Alan Dent

Schrodinger's Women
7th November 1919
They Can Hit My Arse
Another Disappointing Bookshop
Application - No Interview
Charles Darwin Admits His Crime
Cruelty to Animals
Eine Kleine Tagmusik
Einstein at the Barber's
High Rise
Human Nature
Neanderthal Pavements
Professor of Literature


Were definitively alive
whether or not he could prove it
while the poor cat waited
and the radium lost mass
with the hammer poised
to smash the vial
and Erwin enjoyed what his senses told
was real
the way her luscious hair
brown and thick with the energy of youth
touched her milky shoulders
or the miraculous orbs of her buttocks
as she reached her dressing gown from the hook
as if the big bang had ordained
the passing perfection
of this fleeting bit of flesh
and through the billions of years
before anything lived
and the millions
before anything touching human lived
and the hundreds of thousands
before humans lived
and the thousands
before her ancestors lived
and the hundreds  before they lived
and the tens before they met
this moment of perfect delight
was sure to happen
and the way her talking mouth
puckers and stretches
the little kiss of a vowel
or a consonantís smile
so he can watch her from afar
and without catching a word
sink into the blissful miracle
of sensuality breeding meaning
and the blonde sunshine
of this oneís hair
as if to put his hand close by would risk
a burn
and in her husky voice
a universe of pleasure
and this oneís thighs
sculpted by no hand
but perfect
the smooth heaviness of her flaccid muscle
as the knees part
and the cleft as juicy as a plum
and as he kissed these lips
or held these breasts
or sunk himself into the lovely home
of tight wet warmth
or stroked this hair
or held this hand
or lay his palms in this time-stilling waist
the theoretical cat sat in its box
theoretically waiting
and theoretically neither dead
nor alive
but these
all these
most definitely alive
beyond all proof


7th NOVEMBER 1919

All over the world
universal acclaim
for the new universe
and its little uncoverer
only five feet seven
a tiny speck
in a creation so vast
no-one knows if it ends
and if it ends
where it ends
and if it doesnít end
how it doesnít end
or if
it doubles back on itself
and bends endlessly
like a twisted tyre
and lights
travelling at uniform speed
flash in his eyes
everywhere he goes
as if itís a law of nature
scientists must be photographed
and around this star
once so obscure
revolves a whole orrery of journalists
golf critics
music critics
rocketed into the outer space of physics
to report on how starlight bends
and how the incomprehensible mystery
of the universe
was comprehended
a little
by this simple little man
who once thought of maths
as the caviar of learning
preferring the boiled potatoes of physics
imagined in vivid pictures
but how soon this universe of adulation
turned in upon itself
and sent spinning
through a solar system of hate
and putrid resentment
and black-hole prejudice
so dense
no glimmer of light could escape
its collapsed matter
the vile bitterness of belittlement
and rejection of Jewish science
as if the stars are Jewish
or the sun Jewish
or the laws that stay the same
through shifting frames Jewish
or equations Jewish
or the speed of light itself
the measure of all things
a Jewish speed
as if the steady ellipse of earth is Jewish
or the wobble of Mercury
a Jewish wobble
and scientists themselves
men who should line up behind
disinterested objectivity
Lenard Stark Geiger
opened their ugly mouths
from which spilled
the deathly radiation of racism
mocking the little Jew
hating the little Jew
reducing the big mind of the little man
a mind as big as the sun
as unprejudiced as time
to their own tiny scale
the scale of a bit of big bang debris
a useless out-of-kilter asteroid
and the New York Times
so quick to seize the news
when it first broke
poured scorn and said
who understands
and isnít this un-American
as if the moon is American
and the Milky Way
as if the stars and stripes
waved out across
the space that fireworked into life
thirteen billion years ago
and isnít this undemocratic
because the longshoremen donít get it
and the shoe-shine boys donít get it
and the waitresses donít get it
and the President doesnít get it
and the professors donít get it
what kind of theory is this
that nobody gets
in the land of Iím-as-good-a-man-as-you
what kind of man can say
this is what the universe is like
even if you donít get it
this is not the American way
and the theory is crazy anyhow
who is this guy
what kind of jokerís this
with his bent space
and warped time
what kind of warped mind
thinks the universe is warped
and this is America
made by God
who made the universe
and is God going to make a twisted universe
do me a favour buddy
and through it all
through all the manic fuss
through all the hatred and the bile
through all the ignorance and spite
the quiet little man
five foot seven in the infinite universe
could do nothing but stick by the truth
the little bit of truth
wrought by hard thought
from the silent universe
shining like the most distant star
surrounded by mediocre minds
responding as they always do
with maximum violence
to what is new and strange as if
passing visitors in this long-before-us space
anything should seem other
than new and strange


