POETRY

Fugitive poems published in magazines etc. (1992-2014)

Sonnet

		
		Sonnet
		
		Surrender now and be the one to share
		My life with me, and all that I possess.
		I have no claim on you that I'm aware,
		But neither do the sun's rays that caress
		Your body daily, all the summer long.
		I would say how beautiful you are,
		and flatter you in poetry and song;
		Never would I use your heart to spar,
		Or pin you to my chest, or want to press
		you in between the pages of a book:
		I'd cosset you in freedom's happiness —
		Though all the world's at liberty to look,
		As I look now, unable to perceive
		But temporal beauty: able, still, to grieve.

				Published in A Jolly Good Read: 'The Avenues' 1992
		
		

Games

		
		Games
		
		She plays bingo,
		He plays dominoes.
		Does he know he's old?
		Yes, of course he knows:
		His body's getting weaker,
		His mind is too;
		He can't hold on as long
		Between visits to the loo.
		
		She plays 'House',
		But never home,
		He's in a mood again —
		That's where I get it from.
		He likes football,
		She likes kicking balls.
		It's hard to communicate
		Through two thick, stubborn walls.
		
		Sitting in separate rooms,
		Each has a T.V. there;
		Sleeping in separate beds,
		Pretending not to care.
		If either falls ill,
		And then falls dead,
		It'll be too late
		To say the things they never said.

				Published in A Jolly Good Read: 'The Avenues' 1992
		
		

Humber Dolphin

		
		Humber Dolphin
		
		As a lad,
		the story begins always,
		my frail uncle was strong in water,
		and before he went to sea
		thought nothing of outwitting
		the muscular currents to welcome
		the restless fishermen home.
		Patient wives on piers
		had long since given up fretting
		about his slipping limbs
		and thought him maritime,
		slicing the mercurial Humber.
		
		As a man
		his line was: After this trip,
		if you've swum your Third, Second or First,
		I'll give you ten bob, but here's a tanner
		for now. And off he went, a slick suit
		in a taxi of Hull Brewery breath.
		There were other stories
		once we'd waved him off:
		like how he'd dive deep into his
		jangling pockets then throw all his change
		to the cheeky kids who smelled
		trawlermen's weaknesses and plundered.
		
		Sober on salt or spirit,
		he called every woman 'Lady',
		except one knowingly nicknamed
		Elsie Tanner. Convenient for him now
		that parts are lost—a forearm, half a foot—
		for people to expect 'Lady' or 'Pal';
		useful for us to have words
		to pin to his chest,
		to be able to see the smiles
		on the faces of old deckhands
		as he swims
		alongside their ships.

				Published in Subtle Flame Fused: The third anthology (1998)
		
		

Anastasia

		
		Anastasia
		
		One little mouse, lonely and small,
		Lived in a house, under the hall,
		And you could tell something was wrong,
		Night after night he'd sing this little song:
		
			I, I, I love you,
			Anastasia, I miss you.
			Won't you come home and tell me,
			That you need me, Anastasia do.
			I, I, I love you,
			Anastasia, I miss you
			And I need you Anastasia, I do.
			
		Anastasia was far away,
		Lonely and blue.
		She couldn't hear his song,
		But she felt the same way too.
		
		One little mouse, lonely and blue,
		Boarded a train at Waterloo
		And when she reached her destination,
		One little mouse was waiting at the station.
		
			I, I, I love you,
			Anastasia, I miss you.
			Won't you come home and tell me,
			That you need me, Anastasia do.
			I, I, I love you,
			Anastasia, I miss you
			And I need you Anastasia, I do.

				Published in A Bag of Stars: Poems for Children (2002)
		
		

No Shooting Stars

		
		No Shooting Stars
		
		About thirty years ago
		two lives bumpered stuck
		for no more than minutes
		dragging side by side beauty –
		woe-laden, shy  – and me
		returning sharing one ache
		from different parties too
		sure of our social limits.

		I wouldn't have thought
		twice through unsteady talk  –
		had she not been so fragile; 
		spoke of how she was teased,
		called names, embarrassed  –
		about showing how I too shook
		like some living thing smart
		in headlights: stunned but vital.

		Parting eventually we kissed; 
		and before, exchanged names  –
		but not families, not phone
		numbers or addresses  – 
		the most I suppose our wishes
		as we ununited charms
		could grant. No stars passed
		shooting overhead. Not one.
		
				Published in About Larkin (October 2007)
		
		

Paper, Scissors. . .

		
		Paper, Scissors. . .
		
