Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Shortage of Angels

On Christmas Eve
Mum brought the box
Down from the loft
And happily
We tipped it out on
The rug and set to work
Upon the tree
A mess of tinsel,
Gold and silver,
Robins red and baubles blue
The lights were twinkling
But - no angel for the top
What could we do?

Dad was at once
Sent out to buy an angel.
He was well wrapped
Against the cold
The man in the corner shop
Was very sorry
No angels.
The toy shop, too,
had sold out.
and Supermarkets
Everybody said the same
This year there's
An angel shortage
We believe Christmas
Is to blame

I woke that night
I thought I'd heard
Soft bells
I went to the window
And stared up at the sky

I caught my breath
As the dazzling stars
Blazed a halo around the Earth
Each star, I thought,
Is like an angel
Celebrating Jesus' birth

The morning came
And great excitement
Opening presents
All for me!
I bought Mum
her special perfume
And Dad a film
about Bruce Lee
But later
when the house was quieter
I went, all alone
With my thoughts,
to see the Christmas tree
And there,
upon it's top-most branch,
looking down at me
Guess what I saw?
That's right -

An angel

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two Poems

Billy Elliot

When I was a boy
I hardly knew what was what
Unlike Billy Elliot
Dancing, spinning, spiralling
Through the heaven
Of the Victoria Palace Theatre
Bending the imaginations
Of the stalled audience

But are my tears
For a childhood lost
Or a life beginning?
And am I really any wiser?

For Paul

Your sadness
Overwhelmed us all
Drove us from the road
Upturned us in a ditch

Your new love?
You wrote songs for her
But she betrayed you, lied
Took all your loving
And sold it for a silver hammer -

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I dreamt I was moveing
That’s how Americans spell the word.
Well, in this dream they did.

This dream was not of blood
Nor of swimming in a crimson lake
Of paint
Which in a dream is a symbol
For death
Nor was the dream
Of a blood-dripping moon
A symbol
For sex

The dream was of a word
The word that is a symbol
Moveing, travelling
From here to America maybe
A misplaced person
And then, as often happens, the dream woke me

I am woken by the letter e!

I travel to the bathroom
Try to get back into the house of Nod
The roosters are crowing
Even though the sky is still black
And Jill turns on the light to read
And this odd poem is nagging me
To be written down

There! It’s done!
Now maybe I can go back to sleep
And dream about
A misplaced f

Word Break

Here in France
I am relaxing
And reading a poetry book

And look -
I don’t want to appear
A sanctimonious git but
I do believe that a poet
Should be able to spell the word

Et se laissant tomber
Dans une expression Française
Hors du bleu
Est-ce que c'est vraiment nécessaire?

It’s nearly suppertime
And the smell of rabbit stew
On the stove
And scent of burning logs
And the lost beetle
Buzzing round the room
Looking for a new bolt hole
Pretty much
Says it all

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Poetry Kit

Stan the Postman delivered it this morning.
He leapt through the hole in the hedge
With a loud – Da Dah!

I carefully slit open the flaps of the padded envelope
And the thin box slid
On to the newly-polished kitchen table

The box was red plastic
It was disappointing, I have to say.
I was expecting wood at the very least
Or silver
Or maybe a substance not yet invented

And red
Such an obvious colour

The box was smaller than I’d hoped
Not tiny – that would have been fine
But thin

Looking back now
I can see my naivety
Was it really such a surprise that,
as I pushed the small plastic catches
with my thumbs
and the box sprang open,
was it really such a surprise
to find it empty?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Royal Observatory

You need time to see
All there is to see
At the old Royal Observatory

In the octagonal room
The long pendulum of time
Swings slowly
And on a cool New Year’s Eve
You find yourself
Standing on the frost-flecked slopes
Of Observatory Hill
Watching for the second
Which every year escapes

The new-fangled atomic clock
Loses only one second
Every billion years

How can we live
With such a gaping margin of error?

A Thousand Mile Journey

A thousand mile journey
Must start with a step
A lesson begins with a queue
A mushroom risotto
Begins with a cep
The many starts out as the few

The story – four figures
Dark suited and sad
Who carry the coffin above -
Begins with a second glance
Shyly returned
And proceeds with a kiss
And with love

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Whisky Experience

Here in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
The kids enjoy the ride
In the automated cars
That creep around

Scotland's past
In the Water-of-Life Whisky Experience

It’s good to give
The boys and girls
An early fun -
Water-of-Life Whisky Experience

I mean
It’s not as if Scotland
Or Britain
Or the world, for that matter
Has any kind of problems
With alcohol-related deaths
Or alcoholism
Is it?

