Big thanks to Kathleen and David Strafford for giving this poem a home.
It’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.
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.
It’s a treat to have my somewhat potty-mouthed poem “Lawrence” featuring over at Algebra Of Owls today, one of my favourite places in the webosphere.
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?!
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
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
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
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
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
Very pleased to have my poem “Factory Gates” appearing at the ever-lovely Poetry Village today. Many thanks to editor David Coldwell for finding space for it.