Promenade Lovers

Had this one in hiding for sometime, thought it was worth an airing…

Promenade Lovers

Tight as whelks that suck on rock,
hands locked like limpets,
they stroll in the wet dark
along the promenade.

Sides touching, flank to flank,
breaths flowing as one breath,
hearts berthing together
as their feet fall into step.

Mingling with the merely single
they sprout one umbrella not two,
a jellyfish cast on the seashore,
exotic – red, white and blue.

In the wet and dark they
twine in togetherness;
tenacious as barnacles they cling,
deep in a snug-as-seashells kiss.

This Town

Well, I’ve made it to my poetry blog twice in a month! I’ve started writing a novel, and meanwhile, I want to start getting through my backlog of poems, and publishing them here on the blog. I’ve no idea why I would keep them filed away now, the rainy day of a future publishing contract is as far away as ever. So, in the words of Rod McKuen, I’d rather be a poet read, than one who postures for posterity. I might even get round to writing some new poems soon! Watch this space, and please comment if you like a poem or something about it :)

This poem was written many years ago, in between jobs, one dark (in more ways than one) Friday night. I think it’s safe to say it’s one from my window period :)

This Town.

So cold, the moon wears a scarf
Of cloud, bombazeen in mourning,
Quarter of her gone as if by cancer.

The sky drips spiderthreads, not water
As such, just so much as a lover might give
Of tenderness before a quarrel.

Belisha beacons wink, not for traffic
Or children, just the night – met by silence
And a vigil of criss-crossing darkness.

And such silence, the gleams
Of wet light on pavements, the blood
Of a Friday night, in this town.

It…

‘s been a while :)

Yet again I find myself returning to my poetry blog and another year has passed without updating it. It is not that my life stagnates, it is that so much happens! The last year has been a time of constant re-awakenings, and re-negotiations with life itself. I have completed one year of my journey into becoming a person-centred counsellor, only 2 more to go, 3 if I include the Master’s :) Only recently did the idea of bringing my writing into the therapeutic arena emerge, and only recently was I able to to consider this in a pure sense – not, look at me, see how I write, but “I write rather well, how can I use this therapeutically for myself and others”. I have been on a journey. Scrub that. I have just begun a journey. Not that this post is anything to do with that – I wanted to post something, a poem, and dug through the rather sparse output of the last couple of years. Not the most noble of subjects – I was ill, and wanted to write. I had forgotten totally, that I had written this. Hopefully, I will write more, as it looks likely I may be running a therapeutic writing workshop over the summer :)

It

It grows in me,
symbiotic after a fashion,
shall I watch it,
pretend to accept its presence,
its slick motion through the gut,
its reproductive rumblings
as it appropriates my body for its ends?

It’s a life form, that’s all,
bacteria or virus, I evolved from it,
I share its cells even though I grew
to know a pain it can’t imagine
in its simple divisions and multiplications,
ignorant in its blissful simplicity.

It does not strive, it just is, then is not,
without fuss or ceremony or worry.
It has no face to lose, no memory,
it is just cells, a set of building blocks,
passing on its form, its structure.

Shall I watch it, let it use me up,
accept our symbiosis, its invasion?
It will not let me be, I heave again,
slave to its ignorant, ingenious persistence.

Funeral Poems for My Parents

Been a tough couple of years for me, losing my Dad suddenly then seeing cancer take my mum away. As the literary one of the family it fell to me to read at their funerals, and I couldn’t just pull something from a book, so I wrote my own poems. They were in some ways the hardest poems to write, because as well as expressing my own feelings, I wanted people to understand them and be touched by them as well – and not just “poetry” people, but family, etc. For some reason, as I read the last lines of each poem at these funerals space 18 months apart, I turned towards, and directly addressed the coffin. I realised later it was, in essence, because the poems were a form of last goodbye.

I was not really going to publish them on my poetry blog (which has been neglected of late) but I showed one to somebody and they said other people might appreciate them, as there appear to be stock funeral poems that people always use, and these were a little different, so maybe people might be able to use them in some way.

I don’t know if that’s true, but if you do stumble across these little poems, and feel you could use them for a memorial service, feel free to adapt and use them as you wish.

