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David Pike

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Swindon, England, UK

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Bonkers, the cat

by

David Pike

Bonkers the cat
was jet black
and wore a fluorescent orange collar,
the orange colour wasnít of his choosing
but was resigned to the fact
that where humans are involved
dubious taste seems to follow.

Outwardly, for all intents and purposes,
everything appeared to be in order
as he adopted the form of the smoothest of smooth,
smooth operators,
and like all cats
engineered a veneer of controlled reluctance.
But all was not well -
although very cool
his demeanour was strangely at odds
with the conflict between his ears
and it soon became obvious
to anyone who peered at him overly long
that Bonkers was a trifle odd,
(or between you and me
odd bordering on weird),
and was struggling with a form of psychosis,
or inner turmoil
for those who donít wish to become embroiled
with the ins and outs of large words.

Basically, he was a Ďsomewhere else catí
and couldnít be doing with where he was at
for more than five minutes at a time,
no, he wouldnít linger
longer than that
and would swiftly move on
to somewhere he felt he didnít belong
and then, curiously, would rush back.
However, I might add
that although quite mad
this activity was restricted to
an hour a day,
the rest of his time was divided
between eating, sleeping
and dreaming of where to be
and from where to flee
(and flea)
and where to sit whilst preening.


New Space

by

David Pike

It was as if someone
had disabled the hard drive
inside his mind
and replaced it with an unsullied
barren version,
something to be formatted
and burdened.
There was no data
on the table
just endless capacity.

Being vacant
and devoid of information
meant there was nothing to seek
retrieve or question.
There was no subtle leaning,
less did not mean more
in this case.
It was useless, just useless,
a freshly painted store
of empty shelves.
Emptiness is not a blessing in disguise,
itís recognized
there has to be a nucleus or core
of known information
to send a fool sprawling.

Okay, thereís potential
to grow something in fallow ground
then disseminate, pass the word around
to anyone who does or doesnít
want to know,
but potential is just another word
another sound
the emphasis is placed upon someone else
to expand the horizon.

The mind
drives a hard bargain
it spins and waits for information
while a cursor winks idiotically
at all who care
to stare at vacant screens.
After all itís just a storage tool,
a pool of distorted reflections
to slip into.
The neural side
defies anyone to cause ripples
on a smooth and shiny
surface.


A Yard At A Time

by

David Pike

Bubbling with gas and fraught with tension
theyíd ride the tide of future pensions
as one of many corporate jellies
wobbling, combusting and juddering home
eager to leave the monster alone,
a yard at a time
unaware of purpose, unaware of time
just burning, burning
a hole through it all -
whilst dreaming, always dreaming
to replace the malaise
with a never-ending span
of easy days.

The crunch, grind
and gearbox whine
day in day out
for years at a time
seems to saturate the soul
and becomes all thatís known,
a photocopy of a photocopy
of the day before
with the image becoming weaker
and the toner low.

There is a need to comply or die,
to be the same
on a withering vine
of focussed disapproval.
The rigours of mind-numbing boredom
do little to annul the feeling
that youíve failed somehow,
no-one wants to just hang around
without the savvy to do anything about it.

Obligation sucks like no other.
The ongoing need to merely stay alive
is not related with the need to thrive.
The two are strange
and distant bedfellows.


Soft Focus

by

David Pike

He looked skywards
for inspiration
but didnít find it
lurking behind a cloud of vapour,
instead he felt tired
and disenfranchised somehow;
the need to please or kowtow
no-longer seemed to cut ice
there was no natural instinct to be nice
or to write pleasant things,
stuff that for a caper
and stuff everything else as well,
stuff it up your jumper.

An annoying voice
from out of the ether: "but you still need to write?"

Reply: "Yeah, okay buster, I do
itís just a matter of the right stuff
coming through."

The heavy-duty batteries providing power
are ready and in-hand,
to batter each and every hour
into a bloody mess,
I guess you could say
they can admirably cope with the demands
of low output,
or less.
So back to poesy
my gold-rimmed Rosy
and other sickly-sweet entreaties,
I mean that most sincerely
oh yes I do
Iím referring to you,
my soft-focus sweetie.


