4 poems by: bruce hodder

an astronaut at the festival

‘Hey brother, can I touch your beautiful beard?’
I am outside the dub tent, drinking a Cobra,
when a guy pushes forwards from out of the crowd.
His eyes are like saucers. They’re not blinking at all.
He’s off his face, stoned, and it’s not even tea-time.
Inside the tent, Daryl’s working the decks,
nodding over the vinyl while everyone dances
in a cloud of strong weed. It floats over their heads.
I am talking to Rodney. My friend, at six-seven,
is someone you literally have to look up to.
He palms his fat spliff. He has noticed a cop
riding past on a push-bike. The cop doesn’t stop.
‘Come on, bro, your beard is so beautiful, man.’
‘Fuck off toad,’ says Rodney. He slaps the guy’s hand,
which is already airborne and ready to stroke me.
‘Love,’ the guy says, and he shuffles off, smiling.
I don’t know what planet that astronaut’s on,
but he’s having a blast there, wherever he is.

dream drinking with Janis and waking up with the horror

I met Janis Joplin in a bar in America
in England at night while I fitfully slept.
It was like we’d been friends since the start of the world.
She chain-smoked and chain-laughed, like I’d expected,
and flirted with good looking boys in the garden.
We played pool. Janis kept fucking her shots up,
making the balls bounce and fall on the floor.
The barman said, ‘Janis, you’re scaring the regulars.
Cut it out. Bruce, get your girl to behave.’
On the tables around us, heads dropped. They were worried
she’d blame them and smash the place up with her cue.
She just cackled, and laying her cue gently down,
she graciously asked for a bottle of whisky.
Only I saw the hurt in her eyes, how she crumpled,
and ushered her into a corner to talk.

I woke up and Janis was suddenly gone.
The bedroom was dark, the flat utterly quiet,
except for the hum of the fan in the bathroom.
As my mind filled, my mattress turned into a rack.
My wife would have touched down in Turkey by now.
I thought of my mum, how she used to love Janis.
We would smoke weed and listen to ‘Cheap Thrills’ together.
I thought of lost friends, all the people I’d hurt.
I thought of the old ruin I had become,
and I wondered, would anyone notice my passing?
I thought of my poems. There must be a thousand.
Will even our grandchildren bother to read them?
Janis still moved everybody who heard her.
My notebooks would keep a fire burning for days,
there was that, maybe stop someone dying from cold.


Larry wants to have hypersex with me.
He just asked me in an email
filled with mangled grammar and weird emojis
At my age, any offer of sex
is generous, and not to be rejected
out of hand, without consideration.
But hypersex sounds rather tiring,
and exacting on the joints and muscles.
I get cramp stretching to pull the sauce
from the kitchen cupboard.
Hypersex might kill me.
And what if Larry is an ugly bastard?
I’m no Brad Pitt, but I need inspiration
of a very pretty kind to get me going
now I’m fifty-six, especially when it’s cold.
I’m pleased Larry wants to have hypersex,
but I think I’ll pass on it, reluctantly.
I’ll keep his email in my notebook, though.
I’m sure somebody wants to chance their arm.

in an Ipswich toilet

‘This place must be important.’
My old man stood beside me.
We were in a smelly Ipswich toilet,
both of us unzipped.
I was looking at the soap,
willing for my stream to come.
Doing it was never easy
if other people stood too close,
but him? It wouldn’t happen.

‘This place must be important,
it’s where all the knobs hang out.’
He chuckled, looking sideways at me.
His mask had slipped.
It was the only time.

Outside I lost him once again
to his bad moods,
and his need to leave
so he could be elsewhere.

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