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]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Image: Summer Garden Painting

The Train Is Waiting…

The nib bends gently on the paper
and I suppose there’s time to spill
As a river of thoughts flows out
a third of a life is spent
In raven ink, the shapeless smoke
the molten mess of me emerges

We slip, we push, we drag ourselves
into some sort of position
You can call it adulthood, you may be wrong
Me, I call it wising-up, I may be wrong
Lives change, worlds shrink, egos are appeased
we learn to slowly see, who it is will be

She held me, she released me, then we were held again
The roots spun, vines wrapped around themselves
caught in a web of love and then self-loathing
One home, our home, a family – exploded
I made my peace and crawled into the future…

And drinking in and drinking down, six months of neat bile
You destroy yourself, save yourself, love yourself and someone other
So, the story goes, so it grows again, and then it’s over
Another love, an honest love, an equal – exploded
I made my peace and strolled into the future…

The time slowly ticks around, the cogs of a mind align
it feels right to step clean away from all these memories
forge some new experience, swim out beyond my depth
look back at all of this, in time
from some dizzying distance

And, decision taken ‘just come already, just come’ I say
I’m primed, then caught in the nothingness of waiting
So, one more, just time enough to scratch a few goodbyes
say a firm farewell
a good riddance to the certainty of now

Here are the last few drops
of something scrawled within this county
And so I go…
so I grow and test the limits of my potential
nib bending on fresh paper
black ink spilling everywhere

There is something coming
I can’t predict it, can’t see it yet
the train is waiting
It’s all consuming, all I care to dream about
and I’ve just time enough to kiss the page
with my goodbyes…

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

On preparing to uproot and leave for London

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.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

Note: I miss pubs 😦

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

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Old Flame

Think the improper thoughts
think them through
to quivering conclusion
to nakedness and molten skin
shimmering in the moonlight

Think those improper thoughts
about friends’ lovers
about co-workers, old flames
about passing strangers
but please
think them about me sometimes

Thinking the improper thoughts
to fill boring afternoon meetings
and lonely mornings driving
scarce moments of serenity
always I…
think them about you

[2009]

Thank you for reading.

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

Return To America

Lit by the distant sun 
in a backyard beer-garden 
overlooking the meadow
my swimming brain spins out
through adventures of the past
forgotten journeys 
by coach, by plane
through unfamiliar landscapes
to the desert 
in California

We rode the Greyhound 
between the sun-drenched cities
your head lay on my lap
and when we could tear 
our eyes from one-another
we’d watch the world pass by
in technicolour, all new

We stayed on Sunset Boulevard
you lay naked on the hotel bed
while I stared hard at maps 
and planned
before turning my gaze to you
we ran down Long Beach
never questioning our love

So, this evening I wonder 
if you will ever 
return to America
will you share those moments
with someone new
can he afford to hire a car
so you don’t have to 
ride the Greyhound
stare out of the window
laughing at the wind farm…

[2006]

Thanks for reading.

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