Rooftop Reverie

The sweetest memories hang
like negatives
in the dark room of my mind
I develop them occasionally
picturing again
more exciting times

Yellows and browns begin to wash
across the leaves outside my window
I haven’t seen you in the flesh
since those shoots were new
it feels so long ago

We ran through those streets
as if we owned them
spinning endlessly from bar to bar
from joke to joke
in our abandon

Our last night in the city
some nameless rooftop bar
we watched the buildings making love
to their reflections on the water
A stranger took our photo
sloshing glasses tucked behind our backs
arms around each other’s shoulders
smiles wider than the frame

I hope there will be other times
another chance and soon
to lose ourselves together
in conversations deep
in the bowels of dimly lit bars
or the roof terraces decked with lanterns
on endless summer evenings
down bustling cobbled alleyways
a community of revellers

O, these dusty memories
bring me close to tears
these dusty memories
chase me round the house
dreaming of a time
when we can crawl out of our bunkers
spend another night
getting lost in the city
finding each other…

[2020]

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Pull Apart The Perfect Nest

So then, stick by stick
tonight we tear off strip after strip
the newest feathers first
then the older twigs and vines
with each one
my heart drops
until there’s nothing left
and nowhere lower
just empty branches
where our sweet home once was

Inch by inch
we pack and divide the moss
all the soft things we’ve collected
years of careful, loving selection
pecking them away, each and every one
my heart stops
as we place them in our beaks
to separate forever
over an unknown distance
just a meaningless assortment
of what once was our sweet home

Doing what we know we must
we both say it’s for the best
the home we had just turns to dust
pull apart the perfect nest

You fly south
I stay north
and never again
will our sweet home be here…

[2009]

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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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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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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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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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Renee By A Thread [with audio]

Down the corridor, comes a scream
Was it physical pain
or the horror of finally learning
the way this game is turning
They took your clothes
gave you a gown
there was nothing to do but lay right down
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

Faint flashes behind tired eyelids
recalled moments from a busy life;
the night before your wedding
barefoot kisses by the Seine
The tentative first steps of Child Two
A shaking hand, a ‘thank you’ card
from the family of one you saved
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The ache, it came and spread like water
the fever burned, the cough, it worsened
they hooked you up, you knew the drill
the butterfly, the slow sure drip
and then it seemed to ease a while
The bed you took, brought guilt at first
your hands no longer helping
Then suddenly; your quick decline
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

There’s a feeling in your chest
and that sixth-sense you sometimes get
the dawn tomorrow, you will not witness
Nurses come, their voices hushed
gloved hands hold, always too briefly
you don’t like the letting go
The room is quiet but for the wheeze
as the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

In the chair beside you, that loving face
waiting at end of every nightshift
You know that he will raise them right
Ah, but which patient was it
which desperate hand you gently held
which reassuring words you shared
with no fresh mask to wear
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The family grieves
a nation grieves
for you
gone
needlessly soon…

[2020]

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Cooling Towers [with audio]

Parking the car
out by the cooling towers
I breathe the quiet in
lit by the moon
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those sad miles behind me…

Remember when we were nineteen
kissing in the back seat
tucked into the kerb
lit by our lust
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those mad miles behind me…

When we were nineteen
everything was a fire
everything was flame
but everything evaporates
like steam rising

I’ve driven up this road
and come back down again
not going anywhere
not the silver in my hair
nor the lines around my eyes
not going anywhere

Thinking on
all those bad miles behind me…

Sitting in the car
flicking the headlights on
and off again
when did everything evaporate
like steam rising

Not going anywhere
forehead against the steering wheel
tears bursting on my knees
whispering
‘just kiss me
just kiss me
in the backseat of my car…’

[2017]

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Note: a repost from October 2019, I just wanted to add the video with the audio reading and subtitles you can read/listen along.

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I Will Literally Pay You To Abduct Me

The static crackles
in the living room
and in the hallway
I lace my shoes
and go out walking
tonight, I am out walking

Tree-shapes calm me
raindrops kicked from blades of grass
maliciously
This act cleanses things
I feel my fangs receding
feel the silence
breathe back into me

Imagine the TV glow, dimming
imagine the hatred in her eyes
retreating
I dream of the bad air clearing
but climbing the driveway
back to our place
I spy those red eyes waiting
and know things are worse now
since I went out walking

On nights like this I cannot win
on nights like this
I call out
into the saucerless black sky
and scream
‘I will literally pay you to abduct me…!’