Sailor. For Dad – 1934-2007

You sailed into this world
Seventy-two years ago,
And your life unfurled
Like the sails of ships
On the seas you loved.
As you journeyed we got to know
You for a while as you slipped
Between the islands of our lives
And stayed a while to laugh and love
In the harbour of our hearts.
But now it’s time to sail again,
To say goodbye, to bid farewell.
As you sail from shore a final time
We’ll keep love warm as you journey on
Until the day we sail ourselves.
Father, husband, granddad, friend,
Sail on, you’re free, sail on.

The Laughing Girl. For Mum – 1934-2009

Where did she go, the laughing girl,
The dancing queen with her cheeky smile,
The bonny lass we loved?

Her voice is quiet, her body still,
She fell asleep and will not wake,
I’ll tell you where she went;

She’s gone to find the laughing boy,
Her flame haired sailor and his smile,
They’re happy now but far, so faraway.

And yet we do not lose them,
They leave behind some essence,
In rush of leaves or swell of sea,

Light of moon or warmth of sun,
Each splash of rain, each waking flower,
And always in our minds and hearts.

You’ll always be here inside us -
And in our hearts you’ll
Be forever dancing, in the stars.

Mum loved to dance, but for the last 2 years of her life she couldn’t even walk.

I hope you’re dancing now, Mum.

Tides

I was struggling for something to post today, as recent times have not been times of any substantial creative output. So I had a dig through some older poems, and thought most of them might need some reworking before posting here!

In any case, I found this one from the mid 1990′s. It’s a love poem of sorts – but a realistic one I feel, containing the nerves and uncertainties that can prelude a relationship – is it the right person, should I take the plunge, what if it all goes wrong? If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that nothing’s permanent – including relationships and feelings within them. Maybe the only “constants” are uncertainty and impermanence – but if that’s the nature of things, then it’s perhaps a natural thing, in balance with the weather, the seasons, the tides….

Tides

Almost close enough, your voice,
Like the stretch of sea that touches shore
To dwindle and fade to perspective.

Gulls would know in their squawking ignorance
That tide always returns to sand -
To roar and soak and take residence;

Why do I stand here, a wise man with net in hand,
Doubting the inevitable cycle of waters,
Doubting nature – if only because I must be a man,

Unaware of my hand in front of my eyes,
Unsure of the imprint you make in my mind when
Rockpool creatures in their dark would know it?

Then your voice like a bottled message
Rescues me from silence, hits shore, tells me
That tides, low or high, are planned, are perfect.

Downpour

I’ve been noticing that now this poetry blog of mine has been around for a while, it appears to be established a little in the search engines, and is getting a fair number of daily visitors. This is all I ever wanted – I struggled for about ten years sending off poems, only to (apart from the 2% of acceptances) get rude rejection slips or hints to the effect my poetry wasn’t up to any kind of standard. So I struggled, and even with the acceptances, I would probably have managed a readership in the ten’s, rather than hundreds… Now I’m into the hundreds daily, so that’s pretty edifying – I just hope most of you stick around to read the poems when you get here ;-) In any case, to receive a comment like I did the other day, appreciating the words, and indeed offering a kind of artistic exchange, was a pretty amazing thing to happen, as I think my poems speak for every man and woman – it’s all about communication and expression, so I hope people appreciate the work.

Anyway, realised I’ve been neglecting the blog lately (circumstances are hard, but that’s no excuse) – so even while I may be going through a dry period writing-wise, I do have many poems that I feel deserve to be read. So here goes with a poem from a period that was very creative for me, back in the late 90′s/early 2000′s! The weather had been very hot, and I had been drinking a good deal – when suddenly the weather broke, thunder began to rumble, and the heavens opened, and I couldn’t resist just going out in the yard to let the water flow down and experience it fully – after which I wrote Downpour.

Downpour

Furnace of rain
On roof, hoofbeats
At window, tongue
Of storm drooling:
Just glass and brick
To keep me from the thrum
Of automatic gunfire.

It is this white chaos,
Tracer of rain in night,
Makes me stand outside
And taste the flak
Of clouds, dumdum
Bullets smacking
At the heart of land.

It will not stop.
It will not stop like
My hand that spars
With words in the flurry
Of the pen and page.
It will not stop;
But my flashing hand
Assigns a state of pause:
There, words like rain
Going out to sea,
Falling away like a lover,
Bequeathing a dry silence.

Darkfall

As the clocks go back, the nights draw in, fireworks fill the air, Christmas decorations threaten, and the air gets colder, I thought it was appropriate to bring this poem to a wider audience. It has gone down well at readings in the past, I only hope it goes down well at my new Writers’ group tonight, as I have decided to take it along. Normally I would take a recent poem, but I think the season demands another airing!

