Early morning in Mafeking Street

I may have been dead or at last breath,
you came skipping up from the alley
short bare legs, dirt on your knees.

I saw you stop, a thrupenny jubbly,
in your hand colder then I was,
the blood on my face jam thick.

I was wrenching a punctured fifth wheel
when the axle broke, pitching the trailer
on me as straw bales toppled like Lego bricks.

I saw you laugh at the policeman too fat
trying to run like a keystone cop,
as he blew his whistle in the empty street.

I could hear the ring of the ambulance,
you danced to until you saw the man
jump out with big sticks and a blanket.

I watched you stand, jubbly untouched
as they bent over me then you turned
and ran to play and so did I.

Reach Poetry



On retiring to bed with a cold

When her,
she says,
tomato soup,
Heinz, red, warm, white bowl,
round not long spoon,
bread triangles, toasted, slightly,
butter spread to be seen, not melted,
tray, pink not white, wood not plastic,
bottled water, not tap and in the nice glass,
fluff the pillow, straighten the duvet,
do you love me?

When him,
he says,
let me sleep.

Published in Gold Dust

Things discovered today between train windows

that few public phones work
when you are trying to phone where you left your mobile.

that nine hours on trains with six changes
does not lead to poetry gold

that living a dawn and dusk working day
is not a reason to love the Romantics

that it is easy to be forgotten
when you don’t break bread with real poets

that singing aloud in First class is frowned on
even if in tune

that the innocent granny on her ​second bottle of wine
can still knit with clicking needles

Published in Your One Phone Call

That day

It is soft rain when you wear clouds
on a day in the holidays you should never remember

in the seaside with a beach of stones
where the palm tree is painted each winter-

the beach you never walked straight on,
the day the brownie camera impaled you,
the beach where you left a time capsule to float.

Even now you ask, and they say the same,
those just a scratchy dream, those with breath

who stood in sunlit gardens or sat by frosted trees,
each turned your flesh into a map for what they had lost.

You looked and found the beach alone with the sea,
streets dancing with leaves,
houses blowing net curtain kisses,
car doors swinging with cats poised to pounce.

And the cheering is still loud and windows
of flickering light take memories

and makes a forest of pine darkness,
so you found myths to stop the blood.

It is a day when the bullet made it six-coloured.
This is you with barbed wire scratches.
This is you at the window, face like a moon

while the one who carried you and the one who made you
stared at black and white history.

Your history makes them turn round
to a day of sunshine on the beach of sand
where the light made the sea a place to walk on forever.

Published in Message in a bottle

Shapes mapped in the darkness

From behind gooseberry bushes
the rhythm of radio pop music
American, Detroit and I think
Today let’s live but tomorrow…

The apple tree drops apples
on leaved soil, each one a future
not bitten, the rot lets death
say which roots, which grows

On the washing-line, in pairs
Magpies chatter with harsh
judgements like toy soldiers
that stab with tin fingers

Later a moon smile breaks
an owl stays silent to a question
and the wind turns from the east
to blow a page open

Stop a priest and ask

and will the hawthorn wear spring clouds
as the woodpecker kees and drums in sun

to warm the buds of ash and polled poplars
in streets where lovers waited to watch the moon

with arms around waists that kept a warmth
of love hidden from the bite of winter frost

And will the pubs serve beer sipped by men
with dirty hands from the making of a ship

of rivet steel that broke waves and hearts
in ports of sun and ports of city towers

so the women of one cow farms could stare
at a rock wet from the tears of waving ghosts

And would the child afraid of candle footsteps
that whispered touch learn to sing with skylark

high in the sky as swallows titter at fools like
those who want a heaven of things unseen

Published in Message in a bottle

Learning that madness is the sane thing to do

We laughed about the misty weather
it was Cornish sunshine we said

The Sunday lunches and the truth not noticed
stayed as ever unspoken

I admired how well you were looking
you joked about eating for two now

Once you screamed saying it was a nightmare
when I woke you with a kiss

You were something big in publishing
and I pretended to be jealous like old times

To stop love becoming sex you
once pissed over me

We said we must have a coffee at the new café
as they do such lovely fresh things with chocolate

In the end you ran out naked
to become catatonic

We kissed on the cheeks to say goodbye,
you barely flinched and walked away straight-backed

I wish his death had made you free
but as you would have said so does the lie

Published in Your One Phone Call