Fear of Climbing

I have my inner tremor,
my lower jaw mumbles,
my right hand joins in,
connectedness concurs
to plot, and I cannot
easily climb the stairs,
instead piss in the garden
the less-stepped option –
until this house (for-the-fit)
is re-made, is bomb-proofed
to the extents it can be,
because I cannot live
like this and still be,
I’ll not let inched timbers
and imperial bricks unsettle me.

God’s Acre

Weddings and funerals, in the rare trip-place,
butted stone markers, dropped fags, and ill-grace:

Here Lies.. (A.N.Other) her time out-of-date,
alongside the latest, a brief recall in plate.

Our churchyards cursed by poets-come-thieves,
those poachers of hymns, and cheats in belief:

Let them stride loose, between slabs, low laid,
the church a salvation for those on crusades;

a theme park for tourists, a tick on their list,
a walk with the dead, shot quick on phone-sticks;

slowed-up in the aisle, as their eyes look to glass,
God’s kindles of colour can’t be caught on iPads.

In the yard scans the poet, as the thief wanders wide,
he is often disturbed, God is not on his side.


This is my constant (since childhood):
along a rough path of almost-identified
bird song, high-scattered;

but I am no longer drawn to the slip and suck
of uneven grasses, to be welly-filled
so my socks squelched:

Not over the land topped by last year’s
stamped brambles: As ever the grey sky
has dropped,

she rests lightly on this damp copse,
where locked-in trees are north-greased
against climbers.

The birds I once shot, our farmers’ pests,
ruminate overhead on bowed wires,
adjusting with flap-claps,

and, still, ever, that distant roll of
tarmac breeze, of sped tyres
on a constant road.

The Doppelgänger

St Theresa sat
on Trump’s stiff knee,
to him she was
a limey Queen,
but in her head she’s
Thatcher’s clone:
‘This dame’s my idea
of a woman I’d bone!’
Perhaps the future’s
perfect couple,
they both agree
to cause less trouble.
off they go,
but he’ll dump her soon
in Guantanamo.

The Past

I traced the lines
of my family tree,
my inherited myth
of Bonny Prince bastards,
but instead,
I prove poor breeding:
I dug up the broken,
coal miners and others,
I looked up tough people;
over the border
I counted the uneducated,
the low-paid, the lodged,
them, tight-packed, tired,
those given no quarter:
Always equal to the drag
my women, the mothers,
the pretty-named daughters,
working through the pain,
and the losses under God?
The census is short on facts.

The Surveyor

I am measuring my life
in Caroline’s greetings,
the mortgage repayments,
in slow sips of hot coffee,
the stick-tapped steps,
in unanswered emails,
thrusts of my toothbrush,
in the filing of VAT returns,
the social media updates,
in trips up the High Street,
the ‘phone battery warnings,
in the hours of lost sleep,
and the distances between.

Newick Ghosts

There are no palpable ghosts
in this slept Sussex town
of three pubs, all dark,
beyond those dead flags
on the village green,
odd tablecloths, emblems
stiff under the freezing fog.
Nor are there are any stars,
just winks of burglar alarms.
I walk the dog for pisses
and sniffs, past the slept
and snored, those locked-in,
under tugged-at wed duvets.
The path is our slippery task,
so we adopt the road’s dashes
to guide us, me fog-blinded.
A clicked floodlight wakes
to make us both turn, fooled
by the automatic other presence.

A Letter from Maria’s Seat

Quem te deus esse jussit*

Lady Maria-Josepha Holyrod,
a quill-scratcher of enquiries,
sailed badly from Brighthelm:
‘L’Unique Miss Madam’
Mother re-anointed Maria
in ink and long-hand love
in her last address to her child,
her travelling sweet witness
to sword-thrust royal-shifts
across bloodied France,
posted from the girl’s carriage
on visits to grande houses.

