My Spiritual Cowboy

My Spiritual Cowboy

Audio poems

Sam Lou Talbot’s pamphlet/audio poems on female desire dedicated to the late John Berger (1926-2017) will be published in 2023.


A geranium bled
at the thought of you,
your shoulders
contoured like a Michelangelo.
Remember the time you nipped out to the Co-op 
and when you got back
I’d painted a fresco on the ceiling?
(How pleased you were that I’d been so productive.)
You took down the antlers
which hung on your bedroom wall
and gave them to your cousin.
Told me what you’d done.
"But they belonged there",
I said, locked to the bed,
sadly devouring
the warm pewter plain 
where the wild had stayed.
"I can get another pair",
you said,
as if it really didn’t matter
that the wall was bare
where the outside had come in.

You Can’t Put the Sun In A Mobile Phone

When I write on this laptop
water seeps in 
under the door
my ankles 
into tiny islands.
My toenails, acrylic coral coronas. 
Mood of the day. 
Here I am Googling 'haptic visuality'
and 'polyvocal texts',
pulling up screenshots of Dylan’s Chronicles Volume 1 (2004) surreptitiously devoured in Waterstone’s the other day whilst scanning the entire book several times trying to locate a page number for a quote I’d found online which I really wanted to use but
which I couldn’t use without the page number, and even though I C&P’d the quote into Google those diligent authors on Goodreads did nothing to resolve my quandary, and nestling in my iPhone in between Dylan, ‘new memories’, and ‘recently deleted’ is Carlos Santana, getting all alchemical on Hendrix: “Jimi worked with light. He used light to bring walls down.”
And I think that’s bloody beautiful – don’t you?

I read it twice, three times. 
And the shop assistant is hovering pretending to be shelving, and I know this as I used to be a shop assistant who was told to hover and pretend to be shelving, but I’ve got work to do, I must find this quote, and I appreciate ‘screenshotted’ isn’t even a word, 
or legitimately even a verb, but Google now is.
Sod it, I can up my storage, keep archiving them until my phone gets full, and then what?
Try a reset?
Or go out on a limb 
because there’s too many of them – these screenshots – 
and even though they were taken with good intention, 
in full confidence and zest 
that I’d remember the ins and outs of context, 
I concede defeat on this occasion, Santana looking on. 
There must be a pattern to all this right? 
What was that about light?   
Bored, past midnight, and I’ve gone down another rabbit hole 
on YouTube. Wanna pen a piece and christen it
On the Grace of ZZ Top 
(cause the PC brigade’d really go for that)
and Piers Morgan got nada out of Billy Gibbons on Good Morning Britain 
the other morning when trying to rally him. 
The man – Billy Gibbons – that is – is just too cool for school, 
didn’t rise to the bait, 
played along nicely though, 
consummate professional, 
and I wonder what colour his eyes are behind those shades, 
never seen him without the shades, 
and then I Google his wife, and she’s pretty. 
Blonde. On his arm. 
A bit like Suze Rotolo.
Then there’s the fun fact
that the only one who didn’t have a beard 
was the drummer, Frank Beard, 
and it’s so sad now that Dusty’s gone, 
and I say to my dad, 
they won’t replace him, 
and my dad gets back on WhatsApp with 
the shows gotta’ go on, and besides, Dusty told `em 
to carry on without him, gotta’ make money, Sam! 
And last night the sun was this globe of red 
like I’d never seen,
and I couldn’t make any headway 
for turning around
down by the Clyde, 
as if I’d been transported to the Serengeti
sun blazing on the plains 
scorching the scaffolding 
and iron cladding, 
all around me - men - constructing things, 
all these buildings, see, 
they’ve been put there by men, 
I said that once to a man, (a good friend of mine),
and he replied, 
it’s your state of mind, 
and there we were, dog walkers, 
and loners, and joggers, and strangers, 
and stranded tourists, 
made temporarily immobile
by this flagrant vagrant ball of fire, 
as I hypothesised 
that it might just have been the end of the world, 
in our post-truth climate, 
cos if the sun is gonna’ blow up, 
then you can forget all about Covid 
and Brexit 
and Kabul 
and your step count 
and your Peloton
and the whole fucking shebang, 
cos we’re gonna’ be gone, 
any minute now, 
and that apricot cockapoo is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, 
truly, I mean it,
and we’re all standing here, 
holding out our phones, 
into the river, trying to catch 
it, as it dips 
into the steel horizon, 
this ball of fire, 
which takes approximately eight minutes to get here,  
but the thing is, 
I want to say,
you can’t put the sun in a mobile phone, anyway.


