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
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Quietly… (Collaboration, with audio)

Click play or right-click and ‘save as’ to download the mp3.

You’ve been sitting there quietly
Care to share your thoughts?

This infatuation has me
I wore your scarf to keep me warm
I could smell you there
snaking all around me
Feeling like a teenager 
in the grip of some sweet crush

I watched you
observing me with such indecent eyes
drawing me into your spell
My scarf, which you so casually
wrapped around you
had me burning with jealousy

I’m uncomfortable
seeing you 
sitting in front of me with your silk lips
a drink in your hand
and a sultry laugh filling the air

I’m so frustrated by the distance
my fingers click, my toes make fists
Whole body bends to inch closer
The slang in your eyes
speaks to the strength of my desire
I’m so wired, in the heat of the night
I want your fabric against mine

I was quietly thinking to myself
the only remedy 
to all of this would be
kissing your mouth, kissing your throat
and a week in bed with you…

I was quietly thinking to myself
you should race me home
so our bodies
can lock magnetically together 

for a week 
or three…

I think it’s time 
we called a cab 
and left…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

This was a really fun collaboration with Bree from Secret Thoughts Within. I’d been really intrigued by the idea of working on a poem in tandem with someone else and how on earth you’d go about it. Bree very kindly offered to show me the way and this is what we came up with (alongside a lot of other ideas). It’s a fun process and I’d recommend it if you’ve not tried it before. Check out Bree’s fantastic writing and audio at https://secretthoughtswithin.com/

Crooked Cafe

I used to hate this part of town
After London
it felt like stepping back in time
as if all our momentum to the capital
had been lost
these shops with their hand-painted signs
I didn’t recognise the names
they’re not triplicated on every high street

And now I sit
in the Crooked Café
the waitress always tries to remember my ‘usual’
but I love that she never quite gets it right
gives us something to laugh about
breaks the ice
as I sit alone and eat
drink my tea and sketch my little lines

The walls adorned
with guitars and records
someone really loves the eighties
the food is good
the best I’ve found ‘round here
the perfect way to start a Saturday
it’s always busy
people drinking coffee
and talking through their lives
there’s material everywhere
for a writer-thief like me

Afterwards
I’ll drift down the lanes
between the crooked dwellings
past out-houses, slate roofs, shared yards
neat boxes all pushed so close together
clinging to the hills
I’ve learned to love this feeling
just absorb the history
let the thinning shadow of industry
that’s still cast across this city
seep into me

But for now
I sit by the window
stare out into the old street
feel the season a little more keenly
so grateful to have found my peace here
where I can stop and think
and write my little lines…

[2019]

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Things Half Said

Looking back
over everything
I committed to the page
There seems to be gap
between the truth
of what was felt
and what’s recorded

The words came
while I was still
questioning the validity
yet, what I
then went on to feel
was always with such certainty

There is a space
between
There is a space between
you and me
filled with things
half said

Sifting through the sketches
of painted scenes
I tried to show
There are great swathes
of missing detail
I deemed too complicated

My vocabulary
was much too meagre
to convey
with any accuracy
and what I left
scratched for all time
was never entirely honest

There is a space
between
me and you
between
the story and plot
filled with things half said

Will I ever be skilled enough
to tell my story, completely
Will I ever have the talent
to fill that space
with something other
than things half said…

[2011]

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Your Poem Is Still Young

Your poem is still young
I have not mastered it just yet
I am constantly revising
still working on the phrasing

Your poem is still young
though its meaning is defined
I only have the final line
those last three certain words

Your poem is still young
each year instils new ideas
your actions suggest more rhymes
and we have many years to go

Your poem is still young
though I recite it constantly
my aim is to perfect it
through every day and night

Your poem is still young
I’d hoped to have found a way to say
to address all of the beauty and joy
there is in you, by now, but no

Your poem is still young
and I am glad to say that
it remains unfinished even now
open on the pages of my favourite notebook

Your poem is still young
still improving with every moment
as we lay together, safe in the flames
until the end of time, I’ll sing;

I love you…

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]

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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]

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All my poems.

