Headlights

Picking you up to go driving
I’d get there early to watch you get ready
both seventeen and tangled
in that unspoken thing between us
Cruising the looping country lanes
in those dim headlight beams
That was our place, alone together at last
Two teenagers, eyeing each other sideways
and wondering who each of us would be
would you always stay right there
would you always be
in the car with me
Another mile, another mile
in those endless times…

Thrumming rain upon the roof
your fingers knitted in the glovebox light
always asking me so many questions
our laughter lingering and playful
in the freezing depths of northern winter
You’d push me to say who I liked at school
watching so carefully
I’d study the glowing dashboard for a full five minutes
turn the tape over, change the conversation
stealing so many glances
at your perfect saucer eyes
so smart and so alive
Another mile, another mile
in our early lives…

Somewhere along the journey
we’d stop the car, snuff out the lights
and in the backseat, without a word
we’d learn a new geography
You’d breathe your lessons into me
the beguiling wonder of our story
skirting the youthful boundaries
of a near-love I’d forever treasure
And afterwards you’d finger our initials
on the foggy inside of the glass
I always loved that, but so sad
that those smears outlasted us
Another mile, another mile
in those simple, priceless, times

Twenty years of change sailed by
suddenly, from the silence, you called me
heard I’m in town, saying ‘we should talk again’
I say ‘how about a drive…?’
Eyeing me from the driver’s seat
you say I’d ‘become all the things I used to pretend to be’
you said it was ‘a good thing’
and now you teach at our old college
you’re not married but there’s a good man waiting
and the baby, she already looks like you
Who’d have thought those teenagers were headed here
running country laps, in those dim headlight beams
another mile, another mile
in those precious lives, we had to leave behind

Another mile, another mile
I’m so glad we got to share those times…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

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.

A New Constellation

Minding my own business
tending the sail
I was headed home
or thought I was

A clear sky, fine nighttime
and here we are
your smile floors me
so utterly infectious
your soul is rare…

I can’t help but start beaming too
knowing how easy it would be
to fall
to fall in love with you

I was minding my own business
following the stars
headed home
or so I thought

The sky torn open
silver pin pricks pepper the black
a great flash of stars
form this novel map

A new constellation
presiding over me
summer come suddenly
its glow rushes to my bones
I’m so quickly lost in
your mischievous grin

Splashing through the mud
painting these bright colours
lit by the effervescent glow
of your thousand watt smile

I can’t help
but catch myself beaming too
knowing how silky it would feel
to fall
And to be caught
In a net of love with you…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

The Distant Lifeboat

Once all our honey has been spread
once the little moments are learned by heart
routine a debt that stalks our steps
and suggestions nag more than they ought
then the waiting boat will take me
to a wooden shack by the ocean
and there, I’ll start again, alone

Once your touch no longer prickles
once our conversations are to walls not through them
no sound but a ticking house that counts us down
and my advice is not heard or welcome
then the waiting car will take me
a handsome driver spurned from some vintage memory
and there, I’ll start again, without you

But darling, until that time, I’ll stay right here
Darling, until that time, I’m yours yet to discover
unwrap me, keep unwrapping me

Once the laughter seems decades dead
once each tick feels designed to grate
the breath of each day too thick to breathe
and nowhere left to sit in peace
then the waiting boat will take me
to a beach shack by the pale ocean
and there, I’ll find my youth again, alone

Once your rough hands feel me no more
once all the years of the love add up to nought
in a clockwork life that subtracts our bodies
If every word becomes functional but formless
then the waiting car will steal me
caught in the still bright eyes of its reckless driver
and there, I’ll find all that’s lacking, without you

But darling, until that time, please stay right here
Darling, until that time, I’m yours, taste every mouthful
unwrap me, keep unwrapping me

The waiting boat can wait a while longer
That idling engine 
will have to wait a good while longer…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Based on a conversation about the little things people tell themselves to navigate difficult or uncertain relationships.

