The Lighthouse Keeper’s Song [with audio]

Click play to listen or right-click and ‘save as’ to download the MP3

The gulls above me, wild and free
my song begins to echo theirs
squawks of tuneless noise
as I try to make some sense
or to release something

Watching the breaking waves
from a distance and then up close
I’ve been nowhere
but up and down the stairs
of this hollow and lonely year

It’s hard to remember the good I do
keeping other ships at safe distance
as I patiently await the promised boat
that will return me to the world
and the smiling faces of my family

I fear I’m losing my peace of mind
I sense the loosening pieces
as my happiness erodes
My song goes round and round
as does the light I tend

Wild and free, used to be
the way I chose to live
Wild and free, an impulsive sea
the way I chose to love

I wait so patiently
on that coming boat
that will return me
to the world I used to love…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

This poem is featured in my latest book – Buy my book!

Reflections of December

In the caverns of a King’s Cross bar
I quietly compose an opening
six months now, since our last meeting
I catch sight of my reflection
twisting in the half-full glass upon the bar
What am I doing here
set up for a disappointing sequel
It’ll never be like it was
at the start
it’ll never feel like it did
before

Festive cheers fill the bar
as my mind slips back one year
when my world was folding inward
intoxicated with the excitement of chances taken
and how I quietly spoke of my growing love for you
in the blurry Christmas air
I made foolish gestures at what I wanted
slid my heart across the table
waited with baited breath
for your reciprocation
and headed home empty handed…

Tonight is such a bittersweet evening
a reminder of how much I love your company
it hits me squarely, and for the first time, fully
how much I’ve missed you
But you’ve changed, grown up, matured somehow
wisdom where once there was only spiked humour
oh, as a friend
you’ll always remain a favourite
held out of reach by our history

It’s so bittersweet, our meeting
our reflections melt and merge
in the glasses that we drain
I’m still beguiled by your luminous beauty
and vindicated to know
what I thought I’d felt was honest
not pure circumstance, greed or opportunity
our briefest spark lit my world so brightly
in way never bettered before or since
It’ll never be like it was
at the start
it’ll never feel like it did
before

Such a bittersweet evening
lit in the primary colours of December
you, grinning, purr ‘let’s do this again soon’
and of course I say ‘I hope we do’
When I cast my eyes across this year
it’ll always be your face
reflected back at me
when I look back from some future distance
your face will always be smiling back at me…

[2015]

Thanks for reading.

(A sort-of sequel to ‘Anatomy of Longing‘)

All my poems.

New Memories

Squinting at the good old days
through a low winter sun
Dreaming of those times
spent down there on the sand
lost in the blue hour
or scheming on a journey
deep into the night
We could have gone anywhere
a can raised to the sky
and on our faces only smiles
for miles
and miles and miles

So many friendships
left behind at other stations
back down the tracks
My friendships all are fraying
their ropes unwinding
I can’t see anything
but all of their waving
They’re waving goodbye

O, we need to make new memories…

Alone on the stones
eyes cast out across the water
churning
looking back towards the land
I feel there’s so much possibility
still coursing through these veins
only halfway, I’m halfway only
The world bends
where the sky and water blend
as day ends, I see their pretty faces
as the ripples on the surface

Those old memories
they’re thinning in the depths
at the edges of my mind
My old partners in crime
keep waving
they’re waving goodbye

O, we need to make new memories…

Come dance with me
on the moonlit beach
let’s make new memories
come roll with me
on the endless dunes
let’s make new memories…

[2019]

Thank you for reading. This one feels even more apt these days…

All my poems.

A Love Experience

How patiently, how perfectly
with such finesse, you plan our passion
in such exacting detail
you’ve prepared our romance
five years in advance

A spreadsheet for every kiss
lingering looks added to your ‘to-do’ list
flow-charts of clothes torn off
a map showing where to lose ourselves
in the moment

But it’s still love
or a version of it…
O, it’s still love
or your version of it…

Did you make a plan for me
to bend my knee
to descend on bended knee
Did you even know me then
did you even know me when
you made that plan

A clockwork heart ticks true
a clockwork heart flicks through
a catalogue of love experiences
to tick, tick, tick off

Ah, but it’s still love…
or a version of it…
O, it’s still love
or your version of it…

In the office of your heart
plan us a love event
in the office of your heart
can you schedule us some love

Or a love experience
to tick, tick, tick off…

[2016]

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Hyde Park Winter Rink

We circle as sharks
on the Hyde Park winter rink
our eyes like lasers
I audibly bleep when they meet

We both go forwards
not getting anywhere
we pass with differing intervals
I only breathe when we pass

