Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Red Lion Inn, Dunchurch, November 5th 1605.

It grows late
and grey -
remnants of day.
Shadows, like memories,
flit in dustwebbed corners,
wedging secrets,
and night’s insects;
urging moths
to sacrifice their wings
in candleflame –

Hope burns and drops,
sets quickly in the wax,
then dies amongst the crumbs
on ale stained
table tops.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Looking - (Cywydd llosgyrnog)

Down the path to seek for reasons,
she delved in weeks, searched through seasons.
All life’s treasons came to light,
but all the meanings hid away,
left lies to heighten day’s array;
truth's dim rays to brighten night

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blind Town Rag.

A red letter day
they called it.
Maybe it was just
a pigment of the imagination.
But it made the local rag,
where loyalty depends
on whose purse
is pulling all the strings,
and tying down the other things
in the bag with the cat.

By slippery cobbled back-street bins
and fat-caked café kitchen dins,
a cat lies flat and pecked at.
Excess sewage overflows,
weekend’s rubbish blindly blows
and sticks to shit.
Septic sores scabbing over.

So let’s pretend it isn’t so,
don’t print it, then no-one will know
what they're certain of already.
Save headlines for the fundraisers
who never want a fuss,
such an honour to be famous
and remain

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pheasant Moon.

Winter hovers,
hawk on the wind
scans the frost.

Afternoon moon,
marooned by night,
grows pink in the low sun.

Starling clouds
billow home,
north wind
stirs the firs.

A commotion of pheasant
from the larch wood
hints at foxes.

under the pheasant moon,
I’ll creep into the larches
to snatch a bird
from its low perch.

Takes more skill
scattering lead.
Wakes Week 1961.

Gene Vincent rocked around the waltzer,
loud then louder, as the car
spun and went around,
up and down
in evening’s rhythms.
A rocker posed in leather gear,
cigarette mouthed
with a James Dean sneer -
he hadn’t died yet
over here

Jerry Lee electrified the dodgems -
Pikey scamland.
Stepping easy onto rear bumpers,
with practised rock’n lechery;
coppery smelling sleights of hand
that double-crossed with silver.

The melded smells of onions, candy floss,
smoke and toffeee apples,
black peas - salted, sprinkly vinegared,
served in mugs with broken handles.
Cries of “One more ride” from tired-out kids with tearful eyes
being torn away home.

I liked it best when pubs had shut,
and zig-zag men would come and drop
their money in the mud.
They’d curse and circle, one eye closed,
and mutter, ‘fuck’ or, ‘shit’,
then bend their way around the fair
and lose it,
bit by bit.

Wakes Week -
Made to Measure.

You had every intention
of pissing in my pots,
puking in my pans or on my breakfast,
stamping your six infested legs
around my plate or in my cup.

So I was glad when you
buzzed into your nemesis
of vibrating consequences.
I watched the toxic tailors’s silken waltz,
took sick glee in your helpless twitchings,
as he made your suit of finest thread
far too tight a fit.
Death in Spring.

It was a strange one from the start,
I’d taken part in many executions,
but this crucifixion bore nothing of Rome.

The man was lame, deliberately so –
crippled in the name of his belief,
as Jacob before him at Peniel.

In Asherah’s Grove the Nazarene was lamed,
wed to the Priestess - Mary, Her of the Sea,
then hailed as king, embodiment of El.

This king was always honoured in Hesuchia,
fourth of the year’s five stations – the Repose,
from the trees’ last leaf to Spring’s first stirrings.

Prepared for death and subsequent return,
his seven year reign was feasted well, the night before
his crucifixion on the ancient Tree of Life.

There was talk of collusion with Antipas
a secret member of the Asherim,
worshippers of Asherah, consort of El.

Pontius Pilate, it was said, was paid
in wine to turn his head to darkness
as the sacrifice was led up Golgotha’s slope.

Here, in the sight of El, on a sacred oak his reign
was cruelly ended, nailed in crucifixion,
hammered by the Asherim.

