How to Stay Married

One way to want
to be somewhere
is to not be there –
to be sitting at
a distance –

All good marriages
encounter difficulty
which stew into
common indifferences

and then sour
as spite and low esteem –
that being the natural order
of such things –

but we have halted nature –
we can squeeze and rub
our chemical emollients
on each raised rash –

on rage-blemished skin –
and invent new ways
to hold ring-bound hands
and still travel together


Also on Medium

14th February 2019

Held by a red signal in south London –
in a balloon of wifi – of library silence –
this being a price-hiked compartment –
a restricted remnant of empire days
still served up by rail franchisees

as our ticket collector mis-quotes WS –
Juliet’s soft words as cuffed banter
towards serving staff –
parting is a sweetest sorrow
and he then regrets these modern times
of –
changes to language – to luv cld b not bad

Then a roll forward like a sneaking suitor –
an incline takes us without that rumble
from diesel complaints – this carriage sways
over switched points – under lopped trees –
those leaf-spill hazards

alongside a thousand-thousand
other prunings met behind drawn curtains –
those many lovers’ shop-cut flowers
presented in cellophane in south London
on this Saint Valentine’s Day


EDITED 170219

Also on Medium

Matrilocal

Am I not uxorious enough?
I just read you my last poem
and it was met by a hush –
as if I had said nothing –
I know you said nothing –

You are a tough one to peel
like a thin-skinned Valencia
which refuses to avail
its tight pith to my digging nails –
never one to loudly respond

to my wagered words on paper –
these verse observations
of the spinning of things
in the near space we share
by our legal agreements

Ploughing

Clasped – a cold buttock –
dipping to thoughts of others’
comforts – way before zeal
had become sloth-by-illness –

Working a younger body –
thinner – stiffer – bent to those
exacting tasks of hard love –
before this exhaustion set in –

Then visiting foreign suburbs –
eating with a woman and her family –
years before her daughter was born –
before we screwed –

before furrows of motherhood –
those folds of parenthood –
Old positions – long exertions
are no more first weapons of choice

She serves our meal as ritual –
common to others’ habits and grace –
Even with confusions under Hebrew
my understanding is here –

All records are coded recalls of sex –
of finding what had been lost –
then dug by honed ploughs –
all will be turned over once more


E160219 – Edited in Anthony Anaxagorou workshop at Verve Poetry Festival 2019

Returning to Work

The dog was away with his eldest
so there was no scurry-to alarm
with her return after midnight

She ghosted down the hallway
to find him sober at his cold desk
pinned by weights of late designs

He met her bloodshot eyes to find
how well they answered his enquiry
about the evening out in Brighton

And then he let his other senses work
out her night’s eyed-up dialogues
and her lent-into clandestine touches

Did she taste of others’ tongues?
Had her lips had been scored by stubble?
Did her neck bear a robust cologne?

She awayed to bed and drunken sleep
as he shifted the aspect and constructs
of the lines of his worked-at scheme

Our Arraignments

Sometimes she lies unknown
without a weathered headstone –
his fingerprints have been struck off
in rages ‘gainst Mytholmroyd’s son

Should I scratch my own existence
off my wronged lovers’ lost graves –
from my past – as if erasing myself –
perhaps that’s the right thing to do

Ted was – just once – Daniel Hearing
not yet un-spelt by strangers’ chisels –
no – they remove his Hughes adjunct
as if they are pummelling his smug face

My first marriage slunked like a low sea fret
over Kemptown’s slippage of wet roads –
it rolled onshore above the piled shingle –
her washed stones should fill my pockets

And did he sever her crown of braids
in some overt – rash – cut and grab?
Was her estate of words – not enough?
Complaint never kept the Laureate at bay

That struck image of my children waiting –
their mother told me at the time –
I could not fix the view from the window
as they waited for Daddy to come home

At an unkept distance – from the graveyard –
there the old stench – a sharp stink of fox
still lingers above the farms and streets –
The rest is posthumousas was once said


Also on Medium

Squeezed

I am being squeezed from the middle
like a sink-side tube of stale emollient
or that holiday-returned toothpaste –

and you wonder – out loud but wordless –
why I smile less – as if I am a dullard –
a Charlie Brown kept in his place by you –
an always right Lucy van Pelt

