Monday, 30 September 2013

The Word Fish

I curl into the foetal position and pull the cover down over my head. 

The bedside lamp doesn't think to turn itself off. Neither does my brain. My head is filled with the swimming of words last seen in the pools of the pages I'd looked at before calling it a day.

I try venturing into sleep but, like so many other things lately, I haven't made the appropriate preparations. The brain won't stop accommodating the words that keep swimming around inside the bowl of my head. Disjointed, the words are forever swimming away to turn back at the margins and keep coming back in no particular order to swim away again. Without a fixed reference point waving like a friendly frond of plankton there is no coherent narrative.

One word becomes another and I keep on trying to follow because I'm making no inroads on the roads into sleep.

Lately, it's all been hard walls I've been trying to get around. But if someone asked me I'd still say the night has been a dreamless, solid oblivion. It's better that way.

Sunday, 29 September 2013


The neighbour starts his mower.

It snarls like a dog that can't wait to bite somebody.

The mower fills the air with with its jagged noise. The blades whack stones and sticks and the guy pushing the mower curses. The din is so bad it stops all intelligible thought and conversation. Not that intelligible thought or conversation had ever really got going this morning.

A woman in a red dress comes to her upstairs window and closes it against the noise. Her elbows look very white and she disappears again. Something in this action seems very calming, very sensible.

I think about Germany.

I'm sure somebody once told me that there were rules there. People can't just fire up mower machines whenever they feel like it. Pockets of silence, tranquility are preserved so that certain parts of the day remain sanctuaries where the peace of the garden can be enjoyed.

The neighbour swears again as the mower blade cuts a brick in half and sends the pieces flying somewhere in the direction of Germany.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Please Look After This Word

This word looks too thin.

Looks like it's been waiting in a wind-swept field since 1870.

The word has a wild, haunted hunted look in the middle of its single vowel.
This word looks like it could use a shave, a hot bath and a good bowl
of nourishing soup and probably all in that order.

The word looks like it was scrawled with a stump of blunt pencil and folded
into the back pocket of a ploughman who was starving in a Thomas Hardy novel.

The word needs bringing in from the field.
It needs all of the things mentioned above
and then I think I'll lend it a coat.

I'll transcribe it to a clean sheet of modern day computer paper.

The word, I'm pretty sure, has spent too long on its own. I'll put other words around it. Enough words to make it feel like its important, that it belongs to something.

So the word has its shave and a long hot bath filled with fragrant bubbles. It eats its fill of good and nourishing soup. It slurps it down like a robber on a tombstone and doesn't say a word.

You can't rush these things.

I lend it my coat.

The word tries it on.

The word doesn't say a word.

I open the door and tell it to go. I shove a wad of notes into its nice new coat pocket.

I can do no more.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Tractor Distraction

The tractor was a distraction in an otherwise lonely afternoon.
We'd always hear it before we saw it: the throb of a diesel engine,
the brownish smoke puffing from the exhaust. It was a Ford tractor.
I'd already learnt that Fords were blue, Massey's were red
and David Browns were, confusingly, white.

The farmer would wave and bring the giant machine to a halt.
He always wore a donkey jacket and a tweed cap.
He would say something and his hand would go into his pocket.
He'd start talking and the hand would re-emerge holding a packet
of Trebor's Extra Strong Mints.

Wafer like discs with the curious writing on the sides,
distorted like lettering on very old gravestones.

As soon as the mint was burning in my mouth the farmer
would talk to mother and she would talk back.

I have no idea how long this went on for
or any idea what it was they talked about.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Pot Black

Ghosts and owls reveal themselves
their hoots, wails in the shimmer
shadow of leaves as the old dear
lies in a lightless room, watching
the rolling of monochrome spheres
gilded with dazzling silver crescents
as vampiric whey-faced waistcoated
men sip amber in a smoking smoulder.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Scraping leathery peelings
revealing orangey

flesh next pressure
between the teeth

made good with silver solder
horse nosing salt lick

or red brick

spike and chain tether
your coat like a cloak

making you master

plotting commander
past and future
in the sun

I want to take
two split roads at once
get somewhere

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Lie (Part Six)

The time had come.

He could put it off no longer.

He scrolled through the list of his contacts.

Found the name he wanted. Tapped. 