Darkfall

Almost November. Someone pulls
A drawstring, tightens sky,
Murk seeps into streets
With a smell of smoke as crisp as leaves;
Stars start to look colder.

The country is at war:
Flak every night, boom of munitions,
Enemies sizzle in midair.
Cars are targeted as fallout and shrapnel
Keep the wise within.

Rain offers an uneasy ceasefire,
Killing off squibs and forcing retreat.
Desire smoulders in front of TV sets,
Interrupted by a sinister knock -
Not witches, these days, but killers.

Without this darkening, pausing
Of the world, we could never
Learn to treasure summer,
Not appreciate the skin of safety
Our windows, walls and doors provide.

Just two months, then it’s Christmas.
Afterwards, days will grow healthy again.
Today it was twilight at 5pm.
In this dark, just walking home is fear,
And fear is every passing stranger.

Alcohol

Alcohol has played a big part in my life – sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. All too often negatively! For a long time I spent life in a kind of Dylan Thomas haze of self destruction. The killing factor for me is that I’m a bit of a control freak, or at least I like to be control, and my problem is that my physical tolerance is far greater than my mental tolerance. So I can down a bottle of bourbon, still walk around and appear fairly sober – but inside my brain and my mind are totally gone. Completely. The amount of blackouts is frightening (and the worst thing is, I go walkies on the internet and post on forums, and it all appears perfectly rational at the time, then I get up and can’t even remember what I posted, and most of the time it’s drivel. Even when it still makes sense, I still shudder at it because I don’t remember posting it… And this wet stuff that sends you insane is legal and sponsors sports events, while other stuff, that doesn’t do half this, well it’s illegal. Anyway, I gave up for 6 months at a time in recent years, then get curious. At first the drinking is OK – but very soon the blackouts are back, the dread is back, the “wtf did I do last night?” feeling is back. I wrote this poem years ago – should have learned my lesson then. This is a reminder to myself that alcohol and me should not be put together – too volatile a reaction, that’s all :(

Alcohol

Deeper than a lover’s kiss,
Fire-belly dragon breathing backwards,
Spreads its galaxy of warmth
Through twists of veins
To starburst eyes.

Lights up the void,
Sprouts craters on the moon of mind,
Licks at wounds
The day leaves like sparkles
Scattered on a sea of skin.

Quilts guilt like cloud on sky,
Letting memories go like birds,
Oils the gabbling tongue
In dry-iced, cocktail-hour
Hiatus of thought.

Burns at heart like coal,
Now black, now red, and beating
Its SOS: signalling
Blood-sack filled with fumes
And the clot of knowing.

This is
The crucifixion in amber,
The kamikaze into darkfall,
The abused and abuser,
The wasp-in-a-jamjar desperation.

And over and over and over again,
Rising into spikes of light,
The cat-got-your-tongue-and-killed-it,
Flailing, threshing, fretful,
Never-again morning.

Pilgrim

Another travelling poem, written when I was actually travelling – physically, that is. I’ve passed through a lot of stations since I wrote this, physically and philosophically, but I sometimes think this pilgrimage will only end when the engine stops.

Pilgrim

Day snakes
Along miles of track,
Trees either side sprint
Into distance,
The engine pulls me with its drone
To a place I might connect with.
It is an arrow
Splitting through landscape,
Tunnelling the innards of hills
Digesting the day into darkness.

What am I,
Hurtling towards
An unwritten future?
The hands have scraped
Past the hour
A million times before
But never like this,
Slowly, cautiously,
Their quartz world
Unaware of me or distance.

What will I do?
Close my eyes and hope
The transition will be instant?
Lose faith like a dying rocket
Scratching at the sky?
Clutter my tongue
With pregnant narrative?
I move, shrill as a rising note.
Another station gone,
Another to arrive at.

Itinerant

This is from when I was travelling back and forth between home and and my University town, must be about 15 years ago now (how time creeps on). Not a major poem, I was just feeling miserable today, thought it could be worse and dug this poem out.

Hopefully, at the rate I update this poetry blog, I will have started writing again by the time I exhaust my back catalog of poems. For anyone interested, I’m finding it hard to even contemplate sitting down to write. I think the spark may be gone, but I’ll keep trying, and in the meantime I do have all these odd little poems I wrote back in the days when I could string a sentence together…

Itinerant

A tear spoke in his eye
As he approached,
As transient as the travellers
Waiting for connections
But permanent here.
Not much to ask for,
A cigarette, a light,
But wanting too much more.
“Too old for this,” he said,
To sleep on the streets,
His only hope the hope
Of not collapsing
Today or tomorrow.

