Headlights

Picking you up to go driving
I’d get there early to watch you get ready
both seventeen and tangled
in that unspoken thing between us
Cruising the looping country lanes
in those dim headlight beams
That was our place, alone together at last
Two teenagers, eyeing each other sideways
and wondering who each of us would be
would you always stay right there
would you always be
in the car with me
Another mile, another mile
in those endless times…

Thrumming rain upon the roof
your fingers knitted in the glovebox light
always asking me so many questions
our laughter lingering and playful
in the freezing depths of northern winter
You’d push me to say who I liked at school
watching so carefully
I’d study the glowing dashboard for a full five minutes
turn the tape over, change the conversation
stealing so many glances
at your perfect saucer eyes
so smart and so alive
Another mile, another mile
in our early lives…

Somewhere along the journey
we’d stop the car, snuff out the lights
and in the backseat, without a word
we’d learn a new geography
You’d breathe your lessons into me
the beguiling wonder of our story
skirting the youthful boundaries
of a near-love I’d forever treasure
And afterwards you’d finger our initials
on the foggy inside of the glass
I always loved that, but so sad
that those smears outlasted us
Another mile, another mile
in those simple, priceless, times

Twenty years of change sailed by
suddenly, from the silence, you called me
heard I’m in town, saying ‘we should talk again’
I say ‘how about a drive…?’
Eyeing me from the driver’s seat
you say I’d ‘become all the things I used to pretend to be’
you said it was ‘a good thing’
and now you teach at our old college
you’re not married but there’s a good man waiting
and the baby, she already looks like you
Who’d have thought those teenagers were headed here
running country laps, in those dim headlight beams
another mile, another mile
in those precious lives, we had to leave behind

Another mile, another mile
I’m so glad we got to share those times…

[2021]

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All my poems.

Oxford In The Autumn

As autumn’s rusty fingers begin
to push their way through tired trees
So, the early dimming light
and spectral chill conspire
to gently sweep me back in time

It’s Oxford in the autumn
nineteen; with eyes opening
A new life unfolding
cycling through the leaves
and sighing under bridges

Oxford in the autumn
that brick so old around me
broad streets, illogical lanes
busses and puddles
gang up against my dryness

Oxford in the autumn
looking up into the trees
as they’re burying the pavement
or caught up in the railings
my whole life ahead of me

It’s Oxford in the Autumn
Black n’ Red notebook
poking from my back pocket
All the words collecting
I was yet to wrangle

It’s Oxford in the autumn
for a split second, that I’m returned to
by the dipping light of afternoon
yellow leaves upon ancient stone
those deeply imprinted memories

Oxford in the autumn
flowing scarves and knitted hats
of the girls who passed me by
to fight the cold of endless rain
from the depths of gloomy rented rooms

It’s Oxford in the autumn
and dust motes slowly dancing
in the air above the heater
Fog lit by orange street light
outside my cracked window

Every autumn I’m reminded
of those magical new beginnings
standing tall, for the first time
letting go of all my leaves
my whole life ahead of me…

[2020]

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All my poems.

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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Forest

I was lost in a forest
the cold night swaddling me
calmly, it was whispering
“Love the ones who love you back
and all will be revealed”

I found a stone, it caught my eye
heart-shaped and out of place
I picked it up and kept it
that was fifteen years ago
it sits on my window sill

Don’t pity me, don’t laugh
I know I lived, as if asleep
throughout my wasted twenties
And then lived like a wild man
while I was supposedly in love
but the forest is overgrown
and I don’t always know where I am going

Still, I’m heart-shaped
and out of place

I wouldn’t want it
any other way
getting lost in the forest
and finding things…

[2014]

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Friday Night, We Walked Along The Beach…

Friday night, we walked along the beach
talking over a static sea
through all we wearily witnessed this year
still we speak in riddles
the way men often do
it only gets harder as you get older
weighed down by expectation
You didn’t turn to face me
kept your eyes fixed on the horizon
said ‘she’s pregnant’
with a pregnant smile

Black boots kicking stones across wet sand
choking out my congratulations
the selfish gene loudly screaming
‘another friend gone’
and all the drinks we shared, all that crazed fun
the possibility of our youth
all the talk for very different futures
slowly chipped away or in fruition
slowly eroded or made good somehow
Friday night we walked along the beach
as you drifted a little further from me
I wore my catastrophic guilt
all the way to my quiet home

Friday night, we walked along the beach
for the last time in a long time
drinking cans and cracking jokes

Sunday night, we passed upon the high street
you leant in close and stammered
‘she’s no longer pregnant’
and we wept in each other’s arms…

[2017]

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