Weird objects in the sky that I have seen.

Last night I watched a documentary about alien abductions. It was a terrible programme and it really did waste one hour of my life. However, it did remind me of the occasions in which I have seen weird objects in the sky which I’ve not been able to explain.

I am a logical person with an interest in science and aviation. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved aircraft and flying, and I grew up near Heathrow Airport. Because of this, I’d spend a lot of time looking at the planes flying over our house. I knew all the airlines and the different types of aircraft and could distinguish between, for example, the Boeing 747-200 and the Boeing 747-300.

In the late 1980s, my father and I both observed two bright lights in the sky to the west of our house. It was night time and the bright lights were stationery in the sky. They were brighter than the surrounding stars and perfectly parallel with each other. We observed these lights for a few minutes, and then, quick as a flash, they moved to a slightly different part of the sky, still to the west. Naturally, my scientific mind is eager to determine what these might have been. Geostationary satellites is my best guess, for they appeared to be a very long way up in the upper atmosphere. I’m sure that other people must have seen these, too.

The second weird thing I saw must have been also in the late 1980s. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was on the school playing field at break time, at the middle school I was attending. As normal I was doing a bit of plane spotting, when I saw an object floating directly above. It was metallic and reflected the sun from its sides, and triangular, slowly turning, so that the sun on its sides seemed to pulse. I watched it for quite a while, thinking, hmm, I bet they’ve got a good view from up there, and what a beautiful day to be flying, then thought no more of it. It was only when I grew up did I ponder in exactly what it might have been. My best and most boring guess is that it was some kind of helium filled balloon. But where would it have come from? It looked very solid.

The third thing that I saw already has a name and a catalogue of witness accounts. During a ferocious thunderstorm, again in suburban Surrey, a ball of lightning moved very slowly past my bedroom window. I remember it very distinctly, the way that the shadow of my window frame very slowly moved across the room, the way that my drawn curtains lit up with the light from the glowing ball very visible the other side of them. Indeed, this seems to run in our family, as my mother believes that she also saw ball lighting when she was a young adult, actually penetrating the walls of the room she was in at the time and passing right through as if it were a ghost.

And the last thing I saw was the weirdest. In the early 2000s I caught the passenger ferry from Torquay to Brixham across Torbay, again on a very clear, sunny day, only to see what can only be described as a thin sliver of metallic ribbon curling and floating through the sky across the bay, in a westerly direction. It seemed to curl and bend over itself as it moved and there were no obvious signs of propulsion, yet it was very clearly moving. My scientific mind pondered on what it could possibly have been, eventually settling on a Swarm Of Bees or some such insect, but it really did have solidity.

So these are the odd things I’ve seen during my life. I’m open minded as to what they might have been. I’m aware that some might assign them as being of alien origin, though I’m conscious that it might be almost impossible for anything to travel across the vast distances of space. I have never believed in aliens, or at least, in extra terrestrial entities.

Dawson’s Lake

Dawson’s Lake

It was the first day of summer.
A warm breeze breathed through the juniper bushes.
We went down to Dawson’s Lake,
Me and Emmy Lou,, Mary Lou, Betty Lou and Debs,
The hot sun glinting from the chrome grill of our
1957 fire red Lincoln Convertible,
Changed into our swimming clothes and fell under the spell
Of our youthful exuberance.

The water was cool and invigorating.
We frolicked in the shallows and then lay on the
Sand banks drying in the sun.
Mary Lou said that she was worried about sharks,
And we laughed.
Betty Lou said she was worried about axe murderers,
And we laughed.
Emmy Lou said she was worried about the
Representation of gender in the media
And I laughed,
And then I realise that nobody else was laughing.

I think I’ve found two grains of sand the same,
Said Debs,
She’d brought a microscope with her.
They’re around here someone, she said,
Looking at the ground.

I liked Betty Lou,
And I was about to suggest a session
Of heavy petting,
But her nose was running,
So we did some medium petting instead
And then
Chatted about nuclear annihilation.

Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
She said that her uncle once met the poet Hart Crane
While ice fishing on this very Lake.
I didn’t understand why anyone would go ice fishing
When you can make ice at home
Perfectly well
In your freezer.

