Below is my latest collection of published poems and prose poems - 'Still life'. Free to download and enjoy!
Our Nan Connie had inexplicable luck,
she could win a prize in any raffle. A randomly
plucked ticket always struck silver or bronze.
My mother had no such luck. We laughed
at her leaden tokens, while Nan piled up
perfumes, food baskets, ribboned condiments.
One fabled day at the seaside arcades Mum’s luck
finally cashed-in. A year’s bottled tuppences fed
into the game that tongued them over lips,
some back, most gulped down. It was the taste
of luck we slobbered over. 20p for three goes
on the hand-grabber game, the slippery claw
that always let slip. Mum’s last attempt: clunk!
The claw suddenly snaps off its arm and crashes
to the base, flailing fingers in the collection tray.
Giggling, Mum handed the limp claw to a teenage
manager, his eyes widening with wonderment.
Mum claimed her prize: a lasting family myth.
Sometimes the most fun we had at Christmas
was when every tipsy adult could be coerced
into a seat at the table for card games. Nan
and Mum presented their collections of two
pences, gestated by months of quiet collecting.
Nan shuffled the cards, revealing hidden talents.
Grandad prepared his pint and promised not
to cheat, which he did, outrageously. So funny
to my brother and me, but less as we grew up
and he played less despite our begging. Back
to the card games. Pontoon was the favourite
and could last hours, bronze coins shuffling back
and forth, cards hiding under the table, a break
for cake. For a few priceless years, we prayed
for 21, always laughing – that was the best hand.
Years on we continued to play but the table
featured fewer players as life’s random gambles
took its toll: ageing adults and evening fatigue,
sudden cruel illnesses, empty chairs. No chance
now we can ever be reunited for another game
though my childhood was dealt a winning hand.
‘Go on boy! Go on!’ cries the butcher
waiting nervously at the winning post,
punching the air as his greyhound,
Blue Curacao, streaks along the arterial
track. ‘Go on! For me, boy, for me.’
All week he’s up to his elbows in joints,
loins, portions, quick cuts, friendly manner;
as tender to customers as he is to meat.
The betting slip in his bony hands drips
with sweat. ‘Come on! For your old man!’
Suddenly the crowd cries. ‘Come on boy!’
The butcher’s heart thumps hard.
Here come the hounds. ‘Come on boy!’
Voice hoarse, lungs straining for air.
Here they are. Blue Curacao’s in the lead!
Like a flash of steel, the sliver of meat
and hard muscle pumps past Glynn.
‘Come on boy! For your old man! For me!’
Blue Curacao slices through the finish line.
The butcher chops the air triumphantly.
School assembly we flocked
to the fanfare of a rare treat:
Birdman. Superhero simplicity.
Perched on stage in armoured
overalls, behind a line of cages,
beaks poking out. No memory
of the actual man – a beard,
perhaps. It was all about birds
of prey: the hawk on his arm
with its hungry globes, slowly
creaking beak, tensing claws.
Volunteers called up. No way.
Most impressive were the owls.
We learned of how stories misled
us to believe in too-wit-too-woo.
We oohed at the snowy owl
as she arced her white head
all the way around childhood.
When her white wings opened
and she flew across the hall,
everyone ducked like mice, cries
of glaciated fear. Mrs Hanlon,
shaking her sensible headmistress
head, but the damage was done.
I would always love owls now.
Birdman packed up the birds,
squawking protests from us all as.
We flapped out to the playground,
waved Birdman away and became
the hawks and owls of stories.
Published in Borderless Journal, September, 2020.
With Venus winking
at the pastelling sun,
the mountains smudging,
trees talking in shadows,
a frog sings
down by the communal swimming pool
recently cleaned of winter’s
green scumming by a robot.
A frog sings
while children clatter in the distance,
dragging dusk down an alley.
A dog barking at the arriving
the frog sings
the same frog
that sang for Basho
now sings for me.
The frog invisible
singing by the swimming pool.
I know what luck is.
Published in Words for the Wild, August 2020.
He studies the newspaper, neatly
folded, slowly circling words, phrases,
pinpointing paragraphs sometimes
with a surgical pen, the eyes flicker
to witness someone sit near him,
squeezed on tiny hexagonal tables.
His white, precise hair-line receding,
the pages decreasing, more circling,
small shots of coffee, knuckle pastry,
a tiny nod when someone leaves;
just enough to acknowledge they
existed next to him – tourists mostly,
like me, looking for Fernando Pessoa,
as he looks out of every pair of eyes.
Published in Sonic Boom # 18, August 2020
The Robin’s Last Moments
A sudden sloppy
Feathery bundle tumbles past
and fluffs on the floor.
A robin, quivering.
It arches its wings over its body
shuddering in a tomb of its own making.
A high school boy stares down
Fattened with plastic and viruses,
the porpoise splashed on the Christmas
Eve Pacific City sand flapping a fin
at distressed walkers, dogs hungry with
confusion. The flukes digging the sand –
a message mistaken for a desire to return.
Volunteers waded up to their waist,
pushing the porpoise back out, but she
turned back, rolled in by a corrupted
instinct and waves washing over and
over her, slapping her higher up on
the sand where the white lip of foam
was stained with corpuscles of plastic.
There she lolled, waving us away.
