In the first bright slew of laughter and bedclothes
we hear them, and cars slowing to pass,
the drifting talk of their riders.
They clop through gathering dark
as lights come on and the baby kicks
and dreams inside you. Hooves break
the skin of our sleep, wake us to green shoots
or rusted leaves, to shoe prints in early frost,
a puddled road and soft scatterings.
The boy grows tall and oversleeps
as we lie tangled or back to back,
while the phone brings news
of a slipping away, a collapse
into nearly nothing. Blossom is blown
to blizzard, blackbirds return
to nest in clematis. But always
we hear horses; though we never know
their barreled flanks, the sway
and tilt of a saddled back
as they trot through the days
of promise, arrival, exit.
From ‘The Great Animator’ (Shoestring Press, 2017)
Son, I’d rather leave you the memory of the day
we cycled to Mevagissy
than these shelved books and racks of clothes
that carry the trace of my scent.
Two swans rode their reflections round
the double harboured wall
as rust hulled fishing boats rose
on the swell. That night at Jodrell Bank
astronomers watched Ison speed sunward
with a snowball’s chance in hell.
None could quite believe
its re-emergence, the brilliance of the new tail.
First Published in The North
Uses of the Body as a Source for Allegory and Metaphor
The excavated skull of the affair and the built up
head of steam; the face of loss, a clock, a cliff; the teeth
of cogs, combs, the wind; the lips of pitchers, craters
and augers; the jaws of mull-grips and dilemmas, not to mention
death; the tongues of brogues and ancient Doc Martens;
the crotches of arches; the long arm of the church
and of boredom; the armpit of the paramilitary wing; the brow
of the beaten, the hill, of morning; the breast made clean; the skin
of milk and of a balmy evening; the hard shoulder of regret,
the hair of the dog and its breadth; the knuckle of attraction
and the pierced nipple of fate; the long femur of the terminally hip;
the greased palm and the padlocked heart of British Steel; the spine
of the barn, of stepping stones, of the poem; the vertebrae
of e-mail and the gonads of vulnerability; the nose of the drink,
of the parson, to the grindstone; the cheeks in lame’ trousers
like two peaches in a solder fountain ; the ear to the ground,
the chest, the sky; the tender inner thigh of expectation;
the eye of the storm, the potato and the sunflower;
of the hurricane, the needle, the target, the tiger;
of love, of god, of the beholder.
First Published in Poetry Wales, Spring 2016
I’d rather take this road
to that chapel of larch on the hill
but my boy insists, so we step
into a nave of pines
screened by webs
where sound falls dead,
except for the rattle of cones.
Each breath is sealed with resin:
he finds a long bone,
lifts it from the needles:
fox or maybe badger, I tell him
taking his hand
of our temporary skins.
From ‘The Sun Bathers’ Shoestring Press, 2013
The office cleaner sings beautifully and in Hindi.
I ask her what her song means.
‘The Lord says, I will give you what you want,
when the time is right.’
She leaves a world bright with belief,
the mopped floor under my feet,
the emptied bin of me.
First published in New Walk.
The first of my many dead; she washes, I dry,
dab his cheeks and lids, change the water, roll him,
rub a sheet crease from his back,
pat soft white buttocks, take out
catheter and cannula,
tape and press where blood pools,
thick as blackberry jam.
Julie’s brisk, careful as a cook, talks to him
as if he could hear, and there’s something in me
of the little boy, aproned, allowed to help;
his doughy- ness perhaps, or the talc like flour,
as if this privilege were a treat,
the finished parcel of taped sheets
something to be proud of.
From ‘The Sun Bathers’ Shoestring Press, 2013.