30 Steps

The city is drenched in gold tonight
the sea is wrapped in silver, like my temples
my hands feel older now than ever
but my mind is so much surer
than back when I was younger

I’ve run from love when it got tough
my hair was bleached in boiling light
I helped as many people as I could
my thoughts were darkened in the wilderness
felt alone in crowds of smiling happiness
I learned to speak, to see, to feel this reality

I’ve understood, been understood
I’ve compromised, been compromised
I’ve judged, been judged
Fairly, unfairly

There has been a heaviness in my limbs at times
and there was a divine light that shone
from somewhere I never knew could be in me
I wronged and cheated with a pathological absence of care
which boomeranged around and sunk me in the end
it’s rough to open your consciousness to reality

Siblings, parents; undulating friendships
the push, the pull of love and life
in trying to align the poles in me
I was blind, but thought I was seeing
I was blank, but thought I was saying something
the painted stones I carved, I threw them out to sea

I’ve deceived, been deceived
I’ve contradicted, been contradicted
I’ve believed, been believed
Justly, unjustly

So, I take off my shoes
take out my headphones
I want this wave to wash all over me
The short hand, the long multiplications
I laid out all my working for you to see
trying to crack the code of something real
the combination of what is me

I’ve been taking thirty steps away
from where they forged my heart
I’ve been taking thirty steps toward the tide line
where I etched my childhood
drew a line beneath it and paused to watch…

The waves of youth lap out
the waves of youth
the waves
the…

[2011]

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[Written on the eve of my 30th birthday]

Holly Hagg

Pen devoid of poems
adventure long overdue
living room carpet
growing long in the tooth
I’m pining for movement
so keen to get out
I’ll go walking down
to Holly Hagg

Little glimpses at normality
haloed by golden rays
There’s no poison
in the idle river
no politics
in the quiet horse
cantering to
another chew

The clouds of working day
part while I’m out walking
bathed in nature’s endless beauty
which never disappears
only ever obscured by thought
or perspective
Eased back into focus
on the road
to Holly Hagg

With every step I take
the tension unspools
And there are words, waiting
ideas that come to me
pinned to ancient fenceposts
nestled in the cracks between the stones
making up the wall
that keeps me on the road
to Holly Hagg

The walk becomes a gallop
blood pumping in my chest
body now loose enough
for every step to be a dance
I am light and free
as I close the distance
on my prized poetry
and the generous view expands
beyond Holly Hagg…

[2020]

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Best In The Morning

It’s best in the morning
with no decoration
only flesh
and fingers reaching out
It’s best in the morning
sun licking through the window
we’ve honestly
nowhere we need to be

It’s best in the morning
kitchen door
open on the garden
you sip your tea, strum the guitar
sitting on the back step
Your dark hair ruffled
eyes so brown and full of wonder
nowhere we need to be

“It’s best in the morning”
you smile and tunefully whisper
“we’re both naked in some way
stripped of all distraction
the love alight upon our tongues”
Leaning on the counter
I’m inking my clumsy lines
‘nowhere we need to be’

It’s best in the morning
writing us down to preserve it
I will treasure
these moments forever
We’re so good together
with the animals at our feet
all eating breakfast
and nowhere we need to be…

[2021]

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Mayor of Kabul

My heart beats
like jack boots
marching on dusty streets

The only place to hide
is beneath a veil
I fought to decline

They come
to poison up the well
We’re waiting
it’s all there is

Each of my children
take a finger on my right hand
a little fist around each one

And my husband
grips the other hand
as we dearly clutch our tears

They come
to bleed this well dry
We’re waiting
it’s all there is

Future orphans
future widower
Will my hands
ever be mine again
Is this inevitable
or can my hands
remain free…

[2021]

Note: Liberal poetic licence with the truth employed but inspired by this story: https://inews.co.uk/news/world/afghanistans-first-female-mayor-waiting-taliban-come-kill-her-1152127

Tokyo Honeymoon

Our hotel window thrown open on the night
sirens rise and weave between our sighs
below, a city squeals in pleasure

Neon light spills across our pillows
We feel the force that has been forged
and binds our stories for all time

Pasts bundled into a suitcase
the lock spun, kicked beneath the bed
while we writhe and rise above

You touch yourself, then I touch you
We let the sheets slip to the floor
leaving nowhere for our desire to hide

