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]

Thanks for reading.

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

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Cooling Towers

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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Stark

Tom is dead. His party’s over.
Stark and sarcastic
he’s just a memory, now…

So numb, I watch me crack again
in horrific black and white projection
about to jump, in someone else’s bed
so restlessly, I turn away
can’t face up to my adultery
the tempted, cheating, loveless; me

So dutifully, I cover my eyes again
headphones on, I watch me walking
blinded, soulless, vacuum filled
so magnified, I still look small
swallowing my pride, all passion dies
the pointless, aching, hollow; me

Devoid of colour, of life or joy
the putrid skin just falls away
a mess that stains the carpet
One last thing to write about
a death so rough and meaningless
the broken, elemental, rotting; me

(And at the sight of all of this
the spectator me can only laugh
and from my passive lips, a joke
a joke…)

They burn on in the night
dripping candles of my fat
for what I couldn’t give in life
comes from functionality in death
So openly, I tear out my beating heart
the sinning, lost and wasted; me

So obviously, I watch me try to stand
pushing the lens in deep between my eyes
the blue flushed out and burnt away
So covertly, I’m zooming in
I can’t get enough of seeing this
the forsaken, faithless, empty; me

So naturally, it came to me at first
time took my hands so tightly
pushed me into the holes again
stripped my words down to the bone
so pathetically, I put up a meek fight
the tortured, pained, artistic; me

A joke
stark and sarcastic
me
A joke
stark and sarcastic
me

[2003]

Thanks for reading this very old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Wasteland

In the shining eyes of the girl below me
lit by the dim glow of a Paris night
I see the distance growing
that I’ve been running from
for so long

And there, I gasped
lay by her side, and said
“What have I become?
Do I mean anything to you?”

Inhaling on a cigarette
she looked at me, sideways
and said
“You have lost so much
most of which you gave away
drunkenly, or deliberately
Trying to be something else
but to yourself you’ll always stay
a stranger in this wasteland”

And that’s me
a stranger in this wasteland
Yes, that’s me…

[2004]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Still We Wait

O, I have loved you
for such a long time
I have held you
closer than anyone
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

O, I have been insatiable
for your voice and body
I have fought to keep you
harder than anyone before
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

O, you have touched me
deeper, in so many ways
I have worshiped
you more than any god
and yet
still we wait
for something more…

We know not
if there is the possibility
of some better way
We’re both unsure
if there could be
some truer love
and yet
we choose to wait
for something more…

[2006]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

Hurt

All I want to do is leave
but I don’t know how
I don’t know the words
I don’t know what to say
In every word that she purrs
in every smile that she shines
all I see are other lives
are other ways for me
but I don’t know how
I don’t know how…

All I want to do is say ‘goodbye’
but I don’t know if I can
I don’t know when it’s right
I don’t know if I am
In every kiss that she steals
in every lie she extracts
all I feel is a damming shame
and how I want to get out
but I don’t know how
I just don’t know how…

And this can’t go on anymore
I have to stop it now
but I’m not even certain
if this is really me
and the only one I can trust
is the one I want to leave
There is no one else left
there is nowhere to turn

So, I have to decide
I have to be strong
but it’s so hard to admit
it’s too tough to address
I don’t want to regret this
but I don’t want to just settle
I have to be sure
I have to be right
but there is no real ‘wrong’
and there is no clear ‘right’

I’m not scared to be alone
I’m not afraid of the night
but I’m petrified of regret
and know I will miss her so much
and more than anything else
I don’t want to hurt her
but if I do this
then all I will do is hurt her
more than I am hurting now
more than I am hurting now

I have to be sure
I have to be right
but there is no real ‘wrong’
and there is no clear ‘right’…

[2005]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

Note: I’m going to post some older poems which I’ve never shared before over the next week or so. They’re all quite early in my writing and are flawed in all sorts of ways (aren’t we all) but I thought they might be of interest to people to see where I started. T.A. 18th June 2021.

All my poems.

