A collection of poems and other writings...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Edinburgh Mug - a true story

So I stop the van on Newington Road in an easy parking space.
Viv jumps out and so do I – I nip round the front of the van to the ticket mahine to buy a ticket.
“Hang on we can only stop an hour,” I say.
“Well that's not enough,” she says. “You don't want to have to find somewhere else in an hour. Let's find a better one now.”
“Oh ok.”
I nip round the back of the van to go back to the driver's side and just as I do I see a guy walking fast past the front of the van. What's more I remember I just heard a click like the van door being shut. But it's not shut properly and when I open it and start to get in I see my coat's been disturbed on the seat. It was neatly piled up and now it's spread all over.
I put two and two together and stick my hand in the inside pocket of my coat. It's gone. My wallet. It's not there.
Viv's still on the pavement starting to get into the van.
“Damn!” I say, “he's nicked it.”
“What? Who? What?” says Viv. She hasn't seen anything.
“My wallet.  That guy who just went past must've nicked.”
“That guy,” he's just disappearing round the corner of the side street a little way down the road.
“Fuck!” says Viv. She gets back out of the van and starts to run down the road but she can't see him.
“Round the corner,” I say, indicating with my hand. Meanwhile I've started the van and am pulling out into the traffic.
I get to the corner.  It's no entry - a one-way street but I turn into it anyway.  Viv has already gone around and is a little way up. There's the guy just rushing off as I pull the van up again.
But it seems she's not pursuing and as I stop the van she holds out my wallet.
“Fuck!” I say.
She opens the passenger door and hands me the wallet. She's shaking. I'm shaking.
“Fuck!” she says.  "I'm shaking!"
“Fuck, I know right,” I say.  "Me too!"
“Check it's all there,” she says, like she's ready to go after him again if it's not.
I flick through. There's nothing missing.
“Was there money in it?” she says.
“No,” I say. “Fuck!”
“I came up and he was just there standing in the entrance here by that car. I wasn't sure it was him but he was just standing looking at something in his hands and I came up and stared at him and he just said 'Sorry, sorry, sorry!' and chucked it on the ground and ran off.
“Fuck,” I say, “Thank fuck for that!”
“He was more scared than I was.”
“You were amazing! Thank you! God I'm still shaking!”
“Me, too,” she says. “But... oh I don't know.”
“I don't know... but I feel bad for him.... I want to give him a fiver.”

Then we sit in the van and work out how things could have gone so much worse!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Slug and Chicken

So it was Paul Brake and me and Dom playing in the front garden and Eric Gowrie comes down the road. He doesn't live near our house, so he must have come specially.
Paul Brake and me and Dom are playing football across the garden even though the road is just there. But Dad's out.
“Hi,” says Eric Gowrie.
But Paul Brake doesn't look at him.
Eric Gowrie is from Singapore. He has shiny black hair that falls across his forehead like a curtain. His skin is like the colour of Toffoes.  He has pointed eyes.
“What?” says Paul Brake.
“How are you today?” says Eric Gowrie, really politely. He's talking to all of us but me and Dom know that Paul Brake has to answer.
Paul Brake doesn't know Eric Gowrie. Paul Brake doesn't know that me and Dom do know Eric Gowrie. Eric Gowrie goes to our Church. Yesterday at Mass, Father Macaffrey talked about love thy neighbour. Mr Seymour used to live next door to us. He was friendly and nice - but I didn't love him. Then he had his leg off. And then he died.
“What's it to you?” says Paul Brake.
Paul Brake is big. Me and Dom fit in behind him. Paul Brake is looking at the ground.
“Do you like slugs?” says Paul Brake to Eric. He still doesn't look at him.
“I don't mind them,” says Eric.
“Come here then,” says Paul Brake.
“What?” says Eric.
“I said 'Come here, then', didn't I?”
Eric Gowrie opens the gate and comes here. He steps up the steps and onto the grass.
Paul Brake is bending over and picking something up off the ground.
It's a slug.  Quite a big one.  It's brown.

“Come here,” he says to Eric.
“What?” says Eric.
“I said 'Come here', didn't I?” Paul Brake holds the slug on his flat fingers.  It has pulled in its horns.  It's like a slimy blob.
“Kiss it,” he says.
“What?” says Eric.
“You like slugs? Then kiss it.”
Eric looks at Paul Brake.
Eric looks at me and Dom.
Dom and I look at each other. I've got my hands in my pockets and I nudge my willy because I suddenly need to wee. I see Dom's eyes look over to Eric and then to Paul Brake and then back to Eric again.
Paul Brake is just staring at Eric.
I think how horrible it would be to have to kiss a slug. My wee doesn't want to go away so I cross my knees a bit to keep it in.
“No,” says Eric.
“What?” says Paul Brake.
“I don't want to kiss it.”
“Are you chicken?” says Paul Brake. “Kiss it!”
Paul Brake holds the slug right up close to Eric's mouth.
Eric just stands absolutely still looking at Paul Brake.
I think Paul Brake is going to push the slug onto Eric's mouth. I look at Dom. But Dom is looking at Paul Brake. Paul Brake doesn't push the slug onto Eric's mouth but he steers his hand around the side of Eric's face and slowly presses the slug onto Eric's cheek.
Eric stands absolutely still. Still.
Paul Brake slowly takes his hand down again but the slug stays stuck to Eric's cheek for a moment.
Then it falls off onto the ground. There is a little slimy wet patch on Eric's cheek where the slug was.
Suddenly me and Dom hear Mum shout from the kitchen.
“It's teatime,” says Dom.
“We have to go in,” I say, “it's our teatime.”
“See you tomorrow,” says Paul Brake.
“Yes,” says Dom, “see you tomorrow.”
“Bye, Eric,” I say. “ Bye, Paul.”
“Yeah, bye,” says Paul Brake.
Eric doesn't say anything.

