Tis the end of March & my rent is due,
But two life options lie open to me;
Break with a lover, lose friendship, split thro,’
Or chain myself to the servility
Of capitalism… A poet true
I yearn to be, so young, so sure, so free,
Romancin’ my mind with poetry’s flow,
So be it, with sure brave heart, I shall go.
I made love to my love the night before
I wrapp’d my guitar in a grey, baggy
Jumper I wore on cold nights down Turf Moor,
Raided the bank for all my rent money
& embark’d upon my third busker’s tour –
Her scent mull’d like wine, her tongue lull’d honey,
How we laugh’d as we revell’d, dear Rosie,
In kisses & love-songs & pure poesy!
I visit my dealer’s house in Hackney,
Score skunkweed to space out the pilgrimage;
From Waterloo I train-jump to the sea
Where stand I ‘neath the elemental rage
Of roaring tempest, common sense sends me
Seeking out a dry, dungeon’s hermitage
Neath Dover Castle, where my tour’s first night
Was spent writing by gothic candlelight.
I watch the white cliffs recede to a speck,
Then sing a fond farewell to old Blighty,
But like a wreck-head at a discotheque,
A certain chunderness docks to smite me,
I have to head down to the under-deck,
Feeling so sick I think I should whitey –
As one voyage ends, another embarks
At Ostend, there change Pounds to Francs & Marks.
Thro’ Belgium’s monotonous flat fields green
With mental-moustache-men I’ll share the train,
Finding Flemish floozies, barely fifteen,
Are singing the Spice Girls… no, not again!
We pass thro’ Bruges, whose spires of golden sheen
Glisten in the morning’s early-day rain,
Like beads of sweat on a wrestler’s muscles –
Half-an-hour later we land in Brussels.
I find a youth hostel that’s not too dear,
Skin up a joint & explore the city,
Sample the exquisite chocolate & beer,
Find the lifeless nightlife a bit shitty –
A distinct lack of any atmosphere.
So back at the hostel start a party
With some young Dutch – share my grass and guitar,
Then play these fellows Ian Brown’s ‘My Star.’
I fade trains south to Waterloo Station
To be filled with war-pride at the great sight
Of the Iron Lion of our nation
Pois’d above the field of terrible fight;
I walk with the ghosts of Napoleon,
Then bus it back to Brussels for the night;
See Catatonia play, blitzed on grass –
Boy oh boy that chicks got a real nice ass.
I cross the border into Germany,
There take a little stroll around Cologne,
Whose cathedral towers high above me,
The holiest skyscraper hewn from stone;
As the Youth Hostels are far too pricey
& Sol has not yet sat upon its throne,
I hop on a train & down the rail-line
Hit speed by the side of the mighty Rhine.
All thro’ Europa’s heart, in style, I go,
Most handsome citadels guarding the way,
Now darkening the river’s ancyent flow
Sol sets again, stars tinkling out in play;
Into old Nuremburg my train did slow
I’ve nearly crossed the Reich in one smart day.
Finding the Frankenhoff & its cheap bed,
I roll a joint up & then out I head.
I view the building where those Nazis heard
Their too kind fate; wyrd monsters like Herr Hess
Who’d murder at an evil tyrant’s word
& paste an entire planet with his mess;
I sample German beer – glass size absurd –
Then find an all-night café to play chess,
Back at the Frankenhoff I cannot sleep
Beneath my room some strip-joint’s bass booms deep.
Onto Vienna’s cultured legacy,
Whose cleanest streets are beautifully lined
With splendid architectural fancy,
As if some Danaan mind had here design’d
A capital of neatest majesty;
A host of impressionist paintings find,
What moment on an Opera House roof,
A poet perch’d on a pegasus hoof.
With Parsifal tromboning thro’ my skull
I roll up one last reefer, wash, get dressed,
& do one from Austria (far too dull)
On the world famous Orient Express;
With the rage of a matador-aimed bull
I supersoar, roarin’ t’wards Budapest,
Ambassadorial, a Sultan’s feast,
All set to feed, my first taste of the East,
A warm, friendly couple buy me coffee,
She is Norwegian, he is a Scotsman,
They are honeymooning in Hungary
From the Arctic fishinh port of Bergen;
He gives me a few fags & some money
Which I change when I get to the station,
Into Florins worth less than one-fifty –
The Scots are renowned for being thrifty!
“What the fuck am I doing in Hungary!?”
Think I as I search for somewhere to rest
In the dirty, bustling, car-choked, friendly
Bullet-hole-wall-lined streets of Budapest;
Architecture touched clearly by Turkey,
But laced with the consumeristic West;
I find the Mellow Mood Hostel – what luck!