A silver spark brightly arcs
connects my fingers and your thighs
welds your tongue tip to my throat

Like rain on glass we quickly merge
the beating rhythm, that low slow moan
so far beyond those ancient intimacies

The rest of our lives begin right here
The branches of our love in bloom
like cherry blossoms painting up the trees…

[2021]

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If We Love It…

What if those cells collide
what if the world beats to a different rhythm
What if our path is forked
What direction will we take
What if we have no choice
for the first time in our lives

What if things go smoothly
What if then we’re three
What if it gets hard at times
What if we do our best
What if something 
we never thought was in us
well, what if it suits us

What if there’s a name
What if it’s etched across our hearts
becomes the story of our lives
What if it was for this 
that we’ve unknowingly been waiting
What if putting our selfish 
selves upon the shelf
well, what if we love it

What if in the fading light
we sit and smile at all we made
What if they sit 
and smile with us too…

[2021]

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Beguiling Sirens

O child, do not hasten to drop anchor
I hope you live so many nights
lost at sea or diving free
loving by the light of the moon
forever was never the point

You must not miss those smiles
as wide as silver sands
And kisses hotly dripping
like the candle you might write by
in some foreign hotel room

If you should meet them
out there on your journey
(and you should, you should…)
I hope the sirens sing you
songs of salacious shipwreck
and fleshy feasts upon the rocks

If you should meet them
(and you must, you must)
Take those chances
don’t deny this life
let it be painted
in such vibrant colours

Let them ruin you a while
let them wreck you for a spell
then piece yourself together
and wind up more complete
O, and tell them I say ‘hi’

Go chasing honesty, equality
give and take, live wild, love free
take care and move respectfully
remain open to all that comes your way
forever was never the point

O, they will sing some
of your best lines into you
There are many poems waiting
You can dine upon those memories
once you’ve crossed the seesaw
of all your time

While you’re young
with no one who depends upon
then have your fun, go chase the sun
Forever was never
the point of life…

[2021]

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Come By My Window

Lover, this night ticks endless
and I am a fire
that must spread
across your perfect body

In the dark of the night
come by my window

Lover, this relentless need
leaves me blank
of all but your presence
replaying, looped and endless

In the heat of the night
come by my window

The sparks as our fingertips connect
I’ll be drained as I am stoked
at the interface of our passion
I’ll be drunk but laser focused
How you consume me

Lover, I need your light
there’s fuel in your whispering voice
but I need more tonight

Because I can’t leave the house
because I can’t be seen to go out

Come by my window…

[2018]

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High Tide, Low Life

You paint yourself blue, always blue
this letter brings me down
perched upon a rusty trailer
paint peels over my shoulder

I’ve been drinking 
since the boats were rested
on the muddy estuary bed

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

I won’t stop my reaching out
if there’s any way to help, I’ll find it
you’re so slow to take my hand
scratching at your skin for answers

I don’t have any good advice
I do what I can to just keep living right
I’ll listen if you’ll let me
you know; my love is not the enemy

It can’t be this way forever
it won’t always be like this

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

You say you only paint
when you get blue
and I suppose
that’s just the way
the sea feels

You paint yourself blue
always blue
I guess
that’s just the way
the sea feels…

[2020]

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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-prints/4717465064/

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Looking Out

The pen I found on Oxford High Street in 2002

I was young, I was clay
I was given to looking out
and there upon the train seat
a gift from the universe
A barely filled notebook
no name, no number
no way to find the owner
it piqued my curiosity…

With pencil then, I tried to fill it
with all my words, my wonderings
my secret truths
but it went nowhere
just collected dust upon my shelf

A few months gone by
still young, my paint still wet
still at my most malleable
Lying on the pavement there
another present from the universe
a gleaming fountain pen
lid on, no engraving, no passer by
no way to return it
instinctively, I picked it up
put it to the waiting paper

The flick of that scalpel nib
the infinite potential, the promise…
For the first time in my life
I could speak without interruption
get my thoughts straight, talk it over
A friendship formed there
that has never faded

Since that strange coincidence
or you may call it providence
I’ve always had a keen eye on the world
for its quiet subtle gifts and moments
Look up, look down, look out
It’s all around, every day
I am humbled by the wonder
of nature
and the ever generous beauty
of existence…

[2021]

