The Hate Destroying You

Doe-eyed woodland artistry glows
O, how you hide your face away
I give and give to you
investment in a broken thing
once-grateful hands crave more and more

There is a sickness of mind
a blackness, a spoilt heart
where blame is always searching
and mirrors do not exist
once-blooming thoughts crush more and more

Pushing on the pillars that held you up
you’ve yanked too hard this final time
the string of respect has frayed to nothing
and now we’ve come to this closing door
once-hopeful eyes fear more and more

One day, when all is settled, I hope you change
let go of all the hate and grow in mind
One day, when all is healed
I wish you love and say
‘Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself

Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself…’

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

Image Credit: https://www.behance.net/gallery/273370/Folklore-Illustrations
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Quietly… (Collaboration, with audio)

Click play or right-click and ‘save as’ to download the mp3.

You’ve been sitting there quietly
Care to share your thoughts?

This infatuation has me
I wore your scarf to keep me warm
I could smell you there
snaking all around me
Feeling like a teenager 
in the grip of some sweet crush

I watched you
observing me with such indecent eyes
drawing me into your spell
My scarf, which you so casually
wrapped around you
had me burning with jealousy

I’m uncomfortable
seeing you 
sitting in front of me with your silk lips
a drink in your hand
and a sultry laugh filling the air

I’m so frustrated by the distance
my fingers click, my toes make fists
Whole body bends to inch closer
The slang in your eyes
speaks to the strength of my desire
I’m so wired, in the heat of the night
I want your fabric against mine

I was quietly thinking to myself
the only remedy 
to all of this would be
kissing your mouth, kissing your throat
and a week in bed with you…

I was quietly thinking to myself
you should race me home
so our bodies
can lock magnetically together 

for a week 
or three…

I think it’s time 
we called a cab 
and left…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

This was a really fun collaboration with Bree from Secret Thoughts Within. I’d been really intrigued by the idea of working on a poem in tandem with someone else and how on earth you’d go about it. Bree very kindly offered to show me the way and this is what we came up with (alongside a lot of other ideas). It’s a fun process and I’d recommend it if you’ve not tried it before. Check out Bree’s fantastic writing and audio at https://secretthoughtswithin.com/

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!

Lost Letter, Found

Did you heal that humbling heartbreak
ringing as a bell through you
Did you conquer the stifling loss
bitterly coating all your notebooks

Did you find a stranger at your door
clutching wine and headphones
Did they listen with hungry ears
to all the truths you had to share

Did they grab your wrists with passion
dance you into the endless night
Did they calm your fears with a simple gesture
hold you the way you always wanted

Did they lead you astray, in that inspiring way
did you laugh together in the face of darkness
Did they mute the chill of rain upon your senses
push the mundanities of living back into their places

O, how I wanted to be that person
how I wanted to be the one standing there
on some unexpected evening
with that bottle and those tunes

I hope someone answered all the longing
that came pouring from your pen
I pray that you’re still singing
but now the song is sweeter

I hope someone answered you
the way I always wished to…

[2013]

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Get A Room

Let me fan the flames
of your fandom
tickling ‘like’ and painting praise
watching out for typos
You and I
should duck
out of here
you and I
should get a room

What would we do in there
behind the locking door?
Turn two armchairs facing inwards
swap endless breathless monologues
clinging on to voices
hanging from each word
at what point would we be satisfied
at what point would we be done

Let’s assume
there’s a bed in that room
or an armchair
or a shower
at what point would we be satisfied
at what point would we feel like one

Afterwards, the peace glide
and searching open eyes
scanning for silent truths
for glimpses of emotion, for clues
at what point would we be satisfied
at what point would it feel enough

There’s an ocean of desire
between your pen and my paper
there’s an ocean of water
between your hem and my wrist

You and I
should duck
right out of here
you and I
need to get a room…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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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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]

Thanks for reading.

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The Jealous Writer

You wrote two clumsy lines
a platitude wrapped in cliché
The Coldplay of love poetry
clocked up two hundred likes
and fourteen gushing comments

Then you wrote the same poem
every day, in a slightly different way
The adoration only spiralled
collecting fans and affirmation
how on earth do you do it?

