One of Us Was Right To Leave

One of us will lose our head
that’s what I always feared
and when the night finally broke
on us, as we clung to the road
it was obvious; the poetry of certainty
conclusive proof of our mortality
the water fell like some swelling sea
and I drowned in tears of deep disbelief

One of us was right to leave
though heaven knows which one it was
we pushed hard and for so long
when the rope, it broke, we didn’t see
just scuttled hard, to find our feet
a dance of letting go, a balancing act
that pushes us down separate tracks
some hollow lane, an unknown road
where derelict houses line the path

One of us will surely return
the pleading of my heart demands
but stubbornness and ignorance of will
prevent me from succumbing first
the angry air that now divides us
speaks of the fear that loneliness delivers
in words so thick and unrepentant
they recoil so quick, back down our throats
choking the chance to ever repeat

One of us was right to leave
I keep reminding my sad heart
the way these changes must play out
will always make retrospective sense
no matter how unfathomable they now seem
once time has passed, the answers come
the fog of clouded judgment thins
and a happiness so resolute and defined
reveals itself before us as a golden field

And whoever it was
who was right to leave
may they go in peace
and come back peaceable…

[2006]

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(Reposted from Sept 2019)

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Dawn

Dawn is naked and alive
pirouetting in the street outside
she is a broad grey sky, endless above

It’s not rain…
just some foggy spray licking windows
a coat the building wears
a metaphor I cannot interpret
All irony is groggily lost on me
yawning with my whole body
struggling with the load of memory
I shoulder daily

Maybe I should stay indoors
get the fire going, the kettle boiling
That armchair won’t sit in itself
those books won’t read themselves…

How easily these stories are told to me
voices pitched and plot unfolding systematically
inspiration distilled onto the pages
the bittersweet feeling as I turn them
with story presenting; story nears its ending
time growls and time swells across all things
I read ‘the doorbell is ringing’
So, I leave the room
to check for the uninvited

There’s no one there
and I return to find…

The kettle has melted on the stove
the fire has spilled onto the carpet
the armchair roars in flames
those flames are toying with the curtains
All my books are burning
the whole house an inferno now
the house is burning down

Standing, cursing, in the sooty street
‘O Dawn! What have you done to me?
you have killed all of the trinkets
that I felt expressed my personality
you have released
all of the memories anchored to them
now they are free
and floating ghostly in the morning air

Oh Dawn, you have stripped me bare of all I carried
I’m no longer tethered to anything here
Oh Dawn, I am free to start a new journey
I’ll have to leave in the clothes I’m wearing
Oh Dawn, what have you done to me?
you have set me free to start again…’

[2014]

Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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Old Flame

Think the improper thoughts
think them through
to quivering conclusion
to nakedness and molten skin
shimmering in the moonlight

Think those improper thoughts
about friends’ lovers
about co-workers, old flames
about passing strangers
but please
think them about me sometimes

Thinking the improper thoughts
to fill boring afternoon meetings
and lonely mornings driving
scarce moments of serenity
always I…
think them about you

[2009]

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

Your Light, Our Youth

The strength of your light
catches me off-guard
how brightly you shine
blooming brilliantly
how welcome
how confusing to me

The confidence of your glow
magnetic from all angles
I’m softened in the shadows
but your light does not permit them
it’s so welcome
so challenging to me

Brighter than in our youth
brighter still than photographs
we talk and take a new one
twenty years since the day we met
how welcome
how perplexing too

I’m reflecting, always reflecting
your light, our youth
the memories hang pristinely
the good and the bad we shared
the good and the bad we did
to one-another

It’s easy now to gape open
so natural to reveal everything
an absence of thought
crouched behind our actions
even now you mine a shiver
even now you well a tear

The candle on the table extinguishes
but the light does not dim
our night of talking softly ends
but the light does not dim

It’s so confusing
I want you even more
than I ever did back then
I want to help you shine
more than I ever have before…

[2017]

