A Thankless Task

Here fifty-six lichen-dipped
granite bodies sunbathe –
some lean – some almost swoon
in April’s upset of unexpected weather

Here clippings
and rolled stripes of grass
mark long-sunk slopes
under headstones

A cartographer
had taken up mowing
and looked back
upon his day’s work

as a map folded open –
to be figured out
For him
that thought was wasted

There are no travellers here –
all trips are done
Quarter bells
serve no purpose

except to drown out
always ignored car alarms –

no one moves far
from these landmarks –
we are all within earshot
of cuttings of blades and spades

between those engravings
dead endings expose our half-thoughts
about stuff like
Crematorium or lawn cemetery?


Dare yourself to approach the Whispering Gallery’s
too-low balustrade and look down

Here his words
have been heard
by others
In my gut Dad’s
rum gift of vertigo

It was first witnessed
by us all as we stood
before his loosened grip
up Leith Hill Tower

Now this cathedral’s
wall of death dome
kisses my ear
with a cold command
to drop

Tip yourself over to feel
that marble crack your struck head

In earlier years flying
was my dreamt gift
Sleep wasn’t a picked pit
of itches on my skin
with waking stiffness
in useless places

Throw yourself down – Michael

Now his vertigo is mine
taking my lost voice
It is not-quite heard
by my fearless children
when I see them high
on other parapets

Kids – I have my father’s old condition
and it urges me to leap from here

Last Rites

Our common death knell
will gift all of its peals
to our last take of breath

when our slumping toil
over affairs and matters

played over three score
years and ten or less

is then too much to endure

whilst that loud exhalation
is a rush of dead air
of no known words

Do not let those priests
lecture my kids after this

Outside Uckfield’s Picture House

Outside Uckfield’s Picture House –
it was offered up in black and white
as a step off the narrowed path
to then fall under a slab-grey car –

They’re always exceeding
the speed signs through the lights –
or –
They set the limit too low
in this bloody town centre –

My body thumps – it is then whipped –
accelerated sideways on that ride
which comes to Luxford Fields
with a shout of fairground tunes –

For once in a lifetime thrills –

My stick is sent high in the air –
It is offered up as a simple device
to my cinema audience – roadside –
a cut-away shot in super slow-mo –

But my actual step finds me still
on the kerb to see the slab-grey tail
of that car pass downhill into town –
I haven’t hurt anyone – not today

In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come

Not Dead Yet

(For Clive James)

Old Chiacking Larrikin
dropped eight foot –
his fall rope-halted –
then he jiggery-choked

They hang the committed –
but won’t kill the watching –
who steal from the swung
at the public hanging

Clive laughs with death –
as he eyes the loose noose –
his readers misled
by his maple-red truth

Old Larrikin waits
for the swing of the bard –
He’s stood Mr. James
a beer at God’s bar


Believe in your child’s ghost –
but then let her spectre run
from the road-kill shock –
from the flare of the
body-struck headlights –

those halogen matches
will ignite her terrified flight
into the woods –
But don’t eye that place
where she first learns to haunt

in the permanent night
of tightly weaved birches –
where Nan Tuck flies afeard
of her burning death throws –

where the recently
spilt spirit runs
from the quick-kill road –
Who let the trees take the young
from our arms?

The wounding country lanes
kill our flightless birds
with too much winding speed –
She will be cold tonight

Seventy-Six Percent

To take this decision to take my life
Off discharged thoughts but it is my choice

I wake disturbed – a scratched record
Will this be the day when I’m feed for the birds?

We frightened males – poor in acuity –
will swing from your beams far too easily

This tear-stained rope now held in my hands
I am throwing it up into no man’s land

The Perpetual Curate

Here lies the poor
perpetual curate –
he lived a low life
on the stipend they paid —

The beneficiary of
a lost monastery lease –
he was appointed to
this chapel-of-ease —

He could not marry
on the wages of God –
with such low standing
he chose to shun love —

Queen Anne’s Bounty
was no saving grace —
He died malnourished –
inhumed in this place


