High Tide, Low Life

You paint yourself blue, always blue
this letter brings me down
perched upon a rusty trailer
paint peels over my shoulder

I’ve been drinking 
since the boats were rested
on the muddy estuary bed

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

I won’t stop my reaching out
if there’s any way to help, I’ll find it
you’re so slow to take my hand
scratching at your skin for answers

I don’t have any good advice
I do what I can to just keep living right
I’ll listen if you’ll let me
you know; my love is not the enemy

It can’t be this way forever
it won’t always be like this

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

You say you only paint
when you get blue
and I suppose
that’s just the way
the sea feels

You paint yourself blue
always blue
I guess
that’s just the way
the sea feels…

[2020]

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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-prints/4717465064/

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Cooling Towers

Parking the car
out by the cooling towers
I breathe the quiet in
lit by the moon
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those sad miles behind me…

Remember when we were nineteen
kissing in the back seat
tucked into the kerb
lit by our lust
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those mad miles behind me…

When we were nineteen
everything was a fire
everything was flame
but everything evaporates
like steam rising

I’ve driven up this road
and come back down again
not going anywhere
not the silver in my hair
nor the lines around my eyes
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those bad miles behind me…

Sitting in the car
flicking the headlights on
and off again
when did everything evaporate
like steam rising

Not going anywhere
forehead against the steering wheel
tears bursting on my knees
whispering
‘just kiss me
just kiss me
in the backseat of my car…’

[2017]

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Looking Out

The pen I found on Oxford High Street in 2002

I was young, I was clay
I was given to looking out
and there upon the train seat
a gift from the universe
A barely filled notebook
no name, no number
no way to find the owner
it piqued my curiosity…

With pencil then, I tried to fill it
with all my words, my wonderings
my secret truths
but it went nowhere
just collected dust upon my shelf

A few months gone by
still young, my paint still wet
still at my most malleable
Lying on the pavement there
another present from the universe
a gleaming fountain pen
lid on, no engraving, no passer by
no way to return it
instinctively, I picked it up
put it to the waiting paper

The flick of that scalpel nib
the infinite potential, the promise…
For the first time in my life
I could speak without interruption
get my thoughts straight, talk it over
A friendship formed there
that has never faded

Since that strange coincidence
or you may call it providence
I’ve always had a keen eye on the world
for its quiet subtle gifts and moments
Look up, look down, look out
It’s all around, every day
I am humbled by the wonder
of nature
and the ever generous beauty
of existence…

[2021]

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Souvenir

Acquainting myself
with the moon
trapped behind glass
we’re exchanging glances
And on my back
a thousand heart-attacks
roll past
My fingers cross and uncross
as she sleeps, so black
back in the real world
paid-up entirely
on her subscription
to actual reality

Might you return
with a souvenir for me
from the envious depths
of endless peace
perhaps a child
or a patient nurse
or some control
with a button for reverse
My fingers press
that longed-for switch
watch deeds recoil back into the body
where I don’t turn that key
don’t cross that threshold
slipping backwards, contentedly
from actual reality

Moonshine lights the shore
as I drag the boat
of all my swimming thoughts
along a silver stretch of sand
where all the land behind
no longer matters
a bowl of sea, insignificantly
the only thing
between the horizon and me
but crossing is possible
with the coins that you earn
waking night after night
and each mile is a measurement
you take
from actual reality

This father feeling takes over
My child
in a superposition
only alive inside its mother
between the hours
of two and six AM
a phantom haunting, stalking
poised with talons drawn
to fly this solipsistic me
and drop him heavily
back in the sticky city streets
of actual reality…

[2018]

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Tourist Trap

Holidaying as a teenager
back when time moved slower
and thoughts were many
I’d cruise the gift shops
reviewing tacky souvenirs
This used to be a fishing village
now it’s a tourist trap

And picking up a handmade bear
with wonky mouth and vacant stare
big button eyes and blood red lips
I’d wonder of its maker, its creator
someone dreamed
this bear into the world
someone thought this expression
made it look cute

Was it modeled on a relative
was it ripped-off from some other toy
was its designer trying
to give a child some joy
or only focused on the ringing
of cash registers
and paying the bills
Did they live locally
or somewhere overseas?

