A Most Comfortable Prison

The jailer, he’s invisible
yet we’re reminded, daily
he still stalks these corridors
a violent crown upon his brow
turning folk to dust
My marker-pen tally on the wall
begins to eats itself
time moves differently here
it’s a snake, a valley
a constellation
in this most-comfortable prison…

The weather has a mainline to my mood
there’s a shadow in my mind
it blooms or it recedes
with the strength of that sun
The days fluctuate
resizing, bipolar
claustrophobic
or giftedly free
to walk newly discovered lanes
in this most-comfortable prison…

The smiling faces of old friends
glimpsed, as if backwards
through a telescope
so far removed
and blurred around the edges
Our conversations stilted
on satellite delay
How I long to crack
my usual sarcastic comments
and not be inter-
(timing is everything)
-rupted
in this most-comfortable prison…

From my favourite armchair
I’ve been glued to screens
feeling like a dog
killing time until my next walk
wondering of the world beyond these walls
it all seems so dangerous
but such a beautiful memory
in this most-comfortable prison…

There are no other voices here
yours and mine alone
it goes to show how well we fit together
I feel we’re closer now than ever
Looking in the mirror this morning
you remind me of that mantra
we’re both repeating daily
‘you’re one of the lucky ones
you’re one of the lucky ones
in this most-comfortable prison…’

[2020]

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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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How To Be Alone

Waiting for a friend
sipping tea, sunglasses on
passers-by double and disappear
as reflections in shop windows
everything lit golden
then dimmed behind my lenses
I stir the drink some more

Waiting for a friend
they’re half an hour late now
I barely notice
just watch the people
let my mind wander
the liquid turning in the cup

And it hits me, squarely, there
on the corner by the crossroads
these moments
left to my own devices
find me so contented
thinking, writing, dreaming
drawing, planning, scheming

Have I just mastered the art
of how to be alone
or am I just happy
Maybe…
I’m just truly happy
finally…

[2019]

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Love Is What You Need

If you love it
it will be what you wanted
if you give it
you will find it’s what you lost

There is something waiting
something beautiful, waiting
if you’re patient
if you love it

You say you want to see
scenes that feed your eyes
they’re waiting, they’re all around you
if you love them

There is something happening
something beautiful, happening
if you’re open
if you love it

If it’s beauty that you want
then love it, it’s all around you
if you love it
it will be beautiful

It’s all around you…

[2010]

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Note: this poem appears in my book ‘One of These Years: Selected Poems 2003 – 2019’ available now on Amazon (link below).

Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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Breathless [with audio]

Let’s make a pact
let these shadows hold us
swaddled in secrecy
and breathing quickly
I see you draw in close to me
sense those lips loosening
my foundation questioning
the forcefield of your sly grin
and the delicacy of those fingers
upon me
exploring

Let’s make a pact
let this moment be our blueprint
to not accept a fading
or a softening of this urgency
I feel that magnetic pull strengthening
see the bond between us as pure light
drawing my every cell back into you
the atmosphere of your swelling heartbeat
and the longing in those murmurs
you’re whispering
expressing

Let’s make a pact
as these shadows hold us
close the night in around and bury us
breathless
breathless and beating hard…

[2015]

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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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Thrill of The Compass Spin

Can I claim it as the artist’s curse
the love for new adventure
the pleasure of magnetic hearts
freshly spinning so close to us
whipping the iron filings of our creativity
into some explosive blur
a manifest bright energy

This fizz, the ghostly drag
invisible hands guiding these wanton bodies
I feel my compass spin
drawn in endless circles

Is it a curse at all
happily getting lost
the thrill of the compass spin
drawn off course by that force

So confusing, so all-consuming
and fizzing on my tongue
I want it here
I want you
fizzing on my tongue again…

[2015]

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oskay/4581193346

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We Were Beautiful

The complication of those earrings
the texture of the paint around your eyes
the sun’s highlights in your hair

The redness of those parting lips
such belief in everything we said
the pristine shape of your nose

Lying on the roof
your head close to my heart
summer blushing the sky
weren’t we beautiful
weren’t we beautiful then

Nothing to fret about
just prolong the passing day
swaying through the city
weren’t we beautiful there

The precision of our jaw-lines
the optimism in our hearts
skidding through that midnight snowfall
spelling out each other’s names
as I caught you in my arms

We were so alive
so in love
so beautiful
at that moment in our lives…

[2018]

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Crooked Cafe

I used to hate this part of town
After London
it felt like stepping back in time
as if all our momentum to the capital
had been lost
these shops with their hand-painted signs
I didn’t recognise the names
they’re not triplicated on every high street

And now I sit
in the Crooked Café
the waitress always tries to remember my ‘usual’
but I love that she never quite gets it right
gives us something to laugh about
breaks the ice
as I sit alone and eat
drink my tea and sketch my little lines

The walls adorned
with guitars and records
someone really loves the eighties
the food is good
the best I’ve found ‘round here
the perfect way to start a Saturday
it’s always busy
people drinking coffee
and talking through their lives
there’s material everywhere
for a writer-thief like me

Afterwards
I’ll drift down the lanes
between the crooked dwellings
past out-houses, slate roofs, shared yards
neat boxes all pushed so close together
clinging to the hills
I’ve learned to love this feeling
just absorb the history
let the thinning shadow of industry
that’s still cast across this city
seep into me

But for now
I sit by the window
stare out into the old street
feel the season a little more keenly
so grateful to have found my peace here
where I can stop and think
and write my little lines…

[2019]

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There Will Be Birds In The Morning

There’s a girl in tears
upon the cathedral steps
as I walk to work
the rain; a mist swallowing us
leaves blowing by
I want to wrap my scarf around her
and say

There will be better days
there will be lighter times
there will be happiness again

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

There’s a boy in a phone box
framed behind glass, he sighs
as I’m passing by
his call has ended
the last call of that friendship
I want to get him a beer and say

Don’t forget the love you have
don’t forget those faces
it will be bright again in time

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

And the rain comes down
and leaves blow by
and the busses look so busy
I laugh quietly to myself
wondering
do birds even sing
on winter mornings?

[2019]

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For Jordan

Out driving our first cars at night
snaking the blackness of North East country roads
I’d flick the headlights off
hear the girls scream
then back on and we’d crack up laughing

In our town, there wasn’t much to do
but wander looping streets
haunt the park outside of college
blow house to house, see who was home
or spend it lying in your bedroom laughing

When you and Chris split, he handled it okay
drank too much a week or two and then
got a little down but everything went on
still way too soon for Mike to tell you
so we all sat as friends and laughed

Back then, I couldn’t think of much else but Jenny
but I loved the way you’d say my family name
still hear it ringing from the depths of memory
standing with you in some sticky bar
and you collapsing into Mike laughing

They were gentle times, good times
before we were scattered wide
I don’t think I saw or thought of you that often
twenty years just paced before our eyes
how I hope you kept on laughing

With your man, your son
your life carved out somewhere…

On a Brighton beach, one weekend this summer
Mike was chatting, said ’the cancer took you’
and nothing more to add to that
just taken – that’s all he knew
there on the pebbles, I stood, winded and weeping

Just taken – nothing more to add to that

Jordan, it was laugher, laughter
of you; that will always be my memory
sweet laughter, laughter
and the way you spoke my family name…

[2018]

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