Sunday, 9 August 2020

Refraction and Reflection

man standing on a pier, shadow reflected on water


A thought resolves itself – surprising and cruel -
Into something clear and hard and perfect:
This is it; this is all there is: you are a fool.
Hold the image for a moment – hope for defects –
Turn it over, study its sintered clarity,
Its sharp-edged and brutal simplicity.

But light is refracted and the truth held this way
Or that takes on other colours, other shapes,
Something added, something taken away.
The mirror in which we live our escapes
Is haunted, like the ghosting on a TV set:
We watch ourselves as ourselves … yet …

Deeper feelings happen quietly; they seep.
It’s the petty emotions that busy and fuss
Our lives. So, like children surrendering to sleep,
We give in to a darkness to which our eyes adjust,
Wake to a past gone stale and a future skimmed,
                   (While you feel the light is sharp, the light is focussed ...)
Our shadows paler, and our substance thinned.
                           (You sense the light has bent, the light has dimmed.)

Friday, 24 July 2020

This Life

watch face, close up

This Life, Dear

This is a small thing - this life -
That fits into the palm of the hand,
That we turn over, poke with a stick,
And then parse with a dull knife
So that we can think we can understand
What it is that makes us tick;
Listen carefully, dear, for this is all I’ve got:
Though you hear the heart still beating,
It’s a stopped clock.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Silence and Spillage, a poem

hands with a candle

A Libation ... A Toast

This silence that has settled
Upon him like dust ...

This silence that has corroded
The skin of him like rust ...

This silence isn’t praying,
Though the hands mimic
A slow applause, or the paying
Out of rope –
Enough to hang himself –
A trick, a gimmick,
A sawing in half,
A laugh a minute,
A grope in the dark.

Mind the gap.

His voice a slur,
As he draws on a cigarette,
Sips a wine turned sour.
It’s a question begged
Of the lees, the dregs,
Not formed, not spoken yet;
He has his own way of betraying
What is bait in a trap.
This silence isn’t praying;
The hands don’t grasp or flap.

He takes another gulp, another drag.

The smoke from his mouth
Is kissed heavenward, a moue,
A whisper scented half grape, half-truth
That drifts like mist, misheard
Amongst the cavilling and gainsaying
Of the delusions he has peopled.
This silence isn’t praying,
Though the hands are steepled,
Though the hands are a crucible for tears.

This silence isn’t praying;
There’s nothing left worth saying:
The hands cup an empty glass.

Cheers ...

Friday, 26 June 2020

Evolution: an anniversary poem


How much time does it take,
Love dying like that,
Giving away its heat
In exchange for hate?
Slowly; but how to measure,
How to calibrate for each erasure?

Do feelings simply evaporate?
A compound turning into air,
Disappearing, but ever there:
Elements adhere and separate -
Something finned cleaved in birth;
Something feathered cleft in death.

So how to configure one and one
Where we used to speak of two?
A pair, a couple, both, a duo
With voices soaring out of tune,
With hearts racing not keeping pace;
Those swans in flight becoming a brace.

Saturday, 20 June 2020



Love demands its pound of flesh -
The body teased of muscle and fat,
The sinews, the glands, the organs:
A feast - without the letting of blood.

Remember now when it was fresh,
How need and desire together sat,
How the hunger was an emotion
Neither controlled nor understood,

With nothing sought, no redress,
Just that this was right and that,
That this went deeper than our skin.
But then this was just a prelude

To the flaying we could not but relish
With an avidity that hissed and spat;
Eating each other down to the bone:
Cannibals just playing with their food;

Loss of blood controlled and understood.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Sundial: a birthday poem

man's shadow


Life is waiting;
It’s looking forward,
Staring into the sun,
A kind of hopeful blindness
Leading you on
At some point,
When the sun has somehow
Moved about the sky,
You find yourself looking away,
Looking backwards
Towards the better prospect,
Or looking down at that inkblot,
That personalized Rorshach test,
Your slope-shouldered gnomon
Has cast at your feet, knowing
That if you block the light
You will see the shadow,
Wondering when pareidolia
Slipped into apophenia.

And you’re waiting still,
For an eternal everywhere,
For an eternal nowhere, 
Beginning to understand 
What only too soon will come
Like a gathering cloud
To eclipse your sun.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Borrowed Light

Borrowed light

It’ll be dark soon and time to go.
Could you pass the dice,
I’d like another throw?
Oh, I understand.  Club rules:
Just the once, never twice.
Yes, you’ve got to be kind to be cruel.

Well, a present, long in the unwrapping
And the children like animals,
Not knowing then warping,
Bending with the truth of it;
The knowledge of an unsteady sentinel
Watching over an illness that is implicit,

With happiness a symptom that reckons a cost:
All too brief a candle,
All too much found then lost,
But a gift all the same;
One we bestow, simply, as a mantle
For the igniting and sheltering of our flame;

As if the heat carried a living debt,
Paid tomorrow so to honour us;
For what shines is a currency yet.
The moon has risen, the darkness at its back -
Its mountains shadows, its deserts dust,
With somewhere on its conquered land a flag.

And the moon, oh why is it so cold, so bright?
Such a false god robed in borrowed light.