the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




12 WORKS
BY ADAM IRVING

SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED DURING THE BOER WAR


British killed Africans

Africans killed British

Thousands and thousands died


So many British got killed

That most of their living quarters were torn down

The wooden floorboards were sold


Sold to the Africans

To make coffins for their dead soldiers

Who had killed the English who once walked on them


There are so many different levels there

And none of them make any sense at all.

================

THE THIRD YEAR JUNIORS VS THE FIFTH YEARS FROM THE OTHER SCHOOL


I don’t think we ever get over being kids

or that leaders of countries ever mature

We didn’t graduate,

the nursery simply took on more kids


The playground taunts got wrapped in laws and headlines

threats and scraps became wars and

the bullies mates dress in camouflage

And I’m expecting the bell to ring,

the people who start invasion to discover smoking or wanking

and get a job in a shoe factory or a burger bar


Presidents resigning so they can grow a moustache

if they don’t already have one

And I’m still hoping that’s what will happen

================

ANOTHER LUNCHTIME


Smell of potato on fingertips

Coffee tasting tongue

Sat staring, dog eyed at passers by

Money challenges me to a wrestle

and I accept with a sneer


Laughing as my wage is gone in a cough

As soon as it enters my bank,

like it were never there


Dissolving in rent and petrol, bills, food and things I can’t remember

Scratch forehead, internal dialog

Smile to myself as top lip smells of sweet places

Listening? Yes I’m listening

Sorry I wasn’t listening

I hear from the table behind me

Girl with shiny hair passes

as cutlery and noise all around shout


I forget to buy lunch again

Shouldn’t eat if I’m not hungry

Finish my drink and leave

================

THE SOUND OF SMOKE


Lay in bed

She lay beside me

and the silence reached an all time high


As she inhaled

I heard a crackle from her cigarette

Something I had never heard before

================

JUST WHAT IT SAID ON THE CARD


It wasn’t where I expected it to be, I shook it because it had been sleeping,

wiping its eyes I saw It was love

Love that wears dirty clothes and begs for money,

Love that rarely wears its angels costume


People often overlooked it,

spat on it or laughed in its face

while discussing it and waiting for it

but there it was, love that wheezed, love that played cards

and dribbled when tired


Love that repeated itself after a few weeks

love that scratched the inside of its ear

with the pointed end of the cap from a biro


Love that hid the whole summer in a bowl of fruit with a couple of insects

And then passed out in a doorway while trying to get a key in the door


Love that doesn’t stick around for long if you don’t chain it down.

and it’s business card was blank

because those who missed it,

wouldn’t recognize it with or without a title.

================

SMALL PRICE TO PAY


It was what you wanted,

but after you got it you realized it had emotional baggage

you still loved it, small sacrifice to pay

for getting your dreams


The dream came with other things too

the dream came with fries

and terms you hadn’t expected,

a small period of refund without explanation

it was still a good catch

your security and happiness.


The happiness had a nasty cough

and a street running through it,

crossing in rush hour was tricky,

as more arrivals came

you thought your ideal partner,

although far from ideal, was still above average


The street running through had grass verges

which became over grown, the swings and hedges

became rusty and ridden with thorns,

a fight was needed to get to your soul mate

but at the end of the day

small price to pay for a soul mate


The soul mates’ heart sold off its rural edges,

swapped green pastures for a supermarket and motorway

love rented its lower floors out

as a kebab shop and off-license,

floors that were vacant before became filled with non menu bargains

the fries and shakes came with doughnuts and meal deals


One day your keys didn’t even fit

someone changed the locks without telling you

one day after the warranty ran out.

You began to look for someone else

your dream, your partner, your soul mate, your one true love

================

IT’S A GOOD JOB


When I was a kid,

the council built a new old peoples home

on an area of grass where I played


They were naming the home

after a famous black leader who stood for peace

Some of the old people refused to live there because of the name

complained because it applauded a ‘black man’

It’s a good job I wasn’t working for the council on that project

because I would have sent a letter to all those who complained

Dear sir/madam,

Fuck ya then, go live in a damp, rotting hole instead

or on the streets that are named after famous racists,

instead of a brand new, purpose built luxury flat


But the pussy’s at the council changed the name instead

To something ‘inoffensive’


What sadness does that say about those old people

and the council?