Mary Lou turned on the radio
Just in time for Del Shannon’s Runaway.
During the chorus I
Urinated behind a rhododendron.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Debs tried to alphabetise the shrubs.
I carved my initials in the rotting carcass
Of an armadillo.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Mary Lou and Debs arm wrestled over the last ham sandwich.
Emmy Lou wrote ‘I love James Dean’
On the side of a goose.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Elvis Presley’s Crocodile Rock.
Debs uses the car door mirror to
Apply her lipstick,
Wrenched if clean off the car door.
Betty Lou gouged a Pepsi and belched so loud
A flock of geese took off in fright.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway again.
Mary Lou upchucked over the hot dogs.
Emmy Lou shrieked because she thought she saw
Richard Nixon in the undergrowth.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Buddy Holly singing Shuddupa Ya Face.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
I think I might have a problem.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway.
Our lives are small and meaningless.

A progress report on In the Glare of the Neon Yak and how it’s going.

Or, ‘On being a submarine commander.’

Not long ago I watched a TV documentary about the making of the sitcom Seinfeld, during which Jerry Seinfeld, who was writing, producing and starring in the show, said that a season of it was like being a ‘submarine commander’, in that everything else became excluded from his life and he just concentrated on the show for months on end. It was an interesting description, and I’m starting to see what he means with my new one hour show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak.

I started writing it a few days after returning from the Edinburgh fringe last year. I came up with the title first, and then I bought a circus ringmaster costume, and I tried to think of a way of combining the two. In October I had a week off from work and I sat down and wrote the whole show in five days. This surprised even me, but I was really happy with the outcome and eager to get started on rehearsing it. However, at the time I was still working on Juicy, as it had a couple of dates left.

At the end of the year I did something either brave, or stupid. I reduced the number of hours I do in my day job, in retail management. This meant there was less money coming in, of course, but it also meant I had more time to spend on Yak, and making a career out of spoken word. Little did I know that the show was about to take over my life.

Now, it must be admitted that I have always had trouble learning anything from memory. Previous to the end of the year, I couldn’t even memorise a simple three minute poem. I was asked to appear at a theatre event in Hackney and they stipulated that I had to perform a five minute poem from memory. I set about learning it and, I must say, did a damn fine job doing so. This gave me the confidence to learn something slightly longer. So what did I do? I decided to learn the whole hour show from memory!

So since the end of January, when I did my last performance of Juicy, I have been solidly lining the script for Yak. I do it every day. I do it before work, and after work. I do it on my day off, I do it at the gym while on the exercise bike, and in the sauna. I do it whenever I’m on the bus, the train, or just walking. The whole show has been completely taking up my mind all the time except for when I’m at work. And when I’m not memorising the play, I’m designing the poster, dealing with photographers for the poster, speaking to venues, filling in fringe application forms, writing blurbs, buying props and costumes, rewriting sections, working on the backing music, it really is neverending. When it snowed and I got snowed in while visiting my parents, I rehearsed while looking out the window at the snow falling. When my work colleagues left and I was alone, I rehearsed in the store room of the shop. Every spare moment has been spent on the show.

Has my normal spoken word work suffered? Possibly. I have still been writing, but not rehearsing new material with quite the same zest. I’m still promoting two spoken word nights. I’m doing feature sets around the country.

Soon I’ll be working with a director for the next couple of months. It’s an exciting chance to get someone else involved and I’m looking forward to hearing what she thinks. She’s very enthusiastic about the project.

So now I know exactly what Jerry Seinfeld meant. Today, for example, I rehearsed for an hour, got the train to work while running over lines in my head, then again at lunch time, then on the train home. This evening I’ve been working on publicity material for the show, and prewriting some Tweets for a venue.

I’m having an amazing time, and I can’t wait for people to see what I’ve been up to. It’s a departure from my normal style. According to my diary, however, my first free week off from Yak will be in early September. And that’s when the submarine will be docking for the next time!

An poem about Paignton.

I wrote this a while ago. It’s about the town where I live. It’s a strange little place.

Poem

Take a walk with me a while
Amid the gleaming downtown edifices of
This Devonian utopia,
The night pounding rhythms of
Bawdy talk and seagull squawk,
How could any soul not submit?
The Neon shining brightly nightly
Brash words info the ether,
Amusements
Amusements
Amusements
Soup of the day,
Have you paid and displayed?
The all day breakfast
Is only served till midday.
Hushed tones hint at pride,
Just a whisper of this town’s name
Instills a quiet awe,
Oh, Paignton.

Here did philosophers dream
And hold their sway
The jewel of Torbay
Hellegevoetsluis Way
Big bands and jazz hands
A smile, a laugh
A night on the town
A punch in the schnozz at Winstons,
Oh, Paignton.