From A Distance

by

David Pike

The backsliding backslider
was renown for dossing and
lazing about town -
just kicking up dust
and doing little else
in a listless fashion,
and it must be said
he suited the downtrodden role
particularly well
as far as the casual observer
could tell -
from a platform of all-knowing
superiority.

When he wasnít relaxing
he was invariably sozzled
to relieve his mind
from the twists and turns
of a rigour free life.
There was no doubting
heíd had to strive
to become something less
than happy, a figure of fun
someone we all gladly
look down on.

But after years of the same
the game was suddenly turned on its head
the day he, (and a few other), dysfunctional plebs
clubbed together and
won the lottery,
won the whole lot, undisputedly.

The sudden and undreamed of
fabulous wealth
seemed to damage the health
of all who saw the Ďunworthy winner;í
derisive stares seemed to declare
it wasnít fair
and their many moans
hissed like whipped
and frothy foam
on a sea of
collective despondency.


Right People

by

David Pike

The right people
(at least right for today),
are storming away at a rate of knots
in three or four conflicting directions,
achieving something and knocking spots
off of everyone,
theyíre sure of their stance
and know in advance
what it takes to get in, get about
and win,
and if they know little else
they surely know how to please themselves
and get what they want,
with myopic thoughts
for the plight of others;
no-one objects loudly
or bats an eyelid
although muffled growls resound
because itís expected of them
the winning men
and their conquering wives,
they are who they are
they go at it like knives
and mislay the manifesto
when embarrassment dawns.

Advisors, spin doctors and pawns are expedient,
like ants on a lawn -
they die in the heat
of jet exhaust
while others queue to become fossil fuel.

The right people defend the impossible
and make it sound reasonable
proper and nice,
smiling all the time
they know their lines,
they embellish them with sauce
and make us eat them.


Schism

by

David Pike

Pounding away on a treadmill
are two enormous buttocks;
nearby knotted thighs moved backwards
and forwards on an appliance designed
to promote peak performance.

A lone skier
skis stoically away
on a walky / jerky contraption,
there appears to be no enjoyment here
the face is red and eyes are fixed
in an unthinking stare.
Below, weights are being lifted to and fro,
up they go like cardiovascular schisms
testing, flexing, stretching -
utilizing long dormant regions.

Sweat is everywhere, on the floor, machines, stairs
and in the air as a curious vapour,
male / female fragrances mix as a slick
miasma.
A perspiration, talc, deodorant, sensation
assails the nostrils of
those capable of olfaction.
In the background
house music resounds,
"boom b-boom," it goes,
"boom boom."

Downstairs
in a trap at the back
a trainer sits in the smallest room
taking a drag
on a health warning,
a thin sliver of smoke escapes from the awning.

The leisure facility is but a short step away
with swimming pool, sauna
and a place to chat -
all are welcome to play their part -
weíre not really fat . . .
a new day is dawning.


Inertia Aspersion

by

David Pike

Small town noise -
more of a drone or background hum,
something that occurs
because it occurs
for no good reason;
a type of rural epidural
where everything goes numb
through lack of movement
and years become decades,
towards a new delirium.
They, (certain incumbents),
have as much, or as little drive
as persons not alive
and are renown for being
glazed and brittle.

Daily lives are known to them
to their partners,
children, friends . . .
just an onslaught of the same
dripping taps unrestrained,
day after day, they breathe out
breathe in
and wallow in a swamp of endless routine.
They invariably appear glum - who wouldnít?
The dripping tap issues a muffled thrum
Ďkerplunk,í it goes, Ďkerplunk, kerplunk;í
they know just so much
like captives in a hutch
and donít go far, or move at all,
perhaps wade from the stairs
to the lounge, to the hall,
then back again?

You see, a modest adventure
requires effort and expenditure
and something from them,
the final requisite being too
expensive to consider.

Youíll find them
where you left them
occupying a space.
They are there because
they are there, just because
and in-case,
floating around in familiar chairs:
they bear what they know
and know what they bear.


