Distance

I used to hide it
but my eyes would light up
when you said
you were ‘going away’
I used to sigh
away the smile inside
when you’d say
‘I’m going away…’

Lock our lips
then we’d part
You’d grow small, into the distance
such beloved distance

I used to go wild
when the time came around
for spacious relaxation
I’d go blind
when you went away
I took off my shirt
wrote my new rules
on all of the toilet walls
while you were away

Filling all the holes
with my freedom
my deceit
my complete
my utter
lack of respect
for you
while you were away

I’d be thirsty as a mountain
unfeeling as a carcass
I’d be roadkill
if it pleased me to be
O, how I wronged you
while you were away

Always
you’d come back
and when you came back
I’d be so prepared
slip back into my cave
We’d lock our lips
and I’d grow small again
now there was no distance
no beloved distance

Don’t think there isn’t
one single day
I don’t regret
one single day
that I don’t turn away
and wipe my eyes
one single day
as you kiss me
that I don’t wish to die
for what I did
while you were away…

[2006]

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Cairo On The Radio

Down the endless garden
to a hand-built shed of wonders
and little me, sitting with my grandad
listening to all the voices
pushing through the static

What magic in those wires!
The narrow band, the wide
The squelch and the gain
The whistle and the whine
sounds I’ll never forget

The spectrum of a planet
chattering
Such wisdom in rough fingers
so deft upon the dial
gently they’d spin the roulette wheel
and flip between tunings

I was constantly in awe
at this window on the world
My ear up against the glass
of infinite possibility
and my grandad’s gentle teaching
explaining everything

We’d eavesdrop on conversations
clattering
fizzing through the airwaves
speaking so quickly
in strange new cadences
We’d hear calls to prayer
that sounded nothing like
the tuneless church bells of home

‘Where’s the microphone’ I’d say
‘can we speak back?’
he’d remind me
‘the most important thing, sometimes
is just to listen’
O, I was learning…

And when we were done
he’d disconnect the aerial
and gently warn me
how lightning storms
could blow up the receiver
O, how powerful, how dangerous
how exciting!

Charlie, Alpha
India, Romeo
Oscar

Come back…

[2020]

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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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Artefacts

Everything I used to touch
was touched with sadness
Everything I used to make
or say out loud
or joke about
was infused with sadness

A pathos to deepen all
a blackness
to accentuate all light

Everything I hung
was waiting to be hanged
in every tale I spun
I was waiting to be hanged

Somehow, the sadness
magnified the brightness
shifted perspective
brought my dark art to life

Everything I used to hold
was held as I was gripped
by a deep sadness

Artefacts now
from another world
Carried across the borders
of ancient space and time
tinged with all
that passed through me

And coming back
artefacts of the past
have one question to ask
repeatedly they ask:

‘Why and how did you go on
why and for what did you hold on?
swaddled in your black sadness
held back by your blank sadness’

I think I liked it
I think I thought it was all I deserved
I thought it rang true in me
at the cost, at the expense
of all else

O, how wrong I was…

[2015]

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My Fingers

A palm coasts along the softness
senses tingle in expectation
soon the hand-craft finds the warmth
and lands

I am right there with each one
in the backs and in the knuckles
I am not my head, I am my hands
on you

There is a rattle, a subtle shake
I think we’ve found our place
There comes a signal, a growl within
I think we’ve found our perfect place

Into, into, within
all around the edges
across the surface
exploring, imploring
they toil on…

I am right there with each one
in the tips, and in the nails
I am not my head, I am my fingers
in you…

[2011]

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Tiger Mountain

I have fallen for the mad ones
and the sad ones
and the ones who don’t know what they want

I have found that mania so consuming
confused depression for deep thinking
I’ve tried to heal the cracked ones
and piece the broken ones together…

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

I have lived off the wild ones
brought calm to the angry ones
laid down with the tired ones and slept

I’ve ridden with the seesaw ones
always wondering where I stood
felt lost with the wilful ones
and cried beside the bitter ones

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

I’ve walked across the weak ones
swum naked with the free ones
reached out for the timid ones
but found no hand waiting there

I have been ungrateful for the nicest ones
been bored by the honest ones
prayed for the fickle ones to change
knowing no love could bloom there

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

And I have wondered loudly why
I never could reach the summit
with my broken ankles…

[2014]

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Crying In Your Wedding Dress

