5 Poems by Mike Farren


    Mike Farren is an editor in academic publishing from West Yorkshire. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals and anthologies, including The Interpreter’s House, Prole, The High Window, Strix and Valley Press’s Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry. His debut pamphlet, ‘Pierrot and his mother’ was published by Templar Poetry in 2017. He is a member of Beehive Poets and Wharfedale Poets, publishes under the Ings Poetry imprint and hosts the Rhubarb open mic in Shipley. Website: http://www.mikefarren.co.uk/
    Twitter: @mikefarren. Photo credit Phil Jackson / Avanti FOTO


    City of memory

    I hope you don’t get too lonely
    in the city I built out of fragments
    of memory for you to inhabit.

    I hope you don’t mind the vacant lots
    and buildings where rooms and whole floors
    are nothing but void.

    Try not to get lost on roads with impossible
    junctions and streets that fade away
    before reaching a destination.

    Do your best to cope with analogue tech
    and 80’s fashions and politics only just
    setting off on its journey to Hell.

    Don’t mourn for all the jobs
    and the friends and the lovers and children
    that you might have had in a real life.

    But your mother and father
    and sister and brothers
    must also be there with you,

    and all of my loved ones,
    except for the handful
    who continue to live with me.

    There are days when I wish I could walk
    down those streets and that I could greet
    all those faces I’ll not see again.

    Though I hope you’d not mind if your face
    that I loved half a lifetime ago
    might be one of the few I passed by,
    without a flicker of recognition.

    Like a category error

    How can I be expected to know
    which side I’m on
    when the sides come together
    like a category error?

    We’re walking down the hill
    in monkey suits, while they come up –
    sore thumbs in jungle camouflage
    in the noonday sun in the middle of March
    in the grit-grey market town.

    My accent and my passport put
    their union jack, their rifles,
    and their largered camaraderie
    onto my head. I claim I’m here
    for the voluntary union
    of opposites and equals. His name,
    the one behind the drum
    in the summer parade
    and hers, on the other side
    of a barricade.

    And after this, because of this,
    are all opposites reconciled,
    is the impossible commonplace,
    does the Gordian knot unravel
    at a touch, Pandora’s beasts
    creep meekly back to the box,
    those who wish mutual murder
    shake each other by the hand
    and the borders between here and there
    and this and that and us and them, come down
    happily ever after?

    Things that last (Terra Amata)

    Ash from the hearth;
    a hoard of knapped flint;
    a tooth from a seven-year-old;
    or the print of a foot
    that slipped in the mud
    of the stream from a long-dry spring.

    Not a thought,
    not a word,
    not a story
    or song,
    unless it’s the one
    that their DNA sings
    in our bones.

    Scafell Pike, New Year’s Eve

    We’re the last people down from the highest
    point in England, on the last day of the year.

    It wasn’t meant to be like this: Dec. 30th’s
    hangover; the residual laziness of living
    through the fag-end of the calendar; the back-
    track to collect the piece of kit that we forgot
    when we sat down for sarnies – now

    with the scant reward of a crown
    of rock, a vista lost in twilight cloud,
    and the sense of being where we can get
    no higher, we scramble down scree slopes
    I’d never risk in daylight, anaesthestised
    by the almost-solstice darkness.

    I think about the grudging legend
    our broken bodies would become
    to the half-cut rescue volunteers, dragged
    out of the pub, just as the year turns… when,

    suddenly the lights hove into view.
    A pint, a share of a fireside, then I drive
    us back to parties, partners and kids. You’re shocked
    when I play the Dandy Warhols, say you thought
    they were a joke, while I point out the first
    three tracks are ‘Godless’, ‘Mohammed’ and ‘Nietzsche’.

    As ‘Bohemian Like You’ rumbles into being,
    I suppose that we’re both calibrating
    what does and does not matter.


    “Il rêve d’échafauds en fumant son houka” – Baudelaire

    When the time is always grey
    twilight before grey dawn,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    When his life-long love loves him
    but he hates himself,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    When a hangover follows on
    from sobriety,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    When the future seems like only
    an eternity of presents,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    When he feels life’s sweetness
    rotting out his mouth,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    When the only lifeblood he can taste
    is the thread of red in the foaming spat toothpaste,
    he dreams of scaffolds.

    He dreams he’s judge and jury,
    and the lynch mob’s vicious fury,
    and he dances a carefree jig
    as he climbs up on the rig,
    and he smiles in the hangman’s face
    before diving with the grace
    of a dying swan now singing
    melodiously at last
    until the rope pulls fast
    and he’s swinging
    under his very own scaffold.



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