Every time I swing on my old leather jacket
and leave my dirty, dusty, rough, and battered,
beautiful, comfortable, warm little house
I hope I’ll see you round about
in your pretty dresses, gym gear,
or old jeans and raincoat,
and I hope your bright eyes
and trembling smile, your neat hair,
your strong arms, your broken heart,
your words and wisdom will open wide,
hold me, take me, and gently drag me
somewhere deep, untouched, and distant
where together we can release, softly sink into
and silence – not suffocate or subdue –
the wild, wild, wild, wild, wild wildness.
So, I always carry a scrap of white paper,
neatly folded and tucked into my tiny, empty wallet
with my name and number scrawled upon it;
just in case I get the chance to give it to you.
I wanna be that thing you do
when you’ve nothing else to do.
The long walks you take around town.
The favourite book you slowly read
while sitting in the café.
The endless worlds you imagine.
I wanna be where you go
when you’re lost or alone
amidst your twists and turns.
The hills you climb. The woods you roam.
The parks where you laze.
The waters you swim.
I wanna be those sacred moments
in between the vision and ambition.
The baths you take.
The soothing drinks you sip.
The yummy treats you nibble.
The secret prayers you make.
I wanna be the simple nourishment
that eventually becomes
your quiet passion.
The memories you keep in your heart.
The charity work you always mean to start.
I wanna be the place you come to rest,
where you realise
you’ve always felt the best.
The stones you throw at other stones
when sitting on the beach.
The animals you love unconditionally.
I wanna be the one with whom you share
the glorious nothing we are left with
when we understand that everything is bare.
That magpie out in the garden there,
he’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
He’d kill you. You know that, right?
He’d peck out your eyes,
rip open your belly with his talons,
and dive bomb you to obliteration.
You know that, right?
He’s every bit as strong and fast and sharp as you,
my pretty little kitty.
You wouldn’t stand a chance.
But he’ll always keep his distance,
and he will never start anything with you.
So, pay attention to his warning clicks and whistles,
to the cracking whacking of his black beak,
and be a sensible little kitty, yeah.
Stay well away.
Because he’ll be sure to end you
if you start on him,
even if it ends him too.
Chatter from a distance if you must,
Hiss and scream behind his back if you like.
Stretch and flex those fearsome claws.
Scratch and bite the fence.
Bare your teeth.
Raise your haunches.
Stare him down.
But never make a move on him.
He’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
You wouldn’t stand a chance, little kitty.
Just leave him be.
Every day you are the only finch
who visits the bird table at my feet.
All the rest of them stay on the feeders
up at the top of the garden.
If I move while you eat, even just a little bit,
I see your tiny body tense
ready to jump/fly off. But you don’t.
You fix an eye my way and
I slowly nod or blink.
Then you carry on with your quiet feast.
How brave you are, I think.
Occasionally you do go to join them
up at the top of the garden.
But I see it’s always a struggle for you,
little one. I watch you take your time, carefully
choosing your approach. Hopping slow and dodging,
I see you take the smallest space at the feeder.
I notice how you glance around at them all,
like they’re strangers.
And I see them turn their tails, edge away,
raise their wings and peck at you
till you leave their group and swoop straight back
to the bird table at my feet. I see it all.
Cut out. Nowhere else to turn.
I see you trying to get back in,
again and again and again.
How brave you are, I think.
Water brings nourishment to all life.
Water flows freely and moves willingly
with the changing world around it,
humbly finding its own way
to settle at the lowest point.
Water will bond with everything it meets.
Under extreme pressure or heat water quietly rises
up to the heavens to drift by above everything,
falling back to earth when it is ready.
In the unbearable cold, water stands firm
waiting for warmth to return.
When there seems like there is nowhere for water to go,
when there are massive blockages
and immovable barriers wherever it turns,
water waits patiently - gathering, building,
swelling - until it bursts out or floods over;
or it seeps secretly below,
tripping lightly through the underworld
before it springs up again elsewhere
fresh, bright and clear.
And when it finds itself unleashed -
rolling wind whipped crashing
dancing wild tumbling beautiful -
water can wear down anything.
It is the weirdest liquid in the world.
It breaks all the rules.
Consistent & variable, simple &
unfathomable, gentle & powerful,
clear & dark, vital & deadly.
