So, here we are.  The moment I admit to the internet I write poetry.  This feels not unlike the time I put a poster up at college declaring I’d lost my hope and wanted to know if anyone had seen it.  I know, right?  Anyone who does that sort of thing is bound to write poetry…and here it is.

I’ve never had anything published since I was in my very early twenties and won a couple of small competitions.  Still, this seems as good a home as any for now.  We’ll see what happens.  I just ask that you keep the sniggering to a minimum.  I don’t want to have to start putting up sad little posters again.

self portrait

Trying to stare past the face at my window
I see night stumble and fall once more
The sky bruises
The sun sinks
Without signs of a struggle
As if it's scree
Bequeathed to the shore
But even when only the star honed shadows
Are out and striving to bloom
All the nightly
Bone white distractions
Can't stop me noticing
The face at my window
Continues to loom

the librarian

When you open the book
Mind your fingers
Those pages have sharp edges
Sharp enough to cut your fingers on
And once the words,
On those old pages,
Smell blood
There's every chance they might dart up your sleeves
Then there's no telling where they'll stop


She draws serpent traces in the salt we spilt
On her table
She counts the change we threw down
In our wake
We were really in no hurry
When we left
Her behind

There’s a storm coming, but it’s okay
We’re close by
Roof over our heads
Room service but a call
And a tug on the credit card away

I don’t know about her
Don’t know how fast
Or far
She’ll need to run
Didn’t read her name tag
Didn’t really see her face
Didn’t even bother to count the tip
We tossed down for her

Could just be seeds
On stony ground
For her

We’d ordered coffee and something wicked
From her menu
We’d giggled about vanity and waistlines
But there’s a ship that’s already sailed and sank
For me, at least
We had watched the strangers hustle past our window seat
Smirked at their screaming kids
Pointed as their umbrellas twitched in the twisting grips
Of snarling winds

Birds had scattered
We’d had fun guessing at their names
Not caring that they had fled
Simply to get out their gentle wings out of range

She let us leave with a smile
She let the silence fall after the door swung shut
She knows
Soon the mermaids will claim her table
Soon the rain will flood the riverbanks and
All her salt lines will be washed away

She counts the change me and my three travelling companions
Threw down in our wake
Biding the last of her precious time

Vacant Spaces

Those lidless eyes
That lipless smile
The hollow foundation of a face
Stares back at me
From its place
Inside that dusty old case

History comes with handwritten labels here
Time can be counted by the dust
That gathers on the sill
Around the
Sunless windows

There’s a shadow moving
In amongst the human ivory
I can see it stirring
Wrapping itself
Around those
Discarded, discoloured
Anonymous Bones

It peers at me
Out through
Empty sockets
It lurks behind the crooked teeth
In that fixed
Rictus grin

It's sizing me up
Looking for the shadow
That will one day
Wrap itself
Around my bones
When they put me inside
My own case
Behind my own
Handwritten label.


Still stinging from a nightmare’s kiss
After a night spent staring at blind ceilings
There’d been no sleep to speak of
No rest for the wicked
And surviving
No answers for us to stumble over in our shadows

Driving on snowbound roads
The names on the signs are camouflaged as
The trees pull on their winter disguises
The lanes become tracks, the trucks become comets
The junctions become safe harbour
It’s hard not to think back to last time we met
The last time
For which there was no signpost

We’d sat by the fire and politely dormant television
Talking about old games
Bad hips and hidden pipework
We’d eaten cake and
Left on good terms but
They were no terms
For really leaving

Later, but before you snuck away from us all
Before the first snow fell and the internet brought an ill wind
I sat in another room, with another fire
And watched new friends
Tie knots
Literal and literally
Before I stepped out into the dark past the party
And sat where a stranger’s children had sat
Guessed at the games they’d played there
Arrows nailed into old trees
Pointing the way to hidden paths

