Welcome to my poetry blog…

Thanks for stopping by.

Here, you’ll find poetry, writing and maybe the occasional photograph. I have 25 years’ worth of poems to slowly start uploading as well as many new pieces I’m working on. Hope you enjoy.

Comments, feedback, tips, constructive criticism are all welcome here. Do your worst… Tx

Ashes Blow Over All Things

For every happy thought
for every smiling friend
for everyone who thanked me
I let the ashes blow

For every hand I lent
for every promise made
for every declaration of love
I let the ashes blow

For every moment of understanding
every instant of communion
and every apparent good deed
I let the ashes blow

Somewhere, there is a garden
overgrown and wild with weeds
one brown bench book-ends it
and there I spend my days
as I turn myself inside out
in the incessant search for meaning

But every shard of hope I find
any glimmer of talent or humour
quickly disappears from view
as I let the ashes blow

So much love I’ve had and been given
so much trust pinned upon me
so much that just gets buried
as I let the ashes blow

Somewhere, there is an attic room
shadowy sanctuary of scribbles
with scalpel nib I carve apart
the body of a life ‘just lived’
dissecting its every organ
in the wild-eyed search for meaning

My burning words of questioning
they scorch all things
and I let the ashes blow
my burning words, unstoppable
they scorch all things
and I just let the ashes blow…

(Photo credit: http://www.marybethheffernan.com/skills/ashes)

Ellipsis

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’d 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 the 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…

Tiger Mountain

I have fallen for the mad ones
and the sad ones
and the ones who don’t know what they want

I have found that mania so consuming
confused depression for deep thinking
I’ve tried to heal the cracked ones
and piece the broken ones together…

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

I have lived off the wild ones
brought calm to the angry ones
laid down with the tired ones and slept

I’ve ridden with the seesaw ones
always wondering where I stood
felt lost with the wilful ones
and cried beside the bitter ones

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

I’ve walked across the weak ones
swum naked with the free ones
reached out for the timid ones
but found no hand waiting there

I have been ungrateful for the nicest ones
been bored by the honest ones
prayed for the fickle ones to change
knowing no love could bloom there

O, I have tried
to climb that mountain
with broken ankles…

And I have wondered loudly why
I never could reach the summit
with my broken ankles…

The Lighthouse

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

There are these 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?

O, where… am I going?’

I long to reach out a hand somehow
send out a boat to them
I worry for those lost faces
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…

Anatomy of Longing

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
is it the vicious tongue you wag at me
or the perpetual mystery hanging from your actions
the contradictions of your possible state of mind

I see the hurt, I feel the pain you carry
and sense your urge to be desired by men
the flirt of all you do rings loudly before you
and against my better judgement
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

With every scar you try to inflict
or accidentally leave on my skin
I drift away for a moment only
then find myself battling the waves
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I know you didn’t ask for this
I know you didn’t choose me or this adventure
and yet I brought it to you anyway
and you didn’t quite turn me away

And you’re cute, there’s no denying
you spill out in all my favourite places
and know how to smile with a catastrophic magnitude
that tears the hair clean off my scalp

The bile in your belly, the bitch barely-contained
I never knew how much I loved that rage
your misery is contagious
I feel its cells dividing in my bloodstream

I doubt I am the only one you’ve drugged this way
I know you’re not planning to leave your man
but as long as you keep stoking the engine of longing
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I dream about you most nights
and when I’m on the bus
or train, or tube, or walking down the street
or when I’m in bed with somebody else
I dream it’s your body
over which my hands journey

And yet you only reach out a paw for me
when you know I cannot be there
you only say you might want for me
when you know we can’t connect

You’re playing me, humble instrument to your vanity
you keep me hanging on for nothing real
I know all of this so well and yet I gladly hang myself
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

Sometimes it seems; maybe you feel more for me than I realise
an ambiguous choice of words and perhaps it could mean more
you say the lovers kissing in the bar, are reminding you of me
I say the denim shirt I wore today was reminding me of you

So who are you anyway and why do I long like this
I feel a sudden shortness of breath
when I look into your eyes
I feel my chest twinge when you catch me looking

There’s something in your history too
I know you’ve got some good hidden in you
beyond the selfish drive you choose to expose
I know there’s something that I could harness

