Growing up, my father Anthony used to have a very close, crazy friend called Mike, who would occasionally show up at our house and have dinner with us. Mike was unique, loud, prone to uttering outrageous things, and slightly scary to a small boy. However as I got older I realised he was a special man, fiercely intelligent, always open to discussion, an idealist who raged at injustice in the world. He was a strong if sometimes confrontational influence on me and my two brothers.
Some thirty years later Anthony told me that Mike was very ill. He asked me to help him make a film about him. Of course I was happy to, and one summer afternoon we all assembled in a house in North London. What we captured that day was Mike at his usual, unpredictable, wonderful and confounding best. Sadly, it was to be his last interview: he died less than a month later.
Alex Fry, March 2017
A Poem for Mike
By Tony Fry
Mike Lesser and Tony Fry
Mike do you remember
That day in Corsica, the morning air still cool,
In the straw roofed café high up on the cliff.
After the flat bread, salt fish and goats cheese.
Boiled thick coffee with the fishermen
We saw the kids leaping, from the old rusted iron chute
A hundred feet high that loaded the barges at high tide
With each leap they hooted and their friends cheered.
They looked at us, “No chance” the glance said.
Yes, that was all we needed, we had to,
Standing briefly, on the cliff edge, and then off
First jumping then climbing back up to the cliff edge
This time to dive into water that was too shallow
But we whooped and shouted and were alive
No death no tetraplegia then.
So fifty years on, at this cliff edge
We are about to leap once again,
This time into the unknown.
There is no climb back up the cliff
Buddies in this strange unwelcome coalition,
It would soon be over.
For each life lived, there is no other way,
But how we lived.
All this happened, more or less
The death stuff – But why so much of it?
Mike and I and went so up close to it, first time
Felt the cold breath, the claw on the shoulder
But when the man comes around
So surprised it was our turn
How could this be?
Sure we read the Tibetan book of the dead
Naponika Thera’s meditations on the Charnel house
Slept high on the hill in Cairo’s elaborate fantastic Gothic city of the dead
In the steel refrigerated drawers
They lay, suspended, naked cold and lifeless
I cut up those dead bodies, then smuggled in Dr Benway,
Removed the hearts, as he sat with me – in his stolen white coat
We drew the chambers and the muscles and the arteries
Sawed deep into the skull,
A billion nerve cells
Oh but surely there was soul ensnared in the Rete Mirable!
It was nowhere to be seen
In Barcelona at the Monumental we saw the gored half dead Matador
We saw him draw himself taught, but then
Blood on the gold braid, crimson trails in the hot sand
Then they came for me, and then for Mike
“We have no idea – we know nothing of this” We both shouted
But how can this be? Yet how can any living person not know?
At the burning Ghats, we saw the white wrapped bodies –
Is this a large load for the laundrette? No it’s me on my bed of dry logs
I’m wrapped for ignition Torch me! Bye baby blue.
To every man upon this earth let death come soon or late
You will never forget the glow of the Burning Ghats at dusk
The funeral barges, but the spectacle distracts from the absolutism
Of an ending – it’s not the sense of an ending
That’s the soft sell for the survivor. It’s the ending.
Friends for sixty years, our cell replication failed
Once well-ordered, now anarchy prevailed –
Cancer came for both of us
Mike’s gone now,
As I have not yet ended –but may any day soon
So I’ve set a few things down
While I can still remember, still think and write
We would both have been on the list for extinction
We young survivors of the world’s worst ever war.
Some close relatives stayed on – we never spoke of it-
They were dragged out, scraped out by the Sonerkomandos
Many of the scared and wounded survivors were our teachers
Tight lipped they supressed the traumatic memories with gin
And beat us – apparently to toughen us up.
To make us like them.
But also for the pleasure in our fear and suffering
“This boy is the world – bend down. Next time it will be nine.”
He never cried, I did, but we both hated and defied and plotted revenge
My father’s cousin was a rear gunner on a Wellington,
Shot down over Dresden, only had half a face,
“Clifford was shipped home wrecked.”
“Arbeit Macht Frei.” I stood and looked, but wouldn’t pass under the jokey gates. No, no !
I ran to the white church, shuffled to ask the Black Virgin.
It was easy to forget, the rights and wrongs, and the extreme hideous refinement
Of Hitler’s evil, no doubt the envy of the Devil.
For I now know, really know – Death; will be the end for us all.