Neutral, balanced, pure - and corrosive.
Never reducing or increasing,
only changing state.
Water will fit in anywhere
but will never be constrained.
Maybe you can help all around you remain mindful,
while keeping yourself mindful also;
Maybe you can trust all beings and yourself,
and help all beings build trust together too;
Maybe you have patience and integrity,
and lead with love, compassion and honesty;
Maybe your soft self-confidence
sets an example for all to follow;
Maybe you have vision imagination ideas creativity;
Maybe you are incisive, objective and rational;
Maybe you thrive in both fact and fantasy,
and you know we can’t lose if we aren’t trying to win;
Maybe you can learn The Truth from all perspectives
and still remember that it is never absolute,
or smelt your bias and pride in the furnace of hell
to forge your tools for a humble life;
Maybe you passionately defend what you love
but would happily discard or lose it all
to save one being or the whole world,
and you would persuade others to do the same;
Maybe you have such good mental and physical health
that you are secure, resilient and content,
you are able to continue when you need to,
and you can guide others when they need you to;
Maybe you commune with all beings on their level,
while staying true to your identity;
Maybe self-awareness balances your responses;
Maybe all beings are equal in your thoughts and deeds.
And maybe, like me,
you sometimes do some of this
you try to do more) —
but if you can calmly exist in just this moment
and know for sure you’re doing your best,
you’re an asset to everything in this world my friend
and don’t you ever think you’re anything less.
I have always thought that If, by Rudyard Kipling is stiff-upper-lippingly unforgiving, so I thought I’d give it a re-write.
You have permission to rest.
You do not need to change.
You are perfect as you are.
There is nothing else you need.
You have permission to take it easy
or do lots and lots and lots and lots.
To thrive in comfort and relaxation,
or in wild dance and song.
You have permission to know
disorder and inconsistency
are the free expressions
of natural beauty, and love it all
just as it is.
You do not need to grow
beyond your comfort zone,
and you do not need to heal.
You are wonderful as you are.
You have permission to thrive out loud
or to disappear.
You have permission to receive love,
simply because you're here.
There is nothing more you need.
You have permission just to be.
To be completely free.
Right here, in The NoW, with me.
I used to come here
or here abouts
and just over there
just in case…
I still come here
but not quite as much
and when I do
it’s despite the fact…
(it’s in fear of the fact…
it’s trying to ignore the fact…
it’s accepting the fact…
yeh, ok, perhaps it is still hoping…)
…I might cross paths
- it can all happen
with us - with you.
She cannot bare to tell me
so instead she has me feel
the pain she hides inside.
I send her my heart
when she asks me to.
I cry her tears so she can survive
every darkness she faces.
She likes to feel that we are free
but she calls to me
– tugs and pulls at me from afar –
when she needs me.
And that’s all she ever asks.
Strength if she has none.
And in return? Nothing
but the knowledge
that she knows,
we know –
we can never be apart.
Sorrow lands quietly
on the edge of my path.
He is an old bird.
His smooth blacks, frayed
and cracked by the pull of earth and time.
His pure whites, grey-yellowed
by damp winds and harsh light.
His eyes shift everywhere
but where he's going.
His splintered talons
and chipped beak
set about the hard ground
over and over.
He is an old bird.
He is alone.
I stop and turn,
and slowly stoop
to connect with eye contact.
Sorrow hops away.
Not like those tiny birds.
Frantic, sudden clouds of fear.
Winging it from anything that looms near.
To the rooftops and lamppost tops,
and the high wires spun between,
to Twitter and preen in disarray.
Sorrow just hops away.
No further than two arms’ length,
to where he knows he could escape.
Stands still, cocks his head,
shakes out his wings and tail a bit,
and looks right back at me -
while, for a moment, I reflect
on our similarities.
He is an old bird.
He is alone.
He is unafraid.
Sorrow seems happy
to watch me walk away.
Last year I lay here wondering
how to move with the water cooling,
cooling, cooled around me; staring, staring,
staring at those curling, curling twists and turns
set in the windowpane. There for vanity,
to hinder prying eyes. Yet still, glaring down at me,
an immutable relief of Hell. Tortured spectres
and aching faces caught in their deepest gloom.
(Munch, Dali and Caravaggio were in the room!)