From A Loft In Westlecot

by

David Pike

A few hours after the light of dawn
on a farmerís field
(a fallow lawn that had once grown
a less profitable yield),
they, (the yawning carnivores), queue in exhaust fumes
to wheel, deal and have their fill
of barely desirable paraphernalia;
all the while they take-in, take-stock and sharpen bills
as flock upon unruly flock
of motorised scavengers draw-up
to the bizarre charnel house of junk dissection,
each and every member of the scuttling battalion
is fired by an in-built desire to be the first
to plunge his, (or her), neck into a cardboard box
of loft carrion:
some are well dressed
and squawk with soft cultured accents,
they have discerning eyes to pry into each
and every crevice
and through their winning nature
may literally peel the flesh
from living vendors to enable the victor
to ascend immediately to profit nirvana -
they are, of course, professional vultures.

Others in the middle pecking order dart around
making sucking beak sounds
saying, "Iíll give you a quarter of the asking price,
which is fair enough because although the item
is very nice youíll never sell it."
Others are less skilled but more direct
they beat their wings, extend brittle necks
and interject, " how much?" but they mean,
(to a person),"how little?"

Last at the slaughter
are the curious little people
browsers who are there by chance
having nothing else to do,
they poke around on free-range ground
picking up congealed specks of broken chattels,
china, glue -
they are last-gasp gleaners
who handle the tiniest morsels
in an attempt to savour the essence
of what has been greedily pecked before.

At the end of the day
the hordes fly away clutching loft carrion.
They too have lofts
which inturn may be filled with the dusty fruit
of their strange addiction.


Banjo

by

David Pike

The cowboys swaggered
into the sunset like bow-legged roosters
(worse for wear),
but they didnít care
theyíd won again
and couldnít be bothered to hang around
in-case blame was apportioned
for the gratuitous slaughter
and gunning down
of an unfortunate cross-eyed banjo player,
known to the long-suffering people of Tumble Town
as "Tone-deaf Hank,"
the frankly boring man
(but not any more),
heíd suddenly become interesting
when viewed, propped-up in a wooden box
at the funeral parlour door
for everyone to see,
but it was, perhaps, the uncanny sound of silence
that appealed the most
to the morbid host of onlookers,
that and the fact
the deceased musicianís chosen instrument
was also packed with its rightful owner
for a well earned rest,
or was it stashed perchance
to test the inmates of hell?
with a ". . . ding-a-dang-dang-dang-dang-do-ing . . ."
they all knew so well.


A Sensible Show (Avebury)

by

David Pike

Itís almost tangible, perhaps
semi-real, the land lies silent
quiet, still:
a chill breeze scatters autumn leaves
and brushes a downland scree of rippling grass,
you can taste the essence
a sum of parts
the stuff of what we were and are,
sense the particles all around
snapping, popping like a static charge -
above and below ground thereís something
beyond the scope of peripheral vision,
beyond sight and below sound
close at hand,
something stirs.

But others say,
"it is the stuff of nonsense
pure imagination brought-on
by stress, idleness,
or preoccupation.
What has gone
has truly gone
just dust and relics
linger on."

And who can prove theyíre wrong?

Iíd like to let it go, conform
but feel many are swamped
by what they know;
they are sensible people
watching a sensible show,
itís all very comfortable
but too slow -
inching forward along a familiar road,
they see the circle
(and only see stone),
just worn sarsen, nothing more,
then engage a gear
in their box on wheels
and veer for the mortgaged
lights of home.


Elsewhere

by

David Pike

An unknown tweed-clad gentleman
approached me
and after thrusting a piece of paper
in my face
said, "we donít want any big-town waste
around here -
landfill donít ya know
itís a ghastly thought,
weíre all going on a walk tomorrow
to express concern,
why donít you come along
and add to the throng."
Later he hinted at house prices
and how the possibility
of something so dire, and near
led him, aghast
to last-ditch action.

After walking away, leaflet in-hand
in the market town
I began to wonder who
dealt with the gentlemanís waste;
did it spontaneously combust
at the point of deposition?
(and where was the point of deposition?),
or did it perhaps land in the lap
of some other chap?
someone as baffled as me
by the underlying hypocrisy
of consumerism?


