The Really Big Issue

When did I learn to pass by

as the thin gruel of humanity

clutches its bags and shivers

in the shadows?

I may avert my eyes,

become pressed upon some business,

but always, in my fear, I judge.

The dock is too small,

bursting with villainy.

It is my home.


Two Bands in Iowa

I greet the new day with soft hands

and a dead bat, foam covered.

The drip of the day is absorbed

to douse any threatening spark

that may spin out of dawn’s chorus,

that trills with exuberance,

that defies tragedy with gifts

of attention and delight;

but if I listen carefully

I hear a different music,

strident, combative, burning through

the morning, drunk with anger,

marching closer, spitting splinters

until all is confusion,

melody turned to the deathly

clash of desperate acclaim.

The Furies

Centuries ago the contract was struck –

To turn the Furies from savagery,

From the blind urge for violent reprisal.

The seething currents with all their richness,

Their deathly instincts, their fertility

And the rage of their rapids, no longer

To be let loose, to pull the innocent

Into nameless horrors. And in exchange

They were promised a part in the human

Drama – not a starring role but honoured

For their drive and passion. A tragedy

Of lies and deception, it has turned out.


We can’t bear their wildness, and seek to tame

Them in displays of imagined control,

In the veneer of civilisation.

They will not lie in quietness. They claw

Their path to recognition through closed doors

Of suburban houses, through bruised cheeks;

They leer on the shoulder of fame crushing

Innocence in their predatory fists;

They scrawl their bloody prints across our treasures

And spit with contempt on our ambition.


To walk our ways in justice and honour

We must embrace them, welcome them to sit

At our side – good can only come from good,

And their vicious energy can spark us

To life, hallowed by self doubt, but fertile

And generous in spirit, colourful,

Alive to our destructiveness, our need.


Re-blogged from 2016


We are content in our imprisonment.

The sun shines through the bars and the crops grow.

That is not to say that we lack complaints,

are bereft of hatred and misery.

But we are saved by the bars and locked doors.

So moan holds hands with moan and we trudge on;

the odd chair gets broken, the odd egg thrown.

A hovering drone may make us wonder

just for a moment, but it passes on.

These days, as the hearse passes slowly by,

we look not at the escapee’s capsule

but at fellow prisoners in their grief.

Do not throw us to the wolves of freedom.

We are content in our imprisonment

White and Purple Updated

Prompted by reading Dannie Abse

It seemed that the white coats, with the ruthless

rationality of hard facts,

the certainty of knowledge sweeping away

sentimental tears of love,

and the bedrock of data used to grind

soft uncertainties of connection to dust;

these would ruin us, would learn through killing,

would emerge triumphant on barren wastes.

Now experts must bow down to expression

and praise the worth of ignorance.

Truth can become everyone’s common sense

enforced by a roadside bomb.

Love can be confined to the privacy

of secure and comfortable homes.

Love, Time and Death

Love, Time and Death;

not enough if the falling apple

is to be grasped;

if the watching eye is to grapple

with Time’s story;

if the destructive wounds of disease

are to be healed;

if the Winter’s storms and Summer’s breeze

can make poems.

Life stirs in the arguments of creation

not in the passive pools of contemplation.

And so, Love, we must fight,

we must reason Time to a standstill

and look through Death

and demand he bows before the ‘Now’ of creation.


From the film, ‘Collateral Beauty’

A Political Life

I am in a field.

No crops are growing.

I can see the folds of history

laid bare as the rain falls.


The crows gather

to scavenge and quarrel.

The wind screams thought me,

bitter from the east

scorching the earth.

And I can see you

a wave away.

You seem to face

the same way, but

cataracts of cold air

hide certainty

behind tears.


I am in a field.

No crops are growing.

I can see the folds of history

laid bare as the rain falls.