His finger hovered over the picture of the green telephone that signified CALL...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Lie (Part Five)

He’d looked everywhere. 
When it came to books, Bill was like Smaug the dragon and the glittering jewels. 
He remembered every book and if one should go missing Bill would not be able to rest. 
Sometimes he’d scan the shelf six or seven times before the book in question would finally reveal itself. 
But this one wouldn’t play the game. The book was gone and Bill couldn’t think why. 
He wanted it for its poems. 
They were not particularly good poems.
In truth, the writer wasn’t really a poet.
But the book was everything, trying to forget about the lie, that Bill needed right now. 
He liked the way that the words had been reproduced with a facsimile of old fashioned pen strokes rather than the hard edges of typed font. 
He remembered the photo on the cover. A portrait of the author wearing a corduroy cap and a greying beard that would soon be white. 

Bill badly needed the book. 
It might be the only one he’d ever write.

The Lie (Part Four)

Bill's wife was in one of the cages holding a black kitten. 
The man put his arm around Bill. 
‘I don’t know, Tom’, he said. ‘But choosing a cat is always best left to a woman. To you and me, a cat is just a cat’.
When they got home, the cat climbed up onto Bill’s chest and shyly made herself at home by starting in and nibbling his beard.
The idea of telling a lie was very far away.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Lie (Part Three)

Bill sat in his chair and turned the lie over and over in some far gone part of his brain.
A cat sat on his shoulder purring and purring in his ear.
They’d driven down a rutted track to find her. It had been winter time and the man who sold them the cat lived in a red brick cottage with a slate roof. There were lots of spaces where the slates were missing and the windows of the cottage were draped in cobwebs. The garden had very long grass and there were big cages made from two by two and chicken wire. 
The man had a sizeable paunch that pressed against a red waistcoat with brass buttons.
 'What's your name?' he said.
'Bill', said Bill.
'Bill!' the man said. 'Every Tom, Dick and Harry I know is called Bill'.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Lie (Part Two)

He'd felt this way before.
On one morning that would remain with him for the rest of his life he'd looked down at his feet and seen them as if they'd belonged to somebody else.
The feet carried his body down a corridor with prison grey tiles. They were on a mission, these feet of his that now seemed to belong to somebody else. 
Where were they going? What were they thinking?
The destination turned out to be Bill's little white car with the rusting sills.
Had they, these feet that were once his but now seemed to belong to somebody else, gone completely mad? Because this really was madness. Had they forgotten the mortgage? The children?
The pile of incorrectly marked papers waited on the Head of Department's desk: a papery accusation and the feet weren't going to stick around and let Bill face the humiliation.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Lie (Part One)

There was no way round it: Bill would have to tell a lie.
He remembered his great hero. How the great hero had said that he had tried to live his life as honestly as possible. These words, like so many others, had made their mark on Bill.
He knew that the words, ideas of his great hero were points to navigate by.
The words were true and led to the place where the air was as cool and soothing as a grey church on a rainy winter afternoon.
But he couldn't see any way around this.
Bill was going to have to tell the lie.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Doctor Gargoyle And The Stethoscope

Doctor Gargoyle placed the end of the stethoscope in the middle of his forehead. He wanted, after a busy morning that brought many grave anxieties, to hear himself think. At first there was nothing to hear. Then there was a clacking sound like an old-time film projector. 

Where had he heard that sound before?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Complete History, As It Stands, Of The Apple Tree

He considers the feckless claims
of the terrain through white binoculars
his cap hanging in exaggeration.

Troubled somehow,
he falls from himself,
his head and neck into his hands.

We can go on out, I tell him,
walk the rump of pale beginnings.

Blue turns white as the ridge casts eyes
about although the piece soon becomes miles
winding through trees and heather contortions.

Wish for me not a leaden coming of coal clouds in the black afternoon.
Flower the stove so that every pipe is a cave butterfly.

His beard hoped for news
of the sea carrying claret bricks,
his heather shirt woven from wicker.

A compliment to you this particular morning
is the life breathed crook-sharp and the OS map
leads to a brown arm found in a yellow forest.

The bank showed a hidden town
in the basket of bracken,
the handle held pretty fast
knowing that the apple owns
these features of the trees
because of the calluses,
histories worn on these hands.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Night Cap

I turned off the light, stopped its interrogating of my head. A set of aluminium step-ladders lean against a shelf of magazines: fashion, photography, interiors, garden schemes... I don't need a light to read the titles when a golden orb surrounded by six marbled satellites floats its flight across the room. I follow from the corner of my eye although I am beyond fully following.

