The Winning Hand

In the dimming garden
beneath the belt of Venus
fingers grip a bottle
a nightcap alone

Finally, I belong
finally, I belong to someone
how I’ve run from this
for so long

Now, nothing makes me happier
nothing makes me feel more sure
of anything
than knowing that you’re waiting

There were so many jokers
in the deck
the two of hearts, too many cards
and still dealing, still dealing

The night air’s tinged by a new chill
September’s signature
autographing my bare arms
but I barely feel it

Let me stay by your side
through winter months
and country walks
through rain and sleet
and fog

I used to hold nothing in my hand
look at the empty shape it made
wondering if there was something missing
something
that should have belonged
only me
I should have belonged
to something
to you

I sit down into the wicker chair
look across the valley below
the sky is closing in the distance
darkness gloves the globe again

How could I
even for a moment
have doubted
I held the winning hand
all this time

How could I
even for a second
doubt that
I held the winning hand
all along…

[2019]

Thanks for reading. Repost from 2019.

All my poems.

All My Love In Our Goodbye

The cliché of a midnight station
two trains
waiting to depart
I hold you for the final time
then we lock eyes
the knot in me just tightens
for all the words
I keep in my mouth…

What isn’t done now
will never be done
What isn’t said
will never be said
All my love
in our goodbye…

The limitless black of sky above
haunts our last encounter
as absolute as my choking sadness
I dip my eyes
Can you read my mind?
all hope of a reprieve quietly dies
with all the words
I keep in my mouth…

From another platform
across the tracks
I watch you make your slow, sure way
with each footstep my passion boils
my eyes, they widen
the fear grips me harder
We cannot end in such silences
with all these words
kept in my mouth…

Across the rails my shouts explode
the desperateness
in these dying moments
I scream of my love for you
My burning, bursting want for you
the aching, beating, magnetic pull of you…

And you call back to me
you thank me for my ‘honesty’
but you ‘don’t know what to say’
So, you don’t say any more
and your train slips you home
my train drags me home

The story over
the chance now passed
an oil-black sadness
is all I swim through
all my love
in our goodbye
but all my love
was not enough…

[2010]

Thanks for reading. Another old one…

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Broken Promises

That first kiss was our last
and all the promise I was so sure
there was to be found in you
it never came to be
Such a bad taste left behind
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
You burnt so brightly in front of me
there was no way it could work
when we wanted it that much
come so quickly, then gone again
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
We fool ourselves that we’re above this
we tell ourselves we’re not affected
in truth, it hits us worse than anyone
so sensitive, so susceptible
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

So quickly they come and go
comets through the night sky
I wonder what is left behind
nothing but
broken promises

So quickly they come and go again
explosions of magic in the darkness
I stop to wonder what is left behind
and find nothing
but broken promises
broken promises
on both sides…

[2010]

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Kimberly

We move slow
in time with our slipping youth
We don’t rush, no
we were slow
to go home

Passing the coffee shops and bars
I would later make my home
I couldn’t have ever known
they passed by, a blur, unseen

Her hand
held loose
in the heat
There’s no need to push things
we’ve time…

Then one night
on a sofa in the kitchen
at my mother’s house
She turned slow, smiling
and said “we should”

I could have laughed
I must have beamed
and all at the same time
I was cautious

We moved slow
tip-toeing down to the car
I didn’t know
if I could take another one
another person’s innocence
away

So, I paused…
and time slipped away…

In a daydream I had
more recently
in a bar, when I was feeling particularly old
I thought back
and couldn’t remember
why I didn’t have her
If I could do it now
I would do it now

Then it hit me
I was honest then
I was decent
O, I was a real man
back then…

[2007]

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Rooftop Reverie

The sweetest memories hang
like negatives
in the dark room of my mind
I develop them occasionally
picturing again
more exciting times

Yellows and browns begin to wash
across the leaves outside my window
I haven’t seen you in the flesh
since those shoots were new
it feels so long ago

We ran through those streets
as if we owned them
spinning endlessly from bar to bar
from joke to joke
in our abandon

Our last night in the city
some nameless rooftop bar
we watched the buildings making love
to their reflections on the water
A stranger took our photo
sloshing glasses tucked behind our backs
arms around each other’s shoulders
smiles wider than the frame

I hope there will be other times
another chance and soon
to lose ourselves together
in conversations deep
in the bowels of dimly lit bars
or the roof terraces decked with lanterns
on endless summer evenings
down bustling cobbled alleyways
a community of revellers

O, these dusty memories
bring me close to tears
these dusty memories
chase me round the house
dreaming of a time
when we can crawl out of our bunkers
spend another night
getting lost in the city
finding each other…

[2020]

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All my poems.