Verily did I dream of this and that,
A kiss me quick hat
And shops selling tat
Groovy nightclubs and movie scenes
The beautiful, the obscene,
Twirl me across the dance floor once more!
And then honking up in a taxi,
Oh, Paignton.

Dreaming big and living large,
Life in all its grace sublime,
It’s skyline replete with
Architectural wonder, Edwardian villas,
The stylised Victorian pier,
How just a glimpse causes my heart
To thump and jive with
A sultry palpitation,
Garfield Road car park and the bus station,
Oh, Paignton.

Wordsmiths and poets feint at its beauty,
Wordsworth was said to have cried
At its sheer sublimity
My mother also looked at it and cried
But that was for entirely different reasons,
Oh, Paignton.

This city of dreams,
This glitch in time,
Peak mugging hours are four till nine,
Many a hapless soul has gazed
Upon the sleek facade of the
Poundland Building and felt
The mundanity of their existence
Shouting out to the world as if
Declaiming their faith,
How worthless am I,
How worthless am I,
Oh, Paignton.

My friend Jim lives here
And gets an orgasm every time he sees the town,
He mostly keeps his curtains closed,
Oh, Paignton.

The famous names,
Personalities of merit and celebration,
How many names
Come from this mighty conurbation,
Household names like Sue Barker
And . . . .
Oh, Paignton.

The fizz
The rhythms
The heat
That metropolitan burn
That inner city beat
Dancing like lovers on the prom in the rain
Fighting off a seagull for a battered sausage
Gasping in wonder at the towers so chic
Stocking up on novelty gift farting gnomes
The romance of Lidls Neon reflected on wet paving slab
Romantic Latin music and a snog in Crossways
This sensual town
This gleaming barnacle
This paradise dank
This magical place
Oh, oh, oh!
Paignton.

There are too many poets called Tom.

And here’s a poem about one, or possibly all of them!

Poem (Tom)

Chisel-chinned trendy wordsmith
All teeth and tan and hair
That looks like it could be easily quiffable
So young and clean he’s probably easily sniffable
Thou hipster Ginsberg with a
Conscience so hot it can
Warm the coldest day with the
Fires of righteousness,
Whose words ooze sensibility,
How pained his outlook, this
Zeitgeist-bending Twitter-trending
Hot young thing, this
New kid on the writer’s block, this
Prototype Byron with exuberant facial expressions
This slam-winning rhyme-spinning nonchalant
Thin thin slip of a lad with a gob that spews
Perfect indignation in just the right amounts
With controlled anger
And lots of dramatic

Pauses.

Oh god, I wish he was me.

I wish I could be him, I wish me and him
We’re mutually interchangeable,
He’s so brilliant, like the brightest object
In the known galaxy, a supernova,
A thousand fires of phosphorus force
Brilliant at what he does,
Brilliant at capturing souls
Brilliant at poetry
I bet he’s brilliant at everything
I bet he’s never lost a game of Buckaroo.

He’s brilliant and sexy and worthy and oh so right
And sexy and coolly infused into the very now
And sexy and young with the most perfect skin
That he should merely stand at the mic and open
His mouth and utter two syllables for me to become as blustered
As a Victorian gentleman whose just
Caught his first glimpse of ankle.

And I want to speak to him, I want to commune with him,
I want to tell him: good stuff, man,
You’ve opened my mind to new possibilities
And then trampled on it with your youthfulness,
In your trendy converse all stars with no socks,
As you lift the night completely to the very pinnacle
Of absolute truth
And by turns reminded me that my own youthfulness
Is now as relevant and erroneous
As turning up at an otter convention
With a stoat.

Oh, this slippy hippy snake-like lad,
All very subtle and very emotey
If you didn’t know any better
You’d think him a bit scrotey,
So slight and wild in the night,
Afire with the rhythms of poets past,
I want to speak to him
Whisper so subtly into his ear,
Blow me,
Blow me away with your words.
I love your body
I love your body
I love you body
Of work.

And at the break, people are talking,
Eulogising, rhapsodising
And it’s all about him, oh,
For he’s so intense and righteous and theatrical
And oh,
He’s so vibrant and ravishing and clever
And oh,
He’s so visionary and brash and emotional
And oh,
Not only that but he’s got the kind of forearms
That could easily operate a butter churn with
Hardly any trouble at all,
(This gig being in an arts centre in Dorset,
Where butter churns are obviously still a thing).

