The wealth of our princes
in swords bent
and thrown into meres
in the feared wildernesses of their time

when they were deposed by invaders
their leaderless subjects
lived similarly fettered

until liberated by learning
the alchemy of the word
the occasional brilliance of finance
like sunlight in a forest

I break the legs of my poems
to prevent them escaping from me
in my hobbled search for
my private Excalibur



For Fire

A cat hunches under a parked car
screws that don’t turn
don’t want to
the sound of an apple falling
heavier than the object
crashed fox grins at roadside
geese heard overhead but not seen
still on a stepladder

new rain
drum rudiment
inadvertent touching of owl feathers

suggest a jester
I’m buying socks
this is as good as it gets
a punch in the guts to start
doing what I want

hitting a door to give
my left hand a chance
no big deal
it hurts but not for long
and the poor quality door will survive me

don’t treat anger
use it as a tool to shape the days
lifestyle fashioned from vexation
a gift given to you

for bones have their own bones
and everything is a part of something else

the long flat views
we never realised we were so high

the change from one season to the next

from Druidism
to Catholicism
from Protestantism
to Nonconformism
from hunger
to consumerism
from farm
to factory
from community
to individualism
from Welsh
to English

more slavery than at any other time in history
pirates command whole seas
Colonel Gaddafi as Bob Dylan
G.I. Gurdieff in downloaded loads

I was thinking about my mother
how to remember her
how she used to look
smell sound laugh and walk
when we roamed the savannah together
all the things she told me

lost at midnight in the vicinity of villages
with “Moat” in their names
I remain underground
don’t get noticed
don’t meet eyes
my imprint already known

hillocks of washing up
the wrong graveyard
in a never-ending episode of Red Dwarf
Matt’s here with the weather

local produce
she said she’d been waiting
for a tall man to come along
I handed her the milk carton she required
she pushed her trolley away

walking over a footbridge
there’s nowhere else to go
behind a young Indian woman
pushing a push chair with good legs

they wore shorts with tights
and intoxicated me
I wore a jacket with a torn inside pocket
full of a letter from a mental hospital

autumnal arousal
she gets in touch
apology envelopes
a rumoured body
a known feint


(a bedtime story)

he lay unable to sleep
thinking about a hundred things he could now do nothing about
whirring around inside his washing machine skull
as revellers loudly made their way home in the street

he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a good night’s sleep
he wondered how much total darkness
there was in his life in life
his heavy eyes closed and he settled into a half comfortable position

(began to dream of an embrace
a tryst he had imagined many times
this time more real than ever
deliciously feeling limbs surround him
the heat of another body
he inched closer into the cuddle)

a toenail scraped his shin
his fantasy was over
somehow there was someone else in his bed
a shape with an unknown face
who had come to lie beside him
he withdrew his hand from the other’s arm
heard their steady breathing
his own quickening respiration
his body grew cold though the stranger remained warm
cosy in a threatening way
he asked in a weak whisper
“who are you?”
no reply he asked again again no reply
he tried to wrestle free from the hug
but strong fingers gripped his elbows
his feet pinioned by athletic legs

the union of terror lasted until first light
when the intruder vanished in a moment
or so it seemed
he got up cautiously clammy with sweat
the bedroom door was still locked
he nervously searched the wardrobe under the bed behind the curtains
he peered carefully through the window
and saw that nothing was out of place

(unfit Inuit unit intuit into it)

reality TV
an adult adult on the cusp of a cusp
and how long does a long hard look take?

I assert my right to silence
to oddity
to isolation
to think about instantaneous evolution
until it cajoles all other thoughts from my thinking

the trigger-happiness be upon you
the heat and torpor caused by weight gain
the bacon brought home
dropping hot cakes
conventional oven
a butcher’s apron
for a three brain roast

bishop as penis penis as bishop
a word that is unable to give its word
toss but sexy in the modern way
castrated babies dodging dogging sex

where will bonfires reveal themselves
in the coal of the countryside?
the smiles of women on horseback
sunshine on tall brightly painted seaside houses

life is getting some money
spending some money
having pleasant and unpleasant interactions

I conclude that I must now be working
for Goldman Sachs
capitalist punishment
grateful servitude
to a cancerous authority
me too at times a joke
international banking conspiracy
of no specific ethnic origin

sacking me sacking you
handmaiden to a regime
misunderstood mantras repeated

race to the bottom
to impoverishment
as others make a profit out of the gap
between us and them and us
the near-mirage effects of changing the hour