Cress-beds

by

David Pike

Pure water flowed
and flows still
gravity fed
from a rolling downland hill
(the Ridgeway, to be precise),
and from the spring-mouth
clear water gurgles out
then down and through
man-made channels,
runnels
where water-cress was tended
bunched and bundled
not so very long ago, a modest venture,
when a small margin could be shown
for undertaking such endeavours.

The water-cress business peaked
then waned and faded to oblivion,
but the purpose-built concrete
piers remain
standing long though low
in the cool flow
of the brookís fount.

There are of course
remnants of cress, a sorry mess
perhaps an apology for earlier plants?
An occasional brown trout
swims lazily around
through green tendrils
in search of cadis larvae, nymphs
and other food from an aquatic menu,
as Letcombe water
rushes past.

Note:
Water-cress, (nasturtium officinale), was once grown at the source of the Letcombe rook, Letcombe Bassett near Wantage. The Letcombe Brook, after meandering swiftly through Wantage combines with the Childrey Brook which inturn joins the River Ock. The Ock flows into the Thames at Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England.



Buffoons Buffoons

by

David Pike

Gross incompetence
is incompetence
144 times,
yes, it always seems
the corniest lines offer something
to walk away from,
at least they make me smile
for the merest moment,
but a rictus grin
inevitably wears thin
and humour disappears
like a tray of beer
on a hot summerís day.

Pompous inadequacy
occasionally
swaggers our way
(for want of anywhere else to go),
and smiles twist
as our hands become fists
in the hidden confines of
trouser pockets.

Platoons of clueless buffoons
do it again and again,
they march up and down
prodding our parts
then walk away from ensuing chaos
humming mindless dross, buzz-words;
they exist to appal
and at the end of the day
wander from it all
carrying bundles of spondulicks.

Should we suffer fools gladly?
Kindness tells us we should
as inept creatures
swing through handshakes
to the top of the tree,
where they beam down
like gormless clods
and pee on those
below and about,
as if theyíre proud,
and as if itís expected of them?

But, hey
who cares anyway
as we curse along
to the ever changing song
of large largesse -
on the crest of a mess
we do our best
and laugh at confusion . . .


P.S.I.

by

David Pike

The effects of unpleasantness
are revealing,
people look to the ceiling
as if in silent contemplation,
anything to avoid confrontation
and an unruly house.
No-one says out loud
what they really think
and instead cluster
in small cliques
and whisper,

". . . the loose cannon
needs sorting out," and
"itís the final straw,
I canít take anymore,"
or, "the git needs a clout . . ."

But words and actions
are separate concoctions
which fail to blend in a convincing way
and may draw unwanted attention
to those who frequent
quieter shores;
hence, after the initial sharpening of steel
nothing gets done
and people sit on the fence, as ever
putting-up with the sum
of the hand thatís been dealt them;
while boorish clods
grumble, stamp and prod floors
like tetchy rhinos,
brooding, in their miserable husks -
ready to tread on everyoneís toes
and of course are
fit to bust.


Old Crispy

by

David Pike

"Put the cat out,"
she said, "and come to bed."
I gathered from the tone of voice
and with the zeal it was said
that I was well and truly
in the mire
which, when everythingís said and done
wasnít altogether fair
because
how was I to know
the damn thing was on fire!?


Tribalism - English Soccer, In the Stadium (Lesson 1: To Stand-up)

by

David Pike

Some of a leery mob
shouted at opposing yobs,
"if you hate Ox-ford
sta-nd-up . . . "
This was instantly followed
by neanderthal grumbles,
gestures and cat-calls.

Then another entourage, not far away
as one, proclaimed,
"If you hate Swin-don
sta-nd-up . . ."
which rapidly induced heart-felt hoots
and the pogo-ing up-and-down
of a close knit group.

Strangely, a vast swathe of the crowd
stood-up
peered around, froze
then sat-down.
It was as if it was
a well rehearsed play, or
perhaps a kind of religious service?
where the gods of belligerence
are served and assuaged,
to ensure the likelihood
of more absurdness;
and absurd it surely was
as they rose and fell to order
during a mediocre game,
so I say to you,
"if you hate Crewe,
(or anyone else will do)
sta-nd-up,
but if you donít
for pities sake
sit down."