[2016]

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Note: I saw the accompanying image on a meme website and it made me smile. I wondered if I could turn it into a poem somehow. This is what came out… 🙂

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High Tide, Low Life

You paint yourself blue, always blue
this letter brings me down
perched upon a rusty trailer
paint peels over my shoulder

I’ve been drinking 
since the boats were rested
on the muddy estuary bed

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

I won’t stop my reaching out
if there’s any way to help, I’ll find it
you’re so slow to take my hand
scratching at your skin for answers

I don’t have any good advice
I do what I can to just keep living right
I’ll listen if you’ll let me
you know; my love is not the enemy

It can’t be this way forever
it won’t always be like this

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

You say you only paint
when you get blue
and I suppose
that’s just the way
the sea feels

You paint yourself blue
always blue
I guess
that’s just the way
the sea feels…

[2020]

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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-prints/4717465064/

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Morphine

All the faith carried in your soul
and all the morphine
lightening the load
they play a strange sad game
spinning lies in devilish ways

I listened to your doctor speaking
as you read from some ancient tome
yes, you know your body well
but pain isn’t the cause

This belief takes its small toll
the colour and the hope draining away
defeatedly, you feel
you’re failing

But you’re not fading
you’re not going anywhere
I take your hand to emphasize
you’re not slipping from this life
you’re falling into morphine
warm and wide
with those tired eyes

You say to me
‘Son, He is waiting
will you pray for me?
I feel Him come for me’
but even faithlessly
I know he’d not be ready
it’s just the morphine murmuring
as you try to start our last goodbye
I smile, say ‘it’s alright

And you’re not fading
you’re not going anywhere’
I look deep into your eyes
say ‘you’re not slipping from this life
you’re falling into morphine
warm and wide
just sleep tonight’

In this windowless room
you’ll see no blinding light
come for you in the night

You look at me and say you’re ‘sure’
think I’m angry
because I ‘can’t bare to hear’
I’m just frustrated
by those velvet hands
rummaging in your brain
and your absent God

And all that morphine
wet and warm
you’re wading through tonight

I love you, mum
and you’re not going anywhere…

[2015]

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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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Tears of a Bitter Man

Just like your father
you sing that fearful song
spelling out your anger
in seven shades of bile
peeling back the hate
of the bitter man

Just like your father
constant exclamations
in the lexicon of loathing
vague and barbed
the angry poetry
of the bitter man

How saddening to hear
you singing your father’s song
How sad it is to hear
you singing his bitter song

Yet, here I find myself
cold-eying old friends in new photographs
nerves twisting
at a stranger’s conversation
silently debasing the happiest gestures
nurturing the hateful hollow

Here I find myself
clinging onto glaring disapproval
Ready to beat up on the helpless
misguided in my sense of sureness
everyone else’s fault but my own
becoming the bitter man

How saddening
to watch my grip slide
find myself crying
the hot tears
of the bitter man…

[2012]

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Letter From The Lake

Dear friend
a sigh is leaving me
I can concentrate now, finally
a statue, standing on the jetty
the lake’s slow wash below the boards
hypnotising me

I feel freer now than ever
more than I did back there
I don’t know how you toil on
those boiling days below the city
tinned-life crammed in
and searching for air

You wrote me of the love you found
that you always dreamed was waiting
head cocked to one side
a wry smile you’re both sharing
suddenly but so completely
a focus for all that untamed love in you

Here, life moves slow
but never stops completely
there is a girl down in the town
who looks at me so coyly
and some rough lad up at the farmhouse
who would gladly make me his

Between the wind-battered fields
and evenings pickling in the only pub
I keep an eye out for that inner peace
one night I might let him take me
or another, dance her into a barn

I’ve been finding something here
but, speaking plainly, it’s not you
I’m still swimming out each morning
with that pale look upon my face
I swim six laps before breakfast
the palest hope painting my face

I wish you well
and happy with whoever
come and see me one year soon
come up to the water and stay
until then, my friend
take care…

[2013]

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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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There Will Be Birds In The Morning

There’s a girl in tears
upon the cathedral steps
as I walk to work
the rain; a mist swallowing us
leaves blowing by
I want to wrap my scarf around her
and say

There will be better days
there will be lighter times
there will be happiness again

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

There’s a boy in a phone box
framed behind glass, he sighs
as I’m passing by
his call has ended
the last call of that friendship
I want to get him a beer and say

Don’t forget the love you have
don’t forget those faces
it will be bright again in time

And there will be birds in the morning
singing for you and me
singing for you

And the rain comes down
and leaves blow by
and the busses look so busy
I laugh quietly to myself
wondering
do birds even sing
on winter mornings?

[2019]

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