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

The Upside Down Girl

Her skin is pale in the early evening
hanging upside down
from the foot of an unmade bed
feeling weightless
watching the world beyond the window
where Autumn rain falls upward
and lights divide

No appetite in this dark room
no appetite for days
friends all kept at bay
no rubber masks, only patches of ice
no fireworks, just fallen leaves collecting
passing headlights flood the room
then scan across the ceiling

Blood is pounding in her ears
‘I’m losing weight’ she thinks
As puddles form in the street outside
the shops all wear their shutters down
She reaches up, closes her eyes
pushes two thumbs into the carpet
and whispers

‘With every second slipping away
we become strangers
with every second sliding away
I cease to belong
to anyone, to anything
and strangers we will always be…’

The endlessness of loneliness
the faceless prison guard
rattles their keys
but there is no release
as she hangs upside down
doing all she can
not to break into a thousand pieces

And, strangers, we’ll always be…

[2019]

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All These Things It Takes

I try to touch you
in the weak light of dusk
My cells still tingle
yet you pull away…

Too hungry, too tired
too full of food
too much else we need to do

These things they kill me
These things
are killing me every day

I’d like to kiss you
on the slow walk to our place
I feel nervous
I know you’ll turn your cheek
accept a kiss there
but no more on your lips

Too much coffee, or garlic
too dry or too sore
too much else to be done

These things they kill me
These things
Are killing me every day

‘Sweat it out’
I’ve been telling myself
She’ll come around
I’ve been hard-selling myself

I’ve been doing that now
O, I don’t know for how long
Sweating it all out
for so long

O, it kills me
all these things
that it takes
All these things
that I need to survive
but I’ve sweated it all out
and I need to survive

I just need to survive…

[2009]

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Image Credit: https://www.livescience.com/62918-coldest-place-on-earth.html

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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 sleight 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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To Be Adored…

One day, I would love to sign my name
be wildly proud to autograph a volume
My words printed there in glorious black ink
Type-set, spell-checked and bar-coded
head-shot just inside the hard cover…

And the girl opposite says she loves my work
the way it resonates with her own feelings
gives a voice to what has gone unsaid
she and her beau read them at night

I’d be one step closer to meeting my potential
achieved something of worth
So, when my child wants to know me
they can be proud of what I made

And though, at times, my emotions ran so cold
my self-worth, some nights, practically sub-zero
I managed to focus my thoughts long enough
to shape them into a tidy poem

Illustrate each feeling I have wrestled through
let others know they’re not alone
Give language to annunciate their hurt
in return, all I want
is their respect
and to be adored…

[2004]

Haha, well, that young man didn’t want much… 🙂 Thanks for reading this very old poem.

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A Longing Less Refined

You say you love my mind
the sensuality of all I say
how you long to craft a reply
answer all the longing I’ve raised
You lie awake wondering of my words
‘A glimpse is not enough’ you say
‘I want conversation deep
I want to memorise your soul’

Still I shiver for that burning connection
a longing less-refined
can’t you boil for an inch of this
can’t you itch for my lips
to be held in these thin arms again
You’d sweat and burn at night
for our next physical encounter

Your fingernails should mark my skin
There should be bruises left like sonnets
In the meteor impact of our collision
You’ll see the spark of my soul there
As I shiver up inside you

You bite your lip as I show my strength
and repeat until we melt into one
Forget the reading, forget the speaking
bite my shoulder
prolong this feeling
Away with words
Cut this talk
let me at you

Away with words, fuck these sentences
I want silences split with kisses
Sucking sounds and bitten skin
Trade intellectual for the sexual
As we do those things we do
So, away with words
Cut the talk
let me at you

[2010]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

I’d posted an extract from this one on Twitter last week and people seemed keen. This is actually part of a much longer poem but I’ve robbed all the best lines from it for other poems over the years. These are the remaining (previously unshared) parts.