Good to catch them young.
And for the adults – a wee dram
And a free glass.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Strictly No Laughing

The sign on Teignmouth beach
Says Strictly No Laughing
The tide’s on the turn
The rain is drizzling
And the red sands are almost deserted
Three dogs splash through the surf
And two seagulls, mother and daughter
Argue over a crab’s leg
A family take their blue and yellow tent down
And no one’s laughing

I’m leaning on the seawall
Waiting for my party
A father tells his son
Not to step on the cracks
But does not say why
And no one’s laughing

A crooked man talks into his phone
A sunny couple
In vertically-challenged tee shirts smile
And I realise I’ve misread the sign
It says Strictly No Launching
It also says
The launching facilities are at the Polly steps
The Quay
Where everyone is laughing

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The First Time You Heard the Wind

The first time you heard –
really heard –
the wind –
it banged your eyelids
and called out
like a mad horseman
below the rattling shutters
of your window
saying, Come ride with me,
let’s race the black stallion
across the frosty fields

The first time you felt –
really felt –
that cold,
the cold that sneaks into the stove
and sucks the heat from the last few embers,
that creeps between the joins of your clothes
and kisses your exposed neck
with icicle lips

The first time you heard –
really heard –
the wind’s song
A song so melancholy
that you desperately tried
to think of summer,
the beach where you dug for pennies,
where you traced railway tracks in the damp sand
with your red metal spade –
but the song
whistled around the graveyard in your head
and drowned those memories
and found deeper, sadder stories

That was the first time,
sitting with a childhood sweetheart
in a lean-to shelter,
feeling the shivers of rain,
wide-eyed, wide-eared -
the first time
you really heard the wind

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Rhythm Festival 2006

The good news is that when you get old
and crusty and pasty and rusty
you can still sit in a field
filled with other crusty, musty old hippies and wannabe hippies
and wish-we-had-been hippies
and wear inappropriate pixie hats
and ethnic gear that barely hides your lumps and bumps
and folds of flesh but it’s a blessing
that the young tasty, lusty guys and gals
who have strayed here by mistake thinking it’s 2006
don’t say, Hey granddad you’re insane and sad and mad
and it’s bad for your heart and skin and legs
and don’t start on about 1966 a-bloody-gain

So then Donovan drifts on
with his anachronistic, impressionistic,
joss stick wish-flicks, an old dogs with old tricks
and the barely alive dig the shtick and the beer flows
and granny pogos and the moon glows
and the headbands and the flowing scarves
and the fat flab and the skeletal grey-pony-tailed
pointy stick-jeaned, ringed and tattooed, unglued, rude, screwed
misplaced, uncased, released, nearly-deceased
(love and peace)
and weathered, withered flesh of an audience
gasp the last breath of the sixties and seventies before the music
fell apart in the eighties and we sit in our folding chairs
and Arlo sings about Alice and the man says,
What’s Really Changed? And we cheer!

So the kids jig to the knockabout Dylan sound-alike Steve Gibbons
two lane and there’s no sign of rain
and by Sunday night everyone’s too tired
to cheer for an encore and top of the bill
is Jerry Lee Lewis who is wheeled on
and gamely tackles a selection of his hits
Goodness Gracious, we’re in our motorhome
which is convenient and has its own lavatory and shower
and the tent next door are playing loud music
and it’s past midnight for god sake -
don’t they know we want to get to sleep?
What kind of festival is this anyway – Woodstock?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


At first
the living
outnumbered the dead.
Back then the wheel was the latest fad
and cooking fish
in the embers of the fire
as the sun set over a sparkling sea
was haute cuisine.

But as the years passed
and the body count grew
there came the moment
when the dead and the living
numbered the same.
And the first questions were asked
and ignored.

So now the teeming dead mock us,
above and below.
And a cup of clean water
is a rare feast
to be gulped in the warming wind
beneath the burning sky.

Monday, July 10, 2006


1 The new book by Billy Collins. The Trouble With Poetry. Are his poems losing their edge? There are, for him, a couple of quite aggressive poems. And a few brilliant poems, too. But so many end in his trademark anti-climax. The cased guitar leaning against the bookcase. The sparrow on the porch roof. Discuss.

2 Despite that – the book has inspired me to write several poems. Including the one below – which you may like to comment on here.

3 Little Onion commented in the haiku flurry (see entry for March 27th) that it was unusual to see haiku keeping to the 5,7,5 syllable count – and somehow not necessary. But I disagree. I think the discipline of the form, together with the need to produce that little frisson of haiku magic – is what makes the haiku so fascinating.

4 England limp out of the World cup (yes, talking soccer here) Was it the fault of Sven, the manager? Was he just not up to it? Bad luck and injuries? Or the cheating Portuguese team? What do you think? And were the Italians worthy winners?

5 And finally – here in the Northern Hemisphere – it’s summer! What are your plans?


A new notebook
full of clean and crisp white pages
sits on the top shelf in my office
and waits patiently

my old notebook is open
on the white duvet that covers my lap,
as time slows,
and the mist on the fields
slowly evaporates
and cars pass,
making an early start to the week.

