine and shadows.        
	  a bottle of wine. a barrel of beer.
	  swimmer into depthful eyes.
who is Khidre?
	  an idea in the afternoon.
	  ever-young pretender.
	  atheist in Love.

who is Khidre?
	  the nightingale and the rose.

who am I?
	  an old man in the evening.
	  unending mania.

who is she?
	  who ever loved will never die.

3. All fall down

	  face of Nefertari.
	  queen of a dark loving demi-monde.
	  Jewish Glasgow.

	  fox tongue chewing on serpent lip.
	  red-curled Gael.

	  whistle at her bones.
	  cute acutest brain.
	  tough little hero.

the horseman trilogy?
	  over and done.
	  written out.
	  it's the after-time.

	  Fritz dead. Ferdia dead. Ludovic dead.
	  I need a kitten.
	  to outlive me.

	  a light in the window.

	  no words without love.
	  no poems to be seen.
	  the fables in the leaves.

In Memoriam Helen Keen

I remember talking to you in the Post Office
Two days before you OD'd.
You were cashing your giro
And I was buying stamps.
You wanted to talk
So we chatted about cats.
You had eight interbred beasts
And my Ludovic was newly buried
In the back garden.
I didn't say I was looking for a kitten
Because you might have given me one.
The inbreeding frightened me.
You remembered the `Cat Poems'
And I confessed I didn't write anymore.

I remember you from five years ago
Before you got mixed up with Pretty Boy
Who used to smash your face to a blue pulp.
When you had the drugs in you
You used to go for him with a knife.
He was your fatal obsession.

I remember you in The Livingstone pub
With a rucksack full of tins of catfood.
Bent double with the weight 
as you went out the door
For the bus up the hill.
You needed a drink to make the trip.

I remember coming back from Casualty
After my pseudo heart attack
And meeting you in The Englishcombe Inn.
You told me all about the lesbian love affair
Which had broken your heart.

We talked of drugs and the mental hospitals
We had been in. You had been
A topclass nurse and were proud of it.
I thought you could never give up heroin
But then you had no needle marks on your arms.
That was for later with Pretty Boy.

You walked down to see my house
And sat on the floor with your bottle of Natch.
You felt pretty in yourself but you never came back.

Cider Joe was so in love with you.
It drove him even more neurotic.
You would leave him, your nextdoor neighbour,
Notes begging for money and food.
He was so jealous of Pretty Boy.
Over the years Joe became detached from you
As you sank into your drugged dream.

The police were always up there separating
You and Pretty Boy.
It was a strange lovers' tryst
With a knife in each hand.
I think Mark left the flowers
On the pavement outside your flat
After your death.

You had spirit and now are gone.
Nobody will miss you. Nobody would miss me.
We survive for as long as we can
And then we say goodbye.

Saturday, 3 June, 2000.

was it really you?
so ill and neurotic
with your cheek stained yellow
from the sunshine of your travels.

it will soon be forty years
since I first saw you in Edinburgh,
and I sat in the best seat
of the Assembly Rooms at Bath
and watched you walk past me.
(It was a marvellous Festival concert.)

There is nothing to say.
You should have married me and you didn't.
Preferring a marriage and career
in the Third World of gender and poverty.

A globetrotting socio-economist,
one of the gifted of the world,
I have come to nothing
but you are loved forever.

You looked so ill
but you are so succesful.
I love you
and I will be thinking of you at the world's end.


I was sitting in the pub last Thursday night
And there were these two young men downing double vodkas.
They said their girl friends were cooking a meal
And they had to get back quick.
(One lad is to be married in Las Vegas in a week or two.)

I told them they should be drinking whisky and Drambuie.
Just ordinary whisky. The coarseness of whisky
(apart from malt) is taken away by the sharpness
of Drambuie and the combination in a single glass 
leaves you legless after two or three and is beautiful.
That's what finished me with Susan.
In Glasgow we called them MIGs thirty years ago
And I think Americans call them a Rusty Nail.

The youngest of the lads came across to me
And said `Aren't you the poet?'. `Can you tell
me about the poem of the haggis.' So I explained
about the piper and the silver dish and recited 
`Great chieftain of the pudding race.' Explained
it was Rabbie Burns and they could find it on
my Website. And I said I don't write poems
no more. I used to be a poet.

I saw him this Sunday afternoon drinking orange
with Little Joe, the plasterer, who is waiting
for his first illegitimate grandchild to arrive.

I never think of myself as a poet. It is
quite a shock to be approached. I never get
into magazines or suchlike. I only have
half-a-dozen books long ago. Perhaps I
should write a poem.


For the eighteenth century
My mother's family were village shoemakers.
Always the eldest, Alexander.
The rest of the large broods
Had to fend for themselves:
Labouring, emigrating, dying.
This was ten miles southeast of Glasgow in Scotland.
The Pettigrew family has been there
As far back as records go.
No-one knows where they came from.
Rumours of Huguenots from Picardy
Seem to have been scotched.
Most of the family is now in New Zealand,
But Australia and Canada are presences.
The story is all up on the Web
And has many visitors. Twenty years research.
My Aunt Nan married a shoemaker.
(We were farmers by then.)
It's in the genes.
I wear my shoes until they fall to bits.
Then I buy another pair of the same.
My latest were made in Portugal.
Skilled trades were hereditary in the old days.
You were born to it.
And a shoemaker was a cut above a cobbler.
We didn't starve.
Nowadays a Portuguese peasant operates a machine.
I suppose we were peasants then.
So was Wagner's Meistersinger:
Hans Sachs, the shoemaker.

Douglas Clark /Poems00/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/ d.g.d.clark@dgdclynx.plus.com