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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The Things We Lose

There can be no knowing
there can be no honest understanding
until you are standing there
empty-handed, broken-hearted
Suddenly, all too aware
of all the things we’ve lost

You can try to estimate the feeling
you can approximate a sense of things
The hollowness this ‘now’ rings in your bones
swallowing any beat of happy thought right up
every moment speaks only in shrieks
of all the things we’ve lost

Attempting a prediction will always miss
for the things that cut are too small to see
You never think to gauge
the imperceptible absences;
the smell of her hair, a contented sigh
This silent lack of fragrance screams
of all the things we’ve lost

Sitting there talking of this happening
neither of us could have comprehended
the way this withered world seems to laugh at us
the endless bleakness of glacial lonely nights
All the saddest songs we can find to play, singing
of all the things we’ve lost

You must expect the end to hurt
you much accept no one is spared
yet, there is simply no preparing for this moment
as things you’d never noticed capsize all around
squealing out the saddest sound
of all the things we’ve lost

The truest happiness we’d ever swum in
the deepest friendship we’ve ever known
the warmest love we’d ever felt
the greatest thing we’ve lost…

[2009]

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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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Highbury Fields

That sixteen-year-old words 
scratched there in my diary
could bring the two of us here
seems almost supernatural

A spring-evening walk, so like us
the us we were as teens
when you were my first
and still my only kiss
as we walked the peaceful parks of home

Now, so many years stretch across
a wide valley of unshared experience
they squeal and dance between us
slowly and methodically we close the gap
spinning our silken bridge of words

I pull the feathers from your lungs
they’re knotted and tarred
dripping with the bitterness of isolation
they’re catching in your throat

Your silences
and the space between those words
they say much more
they say it all…

Your sorrow is a blanket of leaves
your sorrow is blossom that falls
and covers this park…

Highbury Fields disappears
beneath the tears I know you cry
in your silent room
from your hiding place

Recently, I read again of all you gave me
when the two of us were lost together
so I ask myself ‘what I can do
to help lift you from this place’

What can I do for you
what can I give to you
only my time, only my time to you
the healing warmth of resuscitated friendship
as we walk the adult evening
through this pretty park

And you can say it all
you can speak it all out loud…

[2014]

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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]

Photo by fellow poet and creator of digital art: Delia… www.poeeternal.com please check her out.

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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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An Actor Writes From Their Dressing Room…

The room turns cold on my entry
chilled by the endless winter in my heart
which came one day when I was younger
and never began to thaw
Now the icicles of loneliness reach
they hang above this crooked form
this bent back scribbling at its desk
Well I’ve tried to fake some warmth
I’ve stood outside and screamed at the sky
but this emotionless, empty heart
will never melt, or heal, or bloom again

Now all of the love I’ve acted out
just inverts into hate and boomerangs
and I can’t stand or leave this chair
I refill my pen and pour more wine
reclining under the weight of sadness
that I could never be blessed
with love, or loyalty, or warmth
all I do is write about my missing pieces
unsure if, or when, I’ll ever find them
maybe I am not deserving of saviour
but I’m still vain enough to hope…

[2005]

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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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Our Home Cannot Be Here [with audio]

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]

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The Truth Is Sadness

Decorated lives
shuffling onwards
towards inevitable darkness
we cloak ourselves
in the hood of love
cover the cage
deny the sky above
the truth is sadness

Tiny movements
helpless gestures
elliptical orbits
around the heart of happiness
an argument
with a river
convinced of our control
tilting the rudder
towards hope
the truth is sadness

Fold the patterned sheet
around your sleeping child
know they’ll close
the carved casket
someday around yours
all you’ve seen
or done or sung
is gone
the truth is sadness

Zoom out, zoom out
and it’s clear
every story is a tragedy
what came of your argument
with the river
did you learn to love
that strange beauty
the truth has always
been impermanence
ephemeral experience
an end
to all things
the truth is sadness…

[2019]

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Broken-down Place [with audio]

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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