Saturday, 30 June 2012


Step down into the kitchen.
Black and white tiles as on a chess board.
Greeted by a stranger with such warmth.
As if he was my closest friend, brother.
A herb in his shirt pocket. It takes me
a while to name this herb.

There was a path that I followed.
I followed it at dawn and at such
times as I could steal from the day.
It twists and winds and I don't
know where it's leading or why
I'm following.

Another road, linear, as the Roman road
that ran directly through this kitchen
was like an inverted rainbow: no curves,
spectrum of colours, just a broken promise
that ended with a crock filled with dust.

Flies buzz endlessly around the room
where the view shows weather
out of kilter with the summer.

I try thinking small. Picture
parchment paper, linen thread,
yellow beeswax, steel needle
and bone.

Pages connected
by thread or web to America,
Canada, Germany, Greece.
Casual encounters
that spark stories,

I look down
on the long grass, three
different colours of poppy.

What I think is rosemary.
The symbol of love
and loyalty.

I'm really glad it's morning

Last night my bed was an empty bar at closing time.
My pillow was an empty car waiting,
waiting outside the late night kebab house
my lights all dead, terminals corroded
from fast smoking, greasy drinking
and nothing but raining.

I'm really glad it's morning.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Pollen Poetica

Pollens like pepper, travellers to sensors to cause brain explosions.
This morning was a winter stew of boiling clouds and herbal leaves.
The inside of a garden shed is all the aromatherapy we need.

Wood stainer, paints and preservatives
as airy motions whip up more updates
red lines across your TV picture
white letters proclaiming some new disaster
that isn't anything new there
being nothing new under the

sun squeaking through
the sinister leaves
and gone in a sneeze.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Dusty Constellation

Compared to the modern keyboard, the word contraption lends itself to the old fashioned typewriter. When I first began my career, this mechanical means of word production was still in use. As were photographic plates. Shooting negatives to create books. I can remember therapeutic afternoons leaning over a light-table, scraping away with a scalpel.

Brown slip eclipse white stars.
Portraits of dust.

The smell of bulk paper, freshly guillotined.
A paper harvest. Sheaves of pages.
Books growing as crops. 

A Morning Of Broken Propellers

Of course, it wouldn't be every one's cup of tea, but all things considered, the mental hospital was a fine place to grow up in.

Chief memories? Redbrick buildings, grey flats. A vaguely threatening place.
Cold corridors with tall windows. Like living in a goldfish bowl.

Fish? Someone had the idea of putting an aquarium in the common room. Orange fish doing what orange fish do: endlessly circling the greenish water in a permanent quest
that led nowhere.

A grassy lawn peppered with daisies. Low flying planes that set a roaring rushing through the head to make a sound to drive a man mad. Absolute isolation, not being able to make yourself heard and the sense of panic as the roaring feels like it's going to go on forever.

Sleep that night. A room filled with the summer dusk. An open wardrobe with dresses and coats hanging in there waiting for someone to wear them, make them dance, come back to life. Panic again. Sheer fear.

The sleeve of a green frock starts to move, fill with a muscle-like ripple.

The hand with very white fingers breaks the skin of the water. Plucks a panic fish, a grail fish, lifts it dripping through the heated air to gnash it down in a horrible gulp as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

Orange scales clustered, transferred on grinning teeth.

The sleeve of the frock starts to lift and I cry out loud enough to set feet running along the cold corridors with the tall windows, the tang of pine disinfectant pulsing in the heavy air.

On a window sill, model planes safely landed on the crystalline paint.

I'm talked into sleep. Re-assuring words, explanations.

A dream of ambulances, their antique bells ringing down a highway but there's no emergency to drive too.

The night smells of Air-fix glue.

I wake to a morning of broken propellers.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Secret

I pretended I was asleep, desperate for silence. But after a heartbeat she said ‘tell me a secret.’
            ‘What do you mean?’
            ‘Something about you that nobody else knows. Then I’ll tell you something about me.’

I stared into the blackness. It was quiet for another short while and I was thinking that I was going to get away with it when she said ‘well?’

I said ‘I broke into a house once. Burgled it.’ 

When my wife left me, she disappeared from the face of the earth. Took my daughter with her. She had a friend, that much I knew. A friend who might have been able to tell me where they’d gone.

This friend, we’ll call her Lucy, had pitched her tent in the back garden of a house where nobody lived. I didn’t tell her that I was looking for my wife and child. Thought it best to come at the problem obliquely.

I had a bottle in my car. That helped break the ice. She lit a fire and chopped garlic on a board. She said ‘you’ve got a car?’ It was a rhetorical question, but what followed next wasn’t. She said ‘do you want to make some money?’ I looked at her, wondering where this was going as she rubbed her garlicky fingers on the knees of my jeans.