At tea, Mum says, “Did you have a good game?”
“It was all right,” says Dom.
“Eric Gowrie came round,” I say. Dom looks at me really hard.
“Oh did he?” says Mum. “Did he want to play?”
“No. Not really,” I say.
Dom looks at me.
I look at Dom.

“Can I have another cake, Mum?” I say.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

I cut the grass today - 14th July, 2016

I, like so many, have been deeply affected by the horrific attack in #‎Nice‬ - the tragic loss of life - the shock and terror suffered by those people must have been awful. I myself am preparing to go on holiday today it seemed so trivial and in appropriate and this poem occurred to me as I did so. It is an imagined poem but it is offered out of respect for the dead and injured.

in memoriam

I cut the grass today
in anticipation of our holiday.

The stems bent before the blades.

I do not weep for grass -
there is satisfaction in a job
in that moment of return
when looking out
from the kitchen window,
as the cold tap runs to drinkable
and the fridge shudders to life again,
to see the recovered lawn
once more needing
to be cut.

So I cut the grass today,
and as I do
text from France to say
that this is the best holiday
and that this evening you will go to see
the firework display -
Quatorze Juillet.

How nice, I say
and I picture you
in your holiday best -
cool sandals, shorts,
flowered shirt open over string vest -
as you promenade
des anglais
the English way
to take the air
and view the sea.

I zig and zag the grass
with the mower
buzzing through summer weeds
clattering unsuspecting stones
and insects.

in my mind's eye
your child in arms
your lover's hand in yours

I watch
grass bending

before the blades.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Changing Schools

The car grinds gravel
as it swerves around the Virgin Mary.

It stops in front of the gates:
the car park – puddles and pebbles.

The woman gets out of the passenger’s side
and opens the back door.

"Come on, now," she coos.
"It'll be fine."

One by one,
three children slide across the back seat
and out onto the stony ground.
They huddle round the parent –
ducklings in an elastic bubble –
sheltering in her shadow.

She shepherds them through the gate
and into the asphalt playground.

Three children
in the wrong uniform
cling to her coat
as she scans for a teacher.

A large female
with huge hands
spies her and crosses towards them.

They talk adult
for a moment
before the female
switches to child
her voice simpers
and modulates 
as she invites the three
to go and play on the bars
until play is over.

They move inertly
and stand near the bars
while the mother
weaves out of the playground
issuing smiles, like seeds, to other children,
as if sowing protection for her own.
She waves a quiet goodbye,
climbs back into the car and

A flock of watching infants
has gathered.
They have seen the car pull away
and now
their attention.

The three circle their wagons
and eye each other hopelessly
as the silent tears come.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


in Art when
Richard had finished his 
he coloured in his fingernail
pencil as shiny as grey metal
he did all the others
left hand and right
when he had finished
he showed his claws
and snarled
at Jane

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Friday deal

London Road
dark Friday night
and two
young men
one on his bike
are loitering
on the pavement
the other
next to him

some transaction.

My heart pumping
I approach
wary of the implication.

I reach them
I see
that he
on the left
is pouring
into the hand
of he
on the bike

- go on have a few more.

Taste the rainbow

Home For Lunch

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


from my first collection

Friday, 1 April 2016

Sugar Rush

I had noted the seductive sultriness of your green eyes
your oaken hair
your smoky breath
your thighs, your belly, their junction

I had bundled feelings into a bag called Love
that should rightly have been called Desire or Lust
or some other more animalistic function

And so to fashion some sort of introduction
where none could be found naturally
I walked the dark passage to your door
knocked to say hello and see
if you could lend me sugar
a cupful
a spoonful
perhaps a small granulated cliché

invited me in
with the sultry seductiveness of your green eyes
your oaken hair
those thighs, that belly and the triangulated junction of the two
while you, seeking
the fundamentally unnecessary
sat me in the kitchen
plied me with tea
although you had no need so to do
but proved yourself as amiable
as you were desirable

I was buoyed by the scent of your sex
the musk of you as you curled
around me in your kitchen
the whisper of whirled air
caught in the vortex of your movements
soft, yet