Letters To Old Lovers

Why should anyone still care
why should anyone raise an eyelid
the news is old
Perhaps, eight years ago
you may have gotten
some reaction
to justify the price of ink

Still you persist in writing them
letters to old lovers
letters they may lazily reply to
letters they may not reply to
the news is old

There’s no reason now
there’s no alliance
Perhaps to reminisce
for a short while
on a long cold afternoon
but nothing more
in these new lives

Still you persist
in writing them
letters to old lovers
letters that strain not to say
letters that overtly long to say
‘let’s try again’

And every time the letterbox snaps
its steel chops around your words
old lovers don’t bat an eye
old lovers just drive to work
(and teach)

And perhaps some time
they might recline
maybe a word or two then
they may spare for you
‘take care’, ‘go somewhere’
the news is cold

And still you insist
on replying to them
letters to old lovers
letters that don’t know when they’re beat
letters that don’t know when it’s time to stop

You don’t know when
the news is old…

[2007]

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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.

Strangeness and Experience

I want you to be unruly
write hard and clear
about tangled emotion
those who don’t
make me suspicious
I know there are other things
like genocide and selfish parking
and the bruises received
behind closed doors

I want to know people 
who are walking antennas 
sensitive and gifted
nerves nakedly exposed
flailing in the fallout

I was raised to keep all hidden
I was raised to deny all feeling
“suppress, suppress
deflect with humour”
on the freezing football fields
“stand in goal and we’ll aim at your head”

Thank you, fuck you
the North East of England
I found a way to let it out
I’d have hurt myself or someone else
if not for finding the page
and letting it all out
fuck you, thank you
the North East of England

I want to meet people 
who are lightning rods
for strangeness and experience
hearts on tear-stained sleeves
sopping wet with hard-won wisdom
articulate and true

Move me
make me feel something
there is no shame
and we are not ashamed…

[2020]

Thank you for reading.

All my poems.

Your Way Will Find You

I will defend your right
to say things that I don’t like
and though I may disagree
it doesn’t mean that I detest you
I’ll try my best to understand
how you reached that point of view

However uneasy listening
don’t bite your tongue
Let us see and hear you
come and speak freely
You may offend me
but then I’ll know we’re not in tune

Perhaps we’ll both learn something
if but how to better listen or argue
I won’t stop or censor you
let us see who you really are
be it brimming with wild beauty
or cosseted in poisonous loathing

All I can say and do
is try and show you a different way
Let kindness be your currency
don’t rush to speak a ‘me’
Reach into the well of suffering
and aim to lift somebody

Always see their value
and your commonality
If you’re feeling lost
and don’t know what to do
Reach out a hand to lend
and your way will find you…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems…

Books of Blake

You saw me, even then
you knew me
back when no one saw me
I kept no one around
who might know me
I, too, was in my infancy
twenty-something
and far from knowing much
in any real way at all

Still, somehow, you found me
brought books of Blake
to the shop we worked
we’d sit and read together
on the varnished wooden counter
your summer dress
hanging from you like a sail
we’d admire the crazed paintings
taste those verses on our tongues

Books of Blake we stood before
and poured our minds all over
you said I ‘didn’t know how to do what I was doing’
I ‘didn’t know how to love who I was loving’
the cheek of it!
the incisiveness…

And you’d tell me
of the bottle of wine you drank
in the bath, the night before
as the water grew cold around you
cleverly planting images
that I’ve not shaken to this day
(all these years on)

You were a lush and tranquil island
in the sea of my stupidity
you were the first mind
I truly connected with

And I still rue the day
you slipped through my fingers
growing cold around me
then gone forever…

[2020]

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Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

Song For Sam

We drove across the tumultuous city, Sam
You were perched precariously
in the back seat of the van, listening hard
to my words that flowed like water
the stream of consciousness being voiced
I claimed it would calm you, free you from the tension
and the motion sickness
In reality you were lifting the weight of the sorrow from me
lightening my load with your askance eyes
drinking down the broth of hurt and confusion
that was boiling up inside
That truck was stuffed with all that had formed our home
and when we reached the new place
you nervously watched me unpack
All the while I explained what was happening
what I wasn’t sure that you understood
and why it was, that this might be good for us
That bruised night, Sam, you were the best friend I could have had
providing all I needed, without judgment or argument
I was so proud of you there, Sam, I was so close to you

