JR Clarke

A Train; A White Balloon Over Bristol

try as i do

to be a poet

try as i do

there is too much

to get through

to write this poem.

i don’t know where

to start

or where i am going

perhaps this poem is it

perhaps this is all it is

perhaps there isn’t any of it

like mother

or was it grandmother

with her cupboards

of thick glass jelly moulds

that didn’t get used

but kept free from dust

because sometimes

it’s just easier

to eat it

straight from the packet

& wash it down

with milk

or whiskey

whichever comes easiest.

But try as I do

there is too much to get through

so you have to start early

which is a shame

because i wanted to read War & Peace

before i went to bed

but i guess

there is always

Time

the day after

tomorrow but

quick

before it’s yesterday.

It can’t be too hard

I once read Wuthering heights in full

on the train from West Yorkshire

to Bristol

on Ketamine

but just small bumps to

keep the flow

of narrative

passing towns

madness

jealous of reality

which switched itself

at New Street

when people looked

at my nose &

not been able to

shunt

the small wheels

on my suitcase

in parallel lines.

Here I was doppelganger

stretched

into an escalator.

so I re-boarded

& continued the story

literatures lovetorn moorland burning remains

Cathy clinged to side

of the train window

scratching like a dream

but it was sealed off

completely air tight

I could see a little green hammer

to break the thickened glass

but i wasn’t about to bring

attention to myself

for an hallucination

of a fictional ghost.

So it was me & Cathy

staring

screaming in each other’s mind

bleaching the whites

cut

& we just hung there

begging for redemption

begging for a destination

begging  for safety

until the death of her character

in moors that scar

in wind that builds

in dark where stars go to die

& poor lass

bet she’d never even seen

the likes

of a train before.

The way I recall

it was just before

my departure

that I made my arrival

at the place

where I changed my

perspective

emerging from

doe-eyed slacker

cross-legged & gormless

with bibles on top of piano

school assemblies.

Then to get out

of those

conveyor belt towns

I sat straight

in interviews

former polytechnic

now rising university

and attempt to wake

before 12

so I can get

elusive bus home

to be domestic

& cook cheap lamb

in Spanish red wine

marinade of life

slaughtered

delicious.

It’s in the irony

of that bus driver

choking gears

to get home

a load of academics

with hearts full of

fact & lead

when the bus driver

has a spit & spirit

of a poet

Coleridge

Larkin

Armitage

passing by compassion

of Neruda on bicycles

ferry master Whitman

& Sylvia

who is constantly baking

unleavened bread

in the underground kitchen

of my head.

I got off at my stop

as this apparently

was my destination

it seemed familiar

familiar

so it must

be here.

Do you ever

get the feeling

that even when

you’re outside

you are completely

surrounded

by windows?

As this thought

exhilarated

through my head

some out-of-town

black shoe

pressed shirt

pointed face

asks for directions.

I am weary as

he looks like

he knows his

destination

but he sees me

& asks for directions

it’s confusing

when people

mistake you for

someone

you didn’t even

realise

existed.

& there against

this

overcast evening

no sunset sky

I spot

a white balloon

lost

but looking

looking but

lost

but floating

floating

above me somewhere

dragging my pupils

across the sky

twitching for something

they didn’t even know

they ever wanted

or needed.

I stop

& look

pull out the

trick of prayer

I pray to slowly

move me

move my essence

into

fire of whole expanses

to be mad

on never-ending

angular

angular experience

of the world

it took me away

quickly

but not frightening

having the

adjacent touch

of breath

of time

of my ghost of power

there is no sorrow

in amongst

the clouds

O spaceman

spaceman

spaceman

who caught me

as I fell off

a rainbow

and let me

wander free

photographically

for hours across

mortal map of dreams

immortal juxtaposition

of life & lust

holding my hand

just like

toddler brothers

in free emerged

splish-splash

paddling pool.

Then you

levitated me

Peter Pan

over spread out

fields & streets

of Bristol

up hills

into deep valleys

cut by

violent oscillation

of slow water

where I stand

suspended

on a tightrope

& like an acrobat

trapeze into

perpetuity

over

gorge-dweller

imagination.

Hear JR read this poem.

jr clarke is a poet – poems he has written have appeared on t’internet, sewn into the back of bus seats, & in his spare time he is an amateur hermit.

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