The Remained

Even in the unfair fall
of rain on the night – of
discharged un-loadings –
after the torches lit
the memorial bonfire –
the three wives of war
will be still – to remain
without any complaint
about huge losses to
King or Country –
or other such standings
of the state’s manhood –
that stupidity of men
Keep back from
the lightings and fusings
of the electrical lines –
It is as if God was unable
to save the widow wives

The Corpse Gate

I called it a tithe gate
but it is a lychgate
I confused it with barns –
my first mistake –

Here are the lost bones
of dead English words –
and here a brutal joinery
hewn by blunt saws –

Here the just-deceased
were propped overnight –
Here guarded ‘gainst theft
by snatchers on the sly –

Laid still – after carriage
on the rough corpse road –
under this shelter
for one night’s repose –

Wood knots – whales watching –
here the whorled grain –
This was not God’s work –
but of man’s own domain


The granite markers have tipped forward –
angled over the settling of in-filled earth
where the boxes and bones collapsed –
the stones remain whilst other things fall –

The once beloved’s burial is long forgotten –
but not the slab’s patience over centuries
of bearing – the carved words mumble
a worn-down remembrance of years lived –

The mason’s refined font is rubbing thin –
almost erased by the wear of the world
which has re-touched the carved surface –
even death cannot claim shelter from time


It is now zero-two-twenty-two
and my sleep is distracted
by far too much thinking
about minor possibilities –

and other rum miracles
in my conjouring mind –
such as taking my mother
back to the Holy Land –

to see her greet the white grave
of her eldest son – at least once –
for me to tolerate her

There will be no myrrhbearers
but only her – one more witness
before the laid down stone
which is fixed – she will stand alone

But I know that she will never return –
and I have no chance of any apology
as she struggles with family acts
of untranslatable love

She may live a few more years
having never felt his breath on her –
off his loud grandchildren –
and seen the tears of his wife

And at zero-three-zero-three
I save this disturbance of sleep
among notes on my phone
and a reminder to call my mother


It was as if there was no step
or soft seat that did not force
the deep stab and grip of pain
through his frame and thoughts

He had stood well for a time
but then the ill rip-and-burns
filled his limbs with that sear
which fuelled flames in turn

Bad as it was – it was not Death –
He led The Crowd to the pit –
felt his calves lock on the path –
and then sear as if then split

He rocked on his heels to ease it all
whilst he read to them The Truth –
as laid out in the lines for the dead –
but God’s words were still no proof

As the Boxed Man was loose of his ties
and was set down in the earth
his own spine screamed for a seat –
or to lie flat on the peeled back turf

By the time the priest got to his car
all of the Dark Cast were gone –
In the cold groan of the air con
he let out a tear to mourn

That was his last one for The Church –
it had turned its arched back –
to leave him to face an ill grace
and to tear up the old contract

The Fly

The fly hummed her old song of death
as she jacked in the room’s still air
in a quickened patrol overhead
of absurd dashes and acrobatics

I considered my chances of a kill
but her own sense of time saw me
in slow motion – a sweated animal
of missed flails and wrong swats

Then she was gone from my space
because death was not here – not yet
But she will endure and then retrace
her plotted flight to my last warm breath.

The Cull

It bolted into my beam
and was too fast for me
to stop the car in time –

a grey and white rush
of life under my wheels
and I could not avoid

the eye-shined badger
in the space between
ruts and embankments

A thudded weight cursed me
through the steered curves
with the guilt of road-kill –

of something too noble
which was always under
others’ orders to be culled.


A bare bulb hangs by two wires
over the bathroom mirror
as a reminder of his absence
with that unfinished fitting

I walked between the rooms he built
and am now that rare ghost
having flown back to my home
of other incomplete projects

The future is never reached
as we flounder with tools to build
our small palaces and shrines
in which we wander on our way to die

The Long View

I’ve relocated my drawing desk –
we lugged it to the front room
where it hogs the bay window
with the intended long view

I now spot parents and fat kids
off to retail therapists with bags –
I watch them plod down the slope
to then return – to ascend slacked

My foreground is neatly fenced
by neighbouring OAP purgatory
where septuagenarians snooze
in the blind-fitted conservatory

There none visit the anchored few
who shimmy on wheels and frames
to and from their short destinations
of bed to table and then board games

My own rest home is a slow torture
of afternoon sunlight through glass
but it is my now my preferred option –
I have a better canvas – of sorts.