A sudden explosion, eruption, disturbance in the night: voices raised.

Lean up onto my elbow.

Realise that it's coming from the darkness of the living room

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

How You Got Here

How you got here, arrived in this place -
the dots are too far distant for joining
but others are arriving
bringing light pushing
back the dark – music playing
limbs swaying.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Next Thing That Happened

A girl in a khaki-parka down from Oxford or
Cambridge or some other far-flung exotic
place in the world far from the forklift
truck industrial unit that makes up your

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Well Seasoned

In a street – a suburb of some forgotten seaside town
an upstairs room of smoking blue in the fading daylight
- advancing twilight, wearing a shirt like a monk's habit
sitting cross-legged, cutting,projecting, or at least trying to,
the figure of a well-seasoned man of the world
into the gloom.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Lamp Oil Has Run Low

The journey was twenty five miles long.
It doesn't sound far until you realise
we did it by horse and cart
as if it were sometime
in the nineteenth century
and we were part of a folk song 
and cars and Margaret Thatcher
hadn't been invented.

By the time we'd returned
the lamp oil had run low
and the weather had turned.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Anything Can Happen

Dave was so bored that he thought that he was going to explode.

It'd been going on for months. He turned up for appointments and went through the motions. No-one seemed to notice.

When the talking was done he got into his car and likened the feeling to slowly drowning.

Something was cutting off the air supply and every time he came up a big hand would push him back under.

In time, anything could happen.

What he didn't bank on was that every time the glass door opened onto the quad there would still be people who would stare at the door as if he was still there connected to his shadow.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Late Night Wash Down

I tried sleeping. I needed sleep but how was I to get to sleep with all the colours vying for my attention? It had been a long road on a thin, dusty trail. Somewhere along the way Rod had pulled the car over. His caffeine addiction wouldn't let him pass the roadside café. I learnt things about him that day but it would take years for me to work it out. The coffee hit the stomach but did nothing to dissolve the early morning after the late night washed down with wine feeling.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Handy Man's Tale

On a morning of mist and vapour Dave opened his door to see that the morning post had arrived. He wondered how best to approach it. It seemed to him that if he just tore in without thinking there was sure to be a parking ticket or a final demand. No. Post had to be approached with deference and caution.

There were brown envelopes and white envelopes. Some of them were obviously bills. Dave could tell this from the way that they leaked invisible but toxic shapes into the confines of his porch. But there was also a jiffy bag that might contain something to disperse the gloom.

He tried to remember if he had ordered anything lately. Or maybe someone had decided to send him a surprise present.

Dave decided to delay the moment for awhile. Let the mystery, excitement build as he drank his first coffee of the day.

Predictably, there were bills. But no-one wanted paying in a hurry.

Then he got down to the real business of the day and ripped open the jiffy bag. He pulled out something wrapped in bubble wrap. It didn't take long for Dave to see what it was. Someone had sent him a severed hand. Sure, the skin had turned a little blue. The part that should have been attached to a wrist looked like burnt chicken bones. But it was undeniably a severed hand.

Dave put it down on the table. He ran through a mental itinerary of items recently ordered or purchased on-line. Yerba Mate tea, dried plum e-liquid, corn flour, a Christopher Priest novel, diablo string, a 12inch steel rule... No. A severed hand just didn't come into it.

It was too soon for his birthday and the only long-distant long-distance friend who remembered usually sent him books or aftershave even though he'd had a beard these last fourteen years.

He unwrapped the hand. It didn't seem quite right, somehow, just dumping it on the dinner table so he got a plate and put it in the fridge. The bubble wrap lay on the table. Dave picked it up and began to squeeze the plastic blisters between his fingers. Man it was therapeutic!

He popped and popped and put the hand from his mind.

Well, he thought, sitting around like this all day was getting nothing done. He went out into the garden and began sawing rough timber that needed stock-piling for winter.

In the middle of his sawing Dave remembered that it was Thursday. The rubbish needed putting out.

He tossed in the unpaid bills and, as an after-thought, the piece of bubble wrap before tying up the sack. All the while, he had this gnawing feeling that he'd forgotten something but he was sure that it would come back to him later.

And it did, a couple of hours later when he fancied a nice cool beer. There were two cans in the fridge which was a very handy thing I can tell you.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Hotel

The bark & leaves of conversation, the tendrils of talk 
grow around the table legs.The plant heart bangs 
the wallpaper flower walls, drums, drums
thru the smoke & glass


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