A woman crossing
a woman crossing the road
an ordinary road in an ordinary town
at five in the afternoon
a winter afternoon
dark like a winter afternoon at five
crossing the mouth of a busy road
as a car closes
as if walking an empty beach by the sea
as if climbing a hill in a lonely countryside
as if not hurrying home from work
from a busy week
to a hurried weekend
a woman weary of the busy week
and the busy road
and the cars hurrying
weary of a life of hurrying
to cross busy roads to nowhere
says to the man she has never seen before
a man waiting to cross the same road
in the opposite direction
a man weary of the busy week
and the busy road
a man not hurrying home to a hurried weekend
a man taking his time
as if walking on a lonely beach by the sea
as if climbing an empty hill in a quiet countryside
a man waiting as if for a woman to cross the road
in the opposite direction
let them hit my arse, I donít care
and waiting for the car to pass
and the woman to pass
waiting for the road to be quiet for him to cross
the weary man smiles at the weary woman
who goes on her way
having spoken to a stranger
having spoken strangely without knowing why
without knowing why she doesnít care
and the car driven by a man who doesnít care
so the man can cross
without looking back
at the woman who spoke to him
the woman who doesnít care
who doesnít care if the car hits her arse
the weary woman
walking as if on a lonely quiet beach
as if on a empty hillside
in a quiet countryside.


but no McSweeney.


Are you dynamic
a team-player
do you want to join
a cutting-edge organization
where high achievers receive high rewards

Iím contemplative
fond of my own company
in things other than me
and happy with modest remuneration

But thereís a form to fill
because there are bills to pay
and Ms Randerson
a contre coeur
writes her first name
and her surname and
her date of birth
and the schools she attended
and the short list
of her average qualifications
being average
and happy
except there are jobs to be pursued
because thereís a mortgage to pay
and children to feed
and the Personal Statement to complete
of her meagre impersonal experience
the job in the office
the job in the shop
the job in the travel agency
the job in the library
which she liked because
it was calm and she had friends
the job she lost
when dynamic forward-looking
cutting-edge councillors
forced to walk a budget tightrope
by dynamic forward-looking
cutting-edge politicians
cut the edges of library funding
so books were sold in hundreds
and staff dynamically cut in tens
to become the cutting-edge
of the forward-looking unemployed
looking forward to application forms
and the hope of interviews
the disappointment of no response
the weariness of forms

Ms Randerson seals the envelope thinking
of the dynamic
forward-looking team player
in the cutting edge restaurant chain
where she might work as a receptionist
the dynamic team-player reading her application
along with the other applications
how many
a hundred
two hundred
a thousand
seeing a thousand dynamic
would-be receptionists
on high-heels
in power-suits
powering towards the small restaurant door
fighting to get through
she the last
fond of her own company
her heel breaking in the crush
left behind

Wheeling the buggy
squeaking to the park
contemplative Ms Raderson
feeds the letter into the pillar boxís red mouth
mouth that has swallowed hundreds
the dull forms completed late at night
the embarrassing self-elevation
and imagines its journey
unceremoniously sacked
neatly upright passing through the gate
of two swift wheels
by the unknowing hand of an employee
just doing what must be done
to pay the mortgage
feed the kids
an employee who like her maybe
had to fill  dull forms
and try to make himself
look better than he is
who doesnít know
that in his hand he holds her future
the petty hope of a woman caught
in the swift unthinking wheels of a big machine