The roads and gutters flood
not with rain
but tears
crying in your wedding dress
tearing your hair out

The churchyard freezes over
not with winter
but with the pain
of pulling off that ring
screaming your lungs out

You wore that dress for sixteen hours
you wore it too long
you wore it when you arrived
and you wore it when you woke up
the next morning

I wore my invisible jacket
my invisible trousers
my invisible smile
all day
on our wedding day

The prototype for this event
the blueprint of this heart-ache
is etched so deeply in me
there was no other way it could be
on our wedding day

I was walking, drunk, stumbling
you were crying in your wedding dress
I was gone, I was never really there
you were crying in your wedding dress

I was broke for any feeling
you were broke for any hope
crying in your wedding dress
on our wedding day…

[2008]

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The House Looks Like A Painting

The house looks like a painting
yet, we can’t agree on anything
What I want is meaningless to you
what you want remains awkwardly obtuse
and unreadable

I play my game, aligning the pieces
to get me whatever I desire
O, the house looks like a painting
but I never know what’s right
too adept at getting what I think I need

Meeting an old girlfriend
who talks of monasteries and monks
as I count the freckles on her nose
and wonder if she still swallows…

O, the house looks like a painting
yet, we cannot agree on anything
Is there an urge that we can harness
and repair
or just our feeble pushes
toward opposing goals
Two firm lurches toward different shores

It’s corrosive
it’s wholly limiting
it’s the only way we seem to know
to operate

The house looks like painting
and still we’re not aligned
on anything at all…

[2017]

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Torture

You show me your open hand
flash me your smiling eyes
Say ‘come here, talk a while’
then you leave me standing in the rain

You hand me a note stained with kisses
gift me a signed photo of you
Say ‘have this, share with me’
then you leave me standing in the rain

I am such a fool
I am such a fool for you
I’ve been standing in this rain
for three weeks solid now

You meet me at one of our old haunts
loiter in the doorway of our youth
Say ‘Thank you, so much, for coming’
then you leave me stranded in the rain

You write me such an honest letter
show me even more of depths of all you are
Say ‘I’m in need of someone like you’
then you leave me stranded in the rain

I am such a fool
I am such a fool for you
Either you don’t know enough about me
or you know exactly what you do
Give me another taste of all I want
then pull away and make me wait again

This is torture
I could do this to myself
I don’t need you, too
I am such a fool
I am such a fool for you

Why won’t you open up
and give yourself to me
finally and fully
As I stand in the falling rain
soaked through
I’m soaked through for you…

[2009]

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Electricity

In that lift ascending
electricity…
In that hotel bedroom
electricity…
In our empty office
electricity…
On that leather sofa
electricity…

On the last train home
electricity…
In my en-suite bathroom
electricity…
In the work-place kitchen
electricity…

In the tips of your fingers
electricity…
In the palm of my hands
electricity…
In the peeling off our clothes
electricity…

As I push my tongue to yours
electricity…
As your body wraps tight around me
electricity…
In the heat of your molten curves
electricity…

But in our conversation

And in our hopes and values

In our tastes beyond flesh

And in our sense of humour

We have nothing else to share
but this electricity
We have nothing else in us
but this electricity…

[2009]

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Wail Song

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, it never seems to end
Get well soon and mend all things
Some times never wants to end

I was kneeling in the garden, shuffling the leaves
trying to keep nature in boxes
Wind blows and wind knows I can never win
my shoulders sink, I know I can never win

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, there is nothing we can do
tuck your head below the sheets and wait
Sometimes, there is no sign at all

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, we can’t avoid it
Just push your hopes into a poem
sometimes, it seems, there is no one who will listen

The waves rise over the railings, soaking me
the shock, the cold of the sea’s like magic
in that blast of reality, I achieve some clarity
I’m not afloat, I’m driving this life’s direction

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
sometimes, we get so blinded
reach out and find a sure hand, it will come
sometimes, we have to make more effort

It just takes time… you have to try
take some time, do what you have to
shed the song right off your body
it just takes time, you have to try…

[2011]

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Frightened Eyes

They don’t understand
being beautiful, being desired
They have no experience
of anything but
broken smiles
inconsequential voices
feeble phrases
and frightened eyes…

Frightened eyes
despise
everyone, everything
everyone and everything
Frightened eyes
consider lies
the currency of choice
to navigate the halls of hate
down which they walk every day
at everyone they pass, they laugh
and everything they see, they secretly
want, so badly, to be…

