The Deep End

I watched Elena bathing
in the pool of the lower garden
amid birdsong and toiling insect
light shimmering in the heat
she’s a big girl, there’s more to love
and the water must feel warm against her toes
O, life is kind some days

I watched Elena swim, for hours
to and fro, up and down
the pool my father dug
there is nothing of which she’s ashamed
stepping from the water, standing bare
stretching hands above her head
and diving at the deep end
my eyes there with her every movement

I watched Elena sunbathe
on a bamboo bench against the North wall
she looked so bronze and peaceful
in the quiet of the lower terrace
spiders scuttling across the backs of my knees
lying face down in the tree house
O, life is kind sometimes

I watched Elena stepping back into her dress
as the sun contemplated a slow retreat
picking up her wicker bag, she rolled back across the wall
hopped down onto the dusty gravel road
wandered slowly back into the town

I found her necklace, left at the water’s edge
wrapped it twice around my thin wrist
flicked a long nail against the hanging ‘E’
longingly, I watched the fiery light
dance upon the water
but I never saw Elena again…

[2014]

Souvenir

Acquainting myself
with the moon
trapped behind glass
exchanging glances
and on my back
a thousand heart-attacks
roll past
My fingers cross and uncross
as she sleeps, so black
back in the real world
paid-up entirely
on her subscription
to actual reality

Might you return
with a souvenir for me
from the envious depths
of endless peace
perhaps a child
or a patient nurse
or some control
with a button for reverse
My fingers press
that longed-for switch
watch deeds recoil back into the body
where I don’t turn that key
don’t cross that threshold
slipping backwards, contentedly
from actual reality

Moonshine lights the shore
as I drag the boat
of all my swimming thoughts
along a silver stretch of sand
where all the land behind
no longer matters
a bowl of sea, insignificantly
the only thing
between the horizon and me
but crossing is possible
with the coins that you earn
waking night after night
and each mile is a measurement
you take
from actual reality

This father feeling takes over
My child
in a superposition
only alive inside its mother
between the hours
of two and six AM
a phantom haunting, stalking
poised with talons drawn
to fly this solipsistic me
drop him heavily
back in the sticky city streets
of actual reality…

[2018]

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. Reposted]

Tan Hill Inn

Teenagers, cycling across the Dales
up country roads in the seventies sun
wheels turning, chests burning
on our way to Tan Hill Inn

Too young to drink then
we’d sit in the garden
catch our breath and if we’re lucky
maybe the northern lights
I’d take photographs
thinking to myself
one day I’ll bring my wife here
one day I’ll bring my children
if I have any
and we’d cycle home

All the energy I had then
all that drive to ride the Pennine Road
on the longest and the shortest days
sit by that fire, dripping dry
seemed there could never be a time
I couldn’t call my friends and ride
up to Tan Hill Inn
skidding home in the snow

I thought it all was endless
it all seemed so endless then

Now my kids are grown
my kids are having their own
there’s no energy left
not in these bones
to cycle up those hills
just to sit
without drinking…

[2017]

Strangers Leave Scars

We were strangers by the pool
there was summer on your skin
I lay low, opened my whole body
in the hope that you would find me

Then taking it the distance
from the shore raised to the sky
there were many sailors scheming
on the bending of your knee

There’s a bridge in your dreams
as it recedes behind a fog
you wonder what it means…

Even naked, your body was a silken gown
as you scurried across the room
I brought you this glass paper
an outcrop of shattered slate

Upon your hip some childhood scar
the very first place I aim my dirty lips
the innocence in your womanly eyes
meets my age but not my weariness

There’s a bridge in your dreams
and you wonder what it means…

I taught you all the things I knew
about the moves I needed from you
you later said my expertise was nothing but a trick
with a flick of the wrist I’d left another scar on you

And, waking, we melted one final time
before I drew from the bed
you briefly begged me to stay
then turned around and slept

And I know when I go
you’ll find a honest barer
of the tenderness you’re owed
the goodness, the reality

I wonder what I brought you
and I wonder what I took
you were the silk that moved beneath me
you were the sweetest laughter

For now, I dare not tell you
as I cross that bridge
vanish into the thickening fog
slip from your life

Strangers, then
strangers again…

[2018]

We Were Beautiful

The complication of those earrings
the texture of the paint around your eyes
the sun’s highlights in your hair

The redness of those parting lips
such belief in everything we said
the pristine shape of your nose

Lying on the roof
your head close to my heart
summer blushing the sky
weren’t we beautiful
weren’t we beautiful then

Nothing to fret about
just prolong the passing day
swaying through the city
weren’t we beautiful there

The precision of our jaw-lines
the optimism in our hearts
skidding through that midnight snowfall
spelling out each other’s names
as I caught you in my arms

We were so alive
so in love
so beautiful
at that moment in our lives…

[2018]

The Artist's Desk

Always, I want to see
the place of work
I sit and wonder
of the artist’s desk
what trinkets, what tools
they choose

Always, I picture in my mind
the artist’s desk
and what pin-tacked postcards
what scribbled notes of inspiration
may surround it

Is it by a bright window
or in the bowels of a basement
Do they toil below a craning lamp
or by dim candle flicker
do they have a desk at all
or just a strong knee

Always, filled with nosiness
I love to imagine
the artist’s desk
the magic place
where they give birth
to what always was…

[2019]