A Map of The World

In the bright cave
of memories, retained
lives a warm smile
kept, always, for you
Glowing with sharp precision
it will not fade
You painted the walls
of this space I occupy

With no hint of any slight
that could be held to you
No reason for ill thought
of any kind could be
Though I leave you here, our story over
You’re imprinted on the person
you helped me become

You showed me
a new map of the world
Your mind caught mine
and threw it wide open
I’d never known
such connections could exist
though now friendship only
it’s deeply revered

I remember how we lay
on your narrow bed, listening
Playing each other the records
of the songs that shaped us
You span me ‘Harvest
I unreeled ‘Knock Knock
Our minds at peace
in the glow of your globe

When I felt the slow damp tears
collecting in my heart
How I hoped this map would lead us
somewhere else
I’d been so sure
our river was longer
with more meanders
Still your wisdom remains, retained
deep within my bones

You showed me a new map of the world
Where you’d come from
well, I’d never been there
Now, I wonder if I’ll ever go
but if I do, know I take you with me
fondly, always, in my memory

Still your easy way has etched
its map across my brain
A place I think about so often
A place I’ll never be sure
I should have left…

[2011]

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Greenland

The bell clatters ‘Time’ on another quiet night
tucked off the shore front
In the precious warmth of a Sisimiut tavern
I take another jar, tilt it back and drain
but still there are no answers waiting
Slouching on the bar stool
and licked by shifting shadows
lulled to doze
by the constant comb of a shuffling sea
An absent-minded shiver washes over
and, suddenly, so softly
your pale arm around my shoulder
You put your hand on top of mine
My fingers splay
and for the briefest moment
yours warmly slip between them

How did you find me
I’ve gone as far as I can go
and still you reach me
I’ve run as far as I can run
yet still you’re haunting
In every cell of me
there lives an apology
always longing for release
I’ve got a skull full of sea
and the sting of that thing, it lingers
squid ink, blotting out my smile
A cloud of darkness, I always carry
And like the sci-fi turquoise skies above
your patient ghost won’t let me hide here

Through the coloured houses
spilling warm light on the snow fields
The endless beauty of this country
does its best to ease my soul-ache
I stand by the winter-beached boats
as the ice shelf cracks and sheers
ten ton tears crashing hard into the brine

And I wonder
which will be the first to end
the frost of our faded friendship
or the world…

[2022]

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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.

Lifted

You blew across the sky
a bird, black against the cloud
your wings beating hard
the way I was beating too

And for a moment…
I felt so alive

You slipped through
grazing my sooty skies
these pearly stars 
squealing in your wake

And for a moment…
I felt so alive

Was there something more
that we were supposed to do
some other experience
we should have expected to share

Lifted in your talons
my heartrate soared
lifted in your talons
those saturated colours…

Some moments are confined in life
to one instance only
some of life’s greatest moments
permit themselves to exist
for one instant only
then disappear
then they disappear

Was this the only moment
in these lives of ours
or is there a hope for more
I feel my heart lifted
by the thought
I feel my pulse lifted
by the hope for more…

Don’t disappear…
don’t disappear from me…

[2015]

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My Heart Is A Level Crossing

Does your heart stop
momentarily
when confronted by beauty
unexpectedly

Out walking on some autumn evening
a train intersects the low setting sun
crossing a bridge over the swollen river
our world’s perfection is exposed 
so clearly

And my heart stops
like a level crossing
my heart stops
in that moment

I take a breath
a deeper breath
reeling in that moment
let the beauty in
let the beauty fill me

Sparks crash down
from atop the arches
snow is falling onto cold wet lines
as the train slips back
into thick night
the dark of winter
lit by the flash-bulb of arcing beauty
and in that moment

My heart stops…

When this sea recedes 
and that wreck’s revealed
we stand below in wonder
the unburied spectre towers above
that always-waiting awe
returns to us
and in that moment

I take a breath
a deeper breath
drink the magic in
let the beauty wash over
let the beauty fill me

And my heart stops
like a level crossing
my heart stops
in that moment
as all the world
rushes through me…

[2014]

Thanks for reading.

