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issue 22: January -February 2001 

 | author bio


RealAudio recordings of 
“Raw Horse”
“Popular Culture”
The printed  versions  first appeared in issue 11 and this link will take you there

Seven Poems

Trouble taking off
Stranded in Sub-Atomica
Not a Committed Artist
It Lives!
Tim Turnbull's Cunning Plan


Trouble taking off
Alex has been to see the head-doctor
this morning. They had a long chat
about the blackouts and the episodes
and glass and why things always end
in tears and the head-doctor asked Alex
to think
     very hard 
                              about how he related to
the people around him, not just friends
or family but to people generally
and it isn't easy.
           It isn't easy to think
that hard on an LC three-fifty
power-valve Yamaha doing eighy five
through thick traffic, skimming back
and forth across slick white lines,
clipping wing mirrors, carving up cars
while all the time the reflective shades
you sport, instead of a visor,
funnel the wind right into your eyeballs
so that everything is blurred and indistinct
and head-doctors know absolutely fuck all
about what it takes to concentrate
at ninety eight on a blind bend
where one miscalculated twitch could
send you straight through a windscreen
or skittering under the wheels of an artic.
And Alex has been thinking so hard
that when the siren starts he's shocked,
slows down right away, without a chase
and pulls into the first lay-by.
By the time the cop has adjusted his cap
in the car window,
Alex has hung his helmet on the clocks,
tousled his hair, turned the ignition off,
straightened his specs and waits,
still astride the machine,
chewing his bottom lip.
                          Now son.
Having trouble getting airborne.
And Alex makes a piggy face,
tries to think of something witty,
feels a trace of a flush on his chalky skin
and mutters something completely incoherent.
You want your head testing, lad.
                                   I've just bin.
A foul-tempered exchange, a flurry of documents,
a car door slamming and the copper's gone.
Alex puts his helmet back on,
takes the next left turn and bubbles
along for a few gentle miles then
buries the needle in the red line,
rips the throttle wide open again.
Sheep-shearers marooned
in a stinking caravan
near the top of the world,
their migration has stalled
and all the idle talk
is of pawning the tools
and cashing in the clippers
to pay for tickets home.
Perhaps they'll take a peep
at Europe, as they're here
and it's sort of on the way.
We call on Saturday.
It's ten a.m. and they are
still drinking cold beer.
A girl struggles on her jeans,
retrieves her shirt and leaves
to a chorus of See-Yahs
but no eye contact.
The static living-room smells
of ashtrays, fat and socks.
Down on the carrs the sky
looks bigger than it is.
They never thought they'd end up
in a place like this.
It makes them melancholy.
Night falls. Things get ugly.
Stranded in Sub-Atomica

 After four years of wrangling over unpaid rent the housing co-op,
    the one he helped found
in the seventies, obtained an eviction order and repossessed.
    He went, owing thousands,
back to Sussex, where his mum and dad cleared out upstairs,
    aired his old bed
and, despite the disruption to their twenty year routine, made him
    as welcome as they could.
Vic and Jill, who followed him into the flat, had to hire a skip
    to shift the shit he'd left.
There were piles of comics, old newspapers with articles circled,
    some with pages hacked out -
behind the settee the missing pieces, filed in cornflake packets -
    a pamphlet biography
of Rosa Luxembourg, copies of Green Anarchist, assorted tracts
    from the WRP,
A Nietzsche Reader, stacks of PG Tips boxes which leaked residue
    like bracken spores
when moved and gave a deep brown dusting to the work tops
    and the grease-caked floor.
At the back was an exercise bike, unused, and supermarket bags
    stuffed with paper and rags
and heaped waist high and supermarket bags full of rubbish and more
    supermarket bags.
His parents watched him eat his meals and hide behind the Times.
    Attempts at communication
tailed off into embarrassed silence. His mum and dad held hands as he
    retired to the bedroom.
The flat stank and there were insects, insect larvae, wood-lice and slugs.
    Jill went down the shops
to buy disinfectant, rubber gloves, heavy-duty bin liners and bleach.
    For ten hours, nonstop,
they sifted, sorted through and binned his worldly goods. He sat
    and stared across the Downs
waiting for dark. There was a record player which worked, except that
    the speakers were blown,
and clothes among the rubbish, which leaked onto the clothes, and more
    rubbish in the cupboards
and mouse crap on the cooker and there were notes - scribbled notes -
    endless scribbled notes -
minutes of meetings that detailed who said what to whom, on what night
    and what they really meant,
drafts of letters of complaint, accusations to associates of unspecified
    filed but never sent
and character assassinations of everyone he knew, presumably for reference.
    In short, documents
recording every nuance of his descent into paranoia and indifference,
    were bagged and burnt.
By midnight all that remained were lousy carpets, a table, two chairs
    and on the back wall,
in coloured marker pen and thick wax crayon, lines, loops and patterns,
    messages scrawled
in an erratic hand, drawings of people labelled with their names and crimes,
    broken hearts,
runes, animals, misquotes from the Tao. A cross between a Venn diagram
    and an astrologers chart
it described the universe revolving round, set in a childish, yellow sun,
    a giant ME.
Vic went to the car to fetch the wine and glasses, brushes and emulsion.
    In Sussex he
shrank back into his chair as the moon was covered up by heavy cloud.
    The couple viewed
the mural for a while, traced the lines with finger tips, then set to work
    painting it out.
In Sub-Atomica the princess struggled in the clutches of the arch-fiend
    Doctor Doom
and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, threw himself into the fray against
    the villain's goons,  
hurling balls of fire. He must reverse the evil Doctor's shrinking-ray
    or be marooned
forever. Somewhere outside Brighton dawn's first light was filtering
    into an empty room.

