Ellipsis [with audio]

I don’t write them like I used to
they’re not carved out of my bone
the way they used to be

I don’t bleed over the carpet
in some mouldy rented bathroom
like I used to

They used to say it was the angst that drove me
some mild flair for painting what had pained me
but you have to make peace eventually
I don’t know what is driving this anymore

At the end of that final line there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
saying so much more than I

Now, I don’t sweat it out in twisted sheets
with cramped heart and cracked beliefs
surrendering my barbed emotions like a flag
the way I used to

I don’t tap that vein of pure unfocused bile
don’t let it gush across the front row of my imagined audience
they don’t say much about my unbridled verse these days
like they used to

At the end of every poem there’s an ellipsis
at the end of all I said there’s an ellipsis
dragging on and on

It speaks louder than I ever could…

[2014]

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Such Strange Light

Such strange light
washing out
into the long night

Generous with pigment
volcanic reds and stella blues
you see that damp look
on the snapshot of my face

I wish someone had told me
wish someone had just shown me
dad, you could have warned me

O, how it burns
how it hurts to see yourself
suddenly, with that clarity
kept reserved for other people

In the rear-view mirror
in that mirror

Cold slate evenings
rudely cut in two
and poking through the gaping night
such a strange, strange light

Fickle thought
fickle life
fucks all
fickle thought
fickle life
forgive me…

[2016]

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This Infinity [with audio]

I will never learn from my affairs
they bake within my heart but nowhere else
see, she looks at me
she may speak to me some short time
then suddenly and so completely
it’s all I feel
a love that is not real
all I can do is hang from her every movement…

Yet again, I’m helplessly hopeful for that breath
already feeding myself on the bliss of kisses promised
but those suggestions
don’t emanate from her
or anywhere but in my spiralled mind
as it fills with love for some ideal
all I can do is hang from her slightest smile…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
my mind is weak and falls so quickly
before I can blink, it’s all that I can see
I twist until the heartbreak of this infinity…

If only obsession didn’t roost inside these bones
if only my mind knew some subtle patience
I’ll lay myself down in that spinning room
try to think of something else or someone other
but no thought can form while she has not spurned
all I can do is hang myself on her polite decline…

The purity of beauty is a trap for me
I build myself a cave so homely
lie scheming on the hope that she embodies
and twist until my heart breaks
in this infinity…

[2010]

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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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Step Change

Tear the statues down
put them in a museum
have their achievements weighed
against their modern moral faults
Give them context
It feels wrong to venerate
values we no longer share

Tear the problematic statues down
it’s time to move on
They’ve had their light
they’ve had their vaunted praise
let them slip into the past
I don’t want to walk beside
the likeness of a slave trader
on my morning commute
despite their pigeon-shit coat
that always makes me smirk

Tear the statues down
The older folks may say it’s a pity
the folly of an ignorant youth
but times; they change
often abruptly
and sometimes it’s appropriate
to force a step change
to send a message
Like scientists reevaluating theories
based on new research
Shouldn’t we reassess
elevated heroes of the past

Tear the problematic statues down
let’s build new ones
better ones
let them inspire hope and unity
and in 100 years, if they must fall again
then so be it
History is not lost because of it
books will go on, museums go on
providing that all-important context
for those who seek it…

[2020]

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A Most Comfortable Prison

The jailer, he’s invisible
yet we’re reminded, daily
he still stalks these corridors
a violent crown upon his brow
turning folk to dust
My marker-pen tally on the wall
begins to eats itself
time moves differently here
it’s a snake, a valley
a constellation
in this most-comfortable prison…

The weather has a mainline to my mood
there’s a shadow in my mind
it blooms or it recedes
with the strength of that sun
The days fluctuate
resizing, bipolar
claustrophobic
or giftedly free
to walk newly discovered lanes
in this most-comfortable prison…

The smiling faces of old friends
glimpsed, as if backwards
through a telescope
so far removed
and blurred around the edges
Our conversations stilted
on satellite delay
How I long to crack
my usual sarcastic comments
and not be inter-
(timing is everything)
-rupted
in this most-comfortable prison…

