Robert Garnham – three poems

Beard of bees

I wore a beard of bees.
Eight hundred of the
Buzzing bastards.
Admittedly dozy on
Vented smoke but still
Startling nonetheless.
Beard bees bees beard
Crawling swarming bee beard
Bees beard chin accumulation
And it is for this reason
I wasn’t allowed through
Airport security.


Misread Signals

At night
The lighthouse syncopated flashes she translates
In morse.

Irregular yet beautiful words,
Strange juxtapositions,
Poetic devices and
Postmodern cut-ups
Beamed to her coastal cottage.

Who might be this
Mysterious lighthouse keeper?
This poet of the senses?

Enthralled,
She strikes out across the shale
In a trance-like state,
Those breathtaking words
Spurring her on

Only to find
An automated lighthouse
And a restless cormorant.


2 Abbey 1

Frost-clung sun and scratchy ear splitting aircraft
In the cold winter morning.
The thrum and hum of motorway traffic
Filtered through sliding 1980s Windows,
Chalk dust swirling in a low slung sunbeam.

Darren arrives first with his spiky hair and
Ever present grin, all new and fresh,
Baby of the class.
Not terribly bright he swore blind that
The current US president was Abraham Lincoln
And he couldn’t understand why people in Dublin
Spoke English.

I look like a ghost,
Feeling old even then.
These kids will soon be men
And I’ll never see them again.

Then the lads come in,
Fresh from a morning kickabout,
Justin, Justin, Paul and Justin,
Big mouthed lairy lads smelling of hair products,
Diesel exhaust from suburban bus rides,
Cheap aftershave even though
None of them shave,
All with the same hair styles modelled on
Pop music heart throb Rick Astley
And kids tv presenter Andy Crane.

Others filter in,
Jocks and sports officianados,
Deep throated spotty Jack the lads,
Male bimbos and the terminally odd,
Random souls thrown together by
Secondary school scheduling,
Quoting football statistics and carrying
Sports equipment emblazoned by
Various London team logos,
The air thick with teenage hormones and
Estuary accents, mock cockney,
Strange sudden americanisations they’ve learned
From watching The A Team.

They Josh and joke and joke and Josh
Joking about football
Joking about football managers
Joking about football teams and football players
And football supporters
And I tell them that I’d like to join I’m
With all this football based jocularity
But I don’t know anything about football
So when it comes to football jokes
I’m stumped.
None of them laugh.

Next would arrive Omar,
Sensitive intellectual who, unlike me,
Would mug up on the football results the
Night before so as not to be left out.
And Alan, anonymous Alan who
Was just one of the lads,
And Jesus Christ, whose dad was big in the city,
And Phil, who in all of our four years
Never once did or said anything remotely noteworthy.
It seemed our class had ever conceivable type
Of the sail stereotypical representations,
Except that there were none of those slightly camp
Nerdy types you often see.
Though hang on a minute,
That was probably me.

Not exactly the class clown,
I was seen more as a sage, a
Prototype Alan Bennett, not least because
I’d memorised comedy one liners,
My speciality being New York Jewish stand up
Delivered in the poshest Surrey accent.
Even then i was pretty weird.
But it saved me from getting beaten to a pulp
Every break time.

Frequent laughter and boisterousness.
One of the Justin’s would break wind
And all of the other Justin’s would laugh as if
It was the funniest most whimsical amusement of the decade,
And then Jesus Christ would make something levitate,
And Darren and Wayne would argue because
They couldn’t remember the name of the family in
Big Foot and the Hendersons.
It was the Hendersons.
I hated these losers with a passion.

I hated Justin’s hyperactive shrieking.
I hated the way Paul would belch and then
Everyone would laugh
And others would then start belching
Getting bigger laughs than I got with one of my
Carefully constructed Neil Simon-esque one liners.
I hated the way that Alan would copy everything
That Justin did
As if Justin was a philosopher of the age
Even when the thing that Justin had just said was
‘I think Spain are in with a chance this year ‘.
I hated the way that the whole lot of them
Would laugh and laugh and laugh if any word
Sounded like it might rhyme with nob, bum, tit,
Wank, anus, butt or boob
And yet when I’d point out that Arsenal
Started with the word ‘arse’
They’d just nod blankly and say,
‘Your point being?’

I hated these kids.
I hated these muppets.
Gary with his mullet.
Dan with his beef flavoured crisps.
Wayne, who smelled like beef flavoured crisps,
Jesus Christ, who obviously went on to bigger things,
Justin with his runny nose,
Paul, who swore that wrestling was real,
I hated them all apart from Darren, who
I would dream about every night, and for whom,
Twenty five years later whole on stage as a performance poet,
I’d copy his spiky hair style just for him.
I hated them, and I wanted to escape.

As I say, these kids
Became men,
I see them on Facebook now,
Old and fat and bald and married,
None of them ended up playing for Arsenal,
None of them made it as a professional wrestler,
They’re now plumbers, managers,
Dads and grand dads,
And that’s when it strikes
They think I’m still sitting there
In that tutor group room
And they all escaped from me.


Robert Garnham is a comedy spoken word artist from Devon. Although light in tone, his work deals with LGBT issues and social representation and has an undercurrent of seriousness.

Over the years Robert has headlined at the top spoken word nights in the UK such as Bang Said the Gun in London, Evidently in Manchester and Hammer and Tongue in both Bristol and Brighton. He has won or been placed second at slams in Exeter, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Swindon and London. He has recently headlined at the Duplex in New York and the King Kong Klub in Berlin. He often appears at comedy nights and has supported John Hegley and Arthur Smith.

Robert has appeared at festivals such as Womad and London Gay Pride, and his one hour show Static recently featured at festivals in Bath, Guildford and the Edinburgh Fringe, where he has performed for the last three years.

His first collection, Nice,  was published in 2016 by Burning Eye Books, and he was long listed for the Saboteur Awards in the category Spoken Word Artist of the Year. He is currently working with the musical jazz improvisation group Croydon Tourist Office, and has narrated and appeared in a short film, ‘Professor in the Bathroom’.

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