Today, as I got out before the water chilled me
through and through, I glimpsed a view
of those same swirls. Softer now. A happy cat.
Some smiling eyes with lips unfurled up to the skies.
A candle like a calligraphed I
ignited by the sun outside, its windless flame
sweeping full and high. The bathroom window
never, never changes. As must I.
Colours with proximities
phase in and out of each other
in the right and wrong light.
I enjoy sunsets for myself.
People talk of peaches and deep reds,
of purples and greens sometimes.
I only see beauty I cannot name.
A love I love without knowing it.
Silence I can ask no truth of.
Uhtil the twilight rubs the horizon away,
right down to the blacks and blues,
and every grey
- where we all become the same.
The dark bird caws an aching creak, jarring
high in the branches of my twisted hazel.
Light drips thickly - like warm blood or hot metal -
from the anvil angles of its beak, cuts short
breeze, divides still water, and settles
deep in the silence of the little pond beneath.
It is not the tawdry light of the mind,
where still limbs, still torso, still breath pull close -
become justified - where truth is vulnerable to age.
Nor is it the light of secret gardens, of mists
unsettling and godless clarity eclipsing everything.
An illusive bat mapping shady new worlds
by shriek and wail. The old owl’s careful murders.
These fears swoop in the cool of night.
But this raven comes with the light. Hopping and strutting.
Gently tip tap tapping. Its black glint encumbering
ornamental cherry trees, beech and oaks with ease.
And it brings the white-hot light of fear. The clarity of danger.
The fat weight of doubt that lingers near.
The crack in peace. The spark of both death and change.
I need to feel the wind sometimes.
How it could uproot me,
and splinter me,
disperse me, shape me, slowly
wear me down or take me.
A breeze is never enough.
I need to be reminded.
I need to feel how things are sculpted.
I need to touch it to believe it.
To run my fingertips along edges
and press or slap my palm on surfaces.
To know the form and how it works the light.
A look is never enough.
We need to be connected.
We need to feel each other.
Hefty, ‘spansive, heavens-shifter
your form is graceful white,
sweeping lines seamless in flight,
clumsy touchdown to easy drifter,
slender throat bowing lofty head.
Majestic bird ringed for royalty
noted for honour and loyalty
sifting, panhandling, for sacrificial bread.
Strategically you advance ashore
steadily with superior aggressive poise
and vicious guttural white noise
arching those two shattering lores;
rearguards of your tiny vision
and weakling legs. But bolder feet
stand and step up, and you retreat.
Your raid humbled to recision.
Let the sun’s rule smelt you.
Let the mind and the stomach pulse,
swallow, strip each other whole.
Let the rain’s rhythm lead you.
Let all the fetters – a joke of empty,
empty suspicion – fall brittle,
ruined by the heat of your heart.
Let the wind-rage lift you.
There is no other moment to
let this instinct of freedom
vindicate your twitching muscles.
Relinquish to the surge,
swell, give over, give in, fall
for the drip, drip, dri
She is dressed for another time.
For black and white. Clear and bright.
Unlike my chipped tea mug cupped roughly
in one hand or the other, her jaw rests gently
in both her palms - Hepburn. Briefly,
her spine straightens and slim forearms press together.
Corinthian Columns stood quiet
beneath the soft scroll of her open hands.
And then her fingertips – unfurled leaves
offering up her wide eyes and painted lips –
twitch. She breaks the pose, sips her drink,
and starts to pencil sketch. Naturally, quietly,
all the while she chats about beauty with her friends.
Curious peacocks. Vivid hydrangeas.
Tiny daisies. Prints on vintage dresses.
You know I remember still
the Lonely Tree you took me to see,
but the fatigue from climbing its hill
I note much more from the day.
so proud of its isolation,
in some romantic kind of way;
how it was
poised so calmly above everything.
But I don’t remember you and me.
I don’t remember if I was really
all that exhausting and defiant,
if I raised your good nature unfairly,
or if that meant I was undermining you
You were always so easy to get along with,
so strong and true,
and even. To put it another way;
so fucking, goddamned distant.
And when I think of it like that
it is precious easy to recall how
you, I and the afternoon sat
where the Lonely Tree took root.
Spring made me want to write you a poem
that tries to suggest you’re pretty like a flower.
