Broken-down Place

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Our sentences are short
perfunctory statements
serving a purpose

Our brief embrace is feeble
lacks the backbone
the spine of years ago

Your easiness with everyone is gone
my insight into everything is gone
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but who will be the first to admit
it’s stone cold now…

Time is a ticking machine
household tasks are an escape
will sleeping ever come?

A phone call to someone else
like a glimpse of some sweet beach
the image lingers on
long after they’ve gone

Your diamond eyes are dulled tonight
my wit is simplified tonight
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but there’s no strength in us to go on
and no strength in us to admit
it’s stone dead now…

[2009]

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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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One of Us Was Right To Leave

One of us will lose our head
that’s what I always feared
and when the night finally broke
on us, as we clung to the road
it was obvious; the poetry of certainty
conclusive proof of our mortality
the water fell like some swelling sea
and I drowned in tears of deep disbelief

One of us was right to leave
though heaven knows which one it was
we pushed hard and for so long
when the rope, it broke, we didn’t see
just scuttled hard, to find our feet
a dance of letting go, a balancing act
that pushes us down separate tracks
some hollow lane, an unknown road
where derelict houses line the path

One of us will surely return
the pleading of my heart demands
but stubbornness and ignorance of will
prevent me from succumbing first
the angry air that now divides us
speaks of the fear that loneliness delivers
in words so thick and unrepentant
they recoil so quick, back down our throats
choking the chance to ever repeat

One of us was right to leave
I keep reminding my sad heart
the way these changes must play out
will always make retrospective sense
no matter how unfathomable they now seem
once time has passed, the answers come
the fog of clouded judgment thins
and a happiness so resolute and defined
reveals itself before us as a golden field

And whoever it was
who was right to leave
may they go in peace
and come back peaceable…

[2006]

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(Reposted from Sept 2019)

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This Window

This pain is a jigsaw
This bond is a handcuff
This place is a death-trap
This window… is closed

This moment is endless
This feeling is crushing
This heart is failing
This window… is filthy

This love is spent
This union is ending
This sweetness has soured
This window… is painted

This want is obsessive
This change is approaching
This peace is shattering
This window… is cracked

This journey is over
This air is stagnant
This pressure is critical
This window… is shaking

This decade is wasted
This effort is thankless
This ‘us’ is in tatters
This window… is hinged?

This shoelace is tied
This suitcase is packed
This pocket is full
This window is…

This window is opening
This window is a door

This one is leaving
That one is staying
This window is a door
and I am walking through…

[2009]

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The Things We Lose

There can be no knowing
there can be no honest understanding
until you are standing there
empty-handed, broken-hearted
Suddenly, all too aware
of all the things we’ve lost

You can try to estimate the feeling
you can approximate a sense of things
The hollowness this ‘now’ rings in your bones
swallowing any beat of happy thought right up
every moment speaks only in shrieks
of all the things we’ve lost

Attempting a prediction will always miss
for the things that cut are too small to see
You never think to gauge
the imperceptible absences;
the smell of her hair, a contented sigh
This silent lack of fragrance screams
of all the things we’ve lost

Sitting there talking of this happening
neither of us could have comprehended
the way this withered world seems to laugh at us
the endless bleakness of glacial lonely nights
All the saddest songs we can find to play, singing
of all the things we’ve lost

You must expect the end to hurt
you much accept no one is spared
yet, there is simply no preparing for this moment
as things you’d never noticed capsize all around
squealing out the saddest sound
of all the things we’ve lost

The truest happiness we’d ever swum in
the deepest friendship we’ve ever known
the warmest love we’d ever felt
the greatest thing we’ve lost…

[2009]

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The Upside Down Girl

Her skin is pale in the early evening
hanging upside down
from the foot of an unmade bed
feeling weightless
watching the world beyond the window
where Autumn rain falls upward
and lights divide

No appetite in this dark room
no appetite for days
friends all kept at bay
no rubber masks, only patches of ice
no fireworks, just fallen leaves collecting
passing headlights flood the room
then scan across the ceiling

Blood is pounding in her ears
‘I’m losing weight’ she thinks
As puddles form in the street outside
the shops all wear their shutters down
She reaches up, closes her eyes
pushes two thumbs into the carpet
and whispers

‘With every second slipping away
we become strangers
with every second sliding away
I cease to belong
to anyone, to anything
and strangers we will always be…’

The endlessness of loneliness
the faceless prison guard
rattles their keys
but there is no release
as she hangs upside down
doing all she can
not to break into a thousand pieces

And, strangers, we’ll always be…

[2019]

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The Friend You Lost

Forgive
accept
let go
empathize…
There have always been two sides
relax the pains
loosen the hurt
you’re not the only one
you’re not the only one
who couldn’t cope

Forgive
see common ground
smile
at peace…
of course; the other burned too
imagine what they went through
moved too fast? Awful timing? Yes
you weren’t the only one
you weren’t the only one
struggling to move on

Don’t drown these precious things in anger
don’t lose sight
of all that was beautiful
such indelible jokes
and love and laughter
Forgive
accept
let go
smile at the friend you kept…

[2011]

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Our Home Cannot Be Here [with audio]

I lit a fire on the beach
you were feeling beaten by the wind
no, we can’t hear anything in this weather
but the waves and the crackling wood
you don’t speak anyway
we have nothing we care to say

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a loss so unforgettable
Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a void so inescapable

The sky goes dark and the sea slides away
time is huge and our movements tiny
I wrote my address on the back of your hand
but you reached into the water and it vanished
I can’t imagine a life not anchored here
as you turn slow to dive from me

The answers come only with soft punches
a milked stone, I lie folded and bruised
how could we ever know this lost romance
your whirlpool eyes cry tears of understanding
I dust the sand from my baked face and frown
there’s no warning of love’s swift decay

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with an ache so all consuming

Moon reveals the night’s black heart
you say you love me, as you leave me
you say you care for me, as you go down on him
there’s no favour you can grant me anymore
there’s no connection to the blood in my heart
just open your palms, expose our withered bonds

The rain rages fast and hard across the sand
we tussle as broken wings on some sick bird
finality comes to me, its decision absolute
your hand slips away and swings clear for all time
I fall back into the water, exhaling slowly
‘Our home cannot be here…’

[2010]

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Houdini Song

Spitting it out in the hope of releasing
unlocking the cage stifling my growth
burning it all selfishly brightly
and the feeling is back again
pounding my head again
to just let go…
just let go…

Spewing it up with the aim of escaping
fleeing this habitual and too perfect a world
shedding the handcuffs worn in contentment
and the aching is back again
haunting my thoughts again
to just get out…
just get out…

Dreaming it up in the hope of fulfilment
melting again in the heat of the lime-light
always around and forever predictable
and the wanting is mine again
consuming me whole again
to just let go…
just let go…

Welling them up in my shining eyes now
both of them bursting in the wealth of emotion
as red as your face when you listen to these words
the Devil is my friend again
scorching my faith again
Screaming ‘just get out…
just get out…’

My demons are strong again
twisting my arms again
almost convincing me
to just let go…
just let go…

[2003]

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