Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Silence Does Most To Impress

Just what, exactly, is a life?
Mere accumulated years,
Or no more than a single day?
An hour of laughter and tears

Might well be sufficient, enough
To satisfy appetites
That are, mostly, easily sated.
Although some would prefer nights,

Most would choose to enjoy their days,
However many or few,
In sun rather than moonlight.
But, how to be sure what’s true.

Teachers proved so disappointing;
In the past they would have known
But, the curriculum stops them
Having answers of their own,

As ministers of state decree
Which lessons have to be learned,
Which improving books must be read,
Which libraries must be burned,

Using carbon capture, of course,
To prevent harming the earth.
Bankers were worse. They had no way
Of calculating the worth

Of a minute, or agreeing
A common conversion rate
By which financial exchanges,
With weighting, could calculate

The precise value of an hour.
Perhaps a soul lodged inside
A life might have intrinsic worth:
But, priests remained mystified,

Mumbling vague prayers and platitudes,
Quite unable to mention
Fabulous realms beyond theirs or
Anyone’s comprehension.

As for the physicists, they were,
It appeared, quite overjoyed.
The well of everything, they said,
Was nothing, a fecund void

In which time began to tick. Good!
There was a watch after all,
Though no watchmaker. Better ask
The sextons, those who install

Cold clay in measured pits of clay.
They aren’t fooled by fancy words,
Watching even marble crumble.
The worst for them are the turds

Dog walkers leave behind amongst
Sad sentiments set in stones,
Where they must carefully excavate
For the next skin-bag of bones.

So, on their recommendation,
Prostitutes are consulted,
They know the price of flesh at least,
If not its value. It’s said

By most, there’s no correlation
Between cash and the spending,
Or the time taken for either.
Yet, there’s pleasure in blending

Good whiskies, in grand-fathering,
In choosing a politics
Deliberately out of step,
In a bag of pick and mix

Selected just to stop the mouth
With sweetness, sickly sweetness,
Knowing each day there is less to say,
Silence does most to impress.

Dave Alton

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Brief Encounter in the Centurion Bar

She’s no Celia Johnson and he’s not
Trevor Howard.
(Is it actually
Possible to be adulterous
While wearing a trilby?) 
And where’s the smoke?
Great sooty billows from grimy funnels,
A monochrome miasma making eyes
Of parting lovers, tearful with regret
And irritation, while spinning steel wheels
Screech for purchase on slick rails.
Of course,
There is only the efficient hum as
Electric locomotion whispers
Through the station almost unnoticed.
Now, liaisons end at the barriers;
Only one has a ticket.
Until then
They stare across unquaffed glasses, utterly
Oblivious to magnificence
Of ceramic clad walls, to the lagers
Going flat between them, to breaking news
Newcastle United might be signing
Trevor Celia and Howard Johnson
According to Sky Sports report glaring down
From the big screen by the modest mezzanine
Where a poet’s declaiming his peon
To the Centurion Bar’s glazed splendour
And the table with two halves abandoned.


Dave Alton

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Little Self

Little Self is insistent, determined to be heard, shouting from hilltop, echoing along the valley. Too often the church is concerned for its roof.

Little Self sees only its own reflection in mirrors, watching with suspicion, blind to all other possibilities. A bench in a garden at midnight does nothing to obscure constellations.

Little Self is never satisfied, not even with total victory, nor recognition and honours. Unexpected snowfall means the bird-table needs replenishing.

Little Self claims ownership of the house in which it lives, the land on which it stands, the world through which it moves. A moment’s love is the pearl beyond price.

Little Self is certain about God, wants to be certain about God, needs to be certain about God. A flat battery is a chance on a winter’s morning.

Little Self consults timetables, makes detailed plans, sets the alarm to be absolutely sure. A book is only the beginning as reading goes way beyond it.

Little Self is easily slighted, considers creation to be a conspiracy, insists malice is merely concealed when none is apparent. The singer needs music as well as the lyrics.

Little Self can be so comfortable, settled and warm behind drawn curtains, quietly thrilled by the storm raging outside. Commandments are enduring but the stones were soon broken.

Little Self is fearful, seeks safety in not doing, negates risk by denying its own possibilities. A single cell once sought out another.

Little Self may find no recognition, despite being sovereign, while seeking immortality. As the very beginning is a fecund absence so must the end be.


Dave Alton

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

When the Time Comes

Galaxies are fermenting in soup tins,

Where one shuttle ends another begins

While wyrd systers start weaving red banners,

Removal of hearts requires cold spanners

And a surgical spoon woven from grass.

Owners of property contrive to pass

Through helium smiles as if the broad moon

Is only significant as a rune,

Explaining how rocks may be defeated,

How oceans may have to be deleted,

How mountains shall be humbled, how a gorge

Might well be remembered as the last forge

Whereat Vulcan clattered and Wayland Smith

Hammered intricate lattice-work of myth.

Speaking nothing of history, rather

Telling the future it’s always farther

Away than is usually suggested,

As it’s there hypotheses are tested

And one magnificent monument raised

On a plinth of ice, on a weak day praised

For the observation of lassitude,

While what is wrong is the right attitude.

Which is sad, of course, and joyful, of course,

When the book is written and yet the source

Is not even mentioned, despite the sound

Of weeping becoming ever profound

Amongst atheists who learn to insist

The nothing they are sure of does not exist.

So bring sandwich bags for the parapets

To keep certain revolutionaries

Unsure of what the latest wind carries,

Now doctors are consulting flights of birds,

Letting ministers explain why huge herds

Of pint glasses dashed against cobblestones,

Is final confirmation no one owns

A single garden statue worth coaching,

And that stars are just headlamps approaching

Dave Alton