I’m rusting
invaded by a single celled mould
it’s that time of our lives
they are surprised to see me
still amongst the transplanted population

when we were human
we stood with livestock
milked slaughtered and salted our way
through iron ice and snow grass
revered our ever present ancestors
opened our eyes when we looked
at the uninterrupted night sky
the way we weren’t

the syllable factory still in business
see a man about a headstone
and tolerate zero

I need someone not something
not a postcard from a postcard
“wishing you had posted me”

broken vein
haranguing God
dimming down
insects at windows at night
in a dry kind of aquarium

bigger clothes for the expanding universe
the men have the same names
they stopped taking photographs
of their children after the age of ten

gin and bath tonic
what’s “reindeer furniture” in Finno-Ugric?
what do I know?

let everything that moves move me

Plastic Heroism

View all history
the voices tell me
sing to me
member or not

the murder of St. Valentine
the lie of neoliberalism
not my kind of people
barely humanitarian
nominally human

buying clearance items
in rancid opera intervals
what brought us here?

need a new gun amnesty
the dafties
the smokies
the medicinal use of whisky

prescribed medication
prescribed loneliness
planned isolation

aniseed:any seed
the self-inflicted wounds
of the second half of the 20th century
health care and diet conflict

scratch out the words
see what they reveal
what they see

bad weather is coming
anxieties about planned journeys
if we don’t get there
we don’t get there

wait for the snow
wait for the snow to fall
wait for snow to fall on plans

wait for water to freeze
wait for water
water for the wait
water the waiting
await the watering

hold things up to the sun
in winter to dry them
always wanting something to evaporate

I fought with monsters
I fought with my teeth
I fought with uncertainty
I fought with time
all the time

in Guadalajara
Rizla Deutsch
Stone Tony and the others
the hot air balloons
of my way of thinking

where is spring?
show us your spring
notes for a future
the future of notes
the life and aftermath
of gift wrapping
does it boil down to this?

lung versus kidney
cancer versus everything else
pricking oneself lightly
with a French knife
versus not trying

Joseph of Arimathea
earth tremors
encouraged by the nearing end
but the scaffolding is still up

the rock and roll dream
the technology dream
the medical dream
a mental illness epidemic
the pills bonanza
in the streams of unconsciousness
it’s not touching me


a postcard from a lost village
to some Swedes with axes
wish you were here
in these isles
that have become aisles
the great retail swindle
buy your way out of unhappiness
bondage and not belonging

the places I used to work
used to work
never go back
keep facing forward
for fire

a country music funeral
the air always there
always air
hope they don’t tax it
that air

promote sanctity
promote scarcity
promote something special

see the ink run out in a pen
no loyalty anymore
wait like an animal waits
wish I could
de rigeur or an actor
out of context
out of time

wear a head
always wear a head
to bed
wake up with it

modern jazz wolverines
creatures that eat other creatures
passwords for heaven
fall out of love with plastic
something to do before I die


Time, Not Understood

What’s your decade?
no not the current one
but the one that informs your life
the years you can’t leave behind
influencing many of your actions
fashion food and friendships
culture and opinions
stuck in a period of time
in defiance of Greenwich Mean Time

in distant days
I was obliged to accompany
my parents on visits
to family elders
who to me looked and sounded
almost foreign
with ill-grown teeth
swarthy features and slight physiques

in tidy front rooms and kitchens
that had changed little
since the reign of Queen Victoria
a radio used to ooze the show
Sing Something Simple
at a low volume
behind the gossipy mix of two languages

the past still overlaying
a grudgingly accepted and
scarcely comprehended modernity
the late nineteenth century
and the first forty or so years
of the one in which we found ourselves
still discernible in those relatives
who had lived through them

I grew up to prefer other centuries
formerly the fifth
then on to the eleventh
nowadays I hang around
in the early fifteenth century
as often as time allows

the eras slowly catching up with me
as birthdays come and go
and Time marches soundlessly
in Wellington boots in my direction
across a county of
high water table winter fields
of fern and bracken stubble
where sequined waistcoated starlings
forage for what’s left over

(When) We Were

The hunters came from afar

to the vacuum of

scraped and scratched mountains

and scourged and scoured valleys

uninformed but brave

confident and hardy


they would stay

finding something that contented them

where the land ran out

in the north west of the continent

they had crossed as ice mass melted

their skins black against white

the waters gushing

through territories re-emerging

after their long concealment


they built homes

started families

harnessed ploughs

husbanded beasts

worked together

to engineer and erect

monumental structures

sailed the coasts


and sharing products

and ideas


they used whale bone

flint and tusk

to fashion tools and weapons

hunting some creatures to extinction


their shamen helped them

to know how to revere

and commune with their ancestors

the stars

the sun and the moon

thunder and lightning

and the munificence of the fauna

of the ocean without end


in time that sea rose around them

cutting them off from their wider family

leaving them stranded

and forgetful of who they were

where they had come from

prefering to tell a new myth of island isolation

those mothers and fathers of ours

The Ministry of Loss

What lies beneath the surface

below the wake of cheerful pleasure craft

and the hopeful lures of anglers

this privileged day of summer?


