Not The Bearer

Sometimes Love’s amphoras
Overflow, enriching
Not the bearer
But everyone below,
Until Love’s ceramic
Sun-glazed jugs
Finally become discoloured,
Emptied, and in shadow.

And although
I hide my losses well
You can always tell
When I am struggling –
I forget
To cut my toenails
And I forestall
The days of the week
Which I have changed
To names of trees
Extinct by thirty years;
Monday’s Ash,
Tuesday’s Elm,
Wednesday Oak;
Poplar’s heights
Touch Thursday’s toes,
Willow’s Friday’s river-cloak,
A weekend fit for toasting
Alder and Horse Chestnut,
Cold kidney pie
With mustard mash
I misplaced from last week’s lunches
Before returning to ash.

You can also tell
When I am unwell –
Chores do not interrupt and
You can hear the sounds
Of chaos from somewhere
Down the hall –
A thousand years of loneliness
To only end it all.

Love can pour back upwards –
See the citadel’s sorrow;
Place a lid upon the urn
And try again tomorrow.

Everybody Got What They Needed From Me (Except Me)

My counsellor said, exasperatedly,
That title is a generalisation
And that I am susceptible to exaggeration.
I said, this is how I feel.
The remaining appointments did not go so well.

On a village green a well ran dry,
And at the nearby cricket pitch
The yearlong deluge washed away
Protests more and more obscene
Chalked on a scoreboard by
Openers for a disgruntled team
Still wearing pads beneath their knees.
Villagers gathered under umbrellas
Scratching their waxy heads
With unusual visages weathered
And perplexed, looked up
To all redoubtable heavens,
Misunderstanding how so much rain
Could fall on something terribly and
Relatively minuscule as a
County bore with bucket,
As if a curse for colonising
The sands and surf of far
Nehantucket, by forgotten
And foolhardy ancestors
All those centuries, long ago.

Et Snøskred

I would choose if I could
To be anything but a wasted man,

Sinews roping duct and glands.
Leave me, as everyone must,

Leave me to organise these poems –
Jumbled words from an idiot,

Good for kindling, good for dust;
I only request a lifetime’s hibernation

And a printer on a sturdy desk.
You pushed in vain, no little art,

Jumpstarting with your spark plugs
This cold and weathered heart.

My mind is like a mountain slope
For when I shout, an avalanche

Subsumes with snow
Everyone I hear below;

Terrified sounds, such voices,
Of my own villagers trapped

In subatomic neuroses,
My choicelessness of choices.

N.B the title is Norwegian and means ‘An Avalanche’

Liverwort Blues

We live on a cliff above
A dank, oppressive marsh.
That’s how this place
Became itself, through
Our existence alone
And had its name bestowed.
We should have stayed in caves
Where there were no names before.

Everyone here is killing
Each other in a ceaseless
Pursuit of mistruths
And words like food
Turned stale, inedibly so,
Are crumbs scattered
From battlements and
Powerful tower-tops;
The churches lost their teeth
And the castles their crows.
Over there, the man
Who invented petroleum
Is being set alight
Every night;
His corpse is hosed,
The daemons breathe new life
And have him oxidized
Despite his ghostly moans,
All those protestations,
Only, they return in numbers
With a burning bridge in tow.

If a man tells you he misspoke
Then he is not to be believed,
For, prior to impolitic exposure
He said those very words
And so he shows contrition
With oxymoronic verbs.
Truth is his disease –
Even good people lie, he said –
But what is true and what is not
Are shuffled like cards
With the suits turned to spots.

Either exasperated or bored,
I pressed a poisoned knife
Through my psyche,
A mix of suet, memories,
Bratwurst with some liverwort,
And everything that’s past
Is unforgotten, recreated in
A future that evolved,
Fitfully and biting,
Into something even worse.

So Long The Ceasefire

My head is a bread bin
Without any bread,
Where loaves were stored
Mould’s sprawling instead.

My body a trawler
With no herring for kippers;
Caught by a storm,
Overboard skippers,
Returning to port
With no smoke for a dinner.

My soul a cathedral
Burned for a cause,
So long the ceasefire,
Bombs did not pause.

Finally, my mind has vacated,
My body, and my will;
Standing at a bus stop crying,
Placated by the thrill.

Some Do Fall

Yesterday, my younger self,
Slowly, inexorably –
Focused, inevitably –
Overdosed. And
So it goes everyday.
It cannot go away.
In that moment, I re-read
My lines diligently,
Preparing my soliloquy,
Eighteen ancient years
Yet more child than adult,
Scared and confused
And alone in an era
Of cocktails and beers,
Of riding in car trunks
And rolling down hills,
Of men being salacious
At best, of disregarded
Lectures and inspectorates
And spider plants
Stoned on window-sills,
Questionable fashions
And a plethora of cigarettes,
Bedrooms thick with such acridity
You could not see your peers
Across the room as they kissed
Excessively and toked.
Mine were Marlboro
Because the British
Have never known how to smoke.
Cold, punishing dormitories,
A chicken’s head,
Everyone was bloated
With sex while I sat
With my knees to my head
On a dim and distant bed.
Much of the nuances I missed,
A hand held, a love letter,
Unattended trysts,
The blushes and
The sadness.