Was he dynamic
a team-player
did he want to work
for a cutting-edge organization
where high achievers get high rewards

Or was he just a bloke in need of work

And that small thing
that petty thing
that thing so many have
that thing she so wants
but doesnít want
wants because she must
and doesnít want because
like everyone she knows employmentís pain
would like a little win
a natty pile
to keep work out at sea
wants because activityís a joy
but doesnít want because
a boss is misery
that small thingís out of reach
as if sheís criminal
as if some unseen handís intent
on punishment
as if some eye sees all sees
sheís not dynamic
or ambitious
or forward-looking
or  team-player
as if the cutting edge
leaves her ice
and high achievement
brings her low

As if forever questions will be asked
are you
do you
as if in accusation
and forever she must answer
as if someone unseen
is maliciously framing questions
to which she can only answer no
and throwing up his hands as he declares:

You see
wrong attitude

as if she must drag
over the endless snows of disappointment
this sledge laden
with someone elseís definition of her life
as if her life
is not her own


Because it was a family tradition
and because ambition
was of course familiar
because the course of his life
was not his own
and ownership was nine tenths of the problem
because nine tenths and more
of boys didnít go there
and because to be a go-getter
a shaker and mover
a go-go dancer on the big stage
of the worldís big events
was his fate
and because eventually
the course of events
would fulfil the big ambitions
of his family tradition
he was left one day
far from home
in a home his parents had to pay for
where he would pay dearly
like his parents paid dearly
for the special things in this special place
where those who shall have a special place
in the world
get a leg up
and the upset
of leaving home so young
of setting up home in a place
that canít be home
because itís door wonít close
against the big world
the outside world
the cold world
because it is the big cold outside world
closing its door against
the warm and tender intimacies
of home
had to be hidden
so this school that tried to be a home
could show a bright face to the world
and all these bright boys
fighting for place
had to hide from themselves and one another
the sad selves of little boys
fighting resentment of
loving parents who sent them
to a special place
where special men
with a special look in their eyes
hide behind their gowns
and their Greek grammar
or their Mandarin Chinese
things all Greek to little boys
who have to master
what the masters want
whether it be maths or masturbation
and though the warm world of home
was far away
there was something else
because how ever cold and low
life in this unhome
to be here was to be
looked up to
by those lower
and all the self that died
for want of home
could come alive in this
being looked up to
by those who lives are low
because they donít have cash
because itís a family tradition
to have no ambition because
the doors are closed against the low
because the schools they go to
arenít their homes
because their homes
are small
their place is small
their place in the big go-getting world
that belongs to boys
who know how to look down
on the unworthy
as they know their worth
because they went far away
to schools that taught them Greek
and Mandarin Chinese
and that your mum and dad
can care more for your place
in the big go-getting world
than for your simple happiness
and such a simple thing as happiness
has no place in the kind of place
that gets you a place
in the world of place
where everybodyís worth is judged
and some found wanting
and who would want
to be found out
to be found to be one of those
unworthy of a place
in the world of place
whose doors are closed against
nine-tenths and more
and if youíre of the few
who know your worth
because the many must look up
as you look down
it must be laid down
as it was laid down by your parents
because it was a family tradition
because ambition must have its way
that many must be low
so the few can be admired
or envied
though who would envy boys
left far away
far away from the tender love of home
for the sake of place and money
and what boy wouldnít
given the choice
stay low and loved