One day, they will also sit by firesides
With friends
Talking about nothing in particular and
Avoiding the unavoidable, the unmentionable
The clocks always ticking in the corner
To remind them
One day
All hands stop turning

They will leave on good terms
But will still end up here
Kissed by their nightmares
And lost on once familiar roads
Surrounded only
By snow blind signposts.

a Little Icarus skin

The empty, sleeping swings
The faint, muddy footprints
That once ran up the slide
There’s rust on the climbing frame rings and
Wooden dinosaurs,
Rain warped, weather cracked
Moss growing
Where their ancient scales should be

The hunter touches down
For his size
His father’s feathers
A chessboard
Test swatch
Cold, sly eyes scan the grass

He normally only eats the young
He finds in the thorny hedgerows
And up on the high branches

(For my part
I watch all this from a distance
Aware of black, roving dogs
Free from their leads
Their smiles showing off
Big, bad wolf teeth

The wheels of the black mill cracking,
Whirring, grating
Behind my barely awake eyes)

The village past the park is quiet after the rain
The mother and the little girl are the only sound
Beyond the cars
Shushing through puddles
Leaving us all behind

It happens in a darting flash
No hint of violence
Before the little girl giggles
Leaps, feet first
Behind the climbing wall

Her mother applauds as
The magpie flusters out
One wing clearly crooked

On the way home, stopping for sweets and a magazine
The little girl is smiling differently
A fleck of blood showing
On her pink princess trainers

They cross roads
Looking both ways
But never looking back
With every step, hop and giggle
They fail to notice the sound
Coming from over
Their shoulders

The skittering step
The snagged wing
On cracked tarmac
Following them home

He’s been banished
From his high branches
He normally only eats the young.

the Decaying orbit

That magnetic halo
Sits atop
A crowning continent of
Crumpled sheets and
Storm fronts
His once invisible poles,
Their bald spots now exposed,
Can no longer hide the truth
About his burning, slag heap tides

Those seething,
Craving, strangling
Cords of flux and fury
Lie miles beneath an illusion of
Surface tension
Those turbulent waves
Bring down
Every locked door
Tear through
Every peaceful moment
Wash away
Any hope
Of a quiet life

These blemishes
Are not beautiful
A heart on a card
Should never be mistaken for gravity
The pressure
Of a hand on shoulder
Should never be mistaken for breathing space

Violence will leave its own art
Painted across the walls of homes
That rarely
Open their doors
To negotiation

Her dormant core,
A once-skipped and now ancient stone,
Lies lost beneath a continental carapace
Of his raging belts and writhing fingers
Consumed by a storm
The size of her old home world

Their tempered moons
Have stories to tell
Sitting above the dead bones of senile probes
Sent decades ago
To send us answers
But his half life
Continues to keep
Our prying eyes at bay


Between the candlelight and the dark
Between the reflection, it's frame
And the accusing looks
Between the folded map and the uneven mud
They lurk
They watch and
They bait their crooked hooks

here be monsters

Knock gently on marble doors
If you must knock on them at all
And don't wait for a response
Or enter
If you dare
For once you pass beyond
Stone doors
You may never leave their waiting
Cold, dark halls again


These silent,
Line the crooked roads that
Guide you
To his

These silent,
Hide the blood soaked valley
Where he will soon
Lay your
Stolen bones

In amongst the sand
And bandages
He keeps a long, thin hook
Ready to claw out
The pain
You’ve been feeling
Since the start

In amongst the sand
And bandages
He keeps a feather balanced
On the scales
Ready to judge if you’re worthy
To rule over the empire
Of his cold,
Dead heart

THE Zoo Train

Something feels off
Something feels flammable
The noise around us
Is honing its edges

The jitter of fingers
Tapping on armrests
Wild eyes stare, glancing left and right
Can they feel it to?