Careless about the horror, the extermination, and those who had died!
As we grew up, we were hungry for a new kind of life
Our generation wanted rebirth –wrote out a new set of values,
Mike more than any man I ever knew, Mike lived life fully
Brutally, intensely, always fighting always transgressing.
Live well, love, give, be part of it
His early homes were cages
Where he had been ostentatiously abandoned
To live a childhood of Persecution and isolation
Massively intelligent and creative he was too often ignored.
Rebellion and violence were the only self – expression
To which those apparently close to him would attend.
What began as desperate remedy, He developed into a social repertoire
Became a way of life, and a transferable skill.
So from each expensive centre of subjugation
He plotted escape.
But with each freedom, they found somewhere worse.
Mike had spent most of his life at war
Early on the battles with his unhappy ill matched parents.
“At five they shipped me off to Switzerland.
I ran away five times
At six brought me back to England
Locked me up in St Bedes, grim dower house.”
Up on the bleak chalk cliffs, of Beachy Head.
Crying little boys for company
No solace there -we fought each other to pass the time
A Humour of love.
The brutalising at Charterhouse
Breaking in through the chapel roof
He stole the communion wine – drank it all
Expelled he was ready for war on the streets,
With the Committee of One Hundred
And many political demonstrations.
Later spying and stealing classified documents.
Where have my team gone?
He admired the heroism and the bravery of those who fought
He identified with them, was inspired by them,
But it was always the fight as much as the cause
“I was starving
Lack of human closeness
It’s been like this all my life.”
Aggression and derision are always at the ready
Attack was his first lesson to me
He who dares wins, was refined-
He who dares to land the first blow wins.
We went back, walked on Beachy Head,
Was that a Chopin Waltz
Shared memories of the Grand Hotel as a six year old –
All the formality of upper middle class conduct in the dining room
We sat and looked out to sea
So this is where they all died, fighting the Luftwaffe
“They lived for twelve weeks. Burnt in those cool leather jackets.”
“What are we worrying about? We had seventy years not seventeen!” –
Bader in pin striped suit, lurched defiantly legless and, yes puzzled,
Presented me with the English Prize.
It was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, bound in fake leather with gold on the spine
Mike and I read it together, one of the Sacred books
But as McLuhan explained we were really post Guttenberg
Then Suetonius and Josephus, Catullus’ verses celebrating his lust for his sister .
The Zen doctrine of no mind, Shrinu Suzuki
Shrodinger, Einstein, T D Suzuki, Spencer Brown – Rules of Form
He read and then I “If I was fat and bald and short of breath
Then a week later “ And floundering like a man in fire and lime.”
“I walked with other souls in pain.”
Now he has gone, I work to reclaim some of what we shared,
The greatest show in town. We directed produced and stared.
We seldom argued about the plot or the story,
As though we had written the script years before earlier,
Who had written it?
How does it come to be written?
Walking through Hyde Park that sunny day, under the chestnuts
After you had leapt naked into the ten foot jelly in the round house
We offered free food.
To bemused passers-by in tweeds and trilbys with corgis
Heavy brown leather shoes with steel on the heels, so they clattered
“What’s all this?” “Chill, it’s cool!”
“Cool? What nonsense!”
“You blow my mind!
“We are Hippies , Its free love, its acid, the war is over!”
Across the serpentine We glimpsed Albert Saxe- Coberg Gotha ,
On his Altar in the temple of lost love
Oh it’s an effigy, a graven image, a golden cow.
Who stole the Queen’s heart away. “We are a German family.”
We puffed, at the Stones at the free concert in Hyde park
Smacked by the Hell’s Angles who lost it – not scripted
The feeble butterflies for Brian J
“Keith gave me a pint of Arpege”
Nick M told us how the Floyd beat the stones
At boules before lunch at the Column D’Or
Mike was a soldier, an academic, a Buddhist priest,
A man who lived for kicks, for drugs and for the moment.
He also was a very loving and loyal friend
All things such as grass and trees are soft and supple in life.
At their death they are withered and dry.
At our last meeting in Billy Wang’s he said, “I am incapable of loving,”
“That’s absolutely ridiculous few men can claim so many loyal and devoted friends
That is not something that comes by accident
It’s because you love and trust people that they love and trust you”
“Yes” He smiled, held my hand, “I‘ve never been betrayed” he said proudly
Mike all too often a Buddhist denier argued – No self and no mind
We sat, breathed, knew emptiness,
But also celebrated and shared Hursell’s ecstasy of self- hood,
There is selfhood and there is not selfhood
Gaze into the mirror – light on and light off
Once we had it all, like him I was clever,
We were clever enough.
