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 (A.N.Other) her time out-of-date,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.

Morte a Venezia

A driven route
without tarmac,
re-laid by each
warming tide
through that
visited stilt-city
of floods marks
and high arts,
where a man
can drown,
whilst thrown
racist weights
and life aids:
“He is stupid,”
as recorded.
“He wants to die,”
they cried.
Pateh Sabally,
not a Venetian,
was left to drown.

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

The Last Frost in Sussex


08:24. I am touching the last of a cold God,
over unevens, under unornamented woods,
now contained by us – for the good of all:
February over-sugared, overnight, here underfoot;
the stripped hedgerow is briefly lit, crowned
by the blinding hour, those umber-dipped
high stick fingers touch the very last of His
visible burnt presence.

Along the raised path, the short timber route,
over the flood-expected meadow, a convenience
for us led dog walkers, commuters, drunkards:
It has a ship’s complaint under my over-weight,
a sea worthy distrust of unstrapped cargo,
my stick a peg leg poke across her slippery deck.

Greater tussock sedges, rare Sussex lumps of grass,
green icebergs gathered, wait for the June onslaught
of Japanese knot weed, a foreign flood in this field
after the cold-breath time has been put aside, quicker
with each warmer year. The 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:
Fascist 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 tell 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.

First Love

For NK

Ten minutes past five,
that date, to be etched:
The timing, pre-teen,

verging on adult,
told her he loved her
with a kiss and a grip;
his surfacing from under

where he’d long hid,
with his mumbled voice,
to be heard in this world,
above that white noise:

He sensed her missed beats,
and then brought her love,
his simple offering,
which was more than enough.

A Drowning

I stand and consider myself,
again bared by the common ritual
of the shower, my stripped admit
with this steam-blushed soaped nudity.

And an idle thought:

I am so far removed from the sea’s wash
which once set upon my ship-wrecked
predecessor, Edwin Porritt, son of William,
lost off Sunderland, there taken under:

He drank pints of brine, the choked round;
lit and directed by the full moon’s
weighted pull? Her, the false emitter,
the night’s harvester, the cutter of men.

I’ll not be dragged under by this pathetic wash
off the shower head, descended from Edwin,
my great-great grandfather, ship’s engineer,
struck from the family tree – ‘Drowned’.

And I step out, clean.

From the Road

Woodingdean, Brighton.

The razored lawn cemetery,
there, down from the road,
with lonely St Dunstan’s
always stood distant
as a fixed backdrop,
on the near-blind cliff-top,
the far site reduced
by a rolled sea fret,
as gulls in the foreground,
rain-danced on the turf
to bring up fooled worms.


West Pier, Brighton

Along the beach
to Kemptown,
the long way back,
beyond the curdle
of murmerations,
that over-shoulder
look to the sunset,
at the skinned bulk
of rotten dark piers,
with a low tide touch
to creme caramel sky;
bursting in and out,
the flexed shadow,
and translucency,
of clouded starlings;
their murmerings,
such sung things,
followed me home.

The Vicar of Newick

I drank with God’s labourer
in Newick, last night,
him without dog collar,
instead with a pint;
he regaled the fire-sided,
with joyous laughter,
as he heated over coals –
a forestaste of life after?
There stripped of his woolly,
sweated in the snug,
if Heaven were on earth,
his Heaven’d be a pub.
The last time in The Crown
we met up with Christ,
bearded, skinny,
a nice Jesuit type;
but that wasn’t God’s Son
who stood by the Vicar,
but a Nazarene-alike,
a slim, bearded hipster.
The Spirit was stronger
later on in the bar,
a quart of Jack Daniels,
over pints of Dark Star.


For CB & Flint

The briefest of expeditions –
gloam-reduced on unmarked
rough paths below Uckfield –
in frost’s shade – a steep
cut-back – a scuff of lost road
on our tugged walk along
the dip of a redundant drove

Sussex verges are now myths
of ribbons – tied-to mournings –
of days-limped bunched flowers –
of candles – air-pinched – below
roadside oaks – elms or beech –
there her young life leaked
after a deceleration – a kid
cut out by the steel saw and car

Our return home is assured
under our slow-stepped walk
on a lost-name route
on the lingering histories –
yet to be found – laid under tarmac –
only touched by the clod-split roots
of the oaks – elms or beech –
those tied-to fingerers of ghosts



My father – his own father
was a conscientious objector –
My grandfather laboured
under a slow faith – assured –
by the Peace Pledge Union –
he mumbled as a lector
when turning – digging – veg
in the later world war –
and then in my early life –
Both battled the last century
over their long-dead causes


The End of the World

The men of Darwin don’t dance,
they prop their lagered weights
on arms over beer glossed bars,
as turned-from-Sheilas oscillate,
in girl-twisted-girl disco shapes:

We had them, choreographed,
in moves (swifter than drinks poured
by locals), the lit-girls entranced,
by us, the few English horde,
we rout of travellers took the floor.

I woke late at the end of the world,
with a forced order to bed rest,
the night had left me pain-curled,
in that ghost town, now unimpressed,
the ideal spot for a nuclear test.

Days later, I limped, gingerly,
to Uluru, to her sunken otherness,
but I was floored, by my jiggery-injury:
Propped at the shaded base,
as Aussie men shimmied across her face.


For FM / FF

You looked from under
your fermata brow,
there over your right eye,
your cast unbowed

to time’s reduction,
or to time’s recourse,
as seconds stretched,
four senses soft-paused:

I, an Asura, stared
at your slightly dry lips,
eyes to your neck
past pearls, yet kissed;

I trailed down your throat,
I wished to cusp,
but only with sight
could I ever dare touch.

The sixth sense failed me,
that night sophime:
But under time’s arrow
you then became mine.



That underfoot scrape of vinyl
over the higher whisperings and
mutterings from around corners,
as ill trolley wheels, out-of-sync,
rattle off, out-of-sight, carrying stuff
through lazy automated doors,
which compress in slow motion,
those last few seconds before closure;
quick-step nurses and slower assistants
move between rooms and offices,
directing the sat-down, long-waiting,
the late-keeping and the early-attending:
Others, like me, unmoved amongst this.


Bell Hole, Isfield, East Sussex

At the confluence
of The Uck and The Ouse,
below an oak,
they scuttled a bell,
not quite like Dhammazedi’s,
not one requiring
a dozen white oxen,
as directed by
the witch of Slinfold:
But still equal to others’
sunken peals,
for children swallowed
on dared boat trips,
across the floods,
their names rung out,
by Saint Margaret of Antioch,
that nearby shadow of cross.


Peace and War

Dad never tossed politics ‘gainst Him,
never pitched loud against Our Lodger,
perhaps that’s why He located again,
my liberal-leaning Grandfather,
who moved on quick, so soon after

He won a third wife, and her home,
a short cul-de-sac in Ottershaw,
embracing a widow, no more alone:
A new step-mother for Dad to endure,
for Dad to meet, and to peacefully enure.