Around the big oak table
in a dining-room
three poor families
could have lived in
they gathered one Sunday
a Sunday in April
in sweet England
in a Kentish house
to dine
on good English beef
potatoes carrots beans
and pudding made from apples
grown in Kentish orchards
warmed by the kindly English sun
and to drink tea
brought from plantations
on the worldís other side
by English enterprise
and the rule
of God-fearing Englishmen
put on earth
to spread the word of God
and the commerce of God
among savages
the backward
the Godless mass
and while they ate they talked
of Reform Acts and Luddites
and the slave trade
and what was to be done
about the working-class
and its rebellious agitators
for they were educated men
whose wives too had read
they were thinking men
whose wives too were allowed to think
but quiet amongst them sat
the murderer Charles Darwin
who slowly chewed his beef
who ate his apple pie
as if it were his last
whose guilt sat upon him
like England on its Empire
and when he was asked
how his work was evolving
and where it might lead
and what yet
from his voyage to the south
coming back with a disease
that ruined his stomach
and from all the reading
and noting
all the slow accumulation of tiny details
he had glimpsed that was new
setting aside his customary reserve
like a useless mutation
he said
what I think Iíve found
what all the evidence makes me think Iíve found
though it fills me with anxiety to say so
is that we
sitting round this big oak table
eating English beef
and apple pie
on a sweet April day
in a quiet Kentish house
we the civilised English who rule
near all the globe
we who go to church
on quiet Sundays
and thank God for his bounty
and our place in His creation
we are here because
long ago
so long ago I canít see
how long ago
or how
but some very long time ago
we changed
not because we chose
but just because
change drives through all that lives
just tiny changes
making over time
time so big you canít imagine it
big changes
like the one
that changed us from the apes
we still might be
and brought us here
and everything that lives
has done the same
grown out of some forgotten
long-lost cell
some simple single form of life
that sprang up who knows how
when rain and rock and mud
and sun
and all the elements mixed
and step by step
branching all the way
like a million-year privet hedge
species arrived and disappeared
none intended
nor not intended
being itself
the only necessity
and each little chance change
making survival more likely
in jungle
or in desert
in the depths of the oceans
or in the heart of cities
was clung to like
a barnacle clings
fanatically but without fanaticism
and somehow
all we are was made like this
making us human
and all humans made the same
out of apes
and everything that came before
so we
around this table
on this sweet Sunday
have no special place in creation
itís much more likely we should not be here
than that we are
and lifting the white cup
the delicate china cup
of delicate China tea
he sipped and looked down
at the white linen table cloth
and all the others looked at him
the murderer
who had just torn out their hearts
and held them aloft
skewered on the merciless nib
of his scientific pen
this quiet modest respectable Englishman
who dared to say
Englishmen were the distant sons of apes
and not Godís emissaries on earth
sent to do His will
to civilise
and spread His word
and from that Sunday Sunday
would never be the same again
nor anything the same again
and had they not been Englishmen
and their wives
who feared the law
and God
they would have gladly smashed his head
and torn his limbs
and thrown him to the dogs
for after those few words
an Englishman could never now be more
than human


The applicant sits
like a supplicant
before the boss who sits
like a god
or a demi-god
but the supplicant-applicant is no kind of god
heís more of a dog
a lap-dog or dogsbody
in the body of a man
so the demi-god of management
whose right to manage must not be put in question
asks the performing dog
to jump through circus hoops
and with the whip of his tongue
accuses the supplicant-applicant
of neither having been given
nor having assumed responsibility
and the lap-dog supplicant-applicant
leaps through the hoops
obedient as a lap-dog
a well-trained lap-dog
put through its paces
but it makes no difference
for when a god has made up his mind
thereís nothing a dog can do to change it
no matter how many burning hoops he jumps

You have neither been given
nor have you assumed


Until the lap-dog
tired of the lash of the ringmasterís tongue
and the demi-godís imperious command
of the circus ring
tries a new trick
sinking his supplicantís teeth in the easy flesh
of the demi-godís calf
and tugging
and twisting
and pulling
like a well-trained lap-dog
a guard-dog
a dog on duty
and as the demi-god screams
and tries to shake the applicant from his leg
his hurting leg
his bleeding leg
whose muscle is torn and shredded
the supplicant lap-dog thinks
you have neither been given
nor have you any right
to make me jump through any hoop
in any circus
except of my own choosing
and liking .


