Friday, 20 December 2013

On Christmas Day

He entered the wide-open doors,
open as the arms of God, or
the Mother Superior.

The spires were obnoxious
as the ribbed horns of Satan,
taller than mountains of Gold.

In his rags, he entered this temple,
hungry for a meal, asking
for some small sparing charity,

but those inside turned a blind eye,
the filth and squalor of poverty
something putrid - alien - to them,

as they went about their silent squirming
before God: their, 'I beseech thine grace
and forgiveness; O, Lord! I am couched in sin.'

This man could have been anyone
on Christmas Day: the son of God -
not just some soul to be saved.


The babe was born on Christmas Day,
loosed through the doors of
the Heavenly Mother, only

this mother was nineteen and homeless:
Latino, black, white, Chinese - who cares?
All her life she's been climbing stairs.

She hid her swollen stomach well
beneath loose-fitting clothes, the folks
at the soup kitchen had given double helpings.

And now, in the Shelter, in her very own room,
on a bed that is not hers, in the candle-split
gloom, the wonder of God begins to stir

and from somewhere deep inside of her,
her baby decides it's time to join
this world so ruled by crown and coin;

and this baby could be anyone
on Christmas Day: the son of God,
his blue eyes marbled like the Milky Way.


I am walking now down some wide street
and on both sides tramp myriad feet:
so many faces under the sun,

colours and voices all merge into one.
Before me a young man who sells his body
for money, whose name was once David

but now is Honey. And a man in a turban
passes me by: some Muslim man with
a tear in his eye. And down the street

is a man filled with hate, because that's all
that ever filled his plate. And driving by,
a man with no hope, who counts the days

in yards of rope. And above me in
some tenement room, a young woman
putting on the night's perfume.

But they are all the Children of God.
I am no different: we are all one. And so
I sleep on the streets; I am born every day,
Only to remind you you're holy: light the way.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


I remember the first time
I ever figured out
that coldness
is merely the absence of heat.

I was seventeen.

Now, I have realised
that flesh consumed
is but tarted up murder.

That blame
is but a lack of responsibility.

That anger directed outwards
comes from an inward source.

That biting the tongue
in turn bites down 
on the serpent inside.

And now, I am twenty-four,

and I realise that darkness 
is merely the absence of light.
But light is far hungrier, far more exact,
than the jawless maw of toothless night.

Autumn is on Fire

Autumn is on fire
and now the trees
burn with a slow radiance
crackling like the leaves
of the sun, 

spilling open
like lava nectar
from the core
of an orange,
the wind spiced with bark 
and quiet.

Autumn is on fire
raging against winter's quench.
The paths and endless rows
of park benches, the old
clad walls, the towering

bastions of hills,
the ancient forests on fire,
burning without flame.
A fire swaying, stationary,
curling branches like tongues,
whispering your name.

Autumn is on fire
within you, burning the year
before your renew.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Winter Moon (Three Voices)

Underneath the winter-stricken trees
with their ragged claws
is where I lost my heart,
is where -

Hush, my love. Let me
kiss those words from your lips,
leaving just the bulbs, that spring 
might finger into a promulgation.

Besides, can't you hear
the moon? It says,

Can you hear what I say?
I say nothing. Come be here with me
in this nothing. You can call me skull,
pallid husk, pregnant egg; but I
am just old. I am so old,
and I know that love lives but briefly.


Beside the bird-emptied lake,
reflecting the bird-emptied sky,
is where I saw the lone
crane fly, and that was I, and I -

But hush, my love: you're not
bereft of your feathers, you're not
some barren woman. You're a winter bird;
and I? I am just your perch.

And besides, can't you hear
the moon? It says,

Can you not hear what I say?
I say nothing. Come dwell here
in nothing - have everything.
You can call me pale and I won't
blush; or a bird's egg waiting to be crushed.
But I am old; and I know love chiefly.


Now, on the cottage bed, I am
spread out like a sacrifice. Come
whittle away your whittling knife.
Unperch me, devour me. Moon and scour me.

Into your life I am come,
but not to bring a hunter's gun;
but I shall bring my whittling knife, and 
lay with you - weave me a sky, be my wife.

But besides, can't you hear
the moon? It says nothing.