Some laps are flawless
some laps are clumsy
some laps I nearly take some sucker down
some laps I kiss the ice

I feel your eyes lift me to my feet
I feel them brush the slush from my skate
would I have fallen if you hadn’t been watching
would I fall if we linked arms

You’ve got some new moves I see
a graceful pirouette by the bandstand
another pair of eyes
hold you tight from the sidelines
another pair of eyes
brim with that familiar glow

Sometimes we have to let go
sometimes we have to help someone up who’s gone down
sometimes we just have to skate past
sometimes we can’t risk looking back

We circle like sharks
on the Christmas market ice rink
then you take off your skates
make for the big wheel
you’ll be too high in the city
to see
my heart waving below…

[2019]

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Fulfilment

Click ‘play’ to hear me read this poem – or right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download the MP3.

Senses softened in the dark afternoon
This year is charring in the fire grate
So, I pour out into the haunted fields
looking for loneliness, for lines, for clues
to get a handle on all that’s happened
to make predictions on where I am headed

All around my body, the world’s covered by a sheet
life’s decorator is preparing to paint the new year
This land spills on for snowy miles
my past reels out somewhere behind me
in those paths taken, in those choices made;
there are glimpses of the shape of my future

The Grecian islands, the Cornish coast
Those petty milestones, those brave goodbyes
from swollen ankles, to exploded minds
Portuguese walled-towns, to Derbyshire hills
From a decade planted, then uprooted and moved
the letting go, the keeping a hold
Surprises; surprising, plans made and fulfilled
much falls away, much more presents itself
weddings, worries, work; with friends
consciousness glides across the ghostly fields
comes to rest behind my smiling eyes

So, now I have the things I’ve always wanted
the peace I chased, the love I imagined
the tools I’ll need are all within me
and Kate is waiting, with her key, somewhere

By the gate, I pause, look up into the nothing
time stands still, my eyes adjust…
the pitch black night is full of stars
(when did I last see those?)
My gaze breaks, my footsteps in the powder flow
time moves, I need for nothing else…
I go back into the house

Toss my wondering on the fire
pour a drink, talk to my family
I’m satisfied
and warm…

[2011]

Happy Christmas & thanks for reading/listening.

The piano track on the audio recording is “The Book of Jen by Tedosio“.

Got an Amazon voucher for Xmas?… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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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]

Thanks for reading.

This poem is featured in my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

Anatomy of Longing

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
is it the vicious tongue you wag at me
or the perpetual mystery hanging from your actions
the contradictions of your possible state of mind

I see the hurt, I feel the pain you carry
and sense your urge to be desired by men
the flirt of all you do rings loudly before you
and against my better judgement
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

With every scar you try to inflict
or accidentally leave on my skin
I drift away for a moment only
then find myself battling the waves
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I know you didn’t ask for this
I know you didn’t choose me or this adventure
Yet, I brought it to you anyway
and you didn’t quite turn me away

And you’re cute, there’s no denying
you spill out in all my favourite places
and know how to smile with a catastrophic magnitude
that tears the hair clean off my scalp

The bile in your belly, the bitch barely-contained
I never knew how much I loved that rage
your misery is contagious
I feel its cells dividing in my bloodstream

I doubt I am the only one you’ve drugged this way
I know you’re not planning to leave your man
but as long as you keep stoking the engine of longing
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I dream about you most nights
and when I’m on the bus
or train, or tube, or walking down the street
or when I’m in bed with somebody else
I dream it’s your body
over which my hands journey

And yet you only reach out a paw for me
when you know I cannot be there
you only say you might want for me
when you know we can’t connect

You’re playing me, humble instrument to your vanity
you keep me hanging on for nothing real
I know all of this so well and yet I gladly hang myself
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

Sometimes it seems; maybe you feel more for me than I realise
an ambiguous choice of words and perhaps it could mean more
you say the lovers kissing in the bar, are reminding you of me
I say the denim shirt I wore today was reminding me of you

So, who are you anyway and why do I long like this
I feel a sudden shortness of breath
when I look into your eyes
I feel my chest twinge when you catch me looking

There’s something in your history too
I know you’ve got some good hidden in you
beyond the selfish drive you choose to expose
I know there’s something that I could harness

There’s something in the things you’ve seen
the pleasure I know you’ve experienced
your taste for the beautiful and the sublime
perhaps if I could make you choose me, it would mean I’m beautiful too

You laugh at my jokes…
no matter how ruthless the punchline
the sharper, the more scathing the better
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I need to catch myself
before I fall much further
slam my pick in the ice
before the precipice

