His Last Leaf

Frank Ormsby rarely writes –
only now by medicated spurs

set quick to the side effects
and his drugged obsessiveness

which are my nowhere-near-equals
to his northern placed verse

No more lined up by his diluted voice
Loud Frank left it at school

He opens up his vowel larder
of self-affirming stories

His Rasagiline’s rattle is double
of my dose – no ghosts yet

in the corner of my eye to fade
as Frank’s stand on his laid table –

then they briefly sit alongside him
until slipped back into mindful spaces

Frank works to avoid word boredom
with a poet’s fear of word silence

Words Burn

VLADIMIR: You should have been a poet.
ESTRAGON: I was. [Gesture towards his rags.]
Isn’t that obvious. [Silence.] 
Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett

A whole ninety-eight cents
have recently been credited
to my low-tide bank account
from Yanks’ penny clicks

on my must-do-better lines
in newly-hewn sob stories
without no strummed blues
which now appear to appeal

to a slew of red neck readers
who enjoy my so inconstant
complaints – in blank verse –
about my current former wife

A true trailer park tale – he typed
We are all trash novel writers
Burkowski still raises a drink
to the 3-year-old’s who’ll never meet

because his words burn
like my continued condition
and we shall meet – Charles and me
downstage without direction

Two Masterclasses

A.A. rebuked me –
Do not use ‘I’ –
that first person singularity
it’s not yours to rhyme –

It’s of the oppressed –
their turned-to-word –
for taking control of
that which is owed –

And – A.A. then said –
There’s too much ‘the’ – too –
‘The’ is a word
which only dead poets
should use

But J.G. had reproved me –
a short while back –
The ‘the’
is missing –
it makes your poetry slack


So this internet thing –
it is not perpetual –
those coded points
are subjected to atrophy
by compression –
of post-reposts –
a shrinking by interactions –
a constant thinning –

as offline moments thicken
with time’s hand-hefted
brushwork —
see – original composition
is super-fogged
by varnished layers
of obfuscations —

My dark-slapped lacquers –
upon my rubbed recalls –
are words-on-words –
becoming dried-hard glazes —
Even instant-spun thoughts –
such attempts – gloss over

finding not enough
clarity to remain –
all will fade under the loss
of servers and by untruthful views
of clicks-by-bots —
These words will not last long enough
to work for us


Mr Murray

Sitting with Mr Murray in February sunlight –
under new blue skies – we met at a word church
which boasts a blue plaque for Mr William Hutton –
Bookseller – the first Historian of Birmingham –

Mr Murray’s words sweep the clean streets –
You know .. We could be anywhere in the world –
below fawn high rises – in Sydney – in Hong Kong –
no city surprises me!

Mr Murray isn’t sat with me – here in the sun –
not in St. Martins – not in the Old Rep’ theatre –
but contained beside my small biro’d thoughts –
with my inked finger on his Waiting for the Past –

Talking to strangers is my constant disease –
Sitting with old poets an occasional delight –
those small distances stepped through cities
lay deeper word footings in my travelled mind

 Edited 200219


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

The Collection

I am almost the same age
as Mr. S. Armitage

Today I bought
a collection of his work

from the secondhand
book shop – just off the drag –

where words are piled
between pencilled prices –

I feel bad – please tell me how
I can pay him the rest –

so that I am not short-changing
Mr. S. Armitage


I favour the white spaces
between my words –
my loose goods trucks
left uncoupled –
let to roll into others’
classification yards
under the pull of inclines –
by the freighthoppers –
you few readers
of these lines
who find the hewn floor
a brief comfort –
and me – another traveller –
of sorts – I sit alongside you

Our Arraignments

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

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

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

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



In a rather cruddy function space
above a time-stale pub in Brighton –
sat uneven – at beer-stained tables –
we sipping poets of no published note

fingered our place settings of paper
in folders – our kicked headstones –
Here Lies M.A. Bell – and other writers –
who died slow deaths of dull rejection –

There is no air or space these days
for me – from the other side of poetry
quoting verbatim Atilla the Stockbroker –
he put me in my place a long time ago –

There sat – that fusty room’s rum alien –
in my coat – offering quatrains of fear
about warm croissants – and disease –
and Del La Warr – and surrealism –

not getting close to the slam-generation
with their pert feats of rhymed memory –
my voice not near their flat intonation –
do not attempt their shopping list poetry


Bend to the paid work in hand
and watch your hours fall away
as if they are pearls spilt off string –
those drops off your tilted head
under the fast-running shower –
in the hour before you commute –
until those sped beads are nothing –
And do not ever – ever – attempt
to be a true artist unless squared –
unless you are recompensed
for the selfish hours given to art’s
endeavour – it was Van Gogh’s failing –
not putting money first

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

This Builder

I am a too-quick builder –
one without the weight
of an elbowing canvas bag
of inherited tools –

Mine are not recognisable
as such – no textured grips
of moulded plastic
over cold-formed steel –

My way with these agencies
is by an ill-lightness
of slightest finger touches
on the tablet’s screen –

I chisel and cut without blows
until I slip – step back –
to see – and read – some
over-engineered words –

The curtain rail in our bedroom
dips unattended –
It no longer serves
any purpose

The Wounded

(A nod to @tonyhoags_LPS)