================

FEBRUARY


I walked to the garage on the corner

frost, frozen snow everywhere

On the main road,
little red sparkles,

coloured plastic
from cars,

brakes on unexpected thick ice

The snow made Manchester look beautiful

crisp, clean, untouched whiteness in front of me
broken only by cat prints

Later on,
came off my motorbike

at one mile an hour

tying to get it back in the garage

full tank of petrol
blood all over my leg

flooded engine
snow everywhere

broken only by cat prints

================

SUSHI

Things seem out of balance
wherever I look

I’m broke as fuck but sat in a sushi bar
paying with a credit card

I can’t afford to buy a drink
and then later on the same evening

find a Gucci watch
on the floor under a table


People living like repeats on TV

hate spreading across countries
like an oil slick, glooping over all

sucking up those who don’t run
History so sad it’s almost hilarious

a war that stopped
for a football match on Christmas day

I don’t understand that one
and continue with the sushi

================

THE ITCH


Lay in the bath, nearly dark

dreaming away in no direction
lift a can of 7UP high above my head

and aim vaguely for my mouth
Its been a strange week

a mixed bag of world crisis, disasters
and none of it occurred in the bath

so I lie and do nothing

An itch arrives on my relaxed arm

it’s annoyance to my skin grows
I wonder what it is,

why it cant be seen or heard
but causes so much irritation

I tell myself that mankind has endured worse
put up with greater disaster that an itch

people have doused themselves with petrol
and then lit a match

so I can live with the discomfort
This rationalizing is correct but doesn’t help

I tell it “You don’t exist, go away”
I try to battle it to the end

No surrender
I lose

What pointless wars I fight in the bath

================

ME ALONE

The interview had begun, a minute ago or less,
I sat opposite him, with bright lights

shining down on me from all angles
My name had been taken, details written down

And then a question from the man in the dark suit
“What is it you want then?”


The heat from the lights had made my mouth dry

And I wet my lips before I spoke
“I want to apply for a license to have my own shadow”

He thought about my request, lifted a pencil and made a note
A note that I could not see.

He opened his mouth and paused,
Just long enough for the silence to become uncomfortable

“Do you not at present own your reflection?”
I had anticipated this question

“Yes, but that’s only there when I have something to reflect it with”
He thought some more, satisfied with my response.

“And what would you do with it, should you get your own shadow?”
He leaned back into the blackness so I couldn’t see his eyes.

I thought and replied
“I would carry it round with me”

He snapped quickly “at all times?”
“No, mainly in the daytime”

“Not at night then?”
“No, there would be little use for it at night” I clarified.

I searched his posture for positive signs.
His head, a grainy shade, his face a pool of black.

He wrote, to relax me, and as I exhaled he said
“Would it make you feel less alone?”

“Yes I supposed it would” I gasped.
“So you would be carrying it for protection?”

“No for company, not protection”
He muttered to himself

“.....a shadow is for life, it’s not a toy.....
....treat it well or you will have the license revoked”

He stamped the paper and handed me the bottom copy.
As I left the building I felt whole

and was accompanied by a safe, familiar outline.
I stood on the street

with the sun beating down on my back
and I was 9 feet tall.

================

DIXIELAND

In tiny rooms,
smoky clubs

on small stages
all over the world

old guys play Trad Jazz
for those who want to hear it


In those moments

a picture emerges
clearer than any CD

with more information
than a shelf full of books

A document of the past
unaffected by change

unaffected by rock n roll
unaffected by anything

that popped out after 1945

Insane Dixieland plays

like it did 80 years ago
then the solo’s flow freely

double the speed
lose half the instruments

slow it down

The clarinet plays

the band drops behind him
they play so softly

that I hear ice hit the side of the glass
somewhere in the room

And then ragtime kicks in
explodes like a powerful drug

as strong as it ever was
This is a play

with different actors for every performance
it’s a just a play

but what a play!
play your solo’s

play with no rehearsals
play your jazz

play the songs
play the familiar riffs

And they say no man can stop time
but that’s bullshit

these guys can stop time
They defy the world that has made them look older

when they play
they laugh at their cancer ridden lungs,

their cirrhosis of the liver,
dodgy backs

and dicky hearts
The past is forever

in that moment
So savour the moment

in thirty years it will be
a faded photocopy of a photocopy

played by those who can’t quite remember
Shut up and let them play

let them play

Play


================

m.a.g.