They don’t understand
being youthful, being vital
with no energy
for anything but…
vicious side-swiping
venomous debasing
violent de-throning
and squint-eyed loathing…

Squint-eyed loathing
seeping in
every hour, every day
every hour of every day
Squint-eyed loathing
the only thing
they undertake to truly know
deeper goes their insight into
scared-shitless creeping feelings
and everyone they meet, they mistreat
everything they learn, they, in return
want, so badly, to burn…

[2009]

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Feels So Far Away This Evening

October shed its skin
across these pavements
Now, November does its best
to wash the mess away
We glide down
the lonely streets of night
lost in appreciation
for the moody glow that guides us

You carry such a heavy heart this season
what was taken
brought you this blackness in exchange
and so I do
whatever I can
to lift it up for you

This dance of conversation
jig of gentle humour
all my attempt
to paint a more hopeful picture
Ease the crush of grief that’s levelled
by a cruel unfeeling world
And gratefully
I’ll give whatever part of me
might dull this pain for you…

There is hope
(I know you know this)
There is a hope
waiting to be held again
in those gentle, loving hands
(I know you know this)
yet it feels so far away this evening

You are loved by so many
(I know you know this)
There is nothing
but a pure, real, love and respect
flowing through my veins for you
(I know you know this)
but I wanted to remind you
in the hope
that you might cease to feel
so far away this evening…

[2013]

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Whereabouts

What strange gravities compel you?
Which strong seasons
manipulate the focus of your mind?
What forces are at work
governing your silences and interactions?
What are the properties of magnetic north
that keep you so firmly held there?

Which habits formed into crippling routine
Which once-cradled ambitions did you let burn away?
What hope, was it you had, for all of what you started
when you laid yourself beside her?

The peeling back of quiet moments…
The giving birth to living memories…
The quelling of hostile emptiness…
All these
oiled by flasks of brewed liquid…

What source of buried passion exists?
What reason for the unbridged distances of family?
What cold and clear window protects you
from the warm interactions of flesh and blood?
On what throne
beyond the claws of love exposed
do you stay slumped?
And what reasoning hangs from these vague choices?

The flame is weak and distant
the light is dim
The star that shines in you kept hidden
by clouds of distance and disinterest

What do you feel when you see me expanding here
growing into your shape on this reflective surface?
What do you think when you see me flexing skills
that must have been learnt from you?
Do you worry that shared talents means shared failings
Do you think to warn me against their dangers
give the gift of wisdom, just an insight or two
is there more that I could learn from you?

There is still some hope for healing
the withered roads that link our homes
There is still some hope for forging a bond
that will carry us into the future

O, but where are you
and where am I to you?
Where are you
and where am I to you?

[2013]

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Between A Blue Night and Dawn [with audio]

[Please click above to listen! Right-click and choose ‘Save as’ to download the Mp3]

Two lovers traveling
two lovers
meeting in the East

Their affair
was letters inked
and photographs
Now here embodied
will they know what to do?

She wakes him one morning, saying
‘let’s take a boat to an island
we’ll rise above the Bangkok smog’

Bike beneath them spluttering
her arms knitted around him
they race from bay to beach
chasing the burning sun
with hair wet and smiles wide

Their shoulders lapped by waves
she was beautiful
sitting on his knee
they felt married, waist deep
straw hats wilting in the brine

He thought ‘I could hold you here forever
I would kiss you
until the stars pepper the sky’

Between the music
from the bars off in the distance
and the love
dripping warmly from her words
a song composes itself over the ocean

Orion’s Belt above them
sand dancing between their toes
they rest upon the rocks
and she knows that she could love him
he wishes this night would never end
it’s one chance in their lifetimes
between a blue night and dawn

In a stilted shack on sand
her black hair spreads
like ink across the bed
longing dialling up their eyes
as the air between them boils
bodies’ voices blending

Two lovers traveling
two lovers don’t know if they’ll meet again
this could so easily have been
the love of their lifetimes

This could so easily have been
yet it existed only
between a blue night and dawn…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Reposted from February, now with an audio reading set to the track Green Arrow by Yo La Tengo.