Pictured on Bahnstrasse in Zurich a life-size
metal rhino, in honour of Albert Durer
who manipulated the armoured beast
into Renaissance imagination.
years later, there is two white rhinos female left
and a few thousand black rhinos, a few hundred
Sumatran rhinos. Tourists poach pictures
of the metal rhino and saunter on through
Durer’s sigh. The rhino remains unmoved.
Published in The Brasilia Review, July 2020.
The Birds in These Strange Times
A pair of kites have come for the lake
now the airport is closed, buoyed by empty
skies, rustling wooded hills, lacy waters.
My wife shows me trees on the lake’s
whispering edge where cormorants gather,
roosting in the trees like paused pterodactyls.
An adult swallow giddy with its suddenness,
rolling in the early April air, the very first
migrant recoiled by a changed climate.
Back to Blue
Imprisoned in caution,
the cases rising, fear abundant,
school closed, classes cancelled.
All online now. I watch
a documentary about Miles Davis.
I have always struggled with Jazz,
berated the lack of melody,
felt lost amongst the jostling notes.
But following his story, the craft
from the chaos, the passion in tone
I choose to try again. Back to Blue
starts, and notes sound as alarming
as the online coverage but the jingling
chords, the blasts of trumpet suddenly
sounds peace while the world tears.
From the balcony I watch a cat
watching a squirrel leaping
from one tree to another, change
its mind, return and scuttle
up and down branches, a slither
of fast fur perfectly balanced,
death either side of sure claws.
The squatting cat tilts its head
as the squirrel becomes branch,
then pads off to draw its own line.
Published in April 2020 by Borderless. Journal.
A prized possession of a toy-starved childhood:
one of the first remote controlled cars,
chrome still gleaming, Dan Dare curves,
tucked up in time-capsule coffin from the 1950’s.
It appeared by accident, landing from space
when dad was organising his Wunderkammer
of books not read, photographs not looked at,
a collection of model owls in forgotten nests.
For a few brief, bright seconds we got to look,
not touch, never play, stay in the box as it’s worth a lot,
worth growing every day, one day sell it, make money,
but never really going to sell it, play with it.
Needs a battery. So old now. Probably won’t work.
Back it goes on stacked shelves above the phone
that rarely rang, wrapped up in excuses and tissue
paper, tucked in tight behind squeaking doors.
Download below my latest collection of published poems - 23.5 Degrees.
It’s as if Divinity, working through
the tectonic terror or Alpine uplift
heard jazz while moving mountains
opposite Montreux. What else explains
the g-clef curves of the Chablais Alps
and the seven, arguably eight notes
of the trumpeting Dents-du-Midi.
In the hazing summer afternoons
the mountains are their most musical,
joyful percussion to the sky’s bass,
they lengthen in the long evenings
as we sip wine and nod along, while along
the promenade saunter couples, teens
touching, middle-aged companioned love,
the elderly toasting the day;
all come to appreciate the music.
Published January 2020 in Panoplyzine
Above Ladir, a loving pair rise up
from yellow meadows, tottering cows,
bells ringing. They gladden the thermals,
wings outstretched in effortless prayer
to invisible forces, the unseen spheres
that turn under and around. Upwards
in circles of affection they wind, orbiting
around and around each other, tipsy wing
tips just about touching. They dip
into each other’s elliptical space, swerve
aside and fall back into smiling circles.
Only jealous crows
interrupt the heavenly dance, forcing
emergency manoeuvres, ugly ducking,
diving to avoid disruptive black holes,
but easily out-swooped and away
to dance in a higher atmosphere, above
the deepening V’s of the Glogn valley
forested forearms, the rising mountains
still singing with the white aria of winter,
conducted by an ancient music so old.
The kites dance in and out of their solar
system while above swifts silently
watch in their effortless ballet play of air
and geometry, graciously sharing the floor.
The knowing moon softly bares witness.
I have had over 70 poems published in the following worldwide magazines and literary journals: A Handful of Stones, Acta Victoriana (Canada), All the Sins (UK), The Amethyst Review, (USA) The Blue Nib (Ireland), Bolts of Silk, The Brasilia Review (Brazil), Bushfire Literature & Arts Review (US), Cadenza, Cake Magazine, Carillon, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), DASH (USA), Dawntreader, Dreamcatcher, Earth Love, The Ear (US), Eastlit (East Asia), Erbacce, Envoi, Finger Dance Festival, Ginosko, Gloom Cupboard, Hidden Channel, Inlandia Journal, IS&T (Ink, Sweat & Tears), Into the Void (Canada), The Journal, The Lakeview Journal (India), The New Writer, The Passage Between, Orbis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sonic Boom (India), Third Wednesday (USA), Of Nepalese Clay (Nepal), New Contrast (South Africa), Opportunity Publishing, Origami Poems Project (USA), Panoplyzine (USA), PaperSwann Press, The Passage Between, The Peacock Journal (USA), Pens on Fire, Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Pulsar Poetry, Rear View Poetry, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Qutub Minar Review (India), Red Ink, Shiela-Na-Gig (USA), South Bank Poetry Magazine, Waterford Teachers Centre, (Ireland) We Are a Website New Literary Journal (Singapore), Windfall (USA), Writing Magazine and Words for the Wild.