There’s something in the things you’ve seen
the pleasure I know you’ve experienced
your taste for the beautiful and the sublime
perhaps if I could make you choose me, it would mean I’m beautiful too

You laugh at my jokes…
no matter how ruthless the punchline
the sharper, the more scathing the better
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores

I need to catch myself
before I fall much further
slam my pick in the ice
before the precipice

Cutting to the heart of all this longing
I see such complicated shapes emerging
and despite all my better instincts
I can’t help but come swimming back to your shores…

Cabin To Cabin

At the bar, watching you work
breaking the waves
going cabin to cabin

An opiate look across your eyes
pushing to feel the rush
surging into the night

There’s a high between those thighs
you’ve been falling
for the feeling of falling
hooked
on the commodity of love

See them capsize
or to splash inside another’s eyes
the static shock of fingertips and kisses
the life eclipse
seeing nothing but the falling in love

Going cabin to cabin
boat rocking this way and that
the feeling fades as you plough on
breaking the waves

It’s the modern, western way
the start of love is a drug alright
but love isn’t just the falling
or a solution to all ills

If you want to fall
then here I am
a hole in front of you
let’s share this fickle fizz
then helplessly watch it ebb

Going cabin to cabin
through our incessant lives…

Hush Little Nightmare

Quiet, quiet
calm and still
closed eyes can rest
sleepy head can drift

Quiet, quiet
gentle thought
no more mess to address
no more questions to molest you

Finally cut free
spill out, drift on
into a new sea
palms laid on fresh skin

Fretted for years
worried for a living
guilt; it breaks your heart
the quietest of all
let it go, let go
they’ll never know

Reborn, reborn
the duty is renewed
don’t ruin, don’t wreck
just hush that wondering

Quiet, quiet
free from white noise
no more hate to abate
no betrayal to wade through

Let your senses roam
let your hope bloom
no fray in the rope of love
you cling to, now

You’re free, you’re free
the creep can sleep
but must not repeat
don’t speak
just hush
little nightmare…

Fulfilment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathless

Let’s make a pact
let these shadows hold us
swaddled in secrecy
and breathing quickly
I see you draw in close to me
sense those lips loosening
my foundation questioning
the forcefield of your sly grin
and the delicacy of those fingers
upon me
exploring

Let’s make a pact
let this moment be our blueprint
to not accept a fading
or a softening of this urgency
I feel that magnetic pull strengthening
see the bond between us as pure light
drawing my every cell back into you
the atmosphere of your swelling heartbeat
and the longing in those murmurs
you’re whispering
expressing

Let’s make a pact
as these shadows hold us
close the night in around and bury us
breathless
breathless and beating hard…

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…

The Wind Is Howling

In the grate, the shivering flames
hungrily wrap their lips around logs
The boards above me creek
my wife haunting somewhere
the baby’s hands reach out
wave before its sleeping eyes

The wind is howling…

The smiles on our faces as we galloped down the aisle
making sense of scattered photograph moments
but I can’t remember why
can’t think of anything but waiting
and doing everything I can
patiently hoping
for you to get well

The wind is howling…

And you’ve been telling me to stay close
you’ve been praying ‘don’t change your state’
and you’ve been crying, screaming, aching
at 4am
to just feel well again

The wind is howling…

And with the tiny heart
that beats beside me now
I’m filled with a strength of love I have never known
and yet I feel
so alone

The wind is howling…

The Sea At Night Does Not Rest

Too tired to rest
I only care
are you out there somewhere
A glass of cheap wine
on the arm of some expensive chair

And do you…
could you think of me sometime
maybe… while I’m still alive

The gravity of your movements
swells the tides of my emotions
and you’ll probably never know
You drag me to ecstasy, then to lowest ebb
and you’ll probably never know

You amaze me with your vagary
I could fall in love so easily
but you won’t let me

Could you think of me sometime
could you think of me sometime
maybe… while we’re still alive…

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
just 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
back up again
towards the light…

Bullet Holes In Backyards

Wound up
some nights
I go out to think…

Of all the truths we share
there are little reminders we choose to keep hidden
fix up the front porch

but bullet holes in backyards
they go on…

We may not know what they mean
but we know they speak
of a scarred and pock-marked past

Did the children stand beside the pond
where they were sprayed and felled
did the family huddle close to the brickwork
razed by mad ideals

The past has cratered skin
the past erodes, underfoot

But bullet holes in backyards
they go on…

Some nights I go out
some nights when we fight
I light a cigarette
draw it deep
and push my fingertips into
into…

Bullet holes in backyards
they go on

Each scratch, each groove
shifts my perspective
chills my fiery mood

And I can go back inside…

Dedicated to (but in no way about) Harry O’Neill. His shared memories and comments were such a great part of WOL and he is missed. He responded to this poem very generously and reflected on his past in a way that meant so much to me.