The Window Box

Returning to that rented house
once we’d split our stuff
casting an eye over
the now barron landscape of our love
I brush away the mess we left
touch up the paint in the hallway

One thing we forgot to pack
one thing you forgot to take
that flower box outside the bedroom window
I bought for you while working away
you planted seeds and raised them up
gave them names with handwritten labels

Now, the pen has faded but
your writing remains so delicate
The soil is white, stems all withered
there’s no life left
Tossing the box into a bin bag
finally, it hits me, hard and winding

Just what is ending here
all those little moments we tended
all those precious things we shared
are done and dusted

Chucked into the big black bag of memory
that only I will really will carry with me
my fat tears water those dead stems
so sure nothing will bloom like that again…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Chlorine

The smell of that stuff
they use to wash the water clean
it gets up your nose
when tired from swimming

Me and my friend
he teaches me all these things
Like how to keep a secret
airtight

It’s a drink inside a flask
you don’t tell, even if they ask
and I never said no
but I never said yes

Why does everything here
smell clean
but me…

Busy bare ankles glimpsed
In the gap below the cubicle door
I never thought I wasn’t ready
I’d never thought about it before

Only how many lengths I could swim
another one, another one, before back to him
It’s a silence I struggle to keep
but who would want to listen

Why does everything here
smell clean
but me…

Three decades on
so much distance in my heart
and all those failed moments gone by
all those loves that fall apart

I’m still free when I swim
I rarely think of it now
he was no friend to me
Finally, I learned what it was
I learned it had a name

Chlorine…

[2021]

Thanks for reading this rather bleak poem.

I felt like a bit of an imposter writing this one, as I have no experience of the subject matter. But I thought perhaps it might speak to others.

All my poems.

We Ruin All We Love

I have ruined what I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined by my loves
and now all that remains
is tainted and unlovable
I am tainted and unlovable
It’s time for a change…

Cold eyes look out upon a frozen town
icy streets tripping over themselves to keep us indoors
but the boundaries of this house are closing in
and the sound of other voices is so appealing
If only I could hear them now
if only I could fill this space with people

I have ruined all I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined too, in my loving
and now all that I want differs so greatly
from what it is I really need
What I really need is saving
from myself and these ruinous ways
it’s time for change…

Old eyes could look out in years to come
across a town so unexplored and inexperienced
they might peer through that same pretty glass
wishing they’d seen more things first-hand
If only I could see it now
if only I could fill passed time with places

I have ruined all I’ve loved
I’ve been ruined through my love
broken hearts at least force new growth
staid hearts grow their roots too deep
moss clawing all over them, all over me
it’s time for a change…

This town still calls to me
through our dusty windows
and I look, so longingly
it still offers out its hand
from time to time and smiles
‘Don’t let this opportunity pass you by
it comes just once in a lifetime…
you have… but one lifetime…’

But I have ruined what I love
been ruined by my lover
now, there’s just ash
where the fires used to burn
Now, there’s just dust
where our skin used to prickle
now, there are just silences
where our words once dripped in love

And every day the outside world
swells in its appeal
and every day the outside world
multiplies its pull on me
Each morning, I wake one step closer
to making that leap
If only I could fill passed time with faces
if only I could find the door…

[2009]

Thanks for reading this old poem.

All my poems (not all of which are so down on love)

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 that swallows 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
all the busses look so busy
I laugh quietly to myself
wondering
Do birds even sing
on winter mornings?

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

Apologies for the repost – but now WITH AUDIO! 🙂

Featured in ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

New Memories

Squinting at the good old days
through a low winter sun
Dreaming of those times
spent down there on the sand
lost in the blue hour
or scheming on a journey
deep into the night
We could have gone anywhere
a can raised to the sky
and on our faces only smiles
for miles
and miles and miles

So many friendships
left behind at other stations
back down the tracks
My friendships all are fraying
their ropes unwinding
I can’t see anything
but all of their waving
They’re waving goodbye

O, we need to make new memories…

Alone on the stones
eyes cast out across the water
churning
looking back towards the land
I feel there’s so much possibility
still coursing through these veins
only halfway, I’m halfway only
The world bends
where the sky and water blend
as day ends, I see their pretty faces
as the ripples on the surface

Those old memories
they’re thinning in the depths
at the edges of my mind
My old partners in crime
keep waving
they’re waving goodbye

O, we need to make new memories…

Come dance with me
on the moonlit beach
let’s make new memories
come roll with me
on the endless dunes
let’s make new memories…