From my favourite armchair
I’ve been glued to screens
feeling like a dog
killing time until my next walk
wondering of the world beyond these walls
it all seems so dangerous
but such a beautiful memory
in this most-comfortable prison…

There are no other voices here
yours and mine alone
it goes to show how well we fit together
I feel we’re closer now than ever
Looking in the mirror this morning
you remind me of that mantra
we’re both repeating daily
‘you’re one of the lucky ones
you’re one of the lucky ones
in this most-comfortable prison…’

[2020]

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The Lighthouse

There are some nights
like clockwork I find myself
ticking up the stone steps
of the lighthouse

There are some nights
cloaked in melancholy
staring out, wide-eyed
across the freezing seas of time

There are these nights
I sit, quietly, by the lens
wondering of all the other nights
I have sat quietly wondering…

A thread of light stretches backwards
through all my life
sewing together
these contemplative moments
connecting me with my younger selves

We all sit there on different steps
looking out to sea
with our lifetime of bad haircuts
and our silver fountain pens
each one more expensive than the one before

We all wonder in an echo
we all wonder
‘Am I right? Is my aim true?
do I have any aim at all?

Where am I going?’

I long to reach out a hand somehow
send out a boat to them
I worry for those lost souls
adrift on wild seas
rocking in churning waters
without a lot of hope

Through the thick blanket of night
I sense
the face of a future me
he looks healthier, happier
richer somehow
looking back
across the freezing seas of time
fondly and encouragingly
he’s smiling back at me…

[2015]

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Beneath An Island Sky

Months, then years, flow in
like waves, they lap against our lives
washing ground up dreams along the shore
Dreams of all we had to leave
upon the shelf
So much darkened distance now
from certain past experiences
on which I, so longingly, need to draw
How I pine
for a single drop
of cob-webbed wisdom…

Day to day moments we share
they walk the blade-edge of pleasantness
I feel my nerves tingle with distaste
my head corrects me
says ‘love love love’
and I back down again, staring out of windows
but the anger, the impotence
where do they go
Sinking into the water-table of frustration
running beneath the surface
searching for an ocean

Perched upon the bonnet of a car
I’m watching the sun set through a heat-haze
rising from the tarmac all around me
the beauty is filling me, I don’t want to leave
Don’t want to return to that cage we’ve made
where you and I sit
in tortured silence for all time
thinking of things not to say
and things we’ll never do

And you say
‘I am blue
like the sea on winter days’
And I say
‘I am red
like the fire raging in the forest’
and we’re both green
like allotments, overgrown and wild

And yet
all the things we could have had
we could still have

Split the atoms
beneath an island sky
I’m so close to splitting atoms
beneath an island sky

O, how I pine
for a single drop
of cob-webbed wisdom…

[2009]

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Technique

The way I write…
I brainstorm twenty titles
words or phrases
that sound good to me
that subconsciously
already feel like parts of me
then I refine them
and refine them
pile them up around my feet

And when I’m in the mood to write
I’ll either start writing
(with aim or aimlessly)
until I get stuck
then I grab a title
work it in the lock
release whatever’s hidden
(and it feels good)

Or I choose a title
poking from the ground
reach for my shovel pen
and begin the excavating
find the poem that’s buried beneath
(and it feels good)

Those phrases, those titles
feel like friends I haven’t met yet
that sense you get
when crossing paths with someone
and feel you already know them
or that there’s a story between the two of you
and you just hope that it gets told

The stories we got to tell
are ripe for poems
and the stories that slipped through our hands
can be riper, can be richer sometimes

So, I’ll begin
gathering my titles
and choose one for you…

[2019]

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Mind Tides

Those chemical seas
wash you closer and closer to me
on the chemical seas you ride closer
and then closer again to here

O, how I’ve held a small part of my breath
kept a little air inside for your return
part of me; patiently poised
as your waves wash through my closing fingers