For four pounds a night it’s as cheap as fuck.
The Turks may have come to murder Magyars,
But up to their angel-built baths Ill go,
To boil in the waters, cool in the spas,
Immers’d in reading Shelley’s dreamy flow,
Then a ‘Cisco lawyer goes for my arse
“What the fuck was that?!” – he offers to blow,
Blood muddies the waters, he gets the point –
I click! It’s a freakin’ gay pick-up joint.
I meet a lassie later, out we go,
The price of a nice evening meal to share,
“I’m from Richmond, where Edgar Allen Poe
Was born.” “I’m from Burnley, Lancashire.” “Where?”
The ghoulash was great with the wine, we flow
Out to the street, breathing in the sweet air,
Where, in a moment of drunken romance
I kiss’d her neck & seiz’d my shagging chance.
I left the lassie dreaming in my bed;
Shit, shower, shave, pack, roll-up sleepin’ bag,
Greet the warm morning, buy freshly baked bread,
Cheap beer & cheap cigs from some gypsy hag,
Play chess in the street, get really wasted,
Swindle a swindler with a Kingside blag,
Then heading on west down the railway line
I get me kicked off by the border line.
I gaze on familiar boyhood star
While I walk a few K to the border,
Along the line I thumb down a police car,
They bundle me in, “Silence!” the order,
So as they check the passport my guitar
Rings out in bizarre tuning & coda,
Bemused they release me at the train station
“Gizza lift” “No!” my tour’s first frustration!
‘Neath the European night sky, thick starred,
I find myself in a desolate zone,
Tip-toein’ past the sleepin’ border guard,
Relics from the cold war the scene adorn,
Two young Austrians thought they were hard,
With angry clashing voices of slabstone,
I looked straight down the barrel of a gun,
“Who won the fuckin war!?” & pass’d right on.
I take the greatest train jump of my tour
From Vienna to Villach, on a sleek
Inter-City, as each Alp towers o’er
My little carriage, each volcanic peak
Thrust from the fertile, verdant valley floor
With breathtakin’ beauty – I could not speak,
Until dinnertime by a mountain stream…
Villach’s heap’d watchers echo to my scream.
How glad am I to enter Italy,
For the call of the muse grows ever strong,
Like some wild animal trapp’d inside me,
To find a form in my juvenile song;
Snowy mountains shrink into flat country,
Thro’ fields of lazy green we zoom along,
To Venice; as Italy greets my feet
I see a canal sparkling,’ where’s the street?
Three days I spend in ardour Venetian
Three nights in a disused railway carriage,
Gusting around this floating museum
On a perfect barge; there is a marriage
Between my soul & the elysian,
A poet’s dreams are pulsing from the page,
As here in this soft city I savor
My first Italian ice cream flavor!
Thro’ Venice I, the poetic rover,
Roam streets by night, guitar oer broad back slung,
Under a statue of Casanova,
Ditties composed near Chichester are sung,
Eldritch voice attracts coins for each number,
Those tuneful tayles melodiously wrung,
& after playing for an hour or so
Buzzy black bongo bangers join my flow.
Distant Riviera di Levante
My heart’s destination, mine art’s true call,
But first, the mausoleum of Dante,
To tap into a predecessor soul,
Overgrown with moss & creeping ivy,
My man, you were the wildest of us all!
Ravenna, this may be a swift sojurn,
But one day, with my wife, I shall return.
How balmy is the Florentine evening,
Whose stylish sweetnes softened Dante’s tongue,
Outside Shelley’s old villa I’m busking,
To soon attract a most beautiful throng
Of German fraulines, who are visiting
This sultry city, entranced by my song,
Two of them follow me into a park
For passionate encounters in the dark.
We wake in arms, after cappuccinos,
We wander moped streets, a sacred city
Thro’ which argent-sheen’d Arno grandly flows;
I buy a book to fill with poetry,
On the title page Maya draws a rose,
Then buy fresh foods & climb a hill where we
Build a fire, cook dinner, watch the sunshine
Fade over Florence with a sweet red wine.
‘How romantic it is to be abroad,
Free from the chains of a working mans day,’
Think I while walkin’ the main Pisan road
Passing a troupe of buskers on the way
With guitar, ink-pens & notebook my load
I’ve arrived, aye, all my dreams seem OK –
Then see the leaning tower – am I drunk?
On further inspection one side has sunk.