I am here with you now,
in this nothing, the still
of our breathing.

And we
are everything.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

She: a Prayer for the Future

She believes in 
the existence of angels,
and her breasts are soft
as an all-enveloping kiss.

But she is the only angel
in which I believe,

her head hung in modesty,
her beauty both in body and spirit,
her grace as naked
as the day she was born:

I throw this poem up
to the sky,
like an offering of grain -

like a hallowed dove, released
from the quick white
of my bird-like soul.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

All I Want is You

With every crisis
there comes an opportunity
to heal.

For every crisis
of maturity,
of love,
of longing,
of resistance - persistence.

The worst would be
to melt into obscurity,
if I were
no longer known
to you
or to myself.

I don't want to be the man
running from the gravity
of a memory -
a vague knowing
that I
could have had it all.

And equally,
I do not want to be the man
who, behind closed doors, evaporates
to his family;
who looks at his own
and thinks,
where am I in all of this?

Sucked in and sucked at
by greater forces
because I refuse to understand
them; the brain lingers there,
its better powers
drawn away by a dim blinking light.

All I want
is to grow into a better man for you.
Better and better, a good man.
All I want is to smile when I'm blue.

With every crisis -
but there is no crisis!
And all I want is you.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

This, my earth

This, my earth,
whose waters eddy and fill
the contours of this planet’s surface
and never end, nor begin.

This, my earth,
whose very mineral life
is taken up into the hands
of small men with too-big ambition.

This, my earth,
whose fires burn deep inside
and turn, whose fires spume
and crack the infinite air.

This, my earth,
in spirit only, not
my earth in name – an
elemental has no face.

This, my earth,
that which renders all struggle futile,
that which is only being,
depending not on the borrowed ‘I’.

This, my earth.
This, your earth. This
our earth. This earth is us,
we it, until we move in you once more

and live the fallacy that we call ‘to die’.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Moon Light

I can't help but think
that I've given myself away to you.
And I can't help but feel
that I'm in love with more than just
the idea of you.

I can't help but think 
of Li Bai....

So bright a gleam on the foot of my bed -
Could there have been a frost already?
Lifting myself to look, I found that it was moonlight.
Sinking back again, I thought suddenly of home.

And suddenly
there is a big moon of a mirror
between us
and you are the reflection
of my cold and aching heart,
aching for your warmth.

You are
my home.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Mermaid's Tale

It is not the sea
that turns inside her
but a poisonous clutch of eggs,
human roe from some disgraced tryst
with a Plymouth merchant man.

Her eyes are pale blue china,
small lunar dishes of pearl-coloured milk,
and her hair is flaming kelp.
But she's given up her throne now,
slipped her gills and tipped the scales.

At dusk, one evening,
she flies through the murk
to where the trawlers have been.
There on the scratched and jagged 
seabed, she unclips from her waist

an oyster, and leaves. Inside, the
brood grows cloudy and dies, empty 
as a dead fish's eye. She says, 
'What will become of me?' Her sea no more, 
queen and heir of a land-locked lie.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Take Me

Take me on your ship,
your ship of the mad,
away from dry land,
away from all these people
so happily lost inside their nothings,
so happily piling their belongings,
gathering in corners like dust and old skin,
a monument to indifference of life's flair.

Take me away into the night's blue horizon
where stars lip the curvature of space,
away from the bottom of this empty ocean
full of hermits in shells of their own making.
Give me a mountain and a doorway
with no hinge; give me fire hot enough to 
transfigure ore, warm enough to keep
this core turning over, and turning over

like a perpetual engine, or a pendulum.... 
Take me from this nonsense, and hand me love.
Give me love that is as simple as a carved wooden
figurine, as clear as a glass of spring water
held to the light; as clean as a pre-industrial, plains night,
central time, the backbone of the universe sprawling
above me, the Milky Way streaking through the pines. Give me 
your heart, let me carve my name on it. Give me 

the courage to hand mine to you. Give me a message in rock to be hewn.
Hand me a writ to care for you. Take me, arms wide: let me be true.

Friday, 30 August 2013


I have just shut the door to this small room,
shutting the cat and his mewing in with me,
the budgerigar next door making mock-human noises,
the Coronation Street omnibus playing away
to my quiet mother.

