Missing Out, for DS

It’s after midnight,
actually one o’clock,
she is asleep,
and I cannot turn off;

I endure the exhaustive,
late-hour crush,
for slept ones, I live for,
who count so much.

I am half-unique,
my diseased-feature;
I am still awake,
a nocturnal creature.

Tonight it’s no different,
my keyboard rattles,
no song in my head
and that also matters.

How Not to Die

Mandawuy, given,
of Yolgnu people,
his skin name ‘Gudjuk’,
writing songs for his nation;

he was labelled, briefly,
‘Australian of the Year’,
his coronation late –
Gubba man’s idea.

Ill, but on stage,
with his band Yohtu Yindi,
his crown re-found,
in the grace of singing;

his voice, so loud,
again dream-gripping,
with a re-cast lifeline,
thrown by performing.

He said: “I am not dying”,
his beliefs in living,
he went, a sorry business,
to the Eternal Dreaming,

‘The Healing Song’ incomplete,
but he always sung the words,
connected “to mother earth
and the universe”.


“Racism is a disease… We’re all equal..
I don’t care what their colour is,
or religion….as long as they’re human..
they’re my buddies.”

Mandawuy Yunupingu
17 September 1956 – 2 June 2013


All I have left
is a shot of my dad,
his black hair
combed hard

over that
balding spot,
one I’ve yet
to fully match:

His flat-feet lifted
onto his desk,
showing his soles
at their best,

whilst holding, delicately,
a magnifying glass,
examining nothing
for the photographer.

Quite unlike him,
it appears, easily-posed,
a black and white essay
for the local print-news.

My father, once a copper,
then ‘a fingerprint-taker’,
here framed, last sight of him,
my footprint-maker.

Football Results. II

Nan, northern, small, from an earlier time,
she called the cinema ‘the flicks’,
with her Geordie spittle, forever an old lady,
behind bottle-bottom NHS glasses.

She sat on the edge on that elastic-sprung chair,
the three-piece suite, which we later inherited;
Nan sipped her occasional wee-dark whisky,
when visited, on a Saturday, by all her children,

but one – unknown – for her, always missing:

That secret she kept became her last honesty;
her out-of-wedlock mistake re-born,
with the final clearance of foreign nick-knacks,
mementos, of a life, without her first child;

he was long-removed from her early shaming,
steam-shipped, as an infant, to another world.
He left home before them, to that other place.
He died, the letter said, in an automotive crash.

I can still see Nan’s fag-suck lined mouth,
her skin, leathery, never once kissed
by her first child, his distance, his shipping,
beyond her long-sight, her failing vision.


Football Results. I

A slow, stab, flourish, and lift
of piccalilli – turmeric’s yellow twist:
This pot of eastern reinvention,
a bastard child of the Empire.

My pre-punk Nan, war-widowed,
smoothed it across the corned beef –
her fatty, but still flaky, meat solution,
shipped in tins, each with a key.

We sat, spread on the yellow sofa,
with our plates balanced,
watching Nan attend to her fags –
back then they didn’t give you cancer;

that room a fug of Silk Cut and Players,
exhaled in stylish puffs, I watched
their twists in the mote-sparkled light
as my relatives prayer-hushed

for the football results.
When my uncle spoke,
exposing his stained teeth,
we knew no one had won.



Nan had to move
from her council house,
the one with the cinders
and ash path,
a piece of which
we always took,
briefly embedded,
flesh-framed in blood,
in one of our scrapes,
after a trip, or push,
up to her door;
the sibling way of boys
let loose from a car.

The menace of
the shadowed alley
took us, echoed,
to her patchy garden,
where her hind-sloped,
disagreeable Alsatian
marked out our pitch,
which was surrounded
by a notional fence,
being badly strung,
held thin in my fingers,
almost cheese-wire.
The washing line posts,
the only things planted,
stood a ball’s throw apart.

Nan moved from there
to her new flat,
without the dog –
it being ruled against.
No path, instead,
grip-rippled ramps,
up, then switchback,
up, then switchback,
past ‘No Ball Game’ signs,
around the stray dogs’
piss puddles;
here, no patchwork
of grass to absorb,
no forgiving cinders
to fall on,
only yards of child
breaking concrete.


Your Charity Jump

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I am going to free-fall,
through thinned-out clouds,
a given, this booking,
for my charity’s pounds.

I shall be that speck,
strapped to another,
you may see me drop,
as I hurtle, pre-splatter,

completely committed,
to a complete unknown,
like us, also falling,
our future unbeknown.

We know, all we know –
that the straps will work,
and the ‘chute will unfurl,
and our landing could hurt.


Another slumped sofa stretch
of cushion-pushed impressions,
indents, formed by your unloading:
a day lost, switched off, no movement,
except the brief wrist-lift of your iphone.

Stroking, seeing, other scrolled-worlds
of individual broadcasts, pictures,
hourly-worded eulogies, reporting from
their kitchen table, or visited bars
in other places, from moving friends.


Down the Line, for GG

Pitch-side, shivered, we parents all cheer,
in debt to our coaches, these great volunteers:

Now it is time to thank ‘The Special One’:
Gary.. here’s some highlights of what you have done:

He stands in all weathers, foul, fair, frost-nosed,
just like his demeanour, his language, it glows:

In Crowborough, he crowed: ‘Johnny get the ball!’
‘No Johnny! No Johnny! Johnny don’t fall!’

