From Sixteen Bar Blues, First Movement.
So I stay, crucified to an average afternoon
on the abyss of a kitchen table
between dirty dishes, this is also dew
thinking that it can’t go on like this
in the painful wind, standing still.
Sing to me the warm stream of acid
and the lead in my lungs
the grease of colloids
seeping through the roof
the thunder of presses, and the heat
sing to me the Red and Green of the Impartial
the pickets in the snow, crippled comrades
hits taken and given
sing to me an envelope that says
you are free from this
you are old for this.
Sing to me the days without beginning or goal
tell me what name I should pray.
Did God ever have to walk into a shop
with two-pounds-fifty, eyes to the ground
choosing the cheapest milk
for the Son, the only hungry son?
Does God know the price of a tin of beans?
Was he ever unemployed for years
does God know what it means to count
the change in your pockets, like kids?
God does not allow this, he wills it
in his Infinite tiredness. So we meet him
finally at arm’s reach, in the fading smile
of the cashier, after a ten-hour shift.
In the funeral light of the neon lamps, queuing
choosing soaps to eternally wash
the clothes we’ll soil and wear again
wedding dresses and killing uniforms
old shirts and glorious cufflinks
a football shirt, faded blue-green.
My son watched me in silence
on the short grass of a modest battle
that day long gone, proud of his dad.
The same dad today queuing for God’s will
with old men holding toilet rolls
and the hobbling old lady, worried
for the whimpering dog, tied up outside
loyal and silent son, never growing.
Between teenagers kissing, arms full of beer
and an undecided homemaker, carting too much meat
poisonous cows/arctic chickens/dinosaur bones.
And me, I who know the final chime
of the till, when it swallows fates at night.
I bought you milk, I know you like it
and a bar of chocolate, with the free toy
made in Taipei and I have no change
left to smoke, but it doesn’t matter.
While God sleeps on soiled clouds
and in the deserted field a football bounces
alone and loudly, a cloth-moon.
Within the shop walls a bull runs
in a nightmare, it dreams of its slaughter
and its fear wakes me up.