Noble Rot

for J. B.


A sodden tarot card blocks the plughole
when you tip the shaker into the sink
fighting nausea

Eighteen hours before
scrolls on screen like an X Files location
and we had alchemy at the tips of our fingers

The second oldest profession
the purveyance of spirituous liquours
for consumption
on and off the premises

Ingredients torn from Scottish estates
shotguns in the mist
and you bound the barbed wire
juniper in hand
mashing yeast into cold porridge
like ancient egyptians

The groove at the foot of a bottle of fizz
indicates whether the bottle
tilted at 20° angle
has been turned in the last 21 days

This from the infrequently studied compendium
Conversations with Middle Aged Alcoholics
Volume Two

Let’s drink, drink
This town is so great

It’s all wrong
this is the delicate balance
of a high-end cocktail
spattered in gold leaf
It should be a German drinking song
a tuba filled to the brim with a robust doppelbock
lederhosen optional
rum and cherryade mixed in a washing up bowl
bobbing with tetra-pak ice cubes

To be a poet
is to be an alcoholic with a notebook
forever at odds with the taxman
over what constitutes research

Only clowns can drink harder than poets
at The Crown
back where I grew up
we were segregated
clowns in the saloon bar
poets to the right
and never the twain shall meet
until we foraged for dogends
once the last post was rung

let’s drink, drink
cause it’s never too late

A traditional
baptised in cider in green littered expanses
your ID is more artisan
than the Safeway spirits
stashed at foot of wardrobe

In parks and pubs
we signed a magna carta of bile
the boy puking his heart out in the gents
the feel of dewy grass on your face
as the world spins
you can still hear your friends shouting
and setting fire to the grass

let’s drink, drink
this town is so great

But these were moments of grace
evenings spun into personal mythology
on the golf course
as the sun rises
and the sprinklers kick in
instants crystallise

Today is a glass of frothy suds
in pewter tankard
clinked by morris dancers
in a gesture of friendship

Today is salt round the rim
two for one before eight

Today is fractions
a cheeky half after work
cheeky one, one and a half,
two and a half,
calculate the remainder in coin purse,
take away the number you first thought of

Today is a Diageo rep
pushing lemonade topped lime scented bottles
rum that’s aimed at the Urban Intelligence market

let’s drink, drink
cause it’s never too late

We grew fat on cheap imitation baileys
crumpled cans of damburger expert
heap up in imaginary rivers

Moments of grace

Proseccos and punches reel with effervescent splendour
on wedding days and the first hint of summer
the first crisp glass of beer on a foreign terrace
the pints and pints and blood and tears of a friendship
that leaves grooves in geological strata
taking furtive sips from hipflasks
pulling bits of straw from a glass of cider
and the band plays on
each chink and clash
as two glasses meet
crackles with static electricity
and a magic beyond liquid

All hail Reputed Quart!
All hail Magnum!
All hail Jeroboam!
All hail Renoboam!
All hail Methuselah!
All hail Salmanazar!
All hail Balthazar!
All hail Nebuchadnezzar!

By these rituals we shall know ourselves
By these rituals we charge our glasses
By these rituals we pop bottle cap with lighter
By these rituals ice cracks the moment it hits the surface

Clasp hands with one hand
Raise glasses with other hand
Hook arm into crook of arm
and spill into the drink of another

Let the bell ring
And so
It begins…


I don’t tend to get many commissions. My friend James asked me to write a poem about the alchemical and mystical properties of booze, and this is what I came up with. Because I’m slightly better at poetry than I am at business, rather than asking for money I used the standard ‘poets wage calculator’:

each poem costs
eight to twelve pounds in pints of ale
one pound twenty worth of cigarettes
six pounds thirty one times two of my precious time
eight pounds ninety times a half
of my employers precious time
a third of the rhyming dictionary
one per cent of the longman animal encyclopedia
one shout of ‘get a job’ from a passing car
a smattering of stolen lines
from forgotten mid 90’s indie pop
two rose tinted bits of imagery about a girl I was in love with when I was eighteen years old

I still need to raise an invoice at some point.

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