The Border

Should we care
that a man was held
upon re-entry
to Trump’s citadel?

A real American,
Muhammed Ali’s son,
stopped at the border
for his religion:

Detained for beliefs,
for his father’s choice,
once the loudest,
most American voice.

The Storm

There, feel suspicion
shifting, with 
the volute of winds,
drilled, air-cracked,
this wooden floor,
almost set lifting,
with me tied-to,
in Ulysses contract,
waiting upon
a messenger’s distract:
A low across
my nervous squall,
you, my storm,
could destroy this all.

And I shall sleep
through falling trees,
as I did once before,
in another place,
where I was split,
felled to my knees
by a lover, me, cut,
redundant, disgraced
by her mis-order,
my love misplaced,
becalmed upon
her blunted bent:
I descended Leith Hill,
the storm then spent.


Parents (sic) Evening

I return to my schooling
over parquet flooring,
in repeats of bruised corridors,
between their mending places,
but now to hear about bug fixes
and performance improvement.

This Parents Evening of the lost,
(always missing an apostrophe?),
in a maze worthy of Daedalus,
where hard logarithms rule
my expanding distance from kids:
I compare and contrast –

no more cradle-to-cane
as we follow our children,
from report to report,
from people young enough..
and that overload returns –
I still misuse my apostrophe’s.

The Artist’s Poem

In my dreams, there is silence,
not that conscious switch-off
for the rare library visits,
missed out, not muting devices,

no, not that easy click,
but another longer lull,
down the line of a pen:
a stalker’s murderous silence,

that of me, the fasted hunter,
treading, tarried, slowed over
kindling’s dry threats to snap:
in my sleep – that silence of captures.


It is hard to know
where time has slipped,
how each of our days
are torn, tossed words,
and within such trades
we seek to quip,
our histories writ
by mis-use of verbs –
those thrown at things,
which will always hurt;
and we’ll settle to books
in our double bed,
with singular thoughts
to be left unsaid.

Mrs. M

Risen, our ghost,
on this landing,
her, embalmed,
our prior owner,
wishing to leave,
without asking,
M. reduced
by a buried composure,
slighted under
daylight’s exposure.

Our eldest child
met her in his room,
dark, spectred,
unexpected there:
he slumped back
to sleep’s deep rheum,
in doing so she slipped,
rent back to air:
our review made her
his dreamt-slept affair.


The Summoner

Your exhumed past
should not be here,
a dwindled forget,
such forms be gone:
feeling no cushion
as you now kneel,
on stiff prayer knees
for too long,
do not bow down
to history’s old song:

Summon no ghosts
under your sung spade,
leave those haunted houses
to others,
and turn your back,
walk the opposite way,
leaving your tools to rust
on the surface:
your past to rot
on undisturbed ashes.


The Late Shift, Again

Another ridiculous o’clock
finding me drawn at my desk,
hauling creativity and effort
from finite resources that,

when I am slow and upright,
need my re-engineered stick,
but not here, sitting, making
other worlds and other places

to help win Soho agencies
their prizes, small fools’ jewels:
My rude award is their money,
ninety days later, if I’m lucky.


A Wall

Each imperial brick length
required malodorous acid
to be dippled, slow-brushed

(avoiding the old lime mortar),
applied to each unpainted face,
covering the exposed wall:

“Up, tight as possible,” she said.
“Right to the [recently plastered
and whitewashed] ceiling.”

My red canvas was four yards wide
(an old measure, antique, in keeping
with the building’s Edwardian lines).

I laboured, bent more, for a day,
etching with those rarely-exercised
dug out tools:

A paint scraper, a black hammer,
a quite unsure stepladder,
and two inherited wire brushes;

that last pair kept
over forty years to remind me
I am not the practical son.



Upstairs, steam-dripped
by every breath,
becoming condensation
it sticks, a vertical film

on the inside of the windows
of the fan-packed top deck,
aboard the lane-swaying
Number 29 to Brighton:

I sit, as usual, with too much
of the bus-shift-and-tip;
meaning that my forever
poorly-travelled nausea

threatens, from somewhere,
to become a public thing,
to be my fellow passenger
(Otto’s) thrown-up problem;

so I roll my eyes inwards
to cheat my tilted brain,
and by the time we reach
the stop called Earwig Corner

I am away, off in another place,
to stored recall’s sinking edges,
inside the most private
of our human experiences:

So holding back the vomit,
with this old-time trick of closure,
of not looking out to half distances,
but instead by looking within

my journey is thus managed;
sight is restored by the push of mud
underfoot as we step off the bus
to witness miracles at The Amex.



Cher Steve Bannon,

Comment redémarrer le mal?
Vous l’avez trop facile
mon altesse-droite,

vous avez votre chemin,
avec la haine, votre haine,
votre politique de quatre lettres:

Tenez leurs têtes courbées,
prendre leurs cœurs sombres,
et ensuite nourrir, si longtemps,

sur leurs intestins bouillonnés,
assaisonné de toss-politique,
raisonnement c’est tout pour eux.

Là, mon cruel ami,
est votre projet déplié
à construire avec l’iniquité.


Mike Bell.


steve-bannon1Dear Steve Bannon,

How to re-heat evil?
You have it too easy
my Alt-right friend,

you have your way,
with hate, your hate,
your four-letter policy:

Hold their bowed heads,
bake their dark hearts,
and then drizzle piss

on their bile-boiled guts,
seasoned with toss-politics,
reasoning it is all for them.

There, my cruel friend,
is your simple recipe
to cook with iniquity.


Mike Bell.


I was taught to spot the imperfect years
by measuring, with eye and finger
the varied distances, the thicknesses
of those concentric, almost-whirled,
bark-marked lines in the bared-ankles
of cut trunks: Dendrochronology.

Counting back, to before I was born,
my smooth fingers touched the years,
and Dad recalled a distant summer
without enough rain (‘see the thin ring’),
when he felled a malicious child,
dragging him by the handy straps
of handed-down dungarees
through a dusty field of soft cow pats,
that bully face down, Dad ploughed
shit down his bib: he marked him.

At the bottom of Lime Tree Avenue
a bared examination of that past
with the removal of another tree,
rotten, untrusted to be above us,
all that is left is the raw-sawn stump,
of over a hundred imperfect years,

and I cannot touch the ring he was in,
as my finger is now too thick and rough.