Chlorine

The smell of that stuff
they use to wash the water clean
it gets up your nose
when tired from swimming

Me and my friend
he teaches me all these things
Like how to keep a secret
airtight

It’s a drink inside a flask
you don’t tell, even if they ask
and I never said no
but I never said yes

Why does everything here
smell clean
but me…

Busy bare ankles glimpsed
In the gap below the cubicle door
I never thought I wasn’t ready
I’d never thought about it before

Only how many lengths I could swim
another one, another one, before back to him
It’s a silence I struggle to keep
but who would want to listen

Why does everything here
smell clean
but me…

Three decades on
so much distance in my heart
and all those failed moments gone by
all those loves that fall apart

I’m still free when I swim
I rarely think of it now
he was no friend to me
Finally, I learned what it was
I learned it had a name

Chlorine…

[2021]

Thanks for reading this rather bleak poem.

I felt like a bit of an imposter writing this one, as I have no experience of the subject matter. But I thought perhaps it might speak to others.

All my poems.

The Distant Lifeboat

Once all our honey has been spread
once the little moments are learned by heart
routine a debt that stalks our steps
and suggestions nag more than they ought
then the waiting boat will take me
to a wooden shack by the ocean
and there, I’ll start again, alone

Once your touch no longer prickles
once our conversations are to walls not through them
no sound but a ticking house that counts us down
and my advice is not heard or welcome
then the waiting car will take me
a handsome driver spurned from some vintage memory
and there, I’ll start again, without you

But darling, until that time, I’ll stay right here
Darling, until that time, I’m yours yet to discover
unwrap me, keep unwrapping me

Once the laughter seems decades dead
once each tick feels designed to grate
the breath of each day too thick to breathe
and nowhere left to sit in peace
then the waiting boat will take me
to a beach shack by the pale ocean
and there, I’ll find my youth again, alone

Once your rough hands feel me no more
once all the years of the love add up to nought
in a clockwork life that subtracts our bodies
If every word becomes functional but formless
then the waiting car will steal me
caught in the still bright eyes of its reckless driver
and there, I’ll find all that’s lacking, without you

But darling, until that time, please stay right here
Darling, until that time, I’m yours, taste every mouthful
unwrap me, keep unwrapping me

The waiting boat can wait a while longer
That idling engine 
will have to wait a good while longer…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Based on a conversation about the little things people tell themselves to navigate difficult or uncertain relationships.

All my poems.

We Ruin All We Love

I have ruined what I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined by my loves
and now all that remains
is tainted and unlovable
I am tainted and unlovable
It’s time for a change…

Cold eyes look out upon a frozen town
icy streets tripping over themselves to keep us indoors
but the boundaries of this house are closing in
and the sound of other voices is so appealing
If only I could hear them now
if only I could fill this space with people

I have ruined all I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined too, in my loving
and now all that I want differs so greatly
from what it is I really need
What I really need is saving
from myself and these ruinous ways
it’s time for change…

Old eyes could look out in years to come
across a town so unexplored and inexperienced
they might peer through that same pretty glass
wishing they’d seen more things first-hand
If only I could see it now
if only I could fill passed time with places

I have ruined all I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined through my love
broken hearts at least force new growth
staid hearts grow their roots too deep
moss clawing all over them, all over me
it’s time for a change…

This town still calls to me
through our dusty windows
and I look, so longingly
it still offers out its hand
from time to time and smiles
‘Don’t let this opportunity pass you by
it comes just once in a lifetime…
you have… but one lifetime…’

But I have ruined what I love
been ruined by my lover
now, there’s just ash
where the fires used to burn
Now, there’s just dust
where our skin used to prickle
now, there are just silences
where our words once dripped in love

And every day the outside world
swells in its appeal
and every day the outside world
multiplies its pull on me
Each morning, I wake one step closer
to making that leap
If only I could fill passed time with faces
if only I could find the door…

[2009]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

All my poems (not all of which are so down on love)

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]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Buy my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

N.B. I’ve since decided I should NEVER use the word ‘just’ in a poem if I can possibly help it.

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]

Thanks for reading.

Listen to my poems on Soundcloud
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Backwards

There is a place
I’ve kept it secret
where answers come before the question
and what is made must be undone
a place where love will follow heartbreak
a place where life begins in sadness
I go there to forget…
I go there to forget everything…

So, kiss me…
Kiss me in the rainbow calming water
electric lips to shock it out of me
strip the corruption from my eyes
tell me it’s not true, it isn’t real
I go there to unravel…
I go there to untangle everything…

There is a place
where waves lap back out to sea
to go there is to come back regressed
shrunken, out of time
it helps to watch the rain form
and fall into the sky
knowing everything is being erased
I go there to come back…
I go there to come back to everything…

So, drown me…
Drown me in the rainbow fizzy water
burning lips to scold it out of me
scratch the images from my heart
tell me it’s not truth, it isn’t real
I go there to unravel…
I go there to untangle everything…

I get out of joint, dislocate my head
slip out of time
I go there to forget
I go there to forget everything
but I can never, really forget
I can never get away
and I come back
back to everything

unresolved…

[2003]

Thanks for reading.

Listen to my poems on Soundcloud
Follow me on Twitter
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Buy my book on Amazon