Trouble taking off | Australians | Stranded in Sub-Atomic | Genius |
Not a Committed Artist | It Lives! | Tim Turnbull's Cunning Plan


Another youth has hanged his self in Risley.
I suppose it's one less greedy mouth to feed.
I'm sorry for the mum who's left to grieve
and for the poor beggar who gets the grisly
job of cutting him down and (is this me?)
but I think you also have to concede
that it takes a sort of genius to believe
so little; to take on so much misery.
As betting men what would we put the odds
on finding that, looked at  statistically,
when the league tables for suicidalists
are published, then these lumpen, useless clods,
these louts of unrefined sensibility
come way ahead of physicists or priests.

Not a Committed Artist
Tate Modern 14.5.2000
The German boy with the deep-fried tan
is pointing in pantomime disgust
and shouting out things in foreign.
They sound like entartetekunst
from here. He has fabulous pecs,
slim waist, blond crop and a six pack
showing through his starch white vest.
It appears that something abstract,
and probably expressionist,
has got his goat. I follow on, logging
his outrage at each of the exhibits,
and consider turning back, jogging
through the galleries to get ahead,
and launching a haymaker aimed
a half a yard behind his head,
and watching him drop like a lamed
horse, blood spraying over the floor
as if from Jackson Pollock's brush.
I could help him see the world more
like Georges Braques and, in the brief hush
before the patrons realise that this
is not a performance piece and start
screaming and call for the police,
to understand that modern art
is best appreciated in silence -
at least when I'm around. His tanned,
stupid face yacks into the distance.
No. I'm too old and scared of getting banned.
It Lives!
In one gruesome experiment, it seems,
they, with their habitual disregard for
public safety, took the mind of a pig,
implanted it in the body of a pig,
dressed it up in a cheap suit, furnished it
with a full set of opinions and let it loose.
For over eighteen months they monitored
its every move, kept tabs on its contacts
and administered the stabilising drugs,
as necessary, when it slept. Before long,
though, it became clear that they were not
in control at all. They lost track of it
for days on end. The team of specialists
would arrive at the staked-out cafe to see
a kitchen door flap, an informant shrug
and hear the bins clatter in the next alley.
It has been spotted holding forth in bars
as far apart as Hemel Hempstead, Poole
in Dorset and Hebden Bridge, sometimes
on the same night. In May they thought
they had it, at a Travelodge off the M6
but when the Mondeo door creaked open,
to the orchestrated crash of cocking guns,
a corpulent rep stepped into the spotlights
and crapped himself. While it is at liberty
no woman, man or child can sleep safely.
They will take no responsibility and despite

all evidence to the contrary, all the horror
and fear they have brought into the world,
have begun to deny that it even exists.

Tim Turnbull's Cunning Plan

I intend to be
the Laureate
at some point
in the not
too distant
future. Here
is my plan -

I will murder
all the other poets,
one by one.
It will look like
a cross between
Kind Hearts
and Coronets

and the Japanese Occupation
of Manchuria.

© 2001 Tim Turnbull

Audio info: Tim Turnbull 2 Poems with Rock Music
Popular Culture: Music The Velvet Underground
Raw Horse: Music Einstürzende Neubauten
Programming: Taka Mukai
Engineering: Georgette Okey
Thanks to Haringey Arts Council for funding

Trouble taking off | Australians | Stranded in Sub-Atomic | Genius |
Not a Committed Artist | It Lives! | Tim Turnbull's Cunning Plan

These poems may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

author bio tim_t.jpg (6958 bytes)

Tim Turnbull
was born in rural North Yorkshire in 1960 and lived in the same village for many years. He's worked in forestry most of his adult life and for fifteen years sang in a variety of punk, industrial, ska-type bands. When he finally got sick of other people, he started to write and perform his poetry, moving to London five years ago and taking to the city and the poetry like a rat to sewers. He's performed all over England and the U.S., both on his own and with the slam team "Heart of Darkness." Last year he performed at the Edinburgh Festival with Big Word. The poem "With the Breakdown of Faith . . . " Discuss was commended in the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition. Turnbull is a
navigation:                         barcelona review 22              january - february 2001

Frederick Barthelme - Driver
Helen Simpson - Wurstigkeit
Frank Huyler - two stories
John Aber - Massage
Juan Goytisolo - two stories

-Poetry Tim Turnbull - 7 poems
Antoni Clapés -
from Hair's Breadth

George Orwell
Answers to last issue's Gothic/Horror Quiz

-Regular Features Book Reviews
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