She said she knew of this house. It had been standing empty for a very long time. She’d been there many times and there was never a soul around. If you went around the back you could look through the back door. It was a door with clear windows and there was a fortune hanging in the hallway just waiting to be taken. Pictures. Paintings. But you can’t get far without a car. Was I up for it?

She told me the next full moon would be best. I drove home thinking about this and there was a smell of garlic as the car heater started to do its work.

We parked the car in a quiet lane. I followed her across a field and there were trees in the distance. When we neared the trees I could see a house that looked grey and silver in the moonlight. The lawn was very tall and the air smelled very fresh. I followed her around the back and I kept looking at the dark windows and my heart was beating loud and fast. ‘Take your coat off’ she said. She placed it on the glass and said ‘hold it here.’ She punched hard and there was the sound of breaking glass as it fractured and splintered to the hallway floor.

‘So what happened?’
‘She told me a friend of hers would take the pictures to someone up country. Get them valued. Then she said she knew someone else who’d buy them from her. She said she’d split it with me. But when I went back she was gone.’

There was silence again and I waited for her to keep her side of the deal.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Magic Carpet

My Grandad had a carpet that was like rum and toffee.
The rich darkness, the crazy swirls that led
to all five corners of the boozy room.

Sometimes I'd sit and breath in the carpet's heady perfume.
Let my eyes follow the patterns...
the shimmering dust motes.

Here is Grandad's Hi-Fi. Let's contextualise this for a moment...

Grandad was the kind of man who bought expensive whiskey.
The kind of man who bought expensive coffee.

But only once.

He'd re-fill the whiskey bottle with a budget blend.
He'd re-fill the coffee jar with some horror powder.
Then smile knowingly, thinking he'd fooled everybody
but had fooled nobody because no-one was dumb enough to let on.

So the Hi-Fi was very Lo-Fi.

It came in a cabinet made of something that was supposed to resemble wood.
It had a lot of silvery coloured plastic and fancy lights that flashed
but did nothing to improve the sound.
It all got closed behind a smoked glass door
that looked very sophisticated in 1984.

He'd rigged up the speakers so that they hung in the corners of the room.

But they still sounded awful.
As if someone had filled them with cheap whiskey
and powdered coffee.

But this was sacred ground. The place where I first heard Sgt. Peppers,
let it take my imagination somewhere through the dust motes
and into the weave of the magic carpet.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Poetry Is A Two Way Process: Here's Your Chance To Do Your Bit

High winds carrying pollen all day. Pollen, borne on the winds to make my nose run,
as we say, like a tap. It makes concentrating challenging. It makes the keys gloopy.

Pass me a hanky, would you?

The Racing Wind

In a racing wind I held on to the darkness only to find a grey creature
from another world curling at my feet.

Forgetful, distracted by the clouds I retreated
into the slate world of indoors.

When the darkness followed me in I remembered.
Retraced my steps into the scudding world and scooped
the creature somewhere into my arms.

However else I am judged I have done this thing.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Into The Night

On my desk, a sleek credit card with a silver hologram
silver numbers and my wife's name. Grey shapes
on jet black. Grey countries. Europe on
an uninterrupted black sea. This card
has no value to anyone, certainly not me.

Next to this bankrupt card, the gold foil
of an eaten Galaxy in the shadow of an Epson printer
and a copy of David Copperfield that fell to the floor,
spine broken, split in half
as a voice floats up from the street
to make me uneasy, the curtains open
my head bathed in electric light
and the sky still light this longest day.

And there's a toppling tower of papers
a note book in which I wrote
she was the prettiest girl in the bar,
the only girl in the bar. Whoever
she was I can't remember now
and it's been years since I've been
anywhere near a bar.

I go outside. There's a mess
of flowers and stalks like in
a painting of Ophelia floating in the river.
The sky's fast losing its light.
Chimneys make black silhouettes
and there are no lights on.

The water continues as water does
and a shadow walks on the pavement
smoking a pipe – an anachronism
as the street suddenly comes to life
with the sound of wet wheeled cars
the clicking of stilettos.


It was the kind of morning where even the discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken
cartons lying in the hedgerow looked good.

To cap it all, the moronic DJ was talking about something interesting. 
He was explaining that there is a word for the smell of rain. Petrichor.

Isn’t that something?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Mirror

Sparks. Steel.
Prophetic weather
at a place we might
call a boundary
where the mirror
leans against the wall.

The sloping floor
leading to another room
identical to the one
we're sitting in.

Let's step onto that tilting floor.

Never to be seen again
because no-one thought
to follow us.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Market Day

In a room of yellow sun walls, where the paint’s as thick as icing on a cake, wintery music plays on a gramophone in the house that belongs to the forked-bearded man.

