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

 

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Streetview

Streetview

 

Streetview

 

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

Aftermath of a minor collision

Aftermath


Aftermath of a minor collision

 
The damage is inconsequential, mere molecular exchange

that it’s not worth bothering to get fixed. Those fanned striations

to metal and polycarbonate. The cracked plate remains legible.

 

But then the talking begins, and you gate-crash the narrative

with your machined hair, your plastic-coated name badge, all its

accompanying officiousness, its way that things have to be done.

 

Oblivious to the audience, you circle, fucking vulture, hungry for

the programme to kick in. You don’t get it, do you? This journey

of ours through the asteroids? You have no idea what’s coming next.

 

 

first published in Thirteen Myna Birds, 2017

Thoughts from an early morning train

Thoughts

 

Thoughts from an early morning train

 

Strange how certain things – whilst falling apart –

take on shapes that almost seem deliberate,

as though planned that way, as though this

were merely a truer angle to see them from.

A reassembly of ideas. A reversal of mirrors.

So you become the terrified hare cowering in

the tractor wheel ruts as the carriage spears by,

not the owner of the jaded eyes witnessing it.

You always have been. You see holes now

where once there were pegs, an illusion of

opportunity created by yourself, by your own

shadow sweeping across the picture as you pass.

 

first published in Across The Margin, 2017

Saltmarsh thoughts #2

IMG_1493Niggling away amongst the thoughts and notes I collected recently up at the Solway estuary – in addition to those about careful observation, and where poetry comes from – have been some insights into what I choose to write about. And what I’ve realised is that no matter where I am, whatever I’m looking at, the thing I’m interested in is people.

This might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but wouldn’t always have been. I can recall a time – back when I first began writing “seriously” – when I was more interested in reflecting on what I would’ve considered “nature”, meaning land- and seascape where human beings were either absent, ignored or unwanted. I was always trying to look beyond people and lose myself in these places, or feel inspired by them with my ego at arm’s length, if possible (reliably not).

I find people and what we do far too fascinating now. I’m one of those irritating creatures you see in art galleries who – after about twenty minutes of wandering around – occupies the most advantageous seat in the biggest room and spends their time looking at what everyone else is doing. It’s not that I don’t like art. It’s just that I find our interactions with art and public spaces more intriguing. Admittedly, art is a human business anyway, but the ways people interact with and imprint themselves into landscape is of equal interest to me.

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I live in a relatively crowded country, where it’s pretty much impossible to find yourself in a landscape that hasn’t been engineered to some degree by humans. The Solway estuary is a beautiful place, but people have been living here for thousands of years – farming, fishing, mining, extracting whatever we need – and helping to shape it, for better or for worse. These days I’m far more likely to be drawn by traces and consequences of these activities, and find inspiration for writing there.

Three poems up at Stickman Review

Anthony Brown, editor of Stickman Review, has been kind enough to include three of my poems – “Driving around town, 2 a.m.”, “Eddie’s” and “In which you are still leaving” – in Volume 17, Number 1, which has just been released online.

Big thanks to Anthony for finding space for these three amongst some very fine poems indeed. I’d particularly recommend checking out David Lohrey’s “Saturday, the 19th or the 20th”.

 

Last view of the island

Islands

Last view of the island

 

The ferry banks, only five minutes out

beyond the stone corral of harbour wall

and into the channel, the broad crescent

of its wake painting plumes across the

glass of the ocean, engines humming a

rhythmless vibrato. Smoke funnels skywards.

Cars hunch like crated eggs on the lower deck.

Over the tannoy, our cheery captain announces

a bottlenose pod, surfing in the bow-waves.

My eyes lock over the stern, watching as

those grey mountains begin to melt on

the horizon, taking a lifetime to disappear.

 

 

first published in Red River Review, 2018

 

Hinterland

Hinterland

Hinterland

 

They say it doesn’t rain here much, often, but

when it does, canopies of merciless cloud snuff out

 

every last square of the sky, hanging about the fields

like a quarrel, forgotten without ever being resolved,

 

and empty themselves in angled swipes that paste

both barley and nettles to the red earth, bleeding into

 

the leather boots and loafers of commuters on trains,

who steam coolly in their seats all the way into Waverley.

 

 

first published in Southlight Magazine, 2017