Book Creator Poetry Competition
March 2023. I am lucky enough to be asked to be a judge for Book Creator's 4-18 year old school poetry book writing competition! See the info about the competition here.
All the Storks
At Dandora landfill zombies stalk
a city of refuse stacked in the middle
of slums. They sludge the avenues
for plastic bottles, bags, metal slivers,
electronics to sell, scraps for lunch,
wincing with chest pain caused by
smoke seeping out of the heaps,
abdominal pain of kidneys kicked
by the rainbow flavoured waters.
Thousands of single mothers, young
men with sterile bulb eyes, wheezy
school children compete for life
expectancy with marabou storks,
all of them walking fossils amongst
Nairobi’s Anthropocene arcades.
At least the storks can fly away.
Published in The Amsterdam Quarterly, March 2023.
Dead World Poets’ Society
When the final negative feedback loop leaps into action and irreversible becomes a fact not a limping warning in semi-lucid minds, the world’s poets will flock to the raging forest fires, the fracturing glaciers, the empty river beds, the smoke dressed cities, and they will write odes and elegies of horror and disgust and regret poisoned by bitter marveling, and then find something beautiful to say about the flame and the filth and the misfortune, for the poets can’t help themselves and that is the only excuse permitted.
Published in February 2023 in Oddity Magazine #25
2 Poems - Acta Victoria
Arrival in America
With thanks to Emma Lazarus
No dirt cheap steerage ticket from Liverpool,
jammed in the hold of an empty cotton ship,
holding onto few belongings, threadbare coat,
stalked by typhus and seasickness, the sudden
spewing out onto Ellis Island, cross-examinations
by indifferent border guards, shaming medical
inspections, new names, compassion from former
immigrants, instant friends plotting to fleece.
My ship is a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam.
in a half-price Economy - desperate airline - trying
to ignore the complaints of a wandering tempest,
coughing travelers lying flat to breathe freely,
unmasked protestors huddled in masses of denial.
I lower my mask only to gobble luke-warm dinner.
I keep my bag close, bulging with paperwork
and hopes that the Embassy’s good wishes work.
A Customs Officer colossus fueled by viral fear.
He prescribes infectious orders and irritation.
Obedient and fearful, I accept the accusations
of mysterious forms not filled in, the dismissive
hand when I offer my paperwork (that will create
a Kafkaesque series of complications months later).
Hurried handwriting suggests dishonesty. 1-1000
-the chances of contracting the British variant.
I’m British but haven’t been there for over a year.
He lowers his guard, risks a small smile, but still
warns me he could get sick. Desperate for humanity,
I tell him I understand his fear. His shoulders relax.
He stamps the passport and holds it out, warning me
not to get any trouble. I hurry away in my last pair
of shoes, torn on the inside. A Russian-American TSA
agent welcomes me with smiles and a warming story
about having an English wife. From Reading. One
short flight to Portland to meet my mighty woman.
Seattle shrinks below to the size of a concrete hive.
The line of Cascade volcanoes state in a wintry ellipse
amongst rugged sentences of hills, all named after
presidents, generals and diplomats replacing names
from native legends as old as glaciers. My wife waits
wearing a respirator by the golden Arrivals door.
In Xian I watch the way
an elderly woman tapers
her yin brush quill into night deep ink
and spill into onto bare yang paving slabs
wider than her stance, spelling
out incomprehensible characters
poetry in her arms and hands,
her hum and movement.
I applaud her and she laughed,
waving me away, ink flicking.
I ask for a translation.
She shrugs a toothy grin.
A kindly local reads the characters and tells me:
Idiot tourists cannot read Chinese.
Seeing my surprise, the old woman laughs
and Lao Tse nods.
Published in Fall 2022 in Acta Victoria, #146.2
2 New Poems in Prole
At the Circus
We blamed it on the clowns.
It could have been the high-
wire tension, the thundering
hooves, the bulk of an elephant
whipped upwards, the chaos
of a crowd, so many clapping
hands, whoops of emotion,
all of it wild to us. We fled
to the family car. My brother’s
wet shorts stuck to the leathery
seats. Dad offered us a choice
but once safely extracted,
we couldn’t return. Home
where we sheltered for years,
keeping away from circuses.
