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Steve Waling - Three Poems

Steve Waling


Decline of the Western

The way the meaning rides off into the sunset
In black and white
                                      the way
we hanker for a villain
                                      to fall full of lead
when we’ve had a bad day at the office

The way your boss walks everywhere
a man who missed his vocation
as head of a two-horse ranch

The way the world comes down
to a shootout
                                               two shades
of philosophy

            The way there’s no statue
                           in Tombstone
to John Ford & Howard Hawkes

Now the young guns roll into town
Smith & Wesson e-mails
                                     Winchester mobiles
riding the range like they own it
                                                   but they don’t

this set was acquired by the Nofun Corporation
back in ‘2010
                  year of the Sell-Off   

when the Cavalry
                                stopped intervening
to save us at the last moment
      something about cutbacks austerity
      and rationalisation

there was nothing rational about Custer
- ask the Injuns at Wounded Knee)
      something about falling off horses
      something about blowing the whistle   

Halfway through the wagon trail of this life
(rattlesnakes          bleached bones          riverbeds
dry as a tee-totaller’s throat

Halfway through
                           I found myself
                                                  in Death Valley
like a Mexican fleeing the border
and there was my guide
                                       James Stewart
                                       solitary mister
blue eyes glinting steel
six-gun diplomats by his side
                                       My Darling Clementine
drifting up from the bar 


Lowry's Lamps

“Lavishly illustrated”     we sat apart
with a milky coffee and vanilla slice

why do you never finish     “Previously
unseen”     an important aspect of

“New Road Layout for Social”
expression of solitude     Waiting

at the top of the footbridge     “Please”
mother and child    “Stand at least

2 lifetimes apart”     “I can’t think why
you’d ever leave”     New perspectives

on the art     of mucky clouds     a
single man asleep on a wall     “you won’t

find finer”     with all the eccentrics
old & lame     “lampposts”     gone

the way of      this creepy nostalgia
“down South”     “paint what you know”    

the mills that industrial fog     tea
bread & butter     as the Irishman

leaps bollards     we’re wearing our masks
down the shops     in Copson St     he

Salaam Aleichem’s the owners
of Asian chicken shops     he’ll do

himself an injury     so he will     “a
judicious sense of”     artistic licence

lamppost & fence     street corner solitary
won’t keep the strangeness     at bay

“a man with red eyes”     too little sleep
in flat cap & visor     I almost didn’t

recognise you    with your hair    cut to this
ache of return     to be transposed

to a past you’ve     never lived     The last
Edwardian streetlamps     replaced
by concrete posts     sodium ghosts

Trip Out (UTI)

how many fingers am I holding up
sits in a valley of smoke
this place is going downhill / I’m
working 5 shifts for just over

come come come Armageddon come
conference facilities / it’s the shit
they put in food / how many fingers /
bloody chemicals and stuff

who’s that / D’you know who this is /
am I holding up

we’re going on a little trip / she’s
not focussing her eyes / what
I can’t hear you you’re mumbling

bus is at six minutes past

two handsome young men / you like
the young ones don’t you / oh sorry luv

🠜 X Ray

you’re not listening to me I said / 23 down
a vegetable but not quite a fruit

I’m not your usual kind of alcoholic
can go without booze / I’m a binger /
two fits already / six bottles a day
can you believe it

distracted again / concentrate

what’s your date of birth
what date is it now
please don’t smoke in the toilets
is her stomach usually this distended
she was alright half an hour ago

have you read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
it comes to me almost without thinking

distilling the essence of things

Copyright © Steven Waling, 2020.

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