A Close Shave

images-2Beards are back. Have you noticed ? Maybe it started with David Beckham who grew a rather snazzy, pointy beard to go with his thick, short-at-the-side-and-piled-up-on-top hair style. In fact beards have been back for eighteen months or so, and according to the pundits, we have passed the Point of Peak-Beard and are returning to the Fields of Stubble or the Smooth-as-a- peach style.

I mention beards because, for the first time since I was fourteen (and that’s a very long time ago) I have trouble shaving. When I was fourteen the problem was finding enough beard to shave- it was a pathetic growth- a few whispy streaks of peach down. Now I have a face covered in sandpaper. It hurts when I rub the back of my hand against my face. And it’s spreading too. For years I shaved my chin, round the mouth and under the nose. Nowadays I have to go down the neck ( have you ever tried shaving your Adam’s Apple ? It’s like steering a lawnmower over a boulder) and up the sides to- right up to my ears.

I am turning into Sandpaper Man, and they will make horror films about me when I am dead.

I digress. Young men are stating their masculinity. That’s what it’s all about. The fashion is to grow a full set- cheeks, round the nose and mouth- even a daring plunge down the neck. Everything is neat and tailored. They look like Victorian statesmen or explorers. They look like proper men.I think they look great.

But growing a beard is not for old men. If your hair is silver ( mine is white ! White !) then a beard puts twenty years on your age; if you are bald and grow a beard, you look as though your head is on upside down. Don’t do it – ok ? Leave it to the handsome lads. Let them have their time in the sun.

And give a cheer for David Beckham- underpant model, human palimpsest, and style icon.

Nice one, Dave !

The Cutter

A filigree of intersecting lines
pale as spider web against her skin –
it could almost be sunlight
silvering the bright hairs on her arm.

This is her talisman.

One time, when her mind was dark,
a blade between her fingers, she
incised a calendar of suffering there.
Hope drawn from each bright bead of blood.

Whatever she released did not return.

At times she looks
at what she once engraved
and sees a pattern
carved by someone else
who died completing it.

Saint – a new poem

imagesYup. The Top Banana is back- on an irregular basis- but back. I’ve had six months of not wanting to write anything- hence nothing has been written. But I’ve had a bit of a renaissance over the last few weeks.

This poem came out of nowhere last week. No wrestling about, no writing endless drafts. It just arrived. I’ve never written anything like it before, and it feels entirely alien to me.

Any comments would be welcome.

Thank you


Saint or madman ?
Maybe both. He looked the part –
hair greasy as a fat ewe’s back –
eyes damson dark behind a fall of beard.

Lived in a stone shed, shoulder high,
he built with slates and stuff he found
dumped by the tide in straggling drifts of weed.

Ate barnacles and whelks scraped off the rocks,
and rabbits which he blessed before
he stretched their necks and skinned them
with a flint the Old Ones left behind.

He had the healer’s touch –
would cure a winter fever
by rubbing spittle on the eyes and mouth..

Always praying.
Ploughmen heard him in the early dawn,
bawling at the sky and giving God
a good lambasting.

Longliners in the bay at night
heard his voice – a trumpet call.
Naked, waist deep in the slopping waves
he sang the mackerel in.

It worked too.
Every boat came back
loaded with twitching silver
those times he sang.

One autumn night the sky was filled with fire –
islands of emerald in a saphire sea
turning and shifting above our heads.
The air crackled like autumn ice.

Next day we found him dead among the dunes.
Flat on his back, eyes wide.
They say he died of wonder.

To bury him seemed wrong and so
we left him for the gulls to pick at.

When they were done
we each took something from him –
a tooth, an ankle bone
for a memory

and left the wind
to draw a sheet of sand
over the rest.