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?


Untitled, September 3rd - I Tell You

I tell you I’ll never enlist
to cook up poppy seeds;
I see the high water rising,
threatening foreign policy.
Who’s going to lobby a million
farmers and their children?
Be damn sure the only dotted
line I’ll sign is a pay-slip.

Don’t get hung up
on your counterfeit ideals
– You don’t need faith
with nothing to believe in.
You’d be hard-pressed
to find the soul of an altruist
it’s spread so thin.
Virtue only exists in
the absolute morality
of the individual
– identity is retained
in logic and reason alone.

Confiscate all the bows
and arrows, teach peace
to the conquered?
– With a gun to their heads,
they can’t help
but love one-another.
I’ve met every casting call
with a grim expression;
to each admissions board,
I’ve read my poem
and, second verse,
they said, “Shut up talkin’,
you ain’t W.H. Auden.”

I’m not waiting around
to be a great man after the fact;
those iconic pen-smith
memories have grown cataract.
I want my face on the cover;
I’ll keep my sponsors fat.
If, like a rebel of the past,
I can steal a couple column inches,
I fear being branded a plagiarist
at best, with impeccable taste,
or a martyr, at the very least,
with much time wasted.


Black Coffee and Magazines

I have seen marble-eyed lyricists hide in cups of black coffee, chewing spent filters, coughing,
not a poet among them the scoundrels spit and wail on forgotten love and curse the memory of this tribe and that casting call, hollow in the chest, laughing
at the thought one could spend a lifetime counting spoons and who’d give a shit about your novel? – fingers shaking at a loaded hip-flask: elixir rye to the shaman roll-bones poking guts telling yesterday like tomorrow’s news,
appears you can’t tell the future unless you’re blind otherwise you’d catch hell with the clues, standing firing line with near-prophetic ad-men, flat cap in hand used to play Ronnie’s Swing Club balking hexes on a trumpet.

Too many buddies sewing patches on old cords; I contribute to The New Yorker every day sharing the kerb with any vagabond with a screenplay.
My kid sisters don’t know George SempĂ© but I’m obsessed with him, I’m positive I can do better. Young writers quit the mail-order quotations mahogany satin polish Edwardian silk finish with a happy ending I’m sick of it; the is only one god and Howard Roake is his prophet.

I pray with a guitar and a young heart into a tin speaker every night; no trains, my den crux cobwebbed ‘neath the elevated tracks – they closed the pink line so I can record my album spring loaded civic action no cash flow anyway...
Ain’t any time for you boxcar balladeers! Free ride but no train to take,
can’t lay dozing ‘neath the freight.


Picket Song

All cards wild at the press junket,
Pigs in kitsch suit aesthetic,
Signing up as clockwork volunteers,
Ink-lip their names to a list,
Form ranks armed
To the teeth with Mint Juleps,
Calmly advance on my salient,
Feathered by a fist,
Tarred with a kiss
- I hope to never know why that is.

I’ll walk myself back
To the stocks above my bed,
My boots leak - I don’t care.
My eyes deep in my pockets,
On the midnight street,
I’ll shuffle and stare
At the news-print on my fingers:
Life without a future tense.
Go for coffee and cigarettes.
Writers’ bar-room circle
Follow their own scripts.

“Punch your time-card, boy,
You’ve got work to do.”
I sweep the salt from the ground,
Pretend I’m D.B. Cooper.


Allen Ginsberg

"America when can I go into a supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?"

- Allen Ginsberg, 'America', Berkley, January 17th 1956.

This man is my favourite poet of all time; anyone who is not familiar with his work has my sincere recommendation to dig up a copy of Kaddish, Howl or a collected volume. I know it is highly irregular for me to include critical content on my page but it seems to me that the poems I write need some definition. My work will now be given in context with my understanding of what makes a good poem and how this has been achieved by writers before me. I shall therefore include short pieces like this which describe what I look for and learn from when I read the poetry of others.