I have shut the door because
I want to be alone with you, in this thought:
the other night, near sleep, I considered
what it might be like
if you were someone else, and
I did not know you:

what it would be like 
if I saw your small mottled eyes,
that mousy face of yours,
somewhere between peaceful and despondent,
peeping strangely out at me
from a crowd;

if I noticed those filmy, watery globes, that 
gorgeous smile you wear when you're amused,
that gorgeous little smile that hides your quirky teeth,
that gorgeous little smile that caps your silent tongue
which works away wordlessly, but not wordless, behind 
closed doors, producing works of great beauty and great import,

if I saw your eyes, curtained with those long dreamy lashes,
I would want to come over to you and talk to you,
because I have noticed you - unlike how you
do not notice yourself. I would want to comfort you.
I would want to ask you where you come from
and what the weather is like there.

But I do know you, and, as such,
I know what the weather is like where you come from.
It is always sunny. And it is always raining.
And the clouds sweep like cobwebs through the sky.
And you stand there, alone in a field, golden sun like honey on your face,
rain like wool weaving you into the washed landscape.

I could paint you, now, standing there.
But what I would rather do is step into the picture with you,
hold you, sit there with you, drenched and sunned, blown dry
in the gentle wind, lie down with you in the grass,
survey, and say, "Yes, here is where we will build our house. 
Yes, here is where we will make our bed. Yes."

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

That's Why She's Beautiful

She has the eyelashes of a cow
and the walk of a moose,
and she's more threatening
than a water-going goose.

Some of you might think those metaphors mad
or completely mean - completely spleen.
But cows are most beautiful, in my eyes:
their long lashes frame reflected country scenes,
they seem to smile as they go about
their bovine business, just chewing things.

And moose are more stark
and more sudden
than lightning at a picnic.
See one standing at the side of a road,
pure presence, and you'd swerve to avoid it,
but, panicked, it would flee
into the evergreens.

And geese, swans, other water fowl,
angels of that nature - they deceive with their
peaceful nullity, all feathers and neck
and beak. Don't mess with a goose
if you don't want to be knuckled
with a bite, a father's belt buckle,
wooden spooned by a flustered mother.

But she's a bird that doesn't bite.
And she's a moose that doesn't run.
She's a cow that always smiles - 
the modest cow with the beautiful eyes.
She's a maiden not belied with false compare:
every fiber's her hair, every nail is her own,
every thought is a dandelion scattering seed.

And that's why she's beautiful:
she's a lioness, but not fearful.
And that's why she's beautiful.
She's a hippo and she's cheerful.
And that's why she's beautiful:
because she is perfectly natural,
only natural, nothing concealed.
And that's why she's beautiful.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


I sometimes feel I am a ghost
walking inside the bones
of one who is long dead.

Shuffling through white supermarkets
only in body,
my spirit above me
on a higher plane,
or resting quietly
in some pristine glade
where children go to play
with dragonflies,
and lovers laugh,
their eyes tied.

But I am not Keats;
I face twenty-first century feats.
I shall not die
before I am twenty-six,
and there's no time
to live out in the sticks
when the world's encroaching
like a lion's maw
and every wave
of every shore
is pounding roundly at my door.

Yes, I sometimes feel
I am living a posthumous existence.
But there's no time for silence.

We must fight for peace and not accept death:
that's how to stop this endless violence.


But maybe I am
      Han Shan
just looking for a doorway
              into the mountain,

or maybe I am Blake
              Heaven’s bubbling fountains.

More likely I’m me
         looking for a way
                into myself
          a way into the world,
                 a way into
         the heart of love,
   whose symbol
                 is a marble dove.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Isn't it Self-Evident?

So now it's August, and what have I got to show for it?
Just a poem? The first of the month?

Precisely. But that's enough.

After these introductory lines, which break the water
like a rough stone, and this short stanza
explaining the first two,

comes this part, in which I explain
why you should not lose heart.

Throughout all this talk
of inner sun and poetry saving lives,
as if poetry could take a pulse reading
or put you in the recovery position,
give mouth to mouth,

there still remains the fact of my writing:
I write not to make incisions, to look deep inside
the flesh, or even to best what I'd previously
beaten out.

No. I write because it reflects
what you've given me.

