Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Lammas Lands

My new haiku collection, gathering haiku from 2006 until 2011 or so, is now officially out from Snapshot Press - The Lammas Lands.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

ladder cleaner's window the left to right from sun the taking

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Twixmas gale—
three bags of stuff balloon
outside Oxfam

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve
the moon's corona
in my daughter's eyes

Saturday, 19 December 2015

on southerly winds
bringing spring into winter:
the wedding bagpipes

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Advent Mantra

All day the mist doesn't lift from the hills.
The bridle path fringes Deep Well Farm,
the name of which unhappily recalls
our gathering-round in the churchyard

yesterday lunchtime at the saucer-sized
hole the burly sexton had freshly dug
for someone—me—to tip the pulverised
ashes underground from the paper bag.

A hen pheasant Groucho-walks to heaven,
along a route that eventually leads,
if I followed it, to the Silent Pool.

Goldfinches in harmonic progression
tinkle with colours of abacus beads.
I chant aloud: ‘Michael John Roland Paul’.

Monday, 14 December 2015

robin song
the mystery of boats
berthed for the winter

Sunday, 13 December 2015

all-day mist
the penalty area packed
with gulls

Friday, 11 December 2015

The Rialto

I'm very chuffed to have a poem in the latest issue of The Rialto.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

in water dripping
from the young swan's bill:
fresh December light

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

hunched into the heart-shape
it makes of its primaries:
the long-stroking swan

Monday, 7 December 2015

first light
the bat-like swoop of gulls
onto the river

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Friday, 4 December 2015

the moon as Mr Punch...
someone's on the bridge 
of the house resembling a ship

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

crisp afternoon
the gilded lettering
of the King's Road pub

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

all the ducks dive
one after the other—
December murk

Sunday, 29 November 2015

condensation...
my mother sends me
a blank text

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Black Friday
sunshine spills beneath
the Clattern Bridge

Friday, 27 November 2015

post office queue:
cashier number nine mis-hears
Bucharest as Budapest

Thursday, 26 November 2015

New haiku books

As well as the imminent publication of my own second haiku collection, The Lammas Lands, by Snapshot Press, about which I will post details here soon, I'm proud to be one of the 12 contributors to Off the Beaten Track, one of the two inaugural titles of Hamish Ironside and Mike Fell's new publishing venture, Boatwhistle.

Apart from me, Off the Beaten Track features five other experienced haiku poets, including Hamish himself, and seven poets (including Hugo Williams, Sally Read and Matthew Welton) and other creative types for whom the haiku they produced for this project represented their very first attempts. Inevitably, the results are mixed, but distinctive and intriguing. Each contributor was allocated a month last year and asked to write a haiku a day throughout their month. Mine was March. An added, delightful bonus is that Hamish commissioned 12 artists to produce an illustration for one of the months.

The book will be officially launched early next year but is available to pre-order from the Boatwhistle website. Having had a sneak preview of the first printed copies, it's clear that the production values, design and overall loveliness of the book will match the quirkiness of its contents, which isn't surprising given that Hamish is Faber's go-to man for typesetting and proofing their poetry books.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

the rueful peek
of the man in the moon...
new books to read

Monday, 23 November 2015

into the black
beneath a waxing moon:
the blades-down eight

Friday, 20 November 2015

Eggs

Out of routine, 
the beaten path, 

the guillemots 
on their eggs 

jostle upon 
a cliff ledge,

the dimensions 
of a bookshelf,

within the weal
of the wind.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

unflustered
by Storm Barney's gusts
the teatime moon

Monday, 16 November 2015

in the storm's wake
the through-train torpedoes
towards its eye

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Rain Running

We talk about how funny—yes, funny haha—it is 
to watch people run, across A-roads and zebras;

whenever it's time to get a shift on: scuttlers
and scurriers; scooters, scamperers, skedaddlers:

that chap you know in Planning, in his pinstripe suit,
turned-down trousers flapping like wings against the wet;

mums and dads dashing, with or without a pushchair:
the way we leg-it through drizzle in normal gear

lends a crizzled exaggeration of ourselves;
of how we habitually cruise along our lives. 