You smiled sunshine onto the tiles
wiped up my nervousness
with a damp cloth
while my heart danced

and then I loved only you
and I painted images
with the eye of my mind
of us
with the children visiting
and grand children
named after us
while you talked of nosey neighbours
and bus routes
and the lack of good shops

And so when I left
with the sugar
I was swinging
through the clouds
on my way home
as high as a simile

Yet only when I
sat in my kitchen 
poured the sugar
into my lap
as if it were
your fingers
undoing me
only then
did I realise
you were just
being neighbourly
because after all you were just
my neighbour

and the empty cup
to the floor
as I sobbed 
syrupy tears

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

I wish

I wish
that I were young again;
that Time,
who has stamped
crass etchings on my face,
were once again a friend,
as on those summer afternoons
where sunshine pooled
across your belly
and berries thickened
on the raspberry canes.

I wish
that when we followed
those bluebell paths
they had never ended
and that we were still
upon them now
negotiating touch
and kiss
and loss.

But there was
no recognition
in those times
that these times
would be
but the worn lining
of my empty purse
where coin edges have
burned the fabric;

where mites of dust
have gathered
in muffling silence.

the corners
of my eyes.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


There is an icing
on the window
after this last night
cold has bitten pits into the railings
and frozen 
animal tears 
in the sockets of eyes.

I would paint the sun rise
from here
contemplating distances
in hours
measuring dividing miles 
in sighs.

But you could
colour a new colour,
for I am tired
of these greys and blacks
that I have found of late.
You could bring
a new palette
and refresh my water jar
that I might clean my brushes.

With swift determined strokes
upon the vellum sheet
I would flake the cyan sky
above your head
and the dust dry land
beneath your feet
I perceive
the brightness
of a Southern sun
in your hair.

Sound me a new sound
For I am weary of my groans
and moans.
Whisper me secrets
that will tease 
this dwindled flame
into life again
for it has grown lethargic
in this customary dark.

I would crack the hoarfrost
that encrusts my beard.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Observations and Tips in relation to Nutrition during the later years.

Observation 1:
As age increases flexibility of joints decreases.
If joint pain is experienced, a daily supplement of fish oil is recommended.
This may be readily purchased in the form of capsules to avoid unpleasant, fishy flavours (although there is inevitably some aftertaste.)
Fish oil capsules should be taken once or twice a day with food and may also be found beneficial for the memory.

Observation 2:
The importance of a good breakfast cannot be stressed enough. It is the first meal of the day and should not be overlooked.
If working a shift pattern that requires you to start at an unearthly hour in the morning, it is recommended that a sugar-free, slow-release breakfast, such as muesli, is carried to work in a suitable container. This may then be consumed at the appropriate break during the shift. Both complex carbohydrates, such as oats and other grains, and proteins and ‘brown’ fats, such as those contained in nuts, are ideal foods for this purpose. Dried fruit in addition will allow a more instant energy release.

Tip 1:
Place sugar-free, slow-release muesli in a tub such as an empty ice-cream container, to take as mid-shift sustenance.

Tip 2:
Remember to take a fish oil capsule with you when you set off to work.
Place it in a safe place and somewhere where you will come across it easily when preparing to eat your breakfast. Remember fish oil capsules must be taken with food. (See Observation 1 above.)
For example...

Tip 3:
Place fish oil capsule in ice cream container also, so that it is readily available when the muesli is to be consumed.

Tip 4:
On cold mornings, at mid-shift break when ready to consume breakfast, place ice cream tub containing sugar-free, slow-release muesli and milk of your choice (cow, soya or nut) in the microwave (available in the staff kitchen) on low power for one minute to slightly warm contents.

Observation 3:
The flavour of sugar-free, slow-release muesli with milk of your choice (cow, soya or nut) is not improved by the addition of fish oil.

Tip 5:

Remember to REMOVE fish oil capsule from ice-cream container BEFORE placing in microwave.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Portrait of a Widowed Poet

For this photo
you slide left hand 
around left cheek
incline head
so that hand
appears to be preventing head
from floating off -
restrained, contained:
hand sculpts face
with things once felt
distant memories
childhood toothache.

Contrived thus, at dead centre of frame,
your wedding band sings below its knuckle
to show that you are buckled up tight
against others’ eyes.

But he who slid gold
onto your burning finger has dropped
and is buried now
under some slab of Wales
which may explain the delicate shade of grey
your eyes reflect.

What wild Welsh walks
were taken by you two
after sleepy morning sex?
His gentle genitals fit so snug.
You slipped like rain around each other’s necks;
fed one upon the other’s subtle breath;
raked nails on backs;
tattooed your bloody yearnings
into each other’s skins;
kept each other’s words
as earrings.

But against this solid, black ground -
your parked left elbow
pinning down
some imaginary table
out of frame -
you lean gamely forward,
and are snapped

never to truly breathe again.