Category Archives: Poems

Closer

When I was a boy, I remember having moments of flooded awareness, a sense that, whilst I was an innocent before, now I was fully sentient, someone properly aware of who I was and where I was going. I remember it occurring every year or two.

A while ago I tried to capture that sense of lucidity – long since lost – in a poem.

Closer

The school’s tapering windows turned golden
and I remember, after lessons one day,
when I was eight, or maybe nine,
and then again nine-and-a-half,
and probably ten –

a sense of arrival,
of no longer becoming,
of finally cutting loose
from that fine-but-somewhat-lacking
changeling of seven, eight, eight-and-a –

Now I was grown,
grounded in sentience,
one of those I’d always wanted to be –
finally, gazing through glorious Victorian windows
I was me.

I was almost right.
There was plenty more to come –
the simple discord of things devouring things,
of lust, love, faith, and Earth’s indescribable place –

but I’d had the thread,
realised that only with an attack of thought
could I pierce the realm of being
and get me nearer to me.

And now I’m closer still,
so close I swear
I’m almost there.

 

Jack

Jack in the dark, fishing the Wandle with Dad.
Some numbers of Jack:
2 (haircut), 11 (age), 7 (fags per day);
3 (Mums, if Edyta has her way).

Jack’s dad rolls a smoke,
pulls up his tracksuit neck,
but there’s no keeping out that damp.
Fetch us that box of bait, Jack…

In the moonlight Jack watches
dimples on the river’s surface –
how far they go, spinning,
till something below changes.

Jack might be young,
with a life nobody’s after,
but he knows something most
take a long time to discover –

impatience is pointless.

Jack waits in the dark,
time unregistered, and ready,
for what might,
or might not, happen next.

The Man who was Saved

This short poem was written a long time ago. It’s the only prose poem I’ve ever written, and it’s the only poem I’ve written about being saved. That’s why I like it – because all of us want to save and be saved, don’t we?

The man who was saved

by a fire-fighter at the Marriott Hotel on 9/11 was OK before; before he’d never shown anyone any affection and expected none himself but when an unknown man, a stranger, did that to him – saved him, without him asking – he found that something shut away for a long time, so long it might as well have been forever, came out and that’s what has made him into someone who cries each time he watches the news, what has made him alive and weak. He loves being weak.

 

 

 

 

 

Diaspora of Light

Diaspora of Light

Stretching up she twists the slats

and, having combed
all that empty space
failed to catch
retreating galaxies
collapsing stars

bounced off
or come to nothing
on nameless, burnt out rocks

at last the barriers down
light
finds perfect resting place
on her bare skin

glories with silent fanfare

and begins its transmission
of the precious stuff, metals
gold, silver, platinum and bronze

from the places
where her stomach twists
her arm curves against the air;

from the coppery shift of her hair,
the coral blue-grey blink
of her perfect eyes.

Suburban Alembic

My grandma has peach sheets.
With arms weather-beaten as a sailor’s
she hoists them high
where they billow and flap
across Eastbourne’s sandy bric-a-brac,
the cool, evening pebble-blue sky.

Coming out from the side passage
the golden dog
spots the sheets
bounces into the bungalow garden
snaps like a puppy
at the dark fuzz of lawn.

Joy. She canters
dives and rolls
into the slap
drop
and leap of the sheets.

She twists and sits up
and barks
and barks again:

the dog knows –
the dog knows!

This

This

I hope when they arrive they see this first.
The red-and-white lighthouse
tied to the cliff-top,
the Channel slipping away to reveal
a ribbed parchment of sand
weed-streaked rocks
and space for three men,
an arching fishing rod.

They will not see a horizon.
Rather sea, sky, morning in union,
a relaxing of green and grey,
suffused with childhood blue.

It is beautiful and warm.
I hope this is where they come.
I hope this is what they see.

 

Eastbourne, April 2017

‘She being dead yet speaketh’

This poem was inspired by an inscription on a gravestone in Warwickshire:

‘She Being Dead Yet Speaketh’

just before I wake or when the dog
looks up suddenly from cracking its bone.
When my name sung by her voice
seeps through the wood in the house.
When I run to the phone,
thinking that it’s her.
Behind the confusion
of a stranger’s piped words.

In the blaze of the baby’s hair
as she sprawls beneath blue bay windows
I hear her still speaking
telling me always, telling me nothing,
making me feel, before it bursts,
like light.

Please, stop sending the cards.
She is still talking.
I am all right.

This was one of several poems I had published in the Belmont Art Centre’s Poetry File programme for secondary schools in Shropshire.

The Old Man

I used to do a lot of hill walking when I lived in the right places, principally Stirling, where I went up into the Highlands, and Cardiff, where I used to drive to the Brecon Beacons. The Surrey Hills, where I live now, are good – but they’re not quite the same. There’s nothing like proper mountains for a sense of freedom.

The old man in this short poem is the the Old Man of Coniston. Those who know that fine mountain in the English Lake District will also know that this photo is not taken there, as I don’t have any digital photos from that walk, which was done a long time ago. (It’s in the Brecon Beacons, near Pen y Fan).

The Old Man first appeared in Orbis poetry magazine, no.88.

The Old Man

In stride pale valleys grow before us,
smoothed between slumbering beasts,
and exciting strange pools of thoughts;
after roaming the Old Man and returning
like water we fall together
by a crumbling river and you sing,
a silly song, into my ear
as I rest my thoughtless head in your lap.

Who are you to me?
Dreaming child, self-absorbed,
before eroded thoughtways
you sing the possibility of freedom.

Scarecrow

This poem, written one winter when I was doing a lot of outdoor work, first appeared in Envoi magazine, no. 127. I was reading quite a lot of Ted Hughes at the time, too, and the great Welsh priest-poet, R. S. Thomas.

Scarecrow

The crow is not itself
just as I am not myself alone –
some of me is stolen
by that shrewd, wheeling eye.

What do I look like in crow?
Dumb, slow, stumbler on a field
of plenty, just trouble enough
to keep an eye on.

It sits there on my fencepost,
careless that it contravenes the good of me.
Watching me, utterly
unafraid of me.
Watching me, my enemy.

Watching me as I pierce
the slopping, inert earth with my cross
and dress its stick arms with shredded sacks.
And it doesn’t caw or blink
as I settle on the upright pole a pumpkin
and on that a black, shapeless hat.

The light on the winter field fails.
The crow’s wings stretch out,
pass up through me
as I walk, unsteadily, home.

Leaving my scarecrow in the field.
Alone with the crow.

The Wandle Geese

The Wandle Geese

Bright brown, white, and black
straining, swift
against the uppermost limits
of the river-channel’s air
honking
and half-honking

come the throat-stretched geese,
nature regenerate,
unmade,
singing the quality
that flies ahead of itself

roll-calling the bounty
of the nettle-thick banks

stamping their mark
on the ducks and the coots

championing the ever-ready

and demanding renewed assault
on the beauty and mystery
grown over within.