Looking at the toy
I’d be overtaken with a sadness
that someone tried and someone cared
if only for a moment
in their short lives

I’d set it back
and wonder
‘will this still be here
on the same shelf
next year?’

[2020]

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Lend Me Your Light

Friend, we drink together
talking at a wedding
lit blue and gold
familiar faces dance around us

Friend, secretly, I wonder
if you were to open up your essence
lift a pen to kiss the paper
to vent your heart aloud

Friend, I long to know
what your poetry would be
if you chose to write

Which desires peskily linger
at the edges of your furrowed mind
which old flames still burn a fire
which hidden wounds you’d dare parade
what is the meter
and the rhythm of those unspoken secrets

What ribbon would you choose
to decorate the mundane
Which words would you feverishly grasp towards
what profound truths
do your fingertips quietly trace
which wisdoms guide you along your way
what strength of light shines inside of you
and what damage might you do
to leave us reeling

And I don’t say it
but every time we meet, I think it
Write!
right out loud
for me
for you
splash your heart across the page
in every shade
lend me your light
if but for a moment

Spill your soul for all to see
Friend, I love you, and will always wonder
what your poetry would be
if you’d set it free…

[2020]

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Raining In Darlington

Every new day brings fresh lethargy
renewed deceit, increased malaise
The tipping-point arrives
the call goes out
but there is nothing
and no one comes;
these ‘friends’ have failed

Every new year brings fresh poetry
a handful of old photographs
and the game of remembering names
Those pretty kids stand so still
smiling on a beach somewhere
Where are they now
in these heavy adult years

Every new life brings fresh expectation
new-born hope, budding dreams
a player joins the game
takes their part in the play
and we share our cheats and scripts
in some duty-bound illusion

But today;
there is no heat in the air
the streets awash with tears
this Northern sky cries every day
for the future, for the past
for the sadness it has seen
it misses us, mourns our departure
and dresses itself in black
for our recurring nightly funeral

Where did we lose our way?
When did we wish ourselves away?
The darling sky begs for answers
they’re sprayed on crumbling walls
they’re compass-point scratches on school desks
and etched with hearts on lonely trees
they’re everywhere
but we don’t always see
They’re everywhere
but we’re just too busy
They’re everywhere
and the rain magnifies them for me…

[2005]

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Ocean’s Roar

A raining heart, derailed
just north of love
things that must be done
to protect oneself

Despite my expectant warmth
I find you strangely cold
the trick became transparent
the magic quickly old

A remnant moon shines above us
even in this weak glow, it’s obvious
this affair
is going nowhere

You don’t care to ask
anything about me
yet still you scheme on my love

You don’t dare to share
anything with me
yet still you pine for my love

Put the shell up to your ear
is that the ocean’s roar, you hear?
this affair
is going nowhere…

[2020]

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Different Keys

There turned out to be
so many different keys
to the different depths of me
It was truly hard to know
what it was possible for me to show
Different friends reach different doors
Different strangers
peering through different windows

A glimpse… almost in focus
a sweet taste here, a sour mouthful there
the faintest sound of joyous laughter
then the cool stream of tears rolling down
as the image slowly blurs again

Even I found it hard, even I took years
to add up every fraction
to calculate if I was whole
and I was worried there
for a good long while

I never meant to be this way
never meant to give so little away
never meant to set that combination
quite so randomly
I could never really see
who I was destined to be…

[2009]

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The Artist’s Desk

Always, I want to see
their place of work
I sit and wonder
of the artist’s desk
what trinkets, what tools
they choose

Always, I picture in my mind
the artist’s desk
and what pin-tacked postcards
what scribbled notes of inspiration
may surround it

Is it by a bright window
or in the bowels of a basement
Do they toil below a craning lamp
or by dim candle flicker
do they have a desk at all
or just a strong knee

Always, filled with nosiness
I love to imagine
the artist’s desk
the magic place
where they give birth
to what always was…

[2019]

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My Prescription

Too seriously
I tend in my journey
too easy to focus on the duty
the facts of what’s in hand
the doing of a thing

So precious
to see the nonsense
appreciate the humour
the madness
in everything you’re tasked with

So freeing
to have a sense of silliness
draw a cock and balls
on your mortgage application
scribble a cape and tights
across the undertaker’s pamphlet