People snicker, people bicker
Over their place
In the pecking order
The laughter is bleak in the half light
Gallows humour from
Past the prison walls

It’s easy to snark
When you’re out of sight of your own noose

Where did that come from?
Why can’t I relax?
Take your coat off
It’s been a long day

Yellow teeth and sharp fingers catch my eye
As a phone flashes and
Grandchildren are texted

Someone trips up a step
No one helps them up
That’s when I see it

The animals
Aren’t just in the cages
They’re waking up
They’re remembering
When they played the part
When they were wary of their own keepers
When they had faces pressed up against the glass

We’re fine through the adverts
It’s a no man’s land
Some small talk and sales before the goats are
Staked out
For dinner

That's when the darkness swells and
The silence festers

Don’t feed the animals, I think
Don’t make eye contact
They can smell fear
They can smell ten years misspent

Across the rows, the old senses
Turn loose as
The needle meets
The groove

Teeth show in the
Flicker glare
Claws claps
Howls linger after the punches
And punchlines

Thumbs up, thumbs off
The hair dye can’t hide the old spots
Lipstick on teeth
Blood on collars

Someone toys with a lighter
The friction scrapes a kiss on pre-worn denim
The wheel turns
A lick of sparks blooms

Cans hiss
The metal squelch pop
A rush of foam
The laughter sharpens
Eyes narrow

Deep swigs everyone
Deep swigs all round
Let’s drown those sorrows and
Get the animals off the back seat
Maybe they’d like to drive
For a while

We’re too close
We’re in this for the long haul
We can only wait it out
We’re strangers in a strained land
We’re in the zoo
That waits beyond the zoo

Chairs creak
Under a weight
That’s only ever
Noted down
In Imperial units

It’s food that falls to the floor
Cans clatter down
To join the debris
Is that a dog end?

The strangled hours pass
Soon to be swept away with
The stray, grey hairs and
The chewed corpses of
The straggling weak

I try to change my stripes as
The old exhibits watch
From the other side of
The old bars
I think the flashbacks
Are making
Their hearts

It’s only when the credits roll
That reality settles back onto their shoulders
Scarfs are applied
Gloves are chased through pockets
The lions yawn and
Stroll home
To their baskets

We watch them go
And wonder how long
Until it’s our turn
To head back
To the fictional
Hunting grounds
We once
Called home

Machine shop Sarah

Steps out
On straying feet
Keeps her pockets loaded
With idle hands
As she meanders amongst the branches
       Her fidget ferret fingers
Always withdrawing
Never investing
Her matchstick eyes
Struck only once
Her smile
Not quite a smile
At all
The blue turtle
Would approve
       Machine Shop Sarah
Respects the traditions
Of the electric fraud days
The little cells, the little grey boxes
Fences ending with gates
Walls ending
At the start of every thrown away
       She sees tills on every counter
Dead magazines on every shelf
The office windows always open
When it’s cold
Always closed
When it’s warm
Seven days a year
Eight weeks a month
Nine years a slave
       The air con singing sad songs over our heads
The taps still dripping in our borrowed kitchens
Pipes and wires
Key cards and
Revolving doors
These are the kiosks of your most boring doom
These are the tickets your parents bought
Just for you
       Machine Shop Sarah
She knows the score
She checks it
She borrows that phone
Of yours


It’s busy today
Out, on the road of bones
School buses,
Coach trips,
Cycling tours,
There are young couples
Holding hands
That they’ve picked up
Off the ground
   The masses
Step amongst
The skulls and
The smiles on their faces
Not too far
From the smiles on the surface
Of the road beneath their feet
   They stop at the gift shop
They ride
All the rides
The little kids cry
When they’re not allowed on
The more grown up
There’ll be fireworks,
The parade and
The open air show
For now, though,
The completists
Hunt for famous ribs and
Whilst the spotters
Keep their pads out
To jot down the details
Of what they find
Near their shoes
   The road watches on
Snaking beneath the dead trees
Sleeping only
When the crowds leave
As the night watchmen pace
Their routes
Past the hollow socket
Speed bumps
The empty skull
Straights and
The spinal cord
When it slumbers
It dreams and wonders
How long it will be
Before more road is laid down
And this pale, white lane
Can reach
Just a little closer
To your door

trap street

The roots were crooked
The roots were bitter and cruel
They had grown dark,
Hungry and deep
Tracing a map from my track mark arms
Back to that
Ancient, hatefully bottomless heart

expiration Dates

Sand slipped through the hourglass
We watched
As they wrapped you up
In pipes and blankets
Propped you up on pillows
Sought out veins for fresh needles