‘The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming’ Isaiah 14:9

I have turned against the world’s clock
and her perpetual request for following
and found myself with my back to her sun
My shadow’s stain laid like the Long Man

I am that untouched layer which obscures
but which time will shift again and again

I am part gnomon – being so subdued
that a blackbird lands in my cast of darkness

This shaded life is mine to command
as I take on the correctness of watchfaces
and counter the arguments for my decline
which are under the thin mantras she sings

I will cleanse with the Rephaim around me
in the baths in which my brother washed off
his own reductions in the last of his living world
and I will not take on her sour sung calls.

A Weariness

Over three decades ago I lived
under this ridge and these roof tiles
of repeatedly cast red clay

They were more malleable days
when constant change was good
and my future still had thirty years

From under these timber beams
Chris was removed before his fiftieth year
A weariness tinged with amazement

Perhaps Camus – or my tired words
will lift the eyes of my children to life
I sip my Arabic coffee as Israel growls


He was moved down
to ‘The Departure Lounge’
and we were reduced
to the daytime whispers
of his night duty shifts
as required ten years earlier

but then Dad was dying
and his bed was grounded
almost as if the next stage
was another eased lowering

Three decades on
and I now look to a room
which is equally flawed
but my expected years
are not that finite reduction
of a terminal Illness

I struggle with this shift
from first floor to ground
but it will make life easier
for all in our household
I say I struggle with this shift

Of Time

Our histories sit with us –
those unwelcome ghosts
We should not regret
their passing – that loss
If we foolishy embrace
unto any such crowd
then their knife – their gang
will bring us down

We should extinguish the flame
with wet finger tips
and promise the present
that the past has no grip
I am alone in these moments
taking each as my last –
secure that my future
is now planned by chance

Weather Warning

This apprehension rumbles –
one only audible to me?

I fear the threat of loneliness
Of old age’s inherent adage
being forced by the separation
which is executed under my hand
but has been otherwise decreed

I fear finding that all time has gone
and is then a compression to death
and then the flatline without recovery

I fear for the future of my children
because we have stolen their hope

I fear someone finding me frozen
in a bed
or chair
without them knowing me well

My Generation

There’s cash to be screwed off this ageing population
of us the near-needy – the to-be-nursed generation

Flyers and ads freefall from the ‘papers
promotions galore to entice us old-agers

Walk-in baths with a seat for tired pins
and packaway loos – such convenient things

Save now for your funeral and reduce the high cost
Insure your fucked body – shield your kids from a loss

They’ll sell off the house and divide the proceeds
Now dead your true worth – two holidays to Greece.

The Sign on Southern Railway

There’s a Samaritan’s helpline advertised on the platform
hanging from a lamp post on the sturdiest of wires

I think about the last hours of that American comedian
I picture him considering the place he will meet death

and try to uncoil his quick mind
as if such powers are really mine

It has to be such a certain thing because doubt won’t kill you

only the best of preparations
such as a strong hanging point
will see you through

Did he then worry about being found
or is that selfishness not allowed?

Is there a real risk of commuters throwing themselves under trains?

I step back from the edge as the train to London Bridge
slices through the taught cord which now gives




As we suck in murmurs
I shut my eyes
the endangerment less
of that to cry

To explain in plainspeak
this fixing of pain
is to convert the Jews
to Christian games

Dinner is served
in a heated dish
as I drink red wine
which bleeds bullish

We hang the evening
like a bull in blood
the severance of such
is of all once loved

And I cry like a blackbird
that hazardous rasp
as tears hurt my face
in this regular farce

Parking Bays

David places the cones
at military distances
of old-paced equality
and makes sure the sign
which reads Funeral Today
is visible to all

It is a one way street
and not overly used
but it’s best to be sure
and there is nothing worse
than the blackened hearse
having to double park

Later in the day I watch
the staggered procession
of roughed-up mourners
making their way to church
on that road which has seen
the dead of Uckfield parked

