Books of Blake

You saw me, even then
you knew me
back when no one saw me
I kept no one around
who might know me
I, too, was in my infancy
twenty-something
and far from knowing much
in any real way at all

Still, somehow, you found me
brought books of Blake
to the shop we worked
we’d sit and read together
on the varnished wooden counter
your summer dress
hanging from you like a sail
we’d admire the crazed paintings
taste those verses on our tongues

Books of Blake we stood before
and poured our minds all over
you said I ‘didn’t know how to do what I was doing’
I ‘didn’t know how to love who I was loving’
the cheek of it!
the incisiveness…

And you’d tell me
of the bottle of wine you drank
in the bath, the night before
as the water grew cold around you
cleverly planting images
that I’ve not shaken to this day
(all these years on)

You were a lush and tranquil island
in the sea of my stupidity
you were the first mind
I truly connected with

And I still rue the day
you slipped through my fingers
growing cold around me
then gone forever…

[2020]

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Song For Sam

We drove across the tumultuous city, Sam
You were perched precariously
in the back seat of the van, listening hard
to my words that flowed like water
the stream of consciousness being voiced
I claimed it would calm you, free you from the tension
and the motion sickness
In reality you were lifting the weight of the sorrow from me
lightening my load with your askance eyes
drinking down the broth of hurt and confusion
that was boiling up inside
That truck was stuffed with all that had formed our home
and when we reached the new place
you nervously watched me unpack
All the while I explained what was happening
what I wasn’t sure that you understood
and why it was, that this might be good for us
That bruised night, Sam, you were the best friend I could have had
providing all I needed, without judgment or argument
I was so proud of you there, Sam, I was so close to you

Ninety nights of drinking up and falling down, Sam
Ninety days of not plugging my heart’s gaping hole
Laid low in bed again, six feet beneath the sheets
You’d come and hover beside me, in your naive curiosity
listening to what I had to say
offering me some calming contact
The softness of your presence could always light a smile
ease the thunder claps of pain
crashing through my battered brain
And with more grace and ease than I could muster
you settled down and found your rhythm within new walls
A certainty to which I could return each day
that familiar look you’d give, saying ‘I’m glad you’re home’
it lifted me from the scraping, bleeding, lows
of that new hollowness I crawled within
I was so grateful, so indebted to you then, Sam
And, finally, when I levelled out again, we played a while
with you running your rings around me

It was a brutishly cold Christmas, Sam
at my mother’s rented house, that winter
We stayed in the upstairs room with a broken window
it got so cold at night, you’d come and lie beside me
keep close for whatever warmth I could provide
Sam, you looked so small just lying there trying to sleep
gripped in the fist of that endless icy grip
I remember seeing you watch me leave
from the upstairs window
A Christmas eve spent with friends from back before I knew you
You didn’t seem to mind me leaving
but I knew I’d be back soon to check on you
And when I returned, you’d charmed my whole family
Sam, you left your mark on them
those smiling faces trailing in your wake

So, I was healed in time, Sam, and you flourished
another pair of loving arms were opened up to us
You were right there, giving your blessing
and looking out for us
Seemingly, you responded well
to the renewed happiness that had blossomed in me
I’d sing my songs to you from time to time
and you never seemed to mind
Just sat, bemused and listening without reproach
My first and only audience in a whole lifetime
of wanting (but not daring) to sing
I wonder what you thought of it
what you made of those croaked notes
They were sung for you Sam, they were sung for me too
You watched so much of my changing life unfold in front of you
The peeking from my cave
to the walking tall in the clear and golden daylight

Sam, you know me, I can’t sit still too long
no sooner was I healed, a new and lasting lover in tow
and it was time to jump out from that goldfish bowl town
No question, no hesitation, you came along and settled in so effortlessly
carving these new lives of ours
among the towering heights of the spiralling capital
And Kate, she loved you so much, and was always there for you
Running from room to room
the closing circles of happiness drew around us
Finally, Sam, I think we were a family, and such a happy one
Watching the Olympic torch paraded past our house
So many memories, sweet mornings, playful evenings
and all our adventures by train and tube and car