Strangeness and Experience

I want you to be unruly
write hard and clear
about tangled emotion
those who don’t
make me suspicious
I know there are other things
like genocide and selfish parking
and the bruises received
behind closed doors

I want to know people 
who are walking antennas 
sensitive and gifted
nerves nakedly exposed
flailing in the fallout

I was raised to keep all hidden
I was raised to deny all feeling
“suppress, suppress
deflect with humour”
on the freezing football fields
“stand in goal and we’ll aim at your head”

Thank you, fuck you
the North East of England
I found a way to let it out
I’d have hurt myself or someone else
if not for finding the page
and letting it all out
fuck you, thank you
the North East of England

I want to meet people 
who are lightning rods
for strangeness and experience
hearts on tear-stained sleeves
sopping wet with hard-won wisdom
articulate and true

Move me
make me feel something
there is no shame
and we are not ashamed…

[2020]

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All my poems.

Your Way Will Find You

I will defend your right
to say things that I don’t like
and though I may disagree
it doesn’t mean that I detest you
I’ll try my best to understand
how you reached that point of view

However uneasy listening
don’t bite your tongue
Let us see and hear you
come and speak freely
You may offend me
but then I’ll know we’re not in tune

Perhaps we’ll both learn something
if but how to better listen or argue
I won’t stop or censor you
let us see who you really are
be it brimming with wild beauty
or cosseted in poisonous loathing

All I can say and do
is try and show you a different way
Let kindness be your currency
don’t rush to speak a ‘me’
Reach into the well of suffering
and aim to lift somebody

Always see their value
and your commonality
If you’re feeling lost
and don’t know what to do
Reach out a hand to lend
and your way will find you…

[2020]

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All my poems…

Proof

Walking with my father
through the junkie’s habitat of the park
past the band-stand to the pond
where we stood and watched the birds

I longed to find some words to speak to him
as he stood beside me like a statue
in some stony silent prayer
I racked my brain for something true
some sort of spoken key
to unlock the parts in him he never shows

I wanted to see some proof
that deep inside he loves me too
I needed to touch his scars
to finally believe that all of this is real…

[2005]

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Books of Blake

You saw me, even then
you knew me
back when no one saw me
I kept no one around
who might know me
I, too, was in my infancy
twenty-something
and far from knowing much
in any real way at all

Still, somehow, you found me
brought books of Blake
to the shop we worked
we’d sit and read together
on the varnished wooden counter
your summer dress
hanging from you like a sail
we’d admire the crazed paintings
taste those verses on our tongues

Books of Blake we stood before
and poured our minds all over
you said I ‘didn’t know how to do what I was doing’
I ‘didn’t know how to love who I was loving’
the cheek of it!
the incisiveness…

And you’d tell me
of the bottle of wine you drank
in the bath, the night before
as the water grew cold around you
cleverly planting images
that I’ve not shaken to this day
(all these years on)

You were a lush and tranquil island
in the sea of my stupidity
you were the first mind
I truly connected with

And I still rue the day
you slipped through my fingers
growing cold around me
then gone forever…

[2020]

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Song For Sam

We drove across the tumultuous city, Sam
You were perched precariously
in the back seat of the van, listening hard
to my words that flowed like water
the stream of consciousness being voiced
I claimed it would calm you, free you from the tension
and the motion sickness
In reality you were lifting the weight of the sorrow from me
lightening my load with your askance eyes
drinking down the broth of hurt and confusion
that was boiling up inside
That truck was stuffed with all that had formed our home
and when we reached the new place
you nervously watched me unpack
All the while I explained what was happening
what I wasn’t sure that you understood
and why it was, that this might be good for us
That bruised night, Sam, you were the best friend I could have had
providing all I needed, without judgment or argument
I was so proud of you there, Sam, I was so close to you

Ninety nights of drinking up and falling down, Sam
Ninety days of not plugging my heart’s gaping hole
Laid low in bed again, six feet beneath the sheets
You’d come and hover beside me, in your naive curiosity
listening to what I had to say
offering me some calming contact
The softness of your presence could always light a smile
ease the thunder claps of pain
crashing through my battered brain
And with more grace and ease than I could muster
you settled down and found your rhythm within new walls
A certainty to which I could return each day
that familiar look you’d give, saying ‘I’m glad you’re home’
it lifted me from the scraping, bleeding, lows
of that new hollowness I crawled within
I was so grateful, so indebted to you then, Sam
And, finally, when I levelled out again, we played a while
with you running your rings around me

It was a brutishly cold Christmas, Sam
at my mother’s rented house, that winter
We stayed in the upstairs room with a broken window
it got so cold at night, you’d come and lie beside me
keep close for whatever warmth I could provide
Sam, you looked so small just lying there trying to sleep
gripped in the fist of that endless icy grip
I remember seeing you watch me leave
from the upstairs window
A Christmas eve spent with friends from back before I knew you
You didn’t seem to mind me leaving
but I knew I’d be back soon to check on you
And when I returned, you’d charmed my whole family
Sam, you left your mark on them
those smiling faces trailing in your wake