Since writing this poem, I discovered this song which says what I was trying to say much better than I could:

Murmur Love

Don’t be scared to put it out there
Don’t be scared to speak
sometimes what you choose to make
is pure gold

Don’t be afraid to paint what you love
Don’t be afraid to create
some things are bigger than you ever knew
eternal beyond our lives

I say go
and keep going
go and keep going
murmur love, if that’s all you’ve got

I love the way you carve it
I love the way you write
I love the way you’ve made something
birthed yourself with such perfect phrasing

I say go
and keep going
go and keep going
murmur love, if that’s all you’ve got

And while you do
I’ll sing my praise
for you…

[2019]

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Take a look at one of my poetry books on Amazon.

Small Victories

Taking to the ocean
distance put between
my flippant will
and things to conquer
heart beasts
tugging at my sleeve

Turning, turning, turning
from that incessant chasing
the bay recedes, city lights 
swallowed by the horizon
heart beasts
circling overhead

Test me, am I strong enough
I try not to be broken
daily trials so choking
can I survive them?

At night, rocking in the waves
dreaming of returning
my fingers whispering upon them
my fortunes reversing
heart beasts
tangled all around me

Rising in the morning
telescope to my eye
mistakes reflected back
I reach for my pen, plot a course
heart beasts
following my wake

Some days, I have to wonder
is the chart the right way round
is this a map or just an outline
is this a tide to follow
heart beasts
snapping at my feet

Will I be strong enough
could I still be broken?
daily trials to navigate
can I survive them?

Here’s to the honest ground 
I’m scheming on
here’s to heart beasts tamed
each day; another day without them
here’s to small victories
here’s to heart beasts tamed
here’s to living
without them…

[2019]

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One Last Affair

I’m wearing blue, you’re dressed in red
lit by the dancing candle light
in the depths of some back table
at a late night poetry evening
Our only hope to stay safe tonight
is to keep this table between us

Some wily orator spills their guts
before the hallowed microphone
but all I care to know now
is do you smell as good as you look
Each of us wills the other to go too far
with a ‘what’s the worst that could happen…’

You hold my eye as I sign your book
then you take my pen and fix my poem
before I fix yours
and we write a few as one
That story was complete but you seem certain
there’s another chapter waiting to be written

Do we turn the talk back to our art
or just devour each other whole
I’m caught between all that’s right
and all that we might do tonight
You purr ‘if we’re going to hell, let’s go together
it’s one last affair, one last affair, I swear…”

Your wrists wrap behind my neck
as my fingers knit into your hair
with wine stained lips we close the circuit
A pulse of poetry rips right through me
spread your pages, dip the nib
let’s immortalise this feeling

Words swim in the air above our heads
they mix and tangle, knotted with emotion
It’s no longer clear whose poem is who’s
where yours ends and mine begins
And who can honestly say
where this night will take us

Like all affairs, we find ourselves
a mess of hearts and words
But if we’re going to hell
we’ll go together…

[2022]

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Across The Fields At Dusk

Hours spent listening to your voice
disembodied
carefully controlled
precisely chosen words
with expert intonation

I’ve laid with headphones on
naked and imagining 
there is no separation
no distance
that you’re beside me speaking
as my knuckles snake your thigh

You tell the story of your life
you’re telling my story too
How strange, how similar
manifestly different
but emotionally in tune

Walking through the fields at dusk
I hear your voice blow close
chasing me across the land
promises and nothings
sweet and divine

Coming for me
I’m coming for you
across the fields
at dusk…

[2020]

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Love Is What You Need

If you love it
it will be what you wanted
if you give it
you will find it’s what you lost

There is something waiting
something beautiful, waiting
if you’re patient
if you love it

You say you want to see
scenes that feed your eyes
they’re waiting, they’re all around you
if you love them

There is something happening
something beautiful, happening
if you’re open
if you love it

If it’s beauty that you want
then love it, it’s all around you
if you love it
it will be beautiful

It’s all around you…

[2010]

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Image Credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

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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