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The Fiction Issue 2009

Olly Todd: Some Poems

The thing about Olly Todd is that I’ve known him for years as this rad skateboarder and drinker and dancer, but it was only fairly recently that I found out that he is also an excellent poet.

by Olly Todd
Dec 2 2009, 12:00am

Introduction By Stuart Hammond, Poems By Olly Todd

Olly Todd has been a professional skateboarder for most of the last decade. He’s from Cumbria originally, but he moved to Liverpool, and then London, and then Los Angeles for a few years, after he got offered a contract in 2004 to ride for the big American skate company Stereo. If you were English and obsessed with skateboarding at the time, it was a totally massive deal and terribly exciting.

Anyway, the thing about Olly Todd is that I’ve known him for years as this rad skateboarder and drinker and dancer, but it was only fairly recently that I found out that he is also an excellent poet. Olly has been knocking out these little verse sketches of his weird and wonderful life for years now, but he never made much of a song and dance about it. One time in LA he made up a little zine of some of them called
Down Like Rain, which he gave away to his friends. From that I eventually discovered that my old skate gang mate Toddy is also the best professional skateboarding poet writing today. Imagine my excitement!

Here is a selection of some of his recent work, then. None of it has been published before. I sincerely hope you like it as much as I do.



HELICOPTER

Summer daylight lifts off the water
—no prison pool or sock cider for me.

Under the motor way bridge.
All those catty shots at cans we took.
We all had bone handle daggers in our belts
and brothers
who’d grab our wrists,
lower us places

—wells, down from branches,
and show us paper round short cuts.
These winding routes we’d go down
slipping on pornos,

and send us to the day
after carnival hunt.

Next to the old park-keeper’s hut
Where we found the batman helicopter


PETROL STATION ROSE

I can’t believe
I bought you a second
petrol station rose.

That the first died
is not the point.
I can’t go throwing
flowers on dashboards
two nights on the trot.
I could see in your face
the first flower’s romance
cancelled by the second.

Me and my memory.
And you said I’d said
‘I mean every petal of this’
as I presented rose one.

The records I listened to
while you were at the funeral
are in a pile on your coffee table
next to the vase with the dead
and the dying rose.


HONISTER PASS

Sat with no rock
to split
and no bait.

Waiting to see
if the seams’ll hold.
Sipping warm water
from a paint coated
tin cup.

Nee rock nee bait
and sleet on t’ screes
and t’ hail on t’ crags.
Boots wrapped up in plastic bags.

A’d fall frae t’ sky
calling yer name like
a battle cry on that frozen tarn


STALLION SPRINGS

—head lolls out the passenger window,
radio on, past the prison

and the desert shops
            we stopped for
                        for towels,

         chain smoking.
                          Pink puke on the grey rocks
after a box of wine
and a racoon attack in Stallion Springs.

—Eyes like
white moons, your eyes..

Dark rooms, my heart..
oak looms that axed,

                    burn and spin on the factory floor


SUNDAY MASS

In a week
I’d spent
about a hundred
dollars in taxi
rides to and from
Philippe’s for French dips,
when she finally picked me up.

And it was at a light
where Cesar Chavez
turns into Sunset,

where she got the call.

And I dug out a butt
from the tray and my fingers felt
the finest sand

as she said—

‘No. I don’t think
that would be appropriate..
No you can’t take me out. No. Because
I’m dating someone.’

—to the guitar player
from Weezer.
And I thought about
the girl from the Balls Pond road.
And how I’d waited for her
boyfriend in a coma to die.

He didn’t but a part
of me did


REMAINDER ONE

In the roost I ruled,
last night in dirty jeans,
got into a popcorn kiss
with a green eyed girl.
My old heart’s gone—
                         Remainder one.

I could catch a cold
in their stares.
My old heart’s gone—
                         Remainder one.

I remember the fuscia.
She forgets how it got there.
I turn a catalogue page
and shudder at her bikini picture
                      And her sister’s.
Come to think of it.
Thinking back to the rattle
of the washing machine
as I fucked her thin body
in the laundry room.
My old heart’s gone—
                         Remainder one.

We’ll look prettier in wing mirrors
over bridges and end the day
in dressing gowns on the balcony


WILDLIFE AND RAIN

I’ve got a small tall window,
Oh famous opening line,
in my bedroom though.

White wood frame white
bars (basement flat, Lambeth)

Crammed into it
and columned by those bars
are wildlife and rain.

—Their first dawn colours
I now see.
I’ve heard the birds
since half three.

The lorries in the puddles
all night.

The bloody boiler
every fifteen minutes


A BRIDGE

As I pick a bridge
and skate it in drizzle
sounding rats to their runs,
                        you collage our love
                        til two on the other

                        side of London

and luckily for me,
don’t burst
the blood vessels about my face,

                        just the question of author
                        of man in the head.

Who’s reading anyway?

                         Lay saraband.
                         Lay with me


SWIMMING FROM MY OARS

Your red eyelids glow
In the woods of your wedding,
Guide my boat
Across the lake to their island.

I want the eyes
In the back of your head
Beneath that old veil.

I see your gown train
On the mud,
Prepare to shoot an arrow
In to it, trap you there,
Evacuate your guests and groom—
I’ve sent the wolves
Swimming from my oars


YOU HAVE SMILED INTO THE CAMERA

I have returned home from Miami
and thrown a pocketful
of hundred dollar notes
over you on the bed.
 

You have stuffed some in your
stripy knickers, have thrown some
in the air. One has gone down
the side of the bed
and we have not cared.
You have smiled into the camera.

The film I used has made
your legs browner than they were,
our duvet cover bluer than it was,
the money greener.

Your morning eyes, the dawn
sun through the French windows
needed nothing.

And then, sleepy, striped
by the blind’s shadow,
you have giggled as I have
folded dollar into dollar,
climbed into bed,
slid my palm under your cold cheek,
Silently held your eye contact, then slept