for Jane McBeth and Simon Chard

Thursday, 12 November 2015

curving land
a line of pylons connects
to the sunfall

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

between two boards
a street-sweeper gathers leaves
and the warm winds

Monday, 9 November 2015

on my way to work
the hillside church's steeple
sucks up all the sun

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Home

Limboing under the tightrope to enter,
I realised that the last lot 

had wired up the downstairs
for maximum pain 

via ultra-amplified crackling distortion
and bone-combusting electrocution:

a vegetable-grater flashed like a lighthouse,
gurning its starspun charge

to the otherwise pitch-black kitchen,
where an unwashed spaghetti spoon fizzled

and the wind whistled murder
through a tenor trombone.



after Mona Hatoum, 1999, from Poetry from Art, edited by Pascale Petit, Tate Modern, 2010

Sunday, 1 November 2015

From a District Line Train

Across the Chelsea rooftops,
mist rasps like a child's cough;
and out of it, in one go,
raggedy crow after crow.

Friday, 30 October 2015

flaming leaves
the children on the boat
elicit waves from everyone

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Martin Lucas Haiku Award 2015

Entries are open for the Martin Lucas Haiku Award 2015, formerly the Haiku Presence Award, to be judged by Matt Morden.

Monday, 26 October 2015

the rich palette
of homemade ratatouille...
hammering rain

Sunday, 25 October 2015

autumn yellows
I hasten my daughter
in my father's voice

Saturday, 24 October 2015

towpath run
a swan sprints upon
the broad river

Friday, 23 October 2015

bridging the river
with two quick undulations:
a long-tailed tit

Thursday, 22 October 2015

just at that moment
when twilight makes silhouettes:
the wing beats of swans

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

swiftly rising
from the low sun:
a calling duck
and the half moon

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

autumn sunshine
the traffic manoeuvres
round a dead fox

Monday, 19 October 2015

where my gaze falls
the tufted duck slowly
resurfaces

Friday, 16 October 2015

mini roundabout:
the stretch limo
still coming round it

Thursday, 15 October 2015

on plum skins:
the light preceding
a double rainbow

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

first light falls
across the clocktower
the outlines of crows

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

a whiff of toast
on the southerly breeze
someone's whistle

Sunday, 11 October 2015

two magpies rattle
within the monkey-puzzle:
she'll be back tonight

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Candlestick Press micropoetry competition

I'm very happy to have had a haiku commended in the above competition, on National Poetry Day. The haiku was this one from a few years ago:

courtyard light
the straggly lavender
sagging with bees

Monday, 5 October 2015

magpie morning
tobacco smoke becomes
October breeze

Saturday, 3 October 2015

hotstepping
across the giraffe paddock:
a pair of moorhens

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Indian summer
the chuckling of railwaymen
in pumpkin-coloured gear

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

mist evaporates
on both sides of Raven's Ait
the dimmed waning moon

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Michaelmas warmth
my shadow longer than
the towpath cyclist's

Monday, 28 September 2015

my mother's house
the skip of bricks absorbs
September sun

Sunday, 27 September 2015

admitting mist
that steams off the Thames:
marina gates

Saturday, 26 September 2015

first frost
a jay takes an acorn
to the wooden gate

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

autumn sunshine
someone's exhalation
hangs in the air

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

in the bridge arch
underneath the rainbow:
up-ended swans

Monday, 21 September 2015

Frailest of flowers: some notes on Vicki Feaver's 'Horned Poppy'


Horned Poppy 

Frailest of flowers, armoured to survive
at the edge of the sea: leaves
tough as holly, hugging the stem
like spiked cuffs; the buds protected
by a prickly sheath; the petals furled
like yellow parachute silk, opening to expose,
at its radiant heart, the threads
of stamens, pollen's loose dust. 
It blooms for at the most an hour; 
torn apart by the elements it loves. 
And then the pistil grows: 
a live bootlace, a fuse 
of multiplying cells – reaching out 
to feel between the shingle's 
sharp-edged flints for a moist bed 
to lay its seed; or in my kitchen, 
drying in the heat, a long thin hand 
summoning a salt gale, a tide to roll in 
over the flat land, roaring 
through the open door. 