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Souvenir

Acquainting myself
with the moon
trapped behind glass
we’re exchanging glances
And on my back
a thousand heart-attacks
roll past
My fingers cross and uncross
as she sleeps, so black
back in the real world
paid-up entirely
on her subscription
to actual reality

Might you return
with a souvenir for me
from the envious depths
of endless peace
perhaps a child
or a patient nurse
or some control
with a button for reverse
My fingers press
that longed-for switch
watch deeds recoil back into the body
where I don’t turn that key
don’t cross that threshold
slipping backwards, contentedly
from actual reality

Moonshine lights the shore
as I drag the boat
of all my swimming thoughts
along a silver stretch of sand
where all the land behind
no longer matters
a bowl of sea, insignificantly
the only thing
between the horizon and me
but crossing is possible
with the coins that you earn
waking night after night
and each mile is a measurement
you take
from actual reality

This father feeling takes over
My child
in a superposition
only alive inside its mother
between the hours
of two and six AM
a phantom haunting, stalking
poised with talons drawn
to fly this solipsistic me
and drop him heavily
back in the sticky city streets
of actual reality…

[2018]

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Tourist Trap

Holidaying as a teenager
back when time moved slower
and thoughts were many
I’d cruise the gift shops
reviewing tacky souvenirs
This used to be a fishing village
now it’s a tourist trap

And picking up a handmade bear
with wonky mouth and vacant stare
big button eyes and blood red lips
I’d wonder of its maker, its creator
someone dreamed
this bear into the world
someone thought this expression
made it look cute

Was it modeled on a relative
was it ripped-off from some other toy
was its designer trying
to give a child some joy
or only focused on the ringing
of cash registers
and paying the bills
Did they live locally
or somewhere overseas?

Looking at the toy
I’d be overtaken with a sadness
that someone tried and someone cared
if only for a moment
in their short lives

I’d set it back
and wonder
‘will this still be here
on the same shelf
next year?’

[2020]

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Lend Me Your Light

Friend, we drink together
talking at a wedding
lit blue and gold
familiar faces dance around us

Friend, secretly, I wonder
if you were to open up your essence
lift a pen to kiss the paper
to vent your heart aloud

Friend, I long to know
what your poetry would be
if you chose to write

Which desires peskily linger
at the edges of your furrowed mind
which old flames still burn a fire
which hidden wounds you’d dare parade
what is the meter
and the rhythm of those unspoken secrets

What ribbon would you choose
to decorate the mundane
Which words would you feverishly grasp towards
what profound truths
do your fingertips quietly trace
which wisdoms guide you along your way
what strength of light shines inside of you
and what damage might you do
to leave us reeling

And I don’t say it
but every time we meet, I think it
Write!
right out loud
for me
for you
splash your heart across the page
in every shade
lend me your light
if but for a moment

Spill your soul for all to see
Friend, I love you, and will always wonder
what your poetry would be
if you’d set it free…

[2020]

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Raining In Darlington

Every new day brings fresh lethargy
renewed deceit, increased malaise
The tipping-point arrives
the call goes out
but there is nothing
and no one comes;
these ‘friends’ have failed

Every new year brings fresh poetry
a handful of old photographs
and the game of remembering names
Those pretty kids stand so still
smiling on a beach somewhere
Where are they now
in these heavy adult years

Every new life brings fresh expectation
new-born hope, budding dreams
a player joins the game
takes their part in the play
and we share our cheats and scripts
in some duty-bound illusion

But today;
there is no heat in the air
the streets awash with tears
this Northern sky cries every day
for the future, for the past
for the sadness it has seen
it misses us, mourns our departure
and dresses itself in black
for our recurring nightly funeral

Where did we lose our way?
When did we wish ourselves away?
The darling sky begs for answers
they’re sprayed on crumbling walls
they’re compass-point scratches on school desks
and etched with hearts on lonely trees
they’re everywhere
but we don’t always see
They’re everywhere
but we’re just too busy
They’re everywhere
and the rain magnifies them for me…

[2005]

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Ocean’s Roar

A raining heart, derailed
just north of love
things that must be done
to protect oneself

Despite my expectant warmth
I find you strangely cold
the trick became transparent
the magic quickly old

A remnant moon shines above us
even in this weak glow, it’s obvious
this affair
is going nowhere

You don’t care to ask
anything about me
yet still you scheme on my love

You don’t dare to share
anything with me
yet still you pine for my love

Put the shell up to your ear
is that the ocean’s roar, you hear?
this affair
is going nowhere…

