Big thanks to Kathleen and David Strafford for giving this poem a home.
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
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
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
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.
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
I’m very pleased to have three of my poems featuring at Soft Cartel just now (and I particularly like this image they’ve used to accompany them. How soon can I move to Pie Town?). You can find “Exit strategy”, “Your second head” and “Nothing much at all” here.
My thanks to Toom Bucksaw, editor at SC, for giving these poems a home.
Niggling 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.
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.
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”.