A collection of poems and other writings...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

On a Postcard

You wrote me a postcard
full of fabulous holiday news
how where you were staying was
oh, the views
how the beach was so close
how you bathed in the sea
how the evenings were
even lovelier than the day
how the harbour lights
were reflected jewels
framing a cerulean mirror
how dolphins swam in
right up to the shore
and mischievous seagulls
stole chips from folk
on a coach tour.

And, yes, I can picture you there
on your postcard beach
and you in your bikini
cheesecloth blouse knotted
under your breasts
holding onto your straw sun hat
against the sea breeze
and I can taste
the ice cream that
you tongue-tease
and scent the sand and lotion
on your satin skin

You wrote
how you wished I was there
how you were missing me
and I was curious
that you thought
about me
while you were away

if I’m honest

I don’t really like you very much.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

When we had the fire

A piece written in response to a couple of different prompts... homework and Writers In The Bath

Here it is,
a silent circle
branded into earth,
a bruising of ash,

soft grey and sodden
amid the rosebay
and the ragged robin,
a remnant of the time

when we had the fire
to burn the past,
yours and mine:

shoeboxes of letters,
cards, photographs,
that catalogued our several lives
before we met.

And here we came; our pact
to purge these pasts, 
seal wounds, heal scars 
and here, that dewy May evening,
with the solstice still to come,
we coupled wildly under stars.

While now years on,
and with our child in tow,
I stumble on the place again.

We had searched with sticks
for snails and jewels and sprites,
among the ragwort and the mossy damp;
now chased cranefly tumbling
through unruly nettles;
while you spread laundry
on the clothes horse drier.

But this was
the place
I know
when we had the fire.

Monday, 12 January 2015


Something of a departure for me.  'In class' we are looking at endings - I wrote this as a piece of homework thinking of it as the end of a post-apocalyptic novel.. but now it's done I think it probably doesn't need the novel in front.  It's a bit darker than usual. 

The gnawing hunger stirred him.

He had closed his eyes waiting for the whoops and war-cries to recede.  Then fatigue and the warm morning sun filtering through the brambles above him lulled him into a drowse.  He dreamed himself walking down this very track and coming upon his own decomposing body under this blackberry bush – a skeleton with his hair, wearing his clothes.

No.  He would not end here.

He disengaged himself from the bramble vines, licking at the backs of his hands as the thorns grabbed him.  Blood.  Iron on his tongue, further provoking the desire to eat.  Something.  Anything.  He started back along the track away from the village to which he knew the ballistas were heading.  If he could avoid another confrontation with them he would.  Only quick wits and a well-aimed rock had allowed him to escape last time.  He sensed he would not be so lucky again.

Around the bend he came upon the body of Palmer hanging from a low branch.  His eyes were bulging and there was much blood around his mouth.  Something bloody on the ground beneath him too.  Dekker turned the object with his foot.  It was a moment before he recognised a human tongue.  That it was the work of the ballistas there was little doubt.

Dekker cut Palmer down and lay him in the undergrowth at the side of the track.  He considered covering him with the tarp but so far it had proved too useful to sacrifice it thus.  Desperate times.  He had liked Palmer but he had known that his episodes, growing in frequency and intensity, would lead him into a reckless situation.  The ballistas were not noted for their tolerance of difference or outspokenness and Palmer’s rants would have challenged the mildest soul.

Dekker was just wiping his hands on the grass when he heard it.  Faint.  Distant.

A single plucked note.  Then another.  A short pause and then a spaced run of three notes climbing a cautious scale.  To call it a tune would have been to endow it with a greater sense of meaning than it warranted but there was intention behind it, Dekker could tell, and this intention piqued his curiosity.

He set off somewhat stealthily into the woods quietly cursing his tired clumsy, twig-cracking feet.  But he realised his anxiety was lifting a little as another string of notes, descending this time, floated towards him.  He quickened his pace paying less regard to his footsteps.  Then a way in front of him he spotted a small figure with its back toward him sat hunched on a fallen tree.  A child perhaps.  Yes – a boy.  A noise behind him and Dekker glanced back towards the track.  A shabby blackbird was stabbing at the ground, hunting in the dry leaf litter.  Then when he looked for the boy again he was gone.

a source I never expected to visit...
Dekker could not understand how he could disappear so quickly.  So completely.  He walked up to the log where the boy had been sitting.  Just beyond were the remains of a small fire still smouldering.  Next to it lay a stick with the impaled, smoky remnants of what must have been a squirrel.  But of the boy himself, no sign.  Dekker picked up the stick and pulled a tag of flesh from the skewered animal.  He placed it on his tongue, allowing it to rest there a moment as he savoured the acrid flavour before chewing it and swallowing.  Pangs of hunger woke in his belly again, and he pulled shred after shred from the carcass, chewing briefly then swallowing them down.