A tear scribbled down his cheek
As he showed me his hands,
Tattooed when things were different maybe,
Love on the right,
Hate on the left,
His life tossed between the two,
And the travellers
Complaining about the delay
Indifferent to either.

Tableau

This was written during what friends have been calling my “window period”, when I would write lots of poems from the perspective of looking through a window. This one was conceived while looking out of a window on the 4th floor of Manchester Central Reference library, it was raining, people were going about their business. It struck me as some kind of play or movie I was observing from a detached perspective…

Tableau

Faces. Pictures. Lines of light
In downpour whipping
Up emotion, splash of feet

Departing to warmth, to love;
Flume of traffic, spark of tyre
On surface, grind on grind

Of movement, drill of cogs.
Just these, within this window
Frame, then blink, snap,

Splice to some new, not entirely
Unconnected scene. But undirected,
Just the ad lib of players

In perpetual rehearsal, reacting
To reactions, flow on flow
Of drama without beginning

Or denouement. Then cut, dismiss,
Leave just this littered
Screen of pavements,

Specks on empty frames,
Over and over flap of reel at end,
The incomplete flicker of rain.

Darkest Before Dawn

This is from January 1997. A poem about walking in the dark, colliding with the dawn…

Darkest Before Dawn

Movement, just there, branch
Like a windscreen wiper
Over moon. Ineffective.
Then stillness till the screech
Of car beyond
Reminds me of houses
And all that goes with them.

Pennines, slumbering jurassics,
Backdrop to the carnival
Of streetlights
Pitched along
The midway of the valley.
If only I were out there,
Looking back at where I am!

How we hold the past
Like a scrapbook, defacing
The future with memories!
My feet paused here last summer
And a snowfall later
The star-and-shadow sky
Looks much the same.

And however far my feet might
Take me, the return
Will be just memory in reverse;
Even though my hand
Can blot a constellation
It is only for my eyes -
I cannot halt the time

Or change the motion of the skies.
If only it would all stay still,
These moments might collect
Like evidence, a photofit of being.
Too soon, the sun, edge
Rising to slice at sky, opening
The wrists of morning.

Agoraphobic

I wrote this about a girl I once knew. She was agoraphobic. I tried to imagine what it was like and this poem was the result! An illustrated version of this poem first appeared in FLUX magazine, an arts and culture magazine I think is still going and on sale in the newsagents of Manchester :)

Agoraphobic

The world is too vast today,
Tops of buildings
No nearer than nebulae
And dizzy as stars.
How you must envy the girl
Who does not fear the sky,
The clouds her wig
In procession of pleasure,
Intimate with blue.

Love is always too far,
Distant as colour from monochrome,
Perfect as the world that waits
To suck and spread you out.
How you must envy the man
Who sits and shivers
In his dark, hating the walls
That squeeze out atmosphere,
Unafraid of openness.

Your view is cinemascope,
Lens at every angle,
Surrounded by voices
That hush and shush you
As eyes hammer nails into flesh;
Light drags you this way and that,
Kissing you and kissing you,
Greedy as a vacuum
And as merciless.

No choice but to ripple inward,
Hit the deck as life snipes,
Crawl from the crowd
And find some womb to hide you.
How you must envy the walking
Who do not suffer hurt from space,
Who do not need to fear,
Who do not feel the stretch of emptiness.

Interregnum

It’s the middle of the night, and I remember during long periods when I was unemployed and frustrated, I would emulate Marcel Proust by maintaining a nocturnal existence. I’ve always been of a nocturnal bent, really – I love the interesting pause in the world when everyone else (at least locally!) is asleep, and I am free to wander in midnight’s kingdom with my thoughts and dreams. Here I am in the middle of the night again, I’ve been working on my business all day, it’s become really late, and I’m getting that middle of the night melancholy feeling. So I thought I’d dig out this strange little poem which dates from around 1997 or 1998. I haven’t written any new poems yet. Maybe I will. Maybe I need the catharsis that comes from shedding the old poems, like shedding a skin, getting rid of them in a sense, moving them from the hidden confines of my hard drive…

Interregnum

Old sorrows in the night,
Rain like a galaxy at the window
Under streetlight, web of darkling
Fantasies my cold soul,
In its madness, spins.