Stationary (stationery)

by

David Pike

Numerous pens:
ball points, fibre tips, fountain kit
with varying nibs,
there are cases of them -
with rubber grips, transparent bits,
and narrow or bulbous bodies;
bendable, flexi, ultra-modern, sexy
delectable, correctable,
permanent or temporary
Day-Glo gold, chrome,
or gun-metal silver
whatever,
new and old, plastic and gold
adorn the writerís diadem
or more often
are smothered across a cluttered expanse
as rapid-reaction-force participants
friends or conspirators? to rely on,
ready to send words
flying by the dozen,
to pebble-dash untarnished velum.

Writing implements incline in disarray
close to trays of many varied grades
of writing paper,
posh and brash scribbling devices
lay side by side
like so much trash
in an urban environment,
they are garishly attractive
and hence are a distraction -
gimmicks, when you need stimulation.

When you have little to say
a million pens and bundles of paper
wonít help inadequacy go away.
Thoughts and ideas
have their own careers
to shy from,
they veer from the needs of
mawkish humans,
and live to be chased
from place to place
because they know
thereís a fool with a soul,
ready to pursue them.


At The Slam (performance competition)

by

David Pike

You may find this hard to believe
but I am a shy and retiring person,
Iím not usually up-front
in the "wah-hey" department

"A tad arrogant!" you exclaim.

We-ll, ahem - no way.

Iím not certain about anything
other than being certain of being
uncertain;
I hope this may help to dispel
your slightly barbed observation?
No, I would never intentionally go out
on a limb
for fear of falling in
to a sea of derision.

Iím high on presentational skills
(but on content rather dim),
and when realisation sets-in
people tend to see right through me.
No, the avant-garde show
is for those who prefer
to grasp the essence
in one easy draft
via the medium
(or large)
of expressive diction.

Basically, written and live
are different forms of jive
and perhaps form a contradiction?

I will reiterate
because you appear to be
in a state of confusion.
Once again
itís not really about me
standing there
and where I get off.
You shouldnít scoff, no
really really . . .


Cold Store

by

David Pike

"Iíd like a piece of cod,"
she said,
"a large one."

The assistant who had been staring blankly
into the distance
became animated and roused
from fishmonger indifference
and with detached brevity
exclaimed,
"eh, wot, say again . . .?"

The woman had many things on her mind
and wasnít inclined
to suffer fools gladly
and focussed on the matter
with incisive alacrity,

"m-ay good man,"
(she said grandly)
"I require
cod,
a cod piece,
make it a large one
and make sure you weigh it
without any ice on."

The Ďgood maní looked bothered
and answered with less charm
than he usually mustered,

"sorry dear
we donít sell those here"

(he paused to reflect
on cause and effect)
then with a knowing wink
said,

"Madam
could try the ĎComplete Fetish Shopí
a seedy place
by the Rolling Rock pub,
an establishment where
anything goes
so I feel inclined
theyíre likely to stock
the obsolete item
of medieval hose,
one is seeking."

Cod, hake, fillet, roe
he knew when to listen,
(and when to go).


Relatively Speaking

by

David Pike

She was a vision
of loveliness,
he was a picture of
slovenliness.
They were both experts
in their chosen fields,
she was lovely, truly gorgeous
more gorgeous than a gorge
gorging itself
after a month of restraint;
he was slovenly
was an expert at it,
which presents a paradox
and appears to go against
the trait.

They lived together
somewhere on the outskirts
of each otherís thoughts
in two-up, two-down
(canít afford it
mortgage land),
which was something less
than they planned,
but was compensated for, slightly
because she was a vision
of loveliness
and he was picture of slovenliness,
and between them
(through notoriety),
they did nothing,
nothing out of hand.


Gym Slip

by

David Pike

It weighed twenty-five pounds,
was metallic, round
and kind of bright,
(in a dull sort of way);
and although not particularly heavy
it certainly wasnít light,
as grunts of strain
would bear witness.
Then:
the thing took flight and
rose like a lead brick
towards recessed electric lights of gym-don,
swayed for a bit
then took a dive
and fell from the arc
(like the dip on a cardiograph),
to knock the living daylights
out of the training person.