		My flat hand turned,
		a slap not resembling paper;
		your fist a rock I can't wrap.
		I unbutton shirts,
		your best (and worst);
		empty all the cupboards:
		I'm introducing your sorry-sad
		clothes to my gob-smacked
		scissors.
				Published in 10 Miles East of England (November 2013)
		
		

A Woman From OFSTED

		
		A Woman From OFSTED
		
		A woman from OFSTED decide
		my English are pigeon implied;
		some the talk marks she stolen,
		her killed one half colon,
		suggest of my syntax be fried.

				Published in Magma (March 2014)
		
		

HOLD SOMETHING WARM (1996)

Absolution

		
		Absolution
		
		Mother, absorb me.
		Distil the essence that only was me,
		that part of yourself
		you lost in gaining me.
		I will assume the shape of your womb.

		Flesh has been wrenched
		from under my skin and patched
		over with dying cells.
		Stop this division of days,
		this holocaust of rotting tissue - I need you.

		I need you to say: 'It's OK.'
		I need you to smile, hold me close
		to your breast; or at least
		to say you feel my kicking
		and know I'm alive.

		Mother absorb me.
		I will assume the shape of your womb.
		
		

Smells (ll)

		
		Smells (ll)
		
		Before rain,
		the smell of the fish docks
		fogging the city's air
		like the saturating
		atmosphere of our front room
		when my father came home 
		from work in rubber boots
		and briny socks.

		And we children
		like homing pigeons
		returning before the downpour.
		Now the docks are dead,
		it's the ghostly smell of
		my father that warns me
		to gather off the line 
		fresh washing.
		
				Published in Rustic Rub Number Five (1995)
		
		

The Work Underground

		
		The Work Underground
		
		The work underground makes him cough.
		The work underground makes him tired.
		The work underground makes him thirst
		for stupor, lines his lips
		with salt; gathers as a shadow,
		hidden, spoken of only in prayers.

		The plum tree says: "This is my fruit."
		She sees his laden shoulders.
		The tree reminds her of spring and budding
		green leaves, of delicate petals.

		She says: "Come into the garden,
		we can talk in clean air."
		She pours him a glass of beer
		thick as the sea that buries dead carbon.

		An old song of love,
		and his voice is oil and sand.
		He sings: "Come to me at midnight,
		even if the moon is lost.
		I will kiss like frost in sunlight."
		The song is painful with love
		and paints colour onto the land.	         
 						          
		Listen, she's crying,
		quiet as a cricket 
		lost in undergrowth.
		He toys with the moon in pools.
		
		

Hold Something Warm

		
		Hold Something Warm
		
		Hold something warm
		under your chin,
		say a baby,
		with its noises of sleep,
		the smell of its moment.
		Feel your own warmth.

		Keep something cold
		at a distance,
		say a baby,
		with its silence,
		the scent of its absence.
		Feel your own warmth.
		
		

Winter Vegetable

		
		Winter Vegetable
		
		Scottish: winter vegetable.
		French: Mediterranean bean.

		Coffee, bitter and gorgeous
		from her flame scorched pot
		as she plays with hair 
		in broken English;
		I smile, never less 
		than fifty per cent between spoons.

		I Scottish want to kiss her:
		she French would think nothing of it.
		
				Published in Rustic Rub Number Three/Four (1995)
		
		

Patchwork Quilt

		
		Patchwork Quilt
		
		I don't know the processes
		that turn ore into metal tins,
		or how audio tape picks words
		out of thick air; how those same
		words can be gathered by my
		sudden ear
		as they leave your practised lips.
		Red bows. Imprint on tissue,
		or smudged by your 
		arm trapped sleeve.
		Spit out gestures to polish me off;
		bind me in a capsule of fever,
		lever me out into space.
		Zip zap, blue bed, patchwork quilt
		of blame and guilt.
		This diamond's mine, these cottonfields'
		circumference of red line. A collision 
		of back numbers, no new issues
		to contemplate. Just incremental
		increases - centimetre; inch.
		
				Published in Subtle Flame (January 1996)
				and: Subtle Flame: Moving on The second anthology (1997)
		
		

After Your Leaving

		
		After Your Leaving
		
		After your leaving
		I imagine being a tree:
		swaying in a breeze,
		creaking in a storm,
		laying blossom at your feet.

		I grow the feeling 
		of leaves, petals, fruit
		becoming parts of me.

		Then leaves turn away,
		petals learn to walk,
		and fruit won't look back.

		I am still a tree,
		with my branches and bare space,
		with my roots and earth.
		Too wise to recall the past,
		or see the future.
		
		

Cold Glass

		
		Cold Glass
		
		Ten feet to Belfast,
		ten feet to Beirut,
		ten feet to Bangladesh.

		Ten feet to Bosnia,
		ten feet to Ethiopia,
		ten feet to Romania.

		Ten feet to Vietnam,
		to Hiroshima,
		Auschwitz.