It's a generalising oddity, no doubt, but I have an innate distrust of poets who churn a prize-winning collection out every other year; and, conversely, total respect and admiration for those who – like Sarah Maguire, Matthew Hollis, Kathleen Jamie and in this case Vicki Feaver – are far from prolific but are engaged in producing slowly-honed collections in which the individual poems cohere and there is no room for the throwaway or padding. Feaver has published just three collections in a career spanning at least four decades: her first collection, Close Relatives, appeared in 1981; her second, The Handless Maiden, in 1994; and her third, The Book of Blood, in 2006. Each is full of brilliant, hard-won poems in which the language strikes a fine balance between clarity and opacity, allowing meaning to be surmised on a first reading and then for its subtleties and resonance to deepen with subsequent readings. 'Horned Poppy' from The Book of Blood illustrates that balance perfectly.

In his 1995 magnum opus Flora Britannica, arguably the greatest of contemporary English nature writers Richard Mabey devotes little space to the flower, dismissing it as, "a showy plant of seaside shingle banks". I suppose it's all a matter of personal taste, but I'm with Feaver on this, i.e. that Glaucium flavum, the yellow horned-poppy, is worthy of close attention. On a recent, drizzly walk along the coast from Hastings to Bexhill-on-Sea, there were several blooming yellow horned-poppies brightening the way and I was instantly reminded of Feaver's poem and its fine, botanical details. It’s tempting to presume that Feaver’s poppies were spotted further west along the Sussex shore during her many years of teaching at what is now the University of Chichester.

Feaver wasn’t the first major poet to write about the flower; Robert Bridges, who was Poet Laureate from 1913 until his death in 1930 but is remembered more nowadays for his championing of Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote overwrought lines about it in ‘The Sea-Poppy’  almost a century before her.

The first thing that strikes me about Feaver’s poem is its title: the full name of the flower is the
yellow horned-poppy, but Feaver has deliberately omitted 'yellow' so as not to reduce the impact of the colour's appearance within the poem. However, that omission also enables ‘Horned’ to be emphasised, though somewhat curiously so since the flower’s horned fruit isn’t referenced within the poem. Nevertheless, ‘horned’ is echoed by ‘armoured’ in the wonderfully trochaic opening line. The oxymoronic description of the poppy being both the ‘frailest of flowers’ and ‘armoured to survive’ is continued by the vocabulary that follows, with a list of soft words (‘hugging’, ‘protected’ ‘sheath’ and ‘silk’) interspersed among hard ones (‘tough as holly’, ‘spiked’ and ‘prickly’). The effect is magical; both like and exceeding the exactness of field-note observation. For me, the parachute simile is marvellous because of its link back to ‘survive’; to the sense that this is a plant that is clinging on grimly to its existence in the face of ‘the elements’ which it not only endures but actually ‘loves’. That sense is reinforced by the word ‘expose’, and by the placing of that word so that it protrudes at the end of its line farther than any other line in the poem.

Having walked back from Bexhill to Hastings a few hours after arriving at the gloriously ahead-of-its-time
De La Warr Pavilion, I can attest to the fact that the petals of the yellow horned-poppy can, and do, last longer than an hour, even in fierce squalls coming off the Channel at Bulverhythe, where storms have sunk mighty vessels in days of yore. Whether Feaver saw the petals blown off a poppy within an hour of their unfurling or she is just using poetic licence here is largely irrelevant; what is more interesting is the phrasing of ‘It blooms for at the most an hour’ when it would surely have been more natural to write ‘It blooms for an hour at the most’ – maybe Feaver wanted to avoid an end-rhyme between ‘dust’ and ‘most’. Since what follows is one long sentence, it might also have been tempting to insert a stanza-break after ‘loves’ to make two stanzas of 10 lines each, but I’m glad Feaver chose not to, because the single-text-block format somehow reflects the fragility of the solitary flower in the teeth of the ‘salt gale’, as she memorably puts it later in the poem.