And as I sip my coffee
the last few empty pages
of my old notebook
also wait patiently
for a new poem,
the fragment of a memory,
a crossword clue, perhaps
a doodle of children
with uncertain hands
or your name
in block capitals
and filled with inky hearts

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Always Chair

When we were kids, eh?
I remember Mum
Rubbing the white burn from the polished table top
With ash and a potato
The smell of polish and boiling clothes
In the copper
And buttered toast
The chatter in the kitchen
Behind every door an adventure

Now Mum sits
In her always chair
Bills and documents to hand
In an awkward cardboard box
The conservatory cuts the light with dust
But there’s nothing to see anymore
The orchard’s gone
Just the blank end wall
Of the town house
Shadowing the ruin
Of Dad’s shed
The smell of cats

I remember those houses going up
Us and all the neighbours
In our gardens complaining
And rightly so

Dad’s chair is empty, of course
Although Mum still chats to his ghost
She has troubling getting about now
And her memory’s no longer a scythe

She sits and knits
And chats to Dad
From her always chair
When we were kids, eh?
Always sunny, never raining
Behind every adventure
A door

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cruise Poems


An ocean full of water
A sky full of air
A boat full of people
Travelling from there to here

The water’s waves reflect the sky
The sky is full of cloud
The people full of wondering why
Travelling from loud to soft

The rise and swell of evermore
The blue-lit hands that hold the Earth
I sit inside my head and cry
Travelling from birth to death


You’d think
across this vast expanse
of breathing sea
you’d never see another boat
but I can



Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crazy May

Still haven't had a chance to visit everyone's blogs. I wonder what everyone's up to. I'm still rushing around like a fly with a blue bottom. Still haven't posted any new poems. Written lots though - just haven't had time to redraft them. Hey ho.

And we're off to Brussels first thing in the morning - to the Jazz Festival. Nice. We have to get up at a really silly time. Ten to five in the morning. Not so nice.

Ah well. It's just a crazy May. Things will get back to normal in June I dare say. Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Good Intentions

I laid a few slabs in the Good Intentions road this week. Didn't get to do any blogging. Sorry blogging pals. Just trying to catch up on admin. I used to get more done when I had a proper job before I was a poet. Hey ho!

Tomorrow we're going on a cruise. Heading across the Bay of Biscay down to Lisbon in Portugal. I'm doing some poetry shows for kids on board. Should be fun.

Meanwhile we're trying to find a name for the new children's book out next year. The last two were - I Did Not Eat the Goldfish and The Monster That Ate the Universe. So something slightly wacky - which would appeal to 7-12 year olds - would be good. Current front runner is Why Otters Don't Wear Socks. If your idea gets chosen I'll give you an acknowledgement in the book and a free copy. Well, you can't say fairer than that.

Best go now. Up early in the morning. See you when I get back. Peace and love.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It’s a Tough Life

It’s tough being a poet
Up at the crack of midday
Thinking of rhyme schemes and rhythms
Trying to think what to say

It’s tough being a poet
Strolling along the beach
Searching for inspiration
When inspiration’s a wave out of reach

I sometimes think that a poet
Is the toughest thing you can be
As I walk in the shade of the forest
Trying to think of a rhyme for tree

Friday, April 14, 2006

2 AM at Crazy Pete’s

The end of a long night
We’re playing on the cramped stage
At Crazy Pete’s
Following the familiar bluesy path
Exploring beats and rhythms
Cadences and silences
Harmonies and melodies
And the punters and the staff
Have long gone
But we’ve still got the beat
2 AM at Crazy Pete’s

A drunk sleeps in the corner
Pete hadn’t the heart to turf him out
His body draped across the table
Sticky with spilled beer
And here's the man himself
Tall, awkward - with a squint -
A trophy from his days as a getaway driver
And he listens for a while
Sheds an unlikely tear
And he sings, I’m for an early night
And he sings, I’m dead on my feet
And he sings, When you leave, turn out the light
2 AM at Crazy Pete’s

We play on, almost scared to stop
What do we have to go home for anyway?
Only the day job -
Another stint in the Tunbridge Wells office
Examining paperclips
As a means to a slow, slow suicide.
Then - the exit door bangs open
A chill breeze scatters cigarette ends and beer mats
Rattles glasses and optics
And she walks in
As though she owned the place
Her face pale and indistinct
She drifts between the tables
Like a draught
Easing aside
The heavy fog of stale cigarette smoke.
She sits beside the drunk
Like the dull whisper of defeat
Like a mother’s shadow
2 AM at Crazy Pete’s