His wife somewhere in the corner of your eye, singing in the kitchen. Something cooking.

Dripping trees. Wet leaves in the colour of bat wings, fox furs, crow beaks. Fizzle in the air lost on the road in your last century coat.

The music plays a market place, a charcoal smudging in the sky over the turnpike cottage with its appealing geometries.

A market place in the old county town. Get there on the brown and red Bere Regis bus. They were organically shaped in those days - like marrows. Old men smoking, old women in old style hats talking, the yellow sun walls shut behind plum red doors with black latches that require no locks smoke spiralling from crooked chimneys.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Coffee Debris Reverie

In the smile of a coffee pot you can see this little grill intended to trap the grounds that escape the filter’s gauzy swallow. You depress the detonator plunger and set the coffee into swirling motion. Something in the movement of the brackish liquid puts you in mind of the water travelling through the sluice gates near the city park. The silver ropes of water twisting through the greenish surface and the brutal sluice gates; cast iron sheets painted guillotine red like leftovers from the old execution revolution days in their red-oxide paint carried through time to this water. But like the grill in the coffee pot, they can’t quite stop everything. There is always some kind of debris.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Lunar Abattoir

Our greaser guide smokes a yellow, tarry cigarette. Wears a lime green hi-viz, the white dome of a hard hat. His enthusiasm for showing us this other world is somehow charming. He doesn’t get to do this thing very often. You can imagine the banter in the silvery hut where a red top newspaper lies folded on the table next to a half-empty bottle of brown sauce. The crusting ooze gathered around the bottle’s neck.

Supply your own conversation here. We don’t remember a word. Smell that? Methane. Flocks of gulls kept away by the netting.

Crusting earth to gather soups and oils, rags and bones, cans and paper. He leads us on, into this other world, the abattoir of consumption, taking his task very seriously as a guide in a cathedral or stately home. 

Plashing Puddles Of Robot Blood

grave cloud
a cracking
in the
to the wreck
of robot
but still
get my
feet wet.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

At A Stand Still

Watching England play is always agony. Tonight was no exception. The Three Lions have this uncanny knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This tournament has been strange. None of the inflated sense of unrealistic expectation. We’ll be fortunate to reach the quarter finals. Then we’ll be toast. In previous tournaments almost every car has been bedecked with the flag of St. George. But not this year.

Tonight the skies have been silvery and black. A scudding wind. At half time I dived in my car to the local store. There are no cars around and the streets are empty. A ghost town. The road seems to absorb the drama going on in the sky. You can sense people in the bars drinking yellow beer and holding their breaths. A collective will-power despite the poor odds. A collective energy willing victory. We take football very seriously in this country.

I parked my car and stood in the street. Felt the town holding its breath. The union jacks still left hanging in the streets from the jubilee. They flap in the breeze and slap like cryptic wings. A frozen moment. Eerie and strange and it feels like time has stood still.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Fear And Loafing

She looked like a fresh baked loaf – fragrant, shapely and wholesome.
Plenty of the men who come around here would like a slice:
You can see it in their eyes that burn like grills
In the way their mouths gape like toasters.

For a long time, I was much the same.
But there was always this feeling that something was wrong:
A feeling of unease. Then, like a breath from the unleavened heaven
The doctor told me what the problem was, the prognosis was,
Said you’ve got a disease – you’re a coeliac.
I haven’t been near her or been back  
Since I got this diagnosis.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


It is raining and we are children and very happy. We’re wearing shorts, T shirts. It’s a warm rain and it doesn’t bother us at all. Everything we say makes us laugh.

I said you should be a comedian. Everything you say makes me laugh.

That’s good. Because that’s what I want to be.

He said these last words in a slow, careful way. You could tell that he meant it.

Then he left us and maybe it stopped raining and it was very black where we were standing next to the water where there were lots of little boats and the cliff rose in all its green glory to the black and purple sky.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


At ten pm approximately, several things happened simultaneously:

The band stopped playing. The MC made a forgettable joke and the heavens opened. We sheltered under your umbrella, the three of us forming a human rock surrounded by substantial rain that simmered all around. The wishful stars showered, flowered into jellyfish penumbra that broke the tricolour searchlights that depicted a liquid bridge spanning a solid river.

Monday, 11 June 2012


Too often
I have let
get the better 
of me

when I’m

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Crow Shoot

Suddenly looking up half a dozen starlings sitting on a telephone wire.
Mind travels back to a childhood game. Crow Shoot.
Metal birds and a plastic gun. Cork bullet.
Look up again. Just an empty wire.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Charlie's Round

There are two pubs in Wessex that share the same name.

I forget the name and it isn’t that important. The Rose & Crown might do it. Either way, these two pubs were very beautiful. Old inns with thatched roofs.