The boyís in his bedroom viewing hard porn
the parents are downstairs
whatís he doing up there
let him do what heís doing
heís quiet
the daughterís doing drugs
thereís a guy down the road
whose atticís full of pot plants
whose pockets are full of money
sheís full of pills
today thereís a pill for everything
her motherís on Prozac
her dadís on the bottle
his tickerís clocking off
heís got to have a by-pass
sheís in the underpass
where they pass the stuff around
stuff happens
thereís no resisting
go with the flow
he goes to school with a head full of fannies
she goes with her amphetamined brain
at lunchtime they give her amphetamine
it helps her concentrate they say
he asks his French teacher if sheís got a nice cunt
they send him home
where he watches  hard porn
till tea-time
when he eats burger and chips
in front of the telly
can he take it upstairs
no he canít
why not
because we eat down here
because we do
he goes out with his mates
hoping theyíll mate
they hang around the Spar
break a few wing-mirrors
wing a few stones at windows
push the coping stones off the widowís wall
what the fuck can she do
her neighbour gives chase
well come on then dickhead
oh Iím fuckiníscared
what the fuck can he do
what the fuck can anyone do
we kick the bastard round a bit
thatíll teach him to mind his business
we do what we want
what do we want
fuck knows
but we do it anyway
someone calls an ambulance
Ďcause the dickhead canít get up
we lob a few bricks
fuckiní paramedics
fuckiní paradickheads
then the cops arrive
we leg it
leap the railway fence
skip the rails and weíre off
they donít come after us
theyíre just doiní their job
soft bastards
when I get home theyíve been
what you been up to
you been beatiní people up in the street
heís in hospital
I didnít do shit
I didnít hit nobody
he goes up to his room
watches some more porn
fuck Ďem
they canít prove nothiní
he goes to school
his mates say the bastardís dead
serve him fuckiní right
nosey cunt
when the pigs come round he says
I didnít do shit
I wasnít even there
it wasnít even me
fuckiní barrister
whatís a fuckiní barrister
I donít want no barrister
I wanna go home
that judge was a bastard
when I get out of here Iíll sort him
Iíll find where he lives
Iíll burn his house down
Iíll shag his wife
I only kicked him once
everyone was kickiní him
why do I get the blame
what was I supposed to do
everyone was doing it
am I gonna be called a cissy
fuck that
Iím not gay
fuck that
and when I get out of here
Iíll show the bastards


The hard-working clerks of Drancy
ticking the lists
the lists of those to be sent
by regular trains
to the concentration camps
to the gas chambers
the regular clerks of Drancy
who would never dare
depart from their duty
and would rather send
Jews to their deaths
than be thought lazy
or not to be on time
the hard-working clerks of Drancy
have been taught well
have been schooled in hard-work
and obedience
so even when
the orders come no more
the one who gave them
the clockwork clerks tick on
perfect workers
bored but too cowed to kick
against boredomís tyranny
tyrannised by boredom and routine
and fear
the mind-dead clerks of Drancy
filling the trains of death
filing the dockets of death
ticking the lists of death
because the Fuhrer says they must
because fear says they must
because the living bit of mind
that might say no
might tell the hand to stop
might tear the form
might shred the list
might stop the train
might save the lives
has died
died by putting duty first
died by putting Fuhrer first
died by putting fear first
died by not thinking
by not asking
who has the right to take a life
the dead clerks of Drancy
perfect workers
duteous workers
well-trained punctual obedient workers
even when the orders come no more
go on with the work of death.


The pop star said heíd write
songs for the postman to whistle
but the postman comes
whistling Mozart anyway
after forty years
years of heavy bags
and letter-boxes snapping
like dogsí jaws
years of aching backs
and early mornings
years of snow and sunshine
ice and rain
years of bills
love letters
statements junk summonses
years of hills and tarmac
years of gates and drives
years of terraces and flats
stairs that smell of what they always do
years of scruffy scrawl
of king-size print
years of whistling Mozart
Bridge Ravel
the postman comes
as regular as rain
his lips pursed to subvert
whistling anything
but what the pop star wrote
and thought he should