Ninety nights of drinking up and falling down, Sam
Ninety days of not plugging my heart’s gaping hole
Laid low in bed again, six feet beneath the sheets
You’d come and hover beside me, in your naive curiosity
listening to what I had to say
offering me some calming contact
The softness of your presence could always light a smile
ease the thunder claps of pain
crashing through my battered brain
And with more grace and ease than I could muster
you settled down and found your rhythm within new walls
A certainty to which I could return each day
that familiar look you’d give, saying ‘I’m glad you’re home’
it lifted me from the scraping, bleeding, lows
of that new hollowness I crawled within
I was so grateful, so indebted to you then, Sam
And, finally, when I levelled out again, we played a while
with you running your rings around me

It was a brutishly cold Christmas, Sam
at my mother’s rented house, that winter
We stayed in the upstairs room with a broken window
it got so cold at night, you’d come and lie beside me
keep close for whatever warmth I could provide
Sam, you looked so small just lying there trying to sleep
gripped in the fist of that endless icy grip
I remember seeing you watch me leave
from the upstairs window
A Christmas eve spent with friends from back before I knew you
You didn’t seem to mind me leaving
but I knew I’d be back soon to check on you
And when I returned, you’d charmed my whole family
Sam, you left your mark on them
those smiling faces trailing in your wake

So, I was healed in time, Sam, and you flourished
another pair of loving arms were opened up to us
You were right there, giving your blessing
and looking out for us
Seemingly, you responded well
to the renewed happiness that had blossomed in me
I’d sing my songs to you from time to time
and you never seemed to mind
Just sat, bemused and listening without reproach
My first and only audience in a whole lifetime
of wanting (but not daring) to sing
I wonder what you thought of it
what you made of those croaked notes
They were sung for you Sam, they were sung for me too
You watched so much of my changing life unfold in front of you
The peeking from my cave
to the walking tall in the clear and golden daylight

Sam, you know me, I can’t sit still too long
no sooner was I healed, a new and lasting lover in tow
and it was time to jump out from that goldfish bowl town
No question, no hesitation, you came along and settled in so effortlessly
carving these new lives of ours
among the towering heights of the spiralling capital
And Kate, she loved you so much, and was always there for you
Running from room to room
the closing circles of happiness drew around us
Finally, Sam, I think we were a family, and such a happy one
Watching the Olympic torch paraded past our house
So many memories, sweet mornings, playful evenings
and all our adventures by train and tube and car

But Sam, that last night, you lay there so sluggish
wearing that quietly searching expression
no way to say what was ailing you
and I stayed close, through your illness, to be with you
I knew that night would be the last we shared
We sat together for hours, all of our past replaying in my head
Despite your pain, you wore it well
lost in your quiet thoughts
And as I left the room for the final time
I was never more filled with such an overwhelming sadness
and gratitude
For everything you gave and did and meant to me
the next morning, on the way to work
I remember that song playing on my headphones and Scout was singing
“Baby, what can I do, to make it right for you”
I had tears forming in my tortured eyes
knowing there was nothing more I could do
knowing I’d never see you again

Now, when I venture into the back room
it’s toxic with your absence
a silent freeze-frame that screams your name
Through the creaking emptiness of a soulless place
O, my friend, I don’t want to be without you
My friend, life isn’t the same without you
I wish you were here, I miss you tonight
and won’t forget you, Sam
Thank you, always…

[2013]

Thanks for reading this very long 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]

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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]

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All my poems.

