What Stayed

I found you in the morning. Curled in the corner.
Your rich walnut back and coconut belly coat
cuddled in a tiny crescent. Still upon the sawdust.
He’s just gone to sleep, she told me,
from kind cradled arms.
I said some words and wept and then I buried you
in a hole that took ten minutes to dig.

I can’t remember the name I gave you
but I can summon from that memory your light weight,
how you fit my palm as I carried you to the garden.

.

We met in the hospital, followed the nurse down the stairs,
crept into the ward and found you, tucked in tight,
and then we gathered at the side of the bed,
closed the curtains, watched as the nurse attended,
and your breathing quickened and then it slowed
and your cheeks lost their volume
and your complexion shallowed
and your chest deflated
and your shoulders sank
and your head dropped to the side
and you went quiet.

Your old, gruff voice I can’t quite recall.
What stayed was the weight of your heavy hand,
cold and coarse, as I held it to say goodbye.

Songs, Stars

I took the ten-twenty into town today.
Walked the promenade. The market.
The busiest the place has been in years
and I felt lonely. I left
to drink coffee by the canal,
decided to feed the ducks.
A whole afternoon went,
tossing them crumbs, freckling
the still water with bread.
Trying – to ignite a night sky
with bright stars in that black
thick of peat. Those ducks pecked
at each morsel, dipped their heads,
came out, and shook off the water.
Before, I nearly bought a beer
for the man who sits outside
the post office. I would have spent
a whole day listening to him sing
that he lost his father in a house fire,
and that he is not scared of death.

On Writing

What is there to say
of the small plot
of my work?

It stands collected,
waiting quietly
like a forest
of dumb giants.

Some confused
whittled wood,
trees trimmed,
trimmed
to no exact.

Peeled bark, healed,
scabbed, roots upturned,
branches hacked.

A few I left to grow
to see how tall
they could get
with no guidance.

But this is no way to live.
And so I’ll take an axe.
Start swinging

Silent Night

It is too often now
that I think how rare
the silent night, free
of wailing sirens,
post-pub songs,
lads kicking dustbins
down the road for fun.

How many of those meek few
who keep the silence in-
between? In chippies,
pharmacies, canteens?

They know the fragility,
of quietness, those who
cup silence like an old
mouse, a downed sparrow,
and keep it close
to their chests.

Swing, Swing

After the war ended,
they celebrated here
for three days straight.

Sole prints and heel pinpoints
still mark the floor in wild
constellations of jazz and swing.

That night, seventy years later,
watching a moving mass of youth
dance to drum and bass, I saw it,

somewhere in the midst
of it all. The flash of wingtips,
the twirl of a petticoat,

like curtains closing on that
world of war when you danced
for love of life and nothing else.

We Walked The Farthest We Could Go

We walked the farthest we could go
from cars and houses and factories
and grey clouds and rising smoke

to a field, boxed in bush, laid a perfect green.
In our new habit, a fresh routine, we sat
huddled in a copse, breathed in with our eyes closed

this quiet place of untouched, uncaged air
of an unbroken world, untapped and remote,
with not a soul to see for miles and miles.

But I could still hear it, working at the crooks
and cracks of my mind: the harsh waves,
their foam and welter against the rock,

fierce at the build thousands of years old.
It takes a while, I know, but it’s eroding away,
carrying grain and granule in each relentless wave.

Light In A Dark Place

A disperse of feathers spiralled to the carpet
as the pigeon flew from one side
of the living room to the other, trying to find an exit.

To the bookcase, to the mirror,
to the picture frame, failing to find the gap
in the window from whence it came.

No blanket we threw or bin bag we swept
could swallow the bird, beating fast
as the shadows closed upon it’s head.

Each time,
out from beneath
it fled.

And so we began to eliminate the light.
Switch off the lamp, the computer screen,
cloak the mirror, kill the television.
Allow only sunlight to spread through,
to runway the carpet to the window.

Shut the door.

The muffled applause of fluttering wings
grew distant as the pigeon was drawn to the afternoon sun
and the warmth that came with it.

I’m not quite sure what cage has captured you,
or what trouble has shrouded your mind,
but I’ve seen sometimes it’s only in the darkness
that we can see the guiding light.

Stain

It took an entire summer of peer persuasion
to crawl under that fence after dark and tread
the forbidden land of the bowling green.
Our new black trainers, bought for sports in school,
marked the grass in aggressive curves and streaks
as we scampered from one end to the other
in relish of childhood anarchy.

I returned in the light of the next morning,
pretending to chase an escaping tennis ball,
and I scrubbed those stains the best I could,
with the edge of my hand,
my sleeve on the butt of my palm.
Nothing worked.
Black stain on the bowling green, I remember you.

Space and Soup

Beyond our little waxing moon
you’ll find the black holes,
the milky, marble nebulae,

the restless tumbling spores,
rich, rolling clouds that fold
and envelope upon themselves.

This is where the wild meteors roam,
and the comets carve and landscape
the black fabric of the unknown,

where the sandy specks collide
in waltzing gestures, drunk they kiss
and part and kiss again

backdropped by stellar spirals
tinselled with dust,
the back streets to demoted planets.

It gently stirs beneath the surface,
in the cinema sky,
in the cusp of your spoon.

Look up. This could be the warping lens
to another world, a scope far too big
for our breadth or thought.

Otherwise, look down.
You’ll see it’s all contained
in a bowl of miso soup.