His blood was let by the spear of truth,
Caught in a cup, then thinned with water
in the Vessel of Isaac.

Singing Solomon’s songs, disciples
danced in perfect time,
sprinkling blood on the stony ground

Within three days the resurrection had begun -
Spring’s first lilies pushing through the pebbles.

Bundled all I owned
into my head.
Just threw it all in, nothing too neat –
‘Everything will come out creased,’ she said.
‘That won’t matter in the least –
Where I’m bound
who’ll have thought to care?
I’m going to be a stranger there.’

I asked old Nimrod for a start,
told him yes, my heart would be in
carrying mud bricks up a ladder.
One ziggurat’s just like any other,
but God didn’t see it like that –
He soon had everyone talking bollocks,
And Babel just crumbled and tumbled in time.

Standing among Golgotha’s crowds,
I helped a stumbling man
regain his lump of wood.
Got stuck by a splinter for my deed
which I kept and tried to sell
to pious Popes in later times.
‘What need have I of your black splinter?’
someone called Sylvester mocked,
‘When I have a hundred different models
of the one and true authentic cross!’

Got drunk with Noah on the Ark,
(sneaked on sometime after dark)

Sold seeds to Caine
but he fled without paying,
Melted gold for Aaron’s gilded cow,
and how I danced
for six full days round Jericho,
sleeping as the walls fell, stone on stone.

When I finally got back home
she told me to unpack my head –
‘I’ll wash and iron it all’
she said.

The woodlice scattered
as I moved the old red brick,
one of the many my father had used
to hem in his lines of border pinks.
They alarmed a bloodworm, escaped
through chinks in the flattened earth,
scrambled for hides under white roots
and made a wireworm writhe
an orange rage.

The old plants had toiled,
crawled out of the soil on ever thickening stems,
with offspring still clinging, living off their backs.
Dragging out their mothers’ deaths
with a reluctance to root.

The spade can be a cruel tool,
biting through grub-riddled root stock,
prising its grip from a life
of mould and rot.

I took the young, and with my knife
cut off each growing shoot,
the sponging life was over now -
they had to learn to root, or die alone -
Not live
forever grafted to the hollowed bone
of worm-eaten parents.
Tuning Worms.

The crow croaked out a melody
in perfect pitch, so he thought,
a blackbird heard and winced.
In the beat of the rain,
a frog listened, jealously green.

Sensing rainbeats, a worm paused,
staved off all molefears,
(sharp claws and teeth)
pushed through the sod
and out into the damp above.
Grabbed by a thrush,
then stretched
like a pink bass string
he finally snapped out at F sharp.

He always dragged his left foot
and sold evening newspapers,
standing on the corner of the ‘Regal’ cinema
by the bus station.
Insisted on calling the ‘Evening Chronicle’
HayeeKroll – “HayeeKroll!”
he’d yell every night except week-ends.
Everyone knew what he was saying.

On wintery Saturdays he’d be selling
the local football rag, tramping damp estates,
coughing in the fog,
bawling out his understandable incomprehensibles,
wearing down the inside of one heel
and the outside of the other.
He’d always seem to turn up during
the ‘Six-Five Special’ when Lonnie Donegan
was doing ‘Rock Island Line’.
“Go and get a ‘Pink Final’”, my father would say.

We used to call him ‘Macleans’
because of his rampant tooth decay.
He had a little fat dog
that he’d drag around on a lead in the day.
He dragged it around for almost a week after it died
before things sunk in -
Stopped selling evening papers after that
and went the way of his teeth.

We still talk of him
forty years later.

Serpentine currents, writhing over damp dust
picked up rain’s musk.
They cooled themselves as they coiled
through lawns, snaked along the gutters,
sniffed the moss
where wall and pavement meet,
quietly brushed around my feet,
blew summer’s scent
about my face.