The metal assailant favoured
the element of surprise,
and thus descended
before a spark of recognition
had registered in the troubled eyes
of its intended victim.

"More grip, more grip,"
he muttered to himself,
"I must have more grip,"
as a doctor placed an oxygen mask
over his gibbering lips,
while a nurse, who was accustomed to the fit
(and the daft),
smiled as she yawned to suppress
a much needed laugh
whilst placing sweaty clothes
beside a basin.


Horace, the horrible cat

by

David Pike

Horace, the horrible cat
lives in a much sought after
though run-down flat,
in an area of Swindon
known as Washpool,
close to Common Platt.

Horrible?
Why horrible?
Well it isnít just a case
of being unpleasant
or of not being nice
or slightly off,
brusque, irritating, rude or gruff,
although he does have a fair measure
of all of these.
No, Horace never intended to please
any human master
and itís safe to assume
heís a 24 star, gold-lined bar-steward
of the feline kind,
and take it from me
this suits him fine.

In fact heís probably the worst of the worst
living cats, em-yes, thatís a fact -
then a small voice pipes-up from the stalls
(pantomime style)
"Oh no he isnít."
Uh-oh itís a gregarious prat
who wantís to push the thing to the limit
(better you than me
you little . . .),
okay, here are some pointers,
take the best of three:

1. Horace doesnít care for human intervention
regarding eating, sleeping or non-contributory pensions;
he has a penchant for doing unmentionable things
to things unmentionable,
so be warned
if you stick your face close to his paws
you may find it bopped and seriously clawed,
so turn a blind-eye
before a blind-eye becomes yours.

2. Human clothes - Horace has a penchant for those
the cleaner the better,
he loves to sit on a sweater
and will dribble and scratch until the cows come home
but donít attempt to move him
because you may find the experience
unrewarding, no
just iron Horace with the clothes,
he enjoys being crease-free
with the bonus, of course
heat kills fleas.

3. Bin bags:
no matter how well fed
Horace tears them asunder,
and plunders the trash,
because he can
and wants to.
He likes to do things rash
as it raises his street-cred
to fall in-line with rough and ready
shed-cat boozers.
Spray? Did I hear you say?
Oh yes, night and day
wherever he can
and in every way.

Horace is orange, Horace is mangy
Horace likes voles
with plenty of gravy
Horace . . .


Individuals

by

David Pike

Expended time is
energy lost, utilised, drained
quashed:
gone,
like so much vapour.

It appears to this scribbler
the value of labour
(of any sort)
is barely quantified
in terms of lasting worth;
which occasionally leads to a gruff demeanour.

The honest endeavours
of individuals
when viewed at a later point in time
seem to account for little,
(apart from the odd dalliance with nostalgia),
as doctrines, once treasured
are cleared without reverence
acknowledgement, or indifference:
apparently without thought.

New is all
and the treasure halls of current thinking
stand for months,
years, decades
and then in-turn erode, decay
to leave the faintest aura -
the shrivelled core
of another era.

The landscape bristles
with ever changing impedimenta,
visible, tangible, in full view.
We have no compulsion to remember
(just to do, or perhaps encumber?)
whilst temporary contract holders
abrade the strata -
to move crumbling bones
from earlier zones, to rearrange
and set fresh goals,
new illusions, horizons,
each more promising than the one before.

We, the custodians of our fears
extrapolate the years
with myopic eyes,
and do what we think
should be done;
we may do no more
than those before,
we have our say, prevail
(and are a tad different),
until tomorrow changes the score.


Ely Timorous, the shy cat

by

David Pike

Ely Timorous,
the enigmatic fly-away cat,
suffers, (it is rumoured)
from panic attacks
and will cower from the presence
of other cats, humans
mice, rats
or anything he perceives
as a likely intruder
and itís said, once harassed or stressed
he will seldom, if ever
return or slink back,
because Ely is irredeemably shy,
so shy that no human
has actually seen him
but a few notable spiritualists
mediums, (or rare)
say he exists alright
heís allegedly there
unless, of course itís waffle, conjecture
(or more likely), a load of hot air
caused by flatulent gurgling gas,
or perhaps heís just a mass hallucination
or rumour?
spread by the Ministry of Dithering
down by the Thames?
But after placing hype to one side
I feel I occasionally glimpse Ely
from the corner of one eye,
(while my other eye revolves
to impress friends),
something that lingers, suspended in space
hovers for a bit
then vanishes without trace;
so I can say, (with fear of contradiction
and of feeling a prat),
I have nearly witnessed the phenomenon
of an ethereal wraith
more commonly embraced as
Ely Timorous,
the embarrassingly shy
fly-away cat.