Maria looked from the mound,
Sheffield Park, settled in nature,
‘I live almost in the Garden’
she wrote, March 9, 1794:
Her planned wood view, back
on all that her family owned,
the land, the trees, the life,
but no more such a sure future:
She wrote in fear of local orders:
‘Drive the Cattle from the Coast’.
She signed her many letters:
Adieu! Ever yours, MJH.

*Learn the person God has commanded you to be

Google Books: Girlhood of Maria Josepha Holroyd [Lady Stanley of Alderley] – Link HERE
Royal Collection: – Link HERE

Our Last Frost in Sussex

08:24 and I am touching that poke of a cold God
under unornamented woods
now contained by us – for the good of us

February is sugared overnight – here underfoot
The stripped hedgerow is briefly lit – crowned
by the blinding hour

Those umber-dipped high stick fingers
touch that very last of His
visible burnt presence

Along a raised path – my short timber route
over flood-expectant meadows – a convenience
for us dog walkers – commuters – drunkards

It has a ship’s complaint under my overweight –
a seaworthy distrust of an unstrapped cargo
My stick a peg leg poke across her slippery deck

Greater tussock sedges – rare Sussex clumps of grass
are green icebergs – gathered – they wait for an onslaught
by knotweed and other foreigner floods in this field

after the cold-breath time has been put aside – quicker
with each warmer year – a woodpecker stopped
in Buxted – 08:32

The Echo Chamber

No single flat surface,
polished, inconstants,
chromed undulations,
unmathematical béziers
in every direction,
here enough space,
briefly leaving a void,
always re-filled by you
never a long vacuum,
a place for your small voice
and sharp intakes of breath
of equalised complaints
to be set free, to bounce,
then back on to yourself,
to make more sense
as they return, many times.


The Last Man in Europe

Tappety-tap, tappety-tap, ting

He sits with narrowed-elbows
under fag smoke and cough –
typing – close to mechanical
Making English a simple press
That haircut – number two up to
the darkness – and I confuse him –
Mr. Orwell – with Mervyn Peake
Behind him – a rat-run trench
Fascists’ bullets sing out for him –
like they do now – for equal people
in other wars of shot hopes

Tappety-tap, tappety-tap, ting

Imperial confusions –
then he went to the heart of it
This man could pull a gun
as much as a metaphor –
although the former killed
I saw him – in my head –
back to the fighting – not scared
but engaged in his war
with words – once done with blood
The last man in Europe
would spit blood near to it –
that remote island of death –
spin in a dinghy on currents –
and he tells me – dead – to edit

Tappety-tap, tappety-tap, ting


London (2017)

Apologies to William Blake

I wander down each one-way street,
Near where the two way Thames flows.
A’glow on every face I meet
OS of weakness, screens of woe.

In every tweet of every Man,
In every Infants swipe of fear,
In every post: in every blog,
the Facebook lies I hear

How the Big Issue boys cry
Every converted Church appalls,
And the hapless homeless sigh
Lie in doorways in bankers’ walls

But most through midnight streets I hear
How the Tinder-swiped do curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the NHS hearse

[Original ‘London’, William Blake]

Laying a Fire, Again

He would lay, again, the open fire,
between night shifts, his own dark art in
balled-up shoe-polished newspapers,
rolled over last night’s cooled coals,
that base of almost volcanic remains,
near to weightless in its new state.

There, my father, 1976, recycled
in his making of each night’s blaze –
yesterday’s news, and yesterday’s coals.
As I bent over my own dark bunker,
now forty years later, I returned to him;
we shovel-filled my black coal scuttle:

He’d have never commented
about the bloody tang of damp and steel:
Dad’s metal was clean – submarines and guns,
polished and oiled, triggered functions,
only ever working if maintained well,
ready to reduce – their design to kill.

The stove in my studio, that scruffy servant,
would have been buffed and dusted
if my father were that burner’s owner:
I drop in a fire-lighter, the too-easy ignite,
tip coals over kindling. Warming my own shift,
my dead father and I still work late for our kids.