Autumn Term

They make the slow haul uphill
with their shop-branded bags
of untried school uniforms

The boy bears his boxed Clarks shoes
as the girl lugs her sweatshop shirts –
freshly picked off Primark shelves –

Still with plenty of growing in ’em
was her mother’s observation
as she calculated the cost of it all

These slack summer holidays
will end not soon enough
for the parents – but not the kids

The hour-numbed regiments
will reform and take the school gates
in their battle colours of navy blue.

Kermode’s Lament

He walks the Croisette
between palm leaf shadows

this gloom-filled film critc
nursing a flopping hangover

A review for a near deadline
with just enough vitriol

next time this critic
will avoid the film festival

He promised the wife
and Fortnite-fixed kids

that never again
will he do this flick-trip

Instead he’ll drag them
kicking and screaming

to a safe place
which is way beyond streaming

Wine

The developed hills of Nerja
were not designed for me
(the me now rested halfway
on ascents and descents
in and out of the old town):

A quick trip to drink red wine
and pick at slapped down tapas,
as the silvered pensioners,
springing from bar to bar,
leave me blindly tapping.

The Mediterranean laps
on this unfinished coast
of collapsed kerbstones
and mismatched slopes,
Dali’s own theme park
of shadowy hazards.

And I make it back, alone,
with my whereabouts online,
via Google’s data pool,
for those I left at the bar
able to still pub crawl.

Substitution

If there is an English word
for this heat please send it to me

along with recent pictures
of you being buffeted

there in the autumn break
as a male storm blows over

I am a short distance set
by an internet search and flights

I sit in a festooned bar
watching football from London

as my sweating groceries lounge
in ten cent shopping bags

and I am avoiding the hill
the heat and the inconvenience
of my body

Clouds

This nuclear sun over Nerja
seems to be a false detonation
just short of early November
sent with no sense of guilt

It sears the white on sunbeds
and encourages black beach vendors
equally fearful of seasonal clouds
like those dropped by atomic gods

experts at praying against shade:
stay caught on the peak of the hills
tied to the now-misted heights
by beaded string to rosemary.

Breaks

Our summer holidays
were always ‘at’ Easter,
‘cos that time of year
it’s so much cheaper,

even after a pay rise
for the-men-with-truncheons,
still that week,
but upgraded to Butlin’s:

We went self-catering
at Bognor Regis,
where Dad smuggled in
my eldest brother

through the camp’s
padlocked gates,
Chris was concealed
under oil-soaked sheets.

I sketched seagulls,
the only visible detail
in that thin view
of endless shingle.

Forty years later
and another vacation,
off to Devon,
a last-minute stay-cation,

a holiday to engender
family joy,
the gulls now snap-chatted
by our youngest boy.

Rock Pools

In these recharged times
of eye-sucking screens
the two boys still felt
the pull to cold rock pools,

where Fred wrist-delved,
turning possible pebbles,
but Wilf was slowed, upset
by his so-aching tooth:

Me, their photographer,
was quite unsteady,
cautious over rough slices
of tripped possibilities,

and my parental recall
of other times, of deep cuts,
but still they climbed, hunters,
stalking in their innocence

of that shorter progression,
just before their steps lengthen,
when they will stumble
with the strides into ageing.

But now they leapt from high
to scribe in sand their names,
a stick scrape, like us before,
to be tide-washed from the shore.

Static

The curtains swing,
lifting in and out
of the single-glazed
breeze-wide windows, 

through which
the gulls’ cries circle,
in turned over levels
of kid-like bickering:

The slim walls disclose
coughs and mumbles
of our own children,
and we are drape-blind

in the box bedroom
of this plot-placed
static tin caravan,
which rattles now,

as the sky lowers
with holiday-grey rain,
and the wet suits
are rinsed again,

but the view is great,
whilst we both lie,
seeing the world
through poor WiFi.

On the Beach

She inserted pink earbuds
whilst lain out on the beach,
a solution to drown seagulls,
and other such wild screeches,

like those howls whipped up by
huge ice-cream-now-demands,
fought off by over-tired parents,
complaints of the young and old:

Immobile, eyes shut, sight cut,
with that downloaded programme
off Radio Four, for such times,

and now, she was kissed by the breeze,
and the soft attrition of blown sand,
she was no longer on the beach.

Holiday Traffic

‘Keep two chevrons apart’
is the roadside command
for some of the foot-down way,
as we cruise boot-squeezed,
with brake lights popping,
on this, the first Monday
of the summer holidays:

We are driven, just one stop
for service station Starbucks:
The boys danced to muzak
in the hourly-mopped loos,
as we refilled with tea and latte.
Then back to the rushed tarmac,
and the dash-dash-dash of lanes,
to hurtle again through the flume,
towards a static caravan in Devon.

Sunday

The backlit curtain hesitates
across the open window,
with the inhale, exhale, breeze
it moves on the unintended axis,
creating a dragged complaint
of man-made materials,
an almost-radio sound effect –
of the turn of Edwardian ladies,
or the inflate of doldrum sails,
perhaps a man’s last breaths,
and here I will lie, behind them,
putting off the shift called Sunday.

The Beach Haters


Ranked low on recliners
by freckled differences,
some late sun-aged
before this dead sea,
as ragged and wrinkled,
umbered by the sky,
muttering in languages
so indignant, lain,
offended by others’ children,
and the laughter of families,
each interaction
a foreign intrusion,
as they languor, topless;
not that you’d want to see
the lower laughter lines
of these clay figurines.


Special Assistance

Special Assistance,
just two of us,
and in those minutes
I was lost,
under decades
of othered-avowals,
she bound to her
dementia-bed spouse,
him, one of us,
shuffling, forgetting:
When so met
I am guilty of vetting,
with my symptom
enquiry lines,
mapping my
prescription of time.
His first phase
like mine, didn’t alter,
only reduced
a former builder:
‘It was awful,
but no real pain.’

‘We are different,’
there, I said it again.

The Sun Dial


Our potted approach, by uneven kerbs of stones,
to a solitude, this sun-aligned home:

It took a thousand paces to measure the olive grove,
stepped, metres-squared, hectares, in Ostuni,

at a surveyor’s pace across rock-tilled soil,
along the perimeter and back to the starting point,

where the building is rooted between trees,
the house, the grove’s only fixed shade-maker,

where shadows are not altered, not by leaf growth,
not by bough collapse, not by plough,

but constructed, like the conceit of time,
over God’s rough footings, instead, now telling the false hour

by the drawn-line’s shady cower: And, as if to throw more doubt
on His creation, they even command the water:

a blue rectangle of fifty lengths, measured out in wave slaps,
off an English breast stroke, as an echo, the puffs of breaths.

The coal-black dog hunts down lucertole,
those too-quick-Italian-for-lizards,

hid under unearthed rocks, those rotor-turned,
their blank faces bleached, but not sunburnt.