The image of the pistil – the flower’s female organs – phallicly extending to ‘feel between the shingle's / sharp-edged flints for a moist bed / to lay its seed’ is intriguing, and wholly in keeping with Feaver’s exploration of female sexuality as a key concern throughout her oeuvre.

The poem ends in a surprising manner: one wouldn’t expect the flower to end up ‘in [the] kitchen / drying in the heat’. One can only guess at why Feaver, or her persona, has removed the poppy from its ground. Whatever the explanation, though, the change of scene within the poem facilitates a beautiful ending, of the flower futilely resembling ‘a long thin hand / summoning a salt gale, a tide to roll in / over the flat land, roaring / through the open door.’ Here, as elsewhere in the poem, Feaver’s enjambment is expert, with the imagined volume of ‘roaring’ carrying out into the distance at the end of its line.

In
an interview with Sheer Poetry in 2006, Feaver articulated the reasoning behind her poem:


"Horned Poppy" is in a way a parable about this poppy which is destroyed by the elements it loves; it puts itself in this position where it's going to be blasted by the waves and the wind. And it survives; but it is a little parable about what we do when we love we don't always love wisely. It is very much about the poppy; but it is also about global warming. 

Whilst I can intuit the parable fairly easily, the “global warming” angle is much more shadowy to me, to the point of invisibility. What I like most of all, is Feaver’s unshowy, almost forensic examination of the flower and her implicit marvelling at its circumstances.

Friday, 18 September 2015

concrete conduit
the grebe re-emerges
among four swans

Monday, 14 September 2015

into breakers
the colour of sea-kale:
an angler's cast

Sunday, 13 September 2015

rusty groyne
five turnstones tussling
over a mussel

Friday, 11 September 2015

sunlit funfair...
a young fox trots along
the woodland ride

Thursday, 10 September 2015

out of the river
the fisherman's paltry catch
brings sunset with it

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

deciphering
the barrister's gestures
outside the court
as she briefs her client...
abundant goldenrod

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

united on a balmy breeze the home fans' oohs

Monday, 7 September 2015

steep oaken hillsides...
a sunburst elicits green
from the river's black

Saturday, 5 September 2015

the wheeling
of the leg spinner's arms
last blackberries

Friday, 4 September 2015

first autumn chill
Lombardy poplar tops
brush the slate skies

Thursday, 3 September 2015

overcast path
a young jackdaw prises
shreds of lettuce

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

bank holiday
the hawthorn hedgerow
drenched by steel-rod rain

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

rosebay willowherb
the pink sunset dips right down
into the city

Monday, 31 August 2015

the blue tractor
leading the traffic
summer's end

Sunday, 30 August 2015

gritstone edge:
all the sheep within
an oak's shadow

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Fall

The man in a Sex Instructor - First Lesson Free black-t-shirt
stomps like a despot across the pebble beach, can of Export 
nuzzling his lips, this bunting-festooned August afternoon 
sandwiched between three nights and days of constant rain;
then heads off the prom to a mid-terrace mid-Victorian flat,
the cracked facade of which he monkeys up like Spider-Man.

That's the very point in time when the four of us pass by,
more nonplussed than alarmed by his bellowing vaguely 
over our heads, and the bang behind us due to him flailing
down from the second floor, only just missing the railing.
He chortles like it's perfectly natural, which we can't belie
when every one of us reboots the locomotion of his falling.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

downland gales
the town and the sea
smothered by rain-mist

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

green waves
darken the groyne...
sea kale

Monday, 24 August 2015

anglers' rods
off the end of the pier
half-moonlight

Sunday, 23 August 2015

sultry night
I dream of blackberries
just out of reach

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Sands End dusk:
somebody's book shelves
crammed at all angles

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

by the slow brook
every balsam slipper
filled by a bee

Monday, 17 August 2015

In Berrylands

It's the top tip of a white-shirted geezer
leaving the pub that leads us from the meagre

harvest of a roadside trellis overhang
to richer pickings along the lane behind

the sun- and family-packed beer garden. By now
we've worked out a system of sorts: while you

nab the lower stuff with admirable speed (your
fingers wresting plump ones beneath each stinger),

