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]

Thank you for reading.

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]

Thanks for reading.

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]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

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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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Check out my photos…

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]

Thanks for reading this very long poem.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

A report from Nov 2019.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems

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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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]

Thanks for reading.

Report from Jan 2020.

Born To Muse

Click above to hear me read it. Right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download an MP3.

In the hammering rain of last night
I slept the best I have all week
I slept deeper, longer
than I have done for months

And would you guess who I should meet there
on the dream stools
at the dream bar
ordering her dream gin
sliding me a dream beer

Well, you come here often
I don’t have to ask
I’ve seen you here so many nights before
but it has been a while
(and I’ve missed you)

Back in real life; you live so freely
you’re pure inspiration to me
a scholar of your beauty
besotted by your confidence, your creativity

And when we went our separate ways
(did we ever really agree on one path anyway?)
after all those notebooks you drove me to fill
after the purest verses I fear I may ever spill

When we went our separate ways
you found yourself an artist
and now you’re all he paints
day drinking, or in the nude
the ways I still remember you
you… you were born to muse

Sitting on the dream couch
in the dream bar
your dream knees
pushing against dream me

you… you were born to muse…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

A repost from Nov 2019.

Fracture, Fill

Break it like a bone
let it jut from torn skin
it’ll be raw and sore
then snap it back in

Fracture, fill
repair and grow

Through the ache
the growth seems subtle
Once it’s healed
that muscle gets supple

Fracture, fill
repair and grow

You can’t guess the extent
to which you’re capable
without some months spent
feeling utterly breakable

Fracture, fill
repair and grow…

[2020]

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Song for Laura Lee

Laura Lee, she was my first love
tangled in her parents’ bedsheets
and shadows from the attic window
With my army-surplus shirt
slipping from her shoulders

Laura Lee, she was my first love
my first taste of intimacy
her loving hands upon me
guiding that desire, so deftly
through our discovery and naivety

Laura Lee, she was my first love
our fumbled teenage kisses
quickly blossomed and were washed
in ever deeper waves of lust
and learning a new language

Laura Lee, she was my first love
she taught to me the chorus
of that lover’s song
she handed me the blueprints
I would forever build upon

Laura Lee, she was my first love
I’d ascend for hours into
the bottomless darkness of her eyes
and the lines of those lips
her quiet radiant beauty

Laura Lee, she was my first love
as I learned how two hearts will knot
a little death, a birth
as she sang the lover’s song
deep into me

It’s a melody I’ll chase
perpetually
Thank you, thank you for the tune
I’ve carried always
with me…

[2020]

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The Causeway Between Our Hearts

Tonight, I eye the wind
as it dances on the water
singing of the distance
that no longer can be closed

Well, I told you I was selfish
there were no children in me
Unwilling to stir for a moment
from this endless daydream
where I father my creativity

You told me that you knew me
our hearts beating to that same drum set
and no one must wake you either
That carving pretty worlds
behind closed eyes
is your calling and profession

With one eye knowingly
looking into mine
and the other doggedly at the door
you welcomed my request for kisses deep
while telling me you could feel
that farewell letter in my back pocket
itching to be delivered

You rip away on the mildest breeze
a kite cut free
Could not believe
the words a writer brought you
the words you said you loved to read
You wished it dead, before the birth
and all I did was acquiesce

I tell you now
that letter was no dis-missive
but a list of tide times
The wind thieves it from my fingers
and I watch it whipping out
across the water

Two selfish hearts can coexist
only for a passing moment
then the ocean rises
the road is lost
the causeway closes

All we were is washed away
or wind upon the surface
ripples or waves, decaying…

[2020]

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Live In The Light

O Lord, I ain’t what I aimed to be
I think I missed the target some
my seed got turned upside down
tried to grow towards the light
and grew down…

O Lord, are you listening to me?
‘cause I’ve never heard your voice in here
no conductor’s baton, no steady hand
as I stumbled through this night
and grew dark…

O Lord, I’m miles from where I meant to be
the Devil, he has no compass, no stars to follow
says ‘hack away, till you reach the easy warmth’
but I hacked so many people, I keep slipping in their blood
and fall down…

O Lord, I haven’t used my eyes for years
don’t see anything when you only live to feel
I get whatever stimulus I can take
I’ll take whatever’s not bolted down
and go blind…

O Lord, I’m chased by that same snake again
always offering me that same apple
all I ever wanted was to live in the light
Yet something always eclipsed that need
now it feels too late to change
and I’ll always hang here in this bleak greed
and pitch night…

Would you forgive me, Lord
let me admit to all this blackness and move on
could you forgive me, Lord
if I promise you I’ll change and for the better

O Lord, all I ever wanted
was just to live in the light
but look at me now, deep in the dark
do you see me here, lost in this dark…

[2008]

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House On The Edge of Town

More and more
my thoughts turn to you
So aware
I’m now the age
that you were
when the pair of you parted
and you got that rented house
on the edge of town

We’d stay at weekends
watching winter’s tide sweep in
stand in the falling snow
garden and fields disappearing
said ‘throw another log on the fire’
said ‘dad, your house is cold’

At fifteen, I was nothing
lost in my own sea of nonsense
I didn’t ask you anything
I didn’t think to say a word
Where was my empathy
you let nothing show

Every other Saturday we’d gather
at your house on the edge of town
it all felt new to me
felt so exciting
a fresh world of fields to explore
of walks to take and fires to light
with or without you

So immature and lost
in my own mythology
I never really realised
you could be hurting
I didn’t stop to think
When maybe your son
could have been there for you

Living raw, living alone
twelve days at a time
the snow piling up around
your house
on the edge of town

While we still have some time
let’s talk openly
let’s talk now…

[2019]

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