He was lost to the food.

Suddenly, he looked up, aware of a presence.  The boy stood in front of him, a cloth-wrapped club in his hand and a defiant expression.  Maybe twelve years old, thought Dekker, but old enough to believe he had the strength to face down an adult man, albeit one as frail as Dekker now was.  He looked well-fed.  He was coping.  Resourceful.  Anyone who had learned to disappear so efficiently would have no difficulty evading the crazed, bullish ballistas as they rampaged through the landscape.

Dekker held out the squirrel.  He was enjoying this unfamiliar feeling of respect for another human being.  The boy took it, and sensing no imminent danger from Dekker,  lowered his club.  He reached into a pocket in his shorts and pulled out a plastic carrier bag in which he wrapped the squirrel.  Yes, resourceful.

Dekker looked at the club and could see, protruding from the cloth wrapping, what looked like wooden tuning pegs.  A violin maybe.  The boy saw him looking.  He had  relaxed further from his bravado and was prepared to open to this man for a while.  He picked up the club.  Unwrapped it.  A small guitar shaped body, a fretted neck, four strings – the whole thing only half a yard long.  He lifted the instrument to his chest and started to pluck with his right hand, placing the fingertips of his left carefully on to the fret board.  There was no fluency in the movement, no skill or artistry but, as the boy played, Dekker became engrossed in the strange, inchoate melody.

The boy was engrossed too, lost in the structuring of each note, in the placement of each finger, intent on the production of each new sound as he released the string and sent a small jewel into the cloudless air.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

More #twitterings

Just one or two more recent twitter prompted writings...

#Playful Kitten  

I knew a PlayfulKitten once
she'd find the warmest place to nap
But she GrewUp
&learned to pounce
&fills her LitterTray with crap. 
prompted by @AshBaget

I've upgraded 
Was on payasyougo 
Now on monthly contact 
But not sure how long it will last 
She's a touchscream 

I love my new girl friend


I fell into a love-shaped hole
But all I found was dust and coal
Maybe I mistook
You for mine 



Tracey Lee, Tracey Lee
Likes her toast and jam for tea
Strawberry, raspberry, apricot –
She doesn't mind, she likes the lot

#Running on Sunshine

You tell me that
when summer is done 
& you head back to school 
you'll be leaving me 

So till then 
are we 
Running on sunshine? 


Friday, 9 January 2015

Robert & Jacksons

This is a true story
Jacksons is/was a small supermarket chain in Hull
Robert is/was a vegetarian in Hull...

Robert is just
Popping Down The Shops.

He needs some Chick Peas
for Hummus
for Tea.

I’ll try Jacksons, he thinks.
He goes in to
the Little Supermarket
and goes along The Aisles
looking for the Tinned Goods

They’ve got
Mushy Peas
and Cut Beans
in tins.
They’ve got Little Baby Potatoes
and Butter Beans
and Creamy Mushrooms
in tins.
And of course
they’ve got
Baked Beans
in Several Different Varieties.

But no Chick Peas.

Robert goes to the checkout

He says to the Young Lady who works on the till

Excuse me, do you have Chick Peas?

She says


Chick Peas, he repeats.

Do you sell Chick Peas?

Er, I Dern’t Kner.
I’ll Gerandask?*

She goes to the Back Of The Shop
and Out Through The Door.

She is gone Some Time.

She must be finding some,
thinks Robert.

Eventually she returns

She looks at him for a moment
with a Curious Expression,
and then she says,
What did you say they were?

Chick Peas, says Robert again.
Have you got any Chick Peas?

Er, Hang On, she says
and she disappears out the back again.

Another few minutes pass.

Where Is She? thinks Robert.

She comes back and looks at him again

says Robert.

Er,  she says,

Do you mean eggs?

This is "Hull" for "Oh I don't know, I'll go and ask."

Chick Peas

Monday, 5 January 2015

What are you in the queue for?

Big queue today.
Pre-Christmas rush, I wouldn't wonder.  Last posting dates and such.

Slade playing on the radio. Then Greg Lake. Then Michael Bublé.

By the time I get to the counter Dawn is all buzzy.  Not like her.  She’s usually on the stern side but today there is a girlish fizz about her.  She spreads her fingers wide and stops for a moment, spotting me.  She fixes me with her eye,  hanging back from her side of the counter.  She looks like a gladiator preparing to fight, and I have a feeling she will win.