That age is a rope bridge
Like the frayed
San Luis Rey –
Many make the crossing and
Pass over quite adequately,
Some are even enthused by
Such precarious views,
Some with heads in clouds,
Some too confident as well.
And some do fall,
Succumbing to atrocities
And I was one;
No audience,
No gods with pince-nez
For a pauper’s show,
Just a tablet at a time,
Slow, slow,
Slowly absorbed,
Purchased from
Supermarket jaws
Over several weeks,
A letter to no one
In particular.
One tablet at a time
Because my future glowed
Brighter than a forest fire –
Untamed, unquenchable –
And because I was pressed
From the pages of
My father’s blasphemous
Kiss, a contradiction
Of love and self-loathing,
Pressed like a dandelion,
Seeds separated
By the careless impact
Of a book once loved,
Now in a cardboard box
Gathering mould
And dust
In the attic of a house
I did not frequent.

As the last pill then
Descended through tubes
I have never seen and
Never will see,
My only thought was how
I would want you to know
That I did not mean to do this,
Did not even want to,
But sometimes life
Has a weird way of
Leaving me estranged
And saying No to what is best.

It seems good enough for some
And not for others,
But my mind,
Held in a crisis-vice,
(I had to be good for something –
Even if it was to be this) –
Led me to ignore my own advice.
I thought about it twenty
Thousand times
And then twice.

I woke into odes of disappointment,
Applied an episodic ointment,
A compassion of paramedics,
A wrangled worry of parents.

Permanent autumn.
Charcoal throat.
Embarrassed, strained voices.

Twenty-five years is a long way to go
From being youthful and comatose.
Life became lodged –
Visions persist of pine trees
And a missing residential goat,
A warden’s office, pool tables
And loyalties and loss,
As someone I loved did say –
‘Society thinks it is more
Sophisticated now, when
Instead it is far less’ –
Such is the price.
And now I must go,
I must prepare this
Next last meal
Upon a gas wheel
Of jambalaya and rice.

Gully


Fresh autumnal rain.
More memories, less gain;
When will I feel real again?

Bricks in my lungs,
Ballast in my brain;
Cargoes containing offal

At the county dock detained
Host more value per grain
Than weights of my breath

Weights of my stains.
In a vision or a dream
Or pulleys in between

Leaf-angels concealed
In that forest unsealed,
A garland of garlic

And damp pine cones
Adorning a gully
Appears more comforting still.

In the distance,
Ambulance sirens,
Playground ebullience;

Good luck to the teary drunk
Trying to abstain.
This is the Year of the Ox

I explained, your wealth;
Deaf ears and ailing health;
I did not let that tiger inside you.

A cessation in rain;
In time, I came to realise
Nothing here will ever be real.

South Of Somewhere

South of Somewhere, Fairburn Road Car Park.
Small town, off from the main route.
Or large village? The first two hours parking is free, but you still have to go to the ticket machine and press a button for a ticket. The information display has yellow print on a black background. The municipal Council crest includes two mythical beasts either side of a shield, also yellow and black. There is a whole language for heraldry. There is a misprint between two symbols for a disabled person, which reads ‘Dabled badge holders FREE’.

I wish it was colder, or raining, or cold and raining. I prefer the rain. People tend to stay indoors a bit more.

I haven’t been here before. It’s only 8 miles north west from my house, but the journey includes country lanes with tall hedgerows leading into hamlets.

A local transport intersection, freight trains and East Coast LNER trains rumble by. Commuter belt, I expect, for workforces in the not too distant cities and larger towns. Smaller Northern Rail pacer trains, liveries of purple and white.

You can draw a straight line almost, from the southernmost city the one furthest north. This is somewhere inbetween.

I feel supernaturally tired. I will be unable to drive again, post surgery, she said. I said I will make for a moaning chauffeur.

You video-called me yesterday evening. You were wearing a silver chain with a silver crucifix. You ask me if I like it and I lied and said yes.

Days merge. And then I feel bad for feeling envious of those who moved on.

People I have seen arrive here are now returning to their cars, laden with shopping and misplaced hopefulness. They seep out from corners and sidestreets, like waxy by-products of my inexhaustible life, like tears. As I drove away, I remember thinking, if there is anyone as hermetic as me, I would like to meet them.

O Barqueiro, A Coruña

To finally sleep
Is all my thinking needs.

A stone in the slowly
Unfurling
Ocean,
Insistent waves,
Incessant waves
Murmuring
Unseen.

But I am afraid
Of the
Deep,
Deep,
Deep.

Dark fish are there,
Gloomy, alone; they forget;
Through dank seaweed stare,
And by trawler nets
They are longing for home.

Yet how can I ever go home.
There are no stones left
To throw and there are
No oceans here,
Just the sounds
Of lawnmower motors
And dogs beserkly barking
At nothing at all.