SELECTED POEMS

Here are a few of my poems taken from my two collections.

HOT OFF THE PRESS

 

A celeb was seen in a too-high skirt –
it made the front page of the news.
Another was found too-high in the dirt –
and dead, some said, paying his dues.

A minister sent rude texts to a girl –
the headlines exploded with glee.
Sordid details that’ll make your toes curl –
it involves his neighbour, you see.

Also, pictures of giraffes giving birth –
these things are what matter today;
with ten easy steps to decrease your girth –
and five to make your lover stay.

There are football results to shout about –
We’ll Twitter and update you soon.
OMG! This morning two yolks came out –
when I cracked an egg with a spoon.

Across the ocean in Afghanistan
two children were shot in the face.
It’s a war waged by democratic lands
using technology and space.

Collateral damage, an unwritten report:
innocent lives unworthy of even ink, gone;
smothered by noisy indifference

 – news and sport –

silenced savagely by those droning on and on.

From: 'Window Spit'

DARK MATTER

 

How to see the light
when the darkness is so bright?

The killer whale plays with its prey;
with bleeding eyes, the seal spies
the glare of endless sky
before plunging into familiar inevitability.

The killer laughs at the praying priest;
proclaims god's greatness
as his victim bleeds, sees infinite grace
in the dark space behind his eyes.

The controller of the drone cracks a killer joke about ants;
high-fives his mates as the blinding flash
incinerates children liberated from the shade of the target's lair.

Half a world away, a teacher shakes his head and smiles,
red-circling all the spelling mistakes
in a student's poem about the importance of faith.

From 'Window Spit'

PARTY

 

I don't get asked out much these days -
which is why even I
am surprised I'm here.

I have probably said no too often before.

I wonder (briefly)
if they think I am rude,
choosing to unwittingly ignore
invitations to move to music,
or chat with some bore
in a cluttered kitchen

(which despite my unsolicited efforts,
will still be a mission to clean
when the guests have gone).

They don't get that I prefer
dancing silently
to a quieter noise.

The monkey holds the magnets,
and, letting go,
delights in the soft
clink
of attraction.

Bemused that a gentle pinch
is enough to separate
the bewildering bond,
his fingers part,
his brow question marks
as the metals embrace without his doing -
like a baby rushing unquestioningly
back into the arms of his mother.

This brings him joy.

Curiosity - what else? -
makes him wonder
what will happen if
the polarity of one is reversed ...
and, after some trial,
his delight turns to satisfaction
when, with a gentle prod,
he can use one
to make the other move
away without touching -
the repulsion of prey sensing
the predator's pounce.

This almost
irresistible inevitability
captivates him:
a fascinating frisson,
a terrible attraction -

like a child whose Lego creation
creates itself when he lets go
of the blueprint in his mind.

"You're very quiet tonight.
What's on your mind?"

"Magnets," I reply,
moving to the balcony
to play with the monkeys
alone in the trees.

From: 'Window Spit'

STILL WATERS

 

I overhear him say there is something about nothing

that you have that appeals to him:

nothing vicious, nothing premeditated,

nothing sodden, nothing outstanding.

 

Although his peers regard you as something

of a blank canvas onto which innuendo

should be smeared, he finds your nothingness to be

refreshingly deep, like those dark lakes you get in the caves

 

that he sees on the TV. “Then you must be

diving for treasure,” this with a confident nod

as they belly flop on the surface of his analogy.

“Diving for youthful treasures in caves

 

of mid-life mystery!” How gleefully they jeer

- you see them too. “Full of nothing don’t mean they’re

deep honey.” You can imagine the tiara wobbling on a nest

of imitation fruit – but they don’t know – they so don’t know.

 

I watch him, when the gaggle goes elsewhere to feed,

lost in you, and you, aware that you’re being watched,

but unsure how to behave, continuing without irony,

grinning the knowing smile of the intimate, catch his eye,

 

while I, this invisible narrator, take this all in. It’ll never last,

you know, and we all know you do, as does he –

and they’re right about your insubstantiality, but what they will

never know, those powder-puff queens, drying their knickers

 

by the fireside glow of gossip, and what I eventually see,

but can only explain through analogy or metaphor,

is how pleasurable losing oneself can be –

like a child splashing in waves; like a diver in a cave for whom

 

being wrapped in silence is reward enough.

