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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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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Looking Out

The pen I found on Oxford High Street in 2002

I was young, I was clay
I was given to looking out
and there upon the train seat
a gift from the universe
A barely filled notebook
no name, no number
no way to find the owner
it piqued my curiosity…

With pencil then, I tried to fill it
with all my words, my wonderings
my secret truths
but it went nowhere
just collected dust upon my shelf

A few months gone by
still young, my paint still wet
still at my most malleable
Lying on the pavement there
another present from the universe
a gleaming fountain pen
lid on, no engraving, no passer by
no way to return it
instinctively, I picked it up
put it to the waiting paper

The flick of that scalpel nib
the infinite potential, the promise…
For the first time in my life
I could speak without interruption
get my thoughts straight, talk it over
A friendship formed there
that has never faded

Since that strange coincidence
or you may call it providence
I’ve always had a keen eye on the world
for its quiet subtle gifts and moments
Look up, look down, look out
It’s all around, every day
I am humbled by the wonder
of nature
and the ever generous beauty
of existence…

[2021]

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Lend Me Your Light

Friend, we drink together
talking at a wedding
lit blue and gold
familiar faces dance around us

Friend, secretly, I wonder
if you were to open up your essence
lift a pen to kiss the paper
to vent your heart aloud

Friend, I long to know
what your poetry would be
if you chose to write

Which desires peskily linger
at the edges of your furrowed mind
which old flames still burn a fire
which hidden wounds you’d dare parade
what is the meter
and the rhythm of those unspoken secrets

What ribbon would you choose
to decorate the mundane
Which words would you feverishly grasp towards
what profound truths
do your fingertips quietly trace
which wisdoms guide you along your way
what strength of light shines inside of you
and what damage might you do
to leave us reeling

And I don’t say it
but every time we meet, I think it
Write!
right out loud
for me
for you
splash your heart across the page
in every shade
lend me your light
if but for a moment

Spill your soul for all to see
Friend, I love you, and will always wonder
what your poetry would be
if you’d set it free…

[2020]

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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.

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.

Holding My Breath For A Patient Love

Tonight, I dream
of a patient love
Some statue of understanding
who can be quiet, reserved
unveiling themselves slowly
releasing what they have to offer
over time
building such incredibly tough bonds
A love so strong
it lasts forever

Tonight, I lie awake and wish
for some patient love
who comes to me with creativity
empathy and a deeper understanding
than I have felt before
something more in tune
with it is I long for

I only think of what is coming
holding my breath
for that patient love
I crave an intelligence
and a maturity
I have not known before…

[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.

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 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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Night

So quickly, it’s night again
the days are short
in times such as these
The sun only stays so long
only lays its light down for so long
then it goes again
we’re plunged into night

O, could you not find a torch
or a candle or a lantern
to bring some light in here
We can’t see any hope
swimming in this darkness

So soon, it’s night again
we’re on the same street corner
I’m selling your body again
I’m selling my brain
it gets so dark round here
I almost forget about the light
there is some light, sometimes
but right now
it’s night…

[2008]

Thanks for reading.

From the collection “One of These Years”. Available now.

Been Nowhere, Seen Nothing

Do you remember when we kissed
in the dim bar, beneath the railway arches
that hypnotic smile you wore
the way you demanded to be held
as all hell broke loose between us

Do you remember how you took my hands
as we walked beside the rails
you thrust yourself into my grasp
pushed your body hard against mine
and stopped time

And I felt so alive
that I’d
been nowhere
seen nothing
before that night

I still think about the drunken orange skies
the red tail lights stretching on for miles
as we drifted through the sprawling city
the only heat; that which burned between us
pressing your entire being up against me

And I felt so alive
truly, I’d
been nowhere
seen nothing
before that time

I remember you so clearly
with such precise clarity
I wonder do you remember me
do you still think of me at all

Since then
I’ve been nowhere
seen nothing else…

[2014]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Beds, Hearts and Books

In these surprising years beyond expiry
forty and not failing
the journey remains largely painless
and brightly lit
wrapped up in love
in beds
hearts and books

Pull this feeling tight around me
another year of moving on
from all that didn’t seem to fit
closer to who I want to be
tangled up in love
in beds
hearts and books

All these lines, I can’t help but keep weaving
on the loom of all my longing
happily in awe of the ever-expanding story
forty and still dreaming
swaddled by love
in beds
hearts and books

There’s a deep and lingering kiss
waiting in the other room
the co-author of all my future stories
if I put down this pen, move to that place
we’re smothered in love
Hunkering down
in beds
hearts and books…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