She walked me back,
spoke of EFT, and meridians.
How trauma can be ‘locked’ in the body.
Did I want to do a “skills swap”?
(There was something democratic about it.)

My umbrella broke.
Blew inside out five million times in the space of a few minutes before
caving in.

We are by the sea, exposed, lunar shells
of contraband.
when you raise us to your ear,
it is not the waves you hear.
We do not tell the mariner’s tale, or that of a drowned crew,
nor the piracies of the silver moon all conspiratorial, 
troubling a symphony 
upon the waves, rebellious 
triangles and percussion, 
trip up
the North Star.

The thing about Lidl is that the self-checkout works quicker than in Waitrose, Marks, and all the rest of them.
The card payment is almost instantaneous. 

That’s what you get for buying cheap umbrellas.  
Ubiquitous objects 
of unexamined urges, 
umbrellas are: 
forgotten, misplaced, easily replaced. Broken, bent, ripped, torn, forlorn, and beholden with the latent potential to poke your eye out, or worse, 
that of someone you love.

I'm just about to watch Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) - have you seen it? There's a scene where both girls hold their hands over their mouths. 

What would they say if they could have said it?

And imagine if either of them were hell bent on destruction, what would it look like?

Would they fall into the river like Narcissus?
Tip the boat up, capsize?
Get lost on purpose? Be cast adrift? End up wrinkled in the middle of the ocean?
Drown in seaweed?

One morning, I walked the old Berlin Wall at five a.m.

Wrote a poem about it.

Could have been worse.

Some kind of death drive.

Held onto my old Android as if it were a talisman.

Was sure it'd protect me.

The lights ran out half way along the track,
but how was I to know? Siri hadn't said anything about that.

Coming into Mitte, sun barely rising, but enough, eyes fixed on the T.V Tower, 
got me to Hauptbahnhof.

What is the pronoun of an umbrella? 

I mean, if we read it one way, 
they are rendered impotent. 
If we read it another, 
they are too frigid
to open at all,  
all that loose stitching
and dotty fabric stretched over wire, 
there are lots of offers on, 
they'd be on the tannoy, if only Lidl had a tannoy, 
but it doesn't, 
does anywhere have a tannoy anymore?

I was browsing and a supermarket chain in the States came up on my feed
Inside this supermarket was a fridge like vending machine,
and the journalist stood in front of it as if something mysterious was going to happen. 
And it did. He stepped into the fridge and walked out of the other side into a giant incandescent art installation. 

The regional manager was waiting for him, along with the camera crew. He said it was "fantastic" and "people were coming from all over!" 

Celine and Julie hallucinate. 

Rivette liked the idea of two women hallucinating. I walk down the  aisle and Toulouse-Lautrec is painting, the Californian light filters out the bad bits,
oranges shimmer,
on offer of the week,
confetti shoots out of the air-con, there's a sign reading:

"You don't have a linear mind", he said, "we won't be taking this any further."
Think like a man,
then there are the umbrellas that prove plain unreliable, 
they stall on opening, some faulty mechanism prevents the thing ever taking orbit, 
or if it does open, 
it won't last two minutes in this wind,
and you'll pass a bin, 
and pop it in,
glad to get rid of this useless bent object,
and then there's a small faction that will always need to be returned due to a 'failure to launch'
but doing so, taking these specimens back will inevitable cause a scene, so this is recommended as a last option. Conversations tend to go along the lines of:
"Excuse me, I'd only been out five minutes in it, and the thing broke. Useless!"
"Sorry, ma'am, I'll go and get the manager".
Said manager arrives on the scene
carrying a tin of ravioli, at which point, I prepare my speech all over again.
"I'm sorry to hear that, do you have the receipt, ma'am?"
"I didn't take a receipt, I never take receipts, why would I take a receipt? I'm on your CCTV not taking the receipt. It's clearly a quality control issue. If you're not going to assist me, then can I speak to the regional manager please?"
Or, I decide to leave it, and fill the basket,   
start scrolling on Insta at cockapoos, or #westietude,
pop into Morrison's for period pads
and come with a strangely flourescent, almost glow in the dark, honeydew melon on offer at 79 p and some gluten-free dairy-free ice-cream, 
get back, 
clock no pads.
Can't be arsed to go back, will have to nip to the garage later. 
My love of gas stations, began when I was nineteen,
up until then I had always been the one to want to stay in the car wash as it was going round. Death drive kicking in at sweet sixteen.
Then at nineteen, in Winchester, 
how many nights did I wander up the hill to the Shell garage, drunk?
It's yellow glow haunting me.
Six pints not a problem. 
Lager and black.
When I ran drunk, my legs felt like they'd go on forever.
That was when I believed in the forever.
(I still do).