The Beginning of Division
In the last skinny years of primary school,
we changed for sports in separate rooms,
segregated Boys and Girls - suddenly
capitalized. A desire grew to know why.
Wild Michael led the way, as normal.
He used his Pound Lane climbing skills
to clamber into the roofing, via loose tiles,
and crawl across the chasm to the girls.
We’d watch his feral body disappear
and leave behind twitching feet, hear
furtive whispers about underwear.
Sudden squeals and he’d scuttle back,
dust descending, his Cheshire Cat grin.
What did you see? Innocently packing
his bag when Teacher strode in wondering
what the fuss was with the girls. I asked
and later he told me what sex was.
You stick it in and leave it there for a bit.
I thought that was suspiciously simple,
not at all deserving of the divisions.
Published in September 2022 in Prose, Poetry & Prose, #33.
2 New Sparks
The Poet, God
In the beginning,
God wrote infinitely before a spaceless window
open to the void.
Perhaps disliking the work, God threw
all the poems out of the window
and they coalesced and swirled and erupted
into the universe, forming
atoms and the Chapbook of Elements,
then the Epic of the DNA,
The Collected Poems of Life
with award winning variety, words in all forms,
and finally us, with our elevated word-souls,
reconstructing all that fractured work
in our little imitations of infinity
and offering it back up to God
as prayer or questions or proof.
God does not respond, does not read
the overwhelming volume of submissions.
God has no interns to do that.
God sits procrastinating over a new volume,
trying always to write the perfect poem
aware, like all poets,
that no such poem exists
and the closest you can come to it
is being it.
Always Hoping To Write a Great Poem
Often the keyboard is sterile. I stare
out of the window and watch the trees.
Maybe something no one has ever said about trees.
Forget the clouds, too obvious.
The blue sky, yawn.
Birds bouncing around, little Buddha’s
not having to worry about creation.
I hear the song of a hundred ghostly ideas
ganging up behind me, giggling.
I sense the almost complete emptiness
inside every atom. Ideas like electronics
zip around, all potential, waves of hope.
I feel the bonding of a basic shape.
But as I write, it wriggles and flitters
out of my mind. I grab, but it is gone.
Just the scent and shadow,
a fear I will never know the elements
to turn leaden words into gold.
Published on 09/21/22 in Sparks of Calliope.
The Pumpkin Field
Being just a poor British boy grown
where London’s roots defile Saxon towns,
common woods and meadows, I know little
about agriculture beyond the shelves
and tin cans of childhood. So when I see
the field of pumpkins on the edge of I-5 North,
the bulbous fruit strung out like orange pearls
in finely tuned rows, small hard heads lolled
on the dry soil, I am amazed that so much
can be gained from these ignorant seeds.
Published in Willawa Journal Fall 2022, #15
Flowers in Interlaken
How delicious it is to wake up in a place where no one, no one in the world, guesses where you are. Rilke
He takes time mounting the stairs.
The years are heavy in his lungs.
Peaking out of his small backpack,
a bunch of three yellow roses, a gift
for the woman he’s summiting.
Over the last week, many middle aged
and old men have rung our bell,
asked for ‘Jason’, looked lost, mis-
reading our confusion as confession.
Then sigh with relief and head up.
We joked about it being a brothel,
not the home of an ‘American family’,
as our holiday rental landlord told us.
No American voices, just shuffling at night.
Today unmistakably squeaky percussion.
No joke anymore. Disgust mingled
with awe that you could be so old
and still desire minutes of conquest.
Perhaps he goes there for the company,
gives roses, talk lovingly of a dead wife.
Time Traveller in Sion
For the creative artist, there is no impoverishment and no worthless place. Rilke
Outside the Grand Cafe in Sion he rests,
a Victorian artist from a Vallais art school,
just up - afternoon coffee and custard pastry
crumbs in his jaundiced beard, scattering
down into his pyjamas, greying slippers.
Dressed in questions, he has pan-pipes strung
around his neck, and a Peruvian woven bag
from which he fishes a notebook and pen
to write or sketch in a shaking veined hand.
He debates with himself, waves his hands
at invisible members of his retinue, mumbles.