I had no taste for work today:
no hastening feet
picked up to meet a boring morning’s lateline,
they dragged the pavement,
kicked at grass that clumped the cracks,
sidestepped a dogturd, dribbled a bottletop,
scored a perfect goal between a lamp-post and the kerb,
then turned about
and walked me home.
Reading Hieroglyphs.

She feels the cobwebs touch her face,
ones she’d banished an age ago,
and tries to brush away the time
that’s built up in the bumps and furrows,
furtive and slow.

The mirror’s face no longer smooth
as vellum, freshly stretched,
but an old sand-cracked papyrus
replete with history sketched
in timeworn hieroglyphs
that she reads like braille,
fingers trembling.

Then, slowly tracing her her eyes’ deltas,
memories smile back down the years

The cobbled streets and lit up lanes,
(shops with foreign sounding names)
house the smells of onions and night’s spices;
Cobra lager, pappadoms; unscrupulous devices
employed by in-tune Asian brains
exploiting native vices.

Under garish coloured lights,
they howl for service,
spoil for fights.

Around the billboard corner
where the sodium streetlight sighs,
a fumbling, blind Teiresius
is searching for his eyes.

Help him up, brush him down,
point him back towards the town.

Into the black park of the noisy shadows –
by the glowing red blooms in the bushes,
past clinking beer bottle privets,
and the shrubbery pissoires,
a welcome change from the noise of cars.

The moon in the boating lake
is shattered into shards
by a tumbling drunk,
who makes the dogs bark in the yards
of cottages, whose bricks have echoed
similar tricks
week on week.
Trusting Trains.

Through the damp echoes,
past hidden mossy trickles
in the half-dark,

stumbling over crumbling bricks,
one hand sticky green
with cold wall-slime.

The abstract mosaic
of broken beer bottles
glittered like Christmas,
and the peal of kicked cans
bounced around the tunnel.

The clatter of cans
annoyed an old piece of corrugated tin.

Corrugated tin can cut.
Corrugated tin can trip.

It lay in wait
then tripped and ripped.

Next time,
I’ll walk up the embankment,
take my chances
stepping over the West Coast Line.
I can trust
the eight-fifteen to Glasgow
never to lie in wait.

‘Just fetch that bucket over here,
that’s the one, hurry up and catch these words.
Put them?
Oh, over there next to the useful phrases,
they’ll be gone soon enough!
Next time you go into the loft,
keep your eyes open for those
complex sentences; and while you’re there,
if you come across that box of really long words,
dump them!
See this tin of cliches here, weld the lid on –
wouldn’t like to get dependent
on those things!
That sack of slang over in the corner,
the one covered in history dust,
now that’s really worth rummaging through.
There, see - by the door! Why do you think I left them out?
A choice selection of imports;
if you sort through the Latin and Greek,
you may be surprised by the Arabic and Sanskrit
among the other welcomed immigrants,
disguised and Anglicised.
Try them out – loose that curled tongue!
By the way, where did you put all those good ideas?
Hope you didn’t sling them out with the bad ones!’
Market Day.

She hobbles through selfish streets
pushing the tartan bag-on-wheels,
her emblem of independence.
Excuses her way through wanderings of people,
whose eyes are full of thought,
not light, whose sight is fixed
on mental shopping lists,
or secret trysts in coffee-shops
with lunchtime lovers.

Dusty old acquaintances enquire
after her bad health,
which is always (so she says)
On her way to the Market Hall,
she stumbles, falls, fails to make the fresh fruit stall,
her Wednesday’s destination..

On her knees, no cries, no pleas,
just silence in accepting things
that life digs up and hands to her;
and whispering through some childhood prayer,
waits for the help she knows will come,
full faith in Man’s propensity to care.
March Hares & Hatters.

Black ants, random thoughts
swirling out of a hole in the head,
swarm the path, the disturbed in disunity,
clouding their purpose with pure chance.

He feels the cool water trickle throatward,
it runs through his teeth, cools his hot tongue.
It would be nice to hold the cup, he says,
but it’s for my own protection, isn’t it.
Smiles returned – see how sane I am, he thinks.