Back from the tower Fate bids me to meet
The busker’s troupe in musical mid-flow;
There’s an old black bluesman with dust-bare feet,
A dark, Chilean named Kapitano
& a saxman sultrifying the street;
They offer me wine, adding my oestro,
You’ve never heard a more raunchier noise
& just like that! I’m one of the bad boys.
I settle with this best of holidays;
Each one begins with pasta from a nun,
Then idle hours spent musing beneath rays
Of an English summer-like springtime sun;
When falls the warm evening I, then, amaze
The Pisan public with songs sweetly spun,
& blitzed on six bottles of Tuscan red
Outside a church we make our cardboard bed.
On borrowing a mountain bike I ride
Thro’ Tuscan plains all sensuous, sublime;
Leaving behind linear countryside
Up an ashen mountain my pedals climb,
Breaching the steep peak’s top, embracing wide
& fertile vista, immersing in rhyme,
With hang-gliders updrifting in the sky,
“Hello,” I shout & “Ciao” is the reply.
I jump a train to San Guilliano
To walk on Shelley’s mountains, but instead
I’ll sit in the street with old man Franco,
He ploughs me with red, risotto & bread,
Plus a whole sow’s leg – my stomach doth blow,
Tho’ we hardly understand a word said,
We converse about the war, England, life,
Italy, poetry & his dead wife.
Pisa is like Oxbridge, old student town;
One day while composin’ I met a bunch
Of poser undergraduates, they’re down
With what I’m doing & cook a great lunch,
Converse in English & show me around
Their night-clubs, jazz cafes, & as the crunch
Doth come, with Latino chick well-endowed
With looks, I fuck her, do my country proud.
I wander up the coastline for to muse,
Setting up camp in a cliffside quarry,
Resplendent in luscious, blue, sea-side views,
By the chapel of Portovenere,
Tonight my life, my mind, mine art shall fuse
& awakening to my destiny,
Prepare for the sun to set ‘low the line,
By buildin’ fire, ent’rin town, stealin wine.
With topless bottle of red in my hand,
Up cliff-face I scamper with the surge-might
Of some fabl’d hero from Plato’s land,
& claiming the top, gulls in freedoms flight,
Silhouette the setting sun, a wide band
Of gold spread ‘cross azure seas, from this height
I muse on the rippling sea-meadows blue –
This evening gives birth to a poet true.
I pause to reflect on the life I knew;
Nice house, nice job, nice girl, nice skunk, nice deal;
Compare these to these skies & seas of blue,
And this sense of sheer assurance I feel
At joinin’ the bravestars, we happy few –
No more a cog on the soul-grindin’ wheel,
Besides, England does my fuckin’ brain in
& I bet, as I’m writin,’ its rainin’.
Dizzying to my heart’s epiphany,
The last sun-chink was slipping ‘low the line,
Her last shed ray sped ‘cross the darkling sea
To sparkle on an object, close, divine;
A Silver Rose, so lovely & so wee,
Had caught my eyes with its delightful shine –
Plucking my moment’s floral momento
I left for camp, led by its lamp-like glow.
Southwards I go, to Viareggio,
Beneath the Apennines, whose lofty height
Towers o’er the lines of my third canto,
As shrouded by the drowsy, star-strewn night.
I build a fire beside the softsea flow,
Cook up a meal, by fading ember light
I shed a tear for some long ago year
When Shelley’s corpse was found & burnt – right here!
I awoke to the skin-warm, golden glimmers
Of a glorious sun, whose burning rays
Ever stronger grow, over sand shimmers
A floaty, velvety, dream-curtain haze,
Watching speedboats dashing between swimmers
All thro’ the day my skin cooks more ablaze,
So much, when back in Pisa my new tan
Has cut so deep, folk think I’m a black man.
Soon back am I in bohemian swing
Musing away; one long, mellow daydream;
By the side of the Arno sometimes sing,
Or bask in the sun with wine & ice-cream,
Or busk to the world as a poet-king,
Then party hard with Kapitano’s team;
For life is forever tender to me
Having tasted the breath of Italy.
In the warm morning, after a party,
I sit with Kapitano round a fire;
He teaches me the bird-songs of Chile
& how to busk a day without a lyre;
Brimming with wisdom into the city
I drift, when in a shock of love desire
She’s sat on the grass banging wee bongos,
‘…To describe the way I feel,’ the song goes.
She seems to me the first fair star of Eve,
With ocean eyes & smile of teeth pearl white,
And perfect curves like you wouldn’t believe,
My heart melteth at the sensual sight
Of beauty’s first essence, this I receive
In raptures, as we, by the Arno’s flight
Converge as one ‘til comes the sad sundown –
“Meet me in Rome,” we kiss as she leaves town.
