So how did YOU vote?

Fish

 

So how did YOU vote?

 

Gripping his daughter’s fragile hand,

and mangling the worms of her fingers

fiercely into his own, he spat the words

out into the humiliated air between us.

 

Because I need to know,” he said.

It’s important.” All the other parents –

mostly mothers – were marshalling their

creatively-fed boys and girls back

 

home from school to peel campaign stickers

from their windows and wheelie bins,

weigh up the final reckoning of promises

and lies. I looked first into her puzzled eyes,

 

then his, the seething milk of his eye-whites

coming to the boil before brimming over

onto his turnip skin, and abandoned all

those careful words I’d been preparing

 

in anticipation of this very question.

The same way I always do,” I said.

With a tiny little kiss,” before turning

and ushering myself furtively away.

 

 

first published in Snakeskin No. 243, 2017

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Pushcart Nomination

Black MariahIt’s a tremendous honour to have had my poem “Harry” nominated for this year’s Pushcart Prize by the lovely folks at Sleet Magazine.

I’m very grateful to Susan Solomon, Todd Pederson, Jamie Buehner and everyone else at Sleet for their support. The Harry in question in this poem was one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, so this nomination is particularly touching, and feels – for me, at least – like the perfect tribute to him.

(If you click on the link to the poem, please be aware that there are five stanzas, not just the three that initially appear. You’ll need to do a little scrolling down!)

Image: Black Mariah by FM.

Under The Radar

UTR FrontThis morning I took delivery of a copy of Issue Twenty-Two of Under The Radar magazine, published by Nine Arches Press, which contains my poem “Hypnotherapy”.

It’s a beautiful publication full of excellent writing. I’m honoured to be a part of it, and looking forward to reading it from cover to cover

I’m very grateful to Jane Commane, editor and director of Nine Arches Press, for choosing to include this poem.

 
UTR Back

Flood #2

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I came home one evening recently to discover that one of the pipes in my bathroom had ruptured, causing hot water to come raining through the ceiling and into the living room.

The consequences were not good. Sofa, carpets, desk – all pretty much soaked and ruined. So it goes.

More poignant is that taking the full impact of the deluge was my modest library of poetry books – including signed collections by Billy Collins and Ben Banyard – and gratis copies of all the print publications that have been generous enough to include my poems over the last few years.

So it goes.

I’m not looking for sympathy. This is first world stuff, and I have insurance (I forgot to ask my insurers whether they could fly Mr Collins over to sign another copy, now I think about it). And it’s kind of funny, really. I’m a great believer that there’s poetry in everything if you bother to look for it, so I’m hopeful that this episode will have sown the seed for something creative further down the line. Maybe it will do the same and provide a prompt for someone reading this? That would please me.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to repost a poem I put on here a few months back. It’s about a completely different type of flood, admittedly, but perhaps with a little imagination (and heat. And books) you’ll get there?!

 

Flood

 

We did not see the swollen river

overtop its banks, failed by the

modest bow of its channel, its

traffic doubled by the bludgeon

of three consecutive moonrises

under rain, waters earth-brown.

 

Instead, we passed a day later,

taken by the bleached streamers

of torn-up grass, stretched like

comet-tails from the lowest boughs

of thornbushes, calm swirls of sand

making fish-loops across our path.

Missing the point

Missing The Point

 

Missing the point

 

Cooing through the ether in your nursery-rhyme voice,

you describe the view from the upstairs window of

your new apartment; tell them how on certain days

when the pollution levels allow, you can make out

– across the water – strange, impossible mountains

smeared with snow, so distant-looking to you that the

slow parabola of the Earth ought to prevent it somehow.

 

But not every day. What it means is that, as usual, you

won’t be noticing what’s at your feet, tripping you up.

That the knives and forks of sea air are guzzling on

the fatted steel of your car, turning it to useless pumice.

Your front door will need painting. You haven’t managed

to ignore away the flat, crushing ache in your lower back.

And you miss them. And they wish you would come home.

 

 

first published in Verdad Magazine, 2017

Living next door to a man who keeps pigeons

Pigeons

 

Living next door to a man who keeps pigeons

 

We only compare notes at first light, when he goes
to open up the hatch, grey bib-and-braces, ill-fitting.

They boil out from the coop, and I stand gawking,
open-mouthed throughout their exercise hour,

following each hypnotic circuit overhead as they pass,
a mist of frantic wing-beating, synchronised like a

herring shoal slicing up the sea, flashing silver
on the upstrokes. I will strike him as a bored ghost,

perhaps, there behind the glass. Or an abandoned
mannequin wearing unfashionable clothes in the

window of an empty shop, mutely oblivious to those
eye-sized spatters weeping down the sash-panes.

 

Original version first published in Otoliths, 2018

Putting back the clocks

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Putting back the clocks

 

It catches us by surprise every time.

We never manage to be ready for it,

even though the slowly-paling days

have already shrunken down so much

they barely even fit into their boxes,

and complain fiercely to everyone

about the lack of themselves.

 

Without any clear reason or instructions,

we’ve started eating porridge again.

Taking herbal supplements. Regular showers

of leaves spray from the parade of trees

lining the wet streets uptown. Certain

bolder ones – poplars, you decide –

are the first to go fully, brazenly naked.

 

Trying to ignore the wheezy darkness,

we roam the house, digging out timepieces,

stealing hours, pushing buttons, twirling dials

on the heater controls. It all adds up

to so little. But always there will be one

we’ve missed, will discover mid-January,

clinging quietly to last year’s summer.

 

 

first published in Northampton Poetry Review, issue 2, 2018

For one night only

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For one night only

 

By 5.30 they were gathering.

The paintbox sky was losing the will,

and I called you from the shore,

to draw you out,

to parcel up the moment,

before the darkness scrubbed everything away.

 

Ten minutes later you were by my side,

your face in profile –

bruised from another day’s assault,

but reliably perfect –

gaze following the swarm of starlings,

over and above and around and over the water,

lost in their murmurations,

wanting to be neither explained nor described in words.

 

Lapsed finally into that state, immeasurable in time,

we prayed for the inevitable gloom to somehow spare us,

we begged each one of the thousand birds

to circle once again before dropping to the reed bed.

 

I kissed an exploratory tear as it left your eye,

knowing exactly what it was for.

 

 

first published in Wildflower Muse, 2016