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]

The Winning Hand

In the dimming garden
beneath the belt of Venus
fingers grip a bottle
a nightcap alone

Finally, I belong
finally, I belong to someone
how I’ve run from this
for so long

Now, nothing makes me happier
nothing makes me feel more sure
of anything
than knowing that you’re waiting

There were so many jokers
in the deck
the two of hearts, too many cards
and still dealing, still dealing

The night air’s tinged by a new chill
September’s signature
autographing my bare arms
but I barely feel it

Let me stay by your side
through winter months
and country walks
through rain and sleet
and fog

I used to hold nothing in my hand
look at the empty shape it made
wondering if there was something missing
something
that should have belonged
only me
I should have belonged
to something
to you

I sit down into the wicker chair
look across the valley below
the sky is closing in the distance
darkness gloves the globe again

How could I
even for a moment
have doubted
I held the winning hand
all this time

How could I
even for a second
doubt that
I held the winning hand
all along…

[2019]

Restless

When normally I’d run
why do I cling to this one?

I have money, I have time
but I have no partner in crime

I’ve been a lonely sight these past few weeks
fleeting glimpses of my footsteps on windy streets
indentations in riverbanks
ink-stains on flower beds

If I keep my pen on the paper
this nib keeps bleeding out blue desire

A rational mind gets cross-wired sometimes
now, to what should I aspire?

O, I have money, I have time
I have smiles, I have wine
but still no partner in crime

When normally I’d run
why do I cling to this one?

[2010]

Between A Blue Night and Dawn

Two lovers traveling
two lovers
meeting in the East

Their affair
was letters inked
and photographs
Now here embodied
will they know what to do?

She wakes him one morning, saying
‘let’s take a boat to an island
we’ll rise above the Bangkok smog’

Bike beneath them spluttering
her arms knitted around him
they race from bay to beach
chasing the burning sun
with hair wet and smiles wide

Their shoulders lapped by waves
she was beautiful
sitting on his knee
they felt married, waist deep
straw hats wilting in the brine

He thought ‘I could hold you here forever
I would kiss you
until the stars pepper the sky’

Between the music
from the bars off in the distance
and the love
dripping warmly from her words
a song composes itself over the ocean

Orion’s Belt above them
sand dancing between their toes
they rest upon the rocks
and she knows that she could love him
he wishes this night would never end
it’s one chance in their lifetimes
between a blue night and dawn

In a stilted shack on sand
her black hair spreads
like ink across the bed
longing dialling up their eyes
as the air between them boils
bodies’ voices blending

Two lovers traveling
two lovers don’t know if they’ll meet again
this could so easily have been
the love of their lifetimes

This could so easily have been
yet it existed only
between a blue night and dawn…

[2019]