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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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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A Little Place I Know…

Cobbled streets, thin passageways
snaking pipes embrace the buildings
in the shadow cast by evening sun
standing with good friends

We all hate the government
but what can you do 
just drink in the evening sun
talking with old friends

A little place I know
when our graft is done
we go…

Six to nine these gutters fill
chattering smoke and cheers
the amber kiss of evening sun
mixing with great friends

Who voted ‘leave’, not one man here
I’ll stake a bet on it, let’s get
another round in the evening sun
believe the same as our good friends

A little place I know
straight out of work
let’s go…

A little place I know
race to Soho
we’ll go…

The Cock, The Champion
Horse and Groom
drinking in the evening sun
The Crown, Glasshouse Stores
Duke of Argyle
hanging with great friends

A little space I love
a little place to unwind
a little time for our drunk politics
a little laugh
a little joke
a little love, sometimes

A little place I know
a little place I love…

A little place I knew
a little place I loved…

[2016]

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Note: I miss pubs 😦

Image credit: https://www.thediscoveriesof.com/best-soho-pubs/

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British Summer Time

There is new life
in the old garden
There are pretty specks of colour
blooming brightly from the ground
The middle-air is weightless
blowing freely through the lane
Summer fields fold out
through wooden window-frames
Freshly cut grass glides lazily
down molten tarmac roads

There is new life
In the old garden
A cigarette, a teddy-bear
starched laundry on the line
The meadow beyond the fence
birds resting on wires
Peeling paint turns to dust
on frames, on gates, and benches
white spirits in jars warming in the sun
on the worktop in the shed

There is new life
In the old garden
Luscious greens and winding blues
yellows so intense they’re blinding
stretching out endless and golden
from the stream, to that horizon
Soon old friends will come and smile
brimming with new conversation
and bonfires, water fights, and warmth
so effortless, so pretty

There is new life
In the old garden
A stalking cat, a knowing butterfly
the dance of smoke from a fire
a glass of wine, a scent of fruit
the pouring out of hearts so full
The apple tree, the water-hose
and running through the weeds
These scenes imprinting their memories
on every sense
five times remembered…

[2005]

N.B. An old one from when I was still trying to find my voice.

Image: Summer Garden Painting

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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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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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