Email kiss analysis: a poem

I’ve just been treble-kissed by a girl in a work email
she’s asking me to help her review some text
but could it be that she loves me, as this email,
with its treble-kiss plus smiley face sign-off suggests?

Or does she, in her beautiful, youthful folly
treble-kiss everyone, flippantly, thoughtlessly
thereby degrading the entire email kiss system
not caring what colleagues take it to mean?

Or does she operate a precise kiss system
based on inverse proportion, meaning the three
is one and one is three, rendering this treble
as meaningless as a peck on the cheek?

Or is it a habit she developed after
falling in love with the XXX movies, making
these kisses not kisses at all but a simple,
yet knowing, nod to the great Vin Diesel?

No, that’s unlikely.

Perhaps she does genuinely fancy me
but is asking me to complete this task
to assess whether I have the makings
of an obedient and subservient boyfriend

She’s probably one of those women who moves in
within days of your first date, then stops you
having evenings with your mates because you’re
saving for a wedding you haven’t even proposed for

Almost certainly she’s the kind of nightmare girl who
watches every calorie, bans you from eating carbs,
then cries if you so much as cast a lustful
glance at a cheese and onion pasty

I look at the email with disgust.  I complete
the task in good time, and when I send it back,
sign the email with no smiley face, and only
a single kiss, to show how much I hate her.

Brockwell Park: the bleak version

“O what a beautiful morning,” said Gary From Leeds

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was stood in the middle of Brockwell Park for an appointment with Gary From Leeds and photographer Susannah Ireland. It had been mild all week and not bad earlier that morning, but now the weather, in respect for a Yorkshireman in a municipal park facility, had pulled out the freezing cold and driving rain.

Gary was there, enjoying the bleak weather, in tune, as it was, with his general outlook on life. Susannah was there, a woman used to being sent out to all manner of grim and unpromising destinations for her day job as news photographer for the Times. So it was just me amongst us who wondered whether doing a photo shoot in these conditions was a good idea.

I wanted to suggest a postponement, when Gary pulled out a 35-metre length of yellow rope from his bag. “I thought we’d tie ourselves up in this,” he said with an enthusiasm he usually only shows when talking about David Batty.

Susannah, who as a brilliant photographer has a taste for the diabolical and downright weird, then wrapped the rope around Gary and I, saying, “If you want it to look good, it’ll have to be tight.”

When the two of us looked like characters Samuel Beckett might have created if he was being particularly unkind, Susannah began snapping. For the next hour, with the weather worsening, she trooped us about the park until we are both the very definition of dishevelled.

We were there because Gary and I are planning a spoken word show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and needed some publicity shots. It is called ‘The Long and the Short of it’ and will essentially be a poetical journey covering key topics such as food, fonts, ring-roads and death. It will have facts, lists and statistics and perhaps the odd limerick.

And if this photo shoot is anything to go by, it will be a bit of a struggle to create, but the end result should be pretty good.

Never knowingly unpretentious: my approach to posing.
“I’ll play Napoleon and you play Talleyrand.”

The Iron Lady: a poem

Walking away from the Western Cemetery,
An exposed hill-top near the M25
Where the north London Jews choose to bury
their dead, I saw a bus stop poster of
a film called The Iron Lady with a picture
of my grandma on it. It was disconcerting
seeing her staring back at me, unsmilingly
looking me square in the eye, just an hour
after I’d watched the rabbi and his burly
assistant lower her body into the ground.
As I got closer to the poster I could see
it was Meryl Streep made-up as Margaret Thatcher,
but still the likeness to my Grandma
held true, sharing as she did the bouffant
hairdo, skin untouched by sun and the
‘lady is not for turning’ attitude
of the famous scourge of union men.

I’m taken back to when I was eight,
and my sister’s ten. We’re staying over
at grandma and grandad’s for the weekend.
We’re sat down at the dining table, staring
at fine-art place mats, with silver cutlery
set out with such precision it would satisfy
the most pernickety Swiss. Grandad sits
down, looking like an aged cat but not
quite as awake. Grandma brings in the soup,
the chicken soup, the Jewish chicken soup
which is the best thing on earth but also
a subtle way of saying : whoever
your father is, you’ll always be a Jew.

