Bar San Francisco

The parrot, green except for where it moults,
butts beak against the barmaid’s well formed back
as she tots another tab up for the dolts
who line the zinc-topped bar while she leans slack
against the register. The parrot rolls
his eyes and lifts his shoulders, which I ape
while Caroline ignores us both and strolls
to Captain Hook who mouths some jape
about ‘the thrill is gone,’ not saying whose.
The parrot says it must be Robert Cray.
I cannot care and let the lady choose
the next song but she answers ‘No lo sé
and Pink Floyd hammers more bricks in the wall
and the night comes down and finds me glad to fall.

The late sun makes the whiter people sick
and tour groups shelter in the noisy bar
appalled, enthralled by Caroline, her slick
appearance, skin — the limbic way ‘ajar’
amounts to ‘making way’ so near her blouse
when she and the green parrot dip for drinks.
The uncaged parrot’s ancient pupils house
an admiration an old tourist thinks
no animal should have for Caroline
but she leans forward and we punters smile,
me and the parrot, and the evening’s fine.
The tourists take their bus another mile
and the green bird and the lady ladle beer
into my glass like it required more cheer.

Bar music really underscores alone
and lounges full of losers don’t add up
to more than busy signals on a phone,
to more than travelling salesmen who come sup
on distant dreams, expense accounts and time
like they’re not losing hair, waistlines, and hope.
Turn up the music, Caroline, and rhyme
what you believe the words must be, and grope
for notes you know but when you’re dressed can’t reach.
The parrots, watching, goes back in his cage
as we ignore the lessons he can teach
and I ask you to dance, and primal rage
propels us and our dreams across the floor
until the music stops, us at the door.

I like me in the mirror of this bar,
dark glasses, tanned, the parrot taking note.
I flash keys from a newly stolen car
and think that any day now I’ll emote.
The rock ban pushes for a Beach Boy beat
and two girls dance together, and a man
as old as both their fathers, kind of neat,
attempts to cut in, doesn’t understand.
And She turns up the volume, and the bird,
the ancient parrot, shows the secret red
beneath his green and clipped wings while absurd
bus tourists, like they mattered, jump and shed
their inhibitions, grin and try to dance
while I and my reflection hold our trance.

(published in November 2001 issue of MÖBIUS)

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.

Drinking Coca Cola on a Rock beyond The Cross

After the rain had washed the last tourist’s feet
and the people who lived here
were living their lunch times inside,
I climbed the hill again, this time above
the fourteenth station that lays Christ in his tomb,
and higher — past the cemetery, to the rocks.

I am sitting on this rock, a rock among many,
drinking Coca Cola from a crimson tin
and not minding the pine tree that blocks
my view of the sea — where memory has the sea —
in this world of rock, cloud, mist and me.

I watch Altea’s blue-domed church ignoring me.

Dogs bark hoarsely, hidden in the valley.
Daredevils ride cola-black mopeds
down slick mud hills that hours ago were dust.
I empty out clichés and am astounded
at the space my life enjoys. Nothing’s free.

I would join the moped riders. They’re too far.

I read The Outcast, bringing Cowper with me
to sip the cola, look down toward Altea.
He takes me with him in his ancient language
and we drown together — apart insanities.

Eyestrain, homeless sans computer screens,
deserts me; I see all I’m meant to see:
the blocking pine tree dripping spring-bloomed cones,
the clouds that coalesce from air and sea.

The yellow flowers’ petals count themselves
and yell their totals to me as I note
how masons set the top stones in their wall
with points straight up, a sharp and visual moat
to stop me stepping up where I might fall.

My cloud moves off and sails above Callosa,
across medlar nets and rows of almonds.

A sun bolt sizzles clouds and lights the dome
of the blue church in Altea. Here stays grey.

How did this root get here, get torn and burnt?
It lies with silver foil two feet away,
on a jumbled jubilation throne of stones
that could be those a church is built upon,
or those Iranian judges order thrown
at bound offenders staked waist deep in dirt
and stoned until the blood comes through the bags
in which their heads are covered, praise their lord.

I let a found cracked gutter tile
serve the rocks, and root, and wrinkled foil as a tray.

Is Robin Cooke, Tehran’s guest, treated well?
Are popes religious? Will they speak of oil?

A gargoyle’s life is pleasant for its view.
I sit on stones that I, gargoyle-smiled, distress;
all of us move so little while we look.
We stir nor sky nor wind: we fear to mess
around with aether signals bringing news.

I wonder whether the gargoyle Giles still hangs
head down, tongue out, tail up upon the door
where I first met him, living in Callosa.
I can see Callosa’s hills from here, but not its streets.

A helicopter vision is a bore
when Lucinda’s on the beach
and you want more.

Sniff the flower while you may, and learn
its Latin name.
When April comes we’ll march away
and spread its budding fame
across the press, the Internet
and into deepest space.
We’ll only show its name alas
and not its pretty face.

Altea’s outline dissipates. The sea
appears behind the city. Rain clouds move
from downtown up the valley towards me.
I pack Cowper up, I bin my cola tin,
I leave root and foil and stones for what they are.
The rain comes down refreshingly and cold,
and cheers me, from my aeons as a fish
before my recent evolution into wish.
I steal a moped, slalom down the hill.
The parts the pointy rocks don’t find, the devil surely will.

Land’s End

Thank you. I will leave you now,
for my cottage by the sea.
I can be sane for hours a day,
when that’s required of me.

When we were young, the Dragon’s song
boomed softly in our ears,
so far away, so very deep.
It frightened us for years.

They say the Dragon died last night.
It was extremely old.
I’d ask you down. I will someday.
Just now it is too cold.

Cadaqués

In Cadaqués in June the night air shimmers.
The heat from fish-grills punctuates the street.
And strangers try, not hampered much by language,
to fall in love with everyone they meet.

The coastal rocks that days host naked swimmers
are dangerous at night until the moon
illuminates the places you can cling to.

Soft laughter lets me know my world’s in tune.

The laughter’s hers and mine, until we still it.

Much later, we’re aware it’s getting cold,
but, high on stars, and salt, and us, we tarry
to watch the sun wake from the sea, take hold.

Winter Report from Costa Blanca

The weather up north’s German (as they say, ‘wetter’).
Dutch polders that aren’t frozen float in rain.
Down here in Spain it’s drier. Warmer. Better.
Though Oslo slows from powdered snow, the pain
of seeing that on TV does not fetter
my feckless glee. Orange blossoms help me gain
perspectives that permit me to endure
my winter where the sea today’s azure.

published in THE ARMCHAIR AESTHETE and in THE OLDING MAN