In the quiet afternoon
the silent scissors
closed like Nazi minds
the shears lying on their side
plugged in but idle
two combs
one black one brown
soaking in the antiseptic glass
the brushes
tired hedgehogs
resting on the shelf
the barber
reading by the window
in the great sail of a paper
about McCarthy and the bomb
and in the mirror
the simple face of a simple man
should he have it trimmed
or leave it free


People lived low
men and women from the two-up streets
of levelling mentalities
as the towers towered
while other things crashed
as the floors were poured
and the money oozed
the planes taking off
as the plans took off
and to every contract
a little extra
a meal
a hotel
a holiday
for the men balloted into place
by the crosses of the many
placed in trust
the system-built floors bending
painted red
the councils painted red
by the votes from the terraced streets
the low-rise
shoulder to shoulder dwellings
and the system bending
as the men raised high bent under pressure
the swingballs crashing on the low walls
of the low houses
the bulldozers clearing the rubble of low lives
the low raised high
thirteen floors
or fourteen
and the lifts not working
the lifting people into the sky not working
the children on the perilous balconies
the councillors
the architects
the planners
high above the rest on their perilous wire
smiling and waving at the little people
these kill-the-street Corbusiers
with their fantasies of high-rise peace
and their high fantasies of place
as the places that were home
like Hume
were flattened like the dreams of the poor
who waited tearfully to be bused
to paradise
fifteen concrete floors pointing up to heaven
and hell to climb the stairs
with a child and a pram
and young mothers going mad with depression
from having been lifted up
by men who made uplifting speeches
and who went down
like the towers came down
when their pockets were turned out
naughty boys put in charge of the tuck shop
short-lived cut-price paradise
collapsing like bolt-through-the-brain cattle
but some still standing
great masculine erections
rising into the Salford sky
shippens for herds
from the low streets
still waiting to rise


How the west was won
and how the steel was tempered
how to boil an egg or
your enemy
though you will have no enemies
once youíve read
How to have no enemies
how to write a symphony or
the best novel since Cervantes
and how
to find the agent
whoíll market it to bushmen
how to live to be a hundred
because of course
youíll want to live
in the bright new future depicted
in How to have a bright new future
how to murder your wife
or your husband
or your loverís husband and how
to dispose of the body
without staining the carpet
but if you do
how to clean it
with your own urine
how to get rich and how
to solve poverty
how to have better orgasms
or any orgasms
and how
to win the best looking man or woman
in your town
and should the best looking man or woman
turn out to be a psychopath
How to live with a psychopath
or how to leave a psychopathic partner
how to raise your kids
so theyíll be
and good
and should you have
malicious children
how to get the help you need
if youíre not
and good
youíre going to be depressed
but donít worry because
How not to worry and
How not to be depressed
are on the shelves
how to win a million and
how to spend a million
how to lose weight and how
to lose it once youíve put it on again
how to turn your heart
into a sleek machine
how to lower your cholesterol
how to raise an erection
how to get divorced or
how to make your marriage last
how to cheat death
how to stop the sun
shrinking like a penis in cold waves
how to talk to god
if heís there
and if he isnít
how to take his place
how to make your boss
want to promote you
and how to make your inferiors
feel inferior
how to avoid humiliation
by humiliating others
(this book has sold ten million
so watch your back)
how to grow sweet peas
how to live with piles
how to turn your junk
into someone elseís junk
how to make a bomb
how to plant it on a bus
and feel proud of yourself
how to fool the people
all the time
how to be
loved by everyone
admired by most
feared by many
how to have an ego twice the size
of Jupiter
and still to think yourself
a paragon of modesty
how to treat life
as a set of answers
found between the covers of a book
written to make money
by a suicidal alcoholic
or a five-times divorced junkie
or an over-weight survivor
of three heart attacks
or a psychopathic bankrupt jailbird
or an impotent compulsive gambler
with bad breath
or a lunatic fanatic of bad books
riding through the modern world
on an ancient Rocinante
taking inns for castles
whores for angels
flocks of sheep
for armies
looking for a bread not made from wheat
setting out in search of wool
and getting shorn



