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I pull to the east

pull my body to the west

peer through the window,

at the morning,

know that I am blessed.

 

Outside a bush where raspberries grow,

tender and pink on the branch,

make hurried thoughts, go slow.

 

Why do these patterned beauties

pull at me so?

Because they come from inside me –

delicate, rare, short-lived, fragrant.

 

Those soft berries

are my mother, my lovers private offerings

and most of all they remind me of a small often visiting pain.

 

They are my heart, tender, (tiny)

sweet, everyone’s heart. Wild, untutored, gorgeous.

 

And when you see them in a mess,

a tart or pavlova,

on a plate,

sprinkled all over,

think of my heart,

think of me; we.

 

Robert Karl Harding

Autumn 2012

 

 

 

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Lego land.

At turn of year.

Some fur-clad wretch, cleaving to a

glut of memories, self-indulgence,

crests the hill.

Burn of hailstone freezes the brain.

From the mismatch of Audi drive and Barratt home

Slumber of reason keeps us in.

While outside horses eat themselves

And George Shaw cemeteries bristle with Gothic’s dark electricity.

The horrors abound in sight of clotted close, and cul-de-sac;

of the black hair and raven-infested trees.

They leave me creased with felicity.

I have bad blood and a lust,

to suck in storms spiralling

up the Atlantic.

Swallowed by a meagre ego wandering out in the winter at dusk.

The other choice;

Build life out of Lego,

Watch while other men live their dreams.

 

Blackened boughs, brittle, broken,

stare back from pavements.

The black satanic smoke of an industrial age long dead paints a slow, silent apocalypse.

Orbs of mistletoe tumble in the trees, mock their own abandonment.

In the graveyard on Battleship Hill,

distant cedars gather,

planted to shelter the dead.

 

Step away from hum of passing car,

effete people carrier;

Into the dirty gloom of light-abandoned days.

Lego. Steam issues from vents. L’ego. Bedecked with,

Twin receivers, twin irony;

Satellite dishes catch everything; solar panels nothing,

Under Geography’s egregious grimace.

A tiny view reveals itself, mile off mobile phone mast.

Climbing pretty, the five scarlet lights.

Steady rain sends streams down the pavements and away.

Runoff,

minor.

 

Paul Nash trees, stunted, two crooked sentinels guard the edge of estate.

Sounds of suburb;

Faint melt, rain tap on leaves, the feet of mice,

Oh you mice, I love you.

Alone; soundless here except for the whine-groan of the A road somewhere far off,

the feral shout of a child to its mother;

the sound forgotten before it is made;

high-altitude jet making haste.

From the hill, a measled scattering of lights,

The Tory blue light of the golf club in the distance.

Blinds and curtains cover private worlds.

The inner glow of Saturday evening’s variety show.

Forty-two inch wall-mounted.

Blood of a nation. Vague as weed.

Televisions. In them suspension of life itself.

The airy atmosphere miserly

Yet frittering everything away.

And over the hill the last ribbon of the day fades in the west leaving

Shadows of ten mile clouds.

Somewhere overhead the sky is blue.

The warmest colour.

 

But,

Then again.

Shat on by one lot,

shovelled up by the other,

Four years have passed again – time for a change,

Indentikit houses rise in neighbourhoods vague as weed,

Squares of jelly in evaporated milk,

They crowd the hill of light.

Instead it rises from the motorway in the valley,

Distant twinkles of soul-wrapped fireflies.

While the minds gather at neighbourhood watch,

Neighbourhood’s only kin flock

At the hand car wash.

Poles huddle around the rims.

Pitstop it’s called;

Brakes, batteries, servicing, tyres

Cheaper than the Esso all-in-one automated?

From earthly labours we are freed,

Rolling along vague as weed.

 

Don’t they say the sky is always blue,

If you go high enough?

 

Robert Karl Harding

January 2014

 

Cool winds of similitude wash stellar plazas

blow silently across the city

and drift outwards from the centre

emulsifying idiosyncrasy,

Squaring circles, Erecting Order

rewashing Convention’s creeping shallows

 

Elixirs of history are buried,

No implants, programs, interrogation room,

Nodding dogs wear surrender like a plume,

of smoke, stringless marionette. All is slumber.

 

The ads roll through lives pixellated

like tumbleweed we go, vacuum-packed soul

In the mirror an enemy is seen.

Desire empties the air of promise.

 

When moving across municipal stone

a physics of alien power grows up all around

A sleeper, the trinity of economies rise through me.

Of network Of money Of sex.

But already it is sunset on the block.

and we are seated in our personalised cell,

Fear not, the guard will be along to clear

your ashes momentarily.

BlocKunming

Misandry

 

 

I raise my voice,

I’m violent.

Macho man.

To atone I’m silent.

The strong silent type.

Macho man.

You do the cooking,

your part of the continuing domination of every area,

All the great chefs are men.

 

You agree with feminists,

you are weak.

At 18 you reach your peak.

Sure we cause wars,

can be ineffable bores,

but I didn’t cause any

last time I looked,

broke no rules last time I cooked.

Fanfare for the Dustmen

*

I’ve watched you do what you do

And love your balls!

To do what others wouldn’t,

That cigarette hanging from your mouth.

