New Poetry, Fiction, Essay

5 Poems by Mike Farren

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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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I write from northeast Ohio where I live with my…