The rich man says
itís human nature to want more
just a little more
and the seducer says
itís human nature
to bed as many women as you can
as the General says
itís human nature to die for your country
and the cannibal says
itís human nature to eat your enemies
and the hunter-gatherer says
itís human nature to hunt and gather
and the businesswoman says
itís human nature to do business
and the revolutionary says
itís human nature to make revolution
and the Christian says
itís human nature to pray to God
and the atheist says
it isnít
and the monarch says
itís human nature to want a monarch
and the republican says
off with their heads
and the whore says
itís human nature
to use your sex for money
and the pimp says
itís human nature
to use someone elseís sex for money
and the lover says
itís human nature
to desire where you love
and the advertising man says
itís human nature
to twist desire for money
and the mother says
itís human nature to love your children
and the child abuser says
itís human nature to abuse
and the pacifist says
itís human nature to want peace
and the arms dealer says
itís human nature to make war
and the criminal says
itís human nature to break the rules
and the judge says
itís human nature to imprison
and the priest says
itís human nature to be celibate
and the rabbi says
itís human  nature to eat no pork
and the pig farmer says
do you want me out of business
and when the rabbi eats pork
thatís human nature
and when the priest has an altar-boy
thatís human nature
and when the judge breaks the law
or the arms dealer calls for peace
or the pacifist throws a bomb
or the child abuser feels shame
or the mother neglects
or the advertising man reads a  poem
or the pimp falls in love with the whore
or the monarch gets republicanism
or God becomes an atheist
or the businesswoman joins the barricades
or the cannibal becomes a vegetarian
or the hunter-gatherer gets a job in Tesco
or the Pope dances naked
through the streets of Rome
or football fans
applaud when their side loses
or Israelis find Arabic interesting
or fascists say weíre sorry
or Dukes gives their land to the people
or the capitalists say itís only money
or politicians tell the truth
thatís human nature