But I can’t compare you to their beauty
and I won’t exhaust my precious hours
picking posies of poor imitation.
Their gentle, little, wide-open petals
are simply coy, sluttish, snaring submissions;
eager ploys easily overpowered
by my corrosive mind’s recollection
of your gleaming heart and polished mettles.
I’ve been pretending I’m glad
since I turned you/you turned me away.
But if I’m honest I’ve been quite sad
(in a familiar kind of way)
and I’ve blocked it out by asking if you’re okay.
And now we’re acting at being friends again
and I’ve been round all these bends before
and they stopped making sense before,
so I’m sure they’ll be round
to plough at my solid ground - again.
They’ll twist my spine
until its voice can be heard again
and make my ribs crack out
all too similar words again.
Again and again and again, until I remember…
You are the lingering smell around all cesspits,
you are the worst and the best bits of hell.
With your hate twisted face and your rancid grace
you are the rotten part of my heart
- the way gentle things fall apart.
Don’t get this wrong, don’t misunderstand it.
You are the demon brand and I’ve been branded.
And now this poem’s taken your place
because it’s also a fucking disgrace.
But please remember, I’m always around.
I’m a grave with a dream
of my wooden-corseted queen
and her very own burial mound.
D’ya still wanna be friends?
We trickle down the cobbles to the beach and pool around
In the summer, all through the village right down to the sea,
the road is swollen with cars and coaches edging along,
full of fair-weather hikers who prefer the settee and shrug it off
when their 80s slip-ons slip on 80 million years of limestone and chalk.
a rudderless fishing boat while the early evening light reaches out
Some come to imagine the duck pond and rivulet bursting
with meltwater, sculpting the valley, the cove and Stair Hole.
Some come to cheer-on the Castle, Church and B&Bs as they fix
capitalism to the slate and thatch of the place. Others do water sports.
sprinkling strokes of Impressionism over everything; but you
Some buy local crafts, fresh fish, ice cream, fudge, and some go
over Bindon Hill (England’s best butterfly spot) to Worbarrow Bay,
Tyneham (the ghost village where time stopped in 1943) or
the Fossilised Forest below. But most climb west to Durdle Door.
like sequins that cast puddles and straight forward city glitter.
Last month you told me you were going
to get back in touch with him;
the one you wept for while
I didn’t say a thing.
You said it would make you properly happy
to make him want you, just
so you could turn him down
with one flourish of your sharp tongue.
I thought you were wrong
and it was a waste of your time,
so I told you as much.
I don’t think you liked that, but
I can tell you this for sure;
I’d love it if she came back to me.
I really want the opportunity to tell her
I would never do anything again
that could make her want to stay.
That she absolutely, definitely
never really meant anything to me.
Then I’d smile and walk away.
So tell me, have you done it yet?
How did it go? What did you say?
Did it feel good? I really hope so!
And did he care as much as you hoped he would?
I didn’t see her face at first, her wise eyes nor furrowed brow. The grace and glint of knitting needles and brightly painted nails caught my eye.
Headphones in, she focussed in. Each stitch, each click, synced in with rocking-rolling head and shoulders – and not quite whispered lyrics on her lips.
Eyes closed, she knit and knit and knit until her music ended and she took a look. Eyes popped, cheeks puffed, head shook; mistake! But she blew away frustration with a smile and swift fingers tripped over each other to unravel everything.
Then twisting wrist shoved hunting hand through all the stuff stuffed in a bag with Be Creative stitched upon it; un-entwining, dragging forth tiny, shiny, scissors for a hasty snip.
Her headphone wire almost bought it!
But with a smirk and arch of tattooed brow, she dropped the scissors. Then loop-and-knot and she was off again. Deft. She knit and knit and knit and knit and knit and knit and stood. Her stop had crept up on her.
DMs (18 holers with embroidered flowers), navy leggings, orange printed blouse and brown trench coat rushed down the aisle, towards a slouch of stagnant teens engrossed in their smart world.
Eyes down, they liked and shared and commented but wouldn’t budge.
She didn’t tut, excuse herself or unsheathe her pointed elbows - though she could’ve - she just stood, four thin gold chains around her neck, and stood, pumpkin earrings caught in bleach-blonde hair, and stood, bright blue liner round her eyes, resolute, until those youngsters sensed her strength and moved.