The Tin Man

I have thought of taking
unthinkable leaps

forced by this impedement
which reduces each step

I have examined myself
in a cracked black mirror

allowing for distortion
what I see is not anger

I have changed under this
my short-lived affair

Rejection is armour
which I now have to wear

The Neighbours

It was the caller ID
which daunted
for a moment
a selfish part of me

I went next door
to the possible passing

the one when I found
my neighbour’s
sick wife had died

But through ajar openings
and by calls aloud
I met her
under scab formations

She had fallen
we all will
on a blood-marked rug
and had been hurried
to A&E


Now back
retuned to this bedroom
with supplements scattered
her able state was propped


I left to cut ham sandwiches
and delivered their meal
with an apologetic cough


This skin on my foot
is turning to scales
like that creeping carapace
worn by her grandfather

His octogenarian husk
was raw
as if spun adrift on the sea
and salt-burnt

The old campaigner held court
in a Surrey nursing home

This was thirty five years ago
His layers of dust
His remnants in that room
have long been hoovered up

The Secret

There are a thousand secrets
which cannot now be told

withheld in run-down hearts
and haunting tenebrous souls

He poured from the heavy bottle
that wine which was not blood

and broke the mouldy bread
to help soak the alcohol up

His life was changing shape
with the cut of floods and falls

all plots of pensions and peace
were not his
to now afford

He emptied that rattling bottle
of a pharmacist’s last count
and took his heartburn secrets
to a place upon the couch

No note
no one to read it
no confidences to be read aloud

Instead his pain passed silently
and his breath stopped in an hour

Time Travellers

‘The heavy weight of a lonely death’
I read
stated in bold at headline height
eye lined up to the old woman
English and abroad
reading her UK paper
as the onshore wind curled the other pages
held in her three score
and more
years of holiday-making
and with the other shaded septuagenarians
her clock refuses to stop


As if there was enough death
to recall at this time of year
there is another one to add
to the villagers’ engraved lists,

but she shall not be set to stone
in a public place, instead placed,
for now, in a far-removed room
to wait, to wake to dried tears;

she will not cry, or laugh, again,
pull faces, look for the moon,
take a selfie, be misunderstood,
she will not cry, or laugh, again.

The Mass of Men

Inspired by an interview with Stanley Kubrick by Eric Nordern  for Playboy in 1968

The odoriferous sound
of others’ discomforts
may force to reduction
your gnawing intolerance,

but instead you must find
a sweet tone of acquittal
by listening much less
for their off-key approvals:

No more the simplified
repeal of nursed rhymes,
but a tune you’ll compose
when not feeling for lines:

Their trip on indifference,
when felled by jealousy
over others’ flat arias,
there you’ll find armouries;

strike this shone torch,
to guides with beams,
illuminate everything,
even old-echoed screams;

you’ll now light your voice,
here in the brightened throng,
to end at the same gate,
but with a much richer song.

[Poem #862]


an enured year off
for your partner’s slow death,
interrogated by a kid
about the remnants of life.

Our futures are schemed
by privateers,
those insurers will do well
in our twilight years.

They’ll suck on the dividends,
draw succus from flesh,
as our neighbours, our friends,
save hard for their death.

Harry Dean Stanton

Paris, Texas, and H.D.S.,
add a neck slide Ry Cooder,
his strangled introduction,

over a peep show recall,
and Harry’s easy fitted drawl –
once told to let the costume act.

With the guitar’s skewered groans,
‘Yes they lived in a trailer home’,
his back, as directed, was turned.

He then shuffled off,
through the dust,
after a mother and son.


A small calendar reminder
in the corner of my screen,
‘DAD DIED 1987’;

so it’s been three decades
since his ashes were tipped
by an unknown R.N. padre
at Spitshead, Portsmouth:

There a dying empire’s
grey fleet anchored in ’53,
with my father aboard.

His page will be turned
in that memorial chapel,
which he visits, briefly,

once a year, for a day,
back where he escaped
from his own conflicts.

The Present

This moment, at ten-thirty,
his present is wrapped,
and I am sat sweating,
bloated after breakfast,
me feeling slowed, heavy,
the grain turns inside,
and to now head back
to hand-deliver the card
and a paperback copy
of ‘When Breath Becomes Air’
for this friend, an occasional
husband to a dying widow:
Birthdays push us closer.