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Murmuration

A hyper-sensitivity of feeling
your art connects across the senses
The roughness of ancient bark
beneath gentle fingertips
A kiss from rock-pool water
warm against bare ankles

A double exposure
a murmuration
it’s poetry, the sensuality
the sheer never timid beauty
lensed so gracefully
with such assurance and dexterity

The texture, a waking daydream
a cloak of fog, shaft of sunlight
A cinematic freeze-frame
marked by absence
the distance or proximity
of pain and recovery

Point and click, your dark-room trick
it’s as if you have control
over the mountains
the birds, the tides
or consummate authorship
of the nuance you convey

A solo figure in vast expanse
an aloneness I recognise
searching but serene
Lost in the careful creation
of an endless mythology
loudly reverberates in me

The slow creep of new tissue
like quietly vanishing tattoos
it’s at your back and haunches
as your work builds and soars
so far from that place
expressive in its woozy warmth

I hear the touch, witness the aroma
I exist in awe and quiet wonder
A world scatters its knitted beauty
a murmuration
Little charcoal sketches
across watercolour paper

The spine is a map
a breadcrumb trail
we trace with our fingers
but we can’t go back
ephemeral and observable only
in reflection or a photograph

Dusk tides, an evening deer
a crumbling barn, eiderdown snow
A swimsuit girl, the Northern Lights
a neon sign, a broken rainbow
midnight phone booth, stitches in skin
untethered and inspirationally free

Your photography is a place
I love to visit when I can
It’s pure poetry you pen
with the light, with your lens
A lasting comfort, you translate
the message I can’t help but take;

It’s impossible
impossible not to love
the beauty of this world…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

An ode to the exceptional work of one of my favourite photographers; Margaret Durow.

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.

Calling Wisdom

Calling wisdom
to see through all the horse shit
of your flimsy words
Those jelly-limbed actions
flailing so selfishly and blindly
out in front of me
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom
to untangle all the wires
of your dangling contradictions
Cut through the paper masks
of all your posturing
that you’re completely lost in
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom
to cast a dim light on your thinking
What train of thought
you caught to get to here
These decided sidings
of this line’s end
I’m calling wisdom

Calling wisdom…
to map a human sense of things
the fucked foundation you’ve been building on
is cratered and crumbling in upon us
and burning bricks and buried bones
are all that I can know now
I’m calling wisdom…

Calling wisdom…
to put in place a forest of words between us
brush blooming plants to hide the muddy path
that we spun down
senseless and scared-shitless
and because you never did
I’m calling wisdom…

[2010]

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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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Things Half Said

Looking back
over everything
I committed to the page
There seems to be gap
between the truth
of what was felt
and what’s recorded

The words came
while I was still
questioning the validity
yet, what I
then went on to feel
was always with such certainty

There is a space
between
There is a space between
you and me
filled with things
half said

Sifting through the sketches
of painted scenes
I tried to show
There are great swathes
of missing detail
I deemed too complicated

My vocabulary
was much too meagre
to convey
with any accuracy
and what I left
scratched for all time
was never entirely honest

There is a space
between
me and you
between
the story and plot
filled with things half said

Will I ever be skilled enough
to tell my story, completely
Will I ever have the talent
to fill that space
with something other
than things half said…

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

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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Then Give Back…

When the song is sung out of me
all breath wheezes away
When those closing eyes are mine
and silence fills my mouth
then I will give myself back

When the turning wheel is staid
the longest road is walked
When gravity is satisfied completely
and all my poetry has been written
then I will give myself back

I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself back to the earth
from where I came

When the flower’s head is closing for the night
and the worms surface from below
When the tune I’ve been humming is done
and the daydream of all I’ve known is broken
then I will give myself back

When the trivial moments are beyond mundane
and the steady hand-hold no longer offered
When the night is a bruised black and star-less
and every wish is washed clean away
then I will give myself back

And in giving back all I’ve ever had
I’ll fuel another chance for life
I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself to the ground
from where I came…

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Our Home Cannot Be Here

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]

Thanks for reading.

I have a new book… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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.

Houdini Song

Spitting it out in the hope of releasing
unlocking the cage stifling my growth
burning it all selfishly brightly
and the feeling is back again
pounding my head again
to just let go…
just let go…

Spewing it up with the aim of escaping
fleeing this habitual and too perfect a world
shedding the handcuffs worn in contentment
and the aching is back again
haunting my thoughts again
to just get out…
just get out…

Dreaming it up in the hope of fulfilment
melting again in the heat of the lime-light
always around and forever predictable
and the wanting is mine again
consuming me whole again
to just let go…
just let go…

Welling them up in my shining eyes now
both of them bursting in the wealth of emotion
as red as your face when you listen to these words
the Devil is my friend again
scorching my faith again
Screaming ‘just get out…
just get out…’

My demons are strong again
twisting my arms again
almost convincing me
to just let go…
just let go…

[2003]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Buy my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

N.B. I’ve since decided I should NEVER use the word ‘just’ in a poem if I can possibly help it.