I know you have key bunches that grow from your belts,
I hear the clanking of tin fruit in nights corridors,
when the stars flick ice at me through barred windows.
Where do you go when I can’t see you, he asked the doctors,
but never got a straight reply.
Why do I always have to think, he thought.
Thoughts that never stopped, drip, drip –
Like the tap he ripped off his mothers sink,
it wouldn’t stop, deserved to be ripped.
But where did all the water come from
when the tap was gone?
Then she wouldn’t stop shouting – shout, shout.
Where did all the blood come from?
It all mingled on the grey floorboards - a water blood flood,
but where did it all go?
Nobody would tell him big secrets like that,
just locked him up with bunches of keys
that grew from their belts.

The ants were still out, still swarming –
as for the doctors, the last time he saw them,
they were trying to put the Dormouse
into a teapot!
He lay back, listening to tin fruit jangling
in night’s corridors,
taking care to avoid the star-ice.
Things to Come?

Shall I be damned to television land
in my dark evenings?
Will I be condemned to dance
the channel to channel limbo,
where the bar
is lowered nightly?

Must I be tortured with tartan rugs
and Vick's Vapour Rubs,
bland meals
of potato and meat?
(Mince for a treat).

Will I grow thin
with parchment skin and purple spots?

Will neighbours nose-slit curtains twitch
and whisper, ‘Shame.’
as I shuffle past with my walking-frame.
‘He used to run like the wind,’ they’ll say
‘but now the old dog’s had his day!’

Shall I bury my bones in old folk’s homes,
told what to do and where to sit,
(should my lamp be dark or lit?)
washed, fed and put to bed before my chapter’s even read?

Looking lonelier (with a hint of ammonia),
I’ll smile emptily at visitors.

remember when your feet
were heather sprung,
but now leather lungs
leave you trout-mouthed,
gasping on the bank,
drawing in nothing -
hoping some higher power
would remould those sickened sacks -
longing to feel the air rush back
into those now forbidden places,
the choked, dry spaces,
airtight and bloodless
Fresh Paint.

The cemetery gates were shiny black.
On inspection I saw clearly -
They were covered with dull, dead things.
Mosquitoes, some with wings that flapped,
wind tugged;
dandelion-clock parts passing lost time;
crane-fly legs still hugged
paint-stuck spiders’ traps,
their spinners pushed,
and brushed into corners,
ever patient for blow-torch freedom.
Dust and flower petals blown from graves
formed a rough top coat.
The gloss was only visible
from a distance.
Greek Lyre.

Slanting on tsikoudia legs,
he bent his way through the door,
leaving his tales behind,
telling in my head.

They told me he was mad.
He claimed to dance with Dryads
in the oak woods,
pipe with Pan and Apollo
in the darkenings,
where time is lost and always in the past.

Yet these were not senility’s murmurings,
as a youth he often told of such events,
entrancing child and parent with his tales.
Old men, gnarled as ancient olive trees,
would sit bemused and hushed,
listening with intent.

Sought by the Germans,
it came as no surprise, they said,
when he vanished in his sacred groves
over sixty years ago,
on the night of the Feast of Dionysus
from far more ancient times.

The soldiers pursued him.
Out of the moonlight into the woods
where they faded to shades,
flitting ghosts between the trees,
shadows sucked into black.

In time they were all found,
ivy-bound to oaks, moon pale and bloodless.
Torn off limbs lay half consumed,
in nests of blood black leaves.

No-one blamed the Maenads,
others would have called them mad;
mad as the storyteller,
who drifted from the woods
when the war was over.

He claimed to have been
With Hermes and Apollo,
making the best tortoise-shell lyre
ever heard on Olympus.

It wasn’t that I wanted things
to unfurl as they did,
events just seem to veer away
from paths we hope they’ll run,
an ethereal independence,
obedient to none.

