Broken-down Place

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Our sentences are short
perfunctory statements
serving a purpose

Our brief embrace is feeble
lacks the backbone
the spine of years ago

Your easiness with everyone is gone
my insight into everything is gone
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but who will be the first to admit
it’s stone cold now…

Time is a ticking machine
household tasks are an escape
will sleeping ever come?

A phone call to someone else
like a glimpse of some sweet beach
the image lingers on
long after they’ve gone

Your diamond eyes are dulled tonight
my wit is simplified tonight
in this broken-down place

We built ourselves a fire
but there’s no strength in us to go on
and no strength in us to admit
it’s stone dead now…

[2009]

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All my poems.

Let The Tide Decide

On some night-time road
with only a distant moon
or your dimming torch
meting out its weak light

Do not be afraid of getting lost
some new thing
may come to you
on the path that you can’t see
some great thing may surprise you

On that long journey
towards day’s promised ending
without any real map
to study or call upon

Do not be afraid of being wrong
take a chance
and see what comes
sometimes you’ll be right
and others you’ll start again

Free yourself
to be wrong
sometimes
you will find new capabilities

Be free
to get lost
sometimes
you may discover treasures there

Let the tides
of your mind decide
it’s alright
to be wrong
sometimes

Be free
be free to get lost
sometimes
let the tide decide…

[2017]

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Oxford In The Autumn

As autumn’s rusty fingers begin
to push their way through tired trees
So, the early dimming light
and spectral chill conspire
to gently sweep me back in time

It’s Oxford in the autumn
nineteen; with eyes opening
A new life unfolding
cycling through the leaves
and sighing under bridges

Oxford in the autumn
that brick so old around me
broad streets, illogical lanes
busses and puddles
gang up against my dryness

Oxford in the autumn
looking up into the trees
as they’re burying the pavement
or caught up in the railings
my whole life ahead of me

It’s Oxford in the Autumn
Black n’ Red notebook
poking from my back pocket
All the words collecting
I was yet to wrangle

It’s Oxford in the autumn
for a split second, that I’m returned to
by the dipping light of afternoon
yellow leaves upon ancient stone
those deeply imprinted memories

Oxford in the autumn
flowing scarves and knitted hats
of the girls who passed me by
to fight the cold of endless rain
from the depths of gloomy rented rooms

It’s Oxford in the autumn
and dust motes slowly dancing
in the air above the heater
Fog lit by orange street light
outside my cracked window

Every autumn I’m reminded
of those magical new beginnings
standing tall, for the first time
letting go of all my leaves
my whole life ahead of me…

[2020]

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Old Poem

Come on, come on, close!
Won’t these lift doors ever close?
You breathe into my mouth
my fingers invade your finery
I was hypnotised across the table
by the explicit silk of your bare shoulders
Now hot air slathers at my forearms
as our legs entangle their thick reef-knot
Behind this crashing waterfall
no one can hear us moan
as you’re bitten for the thrill of it

And in this lift, we write together
the oldest poem, it’s the oldest poem
a poem as old as time

You don’t know this but you’ve re-lit
the fuse of life in me
I’ve been feeling dead for months
in some subtle crushing ways
I’d lost my grip upon the rip chord
of that passionate parachute
Now, I’m risen and roused
heart beating in my lower lip
as it crushes itself to yours
My slight of hand restored
your clasp magically unlatching
All hell is breaking loose
as I soar across your skin

Come on, come on, close!
Doors; gift us some privacy
Lost in the moment, penning together
the oldest poem, it’s the oldest poem
a poem as old as time

And I’ve
never felt so alive…

[2020]

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Let Down Your Guard

Do not be afraid of the flames
they are the best thing I have ever known
Do not try to apply your logic
for it holds no currency here
You’re welcome to try and hide your joy
but there is no point in fighting this
it will take you, if it wants to

Do not be afraid of the flames
take the chance we all must take
please risk the ‘getting burnt’
for there is no better way
there is no better purpose in this life
Lay yourself down, open your arms
hold out your heart, to give