You are a man and no mistake.

Keeping us safe from rats, disease and the plague,

that rubbish a plague on my eyes.

If the bin stayed full, check the faces, the surprise.

I have seen rubbish burning in the streets at sunrise

rubbish tipped unceremoniously into pristine forest,

dumped out into rice paddy

beyond the house walls.

I have seen heroes,

collect it up

men and sometimes women with balls.

Face sooty from rice in the pot at breakfast

By the tracks.

They emerge in rags, chimney sweeps from

Dark satanic mills,

Their recycling while my western eyes drink them in,

Busting a gut trying to think them,

Trying to be a fly on their interior walls.

Getting the view from there.

There is no fanfare,

But I have seen heroes.

Afro-Caribbean Knock Knock

 

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
A truth universe
A truth universe who?
A truth universally acknowledged that if you are,

brown and at home during the day you must be,

doing the devil’s work.

Knock, Knock!
Who’s there?
Voodoo.
Voodoo who?
Voodoo you think you are? I’m the social worker,

and you’re Afro-Caribbean,

and unemployed,

so open up,

let me see if your children are still alive.

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Abyssinia!
Abyssinia who?
Abyssinia behind bars one of these days!

Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Jocasta,
Jocasta who?
Jocasta the pretty girl who goes with the rasta.

Knock, knock,
Who’s there?
Jocasta’s rasta.
Jocasta’s rasta who?
Jocasta’s rastafari,
but mi near eye is on you blood!

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
ManU,
ManU who?
ManU crossed the road to get away from,

earlier this afternoon.
State your business!
You are the 1000th person who crossed the road,

when I came along. You win a prize.
Which is? (I’m not going to like this am I?)
Which is  …  the opportunity to explain what you feel,

inside,
when you do that and then to compare that feeling,

to what I feel when it is done to me a 1000,

times when I walk along the street.

And finally one for the road.

Why don’t Afro-Caribbeans dream anymore?

I don’t know.

Why don’t Afro-Caribbeans dream anymore?

End

Robert Harding is Dead was first published on Ink, Sweat and Tears on Jan 27th 2014

*

Robert Harding is Dead

Turn all the locks, put down the phone,

I’ve something to say,

about someone you’ve known,

Robert Harding is dead*

He’s passed away,

His fuse has blown.

Where were you when you heard?

Withdrawing money?

Parking at the kerb?

Fingering a book,

Reading the blurb?

Robert lived a full life,

Tried hard at school,

though he could have done a lot better, with more concentration and not have been so easily distracted, not had so many dreams about being a doctor or lawyer,

accept it kid, you’re black,

you’re gonna be poor.

As a young man he experienced numerous orgasms,

and boned some beautiful girls,

he had a varied sex life,

studded, it must be said, with emergent troughs of strife.

He worked casually and as a professional,

Though in between he enjoyed periods of slackerdom.

Once upon a time he taught,

Everyone else.

Himself,

Naught.

Rob achieved a lot academically.

But ended up treating his brain chemically,

dismally,

He achieved his ambition of getting published.

Though most of what he wrote was rubbish.

He had three research reports, one article on science fiction,

two stories and a poem published with bad diction.

He worked with several professors and a Cabinet Minister,

men of influence, all stiff and sinister.

He drove a nice car with a V5 engine.

and had a sweet nephew,

name o Benjamin.

He made an investment in a small flat in West London,

from money given him by someone who loved him once,

folded in the envelope,

accusations of ‘ponce’.

Close to Robert’s heart was his love of travel. It helped him unravel.

If you see what I mean.

From England Rob went all over,

all over Europe and back to Dover,

Many times,

And to long haul climes,

Like Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica,

to many he was a seeker.

But it was no use his life was over,

he gradually got weaker,

his rock was eroded.

Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, beloved India**.

But by then he was living in Numidia,

Or was it Shangri-La, Xanadu or Hell?

Hell. That was the closest.

See the key to his heart was thrown away.

‘Just like that!’ I hear a comic say.

And while you think of him in death,

crossing the darkened vale,

remember him as a body of light,

whose heart burned brightest,

it’s best you know he didn’t write this.

In the hospital bed, beneath the shroud,

that shrunken body of his turned over, just one last time,

swivelled and floated and took a look at the mourners,

like Rusty James,

there was no one to blame,

floated above them all,

putting some in his mind’s cardboard box, letting others roam free.

And they came, foxing, squeezing out crocodile tears, their lives boxy and neat,

they wept,

gathered up

compacted,

protected,

thrown away and at the same time,

kept.

His last words weren’t clever, he said

‘Nothing lasts forever,

but a little love goes a long, long way.’

*Stokowski’s arrangement of JS Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, Coldplay’s Beautiful World and I’m a Man by Muddy Waters will be played during the service,

to be held at the entrance to his mother’s cervix.

**The ashes will be scattered at Kovalam Bay in Kerala, South India.

Will you,

Dust vol au vent crumbs off your hands?

take your eye off your mobile price plans,

and ask,

Is that the last I will hear of him?

You must be joking!

Think of him this Christmas when your salmon is smoking,

Robert Harding is dead.

Long live Robert Hoking!

END

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