Life can feel like tumbling
through grinding grey machinery
without a wry eye on the daftness
smirking
at whatever crazed fool conceived this
and those who choose
to ride it all so earnestly

Your satire, your playfulness
your dark sense
of what’s appropriate to joke about
perfectly timed
skilfully placed
to punctuate the blandness
hacking at the horrors
laughing through
the banality of the day to day

Without humour we are robots
in some automaton tableau
zipping from thing to thing
from job to job
ones and zeros
bobbing up and down

Every plant in our house
has its own voice
its own personality
they have conversations with our animals
all channelled
through your hilarious sense of things
you turn dull mornings into bright theatre
just never call it ‘quirkiness’

You remind me to see the funny side
keep pulling at that silly string
you puncture my pomposity
with a most gentle needling
You’re the best medicine
you’re my prescription
and, among so many other reasons
I love you for this…

[2019]

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Stark

Tom is dead. His party’s over.
Stark and sarcastic
he’s just a memory, now…

So numb, I watch me crack again
in horrific black and white projection
about to jump, in someone else’s bed
so restlessly, I turn away
can’t face up to my adultery
the tempted, cheating, loveless; me

So dutifully, I cover my eyes again
headphones on, I watch me walking
blinded, soulless, vacuum filled
so magnified, I still look small
swallowing my pride, all passion dies
the pointless, aching, hollow; me

Devoid of colour, of life or joy
the putrid skin just falls away
a mess that stains the carpet
One last thing to write about
a death so rough and meaningless
the broken, elemental, rotting; me

(And at the sight of all of this
the spectator me can only laugh
and from my passive lips, a joke
a joke…)

They burn on in the night
dripping candles of my fat
for what I couldn’t give in life
comes from functionality in death
So openly, I tear out my beating heart
the sinning, lost and wasted; me

So obviously, I watch me try to stand
pushing the lens in deep between my eyes
the blue flushed out and burnt away
So covertly, I’m zooming in
I can’t get enough of seeing this
the forsaken, faithless, empty; me

So naturally, it came to me at first
time took my hands so tightly
pushed me into the holes again
stripped my words down to the bone
so pathetically, I put up a meek fight
the tortured, pained, artistic; me

A joke
stark and sarcastic
me
A joke
stark and sarcastic
me

[2003]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

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Wasteland

In the shining eyes of the girl below me
lit by the dim glow of a Paris night
I see the distance growing
that I’ve been running from
for so long

And there, I gasped
lay by her side, and said
“What have I become?
Do I mean anything to you?”

Inhaling on a cigarette
she looked at me, sideways
and said
“You have lost so much
most of which you gave away
drunkenly, or deliberately
Trying to be something else
but to yourself you’ll always stay
a stranger in this wasteland”

And that’s me
a stranger in this wasteland
Yes, that’s me…

[2004]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Still We Wait

O, I have loved you
for such a long time
I have held you
closer than anyone
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

O, I have been insatiable
for your voice and body
I have fought to keep you
harder than anyone before
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

O, you have touched me
deeper, in so many ways
I have worshiped
you more than any god
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

We know not
if there is the possibility
of some better way
We’re both unsure
if there could be
some truer love
and yet
we choose to wait
for something more…

[2006]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Holding My Breath For A Patient Love

Tonight, I dream
of a patient love
Some statue of understanding
who can be quiet, reserved
unveiling themselves slowly
releasing what they have to offer
over time
building such incredibly tough bonds
A love so strong
it lasts forever

Tonight, I lie awake and wish
for some patient love
who comes to me with creativity
empathy and a deeper understanding
than I have felt before
something more in tune
with it is I long for

I only think of what is coming
holding my breath
for that patient love
I crave an intelligence
and a maturity
I have not known before…

[2006]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Hurt

All I want to do is leave
but I don’t know how
I don’t know the words
I don’t know what to say
In every word that she purrs
in every smile that she shines
all I see are other lives
are other ways for me
but I don’t know how
I don’t know how…

All I want to do is say ‘goodbye’
but I don’t know if I can
I don’t know when it’s right
I don’t know if I am
In every kiss that she steals
in every lie she extracts
all I feel is a damming shame
and how I want to get out
but I don’t know how
I just don’t know how…

