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]

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

Pull apart the perfect nest
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…

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 and a spoilt heart
where blame is always searching
and mirrors cannot exist
once-blooming thoughts crush more and more

Pushing on the pillars that held you up
you’ve crushed too hard this final time
the string of respect has frayed to nothing
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…’

One of These Years (poem)

One of these days I’ll get it all together
gather up my debts and gather up my thoughts
One of these days I won’t have a choice
there’s be no other way, just a fading day
I always say
one of these days…
that’s right
one of these days…

One of these days I’ll write to my family
tell them all, I love them, always have and will
One of these days I’ll start giving to charity
go out and help my brother/sister man along their way
I always say
one of these days…
you watch
one of these days…

One of these days I’ll fix that creaky stair
change the bulb in the darkened hallway
One of these days I’ll start a band, write a book
put something away for the time when I can’t work a day
I always say
one of these days…
I will
one of these days…

Ah, the days they go, slipping by
I just let them go, slipping by
as they build themselves into a tidy month
build themselves into a neat year
build themselves into a pretty lifetime

One of these days I’ll take stock of what I’ve got
sit down with a pen, and calculate the cost of everything
One of these days I’ll stop talking, speak in actions only
like I’ve been promising myself I would for so long
I always say
one of these days…
you just wait
one of these years…

(Written in 2007)

The Ropes Are Fraying and Soon I’ll Sail…

“The ropes are fraying and soon I’ll sail”
pencilled grey
along the edge of my notebook page
a heart-breaking phrase
sure to inspire, somehow
 
Flicking through, I read it again
and pause to lament;
That boat washed out
its anchorage severed
silently, in the night
no words, no words
 
He’s gone
and into that sad darkness 
so many other ships would follow
The town seems quiet this evening
our town feels colder, somehow
I stand on the harbour wall
no words, no words
 
What can be done
move the hands around the clock
reverse the face
repeal the laws and absolve it all
ah, the ropes are fraying
and soon I’ll sail…

[For Wolfgar (David) and the others who left]

The Dentist

If I was the dentist
I would take such pleasure
pulling the bad teeth
those numb little stumps
right out
of other people’s heads

With a smile and some amusing tale
I’d talk to them so calmly
then slip into their mouths
and rip those unfeeling pegs
right out
of other people’s heads

If I was the dentist
I’d reach down
and pluck those dead bones
those unloved chewers
right out
of other people’s skulls

And what’s to say
your God’s not like me
and what’s to say
He doesn’t eye me
with the same contempt
the same criteria

And what’s to say
He doesn’t dream
of someday soon
whipping me out
of his over-crowded mouth

If I was the dentist
I would waste no time
pulling the bad teeth
those hollow, worthless juts
of rotten bone
right out
of other people’s mouths…

How To Be Alone

Waiting for a friend
sipping tea, sunglasses on
passers-by double and disappear
as reflections in shop windows
everything lit golden
then dimmed behind my lenses
I stir the drink some more

Waiting for a friend
they’re half an hour late now
I barely notice
just watch the people
let my mind wander
the liquid turning in the cup

And it hits me, squarely, there
on the corner by the crossroads
these moments
left to my own devices
find me so contented
thinking, writing, dreaming
drawing, planning, scheming

Have I just mastered the art
of how to be alone
or am I just happy
Maybe…
I’m just truly happy
finally…