Namedropping: a poem

At a wine and snacks gathering
in Canonbury, I was stood with
some adults discussing teaching.
In a despondent bid for attention
I said I had met Michael Gove
and liked him. “How can you say that?”
was followed by “he’s a dreadful man,
and you know it, Richard” at which point
I said he was only trying to raise standards
and what was the harm in that. Although
the party began to peter out
shortly afterwards, I stayed
until the end, insisting on
washing-up the glasses
even though the host twice said
there was no need.

Michael Gove

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The fundamentals are looking good

The fundamentals are still quite good.

Cornish pasties are still being eaten
Office workers still having heavy weekends

Painters and decorators still being paid cash in hand
Ageing Prodigy members still living off the fat of the land

Dad’s still drinking whiskey, talking about fiscal instability
Mum’s still like when he’s like that I make myself a tea and go and watch the telly

Charity workers still doing their bit
South eastern trains still running like shit

Indie kids still wearing skinny ribs and smoking spliffs
England midfielders still got good engines, still lacking width

Renters still paying over the odds for poky digs
Quitters still nipping off for cheeky cigs

Yes, the fundamentals are still quite good.
The fundamentals are looking good.

Literary romance – a poem

I was ostentatiously holding
a novel by Chimamanda
Ngozi Adichie, when the Nigerian
girl I was trying to impress, says

Are you carrying that book
in a half-witted attempt
to impress me?

You know me so well!
I say, which proves, she says,
that happiness and knowledge
are enemies indeed.

Happiness is elusive, I say,
like something you reach for
but cannot grasp.

She sighs loudly and replies,
something you reach for
but cannot grasp
is not like elusive.

It. Is. Elusive.

Perhaps elusiveness
is not so elusive after all,
I say, quick-wittedly,
at which the girl pushes me
into the Regent’s canal

and my head resurfaces
just in time to hear her say,
bloody Englishmen, always thinking
they are funnier than they are…

No worries: a poem

Do you remember when everything was good
those good times, when the good things happened
what were you, six, nine, eleven, fifteen
that age, when only the fun things mattered
like skateboard tricks and scootering
and decisions never got harder than
how many scoops and what type of ice cream

Do you remember, tv was good back then
the good guys were good looking and felt like your friends
friends that were funny, and caring too
and in the movies things exploded but your hero made it through
do you remember when everyone used to make it through?
wouldn’t you like everyone you love to just make it through?

No worries, that’s what I’m standing for
a good future where worries are no more
adults encouraged to play video games
not new ones, the old ones, like we used to play.
Do you know what else I would like to do?
Bring back those bands which spoke to you
when you were that age when music still spoke to you

If that is the safe space you want to return to
there is one little thing you have got to do
one morning, on a Thursday in May
I’ll drop off dvds and your favourite food
you gather your mates and play all day
and keep them away from the voting booth

the next day, there will be a new improved truth
the news will all be good news
or maybe just cartoons
yes, instead of news we’ll just have the funnies
and I promise you this
my friends and I will take care of business
and for you, my friend, there will be no worries

no worries

Yes, really, a poem about daffodils in the spring-time

Daffodil-flowers-30709818-1600-1200

Yellow daffodil, how uninspired you are
year in, year out
it’s always the same with you, isn’t it?
Always the same gaudy yellow
a colour once bright and joyful
made drab by its predictability

One would think, wouldn’t one
that one could shake things up a bit
a bit of black piping
a few white spots, perhaps
but no
new season is always old season with you

People might say, ‘So nice to see the daffs back again!
I might write a poem about them!’
They would be lying, yellow daffodil
they would be humouring you, with English politeness.
Behind your back they are saying terrible things
terrible, nasty things
comparing you unfavourably to the geranium
lower even than nettles, with their supposed life-giving properties

What do you give, yellow daffodil?
What do you give, apart from a gentle reminder of springtime past
a splash of colour where previously there was none
a glint of sun-like warmth, hinting at the summer to come?

In fact, yellow daffodil, forget we had this conversation.
Carry on, as you always have done.
On your way out, could you leave the door open,
and send the chrysanthemum in?
I need a few choice words with him.

The poet wakes up and roams and comes home and writes this

The only thing you can aspire to growing up in Essex is to be the barrowboy or banker, trading, raking it in, fingerless gloves in Romford market, salmon shirts in the City, it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to be trading, raking it in, making a living, earning your keep, working and working and working away.

But what are you supposed to do if you are a dosser at heart, curtains drawn at seven a.m., George Osborne tutting on the street below, and all you are good at is words, constructing words into insubstantial sandcastles, how do you, as a poet, make a man of yourself?

You’ve got to sell your wares:

Six and ha’penny worth of sonnets, Mrs Springtime?
Do you want some limericks with that?
Will that be open or wrapped?

They say, I’m not sure who they are, but they definitely do say that the poet should not compromise his vision, and I believe that to be true but not true in my case because my vision is already compromised, it is necessarily compromised by my need to fulfil my erstwhile Essex desires. So when TFL came to me and said, Richard, we want you to do positive poems about TFL and etiquette

(Me who listens to dirty, dirty hip hop on tube trains, it’s seediness leaking into the ears of poor uncorrupted children who might otherwise be listening to pure pop sung by cynical teens with perfect hair and an eye on the till)

I said, yeah, alright.

So, I went down to Croydon, well turned out in my blue suit, and I sidled up to the old ladies – they love me, old ladies, and I love them – and delivered my lines about all the evils that other people do and the old ladies nod, and they say, you are quite right, Richard

and it proves that if you rhyme nicely and throw a few puns in along the way, people will believe what you say

and the young people who would like to think they are immune, they are also susceptible, because poetry makes people realise

it makes them realise that life is all right. You can moan and caterwaul all you like, but in our much criticised social democracy where nothing is good enough, if Transport for London have enough courage to pay a few poets some money, some honest cash money, to roam over London spreading goodness, and allow the poet, for a week only, to pretend he is a real life worker, with dignity and all the rest, then it would be churlish to argue too stridently and unrelentingly about our imperfect state of affairs.

Living life to the full: a poem

Yesterday, I was walking through the car park
on my way to Morrisons when I said to myself
“I think I’d rather go bowling instead. I’ll go bowling
and eat fries out of one of those little paper bags,
and Coke from a Coke bottle, drinking it
without the bottle touching my lips,
like in the adverts.”

I go bowling and play a two-player game against myself.
It’s an interesting battle. Player one has a lovely technique,
spinning his medium-weight ball into the pack of pins
accurately but without great force.

Player two is the fans’ favourite. A showman.
They love the way he looks up and says a not-quite-silent prayer
before heaving the ball down the lane, brutishly,
fist-pumping in his opponent’s direction.

Afterwards, I go to the Counting House for a pint
and read a story in the Mercury
about a Mr Jez Wilkinson of Kibworth Harcourt
and his prize-winning courgette.

Later, I indulge in some light graffiti,
drawing a magic mushroom smoking a spliff
on the rear wall of the pub, before
making my way to Morrisons.

I’m doing fine living on my own.
How are you?