I lean up with a practised tiptoe balance
(not so clever if I fall in the nettles)

to reap the bigguns 'within a tall man's reach'.
So many turn to mush at the merest touch

one more storm will surely fetch them off. We share
how we first went berrying: me at Ranmore

Common with my folks, my brothers and buckets;
you in shiny Sheffield with your nannan. It's

marvellous how quickly we fill to the brim
the ice-cream container. I hum, as you sing.

Friday, 14 August 2015

easing the dread
of the work day ahead:
two swans in flight

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Broadstairs Haiku

crescent bay:
the morris side jangles
through the sand

Punch and Judy:
the well-tanned professor
rounds up a crowd

ignoring the campsite curfew waning moon

bouncy boardwalk
a leathery geezer
chomps on nougat

Friday, 7 August 2015

sunny platform
the trainspotter jots down
two trains at once

Thursday, 30 July 2015

a squirrel bounds
through someone's gravel drive...
summertime funk

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

magenta sweet peas
the ferry's one passenger
alights on the ait

Sunday, 26 July 2015

after the bluster
takes it off into the rain:
a plane-leaf's stencil

Friday, 24 July 2015

At Teddington

Of course the unfazed greylag geese each veer
between the ice. The Thames hasn't frozen
in years. Here is where the tidal river 
begins; somewhere a bottlenose dolphin 
might head towards from saltier water.
A chestnut seller hops on the towpath: 
from his battered, black brazier, a red square 
glows like a low sun giving us its last.

Over the crystal footbridge comes a team 
of huskies hauling the sledge on which two 
furred-up, Victorian bluebloods perch: she 
tautening the reins with kid gloves; he so
upright, urging on the dogs, to their berth
in the Surrey hills: a well-tended hearth.

Monday, 20 July 2015

how my father
used to clear his throat
before speaking...
duckling follows duckling
through the duckweed

Sunday, 19 July 2015

ruined abbey:
the dark mullein's yellows
light the transept

Friday, 17 July 2015

Whitehall

Alban was renowned for unsociable hours, 
though we were all a bit like that in those days,
at the end of the '80s, when East became West
but the North stayed precisely 55 degrees north.
He'd know the answer to anything you'd ask him
as he stroked the curls of his rolling-tobacco beard,
though how he made money—apart from the brew,
the gee-gees he backed in the bookies behind Paul's
and the squidgy Afghan black he dealt on the side
was anybody's guess. The one thing he couldn't 
recall was how he fell asleep with the deep fat fryer,
full of thumb-thick homemade chips, gaily bubbling
like frogspawn, while we, two storeys above him
with no means of escape, were wholly oblivious.
It was Mervyn, in the flat below us, who hammered 
on Alban's door until he roused, and between them
they doused the flames within the very nick of time.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Roses

You trimmed the stems 
of the bunches of roses
one reddish pink; 
the other peachy orange
so they wouldn't overwhelm 
the squat, Vermeer-blue jug.

Look what happens 
when you bring me flowers,
you said, as you kissed me 
all over; the evening breeze
caressing the architrave 
of your high-ceilinged room.
crisscrossing
the road to the river:
a chevron of swifts

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

the flourish with which
the umpire signals four...
bottlebrush in bloom

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

close afternoon...
a moorhen uses
every stepping stone

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

blanket heat
on a wisp of a wind
the smell of timber

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

with forearms as brown
as the wood of his fiddle:
the midday busker

Sunday, 28 June 2015

summer rain
a young woman splays
her flip-flopped toes

Saturday, 27 June 2015

terns dip in and out
of the Thamesside marina
midsummer heatwave

Thursday, 25 June 2015

over the pile
of spare agendas:
a clambering ant

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Midsummer's Day
the coxless four
ease back their speed