Do not be afraid of the flames
there is nothing to fear
The love cannot flow
unless you let go
Take a chance
the chance you take
I promise you I’ll honour
Do not be afraid of the flames
I will not let you burn
I swear…

[2008]

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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
as it’s 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
ghost banks and ghost galleries
all the local haunts

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

[2020]

Thanks for reading. A repost of a recent one, as it’s the only spooky poem I have 😂

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Letters To Old Lovers

Why should anyone still care
why should anyone raise an eyelid
the news is old
Perhaps, eight years ago
you may have gotten
some reaction
to justify the price of ink

Still you persist in writing them
letters to old lovers
letters they may lazily reply to
letters they may not reply to
the news is old

There’s no reason now
there’s no alliance
Perhaps to reminisce
for a short while
on a long cold afternoon
but nothing more
in these new lives

Still you persist
in writing them
letters to old lovers
letters that strain not to say
letters that overtly long to say
‘let’s try again’

And every time the letterbox snaps
its steel chops around your words
old lovers don’t bat an eye
old lovers just drive to work
(and teach)

And perhaps some time
they might recline
maybe a word or two then
they may spare for you
‘take care’, ‘go somewhere’
the news is cold

And still you insist
on replying to them
letters to old lovers
letters that don’t know when they’re beat
letters that don’t know when it’s time to stop

You don’t know when
the news is old…

[2007]

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Why So Blue, Sweetheart?

Sweetheart, you’re black and blue
Sweetheart
from the things I’ve done to you

Now your dead arm swings loose
and that bruised eye won’t open
Sweetheart
these things I’ve done to you

An evening among friends, descends
now we’re alone
Sweetheart
now you start, on me again
buttons all pushed, again

You try to stand your ground
but I always shout louder
Sweetheart
surely safer for you to just settle down?

Cower, out in the bedroom
give me space to throw my weight around
Sweetheart
don’t start those waterworks with me

Sweetheart
right from the start
you knew
I’m a passionate man
when it comes to you
Sweetheart

Those knocks
are just acts of love, gone wrong
slightly astray
Sweetheart
a light ‘tap’ on the face, Sweetheart
and you know that I love you

You’re shaking in my arms again
just like when we first met
I can still do that to you?
O, yes I do
but now you’re black and blue
Sweetheart…

[2009]

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The Winning Hand

In the dimming garden
beneath the belt of Venus
fingers grip a bottle
a nightcap alone

Finally, I belong
finally, I belong to someone
how I’ve run from this
for so long

Now, nothing makes me happier
nothing makes me feel more sure
of anything
than knowing that you’re waiting

There were so many jokers
in the deck
the two of hearts, too many cards
and still dealing, still dealing

The night air’s tinged by a new chill
September’s signature
autographing my bare arms
but I barely feel it

Let me stay by your side
through winter months
and country walks
through rain and sleet
and fog

I used to hold nothing in my hand
look at the empty shape it made
wondering if there was something missing
something
that should have belonged
only me
I should have belonged
to something
to you

I sit down into the wicker chair
look across the valley below
the sky is closing in the distance
darkness gloves the globe again

How could I
even for a moment
have doubted
I held the winning hand
all this time

How could I
even for a second
doubt that
I held the winning hand
all along…

[2019]

Thanks for reading. Repost from 2019.

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All My Love In Our Goodbye

The cliché of a midnight station
two trains
waiting to depart
I hold you for the final time
then we lock eyes
the knot in me just tightens
for all the words
I keep in my mouth…

What isn’t done now
will never be done
What isn’t said
will never be said
All my love
in our goodbye…

The limitless black of sky above
haunts our last encounter
as absolute as my choking sadness
I dip my eyes
Can you read my mind?
all hope of a reprieve quietly dies
with all the words
I keep in my mouth…

From another platform
across the tracks
I watch you make your slow, sure way
with each footstep my passion boils
my eyes, they widen
the fear grips me harder
We cannot end in such silences
with all these words
kept in my mouth…

Across the rails my shouts explode
the desperateness
in these dying moments
I scream of my love for you
My burning, bursting want for you
the aching, beating, magnetic pull of you…