Abruptly, with the fret
of animal instinct
blackly bothering its eyes,
sorrow peeled away from joy.
Beaky, monochrome, full of fury.
A crowbar crossed with wings,
swooping over tar, over car,
to engage the lone threat
from a distant murder’s fragment.
Every now and then
(just for her amusement of course)
I jump up, press my flat hand on my bum
and, grimacing daft and OTT
in faux pain and urgency,
“I’ve got to drop it like it’s hot!”
Then I leg it to the toilet for a shit.
The night we met you swept me off my feet,
made me feel so wanted and special.
Why aren’t you romantic anymore?
Some fucking standard bar. Bright lights,shit music. Jeans and shirts, and heelsand mini-skirts. Cheapbourbon on crushed ice in warm glasses.He walks up to her (next). She’s amazing,there’s no one in the whole place like her.Her eyes enticed him. He goes to the gym.She loves her family, he his dog (if he had one).He touches her arm, looks at her tits a lot.They dance. They order shots...a lot.For hours they do their thing lip smackinghips thrusting writhing. He jokes about
pornography. He gets her coat. He knows
the taxi driver so there’s no charge and anything goes.
There’s no time for chat inside her house.
Don’t you remember? We were young
back then. Everything seemed amazing.
Oh, and you were easy too. Weren’t you!
I sit and wait. Taking up space with my cold emptiness.
The universe or a bad memory. You ignore me
most of the time. Preferring her waist-high purity
(sometimes even dipping Yourself in her, a porcelain quickie
for a whore) and his debauched tastes.
When you do finally turn to me
for your relaxation, you wash me out before
you use me. How am I the dirtiest of the three?
You fill me and you fill me, until I almost
overflow. You make me so dam hot I almost
scald you when you drown your lifetime’s weight
within me. The dirt you always accumulate
unintentionally, a roughly soaped slough of skin,
and sometimes your tears are all you bring
to nourish me.
When you are done you groan as you hulk
your lazy, reddened, sweaty bulk out of me,
stand there naked with your back to me, wipe yourself down
and leave me alone to drain myself away
as nothingness sighs into me again.
It was a stony eye, constant in its cry
from pin-point pupil all awry
with dirty, cooked-up, vacant water
that it did apply to its stagnated iris.
Cordoned in its bliss – from brown grass,
thistle, wilting flower in blood
and others up to their necks in mud,
and that cave with its wild stench
of tramps and piss – by naked
geometric tarmac, cracked like my throat.
But now the place has changed
and when I go back I feel dead
strange. I suppose I could complain. I could
hate the care it’s had just because I ache.
Or, again, again, again, I could woefully
lament the loss of half-remembered history.
Even though it’s so much nicer now
than it used to be.
I see it posted – stand up, stand out –
I hear it said – be irresistible –
every-bloody-where, in so many
different ways. Be unique.
Apparently, it’s aspirational –
stand out from the crowd –
it’s wisdom – be irreplaceable –
it gives you something to strive for.
Strive?? Wow! How tiring…
But the words seem so right, right?
Written there in black and white,
or spoken kindly by a friend or mum –
be unique – um;
Like an antique watch you mean?
Or maybe a Van Gogh?
How desolate, how oppressive,
for a human to be so treasured.
Or, when you say “unique”,
is there any chance you mean
the way that each of us is made
different just by being
given different genes, shown
different loves, felt different
circumstance, seen different,
feared different, learned different,
Different, different, different.
Different, not unique.
One is your identity; the other,
it’s nothing new.
When trying to make the ugliest of ugly -
to help identify the evil amongst us - Darwin’s half-cousin*
was surprised to find that a composite of criminals’ faces
created a visage quite attractive, and understood.
Beauty surfaces by removing all the
(ugly) alterations. In faces at least,
beauty is the absence of variation.
Beauty is basic structure, average.
And this is why we must always lie to beauty.
So it doesn’t hang its head, hunch its shoulders,
and drag its feet until it tucks, folds, wears itself away.
Beauty is delicate and rare; it cannot take the truth.
Once, sharp pain and cold shock made me drop my ice-cream and cry for peace in mum's arms like she was some kind of god; which, of course, I now know she is because she said I’d be fine and I was.