But Life always trumped Academia
We never sat and wrote if we could run and swirl.
Might this be the last great adventure?
Like so many of the wild adventures we had shared before
During sixty years of close good friendship.
For we are both on death row – and that journey we shared is now over
Now dumped disserted, unclean
Who wants to laugh or dance with the dead –
Condemned and cancerous – they all admire our courage.
I take old diaries, boxes of black and white photos
Our Poems, drawings, cartoons
Were we real, young, beautiful, with all that hope and power.
Now we are redolent with the stench of the charnel house,
Defiant, dying well. Heroes for a day
Then off to the breakers yard.
Those big cars crushed in a small steel box
They looked at us old decayed, dying
The momentary pity soon trumped by revulsion and exclusion
We look at each other – lepers – exiled beyond the walls
Depressed beached scorched, over and out,
We travelled together into decline,
Bewildered but trying to making sense of the turmoil.
Now we share only a muddled fuzz of a new awful twilight world
The integrity of our being in the world has been disturbed –
Short term memory begins to fail – The illusion of continuity fades –
Life’s continuity – gone – a series of grainy sepia snap shots.
We, broken old boys, forever young, sit in our café,
We tried to make sense of our altered states,
Double espresso and Amaretto
But now so handicapped by a damaged failing brain
Mine poisoned by Chemo,
His by a failing arterial system,
That we struggled to formulate and articulate
The revealing insights, that solved the riddles
Found answers where there had been none.
My mind is bruised,
I’ve lost – the fine mirror like maze of my own thought
That proudly elaborated intellectual intricacy
That defined us
Each a view of the world that was his own, that now eluded us.
Not only were we on the way out, but we had no way to make sense of that
So tired we both lie on the floor -speechless , silent.
Brainless! Then mindless,
We die slowly, but we can see the ride out,
Eternity, the gift of my own life,
I don’t want to go, I don’t want to leave the ones that I love.
Love, compassion, and kindness, and resignation all will help me.
Do you remember when they closed the Nucleus- after all the raids
Speed stops the pupil constricting, and stops you coming too
When two leather boys came after us with the bicycle chains
Escaped down the damp stairs to Jimmy the Greek’s, Ouzo stopped the shaking
Sitting with Hendrix at Speakeasy. Remember crazy Arthur Brown, on fire
We went down to the Chelsea drug store
This – this is the best part of the trip, shouted the Doors
Mother I just killed a man,
Father forgive them,
We hug each other.
Life as poetry, and Love and intellect, yes.
But now I see through a glass darkly,
The greatest of all is kindness and compassion.
“There maybe something that is God like?”
“No from the first not a thing is!” he shouted
“I’d rather be a Catholic than a Buddhist” I shouted
“You dumb fuck!”
The last supper
Mike In this silver basket is lunch
Gin peaches, pomegranates fresh figs,
For him Gin and St Esteph Phelan Segur
Absinthe, Heine and Espresso for me.
I press banana toffee upon, him he enjoys it.
Like that day in the scrubs, you and Bertrand Russell
Committee of a Hundred, sent down – refusing to move
Nineteen and ninety – a difficult start to political life
I sat across the table, “More sugar, I’m starved in here!” he whispered
Then “This won’t break me! Fuck them!”
We brought so much that was different to our easy coalition
That was our strength.
His defiant machismo- Judge Dreed, Revolution and the Death of the old order
My forgiving, romanticism, Freud, Ericson and sensuality,
But above all reason and endless curiosity,
Good easy facility with words, whose use and logic we loved and shared .
A perverse intense determination never to conform
We look at each other
Emaciated, thin pale – glazed dry eyes
The reminder of doomed life –
I walked with other souls in pain!
Condemned and cancerous – they all admire our courage –
The momentary pity soon trumped by revulsion and exclusion.
Alone isolated and ordinary, with only our own solitary musing –
I just want to run away.
I just want to go to the gas
But we know beyond is only emptiness,
A vacuous isolation – but no knower to know
In his last year Wilde said
“Do you know the secret of my life.
It’s that I put my genius into my life
And my talent into my work.”
That was surely true of Mike.