[2020]

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Different Keys

There turned out to be
so many different keys
to the different depths of me
It was truly hard to know
what it was possible for me to show
Different friends reach different doors
Different strangers
peering through different windows

A glimpse… almost in focus
a sweet taste here, a sour mouthful there
the faintest sound of joyous laughter
then the cool stream of tears rolling down
as the image slowly blurs again

Even I found it hard, even I took years
to add up every fraction
to calculate if I was whole
and I was worried there
for a good long while

I never meant to be this way
never meant to give so little away
never meant to set that combination
quite so randomly
I could never really see
who I was destined to be…

[2009]

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The Artist’s Desk

Always, I want to see
their place of work
I sit and wonder
of the artist’s desk
what trinkets, what tools
they choose

Always, I picture in my mind
the artist’s desk
and what pin-tacked postcards
what scribbled notes of inspiration
may surround it

Is it by a bright window
or in the bowels of a basement
Do they toil below a craning lamp
or by dim candle flicker
do they have a desk at all
or just a strong knee

Always, filled with nosiness
I love to imagine
the artist’s desk
the magic place
where they give birth
to what always was…

[2019]

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My Prescription

Too seriously
I tend in my journey
too easy to focus on the duty
the facts of what’s in hand
the doing of a thing

So precious
to see the nonsense
appreciate the humour
the madness
in everything you’re tasked with

So freeing
to have a sense of silliness
draw a cock and balls
on your mortgage application
scribble a cape and tights
across the undertaker’s pamphlet

Life can feel like tumbling
through grinding grey machinery
without a wry eye on the daftness
smirking
at whatever crazed fool conceived this
and those who choose
to ride it all so earnestly

Your satire, your playfulness
your dark sense
of what’s appropriate to joke about
perfectly timed
skilfully placed
to punctuate the blandness
hacking at the horrors
laughing through
the banality of the day to day

Without humour we are robots
in some automaton tableau
zipping from thing to thing
from job to job
ones and zeros
bobbing up and down

Every plant in our house
has its own voice
its own personality
they have conversations with our animals
all channelled
through your hilarious sense of things
you turn dull mornings into bright theatre
just never call it ‘quirkiness’

You remind me to see the funny side
keep pulling at that silly string
you puncture my pomposity
with a most gentle needling
You’re the best medicine
you’re my prescription
and, among so many other reasons
I love you for this…

[2019]

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Stark

Tom is dead. His party’s over.
Stark and sarcastic
he’s just a memory, now…

So numb, I watch me crack again
in horrific black and white projection
about to jump, in someone else’s bed
so restlessly, I turn away
can’t face up to my adultery
the tempted, cheating, loveless; me

So dutifully, I cover my eyes again
headphones on, I watch me walking
blinded, soulless, vacuum filled
so magnified, I still look small
swallowing my pride, all passion dies
the pointless, aching, hollow; me

Devoid of colour, of life or joy
the putrid skin just falls away
a mess that stains the carpet
One last thing to write about
a death so rough and meaningless
the broken, elemental, rotting; me

(And at the sight of all of this
the spectator me can only laugh
and from my passive lips, a joke
a joke…)

They burn on in the night
dripping candles of my fat
for what I couldn’t give in life
comes from functionality in death
So openly, I tear out my beating heart
the sinning, lost and wasted; me

So obviously, I watch me try to stand
pushing the lens in deep between my eyes
the blue flushed out and burnt away
So covertly, I’m zooming in
I can’t get enough of seeing this
the forsaken, faithless, empty; me

So naturally, it came to me at first
time took my hands so tightly
pushed me into the holes again
stripped my words down to the bone
so pathetically, I put up a meek fight
the tortured, pained, artistic; me

A joke
stark and sarcastic
me
A joke
stark and sarcastic
me

[2003]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

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Wasteland

In the shining eyes of the girl below me
lit by the dim glow of a Paris night
I see the distance growing
that I’ve been running from
for so long

And there, I gasped
lay by her side, and said
“What have I become?
Do I mean anything to you?”

Inhaling on a cigarette
she looked at me, sideways
and said
“You have lost so much
most of which you gave away
drunkenly, or deliberately
Trying to be something else
but to yourself you’ll always stay
a stranger in this wasteland”

And that’s me
a stranger in this wasteland
Yes, that’s me…

[2004]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.