The night before my tour’s final movement
I play my farewell set, busk up a pill,
Slide down the Maccinera for groovement
With a slick Sicilian band, until
An onslaught of Dutch Techno bombardment
Releases built up pressures ‘til the chill –
Coming down leisurely, laid back, sublime,
Puffing out chillum smoke, passing smooth time.
Heading down south on the click-clack train track,
At two AM the conductor finds me
With a bag of books, the rags on my back
& in my hands a copy of Shelley;
Expecting some Hampshire inspector’s flak
The guy, instead, showers me with pity –
Six hours later, the twilight before dawn,
I walk the streets of Rome waiting for morn.
As o’er the Eternal City doth come
The mellow, yellow orb of Italy;
I stroll all around the Colosseum
Musing upon my growing poetry,
A race of chariots soon won – struck dumb
By Rome’s incredible decadency,
Yet senses of fallen grandeurs pervade
For glory lasts as long as summer shade.
These ruins seem to speak, they sing with pride,
Splendors far surpassing exhortation,
Bridges spanning the Tiber’s jadestone glide
Bare intricate statues, inspiration
Flows onto my page, cast & sanctified,
As in a nation within a nation,
With dead popes standing guard o’er Peters square,
I start my final stanzas – almost there!
I hold the address of a place to stay –
The old fort at Prenestina – where I
Am welcomed most warmly, don’t have to pay
For my bed beside this Bengali guy,
Who stacks up his chillum… inhale… OK
I’m well wasted.. so go exploring, high,
Thro’ sun-trapp’d seclusion, my mad new home,
A sanctum for the artist youths of Rome.
I jump a tram this sunniest of days
Down into the tourist-laden city,
Upon the Spanish Steps I pause & laze
Then walk into a shrine of poetry;
‘Tis true that a true poet seldom pays,
Reciting a passage from my Shelley,
I get in for free, see hand at first hand,
Awaken’d to kinship – my fearless band!
I sharpen my features & dress to impress,
Entering a candlelit theatre
Find dark, Grecian drama in deep progress,
Aha! My marvelous Manuela,
My sexy, smiling,’ stage-struttin’ actress,
I knew right then that I had to have her,
“You look beautiful, like a Silver Rose!”
That night… her hotel bed… our teeth-torn clothes.
With my lady sleepin’, thro’ the city,
I roam, a sweet sun illumines the streets,
A tranquil Protestant cemetary,
& Shelley’s tower, where my muse completes
Her visitation; I feel tired, empty,
But wait! As I stood by the grave of Keats
I surge with strength to try the train-jump home
& did one from the glory that was Rome.
Cashing in my emergency tenner,
Join’d with cann’d beef I bought in Hungary,
I’ll busk up a little extra lira,
& hunger up the length of Italy
Upon my last evensongs at Pisa,
Already it all seem’d a memory,
For Kapitano had moved on to France
To work the World Cup with a beggar’s dance.
So, leaving gentle Arno to her flow,
Jumping trains to an uncertain future,
I once again view’d Viareggio,
Le Spezia, then pass’d thro’ Genoa;
Spent sunset in the streets of Torino,
Faded a sleeper to the French border –
But travelin’ don’t always go to plan,
My bloody train had landed in Milan!
I was now sev’ral hundred miles of course,
& how it happen’d did not understand,
But youth is driven by a hidden force,
Which made me take the train to Switzerland,
At whose harsh border found I smart resource –
For they had rejected me out of hand
(I look’d like a tramp) – after midnight, tense,
I found a rabbit-hole shewn from the fence.
I felt like I’d escaped Colditz Castle,
But as I pass’d thro’ chocolate Zurich,
I was toss’d into a world of hassle,
The Swiss care not for buskers & their reek,
After lots of shouting & a wrestle,
I was plung’d in a police cell for my cheek,
But come sundown eveything was sorted –
The next day I was to be deported!
They marched me on a fancy Swiss Air Jet,
Handcuff’d until the very last moment,
For I had slipped right thro’ their border net,
Back to my native island must be sent,
On fine French wine my flight was free from fret,
For thanks to a filthy rich government –
I carried massive bundles of Swiss Francs,
The dowry of their Nazi-lovin’ banks.
I thrill’d so much to drop into Heathrow,
Tho’ from the wine a little worse for wear,
To Rosie’s boudoir hopefully I’ll go –
At first she gives me such a startl’d stare,
But soon romancing reconvenes fair flow
I fed her verses on a velvet air,
Said she, “Why don’t we take a bath, my sweet…”
With that hot wash my Grand Tour was complete.