Peter Reading “An Alabama Song”

I’ve made a recording of “An Alabama Song”, a poem that I wrote last Halloween, which is inspired by “Alabama Song” by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht. This link seems to change as I put new stuff up but it’s  here for now and on my bandcamp:

Not so resolutely lo-fi this time, as my mobile has been jettisoned and forgotten as a recording device, but still a recording made from a new mic, from my odd-voiced home.

Enjoy what you find enjoyable.

Here’s the original poem, which is also available by clicking “lyrics” on the bandcamp playlist.

Canción for a Hamster, Two Goldfish.

With Thanks to Alex for Translations

For my diary,
I talked a big talk
about the topness of my secrets,
the air good
and thin as my large-eyed intrigue.

Each letter of my name
like “Hollywoodland”,
punched-out with a label-maker.

I wouldn’t write more than a few pages,
before my siblings happily
devoured what was there,

I grasp
an indie-rock pebble,
a guitar-pick from the air,
turning swept hair
away from muddied sea.

Eating fish food with the fish, at the cleared Saint’s table,
this January,
the difference between “I wouldn’t worry”
and “it’s okay”,
to me.

Someone out there knows
why Alexander Graham Bell’s first thought on waking
was the telephone,

while I arrive to worry my good grief
at a wall
like Charlie Brown,
like Charles Schultz was a preacher.

My pet fish swim
like Saints above.
My pet hamster April
exercises on a yellow wheel.

I visited a windmill,
and wrote this in Spanish –
“los molinos de viento.”
“Mi hámster, Abril”.

My fish have always danced an
lethargic flamenco,
always or since
I have been looking in.

My fish Miyamoto –
Nintendo pioneer –
turned around the fortunes of a
playing card,
taxi cab,
and love hotel company.

My smart goldfish who knows where his tub for food is,
has favourite corners,
watches us watch television,
sees remote control lasers,
looks at us and wonders
when flaked food will
hit the deck.

Professor Fishkins –
sorry you swam late into my eyeline.
If we were much quieter,
you’d be the underwater
one of our family.

Mi dulce peces de colores.
Profesor da una vuelta a la pecera.

I wouldn’t know one,
being terrible with names, faces,
drawing, maths, conversation, patterns, spiders, time, getting on transport, keeping in touch.
Wouldn’t know a Saint if
he presented the weather,
always forecasting rain
for himself.

You’re submarino, Super Mario!

Sometimes we stay still
and pretend the storm will pass.
They expect you to jump for stars
every day.

You’re getting on,
my senior
peces de colores,

where the hills have eyes,
and the clouds don’t remind you
of anything in your psyche.
You’re only notionally a plumber –
How nice.

Your silver belly, a generous segment
of orange.
De canción, Goldfish,
toca una trompeta de plástico,
simplemente si y cuando quiere.

In the swim of my inaccurate weekend,
we don’t count our fish
before they leap
to carpet.

Nothing screams
“You will do maths
whether you like it or not”
like the ruler shattering pitch of
my primary school teacher.

You will like maths,
as you will
eventually grow into ever-higher
given time,

’til then, April, Miyamoto Shigeru, Professor Fishkins,
we all get what we decide –
I’ll see myself submerged in your wind turbine,
until that time, friends, compañeros,
until that time.

Choose Your Own Adventure

A book from 1978,
unchosen on eBay,
“Your Own Adventure”.

Time for any
unemployed spring-cleaning,
in the midwinter
experiment of my place.

Charge into battle,
make change.

Invest yet more hope
where hands quake,
to flicker dust off pages,
alight on irrelevant words.

With big tears to escape,
the drawbridge sunk,
the timely scream
hollowing a tower.

More than ever,
something needs
to hire my senses.

Opt for your own indecision;
after the last book,
you’re dead uncertain,
well done.

Choose other titles
in the series.

I thought I had something
to bring to market.
A slim mouse spat on
for the roast.
We buy £1 raffle tickets for
the broken inner
of internship
crystal ball.

With BAs, MAs can we use a computer?
Can young artists work for nothing
when the path to the webbed Arena
is littered with past names?

