For Gil Scott-Heron (I'm New Here Too)

I'm twenty-one years old
and you seem older than the hills
yet you're new here
and I feel ancient.
We're hard to get to know,
I agree, but I'm easy to forget,
it seems. I'm waiting
to write poems like you, Gil,
I'm waiting with the mist
on my mind, floating
up through my nostils
on the midnight wind
in the magic hour. I breathe
deep and clean until
my vision is shaky
and I can hardly stand.

Then it comes to me:
a thought floating out
of the night (which,
in the city, never darkens)
and I catch it
- my perception is acute,
even if my will faulters.
I draw the enigma
out of the orange sky
of smokestacks and gazometres,
overpasses and bus shelters.
I pick it from the corners
of billboards and from
under litter bins, between
a sleeping vagrant's teeth,
pull it through the blades
of a local green
and into the road
with the pigeons
and drunken stories
gathered up from
newspaper clippings.
- Her with her tits out,
with all the opinions
on me and you, everything,
better she tells it;
I wouldn't be taken
seriously, no second glance,
they may as well have
seen straight through me,
I do, anyway.

That thought I had,
pure as the gum
on my shoe: I picked
that up somewhere too.

I've gone pretty far
now; I have to make
it look intentional.
I did it on purpose,
I heard a poem
on a street corner
and made a turn,
blind as a farmboy
in the age of bluesman
who played slide guitar
and women like cards.

I'm here thinking this
in an old place -
it's a good thought
and I'm new to it.
I'm having fun
so I'll make
the rules up after
I've summed up
the scores, let's
see: one to me,
a handfull of revolutions,
a record deal and
fisherman's hat for you.
Let's start over;
I've got troubles
like everyone else,
no eagles on me,
no broken homes allowed,
we'll keep our voices
of reason, we can
always turn around.


Shooting from the Hip #3 (Bolshevik Boogie)

Bolshevik Boogie and Soviet Swing;
nothin' else to it by the riverside that day.
Cheek to Cheek don't mean a thing
behind an iron curtain in a gypsy foray,
where medals are awarded
'for services to Polka', e'ryone talkin' jive,
bootheels shot from so much spinning.
We hadn't laughed so much since Grandma tried
to jump the wall or Uncle Alexei gossiped
he head off listening in for betting tips.

Notes on Breaking and Entering

You’d confiscated my key
so I climbed the drainpipe;
pulled pork, beets and brandy – I dined
well with the folk inside. With all that whisky
spilt down my shirt I couldn’t sit right.

I brought you wine and flowers;
your hound helped tear the trousers
from my legs. While he and I
were making friends, I found
myself chained to the radiator,
with a pair of silver bracelets

that match the drill sergeant’s
epaulettes – he was braced
against the wall, searching
for the alca-seltzer, pawing
through the kitchen drawers.

While a preacher at the faucet
claimed he was pouring holy water,
in the war room your butler
played checkers and a marching
band circled the dining table
breaking tea-cups and jesters
take the minutes of this farce.

All these itinerants were kept raving
by a the extenuations of an alleyway
medicine tradesman prescribing
alcohol for their sores. Offering
to waterboard me at no extra cost,
your lawyers billed the standard fee:
they’d smelt blood playing Double Dutch
underneath the hanging tree.

I wouldn’t’ve guessed I’d be
contested for your lionized
affections – I’d sooner be rid of you
than a pack of hungry dogs;
even with my dying cough I’d rather
roll between the stables,
with your vaudeville chicks painted
head-to-toe, bathed in laughter
and without their clothes.


Shooting from the Hip #2 (Blues Bar)

Man, I had the best time at 20
- I didn't care what anyone thought.
I asked, "You've changed since then?"
No; if I had, I'd've gone mental,
been thrown in hospital,
therapy and all that, I tell you

one thing: I fucking hate Woody Allen.

- Photograph by Sharp Noir, August 2010


Shooting from the Hip #1

At The George Tavern, Whitechapel,
I saw a young man slung
with a Rickenbacker
who struck
a good Jean Paul Belmondo;
behind him, she looked like Jean Seberg
with a mischievous journalist,
in a frivolous romance,
to take his place,

- Photograph by Sharp Noir, August 2010


Dressed to Kill

Tell Me Now

You’re only as good as your last work;
you're not sleeping until you’re laying in the dirt;
you’ll never love until you know what it’s worth;
you’ll only bleed if you cry out that you’re hurt;
tell me now, in all your days:
what have you learnt?

You’re going nowhere unless you know where you’ve been;
you’ll never win unless you know how to cheat;
you’ll win friends if you know the enemies you keep;
you’ve grown successful when you harvest jealousy;
tell me now, in all your days:
what do you believe?

You don’t need belief if you know the truth;
you can be sure of anything if you have the proof;
you’re only old if you never think anything new;
you’ll never set sail unless you’re one of the crew;
tell me now, in all your days:
what have you got to lose?

You tell me you ‘sleep, perchance to dream,’
– you can’t act unless you’re in the right scene;
you can’t hold up a candle without striking a match;
you can’t walk through her door if I’ve dropped the latch;
tell me now, in all your days:
have you ever shown your hand?