But Sam, that last night, you lay there so sluggish
wearing that quietly searching expression
no way to say what was ailing you
and I stayed close, through your illness, to be with you
I knew that night would be the last we shared
We sat together for hours, all of our past replaying in my head
Despite your pain, you wore it well
lost in your quiet thoughts
And as I left the room for the final time
I was never more filled with such an overwhelming sadness
and gratitude
For everything you gave and did and meant to me
the next morning, on the way to work
I remember that song playing on my headphones and Scout was singing
“Baby, what can I do, to make it right for you”
I had tears forming in my tortured eyes
knowing there was nothing more I could do
knowing I’d never see you again

Now, when I venture into the back room
it’s toxic with your absence
a silent freeze-frame that screams your name
Through the creaking emptiness of a soulless place
O, my friend, I don’t want to be without you
My friend, life isn’t the same without you
I wish you were here, I miss you tonight
and won’t forget you, Sam
Thank you, always…

[2013]

Thanks for reading this very long 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]

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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]

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All my poems.

Hunger Hill Farm

Darling, where have I been?
I’ve been out driving
I’m driving again
down Summer lanes at night
in the faded light
like I used to
when I was young
back before I knew you
back before all of this, now

I’ve been out driving
where my mind is free
I can think, but I don’t have to
just keep the car on the road
and along I go
the music playing loud
louder than you’d allow
how I so love to hear it
feeling the place and time
like it is an ancient place and time

Where I’ve been is really ‘when’
I’ve been back to where I fell in love
with a life so open wide
with so much opportunity
so much I could have been
and though the car was empty
I swear I could hear my old friends talking there
voices coming from the back seats
and they were laughing
how I’ve missed that sound…

I’ve been out floating
through those streets and villages
beyond the commuter-belt handcuffs
hurtling down a slick-black river of road
Sometimes, I stop the car
in the ditch by Hunger Hill Farm
I lie on the metal roof
watching the stars
timeless, unfazed, above me
like we did when we were younger
like when I first met you…

Sometimes, I imagine you’re beside me
but the ‘you’ when I first met you
so free, so open, so in love with everything
and she whispers in my ear
‘All of this is ours
whatever we may want
we may… yet… be…’
and I smile with shining eyes

How I loved you
How I loved you then

Slowly, I drive home
you hound me for where I’ve been
complain about your day
as I open my first beer
imagining I’m still out there, somewhere…

I’ll always be out there
a part of me
will always be out there
somewhere…

[2009]

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A report from Nov 2019.

All my poems.

Don’t Forget To Breathe

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
when white noise
no longer lets you sleep
And in the mattress springs
a crawling metronome
some percussive heartbeat
one thought then another
one worry trailed by the next
Did what was said make sense?
was it understood
will this be good enough
impossible options
improbable odds
suddenly so awake
in the anxious hours
Don’t forget
to breathe…

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
try to recall these words
line by line
whispered in the dark
piece by piece
fall back to sleep
it’s peace upon peace
and don’t forget
to breathe…

[2019]

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All my poems

Ghost Café

Our Halloween masks reflected back
as we peer through that dusty glass
into the quiet gloom of the Ghost Café

If only the ghost waitress would take our order
‘large or small?’ she asks, well, I’m a medium
ghost chairs dragged across the ghost floor

And the clank of local steel set down
on delicately painted porcelain
bustling echoes bounce from peeling walls

People starting or restarting their little days
someone is eating, someone staring into space
someone there in spirit only

The tangled bead curtain splashes
each time the burly ghost chef passes
Chip-and-PIN fickle again as always

Unopened letters collect behind rusted shutters
a thick dust settles on every spout
Ghost landlord longs to collect the ghost rent

We keep our distance, don’t touch a thing
we stay at home, say ‘what a shame
nobody in the ghost café again’

The Ghost Café serves a passing trade
ghost shops, ghost pubs, the local haunts
ghost banks and ghost galleries

The Ghost Café looked alive for a moment
spectres flickering in the gutted ruins
another empty space now up for sale…

[2020]

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The Beginner

Always
I want to be
the beginner
learning

Always
I love to be
the novice
finding out

Here is where the excitement
the innovation lies
Here is where the unknown
magnifies the pleasure

Always
I aim to be
the student
of a new situation

Always
I long to be
the protege
of fate’s master

Here is where the blankness
is like a bright summer’s day
Here is where the silence
is inspiration in itself

Always
I want to know more
deeper insight into everything
growing

Always
I aim to be
expanding
my understanding

Always
I want to be
the beginner…

[2016]

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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]

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A repost from Nov 2019.