All my poems.

Kept The Camera Rolling

From kicking, screaming infant; born again
Ripped from the world of shared agreement
into the spiralled twisting cloud of change
I kept the camera rolling
took more photographs than ever
forensically documenting
this transitioning
the pushing on, the falling back
the healing of bruised flesh
The hurt: it all evaporates in time
the hope: it mutates into bigger dreams

I’d drink all that distraction
I’d swallow that ignorance right down
Why burn in searing ache, when you can numb
and as you grow and grow and grow
the less pain you need to kill
I kept the camera rolling
took more photographs than ever
recorded all the positions as I warped through
The running on, the sinking back
as scabs fall, scars fade
obsessions bloomed, fantasies exploded
the synaptic sprawl of all I covet
etched right across me
needle depth, it changed and imprinted upon me
then displaced, replaced, as I move away again

What was her name? What was it that I felt?
Those passionate instants all bettered
all supplanted with new indelible constants
The measure of emotion is its longevity
the desires that remain are the ones we trust
So, I kept the camera rolling
took more photographs than ever
a sketch book of the people I’ve seen
a family album of the ‘me’s I’ve been
Swimming towards the light with a new energy
The world is so much lighter now
done and dusted, it’s just dust
recorded in all my poems this year
a permanent reminder
of this patchwork place
making sense of all this change…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

This was written 11 months after ‘KEEP THE CAMERA ROLLING’ .

Keep The Camera Rolling

You’re a vulture, you’re a thief
with your hungry eyes
and bloody mouth
Ravenous for the pain
thirsty for the tears
While these sad events unfold
you’re there licking up the morsels
As she and I disintegrate
you’re standing on the sidelines
rampant with your precious inspiration
Sketching the scene so detailed
Re-chewing each mouthful of emotion
every snap of our shredding hearts
splattering your spidery black notes
scrawled wet across the page
for all time
So, we may never forget this hurt
or how it came to us so heavily

For once in your obsessive life
can you not shut that camera off
please not record this
these aching tears, these deafening screams
let the two of us
mourn our love in peace, apart
forget and move on
lighter and brighter
Now all is done and dusted
let it be dust
with no record of the depths we plunged
no permanent reminder
of this painful place…

[2009]

Thanks for reading.

On the confusion of being a writer whilst you completely come apart. Raging at yourself for not being able to shut off that journalistic part of you.

Vodka

Do you still see the ghosts
those aged faces, dried crimson blood
Do you still shiver in the dark
with drugged malaise, false memories
trapped in shifting rooms
as shadows gather and clamber over you
tight chest and splintering palms
Clutching at the floor
slack-jawed and eager
Holding on to stay afloat
in vodka
in vodka, gin and brandy…

[2004]

Thanks for reading this very early poem. I think this was heavily influenced by Martin Amis’ second novel Dead Babies, which I’d finished reading at the time.

All my poems.

Heavy Rain

I’m driving in heavy rain
I am on my way
As thick as fog
this heavy rain
and I can’t see
I can’t see
I am driving in heavy rain

Part of me wishes
part of me aches
part of me wants to make a mistake
I am driving in heavy rain
I am on my way

There is an urgency in my blood
There is an urgency
in my blood
to spill
Driving in heavy rain

Eighty miles an hour
in heavy rain
Eighty miles an hour
for hours

A mistake
a mistake
I make
a mistake…

[2010]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems

Reflections of December

In the caverns of a King’s Cross bar
I quietly compose an opening
six months now, since our last meeting
I catch sight of my reflection
twisting in the half-full glass upon the bar
What am I doing here
set up for a disappointing sequel
It’ll never be like it was
at the start
it’ll never feel like it did
before

Festive cheers fill the bar
as my mind slips back one year
when my world was folding inward
intoxicated with the excitement of chances taken
and how I quietly spoke of my growing love for you
in the blurry Christmas air
I made foolish gestures at what I wanted
slid my heart across the table
waited with baited breath
for your reciprocation
and headed home empty handed…