Sheffield Park, East Sussex

The wide open workshop
was beyond my education
(three terms of metalwork
forty years earlier was never
any kind of apprenticeship).

Greased tools, backs bent to it,
at components, stripped elements
of dead men engineering,
here exhumed across scale layouts
of locomotive parts, almost lost

until men in overalls, and tilted caps,
pulled on levers and tools to fix
the lines from one shut station
to another, suffered, under Beeching:
to get the steam into the pistons:

Our kids milled, kicked at ballast,
and were more intrigued by a ring tone
than the scale of rod-shoved wheels,
and steps so high, halfway to Heaven,
for these men, so we left the engine shed.

St. Anne’s Hill

My father died
aged fifty-five,
I was aged
he slipped away
at St. Peter’s:

My mourned dusk
then came back,
as I was buried
in the haunted dark,
under the canopy
in Buxted Park,

back to his story,
as we three ducked
through the woods
on St Anne’s Hill,
our fears fostered
by his ghost story.

No Angel

He endeavours to be
one who ‘can’,
not a bit-part, paused,
not half a man,
not battled to bend,
with rusted mettle,
he’ll hold her at night,
unmasked and settled:
No more a young man
in the place reserved
in God’s waiting room,
which others deserve:
Grant a slow decade,
ten years of good life,
please God, he asks you,
for his kids, and his wife:
Re-set their happiness,
that for his spouse,
he won’t demand space
in your over-filled house.


The words
‘under contrails’
rounded on me,
those raised scars,
high gatherings
of man-made clouds
over this county,

the icy remnants
of others’ flights
to warmer climes,
and I was grounded
by the weight of my foot
after foot:

I no longer dream
of taking off,
arms wide,
a kick and up,
but I leave a trail
of sorts.

Bonfire of Certainties

A bonfire of all certainties
has been built under me –
of timbers – by unseen hands –
crossed over and lain
on a cold heart – that core
of devoutly-snapped sticks

The ninety year old fell
and they discovered
her riddle of cancers –
She shouldn’t be alive
But her bonfire was doused –
I’m happier  – she sung –
I have assurances

This told to me as I was driven
by the old woman’s nephew
through Puglia’s stone veins –
I saw my own pyre lit –
and you – my wife –
have to bear the still low heat
of this
the slowest of fires


He was born too late for ’21,
by ’68 he burnt with the charge:

Delivered 1950 in Bogside,
(part-named after Pope Pius XII),

the second of seven of Derry,
by fifteen years old a butcher.

Then to other blood at eighteen,
(after Fitt was struck in ’68),

and just one year later he was
Derry’s second-in-command:

A man at twenty-one counting
the dead after a bloody seventh day.

Politics’ cloak worn in the early 70’s,
but Mountbatten died on Shadow V:

Your man was the IRA’s number one,
that day when eighteen sons died.

By ’93 he was welcomed in London,
seeking peace within Number 10.

He lived 3,500 weeks, two sides,
and over that time 3,500 died.


The Last Man in Europe

I see Eric Blair, upright, thin,
his bottom lip fag-lowered,
stiffly at his carried Remington,
posed at the high round keys,

which he knew too well, the sound
of a-e-i-o-u, those strikes
at very-necessary English vowels,
on fret-ish presses, in haste, to complete

The Novel – over coughs, those near-death
rattled expulsions, then later
to another hospital, long after a sniper’s
bullet fell him, blood-mouthed, in Spain.

He removed all his loved from the centre
to the offset Isle of Jura, an Astor invitation,
to her blanket bogs and Brecan’s whirlpool,
which his one-legged brother-in-law swam:

Eric could not row from that same draw,
instead he was guided to a shipwreck
upon a skerry, only to drown,
not much later, in a rip-tide of blood.

The Fighting Temeraire

Apart from the obvious creases,
and immediate grey effects,
a flabby jowl from rich indulgences,
comes the breaking of our extents:

Once loose, no plot, our lives,
now rotting in unsure depths,
so we face a towed-to future,
to be beached in shallow dread:

The Fighting Temeraire repeated
on the walls of sheltered flats,
reprints from London visits,
an obsolescence, reduced to scrap.