Song for Laura Lee

Laura Lee, she was my first love
tangled in her parents’ bedsheets
and shadows from the attic window
With my army-surplus shirt
slipping from her shoulders

Laura Lee, she was my first love
my first taste of intimacy
her loving hands upon me
guiding that desire, so deftly
through our discovery and naivety

Laura Lee, she was my first love
our fumbled teenage kisses
quickly blossomed and were washed
in ever deeper waves of lust
and learning a new language

Laura Lee, she was my first love
she taught to me the chorus
of that lover’s song
she handed me the blueprints
I would forever build upon

Laura Lee, she was my first love
I’d ascend for hours into
the bottomless darkness of her eyes
and the lines of those lips
her quiet radiant beauty

Laura Lee, she was my first love
as I learned how two hearts will knot
a little death, a birth
as she sang the lover’s song
deep into me

It’s a melody I’ll chase
perpetually
Thank you, thank you for the tune
I’ve carried always
with me…

[2020]

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The Causeway Between Our Hearts

Tonight, I eye the wind
as it dances on the water
singing of the distance
that no longer can be closed

Well, I told you I was selfish
there were no children in me
Unwilling to stir for a moment
from this endless daydream
where I father my creativity

You told me that you knew me
our hearts beating to that same drum set
and no one must wake you either
That carving pretty worlds
behind closed eyes
is your calling and profession

With one eye knowingly
looking into mine
and the other doggedly at the door
you welcomed my request for kisses deep
while telling me you could feel
that farewell letter in my back pocket
itching to be delivered

You rip away on the mildest breeze
a kite cut free
Could not believe
the words a writer brought you
the words you said you loved to read
You wished it dead, before the birth
and all I did was acquiesce

I tell you now
that letter was no dis-missive
but a list of tide times
The wind thieves it from my fingers
and I watch it whipping out
across the water

Two selfish hearts can coexist
only for a passing moment
then the ocean rises
the road is lost
the causeway closes

All we were is washed away
or wind upon the surface
ripples or waves, decaying…

[2020]

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Live In The Light

O Lord, I ain’t what I aimed to be
I think I missed the target some
my seed got turned upside down
tried to grow towards the light
and grew down…

O Lord, are you listening to me?
‘cause I’ve never heard your voice in here
no conductor’s baton, no steady hand
as I stumbled through this night
and grew dark…

O Lord, I’m miles from where I meant to be
the Devil, he has no compass, no stars to follow
says ‘hack away, till you reach the easy warmth’
but I hacked so many people, I keep slipping in their blood
and fall down…

O Lord, I haven’t used my eyes for years
don’t see anything when you only live to feel
I get whatever stimulus I can take
I’ll take whatever’s not bolted down
and go blind…

O Lord, I’m chased by that same snake again
always offering me that same apple
all I ever wanted was to live in the light
Yet something always eclipsed that need
now it feels too late to change
and I’ll always hang here in this bleak greed
and pitch night…

Would you forgive me, Lord
let me admit to all this blackness and move on
could you forgive me, Lord
if I promise you I’ll change and for the better

O Lord, all I ever wanted
was just to live in the light
but look at me now, deep in the dark
do you see me here, lost in this dark…

[2008]

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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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No Secret Place

There’s no such thing as a secret spot
in this college town
where strangers
are just friends of friends
news travels faster than light
Even in the dark
they’re bound to see as we embrace
before we could kiss
word would have blossomed
across town

These people live for gossip
these people live for scandal
I don’t want to service them
and their rotten needs
(by giving in to my own…)

There’s no such thing as privacy
in the glare of these glass eyes
tacked onto busses, buildings, banks
Casually observing every action
if you and I would dare to speak
we’d be captured, saved and dated
before we’d even finished
in this mistrusting town

These people live for drama
these people bay for criminals
I don’t want to fold to them
and their rotten needs
(by succumbing to my own…)

We cannot touch in this post-code
we cannot push the slightest limit
there is no shade
there is no dark corner
we can dwell in
there is no blind spot
there are no closed eyes
in this paranoid town

Perhaps you could meet me
on a sea-front somewhere wet
and in the torrential rain
this country’s eyes will be blinking
so furiously, that they don’t see
the true, free love
that flows in us
and we may finally give in
and we may finally succumb
to our rotten needs

O, and I can’t wait…

[2008]

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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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