I follow him,
Through this crowd of admirers and acolytes
Tiptoeing on the periphery
Of a youthful mini mob
Suddenly aware that I’m the only one there
Who remembers the millennium
Or tamagotchis
Or the 1984 Olympics,

He makes a break for the bogs,
And now we’re at neighbouring urinals,
The Fluorescent tubes of this magical wazza
Gently caressing the soft hairs of his delicate chin,
His eyes scanning the blank tiled wall,
His sensitive nostrils
Taking in the pungent earthy aromas
In a venue where the Patrons are mostly
Vegetarian and as such
Relish the most intriguing bowel movements.
(As for myself, I’ve never
Had much of a sense of hummus).

His eyes almost feral and yet
With deep intelligence
As he concentrates in the matter at hand
With the same kind of intensity
He demonstrates at the Mic,
His pee stream strong,
And healthy, and forceful,
It sounds like the Trevi Fountain
And certainly just as aesthetically pleasing.
He doesn’t even fart.
Is there anything
He’s not good at?

And I want to tell him
That I loved his poems.
All of his poems.
His poem about oxygen
Was such a breath of fresh air,
His poem about raspberries
Was surprisingly bitter,
His poem about the Mona Lisa
Was a masterpiece,
His poem about the perfect serve in tennis,
I couldn’t fault it,
His poem about being woken by the smoke alarm,
Such an eye opener,
And I want to tell him
That I got the joke he put in
About de ja vue,
Even though I’d heard it before

And I want to tell him
That he’s changed the way I look at the world.
And I want to tell him
That he speaks with a clarity of conscience so concise
He makes the Dalai Lama look like a mardy
Self-centred premiership footballer,
And I want to tell him
That his voice is so silky smooth,
Listening to him is just like
Nuzzling a mallard
And I want to tell him
That I’d pay him thirty quid and a packet of Frazzles
For just a very brief snog
And I want to tell him
That his skinny jeans really
Leave nothing to the imagination.

And I want to tell him
That his work evokes such feelings within,
Destiny and timelessness,
The sheer manic dance of life,
Magic in the mundane,
A pounding euphoric oneness
That weaves us all into that
Inescapable yet brilliant tapestry of life,
This is what I want to tell him,
But instead I stare at his nob.

We wash our hands at the sink
And as I wait for the hand dryer
Which has all the power of
A gnats fart,
I say

Hey, good set,
And he says,
Cheers

On a diet again. (Poem influenced by West End Girls)

Poem

Sometimes you’re better off in bed
There’s a grape in your hand
You wish it was a cake
You think you’re sad
Totally incapable,
The nutrition guidelines and the calorie table
In a restaurant
When you’re on a diet
Call the police there might be a riot
Running down
To the shops
To get a Daim bar
When you’re on a diet.

(On a diet again
It’s such a shame.
You try real hard
But you weigh the same.

On a diet again
It’s a pain in the bum.
You put on two stone
If you eat a crumb.

Eat a crumb).

Too many mars bars
Wispas and whole nuts
Kit Kat’s on posters
Too many doughnuts
Iced
Glazed
Jam
Plain
Which type
Shall I claim?
If you got to count calories
If so how often
Which do you choose
The diet or light option?

How much shall I eat?

(On a diet again
It’s such a drag.
The two stone you lost
Have all come back.

On a diet once more
You’re really glum.
You’d love a hot dog
But you eat a plumb.

Eat a plumb).

You weigh yourself
You’ve lost an eighth of a stone
Just you wait
Till I get this cake home
You’ve got no lettuce
You’ve got no dressing
Lost nothing today
It’s so depressing
For every meal time
Drinks and cocktails
From the drive through McDonald’s
To the weight watchers scales.

(On a diet again
It’s a dead end chore.
I have one portion
Then I have one more.

On a diet again
Let’s just give up
I won’t find happiness
In a slim fast cup.

I just give up.
I just give up.)

A very quick interview on the subject of seven deadly sins.

Here’s a quick interview I did with Exeter Living magazine.

SEVEN DEADLY SINS (Exeter Living)

LUST: Who or what do you find yourself lusting after today, and why?

I got the bus from Brixham to Paignton today and I sat upstairs, but someone had already got the seat at the front. It’s the best seat there is. You can also wave at the people on the buses comin the other way. Us front-seaters always give a special little wave. But I couldn’t do that today. So I just glared at her. In the end she told her mum.

GREED: What should you be cutting down on (non-food and drink!), and why?

