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Barry Tebb Poems
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Give me life at its most garish

Friday night in the Square, pink sequins dazzle

And dance on clubbers bare to the midriff

Young men in crisp shirts and pressed pants

‘Dress code smart’ gyrate to ‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’

And sing along its lyrics to the throng of which I’m one

My shorts, shoulder bag and white beard

Making me stand out in the teeming swarm

Of teens and twenties this foetid Friday night

On my way from the ward where our son paces

And fulminates I throw myself into the drowning

Tide of Friday to be rescued by sheer normality.

The mill girl with her mates asks anxiously

"Are you on your own? Come and join us

What’s your name?" Age has driven my shyness away

As I join the crowd beneath the turning purple screens

Bannered ‘Orgasm lasts for ever’ and sip unending

Halves of bitter, as I circulate among the crowd,

Being complete in itself and out for a good night out,

A relief from factory, shop floor and market stall

Running from the reality of the ward where my son

Pounds the ledge with his fist and seems out to blast

My very existence with words like bullets.

The need to anaesthetise the pain resurfaces

Again and again. In Leeds City Square where

Pugin’s church, the Black Prince and the Central Post Office

In its Edwardian grandeur are startled by the arching spumes

Or white water fountains and the steel barricades of Novotel

Rise from the ruins of a sixties office block.

I hurry past and join Boar Lane’s Friday crew

From Keighley and Dewsbury’s mills, hesitating

At the thought of being told I’m past my

Sell-by-date and turned away by the West Indian

Bouncers, black-suited and city-council badged

Who checked my bag but smiled at ‘The Lights of

Leeds’ and ‘Poets of Our Time’ tucked away as carefully as condoms-

Was it guns or drugs they were after

I wondered as I crossed the bare boards to the bar.

I stayed near the fruit machine which no-one played,

Where the crowd was thickest, the noise drowned out the pain

‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’ the chorus rang

The girls joined in but the young men knew

The words no more than me. Dancing as we knew it

In the sixties has gone, you do your own thing

And follow the beat, hampered by my bag

I just kept going, letting the music and the crowd

Hold me, my camera eye moving in search, in search…

What I’m searching for I don’t know

Searching’s a way of life that has to grow

"All of us who are patients here are searchers after truth"

My son kept saying, his legs shaking from the side effects

Of God-knows- what, pacing the tiny ward kitchen cum smoking room,

Denouncing his ‘illegal section’ and ‘poisonous medication’

To an audience of one.

The prospect of TV, Seroxat and Diazepan fazed me:

I was beyond unravelling Meltzer on differentiation

Of self and object or Rosine Josef Perelberg on ‘Dreaming and Thinking’

Or even the simpler ‘Rise and Crisis of Psychoanalysis in the United States’

So I went out with West Yorkshire on a Friday night.

Nothing dramatic happened; perhaps I’m a little too used

To acute wards or worse where chairs fly across rooms,

Windows disintegrate and double doors are triple locked

And every nurse carries a white panic button and black pager

To pinpoint the moment’s crisis. Normality was a bit of adrenaline,

A wild therapy that drew me in, sanity had won the night.

"Are you on your own, love? Come and join us"

People kept asking if I was alright and why

I had that damned great shoulder bag. I was introduced

To three young men about to tie the knot, a handsome lothario

In his midforties winked at me constantly,

Dancing with practised ease with sixteen year olds

Who all seemed to know him and determined to show him.

Three hours passed in as many minutes and then the crowds

Disappeared to catch the last bus home. The young aren’t

As black as they are painted, one I danced with reminded me

Of how Margaret would have been at sixteen

With straw gold hair Yeats would have immortalised.

People seemed to guess I was haunted by an inner demon

I’d tried to leave in the raftered lofts of City Square

But failed to. Girls from sixteen to twenty six kept grabbing me

And making me dance and I found my teenage inhibitions

Gone at sixty-one and wildly gyrated to ‘Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb’

Egged on by the throng by the fruit machine and continuous

Thumbs-up signs from passing men. I had to forgo

A cheerful group of Aussies were intent on taking me clubbing

"I’d get killed or turned into a pumpkin

If I get home after midnight" I quipped to their delight

But being there had somehow put things right.
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