		Ten feet to April the fourth,
		ten feet to November the twenty-second,
		ten feet to January the thirtieth.

		I have been taught, or learnt
		not to reach out as such.
		Not to sit on the edge of my chair,
		not to care too much.

		A blur.

		Outside: night.
		Streetlamps backlight 
		a universe of tears or drops of rain
		clinging to a useless
		anywhere but here window pane.
		
		A drip.
		A shooting star begins its trip
		through galaxies, a liquid mass.
		I stand.
		I walk across the room. Ten feet,
		and then ten more. My hands reach out -
		cold glass.
		
				Published in Subtle Flame: Moving on The second anthology (1995)
		
		

Footnotes

		
		Footnotes
		
		The child looks out from the frets
		of your guitar, from behind
		the bars of its fine tuned strings.
		His eyes are bright in the
		gravitas of black and white.

		There should be a date printed
		above each memory; and footnotes
		to number the edition, to give
		details on how it's been abridged
		or supplemented in the tellings since.

		Your fingers lack strength,
		have misplaced the practice
		of repetition in their puzzle
		with buttons and shoelaces.
		They tap the blues on a thin china cup.
		
		

Lowland

		
		Lowland
		
		We drove out to the promontory.
		Our timing was accidental
		but precise, as the tide held still.
		Sand had dried on the eastern side:
		shingle to the west clung to salt
		water, and we walking tightrope
		between the two on a ribbon 
		of land. You were struck by the birds'
		constant returns, and how the sky
		wrapped the horizon in its blue.

		You walked home alone, your window down,
		breathing in sea air beside me.
		
		

Co-ordinates

		
		Co-ordinates
		(For Sam)
		
		In the tenfoot,
		I slew the car across,
		lights painting a fence
		into the near universe.

		Our warm blown air
		vanishes like day
		through the o of open
		car door.

		Baring our throats 
		to Orion, we slip the line
		of the girdle down left:
		throbbing diamond Sirius.

		I give you its name
		(Wow!) and its new
		co-ordinates: your x, my y.
		
		

Every Time I See You

		
		Every Time I See You
		
		Every time I see you
		you have on fewer clothes.
		A blouse has gone,
		or a skirt. And 
		I never see them go,
		never see them lying over a chair
		or in pools of fabric on the floor.
		And the lights are dimmer,
		and me with my associations
		of darkness and beauty, beauty and fear.
		
		

Admission of Guilt

		
		Admission of Guilt
		
		When I heard John Lennon had been gunned down
		I was painting the home of a man of God.
		It wasn't a vicarage, but belonged
		to his wife, whose family wealth had been passed 
		down from her paternal grandfather, who
		owned two factories and four thousand men.

		Their daughter had just split from her boyfriend.
		I'd known because she'd had her long fair hair
		cropped to above the ears and was happy.
		I'd stolen her father's hammer, thinking
		it belonged to the slow and gullible
		carpenter. By the time I realised
		it belonged to the vicar it was
		too late to admit I'd taken it.

		Years later, I heard the vicar and 
		his wife had sold up and left suddenly,
		and flown to Spain, with a TV
		and video recorder they had 
		on a rental agreement which didn't 
		mention Europe. Only after learning 
		this did the guilt, whenever I used 
		the hammer, diminish.
		
		I heard the news over the radio in 
		their stunned kitchen; the sound waves like the slash
		of onions through the puzzled aroma
		of percolating coffee in winter;
		before I read Catcher In The Rye,
		which explained something. I sang Beatles songs
		all day and invoked Lennon's spirit to press
		all those unwritten songs through me, all night.
		
		

Vietnam

		
		Vietnam
		
		The bullet is already
		in the centre of the skull,
		but the corpse is upright still.
		Not enough fractions of time
		have elapsed for the muscles
		to notice the lack of stimuli.
		The face is beginning to 
		crumble as the photograph 
		bites. Guilt will be developed
		later, in a darkroom's mist,
		where prayers are fixed - and the hope
		agony travels less fast
		than the shutter of a lens.
		
		

Rings of Emptiness

		
		Rings of Emptiness
		
		I'm decorating my room with distance
		emphasised, in this new knowledge city:
		home's matt white walls, mother's Guardian; Simon's
		too loud Guns N' Roses tape, that he'll be
		missing; father's hug bobbled, play-fight pulled
		pullover, to keep me warm by proxy.
		
		My hands are clumsy on this city's door 
		handles; and I'll have to wipe away its 
		dust, which makes me sneeze, and marks where someone
		else's bits of home had been displaced, here.
		Rings of emptiness, like the milky moon
		painted on lovers' indigo ceilings.
		