Answer: I spend too much time watching sitcoms. Seinfeld, especially. I know almost every episode by heart yet I still find myself watching at least one a night. The mix of the mundane and the ridiculous is almost impossible to resist.

GLUTTONY: What one thing could you happily eat or drink until you burst, and why?
Answer: Frazzles. I had a hankering for Frazzles this lunchtime. I haven’t had Frazzles in years. I don’t even know if they still make them. Crisps that thing they’re bacon. It’s genius. It’s the dichotomy between selfhood and perception.

SLOTH: What should you be really putting your back into right now, and why?
Answer: At the start of the year I bought myself a ukulele. It took about two months to learn how to strum the thing. Now I’m trying to get chords on it but I’m making the most unbelievable row. It now lives mostly next to my desk where I just look at it every now and then.

WRATH: What/who makes you angry, and why?
Answer: People who only have one point of view and are unwilling to change their opinion out of stubbornness. And also people who get angry very easily. They really get me into a temper.

ENVY: Who are you jealous of, and why?
Answer: Anyone who can play a ukulele.

PRIDE: What’s your proudest achievement?
Answer: Last year I headlined at an event in New York at The Duplex. That was pretty special. Also, my book, Nice, which is published by Burning Eye. Sometimes I just run my fingers over it’s surface and hum quietly to myself.

img_3763

On getting, or not getting, gigs.

On getting, or not getting, gigs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got lots of dates going up and appearances which I’m really looking forward to, and lately I’ve been concentrating on my new show and rehearsing and learning lines rather than hunting out performance opportunities. In fact I’ve got a little mini tour lined up, and three dates over three nights in three parts of the country. However, there’s nothing worse than the possibility of a gig slipping through your fingers. It happens every now and then, and it’s happened twice this year already.

But today. Oh my. Today . . .

Now, I don’t really mention spoken word around my family. And to be honest, I don’t think they know exactly what it is that I do. Hell, sometimes, I don’t even know what I do! They know that it’s something to do with poetry, and that it might be funny, but, like my friends too, they’re not that interested. It’s like knowing someone who works in risk management, or caravan cleaning. You’ve got a rough idea, but you’re not really that interested, and you certainly wouldn’t want to come to work and watch them.

I was chatting with my mother today and she is on the committee of the local horticulture society. They have events ever now and then, where horticulturalist can let their hair down, and one of these is coming up. She said she had been asked to find a ‘funny local poet’ to do a set at their next shindig. The poet would be paid the full going rate. Excellent, I thought, here we go! Another adventure in poetry land, a gig with the local horticulture society!

The conversation kind of went like this:

Conversation with the muv.

‘I had to book someone for our next horticulture society meeting. We need entertainment so I suggested comedy poetry’.

Me: oh yes?

Mum : Yes. I decided we needed someone good and local. So I’ve found a local comedy poet who’s going to come and perform, and we are paying her a hundred pounds.

Me: Really? Who did you get. Jackie Juno? Shelley Szender? Brenda Hutchings? ( All of whom are famous local funny poets, but by this time I’m also wondering why she hadn’t thought of me).

Mum : No. She’s called Ethel Skidmore. (Name changed to protect the actual person ).

Me: who?

Mum : Ethel Skidmore. Apparently she’s the funniest poet in Torbay,

Me : I’ve never heard of her.

Mum : She was very highly recommended by a friend of mine. Yes, Ethel Skidmore. So I looked her up and she does lots of local amateur dramatics, so she must be good. She’ll do some Pam Ayres for us, and other funny poems like that one about being old and dressing in purple, and she might even do one or two she wrote herself. Can you imagine that! She even writes her own poems as well as performing!

Me : So you want the funniest poet in Torbay and you found someone called Ethel Skidmore.

Mum: yes. We are all very excited! She even plays the ukulele.

I think the moral of this story, really, is that even my closest relatives have absolutely no idea what it is that I do! And also that what people really want, at the end of the day, is a Pam Ayres impersonator. Or at least, the local horticulture society!cropped-img_3625.jpg

In the Glare of the Neon Yak- A progress report

I’m writing this in a shelter on the platform at Whimple Station in Devon. It’s not raining. In fact, it’s a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m here because I’m waiting for the next train home, having spent the large part of the day working on my new one hour show with my director.

What’s that, I hear you ask? Director? Show? Indeed. The diagnosis is positive. Things are getting serious. I now have a show. It has tour dates. It has a poster for which I went on a photo shoot. It has a script and the script has a start, a middle and an end. Things are getting very real.