O, how I’ve quietly tended a small flame for you
landing lights aglow along this heart’s runway
expectantly, with a constant hunger
for that desired descent back to me

Those chemical seas sweep you past my port
pulling you away from me
Your fickle thoughts, your fickle heart
strip you of decency
rip you far away from here

The restless movement of the moon
caught in my saucer eyes
The polished mirror of the moon
a wet silver across all your photographs

I’m still helplessly recoiling
at the wave of hurt that levelled me
but just as I see you, so the tide turns
and as I reach out for you
so your mind blurs

And then you’re gone again
for good…

[2016]

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Forest

I was lost in a forest
the cold night swaddling me
calmly, it was whispering
“Love the ones who love you back
and all will be revealed”

I found a stone, it caught my eye
heart-shaped and out of place
I picked it up and kept it
that was fifteen years ago
it sits on my window sill

Don’t pity me, don’t laugh
I know I lived, as if asleep
throughout my wasted twenties
And then lived like a wild man
while I was supposedly in love
but the forest is overgrown
and I don’t always know where I am going

Still, I’m heart-shaped
and out of place

I wouldn’t want it
any other way
getting lost in the forest
and finding things…

[2014]

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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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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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Note: this poem appears in my book ‘One of These Years: Selected Poems 2003 – 2019’ available now on Amazon (link below).

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

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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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Songs that inspired me…

For anyone who might be interested, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of songs which have either inspired me lyrically/musically or that I love to listen to when writing. I’ll add more to the playlist when I get chance (it is by no means exhaustive). I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Spotify Playlist Link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0Ebk9zojhEKrXBqXTYYHUh?si=1qJQnhEDRpathySKAeGFRw

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

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The Hate Destroying You

Doe-eyed woodland artistry glows
O, how you hide your face away
I give and give to you
investment in a broken thing
once-grateful hands crave more and more

There is a sickness of mind
a blackness, a spoilt heart
where blame is always searching
and mirrors do not exist
once-blooming thoughts crush more and more

Pushing on the pillars that held you up
you’ve yanked too hard this final time
the string of respect has frayed to nothing
and now we’ve come to this closing door
once-hopeful eyes fear more and more

One day, when all is settled, I hope you change
let go of all the hate and grow in mind
One day, when all is healed
I wish you love and say
‘Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself

Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself…’

[2010]

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Image Credit: https://www.behance.net/gallery/273370/Folklore-Illustrations

Note: Reposted. Originally posted October 2019. For the friends needlessly lost.

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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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We Walked Along The Wall

We walked along the wall
that secret weighing heavy in my pocket
as we circled the old town
my heart beating hard
in a new way
or a way I’d not felt for years

We walked along the wall
passed a bar and got a beer
looking down upon the rooftops
you were pressed so close to my mind
no other thought could form there

The morning sun lit everything before us
not just the view but our lives ahead
I knew this was the beginning
of a new chapter
my secret kept concealed a little longer

We walked along the wall
as I danced the conversation
towards that question long avoided
then slid it, smiling, towards you
an inspired idea, covert no more

We walked along the wall
sea and streets spilling either side
and for the first time in my life
I came down from the wall
my future wife’s hand in mine…

[2019]

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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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Harm’s Arms

Let me admit, to you, my fear
of those ghostly hands
twisting the knife
in the belly of our lives

These house-bound blues
echo louder some days
these house-bound blues
and their hypnotically sad song

My memories reach out for you
you’ve changed your number
my happy memories are reaching out
yet we may never speak again

And though estranged
often, I still wonder
of your gently closing eyes 
your winning smile

I want to know you’re safe
amidst these dangerous days
I long to know you’ll remain
well beyond the grip
of harm’s arms…

Remember when the two of us
were still on first name terms
with the sweetest laughter
running down those midnight sands

Wherever you are tonight
know I’ll care about you always
I hope you’re sailing through
these toxic times

Stay safe tonight
I long to know for certain
you’re far beyond the reach
of harm’s arms…

[2020]

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

For Mirim.

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