Tonight is such a bittersweet evening
a reminder of how much I love your company
it hits me squarely, and for the first time, fully
how much I’ve missed you
But you’ve changed, grown up, matured somehow
wisdom where once there was only spiked humour
oh, as a friend
you’ll always remain a favourite
held out of reach by our history

It’s so bittersweet, our meeting
our reflections melt and merge
in the glasses that we drain
I’m still beguiled by your luminous beauty
and vindicated to know
what I thought I’d felt was honest
not pure circumstance, greed or opportunity
our briefest spark lit my world so brightly
in way never bettered before or since
It’ll never be like it was
at the start
it’ll never feel like it did
before

Such a bittersweet evening
lit in the primary colours of December
you, grinning, purr ‘let’s do this again soon’
and of course I say ‘I hope we do’
When I cast my eyes across this year
it’ll always be your face
reflected back at me
when I look back from some future distance
your face will always be smiling back at me…

[2015]

Thanks for reading.

(A sort-of sequel to ‘Anatomy of Longing‘)

All my poems.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Song [with audio]

Click play to listen or right-click and ‘save as’ to download the MP3

The gulls above me, wild and free
my song begins to echo theirs
squawks of tuneless noise
as I try to make some sense
or to release something

Watching the breaking waves
from a distance and then up close
I’ve been nowhere
but up and down the stairs
of this hollow and lonely year

It’s hard to remember the good I do
keeping other ships at safe distance
as I patiently await the promised boat
that will return me to the world
and the smiling faces of my family

I fear I’m losing my peace of mind
I sense the loosening pieces
as my happiness erodes
My song goes round and round
as does the light I tend

Wild and free, used to be
the way I chose to live
Wild and free, an impulsive sea
the way I chose to love

I wait so patiently
on that coming boat
that will return me
to the world I used to love…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

This poem is featured in my latest book – Buy my book!

The Jealous Writer

You wrote two clumsy lines
a platitude wrapped in cliché
The Coldplay of love poetry
clocked up two hundred likes
and fourteen gushing comments

Then you wrote the same poem
every day, in a slightly different way
The adoration only spiralled
collecting fans and affirmation
how on earth do you do it?

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

Fulfilment

Click ‘play’ to hear me read this poem – or right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download the MP3.

Senses softened in the dark afternoon
This year is charring in the fire grate
So, I pour out into the haunted fields
looking for loneliness, for lines, for clues
to get a handle on all that’s happened
to make predictions on where I am headed

All around my body, the world’s covered by a sheet
life’s decorator is preparing to paint the new year
This land spills on for snowy miles
my past reels out somewhere behind me
in those paths taken, in those choices made;
there are glimpses of the shape of my future

The Grecian islands, the Cornish coast
Those petty milestones, those brave goodbyes
from swollen ankles, to exploded minds
Portuguese walled-towns, to Derbyshire hills
From a decade planted, then uprooted and moved
the letting go, the keeping a hold
Surprises; surprising, plans made and fulfilled
much falls away, much more presents itself
weddings, worries, work; with friends
consciousness glides across the ghostly fields
comes to rest behind my smiling eyes

So, now I have the things I’ve always wanted
the peace I chased, the love I imagined
the tools I’ll need are all within me
and Kate is waiting, with her key, somewhere

By the gate, I pause, look up into the nothing
time stands still, my eyes adjust…
the pitch black night is full of stars
(when did I last see those?)
My gaze breaks, my footsteps in the powder flow
time moves, I need for nothing else…
I go back into the house

Toss my wondering on the fire
pour a drink, talk to my family
I’m satisfied
and warm…

[2011]

Happy Christmas & thanks for reading/listening.

The piano track on the audio recording is “The Book of Jen by Tedosio“.

Got an Amazon voucher for Xmas?… ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.

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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.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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 😂

All my poems.

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…

All my poems.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

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.

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.

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]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.