Out of the Cupboard #10

Presenting: Ben Barton


my pen is my weapon
a limb of

my sharpened tongue
Here to set wagging

all your dirty
little secrets

Everything you have
tried to forget

I play them
Little scenes in my head

over and over.

I remember.



rubbing his dick against the doorframe
his fingertips gripped, lip bitten

this man is wanking in the 3pm sunshine

en masse, the shopping crowd scatter and circle
lovers chewing gum,


I watch his face turn into the corner
and he jerks on, so blissfully unaware of the world

and it of him.




What doesn’t kill you
only makes you stronger

Just another proverb
like the stix & stones
just another fable,
the ones they teach you
to keep your heart beating
So that you can live
survival mechanisms
whipped-up into clouds
and served on the platters
of childhood lies:
the tooth fairy, Santa

words are just words
just stupid




like a Church erection

I just tuck it all away
bottom drawer
and forget.




it was a 3am-er
we poured the wine down
daring the sun to rise
and the moon to fail

half of Sunday gone
We waste it; us and
Mansfield with her pneumatic
tits, curved-up like bananas

Wrapped in the boa
we watch her dance across
the sound stages
Our hooded eyes
just slits
in the hangover heat
and amber sun.




I know those toilets so well
The big mouth of an entrance
cavernous, yawning
and teeth of
sticky mineral steps
leading down to the
noisy turnstile
20p – no inflation so far
it is still the same
as it was
when I was 14
That was when I entered
them for the
first time
at the stroke of midnight
open-eyed and naïve
eager to please and to tease.

That night though
I needed to piss,
I really did
but my guts were jammed,
couldn’t let go
I felt so hot under the
sea of eyes
snaked across the
pissing wall

One pair shone the brightest
in that clinical glare

He blinked slowly
and flashed his
yellow pegs,

one hand resting on
those filmy tiles
Defaced with a dozen

I looked up and read them:
faded phone numbers
appointments and hours
twilit rendezvous

A spark went off inside
as he reached over and
touched me

and it was so




My father is a stranger to me.
He never turns-up uninvited.
Sitting cautiously on the sofa
He waits – never asks,
for a mug of tea.

My father hasn’t always been
this stranger in my life.
We were close, once.
He organised my life, an official referee

He holds my gaze, unsure
if he loves me…




in the glare of the gaudy gay bar;
playschool colours, Ikea chic

He hisses and jabs the coins at her

“dress you up, bitch”

lip studded, he scowls me away
with a flick of ash
and a drag on his g & t.




nothing to stare at but the grey ceiling
and the dull pillow to wrestle

At least there’s always the radio –
where the dark passes
with the nightmares
of the real world.




I like to watch the men’s crotches
bobbing with the tarmac bumps

On the long journeys, if you’re lucky
and the vibrations good

you can watch a riser –
cock pressing against denim

arching up,
reaching for Eros.

I always sit back, wet lipped,
watching them packing it

their sleepy eyes
drifting into




Questions and Answers

Q)You are releasing a book titled ‘The Hospital’ this year chronicling your experiences on a NHS ward. I’m interested to know more about this and whether putting together this book was more difficult than other collections you have previously had published?
BB)It’s the most personal book I’ve written. It began when I was in hospital, back in 2002. I’d broken my legs so was bedridden, and tanked-up on intravenous morphine. So I just hallucinated and sweated for weeks, scribbling this mad account of what was happening on scraps of paper. The book is basically my diary of my time ‘inside’. The lack of soul in the place nearly killed me. And I saw some horrible things, so of course it’s been difficult – I guess that’s why it’s taken me six years to put it out there.

Q)How do you believe poetry is perceived in the UK generally speaking?
BB)Generally – it’s pretty much ignored and undervalued. My phrase has always been ‘no one reads poetry’ – but I say it with a wink. What I mean is ‘not enough people read poetry’. I don’t really know where its place is. The bookshops sell little, it’s hardly ever on tv and radio. I think generally people are much happier with the latest Cecilia Aherne or Robert Harris or a juicy ghostwritten celeb autobiography than they are with a fresh collection of poetry. But I know there are readers out there – it’s a niche I guess, somewhere down the back alleys. It’s basically a cottage industry now. I just think it’s sad that most of the time people are writing poetry but not actually reading any. There are creators but no consumers. Where else do you find that… singers who never listen to music? A film director who’s never been to the cinema? It’s simply not heard of anywhere else! But poetry is everyone’s game. It’s hardly an exclusive club.

Q)Regarding your sexuality, you have been contacted in the past by youngsters who have identified with what you have written. How does it feel when you know that your writing is making a real connection with a reader?
BB)I like it. It makes it worthwhile, but it’s not in my mind while I’m writing. The truth is I write poems for purely selfish reasons – they’re for me above all else. But if these confused gay kids get a kick out them too, then that’s fine with me.

Q)This year you have also released a short collection of ‘confessional poems’. In an age of openness where it is almost the norm to be candid in blogs and video diaries do you feel that the ‘confessional poem’ is losing its power to provoke?
BB)Yes. We’re all unshockable now. It’s all out there, in our faces. But I still think I’ve had enough screwball experiences in my life to make the prudes blush. My ‘confessional poems’ are all about sex. My boyfriend calls them my ‘porn poems’. They all come from an unrealised project of mine which was called ‘Confessions’. It was meant to be an antidote to all that banal poetry out there, all that greetings card shit. I was reading a lot of Bukowski and Billy Childish at the time, and I wanted to bring back the poet’s voice, to put him back as narrator, like a bar-propped storyteller. I guess I’ve always been jealous of Catholics, having that regular vent, a holy listening ear. So I had 25 years of stuff to get off my chest. But what ended up in the book was a very small part of it. I’m saving the rest for a rainy day.

Q)You’ve recently got back to performing your poetry at readings. For people who are a little unsure about attending such events because of preconceived notions about the live environment, please convince the naysayers about why they should give poetry readings a go?
BB)If people like live theatre then I see no reason to avoid poetry – it’s the same thing. Just with a little more integrity. I can’t really say much more than that – people need to go and decide for themselves. Personally I love poetry readings when I’m in the audience. But when on the other side nerves play a big part, they really get in my way. Poetry audiences are usually very kind. It still terrifies me though, I can’t lie about that! Drinking unstinted amounts of red wine helps.

Q)You live in Folkestone. With the South Coast being so picturesque is it easy to get inspired by its natural beauty?
BB)Folkestone is only beautiful if you like a crumbling seaside town, a curate’s egg. It’s both arty and trashy, and fortunately I love that, very much. John Waters is my hero! So Folkestone is my Baltimore – they’re very similar. But I have lived by the sea my whole life and I always will, so that’s a connection that I always return to in my work.
But for me the most beautiful place here where I live is Dungeness, a few miles up the coast. It’s the only desert in the UK – a couple of miles of stones sticking out into the ocean, crowned with a foreboding nuclear power station, two lighthouses and a hamlet of the most bizarre houses you will ever encounter. It’s also where Derek Jarman, another big influence of mine, lived. Dungeness is like nowhere else, believe me. Imagine Chernobyl crossed with Midwest America somewhere in a nature reserve, and you’re nearly there.

Q)How long do you spend crafting a poem, are you a sculptor who takes his time or a person who feels that what first comes out is adequate enough?
BB)What comes out first of all is usually not good enough. I see them as first drafts, as frameworks. I carry a notebook and everything gets jotted down in those – I have hundreds of them. Sometimes these drunken scribbles don’t get typed up and realised as actual poems until years later. Of course, like a painting, you can overwork it too. Knowing when to stop is just as important. Like right now.

Where to go next

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