Being in the ancient province of Wessex, having thatched roofs and sharing the same name was just about the full extent of their commonality.

Otherwise, one was nearby in Salisbury and the other was sixty miles away in a village the other side of Blandford.

Thatch was to play another small part in this story.

Charlie liked to keep in shape and cycled every morning across the forest to the depot.

Nearing the depot, the road got busy so Charlie always mounted the kerb and completed the journey by following the pavement.

Head down, pedalling hard, he didn’t notice two thatchers hard at work on the roof of The Hour Glass restaurant. The men, already stripped to the waist, didn’t see Charlie either as a great cloud of straw fell from the roof and showered all over him.

His bike wobbled but he kept on going in fear of Eric.

Eric was the foreman and he had a lump on his head like a plumb under a sagging pie crust. He did everything in hurry – not so much because he was dedicated to his work, which in a strange way he was, but so that he could get the vans loaded up as soon as humanly possible and get back to his desk and be on his own again.

Somewhere, en route to the wrong pub Charlie hit a pheasant.

He stopped the van and flung it into the cab. But it wasn’t dead. It was only stunned. He didn’t realise until he was travelling at 70 along the Cranborne Chase, a place of ghosts and ancient tombs.

It started to wake up and panicked around in the cab. Wings and feathers flying, the van skewering as Charlie tried to beat the thing on the head with his clipboard.

Did the pheasant live or die?

All I know is Eric looked his stony worse when Charlie finally got back to the yard.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Something Wicked This Way Comes

A strange thing. I took the book from the shelf, carried it to my desk and typed Ray Bradbury into the search engine...

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Longest Journey

The passengers on the boat have strange sloe shaped eyes. The pupils are dark liquid and there is a drama in this journey that needs some thinking about. How many figures are there? You try and count but get lost in the liquidity of their expressions. Raw expressions alive with the knowledge that this is a journey of moment. No sail, certainly no engine, no oars but this boat is continually propelled by a sea and wind that imagination has to provide. There is a child, half-clad. And a woman who looks strangely like your mother, how she was those last few times we saw her in the hospital, the air breathless and clouds coming in through the window. The journey is nearing its end and maybe this is it, the realisation that the sea has ended and what? A falling away down smoking plumes or a lifting into golden vapours. Factual letters in black and white telling the meaning here, but not necessary: the expressions on the figures speak for themselves. A choir starts singing and you look up at the windows, the abstracts of colours that take you, for a moment, to the very end of this journey.

Pieces Of Thoughts

The bark wore an ashy-blue skin of lichen. It might have been an oak. It had welcoming limbs that carried us away from the patch of dug earth where Grandad worked, if work it was and not some kind of devotional act of strange religiosity. We have to slow things down here. So Grandad is leaning into his garden fork and wearing his string vest. There’s a metal chest rusting on grass. It’s been there forever and serves no purpose except to hold this memory like so much pirate treasure. Pieces of thoughts. To look out, to look around is to see yellow-white stubble or land ploughed black. Green hills undulating. Thick hedgerows. Slates on outhouse roofs. Spikes in the earth, stones like bones. The same stones they used to build the houses with around here. Braced with iron Xs.

Brand New Cadillac

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Revellers

You’d think from the sounds outside my window that a tribe of ancient warriors
are coming, whooping and wailing down the street. Or someone’s being murdered.
It can go like this, sometimes. Saturday night revellers trying to make it home 
without any idea of the impression they are making on, for example, this writer 
wondering where his next line is going to come from.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Reward

He worked in the dark. It was late summer. A long, hot summer made of golden days. Segments of light. But it passed him by. When the sun rose, big and red, he went into the dark. There was a machine like something that belonged in the workings of a submarine. A machine like a periscope. Fitted in this small room with walls that were green but could have been any colour because it was dark. The only light coming from a red bulb so as not to interfere with the process, the burning of silver onto greenish plates. You have to be careful with these things. They can slide through your hands, slice the palms. A setting of increments, timings. You can’t switch off although the desire for the mind to go wandering out of the dark with its red sun is strong. It is summer. But the days are dark until evening when work was finished for the day and night was coming down bringing more dark. To get some light and forget the periscope stamping machine he’d forgo dinner and walk through the town. The street is a wave. Shaped as a wave and the pavement has these little slates set into the flagstones like piano keys. He plays his feet down the keyboard street until there is a decision. The Half Moon like a galleon. Diamonds in lead. A railway station with its hooded bridge. Through a rusting kissing gate and the grass is very long and there are sheep and the ground rises. A hill. It rises and there are dark trees with shadows and horses. Horses in the shadows. Shadows of horses until he reaches the brow and the land falls away in another wave. Waves of wheat silvery and yellow as they ride away under the moon that is the reward after the dark.


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