So, I was healed in time, Sam, and you flourished
another pair of loving arms were opened up to us
You were right there, giving your blessing
and looking out for us
Seemingly, you responded well
to the renewed happiness that had blossomed in me
I’d sing my songs to you from time to time
and you never seemed to mind
Just sat, bemused and listening without reproach
My first and only audience in a whole lifetime
of wanting (but not daring) to sing
I wonder what you thought of it
what you made of those croaked notes
They were sung for you Sam, they were sung for me too
You watched so much of my changing life unfold in front of you
The peeking from my cave
to the walking tall in the clear and golden daylight

Sam, you know me, I can’t sit still too long
no sooner was I healed, a new and lasting lover in tow
and it was time to jump out from that goldfish bowl town
No question, no hesitation, you came along and settled in so effortlessly
carving these new lives of ours
among the towering heights of the spiralling capital
And Kate, she loved you so much, and was always there for you
Running from room to room
the closing circles of happiness drew around us
Finally, Sam, I think we were a family, and such a happy one
Watching the Olympic torch paraded past our house
So many memories, sweet mornings, playful evenings
and all our adventures by train and tube and car

But Sam, that last night, you lay there so sluggish
wearing that quietly searching expression
no way to say what was ailing you
and I stayed close, through your illness, to be with you
I knew that night would be the last we shared
We sat together for hours, all of our past replaying in my head
Despite your pain, you wore it well
lost in your quiet thoughts
And as I left the room for the final time
I was never more filled with such an overwhelming sadness
and gratitude
For everything you gave and did and meant to me
the next morning, on the way to work
I remember that song playing on my headphones and Scout was singing
“Baby, what can I do, to make it right for you”
I had tears forming in my tortured eyes
knowing there was nothing more I could do
knowing I’d never see you again

Now, when I venture into the back room
it’s toxic with your absence
a silent freeze-frame that screams your name
Through the creaking emptiness of a soulless place
O, my friend, I don’t want to be without you
My friend, life isn’t the same without you
I wish you were here, I miss you tonight
and won’t forget you, Sam
Thank you, always…

[2013]

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Pull Apart The Perfect Nest

So then, stick by stick
tonight we tear off strip after strip
the newest feathers first
then the older twigs and vines
with each one
my heart drops
until there’s nothing left
and nowhere lower
just empty branches
where our sweet home once was

Inch by inch
we pack and divide the moss
all the soft things we’ve collected
years of careful, loving selection
pecking them away, each and every one
my heart stops
as we place them in our beaks
to separate forever
over an unknown distance
just a meaningless assortment
of what once was our sweet home

Doing what we know we must
we both say it’s for the best
the home we had just turns to dust
pull apart the perfect nest

You fly south
I stay north
and never again
will our sweet home be here…

[2009]

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The Last Night of Your Trip

If you ever come to London…
On the last night of your trip
let me know
when and where you’ll be eating
I’ll book a table
get to the restaurant before you arrive
And as you order dinner
with your husband and your kids
we can exchange covert glances

Nervous at first, mere milliseconds
then slowly growing in confidence
our first and only glimpse
of one another in the flesh
eye-fucking, lip-biting
so subtle and so smart
Hopefully, we’ll pass
on the way back from the bathroom
I’ll hold your gaze too long
let my knuckles graze your hip
the only contact we’ll ever share
I’ll leave while you’re still eating
return to my hotel room
alone

The next morning
pouring a tea
fumbling with the paper
I’ll watch the sky
wondering which plane is yours
somersaulting in thought
and how another life passed so close to this
A brief glimpse between worlds
and the other lives
we could have lived…

[2019]

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All my poems.

Marriage

The ocean calms me
envelopes me
supports me when I need to sail
Powerfully, it won’t hesitate
to remind me of my place
or comfort me when I fail

Its waves sing along in time
mirroring my mood
or challenging me to improve
We laugh in the shallows
or toil through the depths
almost always perfectly in step

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying…

The muse of my life; my happiness
and though your face isn’t
peering out from every poem
Sometimes, we are artists
making makes us happy
in each other’s company we’re free

Sometimes, we’re salty
Sometimes, we don’t say
all we need to say, straight away
but it flows out in the end
and we’re back on course again

This life we made together
our voyage into the future
You my love, you are the sea
Please never leave
Raise your loving waters
and swaddle them around me

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying to be
my very best for you…

[2020]

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Hunger Hill Farm

Darling, where have I been?
I’ve been out driving
I’m driving again
down Summer lanes at night
in the faded light
like I used to
when I was young
back before I knew you
back before all of this, now