            -  Just breathe, she says.  Just breathe…
            -  Been busy, I ask.
            -  Mad, she says.

She steps up to the counter again.  Battle Stations.

Behind the glass a foil decoration glitters as it lifts in the warm updraft from from the fan heater.  There’s tinsel along the top of the window, stuck up with sticky tape.

Dawn grips the bundle of notes I pass through to her and starts a business-like counting of the corners, scrunching the notes under her fingers as she digs through the pile.  She's nearly done when her Santa hat slips down over her eyes.  She tugs it off her head with a growl and starts the count again.

            -  No pooch, today? I ask
            -  Huh?
            -  Your little dog.  Is it not here?
            -  We’re too busy, says Dawn.  He’d get squashed!  Under ‘s feet.  Terry’s got him at home.
            -  What do you call him?
            -  Terry? she laughs.  I call him Terry!
            -  The dog, I say, what’s his name?
            -  Oh, we call him Skittles.
            -  Skittles?
            -  Yes, Skittles.  Y’know, like the sweets.

She waves her hand vaguely at the shelves down the side of the shop.

            -  Ha!  How did you come up with that?
            -  It’s because everything he touches becomes Skittles!

It feels like she’s been longing to say that to someone.

            -  Y’know, like the advert.  Where the bloke touches the desk and it turns to Skittles.  Then he touches the phone and… skittles.  Well he chews things, does our Skittles - toothbrushes, slippers and the like, and then they kind of become his because no other bugger wants them anymore…

            -  Oh,… right.
            -  So everything becomes Skittles!

Then Doreen calls over - somebody needs a SORN form so Dawn has to pack me off to Ron and deal with it.

In the Queue Too
Third in the Queue

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Abduction of the Lord


On Marlborough Avenue
old grandeur has been
transformed into student flats.

Faded paintwork,
shabby front doors,
stained-glass panels replaced
with boards,
columns of doorbells
down each jamb.

Number Five, however,
is still occupied by
an elderly man
and the memory of his wife.

he enjoys the energy of young people around him
he is just too tired
or poor
to move away
from the late night parties –
Tequila drinkers
sat on his front wall at night –
parking their cars,
yes, cars,
on the grass verge
in front of his house,
turning up the mud,
turning up the heat.

Or maybe
he cannot leave
while each decaying room
reminds him of her:
wallpaper decisions
made together;
her Mills and Boon,
that he will never read
but with which he cannot part,
on shelves he had made for her;
her silent clothes,
still hanging next to his.

He lives in a past
where civility is commonplace and expected;
where clichéed backdoors are left open;
where there is an understanding of what is right.

He holds these thoughts,
as treasures,
and picks up the plastic
chocolate milk cartons.

He trims
both sides of the hedge
at the back of the house
even though it is growing
in next door’s

And each December
for the last half century
he has prepared
in his own modest front patch
a crib scene, 
Mary, Joseph,
shepherds and kings,
ox and ass and angel,
await the arrival 
of the infant.

an illuminated star
powered by an extension lead
stretched through the
draughty front room window.

There was a year or two
when I lived down the street –
Number Nineteen –
in a flat
that had been,
in its heyday,
the library of the house
that had been,
in its heyday,
owned by Hull’s Chief Librarian.
A pleasant enough cell
in which to sleep
for a short while
- just a mouse or two.

I walk past his house daily
to fetch milk from Jacksons
or pop into Pier Luigi's for a pizza.

In 1986,
the rains of November
give way to a crisp December
and two weeks
this side of Christmas,
as if by elves,
on a bright Monday morning,
the crib appears.

A small collection box
is stationed within reach of the fence -
“Donations to
Dove’s House Hospice”
he has written

“In gratitude”

from the private nursery along the way
stand on steep
tiptoe, to peep,
while parents
deposit coins then
tug at childish hands
and drag them off
to fourbyfours.

This picture is from the Birmingham Mail.
Birmingham seems to have had somewhat similar problems

And as Christmas Week
the freshly painted infant
takes its place in the
straw manger.

It is
after a silent night
a holy night
after the day itself
the note

The infant child,
plaster saviour of the world,
has disappeared
from beneath the noses
of his statuary parents
who look on with their
unmoving, beatific smiles
at the empty space
where their child has previously lain
arms outstretched
in the manger.

And the note,
in crumpled writing,

Ruffians have stolen
the Baby Jesus”