A collection of poems and other writings...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Blue Biro

When Mum
had Edward
it was only two days
before Christmas.

She was still
in Hospital on Christmas Day

and just when they all got their
Mr Mayor,
the Mayor,
came round the wards
and made speeches
about what
hard luck
 it was being
in Hospital on Christmas Day.

When we went to see Mum
and Edward
after our lunch
Mum said she did not mind
being in hospital
except that
when he had finished his speeches
her dinner
was cold.

Then she found a caterpillar
in a cold brusselsprout
which put her off a bit.

She was clever for us though
she had written down everything
we had to do with the
and the
Christmas pudding
and the
brussel sprouts
and the
roast potatoes.

She had written it all down in
a pink school exercise book.

What time to turn the oven on
and when to make the gravy.

And she had written down
how to make Quiche
Daddy’s Favourite Pudding
Oaty Wonder

And the other things we liked.

It was good.

And then
when she died
we could carry on
 having all those things -
she was still showing us how to do it.

And when you look at it now
there are
all sorts of food marks
like flour
and old egg yolk gone brown
all over the front cover

and her writing
in blue biro.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Schooldays - the best days of your life...?

George and me and Alf Hewison
slip out
of the second half
of double maths
on Saturday mornings
- Mr Hough scowls.

We go off to the music room
at the end of the hall,
and Mr Dicker -
from Shaftesbury and District Silver Band -
tells us how we should play the trombone.

Mr Dicker is as stained as an old teapot
his moustache is yellow,
his face is red and
his nose is bigger than his chin.
The edges of his ears
like smoked back bacon.
You can see his string vest
through the white nylon of his shirt.
The Summer runs down his neck
into pits under his arms.

The music room is very small -
three pubescent boys,
farting down a trombone,
and an old smoker...


One day Mr Dicker says to me -
Give me yer 'and.
He’s been away -
- but he’s back now.
Give me yer 'and.
Hospital or somewhere.
So I give the trombone to Alf
and I give my hand to
Mr Dicker.

He pulls me towards him.
He opens his jacket.
He lifts his left arm.
He guides my hand
under his armpit
- in the summer
- with the white nylon
- under his armpit.
I feel it then.
Can you feel it?
Er - yes.
The lump?
I can feel the lump
through the nylon
criss-crossed with string vest.
Do you know what that is?
Er - no.
It’s me pacemaker
- battery operated
- it keeps me heart regular
- like a metronome
- can you feel it?

Oh yes.

Then George had to feel
then Alf.

After the lesson
when we’d washed
our hands
we decided he was

Mr Dicker with the Dicky Ticker.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Her First Snow

Gemma Graziano
was the colour of toast.
She came from Italy
or Spain
or a hot country

On Friday
after lunch
we were doing paintings
and it started to snow outside.

Gemma stood by the window.
The white flakes sparkled in her eyes.
She clapped
and laughed
and looked at us.

She had never seen snow before.

We stood there with our paintbrushes
and our mouths open
and looked at her.

We had never seen
who had never seen snow

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


I was

I made myself
a brilliant bow and arrow.
The arrow had a nail in it
for a point
held in by Elastoplaster.
It went really well.

I shot at a magpie
that flew
the house
and I really nearly
got it.

My arrow went
as high as
the bathroom window
then disappeared
through a
little round hole
in the glass
right in front of it.

I used to play
in the bedroom.

I had to get right round the room
without touching
the floor -
the crocodiles
would get me and I’d
have to kill them with my knife.

After tea
Mum said
she had met
Mrs Rolfe in town.

you could see
Mrs Rolfe
in her kitchen
from our bedroom.

Mum said
Mrs Rolfe wondered
whether I was too big
to be playing in the window

in my underpants.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Underneath The Clock

I don't really know where this came from... it's just for fun really.  The children used to like it when they were younger.

As I walked and whistled
down Twistington High Street
two old men I happened for to meet,
on a bench by the bus-stop,
the 34 bus-stop,
waiting for a bus
to take them up to Hilltop.

And I stopped and I sat
and I listened while I whistled
and I heard they were talking
about how things were changing -
shops closing down,
shops rearranging,
how you never could find what you wanted when you looked...

And the more I listened
the more I was hooked
by the names they remembered
and some they forgot
as they sat there and nattered
with the old town clock
tick-tocking up above.

Susan Cox still sells
shoes and socks
in the Soft Shoe Shuffle
shoe and sock shop
by the chip shop ...

Which shop?

The old fish and chippie.

What Trisha Phipps’?

Ay, Trisha Phipps.

She makes fabulous
battered fish and chips.
Best in town!

I’d wolf  ‘em down,
with salt and vinegar
outside the cinema
with my mate Stanley.

Old Stan Hemmings?

That’s the one –
he used to sell curtains
and fancy cushion covers.
Used to have a warehouse
up the road from your house.

Oh ay, I remember,
Hemmings Trimmings Limited,
 now I recall.
I never went in though.


Not at all!

He sold all sorts of things –
and knickers.


Oh yes,
my best beloved
always bought them there –
her underwear.

I get mine from Vickers.

Knickers from Vickers –
I didn’t know they did ‘em!

Oh they do, they do
 ... but it’s new.

Oh I see.

Come on, bus, I want my tea.


They don’t come
as regular
as how they used to.

No not so often.
More expensive, too.
I remember when
you could catch a bus
from Hilltop,
down to town
and back again
for only ten pence.
That’s ten old pennies,
not quite a shilling.

 It’s more than a pound now.

It’s one blinking fifty.
Mind you the buses
are pretty nifty.

 The drivers are shifty!

Do you remember old Gus?

Used to drive the bus?

Yes him –
what a laugh –

He had us in stitches.

Got us all singing rounds in the back –
London’s Burning,

Frère Jacques
Wouldn’t happen now.

