Still

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the world grinds on
little has changed

for me
the day is a tunnel

for you
the sky a uniform blue
daffodils vibrant
green leaf dewed
ozoned
a breeze to fly a kite
or sit on a quarried wall
to fend off gulls
who’d snatch
the sausage from your breakfast sarnie
if you gave them half a chance
to do it again
and at the thought
you feel
the flash of a wingtip brush your cheek
beneath your wide brimmed hat
that kept the red off your neck

for me
a plod from day to day
wherein it’s all too much
and the bastards have won
and the bastards in power
are as bad
as the bastards kicked out
who’d do just the same
if you let them
again

Swim

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My limbs unfold,
a held breath
suspending
this neutral mass.
The meniscus loops
my upturned face.
Still
I pause,
and still,
but for a squeeze of blood,
outwardly immobile.
This flesh weighs the water.
Thin clouds drift,
a backdrop
for swallows
and vultures.
Here at the surface
a dragonfly,
observes,
reports,
returns to base.
Exhale.
Inhale.
Stroke.
Glide.
Reeds reflect slow as oil.
I remember days as hot.
On the way
through the park
to the club,
slicing a thumbnail
across a grass stem
to fashion a tickle
for Gamp’s sunburned neck.
Sat in the shade with
shandy and dominoes
beneath the same window
my father would fill
for his last photo,
a carnation buttonholed
for my aunt’s wedding,
before she stopped speaking.
Beside me now, the dock.
Split.
Seasoned.
Decorated by abandoned skins
that hold vigil,
glowing against the wood-grain,
ghosts of the living.
Here
last year
I coughed a clot.
There’s a comfort knowing
the pain of death
is not that bad.
Their passing
not,
necessarily,
agonised.
The lake feeds.
I’ve not been bitten of late.
Dragonflies feast with swallows.
Later my son
will sit on my shoulders
and tickle my ears.

On A Scale From Naught To Ten

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names slide past
as each tender
of my tender flesh
explains their role
and where i am
and i refuse
to feel the pain
so everything’s a 3
until it’s not
and i pass out again
to wake
to lights and faces
who i warn again
about the meds i take
that make me bleed
and yes it’s 3
as i’m scissored bare
but for my socks

i remember again
to tell them again
the name of my wife
and make them again
write her number
again

and yes

it’s 3

Preliminary

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the day has worn me
i place my hand on the beam
of this attic room
and imagine the wood
split from a ship
broken
to frame the land
delineating
ours
from theirs
unlike the strut
we saw in the abbey
constructed
as a joke
an insistance
or both
suspended by the beams
it purports
to support
winking the sliver
of air at its base
like god
not quite
touching
the earth

Recently

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i woke to jaundiced clouds
bruised with ash
leaching the palette
to candlelit tones
of flayed skin
and knew that still
the fires raged

the turning of winds
had thickened the air

my lungs dragged
and i moved slow
like the dwindling men
i saw as a child
spitting blood on the path
with their collies and caps
and the sticks they leant on to breathe

and the breeze
rustled parched leaves
hissing like sand
in a drum
shaken to mimic
the sound of forgotten rain
on this rock
capped with tinder

and now
you tell me
you want to engage
the community

and I start
by telling you

no

Fulford

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The departing ferry washes my thighs.
Its wake propagates slowly to the shore
Where I sit on a gentle slope of sand
Reclining between chill ocean and grit
Of white crushed shells that whisper with each ebb.
The Rider Waite deck shows the Magician
One hand raised to the sky, the other down,
Pointing to the extremes of our nature,
The mind and body given equal place
And equal merit in a rounded life.
So now between the water and the land,
Skin heated by the air and chilled by brine,
I contemplate my absence from this world.
How will my gap be filled when I am gone?
Who will be hurt? How can I salve their pain?
I spent too long with grief when I was young.
Like a tunnel that drills right through the world
It set me on a path apart. Alone
I thought to honour the dead with my pain.
As though my happiness could offend them.
But Ariel told lies. No alchemy
Transforms us in the grave. Our dead flesh rots
Unless we will it burned. Our bones crumble
Or leech into a rock without magic.
Our minds fade with our last intake of breath.
This is reality. You sitting there.
Me sitting here, wishing you happiness,
As I struggle to find words that will cut
Straight through the pain to tell you not to mourn
Too much, a little will suffice. Live well!
Live better than I did. I felt more joy
When I had finished with my grief than I
Had thought was possible. If time travel
Allowed, then I’d go back and tell myself
What I’m telling you now. The dead don’t care.
No minds survive. Your life is all you have.
When I am gone there’s nothing you can do
To please or disappoint. I’ll never know
Your triumphs or failings. My opinion
Has no meaning. It’s only yours that counts.
Look at me now. Salt on my freckled skin.
Sat naked on a beautiful shoreline.
Exhausted by the swims, and cycle rides,
And playing Tai Chi with the breaking waves.
True to myself. Now you be true to you.
I love you while I live. When my life’s ends
Love yourself fully until yours is done.

Balance Sheet

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if time were money
we’d bank on death
taking an interest
in our capital sum
the years drop
like pennies
pounding us down
depreciating
day
by uncherished day
second
by unremembered second
our taxing lives
squandered
moment by moment
to a zero balance
our last breath
overdrawn

A Constant Reminder

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If I’d Only Listened

My grandmother used to say:

“A place for everything … and where the hell is it?”

She was a rugged Rhondda woman who kept an immaculate house with rigid routines for dusting and hoovering, doing the dishes, scrubbing the doorsteps and polishing the knick-knacks in the front room every Sunday, never fail. Her assembly-line approach to domestic chores would put Henry Ford to shame. She hated it when things got out of place. “Where’s that gone now?” she’d say and complain of having to “Waste time looking!”

To be fair, her fastidiousness was pragmatic rather than obsessive. I remember the relief and satisfaction in her voice when she settled down with a cup of tea and said, to no-one in particular “Now that’s done.” She was house proud, but not to the extent of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard.

“And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.” – Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

sun decoration garden bike child


Lollocks

I’m a little less organized. It goes with the territory having healthy, happy kids running round the place. Round and round and round. The flotsum of clothes, shoes, toys and craft materials drift from room to room between bouts of salvage.

I can’t blame the children though for the tumbles of papers in the office. They rarely come into the studio. I can either blame myself, or put responsibility where it belongs.

“By sloth on sorrow fathered,
These dusty-featured Lollocks
Have their nativity in all disordered
Backs of cupboard drawers.”

  • Robert Graves, Lollocks, Poems 1938-1945

My implausible deniability is simple. The Fair Folk did it. It’s just one of the risks of living in woodland.


The French Connection

I am carving out a little structure amid the chaos to keep me on track with my writing. As a starting point I’ve borrowed an idea from French cuisine, mise en place, everything in its place.


Recipe

Begin by gathering a few simple ingredients:

  • a notebook
  • a pen (working)
  • a small table
  • a chair (optional)

Locate the table in a well trafficked area with plenty of light. Place the notebook on the table. Open it carefully to a blank page. The pen should be positioned on the page, aligned to a major axis or set at a jaunty angle. Good presentation is important, but inessential.

Finally, a chair can be placed at an inviting orientation from the table. For poetry, this is optional.

Add coffee to taste.


Making a Meal of It

I’m set up. My notebook is open and visible out of the corner of my eye. It is unfussily present, ready and receptive. Every time I take a screen break I walk past it. When I come back with a fresh tea it’s there, pages open, ready for words. I have nothing to prepare, nothing to schedule. I have no excuses. And every now and then, as I’m walking past, I pause for a moment and write.

I’ve found my consuming inspiration.