You’ll go home together, again, with all that that implies,

and I’ll leave The Cavern with my observations, my lies,

my desires to skinny-dip in your lake-like loveliness,

craving your nothingness over the emptiness of home.

From: 'Advancing Backwards'

WHAT JOB THE POET?

 

How can I possibly know what you're going through?
I've never felt the utter terror common for you,

never felt the sheer hopelessness that can accrue
when the world's indifference cuts sharply into view:

the angry hurl of mortar, the cruel collapse of clay,
the screams, the sirens, the anguish of dismay;

brick-bruised, suffocating dust,
the flames that burn beneath a broken crust;

splattered blood drying on stone -
no, I can never claim to have known

this reality.

Neither have I felt the sun-scorched hell
of sun-dried veins torn from the skull,

and sand-papered tongue in bloated cheek
too dry to cry, too parched to speak -

no, these sensations are foreign to me.

Nor can I know what a dying man will see


as he is hurled face-first into mortality,

as he drops and swirls in the frozen abyss -


no, not yet, not yet, do I know of this.

So what job, then, the poet, and the painter too,


the writer, sculptor and musician who

find it impossible to sit idly by


when the wells of empathy have run dry?

From: 'Window Spit'

I NEED TO KNOW

 

So you aren’t a real poet?

No. I just take words and kick them at imaginary goalposts spray-painted against the rough brickwork of my memory,
like a poor kid with dirty feet and a squalid imagination
penalty kicking at the noise of jumbled graffiti
mindlessly messing about in a
concrete makeshift playground.

So your words aren’t poetry?

No, my words are vomit that I smear with newspaper
to make patterns to delight the squeamish,
and as the rains of some other experience
shove them towards the drains,
the implications of change
become something
to momentarily consider.

So this isn’t a poem?

No, this is exactly as much of a poem as the dirty
shark-shaped cloud is a real fish that you catch
with a broken umbrella in the shade of a
boring summer’s haze. I am glad I
could console you with the
quiet certainty
of my dirty
lies.

So you aren’t real?

Yes.

From: 'Window Spit'

DREAM BOY

 

The so-called straight boy vomits

his story over free drinks while

sympathetic ears grope for his crotch.

He knows the story by heart.

It’s a sordid tale of suppressed love

and sad disguises. Their been-there T-shirts

glow in ultra violet lies

and their eyes

burn with nostalgia and regret

- like sad mothers’ eyes.

 

He likes, afterwards, when snogging

in the darkness

to grope in their pockets

for the small change and change

into the child

they’d all like to be,

the one he could never become.

From: 'Advancing Backwards'

FIGS

 

Remember when, you probably won’t –

not that it’s too long ago,

that funny sunny faraway day

when things were just perfect and everything smelled of

cheap after-shave?

You probably don’t –

we shared rude jokes,

mine, silly; yours, needing to be explained.

 

And when it rained, remember that? Remember

the spit of summer showers - the monkey’s wedding,

you said, that’s what they call it, ‘cos it happens at the same time,

like our getting a hiding after stealing –

was it figs? – you know I think it was, figs,

there’s a funny word,

like friend. Figs – and God it hurt,

that hiding,

that beating for telling others I saw you cry.

Although I never said a word about the wet pants, I swear.

 

And remember when we went off to university?

You grew up so fast. But you still told me things,

like why God doesn’t exist, and why, when things go wrong,

there’s usually someone to blame, like the government.

And remember when they locked you up? When you

carried that rude banner protesting about

something I can’t remember.

And all because you were bunking off lectures.

I can’t forget

that it was me you called instead of your folks.

 

Remember, nah – I know there’s no point,

I was your best man at both your weddings,

and I was really happy for you, twice.

 

And remember when I told you about my boyfriend James,

remember that day? When it rained while the sun shone,

when you nodded  while I went on and on,

like you probably do now about your grandchildren.

 

Who can remember?

There’s nowt as queer as folk.

 

Yet, I cannot believe that you have forgotten

the very last day that we ever spoke.

From: 'Advancing Backwards'