And you call back to me
you thank me for my ‘honesty’
but you ‘don’t know what to say’
So, you don’t say any more
and your train slips you home
my train drags me home

The story over
the chance now passed
an oil-black sadness
is all I swim through
all my love
in our goodbye
but all my love
was not enough…

[2010]

Thanks for reading. Another old one…

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Broken Promises

That first kiss was our last
and all the promise I was so sure
there was to be found in you
it never came to be
Such a bad taste left behind
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
You burnt so brightly in front of me
there was no way it could work
when we wanted it that much
come so quickly, then gone again
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

That first kiss was our last
We fool ourselves that we’re above this
we tell ourselves we’re not affected
in truth, it hits us worse than anyone
so sensitive, so susceptible
I let you down
You let me down
with broken promises

So quickly they come and go
comets through the night sky
I wonder what is left behind
nothing but
broken promises

So quickly they come and go again
explosions of magic in the darkness
I stop to wonder what is left behind
and find nothing
but broken promises
broken promises
on both sides…

[2010]

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Kimberly

We move slow
in time with our slipping youth
We don’t rush, no
we were slow
to go home

Passing the coffee shops and bars
I would later make my home
I couldn’t have ever known
they passed by, a blur, unseen

Her hand
held loose
in the heat
There’s no need to push things
we’ve time…

Then one night
on a sofa in the kitchen
at my mother’s house
She turned slow, smiling
and said “we should”

I could have laughed
I must have beamed
and all at the same time
I was cautious

We moved slow
tip-toeing down to the car
I didn’t know
if I could take another one
another person’s innocence
away

So, I paused…
and time slipped away…

In a daydream I had
more recently
in a bar, when I was feeling particularly old
I thought back
and couldn’t remember
why I didn’t have her
If I could do it now
I would do it now

Then it hit me
I was honest then
I was decent
O, I was a real man
back then…

[2007]

Thanks for reading this tatty old poem.

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Strangeness and Experience

I want you to be unruly
write hard and clear
about tangled emotion
those who don’t
make me suspicious
I know there are other things
like genocide and selfish parking
and the bruises received
behind closed doors

I want to know people 
who are walking antennas 
sensitive and gifted
nerves nakedly exposed
flailing in the fallout

I was raised to keep all hidden
I was raised to deny all feeling
“suppress, suppress
deflect with humour”
on the freezing football fields
“stand in goal and we’ll aim at your head”

Thank you, fuck you
the North East of England
I found a way to let it out
I’d have hurt myself or someone else
if not for finding the page
and letting it all out
fuck you, thank you
the North East of England

I want to meet people 
who are lightning rods
for strangeness and experience
hearts on tear-stained sleeves
sopping wet with hard-won wisdom
articulate and true

Move me
make me feel something
there is no shame
and we are not ashamed…

[2020]

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All my poems.

Your Way Will Find You

I will defend your right
to say things that I don’t like
and though I may disagree
it doesn’t mean that I detest you
I’ll try my best to understand
how you reached that point of view

However uneasy listening
don’t bite your tongue
Let us see and hear you
come and speak freely
You may offend me
but then I’ll know we’re not in tune

Perhaps we’ll both learn something
if but how to better listen or argue
I won’t stop or censor you
let us see who you really are
be it brimming with wild beauty
or cosseted in poisonous loathing

All I can say and do
is try and show you a different way
Let kindness be your currency
don’t rush to speak a ‘me’
Reach into the well of suffering
and aim to lift somebody

Always see their value
and your commonality
If you’re feeling lost
and don’t know what to do
Reach out a hand to lend
and your way will find you…

[2020]

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Proof

Walking with my father
through the junkie’s habitat of the park
past the band-stand to the pond
where we stood and watched the birds

I longed to find some words to speak to him
as he stood beside me like a statue
in some stony silent prayer
I racked my brain for something true
some sort of spoken key
to unlock the parts in him he never shows

I wanted to see some proof
that deep inside he loves me too
I needed to touch his scars
to finally believe that all of this is real…

[2005]

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

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]

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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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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.

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

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]

Thanks for reading.

A report from Nov 2019.

All my poems.