Now here’s a novel way of self-deception -
Concerning the discerning mind’s ability
to control and shape its personal reality-
the conscious collapsing
of quantum wave functions;
latest venture in pretence,
refusal to believe in chance events.
The innate fear to just admit
that shit is happening, bit by bit -
and accepting that we’re part of it.

Old scriptures give God total credit
for all that’s gone, and what’s to come.
We intervene with prayers and such,
being careful not to ask for much.
The need for gods was never pious -
(religions harbour many liars).
So long as there are things unknown,
still locked away by arcane laws,
some god will always be the cause
Sparks and Gods.

The Arab, on whose roof we sat,
picked red embers for the hookah’s bowl.
With a hint of ceremony, a piece of hashish
was taken from a silver box.
The bubbles were soothing, the blue smoke cool.

Sparks snapped off the palm wood,
their twisted ascent towards the stars shortlived.
They shone and died as the gods of Egypt
had done before them; a pantheon
gone in seconds.

Our sole drink was Stella, Cairo brewed,
no sweet coffee, kirkadee or tea,
beer brewed at Memphis in two thousand BC,
must have tasted better and no less crude.

Intrigue, and deal making;
three Bedouin and three villagers
haggling Arabic over a relic.
One of a hoard from an ‘undiscovered’ tomb,
a prize with a price unfixed -
for the deal was left undone, in fear
of mix-ups due to dope and beer.

I left them sitting on that roof,
some sixteen years ago,
yet in my head they’re all still there,
brown faces in the embers’ glow,
still bidding for a price that’s fair.

The ferryman pulled hard,
gliding back to life
among the smoother skinned:
it was no Charon,
who rowed me here
to Hades’ shores.
Two shades, wrapped in the tunnelled darkness,
waited to lead me past
an iron-hinged Cerberus.

It was cool in here,
Heaven’s breath in Hell’s throat.
As dark met light a small sign read
‘Welcome to the Street of Pain’,
(a pet name, so they said).
People drinking coffee, wine,
talking, smoking; so much time
to dwell on this, or that.
But I had a house to go to,
I was told.
Mine to live in and grow old.

I hung my clothes
on hooks set in the wall;
claws of some ancient beast,
waiting to spring if ever I sought
a chance to escape, to run to the sea;
a life once again in the land of the clean.

Staring at Elounda’s shore,
I remembered childhood’s tales.
How Leto’s daughter, Britomartis,
pursued by lusty Minos over Crete,
chose the sea instead if him.
Artemis gave her sea-nymph shape,
and out there, maybe as I gaze,
ever free from Minos, she still swims.

The sun was hot enough to melt waxed wings.
Heat shimmered off the cracked white track,
flowers and leaves of dusty roadside weeds,
clung to their slow, parched dying days,
shunned by insects.

As I moved to sit amongst the wisdom of the café,
people smiled at me once more.
In the breezy shade and wine,
I learned of easy death, and life
on Cretan Spinalonga,
Isle of Lepers.

Fully frontal lobey brain-box
fires neurons willy-nill,
medulla oblongata
struggles upwards down a hill.

I have a hypothalamus
that shows me when to drink,
I take it walks at suppertime
and wash it in the sink.

Parietal lobe is touchy,
it tells me where I’m not,
and if my lager’s icefull cold,
or when the sun gets hot.

Brainstem pumpy heartbeat,
the liver listens too,
it talks all viscery vessels
and tells them what to do.

Logical left hemisphart
lets me play with thought,
county numbers – one, two, three,
and even conceive nought.

Holistic right-wing counterpart,
instructs in far and near,
I move without collidy things,
unless I’ve had some beer.

I hope I never lose this brain,
it’s more than words can buy,
just keep it hid inside my head
then free it when I die.

Secrets scooped by the wind
in cobbled alleys,
flitted like bats,
caught the updraught
from coal-smoke chimneys,
then hid forever in the smog.