Suddenly summoned by Rilke’s angels, he gets
up and leaves, stumbling back into the artwork
he was trying to create out of his shadows.
Find perfect tiny blue alpine flowers
I am reminded of being a little boy
when flowers were
everything beautiful and right about the world.
We collected them, made chains,
pressed and painted them.
Plato would be smiling. But not
the German knight who, wanting to pick
the blue winks for his lady, falls
into a river, drowned by the weight of affection,
‘Vergiss mein nicht!’ Forget me not!
Remember, yes, but no loss
can be recovered in flowers, however wished.
Writer's Block at Murren
Most experiences are unsayable; they come to fullness in a realm that words do not inhabit. Rilke.
Words fail me.
No, I fail words.
All synonyms are cliches.
Every time I pick an adjective
to describe the mountains
as they rise thousands of metres
above the unparalleled U-shape valley of Lauterbrunnen
my dumb pen is left sterile.
I am not the poet,
the mountains are.
Monch, Eiger, Jungfrau -
your names are words enough.
No stanza here
can capture this vista
of monumental stone and glaciers, pristine
alpine meadows, tiny towns perched at drunken angles.
I keep following the line of the cliffs,
plunging down with the waterfalls, and all I can is fall
and accept the inadequacy of flesh
Published in Ginosko Literary Journal, #28, June 2022.
Oregon English Journal - 2 poems
The Tree Swallows Return
I awaken from the nucleus of meditation
and find the space
filled with electrons, fired up in flight,
defined in moments of white,
that scoop and slide and slip
through all levels of being
down the river’s potential.
That night, through a valley
in the tops of the pine trees,
they wink past in wrinkles
under the waxing eye of the moon.
The next day, the air clots
with eddying particles rejoicing
the return to the river.
They pirouette sharper than waves,
faster than currents.
They are both feather and water
They rise up like a ballerina's circling hands.
The Zen of a Garden Sprinkler
I saw my doppelganger
walking down a flight of
steps and suddenly cry out
as ten foot high sprinklers
blasted the bank, soaking
one entire side of his body.
In the cold April morning,
sun yawning over the Cascades,
I expected shouts and curses.
instead, he shook his head,
laughed, thanked the spray
for teaching humility, how
to find a rainbow in rain.
Published in the spring/summer 2022 edition of The Oregon English Journal.
3 new poems - Shot Glass Journal
Calculating The Cost
I want to say to the student stressing
about the next math test, worrying her
score with never reflect her best, the
trauma adding up, she fears the rest,
that stupid tests are not the real math.
It's just the system of keeping account,
creating a product that can have skill
enough to add up spending amounts.
Math is a bee's hexagon honeycomb,
the minutes since you last saw your love
the distance the sun's hopes to roam,
the fractal divisions of the trees above,
the sum of all our warming actions,
the urgent need of healing subtractions.
We look but don't see any whales.
Instead we see the Pacific
as an upturned offering bowl from the heavens.
Comets current white lines that pass
close to the yellow start of infinity.
Dark matter pools in random places,
the invisible energy of tug and tear.
Pelicans shoot through the net of blue,
constellations of action and hunger.
Islands eject from the coast like still comets,
the sandy tail trailing south.
Tree sparrows star the cliff top
with their pointed wings.
We look but don't see any whales.
Outside a Safeway, Starbucks in hand
wondering if there exists
places devoid of the poetic.
Car park tarmac.
Gloomy January evening.
only there is an irregular puddle
of water into which
falls tampering rain drops
as if it was its own private cloud.
Published in June 2022 by Shot Glass Journal
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, Borderless Journal, The Brasilia Review (Brazil), Bushfire Literature & Arts Review (US), Cadenza, Cake Magazine, Carillon, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), DASH (USA), Cooch Behar Anthology, Dawntreader, Dreamcatcher, The Dillydoun Review, 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), Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Lunch Ticket (USA) The New Writer, Orbis, The Passage Between,Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sonic Boom (India), Third Wednesday (USA), Of Nepalese Clay (Nepal), New Contrast (South Africa), One Hand Clapping, Opportunity Publishing, The Oregon English Journal (USA) Origami Poems Project (USA), Panoplyzine (USA), Paper Swan 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, Words for the Wild and Verbal Art (India).