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]

Thanks for reading this very long poem.

All my poems.

Great Destroyers

Sometimes
I suddenly remember
the last thing we said to one another
parting

‘If you’re ever
feeling self-destructive
hell, look me up
and we can
destroy ourselves together’

Occasionally,
by chance, I remember
the last time we sat across a table
drinking

‘If you’re ever feeling
like the whole mad world
needs a little petrol
you know where to find me
and we’ll
torch the fucking lot’

You and I
always were the great destroyers
such a shame
we never got
to spark each other up

You and I
always were the great destroyers
so lucky
looking back
we parted when we did…

[2019]

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Report from Jan 2020.

The Causeway Between Our Hearts

Tonight, I eye the wind
as it dances on the water
singing of the distance
that no longer can be closed

Well, I told you I was selfish
there were no children in me
Unwilling to stir for a moment
from this endless daydream
where I father my creativity

You told me that you knew me
our hearts beating to that same drum set
and no one must wake you either
That carving pretty worlds
behind closed eyes
is your calling and profession

With one eye knowingly
looking into mine
and the other doggedly at the door
you welcomed my request for kisses deep
while telling me you could feel
that farewell letter in my back pocket
itching to be delivered

You rip away on the mildest breeze
a kite cut free
Could not believe
the words a writer brought you
the words you said you loved to read
You wished it dead, before the birth
and all I did was acquiesce

I tell you now
that letter was no dis-missive
but a list of tide times
The wind thieves it from my fingers
and I watch it whipping out
across the water

Two selfish hearts can coexist
only for a passing moment
then the ocean rises
the road is lost
the causeway closes

All we were is washed away
or wind upon the surface
ripples or waves, decaying…

[2020]

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A Song of The Wind

Attic window open on the night
a dim wash of light
as hinges creak
From the page, I raise my pen
is that your laugh, your voice I hear
blowing through the years

Is it you, is it real
or a song of the wind
it is you, is it real
I’m never sure

I see the miles of white tiles
that infinite airport floor
where you left me statuesque
our future time without a date
that never came

The shredding of our story
lost, somewhere in the night
amidst the terminal and the air
somehow I wanted to imagine more
that never was

Is it you, is it real
or a song of the wind
it is you, is it real
well, I never know

I checked my post
fifteen times this week
was that you I heard
addressing me with a howl
or a song of the wind
the only tune I hear these days

Thank you for the kisses
the love and warmth you brought
all the jokes we shared
and your fingers in my beard
how could I forget

It’s you, it’s you
a song of the wind
always it’s you
such a sweet melody to have known

And on the wind
I hope your memory
will always blow
beside me…

[2019]

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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 Garden

I’ve been remembering
the garden we once tended
I’ve been thinking of the petals
that fell each autumn
I’ve been working through the list
of things we said but never did

And the rains that fell upon our garden
and the snow that covered all

I’ve been remembering
the garden we once enjoyed
I’ve allowed myself some moments
to reflect with clarity
I’ve been feeling sadness for the trees
that have since been felled

And the sun that fed our lawns
and the snow that covered all
and when it thawed
you were ready to be gone

And all the seasons since…
Now you’re with another’s child…

I’ve been remembering the garden
the flowers but not the thorns
I’ve been reminded of the feeling
when spring was all we knew
I’ve allowed myself some hours
to wander through those flower beds once more

I can remember how that snow felt
even now; I can smell the rain
I accept that all things end
that’s just the way of things
that’s just the way
of all things

And all the seasons since…
I hope your new garden
is blossoming now…

[2017]

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Letter From The Lake

Dear friend
a sigh is leaving me
I can concentrate now, finally
a statue, standing on the jetty
the lake’s slow wash below the boards
hypnotising me

I feel freer now than ever
more than I did back there
I don’t know how you toil on
those boiling days below the city
tinned-life crammed in
and searching for air

You wrote me of the love you found
that you always dreamed was waiting
head cocked to one side
a wry smile you’re both sharing
suddenly but so completely
a focus for all that untamed love in you

Here, life moves slow
but never stops completely
there is a girl down in the town
who looks at me so coyly
and some rough lad up at the farmhouse
who would gladly make me his

Between the wind-battered fields
and evenings pickling in the only pub
I keep an eye out for that inner peace
one night I might let him take me
or another, dance her into a barn

I’ve been finding something here
but, speaking plainly, it’s not you
I’m still swimming out each morning
with that pale look upon my face
I swim six laps before breakfast
the palest hope painting my face

I wish you well
and happy with whoever
come and see me one year soon
come up to the water and stay
until then, my friend
take care…

[2013]

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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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