Not now –
 wouldn’t happen
 - they’re too afraid
of putting buses into ditches.

Well there’s lots more traffic.

All them cars ...

Vans and lorries
thundering past you,
blast you with their hooters
when you try to cross the road.
We don’t go as fast as you,
we’re not on scooters!

We’re not on wheels.

Noisy blinking tooters.
Everyone’s in such a rush ...

 Where is that bus?

Have you seen the park, though?  Oh it looks a treat.
 The flowers are looking lovely,
 the grass is trim …

It’s neat!
I saw them cut it yesterday
with a great big sit-on mower.
Same bloke who does
the library lawns.
Took him less than an hour.

And they’ve got that playground now with the swings
 and the slide
 and one of them things that goes round and round,
 you know –

The roundabout?
 The roundabout
 - that’s the one
 - you should have heard the kiddies shout.
 They love it.

Ay, it’s fun –

They do, they really do.
It wasn’t like that for us two.


Maybe a swing –

A rope in a tree
that’s all we had
my friends and me,
and if you came off –
ooh –
you’d scrape your knee.
But you didn’t dare show it
you didn’t dare weep!

Huh! I’d holler and cry!
If I had a bad knee
I wouldn’t be shy.
I’d jump and I’d hop,
I’d shout and I’d curse!

Did it make you feel better?

 No, generally

Now have you seen the new skateboard shop?

 Next door to Copper Kettle?

Yes that one have you seen it?

I’ve been in it
 - but they play that heavy metal!
I went in for our Kevin
 - he wanted some new rollers.

It used to be a hat shop –
sold trilbies and bowlers.

I fancy a skateboard
for nipping about.
I could pop into town
and back out
without any fuss.
I mean,
I wouldn’t have to sit here
waiting for this bus.
    You on a skateboard
 - who are you kidding?
You’d fall straight off,
 you’d be sliding and skidding all
 over the street!

I’ll have you know
I’m very light on my feet.
I’ve a keen sense of balance -

Off balance, you mean
 - and here comes the bus in case you haven’t seen.

And with that the two men
stood up by the seat.
They rubbed their hands
and they stamped their feet.
And the bus drew up
and the door swished back
and one got on
“I’ll see you then, Jack.”
And Jack gave a wave
as the bus pulled away
and he strolled off
down the High Street
into the dimming day.

And I stood and I listened
to the noises of the town -
people walking home -
shop shutters sliding down.
And I rubbed my hands
and I found my other glove,
with the old town clock
up above.

Here is a link to me reading Underneath The Clock 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Picture Of You

In this garden,
on this summer night,
you feel
that your beauty lies
in the silver pump
that dangles from your foot –

I can see how you have tested it
before the shop mirror,
turning now this way, now that,
to view from each angle
the line of metallic cloth
against the intricacy of  your instep.

And now we see it here,
a small part
of the picture of you.

You sense
your beauty lies
not in your face
but in smoke blown from
your mouth –
you have learned smoke,
have studied the effect:
the slightly laboured inspiration,
the toss of your head
as the fumes reach your lungs,
the instinctive arc of the hand
to free the thread of your hair
caught in your eyelash.

And while you sit,
one leg resting on the opposing knee,
with the dangling pump,
the hand-rolled cigarette poised between two fingers
the young man next to you
drinks in
the picture of you:
he has merely glanced
he has become the smoke in his mind
and has chased down into the depths of you.
The finger
of his mind
has traced the edge of the shoe
until it has caressed the tenderest skin of you.

Inside and out.

He sees the frame
you have created
around the picture of you.

He wonders how to be within the frame,
how to move the paint and work the canvas:
with his thick mechanic’s fingers.

He knows that you are jelly-naked beneath your clothes,
movements of fabric
pressing against the most intimate parts of you –
those parts of you
with which you wrestle,
which harbour the darkest, uncontrollable humanness of you:

He longs to tally the reality with the image
but cannot fathom
or where
or when
he might
remove these garments –
how might that come to pass?
How can he be those moments?

And you know his mind is in the
fleshy pit of you
as you pinch the back of his hand –
but still you are uncertain
of your effect.

You edge around each other –
while his mother
fries you tea –
bacon on the summer air
on your tongue-tip –
sweet salt.

A moment’s silence falls between you 
the invisible sphere
that surrounds your loins,
and that surrounding his,
in subtle anticipation.

He speaks from his gentle mouth –
his face smiling –
his breath smelling of the turgid earth.

You feel the germs of his words,
deciding how long
this dance

will endure.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Home for Lunch

Grandma and Granddad, Dad's parents, used to come and stay for a fortnight in the summer...

In the front room
where the sun pours in 
like coffee in the morning
Grandma and Granddad
mellow birds,
in the high back chairs
that we don’t use

And then
when John and I
come home for lunch
there they are

We have belly pork strips
with soft
boiled potatoes,
and thin golden gravy.

takes out his teeth
and tosses powdered pepper
over his dinner
until we sneeze –
he can’t taste it
he tells us.

He uses his pudding spoon
to finish up
the gravy
on his plate.
We watch him looking deep
into the spoon’s greasy bowl.
After a moment
he surfaces.

He tells us
that during the War,
the Great War,
they had to
on their gas masks
to make them work.

John and I
look at each other
with fearful smiles on our lips.
Grandma scrunches up her face
and pulls
her head down into her shoulders
and says

She is not really listening.

Mum says
its time for Listen with Mother
Daphne Oxenford
is coming to get us.

We run back to school
even though its


Granddad had bad sciatica.
Sometimes he would ask Mum to go up to the betting shop in town and place a bet on a horse for him.  She was reluctant but did it.
Mum came home flustered after one of these trips - a man in the betting shop had asked her if she had any "hot tips."