		

Your Shirt

		
		Your Shirt
		
		Your shirt is thin with wear
		and faded by the sun.

		I think I remember the colour
		it used to be: somewhere between
		the plum in your hand 
		and the blood in your veins.

		I think I remember how 
		cool it felt to touch fever through.

		The skin of the fruit is worked
		slowly, like a lover,
		and drips juice at the slightest nip.
		Your agile tongue doesn't miss a drop.
		
		

When You Die

		
		When You Die
		
		When you die, may I remove your
		head and place it in my garden,
		on a pole? Then the weather and 
		all that use it as a vehicle
		can nibble life into themselves.
		And when every silent cell has
		been looted and only your skull
		is left, I will place it on the 
		shelf  above my fire. There it will
		gather light from the wide window.

		Its cavities will fill with air.
		It will not know the weight of earth.
		
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems: Hull Literature Festival (1995)
			and: Where the Barmaid Pulls Us Milk and Honey: 
			             The European Illustration Collection (1995)
		
		

Dunking for Apples

		
		Dunking for Apples
		
		Apples used to rain
		roll and laugh
		in the red bowl
		from the kitchen
		set in front
		of the fire on Formica.

		She always switched
		the lights out,
		and passed the flame's
		blue tongue from
		matchstick to candle
		on the mantle-shelf;

		all the family
		held tight in
		the warm core
		of flame.
		Our soft, moist laughter
		gathered round her

		as he stood 
		behind trying to restrain
		loose ends of wet hair.
		To our applause
		she turned; offered him
		her mouth, her fruit.
		
		

In the Finest Weather

		
		In the Finest Weather
		
		In the finest weather
		we walk along the lip
		of a river narrow enough
		to leap across,
		unknowing however far we reach
		is the distance back to the car.

		I look for no flies
		in the slipstream of
		your quick hands, swimming
		like drowning dolphin fins in dry
		English air. It's hardly fair

		that on such an imperfect
		day in June, we're
		unable to fence out anything
		but truth. The river runs 
		backwards as we see how
		small the car has become.
		
		

Weather

		
		    Weather
		(for Jo Adams)
		
		Some days,
		weather surprises.
		The day tears
		have been saved for
		arrives to sun-blue sky,
		blowing, gasping, winding.

		And as words
		enter the brickwork
		of the chapel,
		frost falls
		like hammered nails.

		Majestic as ice landscapes
		whispering through leaded lights,
		under oak, from poles apart,
		a life weaves into ours
		and refuses oblivion.
	
		(Seven years before,
		Dubrovnik bakes, then swims
		as the floods return.)

		Outside, in silent homage,
		the rain skin on paths
		doubles the spread of blue sky
		over the earth.
		
		

Stilettos

		
		Stilettos
		
		Your flat shoes
		are more than sure
		and comfy.

		You no longer
		think about balancing
		on poles;

		that tension
		of muscles arching
		like a ballerina
	
		throwing back
		her head, flying
		into the arms

		of a pumped up partner
		catching her weight
		before she comes.
		
		

Boxwood

		
		Boxwood
		
		My fingers dip into the wounds of the chest,
		the bites of animals. Before I turn from the face
		I am washing the body - passion and use, you see.
		For him I choose yellow polished boxwood.

		There is something to be learnt from
		blue skies, red skies;
		a shaft of light falling on a huge cross.

		Lateral curvature circles the earth.
		Water is taken from the rocks;
		it is purer than the concoctions
		of a Baptist minister.

		I have known the works of Jesus;
		known a Russian winter:
		water is responsible for both.
		Time has not aged. We have scope -
		wherever we are.
		
		

I Don't Believe You Remember Every Detail

		
		I Don't Believe You Remember Every Detail
		
		It would take an hour
		to describe those unremarkable 
		curtains we dismissed with a glance;

		all evening for your hair
		from its knot to tumble
		and bounce, bounce, bounce

		over your naked shoulders
		and down, as light sculptures
		your back; a week

		for the finger tip
		of light to slip
		from the land and take

		the horizon with it:
		light travels too fast;
		conceals all detail in it.
		
		

Not Knowing You

		
		Not Knowing You
		
		Not knowing you
		leaves you paintable
		as an ocean - in oils.
		Iridescent and ruined.
		
		

Lost Thoughts and Radio Waves (1999)

Oath

		
		Oath
		
		Firstly, do no harm.
		The bed should be kept warm;
		the body cool, but not cucumber,
		normal body temperature - I forget the number.

		The eyes,
		they can tell you stories;
		they can also tell you lies,
		so make a note of where the door is.
		If the lids are hidden
		and the pupils bright,
		shine a light, test dilation.
		Eyes are known for kidding.

