The Clinical Hour 2


She swept in with the morning sun,

used to being in control, expecting

a conjured insight to return

her disintegrating world to order.


She wanted words – words that could crush,

words to carve her man as hero and villain,

words to cut neat lines through her jungle

that seethed and crawled with the undiscovered.


And I had none, to her fury

as I clung to my chair, just holding on

as the bucking bronco jolted,

raged, all dark desire and desperation.


My diary, flung from the desk

flew past me to crash on the floor

and sent a shock wave of release,

a froth and bubble of healing waters.


The Clinical Hour 1


She came because the doctor said.

On time, face scrubbed with anonymity,

coat pattern-less and grayed with age,

she sat passively, waiting to be cured.


To start, the facts – flatly given,

unmemorable; a daughter, I think,

gone to some joyless distance

to find a safe place in the narrative.


No husband to speak of, it seemed.

In her life, nothing appeared to happen;

a nod to a neighbour perhaps

and the ever present shroud of silence.


But there was hope in her presence

and she noticed as I waited with her,

noticed my trust in something more,

something more to come, some life,

rage, terror ……..

Comedy comes from Tragedy

I’m sick of you death defiers,

squeezing me into your contemptuous pity,

looking for confirmation

in the cruel laughter of the successful.

Your self congratulation

sickens me. Sadness is beyond you

and your clever dick instinct knows;

so you seek to shove it up my arse.

For you, death is a moment

to parade your mawkish, kitsch

sentimentality. Grief

is your chance to spout

simplicities, spraying the pain

over thoughtful, struggling souls.

Fuck you, with your cabinet of mirrors,

your whirling energy of denial,

your seductive crowd pleasing.


But what’s worse, I

lack the courage to ignore

your scornful disregard.

I fear the dreary mediocrity

that you project on to me.

And I have no right to suffer

in this safe suburban comfort.

But you are just wrong –

unjust, destructive and blind

to the truths of suffering, from which

we must learn,

to the need for darkness, in which

our flickering light can glow.


Suddenly amidst the seeming calm

Of morning sleep, bathed in the grey light

Months having passed since the day’s stirrings

Drove me workwards with nerve endings

Shaking, a dream reminds me of loss.


Raw absence, a ragged fretting feeling,

As fear; a cracked pavement stained with dross;

Bleak postscript to careless unkindnesses,

A terror of duties unfulfilled,

A black hole sucking meaning from life.


I know this; this force that spins the world,

That drives us on, etching the dark lines

Deep through the flesh of our pale faces

To sing the song of experience

To record our presence in the world.


Why now though, when months have passed retired

From work that shaped all my adulthood?

Why now? It comes from a clear sky

It seems, a random current sparking,

Or spluttering amidst the chaos?

My Grandma

I didn’t think much of my Nan.

I suppose that’s how it was then.

I saw the chalked step,

the charred kettle in the morning fire,

meals appearing to the Archers’ soundtrack.

The shrinking bend of an old lady

moved silently between rooms.

I think I saw her shadow

in the chapel and down the cafe.

Something in her drew out the boorish

needy contempt of my uncle –

something to rub up against?

A possibility caught the light

in her sister’s day to dayness,

with a shared rhythm of living

beating at a frequency I could not hear.

But to me, she slipped wordless

behind the cover of her chores,

and she shrank and bent

as if to slip beneath the winds

that blew me into an unimagined

future. What did I not see?

The music teacher, sharp in discipline?

The business woman, no mere domestic?

The thwarted force channelled into chores,

and finding distorted outlets

in proper respectability?

The husband went;

the daughter went;

the business went;

the hope for her son went

and she was left losing all grounding

to be shocked into the sanity

of old age and quiet decline.

But she gave me music,

sounds that harmonise my life.


The first job is always to go down

to the sea – just to make sure we’ve arrived

I suppose. Not a remarkable beach

and no waves in the pearl-grey of evening.

Rusted chains lay staining the sands, no more

taking the strain of boats against the tides.

The lifeboat house stood like a museum

on the headland, deserted in concrete.

We were, I think, alone – maybe the odd

dog with owner distracted by routine.

It was for me just a marker for what

lay ahead; a time to let the traffic’s

hustle evaporate into sea air.

Then movement caught my eye – your frantic dance

to a music I could not hear. Arms, legs

in spasms of joy; you were completely

absorbed in some wild celebration.

This music though was electric. Discords

threw limbs in a frenzy, as if to escape

your skin and become the sea side. I watched

and did not see, – until now my tears fall.

There in the shade of the playground, apart,

the little boy hides, cowering beneath

the watching eyes and the press of the world;

stiff and alert for the attack; goodness

clutched like a lifebelt in the sea’s frenzy.


The cement cracks on the house of reason,

The hard facts of clean surfaces

By which we steer our dreams of order,

Flake off, bubble up, decay.

The plagues, the floods, the earthquakes we know,

Familiar visitations

Reminders of death and injustice

But spurs to the promised land.

The house crumbles without Samson’s muscles,

The blue veins of passion well up

To smother thought, to bury quiet belief

Below desperate wildness.