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
I see such complicated shapes emerging
and despite all my better instincts
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores…

[2015]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

Your Poem Is Still Young

Your poem is still young
I have not mastered it just yet
I am constantly revising
still working on the phrasing

Your poem is still young
though its meaning is defined
I only have the final line
those last three certain words

Your poem is still young
each year instils new ideas
your actions suggest more rhymes
and we have many years to go

Your poem is still young
though I recite it constantly
my aim is to perfect it
through every day and night

Your poem is still young
I’d hoped to have found a way to say
to address all of the beauty and joy
there is in you, by now, but no

Your poem is still young
and I am glad to say that
it remains unfinished even now
open on the pages of my favourite notebook

Your poem is still young
still improving with every moment
as we lay together, safe in the flames
until the end of time, I’ll sing;

I love you…

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Storm Chasers

Tyre tracks on dirt roads
storm chasers
looking for the eye
or something on the other side

Peddle kisses the floor
world whips past the window
tearing up the old road
headed North, searching for more

We were happy here
but could there be greater happiness
elsewhere?
The storm is a chorus
always another verse
on the other side…

In some mad way
we’re headed for a greater shelter
through the storm
headed for safety, hopefully

There is danger
there always is
but life is a song
with danger singing along

Windows wound down
radio up high
with our lives thrown in the back
I feel so alive
do you feel alive?

You call it ‘danger’
I say ‘adventure’
well, life is a song
adventure singing along

Storm chasing
it makes no sense
but for the place on the other side
perhaps, where it’s cheap to live
maybe that makes sense

O, but look at that view
didn’t we always say
it’s all about the view
here; we can see for miles…

In some mad way, we’re headed for greater shelter
on the other side
as we dance into the storm
I feel so alive
don’t you feel alive?

[2016]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Still Waiting…

Throwing away another spent calendar
I toss another slice of my heart into the wind
I’m still waiting…

I feel all I have known is the length of this wait
and all I’ve been doing is biding worthless time
still waiting…

What difference has it made to me, this waste?
what have I gained so far for my blind patience
and still waiting…

O, nine years… nine years!
I’ve been waiting
still waiting
but I don’t know what for

On this moon-lit beach
in this silver-soaked bay
cliffs hung high over me and you
please tell me it’s you

Tell me it’s you…

[2009]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Let Down Your Guard

Do not be afraid of the flames
they are the best thing I have ever known
Do not try to apply your logic
for it holds no currency here
You’re welcome to try and hide your joy
but there is no point in fighting this
it will take you, if it wants to

Do not be afraid of the flames
take the chance we all must take
please risk the ‘getting burnt’
for there is no better way
there is no better purpose in this life
Lay yourself down, open your arms
hold out your heart, to give

Do not be afraid of the flames
there is nothing to fear
The love cannot flow
unless you let go
Take a chance
the chance you take
I promise you I’ll honour
Do not be afraid of the flames
I will not let you burn
I swear…

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

The Winning Hand

In the dimming garden
beneath the belt of Venus
fingers grip a bottle
a nightcap alone

Finally, I belong
finally, I belong to someone
how I’ve run from this
for so long

Now, nothing makes me happier
nothing makes me feel more sure
of anything
than knowing that you’re waiting

There were so many jokers
in the deck
the two of hearts, too many cards
and still dealing, still dealing

The night air’s tinged by a new chill
September’s signature
autographing my bare arms
but I barely feel it

Let me stay by your side
through winter months
and country walks
through rain and sleet
and fog

I used to hold nothing in my hand
look at the empty shape it made
wondering if there was something missing
something
that should have belonged
only me
I should have belonged
to something
to you

I sit down into the wicker chair
look across the valley below
the sky is closing in the distance
darkness gloves the globe again

How could I
even for a moment
have doubted
I held the winning hand
all this time

How could I
even for a second
doubt that
I held the winning hand
all along…

[2019]

Thanks for reading. Repost from 2019.

All my poems.

All My Love In Our Goodbye

The cliché of a midnight station
two trains
waiting to depart
I hold you for the final time
then we lock eyes
the knot in me just tightens
for all the words
I keep in my mouth…

What isn’t done now
will never be done
What isn’t said
will never be said
All my love
in our goodbye…

The limitless black of sky above
haunts our last encounter
as absolute as my choking sadness
I dip my eyes
Can you read my mind?
all hope of a reprieve quietly dies
with all the words
I keep in my mouth…

From another platform
across the tracks
I watch you make your slow, sure way
with each footstep my passion boils
my eyes, they widen
the fear grips me harder
We cannot end in such silences
with all these words
kept in my mouth…

Across the rails my shouts explode
the desperateness
in these dying moments
I scream of my love for you
My burning, bursting want for you
the aching, beating, magnetic pull of you…

And you call back to me
you thank me for my ‘honesty’
but you ‘don’t know what to say’
So, you don’t say any more
and your train slips you home
my train drags me home

The story over
the chance now passed
an oil-black sadness
is all I swim through
all my love
in our goodbye
but all my love
was not enough…

[2010]

Thanks for reading. Another old one…

All my poems.