I’ve been out driving
where my mind is free
I can think, but I don’t have to
just keep the car on the road
and along I go
the music playing loud
louder than you’d allow
how I so love to hear it
feeling the place and time
like it is an ancient place and time

Where I’ve been is really ‘when’
I’ve been back to where I fell in love
with a life so open wide
with so much opportunity
so much I could have been
and though the car was empty
I swear I could hear my old friends talking there
voices coming from the back seats
and they were laughing
how I’ve missed that sound…

I’ve been out floating
through those streets and villages
beyond the commuter-belt handcuffs
hurtling down a slick-black river of road
Sometimes, I stop the car
in the ditch by Hunger Hill Farm
I lie on the metal roof
watching the stars
timeless, unfazed, above me
like we did when we were younger
like when I first met you…

Sometimes, I imagine you’re beside me
but the ‘you’ when I first met you
so free, so open, so in love with everything
and she whispers in my ear
‘All of this is ours
whatever we may want
we may… yet… be…’
and I smile with shining eyes

How I loved you
How I loved you then

Slowly, I drive home
you hound me for where I’ve been
complain about your day
as I open my first beer
imagining I’m still out there, somewhere…

I’ll always be out there
a part of me
will always be out there
somewhere…

[2009]

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A report from Nov 2019.

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Don’t Forget To Breathe

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
when white noise
no longer lets you sleep
And in the mattress springs
a crawling metronome
some percussive heartbeat
one thought then another
one worry trailed by the next
Did what was said make sense?
was it understood
will this be good enough
impossible options
improbable odds
suddenly so awake
in the anxious hours
Don’t forget
to breathe…

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
try to recall these words
line by line
whispered in the dark
piece by piece
fall back to sleep
it’s peace upon peace
and don’t forget
to breathe…

[2019]

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Bury Me At Sea

With no deity could I shake hands
and with no children at my feet
who will tend my grave
when all is said and done

Something sublime smiles back at me
from the music I lose myself in daily
but who will tend my grave
who will know that I was here

‘No children at our feet’
we were in agreement then
but will we always be
You would have been
an exceptional mother
and I had some stories
I wanted to pass on

O, bury me at sea, bury me at sea!
Print out all my poetry
and mummify my body

Let them take a chunk
from the soft skin
at my rump

Fill the six gill shark with searching words
an army of shrimp tuck into the sweetest memories
Some busy lobster, a canny swordfish
come on, take a piece of me
and another
and another piece of me

My creativity
my laziness
my empathy
my cynicism
my passion
my bad spelling
my caring
my obsession
my gentleness
my duplicity
my desire
my naivety
my love of family

I’ll feed the fish
and they’ll give birth
I was here
now they can be
We’ll go on and on and on
into the blue…

[2020]

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Ghost Café

Our Halloween masks reflected back
as we peer through that dusty glass
into the quiet gloom of the Ghost Café

If only the ghost waitress would take our order
‘large or small?’ she asks, well, I’m a medium
ghost chairs dragged across the ghost floor

And the clank of local steel set down
on delicately painted porcelain
bustling echoes bounce from peeling walls

People starting or restarting their little days
someone is eating, someone staring into space
someone there in spirit only

The tangled bead curtain splashes
each time the burly ghost chef passes
Chip-and-PIN fickle again as always

Unopened letters collect behind rusted shutters
a thick dust settles on every spout
Ghost landlord longs to collect the ghost rent

We keep our distance, don’t touch a thing
we stay at home, say ‘what a shame
nobody in the ghost café again’

The Ghost Café serves a passing trade
ghost shops, ghost pubs, the local haunts
ghost banks and ghost galleries

The Ghost Café looked alive for a moment
spectres flickering in the gutted ruins
another empty space now up for sale…

[2020]

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The Beginner

Always
I want to be
the beginner
learning

Always
I love to be
the novice
finding out

Here is where the excitement
the innovation lies
Here is where the unknown
magnifies the pleasure

Always
I aim to be
the student
of a new situation

Always
I long to be
the protege
of fate’s master

Here is where the blankness
is like a bright summer’s day
Here is where the silence
is inspiration in itself

Always
I want to know more
deeper insight into everything
growing

Always
I aim to be
expanding
my understanding

Always
I want to be
the beginner…

[2016]

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Great Destroyers

Sometimes
I suddenly remember
the last thing we said to one another
parting

‘If you’re ever
feeling self-destructive
hell, look me up
and we can
destroy ourselves together’

Occasionally,
by chance, I remember
the last time we sat across a table
drinking

‘If you’re ever feeling
like the whole mad world
needs a little petrol
you know where to find me
and we’ll
torch the fucking lot’

You and I
always were the great destroyers
such a shame
we never got
to spark each other up

You and I
always were the great destroyers
so lucky
looking back
we parted when we did…

[2019]

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Report from Jan 2020.