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)

Free Line

Aren’t we both hedonists
just looking for a good time
shouldn’t we just enjoy this
a drug to take
for which we don’t have to pay
in these times of austerity
we can do our bit for the economy

Aren’t we both hedonists
looking for a good time
and if it’s free then why wouldn’t we
indulge whatever thrill we can
with just the touch of our shoes
or our elbows, waiting in the street
wouldn’t we be getting high so harmlessly

I play my free line, hanging on for your reply…

Aren’t we both lost a little
and willing to gamble all that we have left
The sun of this excitement
coats every moment’s surface
mundane places now hold mystery
the daily grind; a roulette wheel of flirting words

I play my free line, chained to your reply…

This is fun, this is free
so why should we reject it
why turn away
from the magic of this opportunity
let’s get out of here
come on, let’s disappear…

I play my free line, a slave to your reply…

[2015]

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Chaotic Calligraphy

This chaotic calligraphy threads itself through
wrapped weed-like through each decision
scrawled across all memory
a subconscious graffiti tagging everything

This chaotic calligraphy weaves its tentacles so tightly
through every dream, everything said and unsaid
contaminated by spidery strands
of the spinning story’s web unwinding

What is this chaos that comes to me
What is this vast drama
This cricket’s voice, taps me on the shoulder
and says;

‘What you destroy
you can write about
what you demolish
you can sing it out

What you have; is yours to keep
but what you lose 
becomes kindling for more poetry

either way you win
either way you gain something’

This chaotic calligraphy is writ large in me
the explosive adventure always appealing
Is it boredom, is it madness
to tweak the mix and see what comes

In love with what I see before me
in love with all that gets written down
and printed there indefinitely
ephemeral no more

Either way I win
either way I gain something…

[2014]

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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’ .

The Train Is Waiting…

The nib bends gently on the paper
and I suppose there’s time to spill
As a river of thoughts flows out
a third of a life is spent
In raven ink, the shapeless smoke
the molten mess of me emerges

We slip, we push, we drag ourselves
into some sort of position
You can call it adulthood, you may be wrong
Me, I call it wising-up, I may be wrong
Lives change, worlds shrink, egos are appeased
we learn to slowly see, who it is will be

She held me, she released me, then we were held again
The roots spun, vines wrapped around themselves
caught in a web of love and then self-loathing
One home, our home, a family – exploded
I made my peace and crawled into the future…

And drinking in and drinking down, six months of neat bile
You destroy yourself, save yourself, love yourself and someone other
So, the story goes, so it grows again, and then it’s over
Another love, an honest love, an equal – exploded
I made my peace and strolled into the future…

The time slowly ticks around, the cogs of a mind align
it feels right to step clean away from all these memories
forge some new experience, swim out beyond my depth
look back at all of this, in time
from some dizzying distance

And, decision taken ‘just come already, just come’ I say
I’m primed, then caught in the nothingness of waiting
So, one more, just time enough to scratch a few goodbyes
say a firm farewell
a good riddance to the certainty of now

Here are the last few drops
of something scrawled within this county
And so I go…
so I grow and test the limits of my potential
nib bending on fresh paper
black ink spilling everywhere

There is something coming
I can’t predict it, can’t see it yet
the train is waiting
It’s all consuming, all I care to dream about
and I’ve just time enough to kiss the page
with my goodbyes…

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

On preparing to uproot and leave for London

Why Poems?

Poems are my photographs
my diary
my inner monologue
poems are my measurement
my record
the fingerprints of emotions
invisible no more
Poems are my expression
the sum of interactions
they show my working out
Poems are the breath
of lost lovers
against my neck
Poems are the kisses
for my family and my friends
the hugs I seldom give

And your poems…
your poems keep me company
a little light
calling to my lost ship
I sip my tea
and slip into your mind…

[2019]

Thanks for reading & happy world poetry day!

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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 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.

(Something)

You take me in your mouth
and do… something
We rowed the boat all day
until you did… something
Now, I can’t go back to her
knowing where my lips have been

I sat alone all week
longing hard for… something
Walking these dead-end streets
looking out for… something
Now, I’ve turned my back on her
licking my lips for what you bring

Down Logic Lane we lose control
you passionately doing… something
Beside the classic cars you smile
reach out and touch… something
Now, when I think back to her
my lips just beg of you

‘Keep doing it, keep doing it
keep doing that… something…’

[2011]

Thanks for reading.

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.