Brown leaves were pressed into concrete soles
of toe-crushing smart shoes.

The CV
requires imagination
to resume.

Not everyone enjoys long penpal exchanges to Canada
about inexplicable gulfs of time.

Unsure has served me well here.
years of good,
crippling unsure.
I’m glad it’s not inspiration
for a poster.

I must be better at it
than those moved to swift action,
quick decision,
jumped guns.

I took the ends of every strand
of adventure,
balled them up in my throat-song,
chose and faked my own.

I don’t know why I ever bought
this book.

New Year Notes

something you haven’t done, that we’ll do,
get around to,
given the time and strength to
in the new
year to me.

In the new year,
it appears impossible,
already like your vintage blues,
but that’s why we should,
and why it might
become possible,
just because.

This new year might arrive after all.

Offer, if you could,
your sand-timer looks
at the rolling-around
putty egg of some love.

Other luck and things
we can accidentally muster,

so sleep in expansive fur of snoozing animals
after time’s levelled land.

But don’t out-wait the coming day,
it’s like paint thinking of colour.

Find a clue.

A Manga Artist in Rome

Drawing manga with a kid in Europe.

The child is a breathless
doodler of stories,
and they are speeding cars on a day that
an old man chooses for quiet.

Streams of explanation,
loose sense from Italian,
but his kawaii smiles translate to Japanese.

There’s a new trend for collecting plastic tokens
and cards
for a shouty game,
with a coloured bit to see through;
so the boy has, in a branded carrying pouch, five of these,
and is proud of them.

The artist can only hope it won’t be tasteless tea
that’s poured by young designers,
their worst work on these cards.

He’s happy and relieved that, at least,
the Italian kid
enjoys drawing.

If the artist remembers most art as forgetful,
there are always stories
in which clouds move,
and snow falls in the right shades,
and melts onto the projected screen
and page;

then turns to rain
for the right reasons,
at a recognisable life and pace.

Human violence
and work towards
the lasting good remains,

while there is a fire,
to cook
and speak with,
or to warm
against the embittered, clouded heart.

Good with a pencil
as long as the wind is in his grey hair
(difficult to work with),
Big eyes drawn for smiles,
that shine
on mechanical detail
giving life.

A cast of Earth’s protectors,
with wonders overturned
on their oversized eyes
to see a quest through,
make habitats into heartlands
and a heavy hunter’s steps light,
in a sky of surprise.

A rising sun asks
families of engineers
knit boisterously by know-how,
to continue human work
for all who try for sleep,
under politician’s and
hangar of night.

What a rising sun asks us –
a creature’s big work
with us,
for himself,
under a leaf
or a child’s umbrella,
on the summoned travels of
both a cat and a bus.

The Spirit’s instinct,
in this kind of weather,
is to keep charmed loved ones close.

We are not our
nor our enemies,
in cartoons.

Smiling, the green crayon disobeys the child’s orders
or listens when
something that isn’t a shape, becomes a face,
then missing,
as if he’s lost a friend,
when the Italian kid scribbles over it.

It is dismaying when a small hand lays that crayon down –
(mischievously labelled with a studio’s name)
it’s waxy eyes at rest
from the effort,
to watch
red, gold and silver robots march
over horizons,
and a pilot to man machine guns
of no consequence,
to black and grey
drone battle.

Instead of a given tree
under an air conditioner,
Saturday morning came for my generation to
watch TV,
it’s colours and cost-cutting backgrounds,
mostly all of them,
just because.

The animator offers a super-deformed smile,
the soft line a wobble
as if an unconvincing Centurion startled a Sister,
her angels guided into turquoise
inside a tattered sketchbook,
her tour on the way to confidence
that once hid
where the shadow of a steeple couldn’t reach.

It might not be too devastating to nod encouragingly
at his new friend
were it possible even in these times
for a young man to luck upon the path
that the determined old man did,
and for hard work to make unbreakable sense
of story-like visions that, in turn, make
adventures of a career.