Mike and I had our first puff together while still at school,
He had scored at the Highlander in Soho,
We rolled up a small joint and took it in turns to puff
The one who wasn’t puffing will examine the other. after each inhalation.
It was all very scientific
Pulse rate pupil size concentration orientation
“I feel strange, as if my skin’s been rolled off, I have to lie down.”
He really liked puff much more than I did.
We spent Christmas with Steven Abrahams,
Who presented himself as something of an authority on Cannabis
We played one of the first releases of
Sympathy for the Devil
I can still remember lying on
A gold and silk embroidered ottoman
In a grand drawing room
Turned on with Mike
“Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and pain” and then
That wonderful piano riff
Pontius Pilate washed his hands
“Wow that just blew my mind.”
But like Borough’s we had the science too
The brain produces cannabinoids,
There were cannabis receptors in the brain
Inhaling cannabis excites neurons which continue firing,
Puffing gave you membership – everywhere
We were bedding down in the Circus Maximus -where else
‘You boys want some good grass?’ said Bruce
He unzipped his sleeping bag – it was stuffed with grass
Lethal good, cheap and original, Mike relaxed with his “cure all”
I’d met Sue that afternoon at Navona
We were warm in here sleeping bag – its ok I’m on the pill
Its always safe and warm
I could hear the chariot wheels. Gibbon was back,
Then inspired by Huxley we went in pursuit of Mescalin
Found Lopoffora Williamsi in a specialist cactus shop in Baker Street,
Posing as serious botanists we scored – Sliced up the bitter cactus
Washed it down with Nescafé – but there were no revelations –
Derek Jarman was so impressed
Mike then went for tabs – Acid – but I declined, seen too many of
“The best minds of my generation” wrecked, psychotic sacrificed on the altar of cool
Jax shipped off to Springfield
But I too was soon psychotic
After Mike and Robert fed me tincture of Cannabis.
I had to be initiated- it blew me away
Doctor as patient
I lay jabbering on the floor for 36 hours, I was a safety pin.
I watched myself half mad, helpless, would I ever come back?
Mike “Talked me down.”
Kind yes – but did nothing for the neuro transmitter carnage
Mike and I and Jax, often puffed in the early sixties –
All three, Stoned for most of the night
Absurd, exciting, crazy creative,
It was a great exploration – but numbing and so anti-social
That I tired of it
Mike loved the enchanted distortion
The mark of rebellion, the secret society that he decided to lead
Became integral to his life.
But Mike wanted an intricate intellectual base, for exploring psyco-active pharma,
The International Times in its early years offered just that.
It defined the movement, recruited converts, and inspired many of them
I remember sitting with
Mike and Robert on the editorial board
In the Kings Road – In a room above Granny Takes A Trip.
Cool kit obligatory
There was a manifesto to be written
And a new cause to be justified
And many very intellectual people contributed.
There was an argument to be won, part religious, part political.
There was an intense idealism – love, freedom, altered consciousness , mystical states –
Here was a brave new world – in retrospect blindly innocent .
Almost crass in its naive innocence, yet inspiring in its idealism.
No one dared say Drugs make you crazy
Often in pursuit of innocent converts
Who too often blew themselves away,
And lost minds and bodies –
Syd Barratt loved and gifted, jabbered and left himself by the roadside
Because Schizophrenia triggered by Acid was a Psychotic version of HIV
No cure, no way back – Nick tried – but miracles are not available.
Mike was an extraordinary survivor –
Although at times his fine mind blunted
But was that the price of an insane sanity
And the remedy for a pain heavy world that became transiently painless.
Mike liked the idea of business
But wasn’t so keen on the repetitive reality
For there was always some new and more exciting project
But he opened a badge shop, imported “Afghan” coats and later
“The head shop”, which sold Bubble pipes, Chillums and Shivlinghams.
He proudly reported that it was soon raided by the “Fuzz”
De Cop say “Is that a rabbit turd or a ten quid deal?” To which Mike replied,
“Look’s like a ten quid deal officer!”
Unlike Wilde’s fatal quip –“Did you kiss him Mr Wilde?”
“Oh no he was a very ugly boy!
Mike’s wit, gained him a caution. “My fathers a QC!”
Posh boys often survived.