The first thing which should be understood about Ginsberg is that he is never lost in meandering metaphor: every line, phrase and syllable is immediate and concerned at all times with the theme of the work. You will never catch this poet embarking on a hallucinatory critique on the state of romance in contemporary New York through similes concerning broken teacups and Grandma’s roses. When discussing his experiences with and love for the tragic youth forgotten by society, in the first part of Howl (San Francisco, 1955-6), Ginsberg writes:

I saw the best minds of my generation...

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, ...

The grammar here is sparse but not irrelevant, prepositions are forgotten and the pace is sickeningly rapid. Ginsberg’s style is about exposing what is happening right now, even if he is referencing the past. The impression throughout the first section of Howl is that he has seen this and it is still going on. Poems like Howl display Ginsberg’s ability to weave deep understanding and incredible gravity of statement in a novel way, a refreshing break from the funeral dirge of some of T.S. Elliot’s work or the sporadic awkwardness of E.E. Cummings.

When this poet does engage in immaculate descriptions or extended metaphor, he does precisely that: he engages. The result is not grandiose and pompous like public confessions of impotent intellectuals. Allen Ginsberg wrote acute poetry which, although laced with subtle messages and intimate ideas, stands tall and gives a clear and thought-provoking message. Sunflower Sutra (Berkley, 1955) is the prime example of this approach. A scene is set where Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac sit atop a hill to watch a sunset and there follows a beautiful contemplation of a sunflower among the wreckage of an old locomotive.

...the gray sunflower poised against the sunset...

corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sun-rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb,

leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear...

Important ideas must be conveyed clearly and effectively or they face abandonment, being shunned for lack of relevance. Sunflower Sutra ends with Ginsberg giving his sermon on the mount to Kerouac and the Sunflower and anyone down in the echoing valley who’ll listen – his point is clear and dexterously put because it is too important to be squandered by ill-defined poetic whimsy.

Although I have only covered two examples, barely touching on the complex natures of each, the complexities of Allen Ginsberg’s style are already emerging. I will continue to write in a free and intermittent manner on his work and the other poets I enjoy. It is not my aim to produce exhaustive passages on the various facets of the work of these poets; I would like simply to highlight the passages and phrases which have caught my eye and sent my thoughts racing in all directions. The work of many critics sets about the task of dismantling and debasing the art they are attempting to explain. There is no pleasure in this for me because the best work invariably must be approached repeatedly and will even then strike you differently and unexpectedly.

Speak Easy,

Sharp Noir.



There is a hazy time
when catharsis is therapeutic
but this self-indulgence
is bound to induce stagnation.
When a strong man,
one who is heroically individual,
is swallowed up by fictions
– precluded, altruistic jubilance
over the prize of mystic love
from a good woman, the belief
that, had the dice rolled differently,
he could have been saved
from himself, his consuming misery –
he is truly defeated
and nobody can help him.

Then again it is pleasant
to see the lymph rise
from an old wound
with the pump and vigour
of a youthful heart
too often thought lost.

Picking over our memories
is not time wasted licking
our sores. Reflecting
in the westbound waiting room,
we take pause and attempt
to gather up our resources,
devise foresighted stratagems
to meet all exciting new contingencies,
bid to never again run and hide
from impending calamities
or any vexing mysteries
approaching our lives.


August Thoughts on Clouds

The humid summer grey really
pisses me off; sunshine or rain
please, none of this indecisive
bullshit – I’ve waited too long
to be disappointed.

Rabbits are wondering
if they ought to have
changed their wardrobes;
sparrows are anxious
in their dust baths;
I crunch around
in the yellow leaves
of a confused oak tree.

A healthy storm is good for the nation’s
temperament but, as a matter of course,
I’d rather not carry an umbrella
in the middle of summer.


A Cold Reflection - a recording of the poem (2010-06-08)

A Cold Reflection - a single vocal take on a digital 8-track recorder over guitars and harmonica - a diatonic Blues Harp in the key of G played 'cross' in the key of D. The song is in a jump blues style, like the kind of juke joint in which the poem is set. All instruments were played by Sharp Noir.

Speak Easy.