Knowing little of the language,
A passer-by or the waiter, asks for the tidy gentleman’s autograph
and, in return,
gets a small doodle of a pig,
spaghetti sauce at imagined corners.

A bicycle thief with a new camera strap,
put pennies in the Trevi Fountain,
throwing suspicion
right over his wrong shoulder;
knowing he must take
to give,

when the fountain forms a mouth for coins
and a body like sea-breeze
that you have lent your face to,
seeming to wink with eyes of hope
for every offering,
however small.

A street musician in the distance;
a child with an accordion,
knocks out a few crowd-pleasing tunes,
before being moved on by Polizia.

A misunderstanding in the air
disturbs the green, white, and red flags,
in Roma,
– high priests –

as two wizards disperse clouds,
dodge balloons and Zeppelins,
to spell out their small disagreements.

One of them is angry;
the other has welcomed his tea
timidly on a cat’s saucer.

The artist tests his famed motor skills
on the engine for a new kind of craft to fly home;
past artless security checks,
for children and their families,
looking for sky and land’s
in the Terminal,
in the integrity of their entertainment.

A hesitant Spirit cameos his uncertain role in the frame.

The child returns to his mother, who smiles.

The tabletop is fixed to what looks like a column.

The distant libretto heard in police sirens
has stopped.

When the bill is settled,
under cents and euros,
despite the wind,

he imagines the Colosseum
as if he built it,
to newly-excavated blueprints, to look like something else.

He has shelves full of books about the world,
for his.

Now he’s here preparing noodles for his colleagues, throughout the night,

the way
paint can turn
street light into
what father and son understand
of the day.

In The Ice House

I shriek with
the wind,
and move swiftly
to shut the door.

I laugh at
myself in the padding
of this old, mad coat
in blue.

I come from a spinning world where
snowflakes are severed,
destined to melt where they

The fur that troubles my conscience,
I guess, is proud around my neck
in honour of foxes,
stopped short
of plucking feathers
from the air.

A hat keeps most warmth in,
which is a myth I like to believe.
How lovely a cosy mind would be
to cradle,
and sing to itself.

I’m combustible
on birthdays,
with years of jelly and cake vomit,
miraculous in creamy detail
and exhibited in orange fuss;
tissues thrust by relatives
when the embarrassment
catches fire
with concern for me.

Come to me,
you’ll have to, with my eyesight.
Near or far,
I’ll smother your face with damp embers
and, as if you are a mountain climber,
I’ll embrace you with cocoa
in the tinfoil of an alien.

When it is winter,
the wardrobe holds it’s own innards,
to keep inside an outburst of
old-fashioned splinters.

And my spirit and body
dials between stations
of virgin inexperience
crossing signals and voices.

My hunted deer
lamented in a happy song
with hooves dancing
the upset cloth
of stomach lining
from the table.

Look around,
I’d be as generous towards you
as someone who has nothing.

If I took scissors to this coat,
I’d still need to keep warm,
I’d only be ripping fabric
from the seams with which it claws,
not delivering the false economy of pain
to myself either,
that is good.

My boy, out skating, won’t survive the cold
back home.
He didn’t live long enough to meet his mirror,
nor discover how to carry himself,
rounded sharply at wise shoulders.

I shriek because the wind welcomes itself in,
and closes the door with a blast.
I laugh at the habits I still have,
and leave the house without this coat.

There is never anyone living
where the snowflakes are uniquely severed.
It is never anyone’s birthday,
when I’ve heard balloons can float.

An Alabama Song

A fantasia on the song by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht, which is performed above by David Johansen.
Wishing you all a happy Halloween!

When we mistook a fern tree for a turn,
inwards past the branches
into the headlamp dark,
here we taste either luxury or magic,
harking angels
with every snap of branch and bone.

For preservation,
we’re supposed to leave some witches swimming
to fill unglamorous roles
as rotting archivists.

But never in Alabama – the opposite,
just because it’s not a night for imagining places,
leaving us homeless with an unhinged black door.

As a train of jackdaws across a new frontier shriek ludicrously,
inside there’s cushioned opulence and
seats, if a little… clawed to bits.