It is as if I am being ineptly operated –
I am being used in the wrong way –
That will make my face difficult to read –

dried out – until you grudgingly comply
with the simple set of instructions
and see that you were not doing it right –
then you note my pithy grin – torn off a strip

New Years

I stand – alone – at an open gate –
I have missed midnight’s kisses –
then – me-the-fool – fleetingly lost
the worked-at vows which we set
on our half-recalled wedding day –
a ceremony thirteen years earlier

where we sliced up a countdown
to the last hour’s holding of hands –
with our slid rings on held fingers –
our bind to the old laws of the state –
silver and gold bands of such weight –
I stand alone as this New Year sings

He Really Did

He really did not know
for how much longer
he could hold on to her
and still be dishonest

He had walked far more
than he had drunk –
but still staggered
along the loose path

off which his love for her
dipped like a slunk ghost –
then she was there –
caught by a car’s high beam –

then she was inverted
like a shadow between trees –
as if his recall of her
had been politely dimmed

as if they were long-divorced
from each other –
that common vote for failure –
which is the wedded norm

These Lessons

‘Love is a skillĀ rather than an enthusiasm’ – Alain de Botton

She is giving me lessons
in love without hate –
but my teacher is failing me
for my schoolboy mistakes

The morning was fractured –
my compass wouldn’t twist –
I failed to find answers
and she would not assist

My notebook is ink-stained –
I scribe off my left –
I crib her taught words
but I always forget

The air is mite-lighted
as I pull from her mind –
this classroom is silent
as my learning unwinds

Four by Four

I sought the purport
of a four-letter word
after coming across it
in a loan long-expired

I looked to definition
in its Wikipedia entries
of disambiguations
in need of citations

But do not believe
everything with labels
not even a short story
of four vocables

Love is an impact crater
on the far side of the moon
Love was a film
starring Salman Khan

An East London Dancer

So she tipped – like a slipped-off creature
under the water – tilting back – to arc
below – to birth a falsified richness
of twisted mist – of dry-cold-on-wet-heat

and I held no appall at her staged nudity
which I stood over – there her magnified skin
of yet-kissed white – of yet-sucked circles –
and that interruption above her turned legs

She let my eyes dry her raised limbs
with an idiot’s roughness – back then
such was her kick – in and out of the water –
she lifted a leg and I was ineffective

Before the gig I had been couch-anchored
as she stood just-wrapped in her towel –
with unfitted – with flirts – with a glimpse –
and me on the guest list for her show

At Our Gate

Old lust – our ragged plot
of strangling weeds –
of poisonous shrubs
turn to interleave

I no longer prune hard –
here they still grow –
even tool-turned beds
take foul seeds
as true

You employ a man –
whom you poorly pay –
who digs in hard
with hands-on-spade

He labours for hours –
the rough cover he tears –
as he clears the unloved –
you taste his turned air

The Galway Hooker

There’s a fishing boat off Galway –
it bears
your maiden name

The fisherman don’t know you –
yet –
but will
by close of day –

you were mounted on my stemhead
your bared breasts fixed my course

I sailed with you
and your fishermen

through rages
and dark squalls

Strung

Am I rebuffed by your cooling love?
I tremor under naked phone lines –
oscillating – now wind-touched –
Silent are our words in the wires
which we strung to allow such whip –
Without voices they are set to squinch
and tighten before a snapped mishap
of misunderstood tensions – of speech –
No text – no reveal – such cold harm
here – left open – rough translations
like the coded language of telegrams –
Are muted signals your intention?
And I’ll sit by my phone – as if
your voice is the waited-for-gift

For a Pot of Paint

The tall bay window
is our empty white frame –
on the front of this home
of unshuttered shame –

but now winter-battered –
past my amateur repair –
the paint has flaked off
through changes out there –

The weather has whipped it
in layer-thrashed strokes –
like the blistered hull
of a forgot-turned boat –

with a peeled underbelly
for so long undressed –
it has been left unsealed
losing sea-worthiness

No sensible man
would sail in her –
he would never return –
she is so unfair

In the Eye

Women slip from winsome
under their senescent faces –
their hands steal the looks
off youth’s eyed-embraces –

They pleasure in pastimes
of tease-tricks and flirts –
they command your heart –
their hard rules will subvert

I want to reach out
and trace your lined beauty –
of furrows and laugh lines
worn freely at forty

I will kiss your eyelids
of stitch-tightened skin –
because here is your beauty –
it is still within