the old village now lies silenced

its windowless buildings

have wide open doors

that permit brown trout

to enter and leave

this street of skulls

forgotten in the march of progress

stepped over by big money


eels coil around the rusted railings

that contain the cemetery

the dead sleeping

the disturbed sleep

of new surroundings


the chapel



the new wildlife in its pews

that does not understand


it had gasped its last hosannas

in bubbles of oxygen

that escaped its ancient walls

on the day it succumbed to deluge

the final ministration of loss


pike skulk in the classrooms

of the primary school

silt is forming over the white lines

of its playground

the lilt of lullabies

the echo of children’s boisterous songs

stifled by millions of litres

of industrialised water


the shop had been run by

a man surnamed “Shop”

on its shelves

Great Pond Snails colonise

large glass jars

that used to dispense

sherbet fountains

Parma violets

and pink and white mice


the pigeon holes at the post office

have become the domain

of smooth newts and gudgeon

managing as efficiently in their way

as had the former postmistress

who was nicknamed “Post”

the practical and descriptive

naming conventions of a people

who had loved to describe


in an inaccessible corner of the lake side

a sheep wool-snagged

barbed wire-topped fence

disappears into the depths

still taut

still connecting the abandoned homes

to the life that persists on the hillside


All The Smart Televisions in The World Line Up and Broadcast The Same Transmission That We Watch Like Transfixed Scared Children

Hellish London

melting tower block

melting faces

plummeting bodies

front seat atrocity

death on live TV


as firefighters attempt to tackle

the emboldened blaze

with depleted numbers

low water pressure

and delayed equipment

the bravery and dedication

of the “ordinary” citizens of a state

without courageous and honest leadership

the so-called Blitz spirit trundling on

unaware that a kind of war

is still being fought

in every home

in every workplace

in every school

in every hospital


it’s now OK to feign amnesia

about vulnerable people

especially if they’re “foreign”

and deregulation and austerity

don’t admit to their  hand

in the  production

of the corpses

from among this disposable section

of the population


the invisible and expendable

who don’t qualify for adequate

health and safety

whose voices cannot be heard

who can’t even be enumerated

or identified quickly enough

among the shambles jumble

that used to be their homes

in one of the richest corners

of the unearthly omnishambles

that is their country


meanwhile the Secretary of State for Health

gets a £44,000 bathroom

and nurses pay furtive visits

to food banks


it’s time to make our country our own

our rulers don’t need us

and we don’t need their misrule

How Guns Change Hands

My father once received

from his father

a semi-automatic pistol

that could have been

a German-made Sauer M1938H


my grandfather in turn

had been given this weapon

by his brother

when he had made up his mind

to take his family

to the other side of the world

never to return home again


I have an imprecise recollection of it

as it was surrendered

in a gun amnesty

before I got to be familiar with it

before it could become a favourite toy


but I recall that it fascinated

my cowboy and Indian-obsessed mind

the solid cold construction

the weight and size too much

for my interested infant fingers

and my childish wonder

at the exotic places it had been

the exciting events

in which it was carried

the people who had been in its sights

the shots it may have fired


the sidearm was likely to have been

a trophy won by my relative

from the loot “liberated”

from dejected and defeated

Afrika Korps prisoners of war


far from the heat

and blood spill of the North African desert

and the battalions of twisted metal

burning under multitudes of stars

about the only verifiable information

available to us about this object

was that my great uncle

had caused some damage with it

to his parents’ proud new outside toilet

mistaking live ammunition for blanks

maybe the last inadvertent yippee ki-yay of his demob

maybe the final mark he made on

the country that had sent him to war

On The Banks of Lightning River

A hill river in spate

in its pomp

its waterfalls are thunder

to its name

the call and response

of precipitation and gradient


the fall they call “snow”

is a curtain of moving water

frothing and seeming to boil


the torrent

and the history

of the torrent

and all its previous versions

various machinations

volumes speeds and force

have left on the bank

smoothed stones

the size and shapes

of loaves of bread

and cakes


roots are exposed




the healthy brown bones

of the skeleton trees

fringing the foam


this water course flows underground

swallowed by a wide mouthed cave

we pause and peer

at the vanishing point

our boots lapped by the shallows

the air loaded with

the incense of spray

and someone else’s cannabis smoke