There’s magic or luxury
but we’re not in Alabama,
the distance
capable of dislocating arms from bodies

Harvest the dreams of our
unemployed with strength waning
like a red cape
hanging around
her chequered logger’s shirt.

Mr Robert Pattinson
is seated on the ground,
outside a closed alehouse
typewritten with a mind’s fatigue.

His eyes of palely fired skin
under ray-bans,
those thick eyebrows
in the dust of the vampiric street.

It is like you, me too,
to look down the trainroute
for strangleholds to the moon.

“Who wants whisky?
What, as much as we?
As cold as a carrot nose?
Join the queue
and make meals of someone in front.”

All of which is because
it would be a goodnight,
goodnight to let go.

We want power anthems of singular clarity,
with words to sing at the bottom of a screen,
as if it’s not too much to ask for company
on not the full ticket.

This passing old blur that inflates like a puffer fish
will always be with you
don’t ask why.

Leave certain questions to the drink,
for our whiskey slips dryly.

If you still have your wits
and a distinct taste for blood,
you will end up caked, finally,
in kisses and make-up.

Piano Sonata No. 14 – “Moonlight”

Tears screamed
from howls of steam.

Hot at the ear-folds,
a defeated towel
wrung to the last playlist
is thrown in.

The night moth busily eats
He is entirely his
black blinking wings,
and bigger shadow.

The caterpillar’s
fur, only just damp
like the towel,
will be dry in the cocoon

its thirst is already over
and out drips
the colour to poor life.
The carpet drips a deeper weave.

I stood in the living room
for a while.
I looked below to see
other spenders of time
in constellations
on the concrete courtyard below,
and decided,
– my bathroom bare-feet were grimy,
green on tiles –
to join stones
in our closest thing to a garden.


I had the foresight to bring with me
a slice of Sylvia’s classically kind
Victoria sponge
golden in foggy Tupperware,

Artlessly, “help me” flatly escapes from the flats,
not my mouth; toneless,
“help me” with no effort or voice, and once more, too noteless,

A vending machine teenagers are jokily assaulting for Cola
has gone without repair
for as long
as everyone should remember.

The landlady disallows the sweetest animals.
This sweaty pride is what she has.
B.O under blazers.
They may have once cared for a pet,
but not this time, no-one.

weed burns
to grow.

They pile drive with feeble muscle,
arms drawing wide arches at mock belief in
their usefulness now
to dislodge coins,
and their strength to affect
gears, more complex than they can imagine


Instead the cola machine’s
mechanical red pain shoots inside fingers of
a stupid one’s hand –
a 15 year old Dr. Frankenstein’s
experiment falls flat.

Eyes dart to each other,
beats are taken to time
careful turns
to top an
escalating joke.

A bit nippy in an overlong black coat,
but shaking more in strangeness
and exhaustion.

Two old ladies have been discussing someone else’s business
for some ill-informed nattering while,
and yet in repellent detail.

My arms hoover crumbs.
I stuff a mouth
to stuff theirs,
cake is too good for them and,
proving by night,
Sylvia’s kitchen
is the only place, ever.

Kindness rises
from her mouth,
not gossip
with no flat artless help from me,
her mixes rise keenly as cakes for sale.

People believe in pressing on.

In the early days, sloppily icing her small industry and
with time to think of
of others,

personalised esteem,
letter-writing paper.

People have closed their eyes to hope
before firing squads,
shared their last prayer,
shed shot bodies
to a red helpless wall,

while black treacle
forms together,
with their spirits

in a moonlight,
invisible to a row of ordered soldiers,
is Sylvia.

Letter From The Green Smog

What was 2010? How long ago did it spin? And how did such a thing come to pass?

I demand as many explanations as anyone can reasonably offer!

My mind has rare occasion, occasionally, to return to this unpublished note of imperfection to wonder what it is. It is, by appearance, a letter written by The Hare, to the mysterious Doctor Zi, PXB. See if it holds any interest at all, before we all might return to the very now to accidentally drop our new i smartphones in unison.

The Cabinet of Dr. PXB