I am – I think – also wounded into speech –
by limped-off difficulties – by disconnections
away from my pages – I admit my ply of lines

of instant fixes – of weaved words into verse
My tipping point – there by daylight – re-set
after dull errors and other such mistakes

it is my NHS-wrap of lightly cast plaster
to mend – gripping – my snap-bone moment –
or – the tip of talcum on to sweated flesh

I am no more hiding from the heated fallout
of my dull errors – those bombed mistakes –
my day-to-day words are just housekeeping

Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore*

As disordered pages
I read back my life –
until you – as Ludmilla –
entered mine

The creak of shined floorboards
from the weight of us
and of ten thousand books
under ten kilos of dust

You as Ludmilla
mark my book with your touch –
your stroke of the spine
is a pleasure to watch


*If on a winter’s night a traveler

I, the Draughtsman

‘The Irish have the greatest command
of the English language’ Discuss
Some West Indian poets may disagree
as would others from further ports
of our whore-explored tongue

This waking moment lets me wander
in a drunken reverie the words of Wallcott
but I haven’t dropped a touch in a week
apart from that sip of gin and tonic
which I was asked to consider for taste

In the house children clunk on floorboards
and the eager dog patters and follows them
My eyelids measure the paucity of my sleep
Later today my fatigue will make a grand entrance
just as I need to be alive to connect the lines

Steve Coogan Ate My Poetry

Thick, propped
in the black-slapped
of Brighton’s Komedia,

for an evening
of Henry Normal
(other Northern Poets
are available):

I sit stool-high
(beer table handy),
an American asks me:
‘Is this guy funny?’

Before I respond
her English friend
offers explanation:
‘He’s friends
with Steve Coogan.’

Making Poetry, Because Causley Did

I am in the place of making poetry,
as Causley did, a revelation when
greengrocer-ed by school kids,
and then he described the act:

We will explode if its not written..
Appease the angel and the demons..
The poems have to be written..
Life goes on..

‘On Being Asked to Write a School Hymn,’
(this verse disturbs our tamest poet),
such creation was Causley’s response
to being exhausted, to being re-awakened,
daily re-set, after school, by the writer’s clock.

In 1982 Launceston appealed to me,
stone-faced before the town was laid,
found in that broken-back paperback ‘Collected.,’
which I stole from Surrey Libraries.

Now I pit my reducing self
into making poetry, which sits unread,
unpublished, not in bound paper,
re-edited only when I come across it:

I am making the words
to fit the verse of this hammered work,
but I use no blistering tools,
just the weight of big hits on tin ears.

[Poem #866]

Not Northern Enough

I am not northern enough
to be a radio poet,
not a McGough, a McMillan,
or a Normal kinda bloke.

I am not street enough
to holler as a slam artist,
not a Sia, Poppa E.,
or even Kate Tempest.

I am not black enough
to rhyme with the best,
not MC Drake,
nor a Kanye West.

I am not angry, outraged,
able to bark,
like Attila the Stockbroker
or John Cooper Clarke.

I am (Attila said)
‘the other poetry.’
In which case I’ll exult
with my southern dignity.

Plye pen againe

Under this reduced hand,
my writing slightly askew,

(less old script from my fountain pen,
loosen your grip, man, to let the nib scrape
without the chisel effect of an inky furrow)

I shall claim a small victory
over this place
by a return to legible verse,
by lifting my plough,
and taking the next line straight.

Derek Walcott, 1930-2017

‘Rhyme remains the parenthesis of palms,’
possibly misquoted, by myself, not the man,
that islander, playwright, poet, and giant,
gifted in language: ‘one of the chosen.’

Born under flesh-stained colonial rule,
he ran fast ‘cross the pink law of the Empire’s tongue:
stood huge on a platform, with Seamus and verse,
to see off the trains commuting their words.

It was the tidal returns, the moon’s low fold,
which refilled the pen he always held:
that implement, squat, was his quick mouthpiece,
the wordy, Saint Lucian, commander of language.

Along Brodsky, and Heaney, he will loudly reverb,
as his silent waves rise on sand-scribed words:
and the triumvirate will laugh at their own bawdy jokes,
in their office of tongues those three foreigners spoke.



Another day of distances
at my complicated desk,
a world, yet to be seen,
here conjured, cuff-rolled
under my sleights of hand;
I am a whore for every hour
at this, my digital alchemy,
turning fixed ones and zeros
into other fools’ short gold:
And when their rush passes,
designs met, now unamended,
I can then draw out my words

across other complications.

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



With these lines, today’s commitment,
I revisit burials I have turned from,
the lowered place of shovelled history,
which, even under my reduced recall,
are things that shouldn’t have been:

Those minor indiscretions
which if dug up, levered, exhumed,
and stinking of the past’s decay,
would make you think less of me:
Those shallow graves best undisturbed.


Lost Words

I mislaid a lover’s poem tonight –
now undone over wireless files –
by the members’ club –
near my short-lived home –
I dropped the text – her words have gone –
my lust-spews lost her – internet-blown
What of un-doings can I now re-build
in this swilled night-time
with sleep to kill?
A recall of her squats –
her tight compressions
over my thighs – shoved without questions –
and my pained hands on her flattened breasts –
I type too fast to retrieve behests
Tonight I’ll dream of us reaching – fumbling –
fingering and buried – ever French-kissing –
but all those breaths are a short frustration
I’ll lose the lines in my translation –
I was stood naked on a littered road
and her lost poem lay folded –
still unknown