		About the lips:
		If they're heavy
		check the pulse beat at the neck,
		confirm it's regular and steady.
		Check the tongue for swelling
		and the airways of the throat.
		Search the pockets of the coat:
		You may just find a note, there is no telling.

		The reflex action can be faked,
		so don't trust hammers, nails or stakes.
		There may be clues beneath the finger nails.
		A kiss can sometimes wake the dead if all else fails.
		
				Published in About Larkin 6 (Winter 1998/9)
		
		

Fire

		
		Fire
		
		Someone's released fire here,
		beneath the lilac, by the flaking bluebell.

		Someone's pierced the earth with a red sail
		on a stick, for the wind to aim at
		as it skids off oily leaves,
		as it threatens a clock on a stem,
		which still awaits the winding of breath.
		And the child's bike wants to be left
		to become red ash.

		In the centre of the embers is a twig with roots.
		Above, rain begins to fall.  It hasn't reached us yet.
		
		

Mother's Working In The Garden

		
		Mother's Working In The Garden
		
		Mother's working in the garden
		with a trowel and rubber gloves.

		The sun is bouncing off walls
		and bright petals.

		I have a glass of something cool
		I want to give her,
		to wet her dry lips.

		I can see her through the window.
		But she's not looking.

		Her singing filters
		through into the house.
		
		

As If You Are Sleeping

		
		As If You Are Sleeping
		
		Four pads from your table,
		as if you are sleeping.
		The first is dipped
		and cuts from ear to ear 
		under your chin;
		fixing the smell of pine,
		of Christmas morning
		as we open the door
		to the lounge laughing.

		The second dabs each temple
		and brings you dripping
		into my palm,
		warm and trembling.

		From the cool skin
		of your wrist  - its stillness -
		seeps into the third
		the scent of a knife,
		drawing citrus
		through your shirt
		onto the lick of a breast.

		The fourth swabs the smell
		of your taste in my mouth,
		the smell of your heat
		one morning
		years ago,
		breathing into me
		the essence of your existence.
		
		

Shoes

		
		Shoes
		
		We talk about the smells
		of lotions and perfume
		and how they mask what's real.
		And though you can't smell it,
		I look at shirt buttons,
		the fall of your collar
		against your neck's whiteness,
		the spring in your loose hair.

		We both still remember 
		yellow and the moment 
		it means. I take secrets 
		from where no secrets are.
		I imagine where
		this conversation should
		be leading us: your shoes
		stepped out of at the door.
		
		
				Published in Subtle Flame Fused The third anthology (1998)
		
		

A Table For Sam's Birthday

		
		A Table For Sam's Birthday
		
		As a birthday gift
		I have made you this table,
		though I am no carpenter's son.

		If you look closely
		you will see splintered wood,
		bruises, misaligned nails.
	
		Varnish and wood dye
		gave up their spirits, filled our house
		for three days and nights.

		This is my way of trying
		to link what has gone before
		with what will follow.

		Though you think I can,   
		I can't do everything well,     
		but I have made this for you.
		
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems 1997-98 (1997)
		
		

Since The Truth Cannot Be Put Into Words

		
		Since The Truth Cannot Be Put Into Words
		
		Since the truth cannot
		be put into words,

		I love you.

		Since there is no past
		there is no future,

		no present.

		I cannot drink the word water.
		Say it. Say it. Water.
		Can you taste it? Can you drink it?
		No. Water. No.

		What no longer is,
		I attempt to grasp,

		to cling to.

		Since precise meaning
		is an unclenched fist,

		I love you.
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems 1996 (1996)
		
		

Palomino

		
		Palomino
		
		The palomino with the tongues
		in his mind gallops through the high street
		unable to escape this ribcage corral
		dark as ignorance;

		with knowledge of the absent light:
		freedom in the wild, that is not wild
		but freedom; not wilderness
		but paradise.

		Plain thoughts fart through his
		Mozart mouth, cursing coprolalia;
		something to do with dopamine,
		or copper

		(too much or not enough, like tolerance)
		appropriated for the art of Crete,
		transported through centuries to
		him and now.

		The eyes of the peacock youth - jerk - 
		in the cursed bank queue, snigger
		uncontrollably in unison,
		health blinkered.

		Served; still tacked up, still fettered,
		("Let him come out as I do, and bark,")
		what else can he thinksay - curse -,
		Jesus Christ,

		but: "I'm suffering for everyone.
		That's why I'm like this."
		He whose outbursts drown the cries of
		brilliant Zeus.
		