Donovan recorded a track “Mellow Yellow”
The new cool substance to abuse- Tyramine
Was made from banana skins,
Which might have been Psycho active,
Private Eye reported that “Veteran bread head Mike Lesser” was selling it
One night in the Reform he said to me,
“I’ve got terrible indigestion – they gave me antacid”
“Sorry Mike that’s not indigestion”
He pulled hard on the brass chillum
“Sir smoking is not permitted in the Reform.”
“Perry knows, he has offered me a dispensation.”
“Mike, it’s not indigestion – its coronary artery occlusion.”
Coronary heart disease, I’m thirty six! Get off
It is ! What’s the prognosis if you are right Tone?
So my friend Alan Yates – great big bruiser, Olympic swimmer
Sewed in three new arteries.
So I had my grafts thirty years ago – Tone saved my life then
Yates bypassed the blocked arteries of the heart
But now Mike’s cardiac arteries are all blocked
They are inoperable, he can walk twenty feet, then its Angina ,
Even the best toilet plunger flown in from Shanghai
Can’t save him.
We hobbled in the Rose Garden, but then they found my Cancer
In the bile duct too close to the pancreas and
With spread – into arteries and nodes- yes they set me for CBT
Cancer doesn’t feature in the minds of English GP’s
Too much aggro, so out of sight out of mind
He was very sick but it was clear to us I was dying,
Although he couldn’t walk, and very sick, Mike cared for me.
We dined and talked and hobbled
He stood by me, his own coronary arteries so blocked and quite inoperable
Wise kind, but fearless and realistic
Both of us friends
But on this one way journey
The clock was ticking
Over and out.
But then an X-ray to review his inoperable heat disease
Revealed a cancer much worse than my own – some primaries in the lung
All at once
I had a year maybe he a few months at best –
His brain began to fail, double vision, memory failing
“I can feel the heat closing in,
Feel them out there making their moves.”
Alone in his book lined study he digs in! No more virtual boxing
I can hardly walk
Weed, Gin, Morphine, dull his fine brain
Dazed and drunk he knows it all
But fails even to convince himself
But soon his bunker becomes a prison,
No coat weighted with stones and a walk in the cold sea
No chatter in the warm bath, some wrist slashing, as friends wave good-bye,
Youkio and his blade – he must have been insane
“I’m getting out might use the rocket
Lift off with cyanide or even insulin
Out on the launch pad
Lift off into eternal emptiness.
But Helium has got to be the answer
No it would be painless, no panic with helium, and no buddies needed.
I shall be coming in to Lakehurst, Just me,
No electric spark no flash no explosion,
But I, the only passenger, will go but never arrive
It’s the flight of the Hindenburg all over again,
“And here’s a bloody hand to shake,
And oh, man, here’s good-bye;
We’ll sweat no more on scythe and rake,
My bloody hands and I.
“I wish you strength to bring you pride,
And a love to keep you clean…”
He looks at me through the small round brass bolted window
“Why do you wear that copper diving helmet”
It’s me, he mouths, this is my first helium flight
I’ve read it up – it’s the perfect fuel.
Mike loved technology,
Mind altering drugs to regulate life, abolish loneliness and fear
Carlos Castaneda, and all that cool was the mask – sales talk for most hippies
Have to score
The buzz, the trip, the high was his first agenda
The abolition of pain and loneliness, the second
“I’ve never really been happy.” He said at our last dinner.
Fighting was dancing to him, street rugger – the wall game, with no rules
Fearless violence his second aim
Weed and beer, no frontal lobes
The sound of a punch that never lands.
But he was careless in fights – preferring form to content
But in a fatal corner the logic gates were labelled live or die
Then survival required fast chess,
Most times he would escape using great cunning –
But sometimes not, and one of us would take
A beating or a kicking, or the rusty chain.
We were puffing in the garage forecourt in Tangier
With the two policeman in black boots, the pimp who ran the boys brothel
“Classy top English snob – they like fuckee boy, you like?”
OK for Bill B, ok but not quite our style!
“Kol ferdi muchtube”
Shurkun – but this Hashish – we like They laughed.
We were lying in the forecourt behind the pumps
The garage man, Ran to the office,
So excited, he lost a yellow camel slipper with a golden bell-
Then returning with a square lump of resin
Wrapped in silver paper from a Cadburys milk chocolate bar.
“Here black Hashish, le meillure.”
“Quanta costa?” he shrugged his shoulders as he embraced Mike
Kissing him on the cheek. Cadeau for Lord Byron, he kissed Mike,
Dr Burroughs – he like you!