Monday, 22 June 2015

summer solstice
the nurseryman adjusts
his broad straw hat

Friday, 19 June 2015

Friday sunshine
my scoot towards work
preceded by swifts

Thursday, 18 June 2015

scissoring low
across the lagoon:
swallow after swallow

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Peace Pagoda
a greylag potters
along the tideway

Sunday, 14 June 2015

pop-up garden:
in each lupin leaf cluster,
a teaspoonful of rain
over flaked paint
on the white window ledge:
a blackbird's tread

Thursday, 11 June 2015

lilting sun...
two security guards count
the fish in the stream

Saturday, 6 June 2015

across the rapefield:
the intricate latticework
of pylon shadows

Friday, 5 June 2015

balmy evening
the shelf-stacker smiles
at her selfie

Thursday, 4 June 2015

June heat
a market stall offers
fresh crab

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

first summer sun
the young topiarist
extends his reach

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

westerly gusts
nesting sand martins rip
from bank to bank

Sunday, 31 May 2015

river mizzle
a tern's reverse-and-swoop
skims the water

Friday, 29 May 2015

uphill slog
the crows in the oak-tops
discuss the impending rain

Thursday, 28 May 2015

blue morning
jackdaws prise niblets
from a half-gnawed cornstick

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

she closes her eyes
to smell the yellow roses
the sun upon us

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Troubador

Last night, I went to the Troubador for the first time in a good while, principally to hear Frances Leviston read from her excellent new collection Disinformation. She read very well. I also enjoyed the American poet Michelle Boisseau and the ever-droll musings of Stuart Silver.

poetry cellar:
the accordionist shifts
to his other foot

Monday, 25 May 2015

bank holiday
the tourist information officers
yawn in unison

Monday, 18 May 2015

beer garden:
the marbled wings
of a mayfly on a plate

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Magic Darts

The Folk Off and Die Band are nabbed by the Peelers
for being completely off their noggins on glue.
The seen-it-all sergeant stares like a goldfish as,

with an easy, open stance and steady elbow,
each band member takes a turn with arrows to hurl
at the dartboard which only they can somehow view:

bish-bash-bosh: the first dart bounces out from the bull
to the lino that does for an oche. Jonjo,
who isn't really that keen on Traditional,

strums a melodious standard before his throw.
Billy the Bodhrán pauses until the moment
when his eyes, ears and wrist are all content to go:

bish-bash-wallop. His third dart riffs away aslant
into the grain of the sergeant's desk. They carry
on playing for hours, even after the sergeant

boots them to the cells. Billy is re-named 'Barney',
Jonjo 'the Phil the Power of Kilrea', and Shane,
the piper, cock-sure, the youngest, most lairily

musical, his lobs as liquid as the loughan
that laps at the edge of his village in Down, becomes
'the new Jocky Wilson', dripping through Bri-nylon,
while Jonjo plucks and Billy-stroke-Barney drums.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

beside the Hogsmill
I hasten through the rain
in my father's coat

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

dappled shallows:
wagtails spiral among
the cloud of gnats

Thursday, 7 May 2015

first-light storm
we spoon
ever closer

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

crowing cockerel
sunshine suffuses the cream
of the old signal box

Monday, 4 May 2015

clumped by a brook
parallel to the s-bend:
mouse-ear chickweed

Saturday, 2 May 2015

we dawdle between
the magpies' call and response...
magnolia skies

Friday, 1 May 2015

My latest Country Diary piece is in today's Guardian.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

evening lull
the stooping groundsman
ropes off the square

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

dog-tired...
spring rain lashes the tramlines
of the tennis court

Monday, 27 April 2015

still the grief...
the coxed four's backwash
reaches our shore

Sunday, 26 April 2015

morning run:
my feet take me away
through the mizzle

Saturday, 25 April 2015

ambling home
the drape of wisteria
across a jade facade

Thursday, 23 April 2015

peacock butterfly...
the window-cleaner's quiff
as damp as his chamois

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

spring heat
the busking gospeller
repeats his repertoire

Saturday, 18 April 2015

riverside haze
a bald man spoon-feeds
his bald son

Friday, 17 April 2015

between Dutch barges the pochards' fuschia-lipsticked bills

Sunday, 12 April 2015

my sons pall-bearing...
the sun streams in the colours
of stained-glass windows

Thursday, 9 April 2015

morning heat
the street entertainer dons
a Yoda mask

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

taking their parents' path
through the duckweed:
days-old moorhen chicks

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

the sun on my face...
a moorhen's briefest dive
into Plough Pond

Monday, 6 April 2015

interspersing
the robin's phrases:
a child's bike bell

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Blue Gate

Go on; push it open.