		

Stigmata

		
		Stigmata
		
		When I am older
		I'll wear dirty trousers that don't fit
		and a baggy brown pullover
		covered in fluff.
		I won't wash
		and hope my face gets spotty
		and my hair lank with grease.
		I won't brush my teeth;
		every morning I'll dab
		strawberry jam around my mouth
		and leave it there all day.
		I'll seek out dogshit 
		in the park and stand in it.
		I'll fart whenever middle-aged
		men are near.

		I'll never phone strangers.
		I'll carry broken glass
		in all my pockets.
		Every night before bed
		I'll turn from the mirror
		and punch myself 
		twenty times in the face,
		and pull one hundred hairs from my head.
		I'll lay on my back,
		in the shape of the cross,
		with my feet pinned together.
		On Christmas Day
		I'll kneel in a red hot bath, but lock the door
		and keep a razor near the soap.
		I'll scarify my chest
		and amputate the nipples.
		I will wear, everyday,
		a crown of thorns.
		
		

Old Candles

		
		Old Candles
		
		These are old candles unused.
		No moment special enough,
		no flame near enough.
		The colour of your skin shrink-wrapped
		to  keep it fresh.

		I have often almost lit these wicks,
		when for a moment I'd thought the day
		could not be improved upon.
		Like that afternoon the light disappeared  
		as if it were water draining from the sky;
		like that morning I uncovered your face
		smiling from the labyrinth of a drawer
		and tried to smell you,
		and your scent clung 
		to every room, to every tree.

		These are old candles
		I have tied to you,
		and to fly a flag of flame
		from their liquid flesh
		would be to watch
		your features melting from memory,
		dripping like wax
		from my fingertips,
		setting alight your photograph
		on the carpet.
		
		

Playground Games

		
		Playground Games
		
		The children in the playground are making
		mortar bombs from newspaper, exploding
		their lips to kill each other. They're taking
		lives, but death lasts not for eternity,
		only till the bell stops them unloading
		shells from their satchels. The one certainty
		is the temporary cease-fire will pass.
		The terrorists, for now, resume their class.

		The truce cannot survive. Some like dying
		so much they resurrect themselves so they
		can die again and again. No crying
		accompanies the sensation of spilled
		invisible blood - no one kneels to pray -
		as it seeps through the white shirts of those killed.
		How to dive for cover and how to throw
		grenades, even the tiniest girls know.

		One boy blinds his friend - revenge for losing
		a leg to a land mine planted behind
		the bike sheds; and this is so amusing
		they laugh themselves to tears with mustard gas.
		The girls pretend they're nurses, that they're kind,
		but take assassins' weapons into class,
		hidden in the pockets of their blazers:
		pencil cases, rules, grubby erasers.
		
		

Weeds

		
		Weeds
		
		Andy says the pale yellow flowers
		holding on to the sun are weeds.
		They'll stay lit for hours yet,
		as the light remains in their petals,
		and in the shine of a leaf's surface
		somewhere near the top of the tree.

		These, dripping, growing 
		through the soil heaped like new 
		burial mounds are potatoes,
		their flesh beyond harvesting.

		And these are your bright eyes,
		deep as a rain butt overflowing.
		Sprinkled water overshoots its mark,
		trickles slowly away along the path.
		
		

The Importance Of Culture

		
		The Importance Of Culture
		
		In some parts
		of the world
		it is considered
		desirable to trim
		the genitalia
		of young butterflies,
		then to draw
		lips together with
		neat twine
		like giftwrap,
		only to be ripped
		away carelessly
		in a ceremony
		of culture and possession.
		
		

Henry Groom

		
		Henry Groom
		
		Henry Groom is a teenage wiz,
		He's a 'bif-baf-bof', he's a 'plink plink fizz';
		The world's an oyster and the oyster's his,
		Henry Groom, the teenage wiz.

		Henry Groom is a 'high-tech' lad,
		With a 'high-tech' mum, and a 'high-tech' dad,
		If wealth is good then life's not bad,
		For Henry Groom, the 'high-tech' lad.
	
		Henry Groom has a mobile phone,
		For whenever he's away from home;
		He can call the world when he's all alone,
		Henry Groom has a mobile phone.

		Henry Groom relaxing: Om.
		E-mail, voice mail, Wiz.com,
		CD-Writer, BIOS, ROM.
		Henry Groom relaxing: Om.

		Henry Groom is a trouble shooter,
		A six-disk toting virus booter,
		A Gucci tie and Versace suiter,
		Henry Groom is a trouble shooter.
	
		If your systems crash and you have no clue,
		What the problem is, or what to do,
		Then Henry Groom is the boy for you,
		If your systems crash and you have no clue.

		Network, Server, JavaScript,
		I've got his mobile number but I keep tight lipped,
		His suits are smart but his jeans are ripped,
		Network, Server, JavaScript.