As I approached it, the forecourt would glow even brighter,
like I'd come across it at night, in the middle of a forest,
a lamp, 
above the door of a wooden house.

And then there's the time when you reach in the water bottle holder of your backpack, (the umbrella's usual resting place), but it's not there, and you have to backtrack, and think where you've been, and sure as day, there it is in the bucket by the side of the door at Whistles, Charring Cross,
or in Cafe Rouge,
left in the loo, 
but you can't remember the code, and you dropped the receipt with the code on it.

Remember the Cafe Rouge? The
the one in Highgate Village,
where we'd argue over salad.
You were on £9 an hour slaving away at Multisteel up in Hendon. Although you could barely string a sentence in English, 
they were onto a good thing. You could weld anything, and they knew it. Pipes. Ships. Planes. 

We went to New Zealand,
got a Visa, just like that.
You came back.
Every time you tried the cash machine, I'd be sat in the car, saying a prayer.

It really was the land of the long white cloud although I never wanted to believe it.

Calling me, 
at three a.m. coked up 
through the ceiling.
That day I found a fiver in your pocket, rolled up. 

Bonfire night. How sad. Watching the fireworks from the tiny window at the top of the hallway in old  Elizabeth House. A house full of precarious workers and students and the pretty violinist from the conservatoire, and her vegan boyfriend pianist, the one who walked circles on the garden everyday, incantating. 

I knew the sound of your car, when you were drunk. 

But I loved you. We had met in the outback. The southern sky, 
I couldn't forget, 
I came on a branch one evening after a day in the shed picking tomatoes, told you about it, 
you looked at me.
I said it'd never happened like that before. It was something about the feel of the place, the warm breeze between my legs, 
later, you said, that where we lay, 
with the Southern sky so clear it all felt like truth,
that we could have died, snakes, and spiders, 
and I knew of course,  
but it slipped my mind.

I'd wait for your car to pull up. I'd always hear it first. 
You were homesick.
"Are you sure this is someone you want to spend your life with?" said mum on the phone one night.
We were living in an 8 ft x 6 ft room with a fridge next to the bed. You slept on the left, 
and so I had the whirring in my ear. You get used to it.
Fridge noises.
Twenty years later, and 
I was on a music workshop at CAMP in in Aulus-Les-Bain in the Pyrenees in 2018, 
couldn't stop mentioning his name to anyone I met. 

Then, one evening, the doorbell rang, so I opened it. 
And it was Nick Luscomb, I remember his face, wide-eyes and a little drenched form the rain. The taxi lights turning around. 

We went for dinner and I told him bits, whilst he talked about obscure gigs in Japan, and the vibe out there.

The next day an English producer living out in Hamburg who'd flown in to give a session or two played us one of his band's tracks from their heyday in the early nineties, it was called "Fridge Noises". 

Nick wanted to hear my stuff, but when we got back, I slipped away to my room instead.

The other point to contend with is that your bog standard black brolly can be problematic when it comes to attempting to retrieve it from the bucket of other bog standard black brollies. For this reason alone, it can be fortuitous to opt for an incandescent neon affair in the first place.
These zany striped or circular types exhibit an anxious-insecure attachment style from the offset, which makes it quite difficult to misplace or forego them in the least. 
All in all, I admit,
had I opted for the more optimistic, less proletarian stock, 
rather than those doom mongers destined to dwell eternally in lost property,I could have saved myself a helluva lot. 

An Ornithologist's Dream

I found myself
Googling loch cabins at four in the morning,
in between skimming a cacophony of reviews on the new MacBook Air. Barely
there. Slim. A golden feather.
(“It’s all about desire,” someone told me.)
My finger circled
Loch Awe.
Loch Katrine.
Loch Lomond.
Loch Maree. 
Loch Orch.
Loch Coruisk, in my cleavage.
My finger,
lingered upon Loch Ard.
My sternum called out. Its dark waters puzzled my forefinger.
In its centre, two Mute Swans (an ornithologist’s dream).
A staccato of gulls. A Sea Eagle
swirled upon an arpeggio of Pine Martins.
I turned on the lamp.


A waterfall haunts my neck,
pummelling things said.
The shower, fixed
retains a constant temperature (some people need drama
in order to exist, so they create it.)
I sit in a pool.
Algae tide like flash-backs.
A lily pad flannel floats.
All we can do is itemise things.
Lost soap, swirl my hand.
a bar of gold.
Write this down- you never knew him.



Credit, Simone Smith
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