Well, we can’t play forever
And Mick the drummer gives us the cue
We pick our way through the sharps and flats
Find the familiar bluesy path
And head for home
The bass brings the twelve bars
To a familiar end
And we hit that last note
Which hangs like a corpse in the air
The visitor has gone
And the drunk
Slides from his chair
Slumps to the floor, dead
And as the drummer makes
The final beat count
It's 2 AM at Crazy Pete’s

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Haiku Challenge

Life’s been a bit hectic of late. And blogging finds itself slipping down the list of priorities. Looking in my notebook I see that I haven’t written many poems over the last few weeks. I’ve been mainly sorting and editing – primarily for a new book of children’s poems due out next year sometime. Whilst doing that I noticed I’ve written a lot of haikus over the last couple of years. So I thought I might include a few here. Meanwhile – if you feel inspired to write a haiku of your own - seventeen syllables arranged 5, 7, 5 - be my guest.

Mirror Haiku

Look in the mirror
What do you see, pussy cat?
I see a lion.

Wind Haiku

The wind shakes the school
Like the beat of a dragon’s wing
On a dark night

Seaside Haiku

Five crows sit on the beach
Seven seagulls skim the surf
Five crabs set a trap

Long Word Haiku

What's the meaning of

Crow Haiku

one, two, three, four, five
accumulating darkness
crow keeps his counsel

Tension Haiku

There is a tension
As bees and beetles struggle
On the pool’s surface

Death Cycle Haiku

Rushing down the hill
A bicycle.
A beetle
Fails to cross the road

Sit Dog Haiku

Sit, sit, sit dog, sit
Good boy, sit, go on, sit, sit
Sit, sit, sit, sit,


Haiku Fest

If I read just one
more haiku I swear I’ll go

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Too Many Books

I have too many books
Read once and shelved
Or piled up by my bed
Arriving daily in the post
Unlikely to be read

Too many poems
Wait between the covers
For their exercise
Or stacked in Plato’s cave
Like unsettled similes

Too many facts and fictions
Characters adrift on sandbanks
Children starved of attention
An old man glimpsed upon the pier
And then - no further mention

I glance at the book review
As I'm jotting down these words

And a neglected poet catches my eye
It’s another book to join the queue
Another book I’ll have to buy

Examination Piece

First tell me what I, the poet, need to find
before I decide
which of the two roads I must take.

Blue in line four
seems an odd choice of adjective.
Do you agree?
Which colour would you choose?

Have you ever metaphorically
Found yourself
In a similar poem?

How does this poem handle simile and rhyme?
And finally

How do you think this poem
will add to your enjoyment of poetry
as you enter adulthood?
A lot.
Not a lot.
Not at all.

Thank you for your time.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Love Poems

The Sweetest Song

The sweetest song
I ever heard
Was written just for you
The clearest stream
The widest word
The closest true of true

Of all the things
That dance and sing
Expressed in we and two
Let’s leap and laugh
And scatter them
Into our blue of blue

The Scale of My Love

On a scale of one to nine
I love you twenty three
On a scale of grass to dandelion
I love you tree
On a scale of drip to puddle
I love you sea
My love for you is off the dial
You weigh the world to me

On a scale of nudge to bump
I love you ricochet
On a scale of sigh to smile
I love you hip hooray
On a scale of each second lived
I love you every day
On a scale of here to there
I love you all the way

Access All Areas

She had a tag
Around her neck
It said

Mad person
In love
May be found
Apparently aimlessly
In restricted areas

Make allowances

Making a Poem

If you say
and make it rhyme
a poem,

a kiss

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cows and Horses

It was like this –
Around a million years ago
Mad Mork was ambling home
Cutting through a field of wild cows
And feeling weary
When he had a brainwave
And climbed on the back of a cow.
He rode it home
And everyone in his village said –
Hey, that’s one wild idea.
And soon
Everyone rode the wild cows

It was like this –
Around a million years ago
Sarah had a baby but had no milk
And her friends, also with young babies,
Shared their milk with Sarah’s baby
Sarah was walking with her baby
Past some horses
And noticed a mother feeding her foal
And thought – it’s a crazy idea but it might just work
And she gave her baby some horse’s milk

And so that’s why
Horseboys ride cows
And who doesn’t love
A delicious horse milkshake?

Monday, January 09, 2006


In the grey sky above Vlissengen
A bird floats by
Chased by her own shadow
And the first flakes of snow

On the radio the top two thousand
Ploughs gamely on
And the New Year waits impatiently
On the corner of a scuddy snowy street

The wind is horizontal
Stinging snow and a rock and roll wind
Blows Jill’s brolly apart

The first thunderclaps and sonic booms
Rattle the Dutch rafters and chimneys
And birds head for the country

Midnight and we raise our glass, whoop
Troop outside to witness the carnage of the old year
As the aerial bombardment begins in earnest
With screaming devils and heavy-duty explosives
And Jill says,
We were so young when we met
We’re so old now