The show is called In the Glare of the Neon Yak. I wanted to have a title that would make it stand out from other shows. My last two were called Static and Juicy, but this time I didn’t want any frame of reference and thought that a title which wasn’t one word would be the ideal way to go. The title has had some very good feedback from some of the places where the show will be staged. It seems that fringes, festivals and theatres like quirky titles.

So this is all new for me, this professionalism. My last two shows were intended to showcase my poems but this is a more immersive beast, a performance from start to finish. And that’s what gives me the willies. Every single component of this show is brand new and untested, and I have no idea what the audience reaction will be. My director is very keen on maximising every opportunity for audiences to respond which should make that less scary. Unless the audiences don’t respond!

So here I am at Whimple, thinking, wow, from this tiny Devon village shall grow a piece that will take me right round the UK. My head is full of enthusiasm, but more than anything, the joy of knowing, for the first time in my performance career, that someone else other than me is raking what I do seriously. And that is an amazing feeling!

I can’t wait for people to see this thing.

IMG_5612

On being a poetry fake.

I am a poetry fake.

Sure, they call me a poet. Oh, him, he’s a poet. He’s Robert Garnham, the poet. But whenever they use the word ‘poet’, they always put those little things around it. You know the ones. “”

Of all the wonderful and amazing things that a poet can do with literature and language to make them sing and dance on the page, I cannot do any of them.

My sonnets are too long.
My haiku have too many syllables.
Any internal rhyme scheme is purely accidental.
I’ve never worried, overtly, about enjambement.

I once wrote an ode to a rhododendron and a nun threw up.

I am a poetry fake.

My poetry is so bad that even the rhyming couplets have split up.

My poetry is so bad that nobody has stuck around long enough to tell me what the rhyme scheme is.

My poetry is so bad that even my found poems were hidden for a reason.

I look like a poet.
I wear the coat of a poet.
I smell like a poet – mothballs and polo mints, Parker ink and dandruff.

But a Venn diagram of my interests and those of the average poet would probably resemble the number eight.

But I’m ok with this. Poetry has been the perfect career for me, for two reasons.

One.
I have an irrational fear of success and of being a high achiever.

Two
The average poetry audience is the only demographic where I feel I’m not going to get my lights punched out.

For these reasons, and these only, I am proud to be a poetry fake.

And to prove it, here’s a ‘poem’ for you.

img_5073Poem

The lad on the bus watched porn on his phone.
He thought he was alone.
He was probably going home.
Sitting at the front upstairs on a midnight bus
Between sleepy Devon villages, he’s
Not realised I’m sitting there,
Four rows back, trying not to look.

His phone screen lights his little corner,
The attended windows reflecting on two sides
Lots of limbs and flesh and to be honest
I really can’t tell what’s happening and I’m
Trying to distract myself by memorising a
Pam Ayres poem.

He’s wearing a hoodie with the hood up and a
Baseball cap and a thick coat and trackie bottoms
And the poor lad must be hot under all those layers,
Unlike the man and the woman on his phone who
Aren’t really wearing much at all, though even I
Can tell that she’s faking it,
And the man for some reason is wearing a
Deliveroo cyclists uniform and one of those big boxes.
Straight people are weird.

The bus seat head rests form a valley of
Stagecoach orange plastic at the end of which
His quivering mobile held in landscape mode
Acts like a cinema screen at a drive-in.
I ask myself, what would Pam Ayres do?
She’d wonder what kind of plan he was on.
Some of these videos use up a lot of mobile data.
Apparently.

I try not to make a sound.
The 5p carrier bag from Poundstretcher is going
To get me in all sorts of trouble.
I kind of shift down in my seat a little bit.
Part of me is jealous, not only for the impetuosity of youth,
The readily available content and
His healthy spirit of sexual experimentation,
But also because he managed to grab
The seat right at the very front.

Hoodie boy lowers his hood.
He’s got a tattoo behind his ear in Chinese script
Which I momentarily mistake for the Lidls corporate logo.
The bus slows for a stop in a nowhere town,
He puts down his phone and cups his hands against the window,
Sighs deeply, as if suddenly conscious of
All the pain in the world, ennui, inconsequentialities,
The finite nature of human existence, environmental disaster,
The meaningless of life itself, and all the wrongs
Of society.
Seeing my reflection, he jumps, then says,
I hope this bus gets home quickly,
There’s . . . Something I need to do.