POEMS

 

Adaptation

Czechoslovakia 1976

A man is shuttered away in a laboratory
he stares down the lens of a microscope
into the peppercorn eyes of a moth.
At night words fall through him like particles

that cluster and mutate in spiralling patterns –

Nemuze uverit, nemuze uverit, nemuze uverit.

Every twenty-two hours
the moth hangs in its pupa

waiting for the blood to fall
and for the wind and the currents.

Columbia 2011

A woman is kept in a jar, the jar
is kept in darkness, the darkness
is blacker than her eyes. Inside herself

she dreams she is a girl running barefoot

with a net in the garden.
creelo, creelo, creelo

Somewhere
between thought and dream, between

decades and hemispheres and species

the edge of belief begins
like a wing that trembles
and then lifts.

(This poem was featured on BBC Radio 3's 'The Verb'. It is a poem in response to 'The Poetry Exchange's conversation with Claudia Orduz about the poem that has been a friend to her; 'The moth' by Miroslav Holub.)

 

The Secret Library, Darayya, Syria, 2016. *

 

‘but as a pilgrim resolute, I took,

even with the chance equipment of that hour,

the road that pointed toward the chosen Vale.’ – William Wordsworth, The Prelude. 

From his post on the edge of what’s left 

of his city – among rubble, hoops of barbed wire 

and burnt out cars – he watches 

through his father’s old binoculars

for black marks on a dirt-grey sky.

 

All clear he puts his rifle down, takes up 

the small, solid block of a leather-bound book,

one ear remains on duty as foreign syllables 

swim up from the page then cluster into shapes 

his mouth closes round like cherries –

 

‘home’, ‘pomp’, ‘stone’, then

the strange musical ones he loves most,

‘empyrean’, dedication’, ‘magnificent’. 

 

The old idea comes back to him, nudges

at the edge of who he once was - Pilgrimage,

the right to travel out in search of something holy

and to return to the sanctity of home.

 

 

 

* This poem was inspired by Mike Thomson’s Crossing Continents , Syria’s Secret Library, 

BBC Radio 4, 2016. 

 

Shortlisted in The Wolverhapton Literature Festival poetry prize.

 

Redundancy

 

 

He languishes in dark caverns - 

second-hand furniture stores crammed

with the carcasses of domestic endings,

air thick with the sticky cocktail of polish and mould.

 

Among the aisles of carelessly sequenced items,

he halts now and then to suckle on the intimacy

of a worn handle, a strand of hair 

caught in the screw behind a mirror.

 

Beside the monolithic cast-offs his own grief 

shrinks to an old penny he can hold,

the edge of it bites his palm - 

he’s still here in Winter’s dark funnel.

 

He brings home a special find - 

a giant chest with slender drawers 

for maps and plans no longer drawn 

and wider than his spread-eagle arms 

when he goes to embrace it.

 

Eclipsed in the golden pools of light

from two angle-poise lamps, 

long evenings see him scooping

wax into the splintered grain

bringing it back to life, 

honouring the old ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short-listed in the Bridport Poetry Prize, published in San Pedro River Review.

Up There

 

Space, he needed more

space. On The Waterfront,

Marlon Brando and the pigeons

have haunted him all his life.

He settled for a loft conversion; 

 

apex lines he gazes up into,

giant upside-down ticks or 

that symbol for inserting words 

when something is missing.

He painted everything white.

 

Below, bath-time terrors,

a sink full of crusted dishes,

damp laundry congealing 

in a basket. He takes himself

up there most nights,

 

raises the ladder, sits

in front of his screen saver;

24 inches of blood red rust into which 

he downloads a thumbnail 

of two white doves. Digitally 

 

he masters their flight, watches 

slow-motion wings billow 

through crimson grit, flutter to the edge 

of the screen, fly off

unseen.

 

 

 

Published in the on-line journal Halfway Down The Stairs

 

Viewpoint on the River Dee

in memory of Michael J Bennett

 

I come when the edge of darkness returns you to me.

The water is swollen above the weir before it breaks

into a gush of white foam. The heron stands poised

fixing the moment. I remember your hands, the tension

in your forearms forcing them steady as you held them up

in a square for the view you never came back to paint.

I look into your scene, the arc of the bridge, lamposts,

the curved row of houses lining the hill, winter trees 

 

all reveal themselves to me now as a complex web

of thin black lines like an X-ray held to the light,

 

the challenge of perspective that ruled your life. 

 

 

 

 

Part of the collaborative Poem of The North, celebrating 50 years of the Northern Poetry Library

 

poemofthenorth.co.uk

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