The Child Prodigy’s Choice

Do you think she knows?

I wonder if that youthful vision blinds?

The promise floating from the shimmering

Brilliance, the warmth of line – melody

That cuts to the chase, singing the sadness

Of the world, the harmonic mystery

That uncurls the protective thorns hiding

Our fear and need, those seed beds of beauty.



There was sacrifice; it was important

That we knew her links to the great, her prize

Winning potential; not though out of pride,

More to show the question – was her decision right?

Had she taken the stage, turned to applause

From the hardships of family life,

We may have talked of her, wiped the odd tear

From our eyes before a Mozart cadence,

Joined with the general admiration.



She made her choice however, through wisdom

Or instinct I know not. But I do know

Her decision changed me, opened the door

For me and for many others, to life;

To go from watching, listening to others,

To creating, living the music we find

Hiding in places we’d never entered.

So her choice was to live and to give life –

Surely she must know.


The dream of enterprise

Do we lose our history

To the fruits of discovery?

The tidal wash of in – fluence,

Freed from innumerable homes,

Escaping the stale air of death

Lurking in the familiar,

Sweeps through our nurtured certainties,

Planes the grooves through which we have mapped

Our tribal journeys. Freedom blows

Away the drag of our shared past,

Scatters the dust that had gathered

Unnoticed in our quiet days,

That we now find, connected us

With a world in which we were small

But known. Now we are blown away

Free, alone and amongst strangers.

Late Summer

I felt the colours brushing off my face

as I drove through Summer’s exuberance.

I was an arrow, dull-rusted by time,

blunted maybe, aimless, but on a course

set by some naked marriage of fury

and desire. All I saw were like airwaves,

trembling wrinkles hiding behind make up’s

smooth public face of a pretending life.

Here was where the bite meets the blood;

where dark dread drives shame’s secrets;

where hope loses hold and the voices set their terms.

Here was where bodies hang in the darkness

and we take shelter in the helplessness

of the ripe barley, the soaring buzzard

and pale smiles of polite recognition

On Self Pity

I’m not sure what day it was when I saw

the sun’s indifference, the wind’s neglect

and the cold heart of the morning chorus.

I had tried bargaining for a clear sky.

I had stretched my hand in the night terrors

to feel the cold hard wood at the bedside.

I had obeyed the dictates of magic –

teeth first, pants before socks and shoes in line.

But time tramples its cruel certainties

across all delusions of tenderness.

To one side in the playground, in the shade,

loitering safe from clamour and grazed knees,

time seemed my friend, beckoning me forward.

But the world turns and the shades cover us.


Now I see this gloom is sentimental,

a running away. Love must be a gift,

a deed borne on a cushion of weakness

like a royal crown – one that I can forge

from fading perfumes and strange harmonies,

from momentary laughter in the eyes

of friendship, from the sympathy of pain.


To live in a major key takes courage.

St Ives


Where is the tang of salt,

the reek of the sea’s harvest?

No more the seafarer’s roll

caresses my pier side stones;

no more the women’s red hands

bear fish stained air to cellars,

to chapel, to marriage beds.

I am left to the idle,

the fanciful escapees

that smother my golden sands,

and the sea only knows rage

or seduction – picturesque

to the exclusion of life.

Pilchards were my life – “pilchards”!

Even the word lacks beauty –

‘a devious shining worm

of a man’ this oily fish

has become in a packaged age.

Eyes have turned to the shining

light, springing into the air,

to the translucent turquoise,

to shapes of leisured gesture,

and the abstraction of form.


But beneath, I lie silent,

founded in oil and offal,

grieving for the days of fish,

the certainty of produce,

of sea, land and working hands –

plain, factual, functional.

A Family Photograph

The photograph caught my eye;
All gone save two.
The smiles have faded;
The moment was fleeting,
Just a milestone
Left by the roadside
For travellers passing the other way,
Or to arrest me
As I spiral past
Still looking for the route.
There are no signposts;
Only the shape of my forming
Stays still to guide my steps;
The lean towards a silent father
In whose company
I could not be lost.


This refers to an old family photograph from my childhood, which showed how family dynamics are made so clearly visible by the unconscious ways we behave.


As I watch the sound of voices

Sucking the air from the room,

The roar of my silence swells.

Its skin bursts and the smiles

Are punctured by the dry prick of wit.


Best ignored – and I am left

Wondering if the sparkle of goldfinches,

The rattle of rain on the windows,

The drunken sway of the wind in the trees,

Are the ‘still small voice’

Or the last refuge for my absence