I know it looks as though it'll tip off its hinges any minute;
but so, to be fair, do you, and so, for my sins, do I.

Take the winding path through the marram to the East Strand,
past the wind-fed flails of viper's-bugloss.

Leg it barefoot down the dune like a loon.
Keep on going till your toes reach the tide.

It's a path once followed by saints
and more eager lovers than we could ever count.

Feel the water envelop your feet.
Sink them into the eddying sand.

Go on; you know you must.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

between cuts
the stylist reapplies
red lippy

Thursday, 2 April 2015

biting breeze
the grey wagtail hovers
inches above the river

Saturday, 28 March 2015

funeral planning
a brimstone encircles
the holly bush

Friday, 27 March 2015

half moon
the cold spring wind
rattles my ribs

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Balaclava Cantinière

To the scurvied ranks with no appetite,
her meals are seldom edible. At night,
they throw the mutton into the fire
to warm up coffee; will only devour
mouthfuls of mushed-up biscuit or barley:
disease has loosened their teeth. New supplies
are invariably rotten, though the Zouaves
would know what to do with them. The men carve
through snow one day, rain-sodden sludge the next.
The dead out-number the living by six
to one. Yet still she raises her shoulders
and a smile for Fenton's camera.
Her uniform is strangely blemish-free.
The paper on which her image will be
preserved is coated in salt—just like her
meat that no-one in the ranks can endure.


after Roger Fenton, photograph, salt paper print,
from a calotype negative, 1855

Saturday, 21 March 2015

bitter wind
a magpie ghosts
through the lych-gate

Sunday, 15 March 2015

strip-lit night:
the supermarket's aisles
after it's closed

Thursday, 12 March 2015

cherry blossom
every bus arrives
except ours

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Guardian Country Diary

I have another Country diary piece in the Guardian today.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