		Henry Groom is a real cool cat,
		With his config.sys and his dosstart.bat,
		He bluffs a bit but we all do that,
		Henry Groom is a real cool cat.

		With his laptop, floppy and CD-ROM,
		No one knows where he's coming from,
		He'll fix your crashes with such aplomb,
		With his laptop, floppy and CD-ROM.

		He lives in a vast converted loft.
		Heretic, Doom and Lara Croft -
		Compared to Henry Groom - are soft,
		In his hard and vast converted loft.

		Lara Croft and Henry Groom, 
		Are going to be married soon,
		On a virtual, sunny afternoon,
		Lara Croft and Henry Groom.

		They'll have cyber kids and a cyber pet,
		On-line banking, on-line debt,
		They'll keep in touch on the Internet,
		With their cyber kids and their cyber pet.

		Henry Groom is a teenage wiz,
		He's a 'bif-baf-bof', he's a 'plink plink fizz';
		The world's an oyster and the oyster's his,
		Henry Groom, the teenage wiz.
		
		

Fall Through The Air

		
		Fall Through The Air
		
		Stripping paper, sanding down walls,
		cracks my skin, rips blood from my fingers.
		Plaster dusting my head,
		webbing my nose-hair white.

		Yes I am making repairs
		to your walls.
		Because you have stopped talking.

		So, if you care, fall through the air,
		shimmer in the sunlight at the window.
	
		The walls are cracked with your words,
		forced apart by your needless worrying.
		How can you make yourself heard
		but through the movement of brickwork;
		the dark red spots drying in dust.
		
		

Rainbow

		
		Rainbow 
		
		It is raining. 
		Water in drops. Just rain.

		Dripping from a bridge and a branch;
		clinging a while longer to the curl of a lip.
	
		A rainbow dives into the Humber,
		colours pouring from high nowhere.

		The river is a TV screen
		caught in the glare of a window.

		Still: the uncertainty of your position,
		the uncertainty of your velocity.

		As if uncertainty were a specific value.
		
		

Two Uses

		
		Two Uses
		
		You tap the window
		with a coin you keep
		on the TV
		for scratch cards.

		Now it has two uses,
		like the cat who keeps
		the house free of mice.

		Or the owl 
		in the graveyard,
		reminding us
		how silently we sit.

		Like the coat 
		we wear by turns
		to take out the garbage.
		
		

The Chestnut Vendor

		
		The Chestnut Vendor
		
		After discussing theories with 
		Rutherford again, the chestnut 
		vendor needs his own three dimensions. 

		The man in the patent office
		calls himself  "Mr" still, as does
		the fruit seller, whose bananas

		have yet to ripen in their dark
		boxes, but that's OK because
		mandarins are now in season.

		Feynman, the greatest theoretical
		physicist of his generation 
		said "What's important is love".

		Suddenly, chestnuts split like atoms,
		unseen; bananas turn yellow. 
		Snow melts on the chestnut stove.
		
		

Sixteen Children

		
		Sixteen Children
		
		Names take so long 
		to grow into faces.

		I have only symbols. 

		Like crayon, jelly,
		skipping rope, 
		bumblebee, satchel,
		football, pigtail, Wendy house,
		paddling pool, lunch-box,
		sandcastle, snowball, 
		red toy spade,
		conker, butterfly,
		wriggly worm.

		These are only words.
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems 1996 (1996)
		
		

Walk

		
		Walk
		
		Walk roads you're not used to.
		Find one that falls away over the horizon and keep at it.
		It's not important to know where a road will end,
		only to know it begins.
		Wherever you want to be 
		is only a short walk from somewhere else.
		Force each stride to slip away into your past.
		Don't turn around. The sun will try to pull you away,
		but if you are tempted, the end, even though
		you never reach it, will no longer be in your future.
		You may find nothing more than a gasometer on the 
		edge of the world. But even gasometers can be beautiful
		to look at at such times.
		
		

Totem

		
		Totem
		
		In class, someone is buried 
		among the severed hands, 
		outnumbered, like a tree by rooftops.

		He knows the answer to the question:
		"What is a fish minus a bike plus
		a totem pole?" But the teacher
		never asks that particular question.

		Stupid teacher! Each night
		on the journey home he dreams
		of crossing her palms with kisses.
		
		

Gift

		
		    Gift
		(for My Father)
		
		To some child in Saipan,
		who lies numb as a piece
		of seaside rock,
		I will give the precious gift
		of my father's jumper.

		It will smell of a good man
		and will transplant holidays
		of sun and vast sands
		and time passing too fast.

		It will smell of safety 
		and loss and the wish 
		to relive every moment 
		as it was, 
		but as the first time again.
		