And this can’t go on anymore
I have to stop it now
but I’m not even certain
if this is really me
and the only one I can trust
is the one I want to leave
There is no one else left
there is nowhere to turn

So, I have to decide
I have to be strong
but it’s so hard to admit
it’s too tough to address
I don’t want to regret this
but I don’t want to just settle
I have to be sure
I have to be right
but there is no real ‘wrong’
and there is no clear ‘right’

I’m not scared to be alone
I’m not afraid of the night
but I’m petrified of regret
and know I will miss her so much
and more than anything else
I don’t want to hurt her
but if I do this
then all I will do is hurt her
more than I am hurting now
more than I am hurting now

I have to be sure
I have to be right
but there is no real ‘wrong’
and there is no clear ‘right’…

[2005]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

All Doomed Lovers

I lie, I tell myself, but it’s true
some things are best left unsaid
The future opened up and took you
so, now I’m ironing my best fabrications
hoping to convince someone else I’m free
but your flawless face is still here
printed a thousand times behind my eyes
Now, who am I to kiss these foreign lips
what right have I to dance on your grave

We’re all predisposed to failure
us, the kids with hearts on sleeves
We open our doors to destruction
the moment we utter those three words
but I’ve become so obsessed with doom
that I don’t always see the stars
when I stare into this night sky
My eyes are tainted by the knowledge
that everything will surely end

I smile, I tell myself, but I don’t
some realities will never be acknowledged
The sky opened up and drowned me
so now, I’m digging out my umbrella
to shade me from the sun that’s coming
My mantra used to be ‘alone, but not lonely’
now, it’s more like ‘save me from myself’
but that’s just the way I am these days
so eager, to just fold and indulge the tears

So, there’s no guessing where tonight will end
when midnight comes to shake my hand
will I be lying on a couch in the kitchen
or lost somewhere in these foggy streets
strangled by a scarf and her sweet perfume
choking on the beauty of such porcelain skin
reciting my favourite phrases between kisses
knowing that the ending is just hours away
and that everything I want is on a timer…

[2005]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

The Lighthouse

There are some nights
like clockwork I find myself
ticking up the stone steps
of the lighthouse

There are some nights
cloaked in melancholy
staring out, wide-eyed
across the freezing seas of time

There are these nights
I sit, quietly, by the lens
wondering of all the other nights
I have sat quietly wondering…

A thread of light stretches backwards
through all my life
sewing together
these contemplative moments
connecting me with my younger selves

We all sit there on different steps
looking out to sea
with our lifetime of bad haircuts
and our silver fountain pens
each more expensive than the one before

We all wonder in an echo
we all wonder
‘Am I right? Is my aim true?
do I have any aim at all?

Where am I going?’

I long to reach out a hand somehow
send out a boat to them
I worry for those lost souls
adrift on wild seas
rocking in churning waters
without a lot of hope

Through the thick blanket of night
I sense
the face of a future me
he looks healthier, happier
richer somehow
looking back
across the freezing seas of time
fondly and encouragingly
he’s smiling back at me…

[2015]

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Songs From The Womb

Through my life I’ve collected voices
maybe twice a decade a new singer comes to me
and I can’t let it pass by
without holding tight

Through the years certain songs
seem magnetic, somehow
whole albums written in a style I know too well
for it to be coincidence
and I have to hold it close

When Joni sings of ‘skating away’
something jumped out of the speakers
and Leonard says a ‘highway curls up like smoke’
those lines leap out of my headphones

Georgie’s story and the way Rod tells it
grabs me by the lapels
Don’s road trip to the levy
those lines are etched beneath my skin

My mother, my mother played these songs to me
before I even took a breath
my mother, my mother played me these songs
before I ever took a breath

Songs from the womb
songs from before
come back and find me again…

[2019]

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Night

So quickly, it’s night again
the days are short
in times such as these
The sun only stays so long
only lays its light down for so long
then it goes again
we’re plunged into night

O, could you not find a torch
or a candle or a lantern
to bring some light in here
We can’t see any hope
swimming in this darkness

So soon, it’s night again
we’re on the same street corner
I’m selling your body again
I’m selling my brain
it gets so dark round here
I almost forget about the light
there is some light, sometimes
but right now
it’s night…

[2008]

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From the collection “One of These Years”. Available now.