Future Exiles

by

David Pike

Itís quite absurd
the fuss they go to
to make themselves heard,
if only theyíd go away
and say what they have to say
somewhere else.
Iím sure it would be better
for all concerned.

Letís think about it . . .

There may be someone
who could learn to stand them,
perhaps, in another country
listeners would nod courteously
because they fail to understand
but desire to appear benevolent?
Letís face it we need something out of life
and most appraise the possibility
of wearing different stripes, somewhere else;
something easy in a foreign clime.
Who knows, the language difference
could quell the need for validity and relevance?
It may present a chance to appear bizarre, and different,
a stance our travellers would surely construe as art.

Selection and direction
are not easy places to start.


Shunter

by

David Pike


Between the station platform
and steel rails
an orange garbed figure
wriggles eel-like
through and under
avoiding sewage and garbage trails
to reach a seedy interface
where a loco stands
to mate
with an ever-receptive
trailing van -

gloved hands fumble to link
umbilical cords from the power source
to its travelling band of sycophants
for an act of rolling sex,
or artificial insemination
thatís out of hand.

Itís an unsafe job:
the beasts could bump and bob
and get carried away,
carriage windows
may become hazed,
breathless, during the new exchange.
A foot of movement
would make a difference,
any movement could halt the existence
of the man in the four-foot,
between rails;

but reclining
in slime and grease
he awkwardly affixes a line
in a long-running play
of pin the tail on the donkey,
to make a brake.

Invisible to most
the Shunter appears on the periphery
a ghost, rarely seen,
and is dismissed as a performer of manual labour,
a functionary?

With job done he crawls free,
and is acknowledged by those
who need to know,
but not for long,
the beast burns, then chokes
on partially digested diesel smoke,
and the whole ensemble
lumbers on . . .


Hybrid

by

David Pike

Being an administrator
he scribbled a life
of faint, erasable images;
nothing too risky, bold
or instinctive.
Each day went the same way,
the pictures were different but ingrained
and presented many versions
of a reoccurring theme.

Thoughts of leaving
induced further thoughts
of leaving,
which collided with each other
and bickered the pros and cons
of security.
The reality of change
had been appraised and thrown away
a decade ago, it lay flyblown
at the side of the M4 motorway
after being struck by many vehicles.

It was sufficient to be there
an acolyte of tripe, scribe-like
hunched-over, in pensive mode
upon a well-worn
though fully adjustable
office commode.

Heíd attended
for longer than most could remember,
and was regarded as a fixture, part of the texture
akin to a baronial portrait
hanging in a dusty hall
looming larger than life -
overseeing the worn.

He lingered in known surroundings
to experience gentle landings
and the clock of routine,
everything was safe, known, seen
and documented,
all was tepid and partially digested.

But ennui eventually departed -
suddenly he just wasnít there,
although he was in reality,
you see, heíd become at one with the locale
had merged with his chair
by way of osmosis
and could be seen as a vague outline,
vaguer than usual
a kind of impression of an impression
perhaps a stain?
in flame retardant material.


The Journey

by

David Pike

Reading Heaney
because I feel I ought to.
You know, compelled -
perhaps obliged to go for the ride?

Pages shuffle and buck when viewed
from the bench seat of a commuter bus.
Words faze,
they rebound from semi-porous eyes;
reflections of stark images shimmer - abrade,
bogs, blood, murder, lust,
infiltration, segregation and the need to learn,
a hankering to understand -
people, places, land . . .

Urban minutes burn, become urbane
as numb passengers sit and sway,
the PSV picks its way
down Penzance Drive to terraced Rodbourne
passes the church on the other side;
progress arrives a bit at a time
stopping, lurching, on the slide.

