Sooner or later

We’re all in eternity’s anteroom,
waiting to step through the door.
None of us knows when our name will be called
or what we’re waiting there for.

There’s no system; no tickets or marshall;
first there aren’t always first seen,
and when it’s our turn, it’s too often in public
where even the meek make a scene.

The wretched might think that by jumping from heights
they’ll jump to the front of the queue
but they always lose out to the murderer’s muse
who unwillingly barges straight through.

While to those who are tired of waiting,
old age seems to cling like disease.
They long for their slot on the rota to come
and bring them a measure of ease.

None of us knows when our name will be called
or how long we’ll be in that queue.
So live like you’re close to the top of the list
and if life isn’t perfect, make do.


The cleaner

A cleaner sees her client in the shop

She doesn’t recognise me
  (We’ve never met in person)
but I’ve fingered through her knicker drawer
  and peered between her curtains

I’ve straightened up her duvet,
    brushed the ginger hair:
obscuring infidelity,
    (her hair’s brown; her husband’s fair).

I found an indicator once,
    in the bathroom bin.
Its telltale spot glowed sapphire blue,
    betraying carnal sin.

After that, the leaflet:
    ‘Easy termination’
for cheating women who, like her,
    can’t resist temptation.

She must have thought her secret safe
    stashed beneath her “women’s things”
for no wife’s husband likes to think,
    of gussets, thrush cream, pads with wings…

I took it and I kept it,
    and I plucked the ginger curls,
knowing that one day I’d have
    a good use for those whorls.

In a year or two, I thought,
    they’d oil negotiations
for a rise of ten percent
    ‘to keep up with inflation’

But sod that now
    she’s blown her chance
        by acting like a queen
looking down her nose at me
    and pushing in between
the man ahead and where I’m standing,
    waiting in the queue,
unaware of who I am
    or what I now shall do.

I’ll salt her husband’s pillow
    with the little ginger hairs
and the telltale test will settle nicely
    in the loo downstairs.

He’ll be the first one home tonight,
    and think she’s tried to flush away
the evidence that while he’s working
    she’s been led astray.

He’ll head up to the bedroom
    (where I’ll ruffle up the quilt)
and find the crumpled leaflet
    that I’ll drop to prove her guilt.

I hope it wounds her more than him;
    stings her with regret,
and teaches her a lesson
    she’ll not easily forget:

That everyone deserves respect
    regardless of their pedigree –
for they might be your cleaner,
    and cleaners copy keys…



You can’t put out water with fire,
burn off the sea in a day,
outswim a tide of helplessness:
life doesn’t work that way.

You need to find out what’s holding you back
if you’re going to achieve your desires,
so scoop up the ocean in buckets
and throw some more wood on the pyre.

Stoke the furnace to boil off the water
until all that’s left is the silt.
Then, when you see what the obstacles are
your life can perhaps be rebuilt.


Pas de chat

A better ballerina
   I bet I’ll never meet
than my cat astride a fence post,
   so sure upon his feet.
All focus is ahead of him,
   his eyes on living meat,
his head aquiver, measuring
   the inches and the feet
that a plié and a sauté clear
   so teeth and meat can meet:
not even Rudolf Nureyev
   could hope to match that feat.



I couldn’t help but comment
on that fiery facial fur,
not thinking my kind words
could be taken as a slur.

‘My father had a snot-mop
much the same as yours,’ I said.
‘An oily top lip doily,
that he dyed a deep fox red.

‘He used to wax his mouthbrow
every night and twirl the tips,
like you, until each point strayed
several inches from his lips.’

I’d barely finished speaking
than she slapped round the face,
and wailing like a banshee,
she upped and left the place.

I learned that day no woman,
young or old, appreciates
kind words about her facial hair
from men met on blind dates.


Memories of times past

Remember when you used to be able
to shit without a smartphone,
and loosen your sphincter without a finger
tapping a touchscreen display?

Happy days.


Am I dying already?

Do I already own the clothes I’ll die in?
The songs I won’t hear from my casket?
What of the mourners who’ll claim to have known me
– who among them have I met?

Has the picture they’ll put on my coffin been taken?
My hearse had its first set of tyres?
The crem prepaid the bill for the gas
that will light up my funeral pyre?

Do my cupboards contain the groceries
from which I’ll make my last meal?
Is a chain of events already unfolding
through which my fate is now sealed?


Not so smart phone

corrects me
less than I
correct it.
Its only purpose
seems to be
to make me look
a tit.


Should it ever be served

That’s it:
Article 50 made live.
Team Leave promised we’d thrive outside.
Team Holyrood warned that we might not survive.
For Brexit was just the first referendum;
another is sure to follow,
with Scotland claiming that London’s promises
(made in great haste)
were hollow.

We promise prosperity,
Greater powers,
A future in Europe, too.

The Scots acquiesced,
voted to stay
inside a Britain within the EU.
They rejected the Brexit two years later
but England thought otherwise:
   the Scots weren’t fooled
   but the English were bought
by the little white leaver lies:

Money for the NHS
and an end to immigration.
Freedom to pass our own laws again
and rebuild our island nation.

But what nation is that?
The one we had then
or the one we might soon become
when Scotland goes to the polls again
and this time favours its freedom?
Where it might end is anyone’s guess.
  Might Kernow snap off England’s toe?
    Could London become a free city state?
      Will Brighton in Westminster be a no-show?

The country looks set to fragment in the time
it will take us to leave the EU.
It could be the end of the kingdom we knew
but for Scotland that might be good news.