These are not neanderthal pavements
nor homo erectus lampposts
these shoes are homo sapiensí
and the woman who walks
without a thought of how she walks
wears out the thin leather of her soles
or sometimes rushing
on these legs that arenít australopithecus
nor ice-age legs
these calves and thighs
of their time
and sometimes she saves time
by taking the train or a taxi
or the bus
busy as she is sometimes
in  her time
and no aurochs bar her way
though the streets are often full
of marvellous creatures
and sometimes she wonders
who she is
whose life is this
wandering in her time
on legs that belong nowhere else
in homo sapiens shoes
on non-neanderthal pavements
nor even Victorian streets
though these streets were laid
when Victoria walked
and her hands are not neolithic hands
nor  are her calves of ancient Carthage
but of today
Saturday 18th March 2006
though also of
23rd February 1950
the day she was born
and of the many days between
as for example
18th August 1971
her wedding day or
12th December 1976
when her first son was born
and yesterday she was
another person
walking these same streets
on her way to work
or home
the streets that were not quite the same
because so many feet between
in those fateful twenty four hours
hadnít walked them
and she different because
she hadnít yet spoken on the phone to her daughter
about the flowers for the patio
nor had she unloaded the dishwasher
though she had unloaded the dishwasher many times
but not this one time
in this one order
at this precise time
wearing exactly what
she may never have worn exactly before
or may have
nor had her boss been moody
and high-handed as usual
as is the way with bosses
in her time
though not Pleistocene bosses
before bosses were
or Medieval bosses
who were kings or priest or lords
in the time before
The Divine Right of Bosses
nor is her smile of the second century B.C
nor the tenth century A.D.
nor even of 1940
not a wartime smile
but a smile of a post-war woman
nor her voice
the voice of a girl who learned
in depression classrooms
a Secondary Modern voice
she one of the Secondary Modern many
a bright new building for
the bright new times
nor is her glance
the glance at the shop window
or the passing bus
or the maybe familiar face
a Grammar School glance
or a suburban glance
she growing in the town
still in the town
nor is the tilt of her head
a university tilt
nor a tilt of the south
or the east
being of the north and west
nor is her pensiveness metropolitan
a small-town pensiveness
she trapped in the small town
an entrapment not at all like the rural
nor is her laughter American
or her anxiety Chinese
nor the way she sleeps
sometimes on her right side
sometimes on her left
sometimes with her arm round her man
sometimes not
an Eskimo way of sleeping
or the way of Arapaho or
of tribes long lost
of  whom we know nothing
who slept always on their backs
nor is the way she feels
which she canít name
when the weekend she has so longed for
finally arrives
and all she had wanted to do
seems impossible
and the expanse of time
she had hoped to fill
shrinks and flies
a primeval forest feeling
or Pilgrim Father feeling
or an Elizabethan England feeling
nor her jealousy a Greek jealousy
nor her maternal affection
an affection of mud huts
or favelas
or townships
nor is her relaxing
her stretching on the sofa
listening to something light on the radio
or letting the tv images wash over her
a slum relaxing
a poverty relaxing
but the relaxing of a woman
with enough
which is not the enough
of emperors or dictators
or managing directors
or footballers or film stars
or kings or queens
or barristers
or professors
or Prime Ministers
but the enough of a shop assistant
whose house is small
and without a garden
the enough of a woman
who knows no more than this enough
is available to her
nor is her love Etruscan
nor a 1920s love
nor a Home Counties Edwardian love
nor a bohemian Parisian love
nor a Melanesian or Tristes Tropiques love
nor was her divorce
an aristocratic divorce
nor a Georgian divorce
nor her heartbreak American
nor is anything about her
not of the moment
of the many moments that have made her
and make her
a woman of moments
and could those moments
have been other
could she have been
even her not knowing
whether she could have been other
might have been other
but could it
were her feet destined to walk here
exactly here
at exactly this time
through billions of years
were these pavements already inevitable
in Neanderthal times
or did the many steps
the steps of this child
holding her motherís hand
skipping on her way to ice-cream
or the steps of this old man
shuffling home after
his tiring trip to the paper shop
or the gestures of this teenager
laughing as he tells his mates
about his latest escapade
did each tiny gesture make
a newness
and is that newness being ever added to
so where she is
is one possible destination among many
and the path she followed
one of potential millions never followed
or was there a single path
and every step decided
before taken
and her present destination
which is just a stop along the way
where she had to be
whose life she is living
and how she got here.


The army may have been new
but what had changed
about the ancient stench of death ?


The poetís neglected papers
after the poetís death
after the poetís neglected life
blown from the dustbin
where the poetís family
dumped the useless dusty remains
of the dusty room of books and papers
once the money-valued volumes
the dust blown from them
had been sold and the clean paper money
blew along the dirty street
where a neglected child
trapped them beneath her dirty shoe
and having nothing better to do
or nothing worse
read them
unlike the poetís family
who never read a word
typed on the valueless papers
which grew like children
even neglected children
in dusty piles
in the room where for years
the poet put words on paper and paper on paper
till the towers of dusty paper
undisturbed for years
hid the poet
so hidden and happy among his books and papers
the invisible poet whose words no-one read
added words to paper and paper to piles
they found him dead and happy
and reading each blown neglected leaf
the neglected child let them go into the wind
which carried them down dirty streets
where anyone might catch or trap them
beneath a dusty shoe
and the child
with a new song in her mind
the neglected song of a neglected poet
went on her neglected way
in dusty shoes
along a dirty poem-blown street



When they donít promote you
think of this:
in 1904 Einstein applied to move
from third grade patent clerk
to second;
even though heíd
displayed some quite good achievementsÖ


A little later, excitedly no doubt,
he put the E=mc2 paper
in an envelope
and sent it to the university in Berne.
Might they have a lecturerís post he could fill ? 


Ah well, might as well try school teaching.
So he sent his theory to a high school
modestly offering his services
as a lowly physics teacher.

There were twenty-one applicants.
Three were interviewed.

 Not Einstein.

 So when they donít promote you
think of that.

And when they do
donít forget the Einstein
they turned down.