Part One

 

All their famed lives they were drifters,
Feckless from the start.
No rich man in the cherry stones, but choosing
The rough trades and the mart.

All was their brimming oyster which
They left in dawn-white heaps,
And women trashed in their bridal sheets
Others had for keeps.

Poised to be irregulars,
Pressed and abruptly gone:
Down highways where always were soft voices falling
To lead them laughing on.

The dark trees spread in their eyelids,
Evening wraps the skin
And windows will light them from highways and byways,
And warm smiles let them in.

This little Tranter went to Haymarket,
This one to the Scrubs,
And this one in laughter ran all the way home with his
Takings from the pubs.

Now don't you ever be like them said
My strait-laced Auntie Jane.
You can make yourself a real life and a half
With brawn and tad of brain.

And so I did: no dunce in class
I went to the local tech.
And for every success at Board and bed
The Council sent its cheque.

But who will find me a good goer,
And who a young bride?
Who will take me beyond the natter and tether,
The dreaming world aside?

The high-steppers dangled such darkness
Of hair and glittering breasts:
And always such tempests and spangled tears as I
Plumbed their treasure chests.

10. Peerless of Peckham, despair of Ruislip,
The pride of Kensal Rise
And many and many a time the whole night long
I shut their fluttering eyes.

Abroad and home, five years and taken
Finally alive
By Babs' bright look, her welcoming mouth and jack-
Hammering new jive.

You can get to me on a Tuesday, or
Any day you please
We were married in June when even birds
Fell out of the sad trees.

The Tranter family all turned up,
The whole south London crowd,
And large as life on the spot-lit turf they said,
Charlie's done us proud.

And so I had, a modern house,
A warm and caring wife,
And Tom said: even I might settle down,
Son, for this sort of life.

But even then an undertow
Of thoughts, I don't know why.
And sometimes I would talk to Babs under
The vague and drifting sky.

I asked where do the clouds go,
How do our wanderings start?
How sad the summer rain is when we hear
It seed into the heart.

I asked what is belonging, and why
Out of the Ark in pairs
The Tranters came as much with others' claims
So muddled up with theirs?

For though I'm fond of Babs' blue eyes,
And the kid is a real treat,
All I see in the Sunday walk and back
Is bricked-in street with street.

But who has such a family
As Babs in smart new slacks?
And I am smiling, pull a beer: come in,
Be comfortable, relax.

20. In truth it wasn't easy when
My Tranters need the best:
The kid his bicycle, and Babs her clothes,
Our holidays, the rest.

And up and down I've worked for that,
Long periods I'm away
At weekend talks and conferences: all
The Works know what to say.

I'm not making apologies,
I'd sooner not tell lies.
But Babs can talk as though she knows or not
And they can't criticize.

Mr. Tranter of Spence and Riggs?
Ah, I've a note for you.
Oh, Mr. Tranter, if you have the time,
Kate was asking, Sue. . .

What are little girls made of,
But sugar after strife.
For me beneath the undone dress there comes
The very breath of life.

But then they all know what I'm at.
They probably swap notes,
Where did the chancer take you, do this time?
Usual misquotes.

So it's not for Babs that order book
With knit one, drop one, purl:
Where it's all too easy if you cut one out
To pull another girl.

But Charlie works the hearts, and hearts
Arrange the best rates.
Don't know how you do it really, Tranter;
Mates, I say, just mates.

But who of these are my true ones
Beyond the breath and tell?
And who can hear beneath the dropping skin
The penny through the well?

Live your life out in contentment,
Sign future as a lease,
Read again and again what the brochures say
If mortgage rates increase.

30. What is a little affection? What
Is dallying and play
When long, long afterwards a healthy glow
Lights up the inner day?

And that is nothing marvellous, it's
Abstinence makes the saint:
Mine, I'm thinking, is just an old bent idol,
The doll that gets the paint.

I reach for the lost generations,
The uncared for, the unloved:
For what would we the unclothed bodies now
Buttoned up and gloved.

And you would help them, wouldn't you?
Laughed my Uncle Tom.
At my mistake to mention it. We know
Where Charlie's coming from.

I wouldn't say it seemed so. Though
The Lord must tell me why,
All I saw was a midday darkness at
The emptying of the sky.

 

Now rewritten and published as a free ebook by Ocaso Press.

 

part one     part two    part three    part four