Jazz, Bleedin' Kohl and a Howlin' Trumpet Blast

I thought it best not to pursue

the nature and causes of my illusions

when I discovered her in the mirror

behind the spirits in a stray cat jazz bar

- one where raucous chapters,

as if written by a feverish

film director, are captured

in the midnight hours by a single

wink of Kegman Kovacs,

crooked on his stool behind

his bandit register – her wide-eyed

glare was the perfect bromide

for this saloon thick with

the accents of moral dissolution:

she’d glimpsed some idyllic

future scene and the thought

remained flushed on her cheeks.

As the creator of this ideal

enlivened with eloquent details,

excerpts from classic fiction

(encouraging second guesses

from Pulitzer marksmen,

compelling in their list-making),

this glossy idol of bourgeois

abstraction feigning realism,

I choose a road that is straight

and narrow, I don’t even need

to determine the direction

I travel – I’m not going back;

She consistently suggests movement,

accompanied by a leitmotif:

the howling blast of a trumpet,

a complex enigma coded

by a triad of valves and the bitter

freedom of a private life

released from public silence.

All this time I accept

she is not next to me

but on stage, amber candent

bulbs warming her face.

The band is her gang:

a vicious platoon enlisted

as a tragic ballast drilled by a single

ambitious woman. An artist,

my essence in my creative capacity,

I hold no monopoly on integrity,

forgetting the monologue,

remembering only the speaker

from the imbecile chaos

of the boot-heel chipped oak floor.

We for the minute are her closest

friends like a chance collection

of driftwood, our scepticism

relinquished from our malt,

for our craving to believe

is desperate and deep.

We beg for reward

like the queue for a soup kitchen

and with just as much dignity.

She offers a flash of information

ripe with sexual suggestion,

the grand spectrum

from love to anger painted

with a vast collection

of colours. This sylph

singing for us, a siren on a cliff

ready to wreck our passing ship,

bewildered by the obscure guilt

of a burgeoning, heated affair,

defending herself

from token wisdom

with a sinister wit emanating

from behind the flash of her teeth

across a twelve-bar riff,

displaying the dagger

but masking its poisoned

flavour with the hilt

In a slow section she leaves a kiss

on the gauze of her microphone,

a blood red smear of lipstick

- she came to sing for them

but she dances for me, hanging

on behind her with my guitar

slung like a weapon.

Before we began she only gave

me a key and a couple clicks

for the rhythm.

My turn, I sharpen my razor wires

on each flinching hat,

a trembling ride, a nickel

wound shake to every kick

from the ground. There’s

alleyway justice in my screams:

a cut to the face if you stray

from your station, every time

I break rank I fear ambush at Cerriglio.

I dissect your mood for the crowd

and find a tune for the words

she couldn’t place but now

lie naked on my operating table.

Bleeding kohl down her cheeks

She smiles at me, having forgotten

the people listening unaware

of the true purpose of our plot.


Single Malt / Crimson Lips

Don’t look for consistency when

asking about his identity:

he’s a cross between himself

and a stranger he has never met.

Sure feeling like a million sterling

and then some change,

the whisky in his belly

sets him in the path

of a spectral dame.

Begging for the freedom

to just pick up and leave,

by introduction he hopes

to conquer this dimensionless beast

simply born of the syllogism

of the dancefloor rhythm

and the flash of a chandelier.

Alien to mortal existence,

her skin is a wondrous tapestry

of infinite colour and complexity,

stained indelibly by a dress

that would look the height of fashion

on any other woman.

Bored of having every whim answered,

every degenerate wish granted,

she forces he pay the theft

of living in the crowded

miser’s den of private ego.

An unimaginable force keeps

this sybarite inexplicably

anchored to observable reality.

He should have been thrown out by now

but instead stands as an impertinence

to their unstated lust, tight

in the jaw, clutching an expensive single malt.

A dilettante of the vilest crime

imaginable, she tortures him

with the peculiar imagery

of crimson lips blooming

on her stony expression.

They assess each other’s

lurid intentions, painfully

aware of the suffocating

emptiness of impatience.