I lift this poem up like a chalice,
like a drunken madman commandeering a trophy,

'Look! Look what she's given me! This poem is her!
It's her flesh! It's her body! She breathes creativity
into me! She puts life, like light, into my cosmos!'

And as I stand there in my loose robes
and sandals, like Nietzsche gone mad
at the flogging of a horse,

you realise now that here comes the bathos.
The part where I let out the wind.
The part where everything unwinds
back down to ugly reality.

But you'd be fooled. You're in your room again, sure
(I don't know if you even left, in flight),
but now you can see the small incandescent core

of metaphor. And it's a simple truth:
I care deeply for you,
as one human being for another.

Care is the core of the human.
And the core of the human is love.

So now, when you exit your room
and you leave your house,
just think,

someone cares for me.

And knowing that you realise that

is enough for me to see
that you too care for me.

And never before
was a person so sure
he should end a poem
with a smiley.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Love Song of the May Bug #1

So here I am, vaulting up into the dusk
of this lovely summered realm, or
rather sitting here in my lonely bedroom, sussed
out by my heart, beating faintly like wings.

I think of you, how I'd like to settle
into your air, down to your wet ringlet rings,
get tangled in you, as if in your hair, sore
to lay this brood, and not be cut down like a nettle.

I don't want to come back yearly
to this same annual point, pinged 
into this blind night abuzz, yet merely
moved on like an unloved pest, and racquet-torn.

I sit here by this window, the hills lovely and vast,
hearing wings buzzing faintly - into your future; into my past.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Let Poetry Save Your Life

Come neglected, come dejected
come lay down your strife.

Lay down
at your mother's feet:
let poetry save your life.

You think it a thing of one dimension
full of words like 'metre' and 'scansion'

but come and feed, 
and satiate your needs;
let poetry save your life.

Your eyes are blue, but full of tears
like a sky anticipating rain;
rain and rain, again and again.

But rush out to your moonlit street;
let poetry save your life.

When you can see they aren't merely words
but glowing hearts, passed on like embers,
blown on like lit feathers of coal,

then poetry will save your life: you'll remember
for ever; you will build yourself whole.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Deep Love, Deep Time

Our love could be deep time, 
glacial time. 
Lodged as a rock. 

We could embed ourselves, 
as kaolinite;

I could hold you through
time's long and
lonely night.

Our love could be deep love,
deep as the speckle
that flecks the above.

A glint of quartz,
a refracted love.

I could hold you -
we could hold each other -
against a vein.

Our love could be infinite,
infinite as the first rocks
of the Earth.

Our love could be
pure presence: present,
but gone unknown;

not a fossil, not a relic,
not calcified bone.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Another Poem

          - for Vladimir Holan

Another poem worth memorising
                for everyday situations,
                          on the train
                                      in an elevator
                         on a plane.

The conductor comes
           and I’ve glanced
                                    at you
                         several times

thoughts mixed
                           the poetically noble

A fancy, indeed.
                 A moment to me
                            held in the morning
                                       perfectly quiet,
                            perfectly abandoned.

But forever there.

Choose a Better God

When amazing’s what you’re after
                But it’s always out of reach
I’ll make amazing second-nature;
                It will be a small feat.

When hope to you is citrus fruit
                Growing on Spanish trees
I’ll claim for you that rugged hue,
                And hope for you shall ripen with ease.

The gods you choose are yours to pick,
                Don’t stay the church out of respect
To childhood, fidelity or candle wick
                When there are gods abroad with love to spend.

Come, choose a better God;
                Take me, my love, for protection.
Come guidance, come now, come good,
                And I’ll take from you sacred direction.

Let me live between your thighs
                Like a hermit struck blind with sense.
Only innocence, love, behind my eyes.
                Behind my eyes, my love, only innocence.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Just Poetry

His life reduced
to the sum of his words:
a febrile patchwork
of repetitions
and revisions:

this, Africa's brow
or I'm more bristled
than a toothbrush tip,
every time she mints
new tender with her lips.

No, his life was never
the brink of breathlessness,
a kitchen sink,
plunged, whirling down
to depthlessness.

His is only poetry.
Just poetry. Merely words.
But you're impressed
with what you've heard, when
it's more what you haven't
that's nearer the truth.