Next time it happened I was 20 years old, sat in a sunny garden with my mates. I jumped straight up when it stung me, smashed a glass and sent a chair flying.
"What are you doing, Chris?" (Not, Are you ok? His gods spoke the language of blame.) I didn't answer, I just scowled, darted into the house and ran up to the bathroom as quick as I could. Sting still stuck inside the wound.
I gathered my courage, Tea Tree and tweezers, from places where gods don’t need to exist. I took a deep breath and then; I rubbed and I pressed and I squeezed. Pinching and twisting. Working it out.
I've got to admit there's always some pleasure in that pain where healing begins, but when it came out with a splatter of blood and an audible crunch it hurt more than the Original Sting.
I bit my lip to stifle a scream!
In the quiet moments after the pain subsided, I wiped myself down and licked the fresh mouth-wound clean with my tongue. It throbbed and it stung – like a lie – it tasted vital, earthy and metallic.
Outside, rain had started pounding the earth, begging the gods to never come.
As a beginner, First came first.
A ripe planet plucked
from the Milky Way’s belly.
Then it came to me
as a gasping moon.
Weakened by its dark journey
into my Six Parameters.
Next as inescapable security.
Dragging my tides.
Hung in my beautiful Sky
as maturation. Finally,
then, it arrived as The Third Law.
Insecure – unstable – lust.
A super-massive solar flare
in my solar plexus.
But each in their own way
blew up when I existed
without their quiet galaxies;
leaving empty space
waiting to be over-filled
with ripeness, need,
stability, stormy glory
and every wonderful explosion!
To tell you the truth,
First can only be first
when it is also the last.
When I sing along and get the words wrong
I remember a friend from ages ago.
AC for those of you in the know.
Once, he mis-sung-along and quipped,
quick and confident as you like,
“Jim got it wrong!” (We had The Doors on.)
But he wasn’t always so light and slick.
His slightly pained laugh could chase away jokes,
he played fucking angry guitar, and
one night he took so much LSD
he cried because he’d lost his bottom!
After that though he’d go quiet, often, and
no one knew until the tracks had taken him.
So, when I sing along and get the words wrong,
he still exists. Perhaps. I kind of believe that.
Someone left an empty milk bottle
on the wall outside their house.
It was just like the ones we had when I was ten.
Ridged bottom, thick glass, impossible for me
to smash when filled with frozen milk,
raised letters and a bit of Braille.
I almost took it home.
I kept a few Nice Boxes from last Christmas.
I put them on a shelf above the dining table.
I bet I will just move them round and round
the dusty-greasy tops of the kitchen cupboards,
never using them for anything at all.
I don’t really think I need those boxes
and I’m glad I left that bottle where it stood;
keeping things around just in case is a waste.
My dad used to do the same thing with food –
pots of grease and left-overs moulding in the fridge –
and with people – hanging on till they rotted away –
before he murdered three* men we all loved
and wound up locked up for five thousand days.
*an actual violent murder of his own father, and two metaphorical “murders”: 1. Of him/his person/character (from my PoV) and, 2. Of me (of the person I’d been till then ).
When the wind picks up a swift silent call
carves through the sweeps and deeps, crafting the land
into instruments to sound out its hand,
willing the willing into a response.
The light and the free are quick to be moved.
Dust and debris spin. Water rises up.
The flexible give. And they are first to
settle, unweathered, by the winds resolve.
But the firm and the poised make no reply.
These are The Eternals and they forget
such trifling decays which, even by
the smallest degrees, cast their future’s set.
When the wind lets loose – dark, vast and vicious
– none laid between can halt the revisions.
She keeps her necklaces untidily
in a wooden box not meant for jewellery,
tossed in at the end of each day
one on top of the other and locked away.
Like thoughts that tangle overnight.
When she’s decent she picks one that feels right
to her rummaging fingertips,
her teeth and tongue that tell of plastic,
glass, metal, wood or bone, and
the weighing of her enduring hand.
She's learned all their imperfections
through constant, fiddling exploration
and, as though her touch can talk to yours,
she’ll tell you of her favourite flaws.
Books you read till they fall apart. Peaceful places.
Songs you play to anyone. Those few faces.
The contents of a heart. Her necklaces.