Artefacts

Everything I used to touch
was touched with sadness

Everything I used to make
or say out loud
or joke about
was infused with sadness

A pathos to deepen all
a blackness
to accentuate all light

Everything I hung
was waiting to be hanged
in every tale I spun
I was waiting to be hanged

Somehow the sadness
magnified the brightness
shifted perspective
brought my dark art to life

Everything I used to hold
was held as I was gripped
by a deep sadness

Artefacts now from another world
carried across the borders
of ancient space and time
tinged with all that passed through me

And coming back
artefacts of the past
have one question to ask
repeatedly they ask

‘Why and how did you go on
why and for what did you hold on?
swaddled in your black sadness
held back by your blank sadness’

I think I liked it
I think I thought it was what I deserved
I thought it rang true in me
at the cost, at the expense
of all else

How wrong I was…

Then Give Back…

When the song is sung out of me
and all breath wheezes away
When those closing eyes are mine
and that silence fills up my mouth
then I will give myself back

When the turning wheel is staid
and the longest road is walked
When gravity is satisfied completely
and all my poetry has been written
then I will give myself back

I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself back to the earth
from where I came

When the flower’s head is closing for the night
and the worms surface from below
when the tune I’ve been humming is finished
and the daydream of all I’ve known is broken
then I will give myself back

When the trivial moments are beyond mundane
and the steady hand-hold no longer offered
When the night is bruised black and star-less
and every wish is washed clean away
then I will give myself back

And in giving back all I’ve ever had
I’ll fuel another chance for life
I will give myself back
to the ground
to the soil
I’ll lay myself down
give myself to the ground
from where I came…

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…

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…

Can You Hear The People Sing?

They dwell in strange rooms
the murky recesses of affordability
barely buildings, bedrooms with sinks
chair pushed up against the door
flakes of lives flung everywhere
a curtain, a quilt – who can really say?

A bare bulb hangs in an open window
no shade inside from day or night
Still lives go on; the rudimentary,
ramshackle, clutching at homeliness
the need for shelter unites us all
a hotel, a shed – who can really say?

In bleak electric heat, so many sing
it’s a different song
all sing a different song
Some higher, happier
some lower, more desperate than mine
flowing on through these days and nights
a verse, a chorus – who can really say?

The lawless, surging, movement of cars
the self-possessed trains below the buildings
so many pairs of eyes journeying on
the things they’ve seen, things they still see
those minds, all varied, wrapped in their own stories
a tragedy, a fairytale – who can really say?

Market stalls, street-sellers in threading gloves
the inside world spills out, a necessity
pavements become malls dressed in winter veils
motorbikes slip ghost-like in and out of sight
drunks stumble in high-spirits from bar to bar
a wall, a urinal – who can really say?

In tall towers, in basement bunkers
so many singing their different songs
some sing of the joy of things
some sing only of the difficulty
the tunes flow through this city’s veins
a love song, a death’s lament – who can really say?

But can you?
can you hear the people sing?
the miserable, the quietly ecstatic
can you hear the people sing?

(Written in 2011, upon moving to London for the first time).

Restless (Sequel)

Writing in circles again
I’m chasing your tail
self-referential
to edge of pointlessness

The nihilistic streak in me
vibrates at the thought of you
It’s like I take my pulse
while getting your name tattooed

You’ve got your phantom hook in me
just deep enough to tear
welcome back
o, welcome back…

The most concise statement I ever etched
the most desperately impassioned verse spilt
it’s emblazoned with your image
it squawks for your attention

That devil on my shoulder
lights a cigarette when you smile
it’s like an ache
and all the pills I can take

You’ve got your phantom hook in me
just deep enough to burn
so welcome back
welcome back…

Be gentle with me
say as little as possible
to me…

It will never be as good as it was
it will never feel like it did at the start
but welcome back
welcome back…

[A sequel to The Sea At Night Does Not Rest, written 4 years later]