Do not put me in a care home,
those stinking broken berths,
let me ease off, with the pull,
let me drift without tow ropes.

Addlestone Crossing

There to see my father,
propped-up in a polished box,
one that my eldest brother,
chose, on the basis of, what?

Death was still too sour to us,
the parlour’s air throat-clogging,
this feared place of passing youth,
ten yards from the level crossing:

Often halted by its turned gates,
and scoured spin of wheels,
on our way in and out of town,
with Dad, and his thousand skills:

he could dissect a battleship,
break apart any gun,
extemporize upon anything,
with sketch, and rule of thumb.

Now boxed-in, he tarried,
we’d leave him, lonely, there:
my brother could not stand
the shop’s execrable despair:

In that time, almost gone,
I learnt about death’s prop:
that last lesson from my father,
our paths no longer crossed.

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 Night Before Remembrance Sunday

East Hoathly, Sussex. 

We walked the limpid lanes,
empty, except for
the to-be-exploded
indolent traffic cones;
here it is dank under high clouds
and low wood smoke,
with no street lighting,
except the garish fluorescents

strung off vulgar food wagons,
which, in turn,
are measured out
along the drip-drip lanes:
A miracle, in this remote place,
feeding the five thousand,
not one disciple put off
by the high-vis Police,
or God’s bad weather,

as ever unwelcome in these bonfire towns.

We met an angel, alone,
at the far end of the playing field,
her troubled illumination
an alliance of digital arts,
with her hands held out,
palms up, her timber shell fragile,
as if saying:

‘I was not real, I was not there, I am fiction’.

She was sacrificed, as planned,
like every shot down man
in the bloodiest battles
we could impose upon the poor:
these nations, these players,
these generals, these slayers.

Her cast embers heated debris at eleven am, Sunday.


Count Down

Do not consider
unless you can,
hourly, bear
this state
that is provided,
until the minute
when you pass,
and do not expect
any fixed date
of release, because
your good life
is measured by
your good death:
and will applauds,
with a last-laugh pill
as yours.



Which drugs work?
Well anything illegal,
plus doses of alcohol,
or inhaling some freedom:

Not television-consumption,
and the inanity of such,
which is foul humdrum,
remove that crutch.

Let me read Ginsberg,
howl wild words ’bout sex,
meet strangers to talk to,
but not to fuck (not yet),

because fucking strangers
brings swabs of bad luck,
which need more meds
and I’ve said drugs suck!

Let me loose on the world
before it dissolves,
let me lose this shit time,
before the shit takes hold.


Dad has a suit for the funeral,
and time for a balcony fag,
as the middle kid kicks a ball,
playing alone, ‘cos dad is sad’

Mum is moaning in the kitchen,
‘stuck here until I die,’
and the youngest girl sobs quietly,
for the truth, which makes her cry.

The cremation is booked for two,
a slow drive to the garden of peace,
to their cold dead’s last resting place,
eulogies from an unknown priest.

The youngest girl is kept away,
the only one wet with grief,
living the terrible loss
of the love that she so needs.

A Dance

It will slow down,
our promenade,
that we are pacing
to ever-last,

on this dance floor,
where we step,
to a song which
makes you weep;

I’ll hold you after
the last struck chord,
until those notes
are no longer heard,

but without that music
to guide my feet,
from our ballroom
I will have to flee.

The Pebble

My dad threw me a bag,
and only when I was holding
the weighty smooth sureness,
of that contained pebble, he said:

It had been removed
from a young girl’s skull,
post-mortem, it was
noted, the cause of death,

after being shot up
from its settled place,
on a wide roadside verge,
by a spinning mower blade.

Never intended to kill,
that bullet-bit remnant,
water course washed,
a history left to geology,

but now removed by blades,
from the land, and the lain,
cut from a rough bank,
and then cut from her brain.


A life reversed, when the rules were fair,
clocking-on was simpler, when time wasn’t feared:

Now striding coarse slabs – to monitor my state,
balance on flagstones – this path of restraint.

Sweet-sliced fruits, thin-cut childhood,
allotments in time, when the growing was good.

Yes, we had threats, assured Armageddon,
but now I live, struck, by a chiming destruction.