In Eastbourne he echoed: ‘Aidan! Good save!’
‘No Aidan, no Aidan, kick it that way!’

To Reegan and Reiss: ‘Stop hugging each other,’
‘Carry on like that, and I’ll tell your mothers!’

In Tonbridge his tone was more forgiving:
‘Ethan, shoot!.. Eeethan! Ethan keep going!’

But back in Maresfield, his grump was returning:
‘Harry.. Get up! Harryyy! Harry you ain’t ‘urtin!”

Substitutions to make, but who to choose?
‘Wilf! get off! You’re having a mood!’

Recently he’s been very kind to the new:
‘Harvey! Sam!… I’m not subbing you!’

Gary shouts to Robbie, his voice almost gone:
‘Robbieeee, Robbie! Run! Push-on!’

‘Bobby! Bo-bbyyy! Down the line!
‘Run fast with the balls, I used to with mine!’

Other blood-ties are passed more motivation:
‘Fred! Frrrrrred! That’s the wrong direction!’

As Connor dives right, Gary screams loud:
‘Hold the ball Connor! No punching allowed!’

Daniel, broken-wristed, he’s missed some fun,
Gary assures him, ‘You’re not the only one!’

Hayden kicks hard, hitting Gary in his goolies:
Later, that night, Heidi will check the family-jewellery.

So a thank you, Gary, for your fabulous coaching,
A unique approach – it means that we win most things,

The big thing the lads have learnt in all your time,
Is to keep passing: ‘Pass it, Pass it! Down the bloomin’ line!’

Chemical Love

I found that place, I imagine it square,
your inch-by-inch patch, an emanation
a waft of pool chlorine,
always there;

here I returned with my buried face,
after a night on another sofa, my choice,
to avoid my beer talking to you
in your sleep;

I had woken, flying, with the late-brush
toothpaste taste – a chalky coating
over my reflux’s
mouthed complaint.

All my morning pains were blown
by my non-prescribed drug of choice,
a resin block, squared
inch by inch.

Moon Landings 2.

Your American Dream
worn thin through decades

your nightmare now risen
waking politics of rage

Your mark on your ballot
with a right-to-win hope

your future is threatened
by the electorate’s vote

Your democracy is rotten
rusted blood in her veins

your Statue of Liberty
is lit by hate’s flames

Your family – once docked –
fleeing foreign distrain

your salt-sprayed forebears –
would they want to remain?

Your Libertas should turn
to look back on her lands

Your Dream she won’t see
with her face in her hands

Following – Moon Landings 1.

Three Thousand

Three thousand children,
some missing,
wishing to be schooled,
but, still waiting:
in shallow-rooted fields,
no siblings;
those long lost,
arm-locked into fear.
No formal lessons for any of them,
no sit-scraped classmates
for these other faces:
Hunger, forever, their learning:
Juvenile lives marked, tested,
almost buried
in this foreign field.

Wrong Side

Let me try to explain
what my life dictates:
I’m driving
on the wrong side,
where I have to think,

again, no usual moves,
re-school my reactions,
to get by,
to cruise,
on new-normal functions;

my engine,
a metaphor,
without lubrication,
add lack of sat-nav,
and tail-backed impatience.

Let me maintain
this license, still free,
allowing me to drive,
slowed speed.

Withnail is I

Here stood desk-leant
now feeling fine,
knocking back left over
swigs of wine:

Earlier Harvey’s
unsettles my gut,
a prelude to the morning’s
face-down chuck?

Unless I am lucky
and avoid a hewed-spew,
I’ll suck down my bile
and collapse in the loo

to attend to this toilet’s
spick-spanned wipe:
this is my prayer-mat
sick out of sight.

Requires Improvement

Education, a subject,
which we all mastered,
to different degrees
of (certified) achievements;
once left, rejected,
we turned our backs on it all,
but then comes parenting,
and we head back to school:

We have to re-engage
with the playground’s heaving,
sit on shrunken kids’ chairs
at parents’ evening;
look around walls,
search for our kid’s great art,
smile to ourselves,
because his stands apart;

but then we only see
what we want to believe,
and we never believe
what we really see:
Long hours etched
across his tired teacher’s face,
her love of teaching
dulled by SAT’s constraints:

Phonics and screening,
our child’s new ‘true’ voice,
he’s hushed in the corridor,
to avoid Ofsted’s annoyance.
‘Academisation’, is that a real word?
My spell-check refuses,
but then that will re-learn.

Our children, these vessels,
yearly-filled with fear,
failure’s no option
for our school kids this year;
this country is ruining
the health of it’s youth,
whilst our brilliant teachers
are told to improve.

Walk Back, Writing

I am wobbly, walking home, some late o’clock,
a trespassed short-cut over dampened grass

through this estate of town-planned care:
No roads, paths only to lamp-lit porches

as cars sit, misted, braked on verges.
The street light’s spill, a dry amber pool,

me, sense-struck by the waft of cuttings;
I am re-routed, indirect, by a solitary tree,

it’s stillness shocked, split, by a pigeon’s clap,
it disturbed by my standing, or my breathing?

The momentary effect, combined, then leading
to my old flight to Israel – picked fruits, sun-browned,

lawn-fronted homes, of sprinkler’s ticker-sound:
Same lives parked, people air-conditioned,

sat lamp-lit, the sole indication
of life struck by us, flighted, but never leaving.