Big thanks to Kathleen and David Strafford for giving this poem a home.
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.
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
I stand by the gaping window and
wonder how you do it, just watch
madness drive by erratically in its
slow car, round and round.
See the children stomping schoolwards
every morning, slumping back, afternoons,
as old women and men, heads
too heavy and worn to hold aloft.
Garbage scatters like crows quarrelling.
The sun warms the concrete heroically,
but no-one feels it. There are an infinite
number of ways for nothing to happen.
All of them end in emptiness.
In the evening, there is no darkness,
just a curious light laughing at gravity
breaking its laws like ribs, one by one.
Death has finally found a home
in your open mouth. It is
furnished with stolen goods
found discarded by the roadside.
first published in Ghost City Review, 2018
House of two trees
I see it every day through a car window.
It ghosts alongside like a stalled memory,
age uncertain, between drawn curtains
of teenaged birch, once autumn’s first gale
has shaved away their weak, buttery leaves.
Only its gable ends remain, a pair of
house-shaped symbols of wet, mossy stone,
linked by a low skirt of rubble, no sign of
a doorway or chimney-breast from this distance.
In each of what would’ve been its two rooms,
opportunist sycamores reach up beyond
the level of the eaves, and must form
a roof of sorts in full, late-summer leafspread,
but now join the hunched cluster of skeletons.
Sometimes there are rooks, crows, neither.
I return eventually to our home, twelve years young,
and backgrounded by those half-dozen acres
of pine, poplar, oak – their own sycamores too,
whose diaspora of seeds choke our garden
and gutters with saplings every spring.
And I can’t help wondering about time, the Earth,
the waiting game they’re playing with us,
the winning hands they’re inevitably holding.
first published in Liminality, issue 11, 2017
The Clearing is a fascinating and beautiful online journal published by Little Toller Books that “offers writers and artists a dedicated space in which to explore and celebrate the landscapes we live in”. I’m really delighted to have just had one of my poems – “Spit” – posted in the journal, alongside fine pieces by three other poets, Garry Mackenzie, Mark Howarth Booth and Oliver Southall.
You can read all four poems here.
The summer 2018 issue of Sleet Magazine is now live, and I’m honoured to have four of my poems appearing there. You can check out “Airport Run”, “Coming Back”, “Harry” and “Caprice” by following this here link.
I’m grateful to Susan Solomon and the rest of the editorial team at Sleet for finding a space for my work in this very fine issue.