I shall still travel, on the edge of the blast,
making each stride one more, not the last.

But, seeing me frozen, appearing to be stuck,
that’s the point when I’m time-fucked.


Internally booked, still to be paid,
so, I am now, somewhat committed,
to a special assistance, a short flight,
a one-way ticket which is mine:

Her return seat is reserved,
my obligation, then, her future comfort
on a solo flight, letting her go alone,
to meet a new man, on that flight?

He would notice her reddened eyes,
and, being so very English,
wealthy with embarrassment,
not ask her why she cries;

he sees her wedding ring,
which she turns, and turns, and turns,
as if she is over-winding an old clock,
too much,
so it will no longer work.



The label, captured, a proof supplied,
reinforced by an old Fisher’s design:
Note: ‘for luggage and hamper labelling’,
now ‘Merit Parcel Tag’, e-bay’s selling.

The card, written, upper-case printed,
fixed, tied, with parcel-string, knotted:
Scout-known? A killick hitch, or a lark’s head?
Tied to a passing, before his child, it said.

A theory, The Serpentine,
no river of blood,
but an old favourite place
to meet one’s God.

Witness to the Court, on his death,
Folliot ‘moody’, precursor at best,
given by an unknown source:
‘Suicide’, verdict, in The Serpentine’s course.

Also left, Clotilde, bequeathed a few pound’s-swell
by ’48, his wife, resident, The Imperial Hotel,
at Queen’s Gate, London, SW7;
Clotilde died, aged 78, no cause given.

Her passing was recorded,
in Paddington, London.
Her aged-death registered
a long mile from her husband.



In The Gloucester Citizen, December 1945, a verdict of ‘found drowned’ was returned in Westminster
on Frederick John William Folliot, a Doctor of Philosophy, aged 44, of 7 Holly Place, Hampstead NW3.


For a Daughter

The bearers will need access descending from his room

Dismantled – the stair-gate – a low barrier removed

she’s too small to know that her Daddy has left

accompanied by strangers – no last goodbye – not kissed –

he’s leaving behind a wide-open gap

one she will feel when grief finally grabs –

when she’s a mother lifting a latched gate –

for her child’s protection – then the opening re-made –

an ascent – unlocked – her memory of his space –

his goodbye no more missing – on a landing – they’ll embrace


Our Time Bomb

By our eighth decade,
the correspondent wrote,
over twenty-percent
will succumb
to dementia:

I can see her,
fixed to forgetting,
and sat bed-side,
the frail ‘other half’ left,
shelled, bombed-out.

Will there be enough room,
for so many?
The twenty percent,
to be bed-locked,
to be bed-blocking?

As you avoid
hospice-bound falls,
on shortened stick-ticked walks,
or on a shuffle between rooms,
before the last shuffle begins,

will you be feeling lucky
to be, in your moments,
one of the eighty per cent,
still lucid, but alone,
in your eighties?

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

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.


Your Charity Jump

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

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.

Capture the Clock

Capture the clock –
we’ve this time to lose –
speak with the old –
mute now the news

Listen to aged-voices –
life-burr – soft-breaths –
rhetoric worn-down –
senior voice attests

Summon hoar-views –
lifted in grey –
embrace explanation
off soft-mumbled rage

Sit in the chair
in which they tremble –
embrace their time –
do not pass them

Look in rheum eyes –
read drowned-years passed –
absorb their life
because this is your last


Consent: no expectation

mariette grandfather
The story behind this poem – link here

For Mariette Robijn, and her family.

Mariette stated:
‘No one wills
A favourable reception
Of any illness,’

By Oma, her Grandmother,
Over a century, under God,
Recalling, her husband,
Landelijke Knokploeg.

Hilbert ‘Arie’ van Dijk,
Executed, too cruel,
Helped leading the few,
Their Resistance,

Her youngest son died,
A few years later:
Her great-grandchild died,
in grief’s labour.

Despite these tragedies
Oma carried, ill-eased,
She’d always say:
“Be brave.
You have to agree,

To embark upon the journey..
with an unknown destination.
Without knowing why, or .. how..”
no expectation.

When I Die, Don’t Tweet Me.