Then kissing me – Oh Sir Rupert Brooke
If I should die, think only this of me
“Who is the most beautiful boy in England? It might just be me?”
“Et tu brute”
“Oh no he was a very ugly boy!”
In this grim duet, trust, revelation, commitment
Mike and I traversed time
Ich du – where is god, might this be god?
Mean aggressive – he faces the brutal end
I have a gas mask , a pot of cyanide
But then reads slowly from his fine ironic poem of loss
We are wrecked together
How is it we, so clever, so fascinated by everything
Didn’t seem to know about this
About the end of life, strangled by disease
The soul leaving the dated expired body
The genes demand tilt and gone over – that the only way
I’d seen so many die that was my job
They sighed stopped breathing
Those close to them sobbed silently
And hugged each other.
You gave me Nietzsche’s Thus spake Zarathustra when I was twenty one
“For Adolph Pavlov , the man’s who cuts up the corpse, transgressing the sacred body.”
But you are both rational and passionate – Apollo’s wisdom and justice guides you ,
And have more than enough Dionysian passion to save you.
Yes I’d rather fuck than fight – the birth of Venus is my own pagan manifesto
Lautrec lived in a broken body, but glimpsed nature’s infinite beauty
A year with the temple whores in Tangore
Tantric ecstasy trumps Buddhist emptiness for me
What a drama queen you are, there’s no girl in London you haven’t felt up
It’s all self-love. Each pull asserts your own power
“Less mess with de spleef, more time for the reality of emptiness
Mike I’m a doc, the dead and then the living – I saw all this
I said things like it was painless,
They went in peace.”
He replied – you can’t fight well if you fear death.
But we had no real intimation of what was to come
So old so sick so bashed so rotten-
Wake with the heaviness of a failed body
My body poisoned to kill the cancer
His body poisoned by the cancer.
That the inferno is here on earth
Life drains from us, slowly runs away,
Now so quickly that we might be the talking dead.
Bolt through the brain, cry laugh die!
Ulcerated, and half-witted
I wrap myself in the last gasp of my once effective brain.
Mike on the front page of the Telegraph
In your suit under the cenotaph you desecrated
We talk and talk as we have always done, well we try to
As if they’d shoot us when we can no longer play the piano
We are fated to die early, Seneca they’ve put me out.
Never give a sword to man who can’t dance, Bly said to me
Mike was absolutely, and shamelessly, and proudly Masculine.
His brutality usually just, his love and loyalty as strong as any father’s
His brave defiant fortitude exemplary.
No feminist pseudo ethics
Built on entitlement and narcissism, for him
Mike was a man – and proud of it
Fist, cock , bravery and defiance – no cringing to women.
No shallow painless plastic Movie fakery for him
He only fought bulls with uncapped horns
“Go on hit me” the big man said
Mike did, the big man fell to the floor screaming
But this the order of life, we are born, then we die
But we know of it, but we don’t know it
I loved girls, they tempted, teased, pursued me
In the changing booth or the shower or the bed
They gazed, enjoyed and then sucked and fucked me
Someone will break both your legs – warned Mike
I was one and twenty, No use to talk to me.
My once ordered sensual body
Once feted with passion
The fine fit body that made life
Is now hollow and excoriated, as a discarded crustacean
But we still celebrate life
The last of precious moments of life in our demise
That fellow’s got to swing
How transient, how fleeting, how wonderful
Is this last vestige of life?
Then the pit of lime cut here
Could either of us lived better? Meaningless idea.
Roped up on Snowdon , my knees stated to shake ,
I looked down at the four hundred feet drop
Don’t look down just focus on your feet hold and your handholds
As we reached the ledge, and packed the ropes
The mist came down,
We could see nothing
Then we roped up one last time not to climb any more.
What price three dribbling incontinent weeks?
Tone – not for me – four primaries flourish in my lungs
Forget it – time to go.
Mike, I’m an expert witness – this is my work
Do you have capacity? I’ve never been clearer in my life
Do know what you are doing? Absolutely
So they will send me down for culpable homicide
His intense eyes met mine.
We embraced so strongly, that each so weak was still so strong
”Mike I can feel the power!”
I lived with risk
I can’t walk; my heart and my joints are gone
My lungs are full of cancers,
“To delay one disease means to die from another one.”
What’s wrong with a little reality?
“Tone I’m autistic.” he sometimes said
Wrote papers on Autism, it became another political crusade
“No autistic person would be capable of your empathic sensitive kindness!”