		

Wedding List

		
		Wedding List
		
		Here is a list of things I love:
		here is a list of things I hate.
		Here is a list of things I can live with:
		here is a list of things I can live without.
		Here is a list of things I need,
		and here is a list of things I want.
		Here is a list of things I never did, but wish I had;
		and here is a list of things I did, but wish I hadn't.
		Here is a list of things you can talk about:
		here is a list of things never to mention;
		and here is a list of things you can talk about sometimes,
		and a list of the times you can talk about them.
		Here is a list of things I'm prepared to do:
		here is a list of things I will never do.
		Here is a list of things I will do if we're happy:
		here is a list of things I will do if we're fighting.
		Here is a list of things I could withhold,
		here is a list of things I might withhold,
		and here is a list of things I will never withhold - under any circumstances.
		Here is a list of things that if you withhold will cause me to retaliate;
		and here is a list of things that if you withhold I'll never forgive you - ever.
		Here is a list of things you can call me if you're upset,
		here is a list of things you can call me if you're angry,
		here is a list of things you can call me if you're furious:
		here is a list of things never to call me.
		Here is a list of things I might call you if I'm upset,
		here is a list of things I might call you if I'm angry.
		(I never get furious.)
		And here is a list of things I might sometimes think you are, 
		but I'll keep to myself.
		And here is a book of blank pages I'll fill in as I go along,
		of all the things I've left off all the other lists.
		You'll see that one day.
		
		

Crater

		
		Crater
		
		Unwashed on the table,
		your used cup
		smells of coffee.
		I fear the time
		the smell will disappear.

		Your weight, though gone,
		has left a crater
		in the chair, and in the mirror
		the room is everywhere.

		And I am holding
		fabric to my face,
		to feel your pulse,
		to touch your skin.
		To probe the light. The space.
		
				Published in The Rialto No. 43 (summer 1999)
		
		

Photograph

		
		Photograph
		
		This is a real photograph
		to show how the feelings
		you once had looked.

		You are standing in wet sand
		with your shoes hanging
		on two fingers.

		Your smile forgets they're there
		and what they're waiting for;
		already your toes are under water.

		I place this bay around you,
		with its high slopes and tall trees.
		The tide is still coming in.

		
		

Thought

		
		Thought
		
		There are more lost thoughts 
		in the universe than radio waves.
		So don't rely on thought.
		The atmosphere's already full
		and I wouldn't know
		which were yours.
		By chance, I might
		just catch the words
		I'm looking for,
		astray, lost on their way
		from St. Albans, say, to Carlisle;
		or from a bedsit in Hull
		to a bedsit in Wakefield.
		And I would feel guilty at the delay
		I cause in their journey - they might
		never find their way to where they
		were intended to comfort, or reassure.
		
		

Love Will Keep

		
		Love Will Keep
		
		Love will keep,
		the way lettuce will keep
		in a fridge.

		You want it.
		You choose it.
		Gradually you see less often
		into the salad box,
		beneath the yoghurts
		and double cream;
		far below the tins of pink fish,
		the bottles of red wine.

		I will warn you:
		when you look you will not find
		what you left.

		After all,
		a lettuce is simply water
		beautifully structured.

		Now tell me:
		what is love?
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems 1997-98 (1997)
		
		

Energy

		
		Energy
		
		My brother had a dog called M,
		my sister had a bitch called C,
		and as dogs do they got together,
		and before I knew there was a pup for me.
		What alternative was there
		but to call it E=MC².

		Our neighbour at the time,
		Albert - Goldstein or Epstein or something -
		took the brunt of our childhood pranks.
		We'd knock on his door and run away,
		or worse still, we'd knock and stay,
		with a bike pump full of water
		aimed about a foot above the knocker,
		and when he showed his face we'd spray
		it till it dripped. Mum said that's why his hair turned grey.
		Then we'd turn and leg-it, faster
		than the speed of light - or so we thought.
		But the puppy would always sit and stare
		at Albert, until I called "E=MC²! Come on you stupid mutt."
		E=MC² would follow, but Albert 
		scratched his wet head and never said a word.

		To this day I don't know what became of him.
		At ten years old I moved away.
		E=MC² must have taken a shine to Albert
		and stayed. I suppose I miss them both.
		Those were good times for me,
		I always seemed so full of energy.
		Relatively speaking.
		
				Published in The Mutiny Poems 1998-99 (1998)
		
		

Holding

		
		Holding
		
		In my hands,
		yours
		completely.
		Through skin,
		slaked limestone seeps.

		My wrist,
		a rock formation;
		my geological fingers
		wrapping yours,
		almost the flesh of fruit.

		Your closed hand
		gathers around it 
		mine,
		a shawl;
		baked Alaska;
		or lava
		at its centre,
		holding the whole world
		together.