Anything could hide in the smog.
Bronchitis tried to hide
in my father’s chest,
but it whistled too loud
when he breathed.
We all knew where it was,
but no-one could get it out.
It wasn’t a secret.

But in the smog
men would try to hide it,
sitting on walls
secretly gasping behind masks.
Wheezing away their days
under sooty handkerchiefs,
lowered only to lob out
lungs’ lumps.
Empty Room.

Purple cloths and statues,
reminiscent of Rome,
sacrament of golden bowls,
supped by modern maenads.
Blood of the lame Dionysus,
god of wine.

Does God reside within your echoes,
or massive limestone blocks?
Gold threads in priestly robes -
Mere reminders of pious poverty?
Inverted ecclesiastical exaggerations and mindful contrasts.
The people kneel in good faith.

The tongue of Rome no longer chants
the ancient charms, and other words,
contrived to stiffen slack belief
in those who hear.
The love of God inspired by fear
of future retribution.
The good people kneel in faith.

I’ve read the gospel words of Christ,
seen the wisdom, well disguised.
Many strange ideas have raced
around my head, in God’s own space –
that special little empty room,
kept clean and dusted, just in case.

How restful is the sleep of faith
in piety’s lumpy bed?
What peace to hold as sacrosanct
each line of scripture read?
So easy just to take as truth
whatever you were told,
by men of God,
when you were young;
unyielding grip on tight belief,
all doubts unsprung.

Yet I was wary of this God,
this being, ever hidden,
my questions quietly pushed aside,
all probing words forbidden.

I often dwelt on what I’d learned
from skirted men who smelt of smoke.
A talking snake who’d damned us all,
and Adam and Eve who’d caused the Fall.
In Satan’s flames that always burned,
sinners' souls were spitted, turned
‘til all had blackened on Hell’s Fire……

They asked me if I’d join the choir;
it was an offer I couldn’t refuse…
A Gravedigger's View.

The Sunday myth
springs afresh
from the death of some old stranger.
Cold now, cold as the church that received him,
rigored in coffined darkness,
eyes closed on eternity.
The end of a friend to some,
but no-one I knew.

The fragrance of funeral wreaths
ghosts across the graveyard -
The sweetness of life expressed by
the freshly doomed.

Black draped figures
shuffle the broken path
to where Earth awaits the return
of her loan.
They stand in silent murmurs
as the grave gathers the tribute,
while rooks,
all feathered up in widows’ weeds,
croak the dirge.

In the spring rain,
a muddy shovel
pats out
a final farewell.
Donkey Stones.

when milk carts were horse-drawn?.
My father would shout
and I’d go out, armed with shovel and bucket
to scoop up the horse’s legacy.
A treat for the back garden.

when you got on double-deckers
at the back
and bus conductors all wore black,
or dark blue?
The stairs arced left
into the poison gas
of black shag and woodbines,
where anyone who didn’t cough
was either dead or just dog-rough.

Remember the rag and bone man’s horse
with it’s nose stuck in a bag?
A donkey stone was the price he paid
no matter how much junk you gave.

In kneeling posture every week,
the terraced streets of women toiled
with donkey stones, in rivalry
for front-doorstep supremacy.
The turbaned lines would rub away
all of last weeks grime,
as if their scrubbings cleansed their souls
or eased false guilt they’d slowly built
of any wasted time
In the Beginning.

Later on this week
I decided to stroll back the years,
have a pint in the local,
just to see how things had changed..

‘My God!’ someone said,
‘You’re looking old.’
‘Pale too,’ said another,
‘you look like you’ve just seen a decade.’

I told my tale to open mouths
and closed ears.
With more beers, wider mouths
and drink-opened minds
soaked up my words.

‘You should be here in a minute,’
remarked the landlord,
‘Have you forgotten past habits?’
His words seemed to mingle with froth
patterning the sides of my glass.
Pictures formed and slid away –
Then a question.

What happens when the same body
self-encounters simultaneously.
What arcane laws of physics strain to be unleashed?
Then I realized,
if I’d recognized myself when I came in a decade ago,
I would remember.