spring sun
the old cat pads across
the trampoline

Saturday, 7 March 2015

the cafe tables
back on the pavement
sandalled feet

Friday, 6 March 2015

the cat's ears
furling backwards
dawn moon

Thursday, 5 March 2015

sun-swathed crocuses
goldfinches caper
among the conifers

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

sepia moon
through the pub-window
the arc of a dart

Monday, 2 March 2015

cerise stratus
turns to jonquil
winter's end

Sunday, 1 March 2015

spring warmth
the cat rolls
over and over

Saturday, 28 February 2015

just as I think it:
the kingfisher's lash
up the valley

Friday, 27 February 2015

sun-strafed airfield
the windsock flaps
with abandon

Thursday, 26 February 2015

falling into the rhythms
of the hospital day
sleet showers

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

illness surging...
the way the sunlight
chops through the blinds

Friday, 20 February 2015

a builder sings
it's all about that bass...
the winter wind

Thursday, 19 February 2015

magpies in the sand
I plant my feet where
the Martians landed

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

maybe spring
the dynamic topiarist
sets to work

Monday, 16 February 2015

half-arsed drizzle
a kingfisher bullets
beneath the bridge

Saturday, 14 February 2015

thirteenth birthday
she pauses the pizza
for a doughnut

Friday, 13 February 2015

chill in the bones
the corner-shop assistant
calls me Sir

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

murky nightfall
shortening the towpath
calls of an owl

Monday, 9 February 2015

duck-egg skies
the river steals away
purple neon

Saturday, 7 February 2015

warming up the town:
the steel band
warming up

Friday, 6 February 2015

salted pavements
a driving instructor ignores
the 'road closed' sign

Thursday, 5 February 2015

half-hearted sleet
two drakes skirmishing
hammer and tongs

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

halfway to spring
I assemble yet another
fried-egg sandwich

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

first snowflakes
smoke-rings drift towards
the moon's halo

Monday, 2 February 2015

cafe creme
the street-sweeper trails
his green broom

Sunday, 1 February 2015

pelting sleet
we nab the best seats
on the bus

Saturday, 31 January 2015

colder still...
my neighbour hoists his son
upon his shoulders

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

reptile-house heat
the Clipperton crab clops out
from its crevice

Monday, 26 January 2015

blue twilight
the plane-trees chocker
with magpies

Sunday, 25 January 2015

into the launderette a man and his red-jumpered sausage dog

Friday, 23 January 2015

the bloke with
a biblical beard
mutters abuse...
above the shop-front,
laughing gargoyles

Thursday, 22 January 2015

snow on the way
the busking baritone
sings unaccompanied

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

winter trim:
she folds back my ears
for a final check

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Blue Monday
the Director's PAs dissect
his food tastes

Monday, 19 January 2015

squelching up the hill
I sledged down as a boy:
my sodden boots

Sunday, 18 January 2015

January night
the ambers of marmalade
held up to the light

Saturday, 17 January 2015

up the side street
midday sunshine fills
an empty dolls' house

Friday, 16 January 2015

camera crews
banter over coffee
outside the court
one crow jumps
on another's head

Saturday, 10 January 2015

all the vacant tables
in the neon-lit restaurant...
starless night

Friday, 9 January 2015

out of earshot
I fail to lip-read
a croaking crow

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Sisley at Hampton Court, 1874

It's strange he chose to capture here
the creamy froth of Molesey Weir

and two underneath perspectives
of the old bridge across the Thames

and didn't attempt to tackle
the palace from any angle;

but it seems the hazel frontage
and the gargoyles up the drive

were more than enough to hasten
this most Gallic of Englishmen

gaily towards the river's light:
chrome yellow, cobalt, greens and white.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

London Plane

Variegated migrant
    rain gets in your bones
gregarious incomer
    jigsaw-puzzle trunked
magnificent motley settler
    camouflaged in olive
    ochre mud and cream
fabled Blitz resister
    knobbled with boles
inside outsider resident
    chequered citizen
wind-washed adventurer
    variegated migrant

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Storytellers

Two storytellers take a detour from the lane
into the oak wood beyond the vale

The storytellers will never be seen again

One storyteller begins a tale
of a poor boy poaching rabbits in pouring rain
along the very same woodland trail

But the grisly ending will not be heard so plain

The other storyteller carries a flail

Monday, 5 January 2015

Overcoat

I wear this coat
because nothing else will do
the coldness seeps like a virus
attacking my fingers and toes
infecting each of my bones
and shaking loose my hair.

I wear this coat
like each of its predecessors
with collar fully turned up
the best among them
one my father bequeathed
that I could never wait
until winter to wear.

I wear this coat
like a doppelgänger
Beuys's felt and fat
another layer of me
high street statue man
waxwing-gathering tree
icicle snapping free.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Elegy for Martin Lucas

Electrically contrary to a fault,
you had your share of moments, everyone
agrees, but any critic worth their salt
knows you were also rich, tremendous fun:
your shoulders shook with every bellowed laugh;
your drollery was always timed to hit
a bull's eye, playful, bordering on daft;
the true adroitness of a first-class wit.

But what will be remembered over time
is how you turned a phrase and made it zing
across the small-press page so magically;
and knew instinctively where every line
should go and where to break; and offering
encouragement to others less skilled, like me.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Song of the Sunken Lanes

Along the sunken lanes I wheel my feet:
chilblained and blistered in two pairs of socks;
and cheese and bread is all I have to eat.
My way is crossed by a lip-licking fox,
who knows the lanes like the back of his paws
and vanishes as deftly as he came.
The crows are individual as their caws,
for nothing that I meet appears the same.
There isn't time in life to right my wrongs.
Along the sunken lanes I whistle songs.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Day
a black redstart ferrets
among some bricks