A mobile phone rings
with a tone of Colonel Bogey,
it sounds like a chirping
digital bird -
a sharp-faced kid unzips a lid
and grunts some words.

Heaney drops away as attention wanders,
the town centre offers distractions;
an epicentre of bricks and window glass,
we acknowledge / pass a wan looking college.

Debussed:
shuffling back to a multi-storey husk
full of early morning faces,
muted words filter through open spaces:
the occasional laugh from a long-term incumbent
denotes familiar status.
Haste is made to address a day of minutia,
rows of people attach themselves to VDU placentas . . .

Later:
three pages of Heaney
on the 17.20 bus is enough, then home.

A reoccurring daydream . . .

Night-time in town-zone;
night watchmen warm icy hands on the electronic braziers
of a thousand stand-by computers -
bootable altars with flickering faces;
somewhere a screen saver chastens,
"you exist within a box of silicon wafers . . ."


Dabbler

by

David Pike

Paganini, not my usual scene -
I conservatively imbibe classical music,
strings that offer familiar themes.
I am here by way of fraud,
someone donated their ticket
because they had cause
to be somewhere else,
so, grateful, I take their place,
a cultural impostor -
a fly in the marmalade.
Etiquette: I am amused by the way
the audience applaud the conductor
and musicians
before a note of music is played,
(a time-honoured trait - perhaps a down-payment
or something on the slate?)

The music soars
and continues faultlessly
on it goes, on, on;
a solo violinist catapults a bow
to and fro,
the place hums with exquisite sound,
somewhere behind and to my right
someone snores,
but not for long.

During the interval dowagers,
tweeds, and rickety knees
decant to the bar,
an aging man with a diamante wife
apologises three times
for causing imagined strife by shuffling past,
his closing staccato remarks,
"Thank you sir, thank you,"
(doffs an imaginary cap).
There is too much deference, perhaps
before retirement he was a servant,
or batman to a rich manís cat?

The audience camphor and chat:
false teeth and gout
chase ice creams up a ramp.
Ten years would, unfortunately, see most out
but for now they take their seats
as musicians return from wherever
musicians hang about, to
twang, toot, and look askance,
as enlightened peers
begin to clap.


Haw Haw

by

David Pike

there are two sides
to every story
the one you are fed
and tend to explore
and the truth you may not know;
misinformation flows from a singular source
and is passed on
to those who are likely to respond,
the aim: to expand mischief
to a fuller form.

To say that receivers
are gullible
would be unfair
because they are there
at a point in time,
they donít really know
if the data is suspect
or wrong,

this makes them useful,
they disperse chaff
like the unwitting agents
they really are -
the sender knows
they may be relied upon.


Bouncing Chef

by

David Pike

A pre-recorded bored voice . . .

"The train now standing
on platform 3
is an inflatable replica -
a device we call
a Traction Placebo.
Basically, it looks all well
and dandy -
but doesnít go.

We are sorry to announce
that your scheduled real train
will not appear.
However, please make use
of the inflatable train
as a bouncy-castle,
but note, introducing a serious tenor:
passengers, (or bouncers)
are required to remove coats,
stiletto heeled shoes
and steel-tipped umbrellas
before boarding; as ever itís
first class to the front
and others to the rear.

we deeply regret
there will be no bouncing chef
on this service."


Spirits

by

David Pike

A night trains rattles
unseen, on steel rails
a vale away;
an anonymous entity
exudes through channelled grooves
of local topography.

The detached sound of passing is borne
by whirling mists
to form ethereal strands,
it becomes a kind
of otherworld tinnitus.

There is a myth to be had
of moving, leaving, racing
from one location to another,
perhaps to a place that cannot
be traced?

Passengers stare from within
the limbo husk of swaying tin,
bleary eyes appraise
far away lights
of suburbia;
city suits, stiletto heels
and Chelsea boots
recline to dream -
to the tick of a watch

but who is transported by
the faraway sound;
passengers, train, rails -
land
all, some, none:
to the aroma of spent diesel?

No one explains;
all are temporarily framed
by who, what and where they are
or are not

they are encapsulated, retained
future ghosts,
neither here nor there,
rushing through cold night air
in between -
removed

remote . . .