Marriage

The ocean calms me
envelopes me
supports me when I need to sail
Powerfully, it won’t hesitate
to remind me of my place
or comfort me when I fail

Its waves sing along in time
mirroring my mood
or challenging me to improve
We laugh in the shallows
or toil through the depths
almost always perfectly in step

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying…

The muse of my life; my happiness
and though your face isn’t
peering out from every poem
Sometimes, we are artists
making makes us happy
in each other’s company we’re free

Sometimes, we’re salty
Sometimes, we don’t say
all we need to say, straight away
but it flows out in the end
and we’re back on course again

This life we made together
our voyage into the future
You my love, you are the sea
Please never leave
Raise your loving waters
and swaddle them around me

Every day is beautiful
a work of heart
and trying to be
my very best for you…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

Image borrowed from: http://margaret-durow.com/

Don’t Forget To Breathe

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
when white noise
no longer lets you sleep
And in the mattress springs
a crawling metronome
some percussive heartbeat
one thought then another
one worry trailed by the next
Did what was said make sense?
was it understood
will this be good enough
impossible options
improbable odds
suddenly so awake
in the anxious hours
Don’t forget
to breathe…

Stuttering awake
in the anxious hours
try to recall these words
line by line
whispered in the dark
piece by piece
fall back to sleep
it’s peace upon peace
and don’t forget
to breathe…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems

Bury Me At Sea

With no deity could I shake hands
and with no children at my feet
who will tend my grave
when all is said and done

Something sublime smiles back at me
from the music I lose myself in daily
but who will tend my grave
who will know that I was here

‘No children at our feet’
we were in agreement then
but will we always be
You would have been
an exceptional mother
and I had some stories
I wanted to pass on

O, bury me at sea, bury me at sea!
Print out all my poetry
and mummify my body

Let them take a chunk
from the soft skin
at my rump

Fill the six gill shark with searching words
an army of shrimp tuck into the sweetest memories
Some busy lobster, a canny swordfish
come on, take a piece of me
and another
and another piece of me

My creativity
my laziness
my empathy
my cynicism
my passion
my bad spelling
my caring
my obsession
my gentleness
my duplicity
my desire
my naivety
my love of family

I’ll feed the fish
and they’ll give birth
I was here
now they can be
We’ll go on and on and on
into the blue…

[2020]

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Born To Muse

Click above to hear me read it. Right-click and choose ‘Save As’ to download an MP3.

In the hammering rain of last night
I slept the best I have all week
I slept deeper, longer
than I have done for months

And would you guess who I should meet there
on the dream stools
at the dream bar
ordering her dream gin
sliding me a dream beer

Well, you come here often
I don’t have to ask
I’ve seen you here so many nights before
but it has been a while
(and I’ve missed you)

Back in real life; you live so freely
you’re pure inspiration to me
a scholar of your beauty
besotted by your confidence, your creativity

And when we went our separate ways
(did we ever really agree on one path anyway?)
after all those notebooks you drove me to fill
after the purest verses I fear I may ever spill

When we went our separate ways
you found yourself an artist
and now you’re all he paints
day drinking, or in the nude
the ways I still remember you
you… you were born to muse

Sitting on the dream couch
in the dream bar
your dream knees
pushing against dream me

you… you were born to muse…

[2019]

Thanks for reading.

A repost from Nov 2019.

Song for Laura Lee

Laura Lee, she was my first love
tangled in her parents’ bedsheets
and shadows from the attic window
With my army-surplus shirt
slipping from her shoulders

Laura Lee, she was my first love
my first taste of intimacy
her loving hands upon me
guiding that desire, so deftly
through our discovery and naivety

Laura Lee, she was my first love
our fumbled teenage kisses
quickly blossomed and were washed
in ever deeper waves of lust
and learning a new language

Laura Lee, she was my first love
she taught to me the chorus
of that lover’s song
she handed me the blueprints
I would forever build upon

Laura Lee, she was my first love
I’d ascend for hours into
the bottomless darkness of her eyes
and the lines of those lips
her quiet radiant beauty

Laura Lee, she was my first love
as I learned how two hearts will knot
a little death, a birth
as she sang the lover’s song
deep into me

It’s a melody I’ll chase
perpetually
Thank you, thank you for the tune
I’ve carried always
with me…

[2020]

Thanks for reading.