The conversational sparring starts:
Grandma asks us what we think about
Neil Kinnock’s chances of being elected.
My sister trots out the playground line that
“he’s gotta be better than that dreaded milk-snatcher.”
Grandma tells her that she should pronounce
her middle t’s better. Grandad agrees.
I say the soup is wonderful. Grandad agrees.
Grandma then asks us if we like the opera.
My sister says she prefers Madonna.
I say I’d love to hear some just as soon as
we’ve finished this marvellous dinner.
My sister kicks me hard on the shin.

At the end of the weekend, mum and dad
Pick us up in our brown Ford Cortina.
I stay quiet while my sister unleashes
a tirade against Grandma: she denounces
the demands placed upon her to be better spoken,
better dressed, more grown-up, less like herself,
and mum calmly says, “Whatever she did to you
It’s not half of what she put me through.”
And you can tell by her tone that it’s true.

Fifteen years later, I’m at the Royal
Opera House with grandma. She’s frail
And needs my arm to get to the seat
She got cheap with her disabled pass.
The opera begins: I understand little but
can see there are a lot of Russians on stage
singing at each other, and killing each other
and grandma, at a glance, seems pleased.
During one particularly savage scene
I give her hand a squeeze, and she squeezes too.
When the actors who’ve not yet been slain
take a break she unwraps fishcake sandwiches
which we share. The rye bread and fried salmon
Taste like the old country she clings to,
but I’ve never known. They taste, maybe,
like a token of love from a woman who
could sometimes be mistaken for the Iron Lady.

A poem about snow

I have written a poem about snow. And, to prove it, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Southern Railway working around the clock to get the trains running

Cool and patient
I stand at the station
waiting for the commuter train which may or may not come.
The 7.54 has been cancelled
some say there’s still hope for the 8.17.

I’m cool. I’m patient.
I’ve been here too make any quick alterations,
too long for any big deviations.

Snow is falling,
gentle as a lover’s little finger stroking the back of my neck
which, through some sort of El Nino effect,
causes a loudspeaker to blast a harsh message
announcing the suspension of passenger services.

Shoulders slumped, curses muttered,
the wage slaves shuffle out
barking into phones about working from home
and when I’m left on the platform all alone
bend to gather a handful of snow
make a soft, sweet ball
take aim
and have a throw.

A poem in honour of President Mubarak and other friends of the west

Mubarak and Barack Obama, the best of friends

President Mubarak has gone, despite the very generous $1.5 billion each year he received from the US to keep his people in the state to which they had become accustomed. Throughout the 18 days of protests the west remained unwilling to speak out too strongly against their friend and ally. Like Pinochet, he was a man with whom the west could conduct business.

So here is a poem in honour of

A good despot
 
People called him a dictator, a tyrant, a despot
I say: that is not the man I know
I know a man of learning, culture, principles
And say this world must have gone mad when
A man, a military man, can give 60 years
Of unswerving service to his nation
And be treated like a common or garden criminal

It was laughable to me, seeing those unwashed beasts
filling the streets with their tatty flags and odours –
Couldn’t you almost smell them through the flat screen tv? –
Bearing their rotting cavitied teeth,
and demanding, what? Some kind of idiot justice
and an end to the rule of a man, a friend to the west
A man who had done his duty and his exceptional best

They said he had feathered his nest a little bit
Well, did he not deserve that for playing such a
calm, considered role in the realm of geopolitics?
We are not talking about anything insidious,
We are talking about a man who
was steadfast in doing the right thing,
A man whose farthest thought was abandoning ship
 
He has gone now, sating the shameful need of
A nation’s children to be rid of their grandfather.
The next days will be hard, yet I feel sure
he will be wise enough to reflect that
He is merely the latest in a line of great leaders
who leave power quietly admired by the many
while loudly decried by the hotheaded few