Broken Promises

That first kiss was our last
and all the promise I was so sure
there was to be found in you
it never came to be
Such a bad taste left behind
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
You burnt so brightly in front of me
there was no way it could work
when we wanted it that much
come so quickly, then gone again
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
We fool ourselves that we’re above this
we tell ourselves we’re not affected
in truth, it hits us worse than anyone
so sensitive, so susceptible
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

So quickly they come and go
comets through the night sky
I wonder what is left behind
nothing but
broken promises

So quickly they come and go again
explosions of magic in the darkness
I stop to wonder what is left behind
and find nothing
but broken promises
broken promises
on both sides…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Kimberly

We move slow
in time with our slipping youth
We don’t rush, no
we were slow
to go home

Passing the coffee shops and bars
I would later make my home
I couldn’t have ever known
they passed by, a blur, unseen

Her hand
held loose
in the heat
There’s no need to push things
we’ve time…

Then one night
on a sofa in the kitchen
at my mother’s house
She turned slow, smiling
and said “we should”

I could have laughed
I must have beamed
and all at the same time
I was cautious

We moved slow
tip-toeing down to the car
I didn’t know
if I could take another one
another person’s innocence
away

So, I paused…
and time slipped away…

In a daydream I had
more recently
in a bar, when I was feeling particularly old
I thought back
and couldn’t remember
why I didn’t have her
If I could do it now
I would do it now

Then it hit me
I was honest then
I was decent
O, I was a real man
back then…

[2007]

Thanks for reading this tatty old poem.

All my poems.

The Last Night of Your Trip

If you ever come to London…
On the last night of your trip
let me know
when and where you’ll be eating
I’ll book a table
get to the restaurant before you arrive
And as you order dinner
with your husband and your kids
we can exchange covert glances

Nervous at first, mere milliseconds
then slowly growing in confidence
our first and only glimpse
of one another in the flesh
eye-fucking, lip-biting
so subtle and so smart
Hopefully, we’ll pass
on the way back from the bathroom
I’ll hold your gaze too long
let my knuckles graze your hip
the only contact we’ll ever share
I’ll leave while you’re still eating
return to my hotel room
alone

The next morning
pouring a tea
fumbling with the paper
I’ll watch the sky
wondering which plane is yours
somersaulting in thought
and how another life passed so close to this
A brief glimpse between worlds
and the other lives
we could have lived…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Marriage

The ocean calms me
envelopes me
supports me when I need to sail
Powerfully, it won’t hesitate
to remind me of my place
or comfort me when I fail

Its waves sing along in time
mirroring my mood
or challenging me to improve
We laugh in the shallows
or toil through the depths
almost always perfectly in step

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying…

The muse of my life; my happiness
and though your face isn’t
peering out from every poem
Sometimes, we are artists
making makes us happy
in each other’s company we’re free

Sometimes, we’re salty
Sometimes, we don’t say
all we need to say, straight away
but it flows out in the end
and we’re back on course again

This life we made together
our voyage into the future
You my love, you are the sea
Please never leave
Raise your loving waters
and swaddle them around me

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying to be
my very best for you…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

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]

Thanks for reading.

Report from Jan 2020.

Born To Muse

Click above to hear me read it. Right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download an MP3.

In the hammering rain of last night
I slept the best I have all week
I slept deeper, longer
than I have done for months

And would you guess who I should meet there
on the dream stools
at the dream bar
ordering her dream gin
sliding me a dream beer

Well, you come here often
I don’t have to ask
I’ve seen you here so many nights before
but it has been a while
(and I’ve missed you)

Back in real life; you live so freely
you’re pure inspiration to me
a scholar of your beauty
besotted by your confidence, your creativity

And when we went our separate ways
(did we ever really agree on one path anyway?)
after all those notebooks you drove me to fill
after the purest verses I fear I may ever spill

When we went our separate ways
you found yourself an artist
and now you’re all he paints
day drinking, or in the nude
the ways I still remember you
you… you were born to muse

Sitting on the dream couch
in the dream bar
your dream knees
pushing against dream me

you… you were born to muse…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

A repost from Nov 2019.