The sky is my fretboard:
A million notes I play like chaos,
A thousand twangling nothings
That stir the heart like pain
And overture the morning.

This stillness, its grief:
The quiet mind filled
With the prophecy
Of dawn seeping upwards
Like a lapping tide.

And there, that edge of sun
Like a rough blade
Hacking at the wrists of clouds,
Lets out its slick of red
Spraying light like an artery.

New sorrows start the day:
Rain like a bloodstain at the window.
Under the chill sun, meanings twitch
At curtains, birds gather:
Familiars, hieroglyphs, portents.

Sleepless in Surbiton

I deliberately didn’t post anything on Valentine’s Day. It would have been far too distasteful to dig out a love poem and post it just because a particular day demanded it. Last post was a simple love poem, this one is about something more specific. Just one of those nights with an epiphany, an awakening of sorts. And the starfish, sometimes, still lingers…

Sleepless in Surbiton

Shadows patrol the ceiling like the bulks of boats
As fish might see them from their dark.

You float beside me, stirring now and then
Like a buoy that signals the edge of deep water.

Rest won’t come to me, maybe because
I haven’t learned how to dream here yet,

Or because, close to your seaweed hair, I know
That this last sinking is all I will have left of you.

Our bodies turn and touch, two pebbles
Stirred by the churn of water, snatching breath.

If you wake I cannot tell, can only sense
The flutter of your heart, frantic as oxygen escaping.

And then you turn away with your deepening secrets,
And I look at you, lying like a metaphor

Of sand presenting itself to the ocean, and outside
Blackbirds signal dawn like gulls on a dreary spit.

And I slip from your side like a tide going out,
Leave in those rockpool eyes, this starfish of my heart.

Letter in February

A simple little poem, probably best consigned to the poetic dustbin, but since it’s 12 months before it would be appropriate to publish it again, I thought I might as well include this very short old poem from my student days (we’re talking about February 1990 here!). I am still working up to actually starting writing again, any new poems will be published under the poems 2006 category. I really hope I can start producing some high quality poetry again (assuming I ever did before!)

Letter in February

She likes the snow. I am gladdened
By the warmth it gives her, the little
White flames of beauty clinging to her hair.
She is mystery, and comes from
The home of the snow. The flakes are
Her nostalgia, an intricacy of memories.
The snow is my love, irrevocably drifting.

Office Hours

I wrote this poem when I was supposed to be working. As the title suggests, I was in an office at the time. It’s quite a sad and desperate piece, but then the futility of humdrum daily life can often be quite sad and desperate. I’ve been very busy lately running the business that is supposed to give me more time to write, but this poetry blog will get there. I already changed the name, and put it in my own name. There’s ego for you. But I think putting my name to the work is a fair exchange for sharing them with the world for free :) I do write more cheerful, less serious poems, but I have to admit I do have tendencies towards the melancholy. It’s a habit I’m trying to break, though!

OK then, Office Hours. Dedicated to the millions who look from the window of their office, and dare to question the 9-5 slog…

Office Hours

Sky snares attention,
Roofs lean towards the perpendicular
Of desire, shadows
Serpent in corners,
Billow and writhe
In peristalsis of fire.

Surely some tenderness
Waits in the fingers that press
Hot wax
Into the blindness
My days describe?

Chill teeth
Nibble in the guilt of winter.
I have no bones
For the nipping dog to shake but mine;
My clacking life portrays its end
In the thousand little failures
That the hours cast up.
And I have done little
But bleed since the wound
Of this
Place opened.

Whose hand casts the spell
That diminishes success?

When will love fill this mirror
Where I hang my emptiness?

What future can declare itself
Against this endlessness?

(circa 1992)

Vision

I’m starting with some old stuff. This one’s about thinking and writing, and that’s all I’ll say…

Vision

A footprint on the moon? Yes, a step
In the once-happeningness of pilgrimage;
Then, the furtive overlapping of cloud.

My heart tills an alertness of love,
Setting store for tomorrow’s troubles.
I hunker down by the field of drought

To see what can be kept, what withers.
Seasons choose wetness or dryness
But human frames adapt, improve and swell

The harvest of mere accidents.
Still among scatter-crow panic I drop safe
In a hearth place of anywhere.

This hold of mind. This net of being.
These lines I press and furrow, my smudge
Among the the fingerprints of vision.