I drank up fast, grabbed the door, and opened it.
As I stepped out, I met myself coming in.
Instantly the cosmos rushed into me as time imploded,
I pulled myself together in infinite gravity.
I was no bigger than a grape.
I exploded, and the Universe was born.

I awoke almost fifteen billion years later –
I swear it wasn’t a dream!
Free as Averse.

In dingy haiku will I find
a meaning in my mouth?
A burning feeling in my foot
tells me I’m flying south.

I look myself all up and down,
the feathers don’t quite follow.
I was a flying insect once
but now I see a swallow.

Oh seas with waves and splashy cliffs
that fall in crumbly stones,
why do you thunder woe betide,
spray salt into my bones?

On sand I land at running pace
all eight legs pitter patter,
my swallows days have blown away
in madness as a hatter.

A snake like thing, it hisses me
with flicking fork all scary,
arachnid body all rolled up,
I pray for my good fairy.

With wand and wing and hissing gone,
a change rings through my ears,
a thank you bark, I issue forth
confirming my worst fears

I paw a haiku up and through
that may explain my plight,
the dog and spider, snaky fang
and feathery swallow flight.

To sum it all, it was dream
that I had never had,
I pad the padded-cell about
It doesn’t seem too bad.

Darkness ushers
whispers of the past,
when frost's spreading web
was banished
by thick curtains.

When the faces in the flames
spat out sparks,
and smoke escaped the chimney's draught
each time the door was opened.

When bread was forked
and tortured over raked, red ashes,
like a barbequed saint.
Toasted, buttered, eaten;
but unlike the dry stuff
they give away in church -
Never sanctified.
Flightless Birds.

Picking through the remains of his life,
and other people's thrown away
the old man in three coats, string tied,
made a find.
Fumbling with a newspaper,
he fashioned a parcel for his pocket,
and stumbled, happlily mumbling,
onto the chaos of the pavement.
A stubbled smile was a greeting
that most folk avoided, like bodily contact
or eye impact.
Fear of contagion bent their paths,
skewed their eyes.
When he'd passed,
they shook the sand out of their hair,
along with their ostrich mentality.

Just for now.
Now and Again.

Why do you grasp life
so tightly,
when its slightest swiftness
will sear your skin?
Let it play, like a silk rope,
cooling your palms
with damp autumns,
unfolding its patterns
as it is pulled home
by your birthstring,
completing the circle.

Do you intend
to go around again?

Stretching back to when time’s pace
was schoolday slow,
I can still just touch
those hot, dusty hours
of boyhood wisdom.
Crawling along the kerb
with knee-scrapes and shoe scuffs,
looking for tar bubbles to burst - those
black volcanos with aqueous lava,
bordering the plains of the dried-up gutter.
Sun softened road edge
all ready to harvest, and roll
into heavy balls -
Coveted catapult shot,
round and accurate,
that spread like a dumdum on impact,
in those tarwarm summers' days.
I'm Alright.

I’ll hear your feet with their scuffling shuffle,
your grumbling cough and wheezy breath.
How can I fail to notice death
when I see your heaving shoulders,
cloudy eyes and dewdropped nose?
Would it be unwise to suppose
a chill is creeping through your bones?
Your bowl of cherries, dried old stones.

“My God, you’re looking bloody rough!
Should you be out?”
I’ll shout.
“Times must be tough!”

Shouldn’t say things like that I’m told.

Then I’ll growl,
“You’re looking old, better wrap up well
or the cold will slide you to the grave!” -
no swearing, with some good advice.
Yet the socially skilled will groan,
“Now that’s not nice!”

Must I say
“You’re looking well, It’s this mild weather,
I can tell by your colour.
It’s your walks in the park,
the long country drives
in your son’s soft-topped car.
What a marvellous colour you are,
you are,
what a marvellous colour you are.

And all the time you’re a leprous bloody white.