[2019]

Thank you for reading. This one feels even more apt these days…

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Our Home Cannot Be Here

I lit a fire on the beach
you were feeling beaten by the wind
no, we can’t hear anything in this weather
but the waves and the crackling wood
you don’t speak anyway
we have nothing we care to say

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a loss so unforgettable
Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with a void so inescapable

The sky goes dark and the sea slides away
time is huge and our movements tiny
I wrote my address on the back of your hand
but you reached into the water and it vanished
I can’t imagine a life not anchored here
as you turn slow to dive from me

The answers come only with soft punches
a milked stone, I lie folded and bruised
how could we ever know this lost romance
your whirlpool eyes cry tears of understanding
I dust the sand from my baked face and frown
there’s no warning of love’s swift decay

Our human silences amid nature’s screams
fill me with an ache so all consuming

Moon reveals the night’s black heart
you say you love me, as you leave me
you say you care for me, as you go down on him
there’s no favour you can grant me anymore
there’s no connection to the blood in my heart
just open your palms, expose our withered bonds

The rain rages fast and hard across the sand
we tussle as broken wings on some sick bird
finality comes to me, its decision absolute
your hand slips away and swings clear for all time
I fall back into the water, exhaling slowly
‘Our home cannot be here…’

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

I have a new book… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

A Thousand Lovers

There is quickly surging in here
a rising stream of what has been
A thousand lovers now, to write about
their pursuit is my only want some nights

Another night of over-driven charm
another taxi ride of careless kisses home
A thousand lovers, they soon add up
too many names, too many faces come and go

A life is lived the wrong way around
I’ve grown up to grow down…

That amiable and likeable image is soon in tatters
stains all over the character and the name
A thousand lovers negate it all
phrases repeated too many times to be true

In this dark chamber, pretty birds linger
some circle so wantonly around here
A thousand lovers just for the taking
I forget how to simply speak a ‘no’

I’ll become a notch on a thousand bed posts
I missed the point of what I miss the most…

Can’t let them think there’s something more to this
or soon enough I’ll find myself too deeply in
with a thousand angry hearts to answer for
A thousand lovers all of whom so badly hate me

Bleak lists form on scraps of paper
in dirty bedrooms, on sweaty sheets
These thousand lovers do not ignite me
there’s no inspiration in these unfeeling flings

A thousand lovers; there may soon be
the more they add up
the less there is left of me…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Broken-down Place

(Click play for audio reading, right-click ‘save as’ to download)

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

House On The Edge of Town

More and more
my thoughts turn to you
So aware
I’m now the age
that you were
when the pair of you parted
and you got that rented house
on the edge of town

We’d stay at weekends
watching winter’s tide sweep in
stand in the falling snow
garden and fields disappearing
said ‘throw another log on the fire’
said ‘dad, your house is cold’

At fifteen, I was nothing
lost in my own sea of nonsense
I didn’t ask you anything
I didn’t think to say a word
Where was my empathy
you let nothing show

Every other Saturday we’d gather
at your house on the edge of town
it all felt new to me
felt so exciting
a fresh world of fields to explore
of walks to take and fires to light
with or without you

So immature and lost
in my own mythology
I never really realised
you could be hurting
I didn’t stop to think
When maybe your son
could have been there for you

Living raw, living alone
twelve days at a time
the snow piling up around
your house
on the edge of town

While we still have some time
let’s talk openly
let’s talk now…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

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]

Thanks for reading.

This Poisonous Time

The plan never changed
it was quietly revealed
suddenly, this cell was just mine

Can I still grow?
can I still change?
I don’t want to be my father
I don’t want to live alone

Another evening in
another night, pushing everyone away
All I need is a little space
room enough to think a while
write some lines
a drink or two
me; all too myself

But the more I take
the more I die
of this
this poisonous time

And even on the odd occasion
I go out and sit with other people
there is nothing I can say
to make them want me to stay
I’ve focused every sense within
this cell is me

There should be jokes, there should be smiles here!
I used to be so good at this
There should be humour, there should be such love!
I used to be so good at this

But the more I take
the more I die
of this
this poisonous time

Alone and wading through
such a poisonous time…

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

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]

Thanks for reading.