I saw the beauty – it was life, I saw the goddess
The hounds to destroy me – Yet I shall live on.
Long enough to write this, something of the life we lived
Only matter, but so assembled that it can reflect upon itself.
The invention of the human
It is by utterance we live, sense out of reference
Delores our lady of pain,
Head down in fire and ice, forever and ever.”
Repent nothing, seek no forgiveness,
Regret Nothing – the lived life was our greatest creation,
Our only possible life.
Surely some kind of revelation,
Love and sense trumps death,
Reality, hope and Sixty years of shared reality,
Tears, laughter. I cried
I held him to me,
My best friend was nearly dead,
The world had been ours,
Everything was possible –
There was nothing we might not eventually know.
I walked away, momentarily disoriented – There was nothing to be done.
This was once his mother’s house,
Sixty years ago I would go round for breakfast in the long school holidays,
His mother mean and bitter, screamed at him,
At seven the early morning sun, through heavy cloud,
From the garden I saw Plynlimon where we’d walked together
Blues skies beyond the hills, buttercups,
Smiling dog daisies,
The lambs already young sheep, buzzard, kites, crows –
The affluent celebration of pastoral life in the hills –
And high amongst the glimmering sheep
The dead man stood on air.
I was late and he was drunk and I was determined to see him again.
He is angry. I won’t do battle
We are both so old, so sick
I am determined not to walk out on him and not fight
Next day he writes an apologetic note,
“Please excuse my poor company yesterday,
I’m sorry to say that I was in pain from most of the day,
I hope that I did not let the side down badly.
Your companionship was a delight I hope we enjoy,
Many more such meetings.”
A few days later he phoned me I got double vision, it’s a brain tumour
I know that this is a possibility and probability,
He goes off to UCH and they give them a pet scan
He tells me that they found nothing,
I will never know if that’s true or not,
In his last carefully worded legalistic letter,
He was determined to spare us from culpable homicide.
We had dinner, hugged shed a tear; he was gone the next day,
Heroic, brave valiant defiant, Aristotelian Tragedy,
An imitation of a noble and complete action,
Which through compassion and fear produces purification of the passions.
Oh yes and death
Then in France, Nicola phoned, told me about the room,
I was walking on the beach – when she told me,
Brilliant blue seas, a tide of fine beautiful naked defiant life,
They have it all; we had it, now it’s nearly over.
“Oh the room, the door torn off by the police, the empty room
Tubes, boxes, gas cylinders,
The last meal, rotting.
Old balloons to float up into the infinite,
Gold and red and blue, Granddad Happy 73,
To the best friend in the world,
The best Mum the best Gran…
Oh the shocking loneliness of that moment,
I had to go to see the room,
I had to film it,
It was terrible but I had to go.
I recall now his ironic note to me,
We may meet up again if we are lucky,
The day after that meeting,
He was gone, dead by his own hand,
I heard from Robert Tasher this morning
Mike is no longer alive,
That he had taken his own life.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Mike is dead, Mike is no longer – he is gone forever.
But for we who remain and loved you, a mystery to unravel
A man so diverse, so mercurial, endlessly reinvented
I walked into Billy Wang’s – you weren’t there. You were gone,
Oh yea life goes on, long after the …is gone
Mist on the Carroux- soon gone as the rising sun warms the cool air,
Only a cockcrow and the waft of pigeon wings in solitude,
Perfect red and pink roses, bees,
I took his last note to me out of its envelope
Dear Tone “These are the arts that we should be practising
They open on the staircase between earth and heaven
The grasping of these arts
Is the letting go of everything else, my love Mike”
Butterfly poised on the deep purple Buddleia, waving slowly in the warm breeze,
Oh this fleeting moment….
Alive but not alive – oh bring back, joys, infinite futures,
An all knowing self, beauty power.
Oh might I still be alive, for Mike is dead, it’s so hard to tell:
Defiant leap, but the landing?
Now he’s gone, but not gone,
The whistles blow forlorn,
And trains all night groan on the rail
To men that die at morn.
I feel some duty to keep him alive,
Yet he is living on in me.
And I have an endless curiosity to know him better
To unravel the complexity,
Maybe to build upon it
He wrote in his last letter to us all,
I felt so peaceful, so happy, no more suffering,
Tilt GAME OVER
London and Pezenas – 2015 and 2016
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