Ellipsis [with audio]

I don’t write them like I used to
they’re not carved out of my bone
the way they used to be

I don’t bleed over the carpet
in some mouldy rented bathroom
like I used to

They used to say it was the angst that drove me
some mild flair for painting what had pained me
but you have to make peace eventually
I don’t know what is driving this anymore

At the end of that final line there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
saying so much more than I

Now, I don’t sweat it out in twisted sheets
with cramped heart and cracked beliefs
surrendering my barbed emotions like a flag
the way I used to

I don’t tap that vein of pure unfocused bile
don’t let it gush across the front row of my imagined audience
they don’t say much about my unbridled verse these days
like they used to

At the end of every poem there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
dragging on and on

It speaks louder than I ever could…

[2014]

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Such Strange Light

Such strange light
washing out
into the long night

Generous with pigment
volcanic reds and stella blues
you see that damp look
on the snapshot of my face

I wish someone had told me
wish someone had just shown me
dad, you could have warned me

O, how it burns
how it hurts to see yourself
suddenly, with that clarity
kept reserved for other people

In the rear-view mirror
in that mirror

Cold slate evenings
rudely cut in two
and poking through the gaping night
such a strange, strange light

Fickle thought
fickle life
fucks all
fickle thought
fickle life
forgive me…

[2016]

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This Infinity [with audio]

I will never learn from my affairs
they bake within my heart but nowhere else
see, she looks at me
she may speak to me some short time
then suddenly and so completely
it’s all I feel
a love that is not real
all I can do is hang from her every movement…

Yet again, I’m helplessly hopeful for that breath
already feeding myself on the bliss of kisses promised
but those suggestions
don’t emanate from her
or anywhere but in my spiralled mind
as it fills with love for some ideal
all I can do is hang from her slightest smile…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
my mind is weak and falls so quickly
before I can blink, it’s all that I can see
I twist until the heartbreak of this infinity…

If only obsession didn’t roost inside these bones
if only my mind knew some subtle patience
I’ll lay myself down in that spinning room
try to think of something else or someone other
but no thought can form while she has not spurned
all I can do is hang myself on her polite decline…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
I build myself a cave so homely
lie scheming on the hope that she embodies
and twist until my heart breaks
in this infinity…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

Bonfires [with audio]

I was living certain and sure
of the future I desired
A house by the water
sea air kissing my eyes
before I brave the morning paper

A figure framed in a gaping doorway
watching freighters skim the horizon
Rest my coffee cup on the fence
slide a nail down this foreign envelope
draw the perfumed letter from within

The paper see-through
like her summer dresses
My fingers beneath it
don’t do justice
to the gentle tan of her skin
or the constellations
of those freckles

“They’re building bonfires
down in the city park” she writes
“I’m jealous of that fire
and that flame
I think of the fireworks
that only we saw
I recall those fireworks
with a dampness in my eye

The realness of the fantasy
we’d be painting daily
between the thighs and sighs
and all the magic we brought forth
our bodies so alive”

Signed off with red lipstick
and the creases of her mouth
it’s suddenly not so obvious
why I made my home here
It’s suddenly so unclear
why I made my home here

And I look out to see
they’re building bonfires
down on the beach
O, I’m jealous of that fire
and that flame

How I long to feel
the creases of her lips
pushing hard
against mine…

[2020]

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Tunnels

Tunnelling in the dirt below my feet
I’ve been digging for weeks
carving this hollow so deep
Today, I hit bone

This is heavier work than I imagined
we surveyed the ground from beyond the fence
both agreed that this was right
but now this toil
is breaking me apart

As a new day rises
I’m crying in the shower
never knew I could feel this low
crying in the shower
with the taps turned up to ten
never knew this pain was in me

She works elsewhere, broken too
she rests elsewhere
with someone new

This is the lowest point
promise me, please let this be
the lowest point

She will undulate and warp
she too will dig her way through
and when she climbs out of her tunnel
she’ll be who she’s become
and the person I loved will be gone…

She may smile the same way sometimes
she may shout me some echoey ‘hello’
but the person I loved will be gone

As I hack away the earth
I pause, wipe my brow and grieve
mourning the person, the love, the way of life
that will be buried when this work is done

Everyone’s heart gets bloodied sometimes
I never thought I’d choose this path
never understood the way
the pain could grip you in your bones each night
as you work your way through the tunnel

Promise me
it’s on from here
out of this tunnel
my work complete
and back up again
towards the light…

[2009]

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