People Watching outside Tiel’s in the Jordaan

Dilapidated is too long a word
for one brought up on dubious stories and down by drink.
The lamppost that I lean against is red.
A saxophonist plays hues of purest blue.
I see seagulls and rucksack-bowed walkers, the crowded bridge,
and a thousand lame excuses. One fat man
has stuck feathers in his cap, up, like a fan.
An orange-shirted power walker passes faster than I run
or would run should this lamppost disappear.

Written on site in the sunshine 4 June 2018.
Note from 9 June 2018: Tiel Netel is the proprietor of a favourite Brown café in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. Just now when I typed ‘tiel’s jordaan’ into Google Maps it worked, immediately finding and displaying: Cafe ’t Papeneiland Prinsengracht 2, 1015 DV Amsterdam.

Words to a Mood

Rolling it is now, and that is so nice,
think back on your first home; sunshine and rice.
Crouched in the shade gloom just out of the heat,
watermelon sliced red, salt on the sweet.

Chapped lips in winter, coal dust and ice,
bitter smiles cracking, slow bleeding hot spice.
The crunching of small bones, owls dining on mice,
the deaths of our mammas, those debts we pay twice.

Sex in a hammock, fights on the ground.
Thankful hosannas – palm sundaes abound.
Where is it all going? Where haven’t we been?
Before the song dwindles, Son, sing it again.

Sounded good (to me ) a few years ago when sung and played (impromptu) at Amsterdam’s Bavaria Hoek by Son McGauley, blues singer and piano, and David Brown, clarinet.

Chilling in the Polder

Here it’s five degrees. It’s twenty in Valencia
so, QED, there it’s four times warmer.
Pure math provides my faultless referencia
and Mother Nature’s never let my logic harm her
though she does insist we split the diferencia
to leave me five and give twenty to the charmer
who put new math in my-cold fingered reach
in my igloo while he trots off to the beach.

The Old Bell, Amsterdam

Thursday. The Old Bell on Rembrandtplein.
A pint of Guinness taken for the rain
and one because the wan electric fire
won’t warm, and one to help me stave off dire
poems that I’ve been reading ’cause I can’t
compose their betters, stopping in mid-rant
to glom the middle distance where my glasses
of Guinness focus, conjuring up lasses
inviting gambols in the hops and mead.
It really isn’t sentencing I need
nor parsing, paraphrasing or strong drink.
I need the rain to stop, the sea to shrink
and show a bridge that I can walk across
to beaches blessed with sand of old-pearl gloss
and damsels who appreciate my song
especially on these days the notes are wrong
and the rains repel me, poisoning the well
of songs I want to sing in The Old Bell.

Café ’t Smalle at 16:26

October shade thins out what’s left of sun,
reminding us who notice life is short.
I order Tarwebok and choose a table.
Out in this weather, half of them are free.

Slim mothers flaunt spring babies in blue prams.
The artist owing me pretends to blindness.
He edges past, eyes fixed upon the boats
that queue along the quay and out of sight.

A couple and their casual guests stand up.
He cranks, the motor coughs, the guests fall in
the open cockpit. She gives a salty wave
to us ashore, singles up the lines, and hops

upon the bow so slightly, lightly, well
the boats don’t even waddle by the quay
and she and they and sun and boat depart
and I salute another ’t Smalle day.

An Autumn Urban Stroll, Amsterdam

October blows brown leaves down. We are shopping.
We stock up on candles, ask about a chair.
Damp chilly breezes keep the strollers hopping
and no one’s sitting outside anywhere.
The headlines — seaborne plastic, radiation,
people fleeing warring powers everywhere —
are far away but never far enough.
On the next street we dodge past a prancing jester.
His coloured stockings, cap, and rubber ears
seem sensible in contrast to world news.
You’d think somehow a moral must be drawn
but I can’t find one though I’ve shopped since dawn.

Bus to History and Tourist Swarms

Seven minutes to the next bus. A heron flies
a calm commute about the ancient church.
The grass, so green around the stone-blessed graves,
grows wilder, longer, by the dark canal.
The water, brightened by large water lilies
conceal/reveals a frog, and tiny fish.
Yellow flowers on green, broad floating leaves.
Storm clouds contest the heaven’s startling blue.
A mass of grey occludes the western sky,
the sky’s skirts hemmed at the horizon by thick fog,
cows silhouetted sharply in the false light.
The sun, imprisoned, in prism, by the clouds.
A drawbridge, unattended on this weekday,
stays down while underneath it, red canoes
containing children from a school-trip class …
A large canal, houseboats with their own boats
and a dredger barge maintaining navigable waters.
We cross the ring way. Constant clang of new construction.
Machines assist machines, reshaping roads
and stamping houses on what were green fields
last week or was that a decade. Stop: shopping centre,
then on along a boulevard with flowers
and more canals and sport fields, green full trees.
Then down a topless tunnel/major road
at speed, red poppies on the banks scarce heeded.
Bigger waterways with locks. An actual tunnel
underneath the river to the city centre.
We pop up there, our bus a time machine:
grand houses here for centuries. Tourist swarms.



Written twenty-first of May 2014 on the bus going to Amsterdam. Thank you, Dragon Dictate, for making the transcription from paper notebook so painless.