But I’m alright…
..I’m told.
Burning Oak Tops.

Early morning –
spring’s cubs warming
by yesterday’s hot ashes,
foxbreath flattening as it hits
the rising heat.

Siver birch on the crest,
stand black against an ice sky,
branching like the darkened airways
of giant diseased lungs.

The cubs leave
at saw-buzz.

Cutting up a large oak top – two years dried,
I fix a pattern in my head
(just to busy the brain -
offer a hint of purpose)
and follow it branch perfect.

The thin branches feed the foxfire,
thick ones feed the needs
of woodburning stoves
and the seasonal yearning
for yule-logs.

At frostfall
when the dark cold
begins to lay across the land,
and the east wind blows in the stars,
I stoke up the fire.
The foxes will soon be back
to spend another owl-quiet December night.

People used to call me onion,
said I always made them cry,
that I was cruel
after one or two.

I like to believe
it wasn’t true.

Once upon a night too many
I was fumbling drunk,
tumbled down the sharp-edged steps
in short-cut alley.

Now they don’t call me onion anymore
when they come
to see me
all tubed up and comatose.

I can’t answer them back
like I used to.
I’d love to tell them to go and shite
instead of constantly
looking at their watches.

I heard them whispering tonight -
said I’d always be a vegetable.
Small Thoughts.

When you stand on
an ant it dies.
I would always wonder why.
Where does its life go –
does it shoot out like


Of course, back then
I didn’t know about
nerves and brains,
or electro-chemical
signals, sodium ions and things.

I still don’t.

It makes no difference to ants
whether I know
these interesting things
or not.
They still die when
you stand on them
A Beer.

In the bar we talked above the clinks,
and mumbles, the overloud grumbles,
when drinks were spilled
and refilled.
We coughed above the drifts of smoke
and you spoke about
my wanderings of the last three years.

There were no tears tonight, no sneers,
no blame to lay –
I had my say, you had yours.
Decided it was best to split
at once
instead of bit by bit - a clean cut
leaves a smaller scar.

Back at the bar I bought a beer,
watched it settle, clear and cold.
Warm Evenings.

By the white horse chestnut candles
spiders weave their evening traps,
to wrap the wings
of moon drowsed moths.

Downtown bars spill light
and people out onto the street;
dancing spiders tongue-weave traps
of drunk deceit
for perfumed, drink drowsed moths
that flutter round the neon-lights of clubs,
or in the karaoke pubs, among the lasers
and the fights
on bad tempered late-spring nights:
overdressed rehearsals for the summer.
Early Morning.

The dream died with the morning’s shout,
my opened eyes just scanned the void,
then a voice asked,
“Were you so annoyed by all the little scratches?”

It was the constant clicks of latches,
the sulphurous choke of striking matches,
and leprous light through grey web curtains
that brought this scene to a close.
No appreciative applause
(just scratching dogs behind closed doors)
as I stumbled from the fourth floor flat.

I noticed ‘welcome’ woven in the mat
as the front door spat me out.
Dead Dogs & Damselflies.

A canal runs through our town.
A canal stays in our town
is the real truth.
Opaque green and stagnant, licking the red-bricked
cotton mills, ever calm and enduring.
Deaf to the constant clatter of the looms,
like the generations of lip-readers
who spun and weaved,
like organised spiders,
to catch a pittance.

A small pole-pushed barge
and crew of three removed the dogs
and things that this canal liked to collect.
They’d let us on after school
to hunt for rats, or to listen to
tales of bloated corpses that exploded;
suicides hanging
from Sundy morning bridges,
or that monster pike prowling the basin.

There were always the men on wicker baskets,
sawdusty maggots, groundbait and keep-nets.
Grumbling miserables who’d curse the barges,
tell us to shut the fuck up
because we scared the fish -
which seemed to prefer floating on their sides
most of the time.

They cleaned it up once.
(damselflies moved in!)
Water clean enough to show the sky.

It couldn’t last.
It didn’t.