When I die,
I don’t want to be famous,
Too many people,
may then bestow greatness,

On my stiff corpse,
laid, coffin-graced;
Too late for me,

I don’t want my glasses
perched on a wreath,
Nor outward pouring
of hysterical grief:

I would rather die loved,
by people I knew,
Than adored-dead
In an on-line spew:

Give me a tweet,
Like me, and friend me,
I would rather live now,
Knowing my enemies;

Don’t leave it too late,
When I’m boxed, without choice,
Love me today,
Whilst I still have my voice.


I have never enjoyed cold tea –
you know that slop-dreg last inch

My dad drank gallons of it
with swigged slurps – his sound

By God, he could drink it hot!
Gulped down – necked red-raw

Followed by a Silk Cut drag
until the throat cancer stuck

He puffed over nine miles of fags
and how many gallons of tea?

With a cooled inch left, I stop –
Everything gives you cancer

A Path In Israel


It was a path
from another time,
Your close enquiry
of an ant-marched line.
Crossing the equally
engineered rails,
We both avoided
the steel-trip trail.

You, eldest boy,
chatting alongside,
On the rough-route,
where Ruti had cried:
Your uncle asleep,
in this blown-thin soil,
Alone in this god-land:
an empty black voile.

Unlocked the gate,
metallic complaints,
I showed you the place
where your uncle waits,
your talk is erased
by the hand-carved curves,
Our name cries out,
among foreign words.

Don’t Dementia This

We should all look forward
to dementia,
there’s nowt else certain,
that’s for sure:

Once embraced,
by this progressive disease,
it’s a drawn-out death,
of old memories.

History, recent years,
clean erased,
our marriage would be

So with presence of mind,
here, my living will,
at that point please,
fine wine, and the pills.

Funeral Bell

They shuffled past,
the occasion-group,
men blacked out,
in their mourning suits:

Fashioned Ray Bans
reflect the sun,
they hide red-eyed,
from the living ones.

This, their procession,
onto the wake,
Is the last time
they will undertake,

a gathering with
the laid-to-sleep:
This bright day when
they blindly weep.


Binner – wheeled to departure gates –
an offensive act booking those flights –
Hug-locked – brow-racked – scorching fears –
final-flighted and drops of scare-fared tears –
One-way ticketed for one of the few
to meet the Swiss doctor who will do

Binner reduced – when failing to hang –
takes assurance when death’s bell rang –
Last supped-meal – over pressed white cloth –
as closest friends quit the disciplined voice –
swallowed wine sipped over swallowed tears –
Binner consumes all their fears

The clinic – managed – comfortable – slow –
would allow him – on the last turn a no –
laws – even there – need proof of intent –
a questioning to reckon if death is meant –
Our last lain bed is not often chosen –
its use – not usually the thing we know –

Binner to Debbie – in planned dub-voice –
clarity in this – one last act – one choice


Gone from the clinic – pushed solid-boxed –
Remnants of his self – rolled coroner-locked

What we leave behind never remains –
What we seek to leave is minimal pain –
Difficulty in death is not for the dying –
That awkward state is for those left crying –
Should we leave wakes of tear-run floods
for those we lived with by spilling our blood?

Bravery is found in the judgement of others –
a strained heart broke by his out-living mother
Autumn pulls Binner down with its fall –
he pre-supposed well cheating winter’s hard call

How to Die: Simon’s Choice: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b070jm26 via @bbciplayer

“thank you @MikeBellWrites for a beautiful poem about the remarkable Simon Binner https://t.co/xPHhP8ybuK@Minnow_Films#simonschoice “

— Rowan Deacon (@RowanDeacon) February 13, 2016


Everything is easy, there is no difficulty

Called, I entered
‘The Departure Lounge’
renamed, a rare-shared joke,
for that downstairs room;
here my father sobbed
with cancer’s slow burn.

Sat upright, explaining a dream,
for the first time in our lives,
(me, twenty-something,
then, no reader of such things),
with his simple review:
‘I saw my mother,’ he explained.

Nan had passed on ten years before.
‘She said.. everything is easy, there is no difficulty..’
In that moment, with his head-held,
Dad licensed me to cry before my kids,
to find comfort in dreams,
and to speak with the dead.