It’s all routine, they said
It’s all routine, we repeated later
A simple prayer of science, I suppose
Ten hail Marie Curie’s

They ran tests, they exchanged glances
We made the dance look cryptic all by ourselves
They noted down numbers
And promised to return
Professional smiles, waiting beneath tired eyes
We did our best to say thank you
Cheap payment, really
From either side of the sheets

We dressed in plastic
To stand by your side
We didn’t ask questions whilst we stood there
We talked loudly for you
About nothing at all
Swapping short shifts
Changing ends and aprons
Is that really what you wanted?
I know it’s not how they do it in the films

The hourglass might not empty tonight
No numbers on a sheet can say for sure
Time hisses
As it falls

Machines chirp, wheels squeak by
You cough a little looser
You yawn, ready for the rest you’re hard at work resisting
Too warm, too quiet, too itchy
Wondering about the cost of time and car parks

In another room
A siren bursts into song
Weary footsteps rush to answer it whilst
The rest of us hold our breath
Avert our eyes
Count our own grains as best we can
With shaking, rubber fingers

Not everyone will win tonight

Flecks of Grey Crystal     

      Time turns, time ticks
Time runs in circles
I wait until
The numbers on the clock face
Reach the correct combination
Lighter, busier
Out in the cold
Scrape the windows free of ice and
Rush to join the queue
That never really takes us anywhere
       Of course, time moves differently
Once we reach our creaking seats
Now that it’s being paid for
Now that we obliged to give someone
Their money’s worth
       We play our music
To drown each other out
We check email
Take the I out of team
We sell ourselves by the second
To pay the bills
       Lunch turns out to be a fast hour
A polite feeding frenzy
The food isn’t filling, the conversation isn’t thrilling
Freedom wears thin
Then the afternoon comes for us
With teeth and claws
       More problems, less solutions
We see the blue sky thinkers
Looking up
But rarely ever t
       When it’s done
We stumble home
Between parked cars
Tired and quiet
Finding no satisfaction in earning a wage
Only in spending one
       You try and treat me kindly
I try and let you
The night weaves around us quickly
Early to rise, early to bed
I wrap myself
In comfortable cliché and
Pretend the next day will be
Written differently
       I watch the clock
Not long now
Until time turns on me again

Remember, remember

It’s when the mask slips
That his problems truly begin

Rain can fall on sunless shores
Shadows of clouds can spell storms
Over dry land
His smiles can slither away
As fast as driven snakes

That’s before the voice calls out
From behind a closed door
After he has shown them his teeth
For the very first time

There are winds that can rattle windows
From the inside
True pain can be written down in stone
Used to build
More windowless rooms
For the recent converts and the non-believers

He watches her choose to run
And holds no grudge for the swift exit
There’s no need to chase after her
If all the world plays at being a stage
Then the wings only ever lead back to
The next entrance

His violence tends to be born
In firework bursts
Flares of adrenaline
Pops and ghost trails of pain
It all serves to illuminate
The night behind his eyes
The spinning, spin wheeling, 
Flickering anger

Devil red, toxic green,
The burning amber flame

Alone, he listens to his heart
Pound against the bars
Of its ivory prison
He traces the sting that spreads
Around his knuckles

It’s when the mask slips
That his problems truly begin

The house by the shore

There is
When we fight
When we turn on each other
There is another
Who stands between us
And everybody else

Neither you
Nor me
But they can look like us
If they wish to
Cold to the touch
Bricks and stone, bone and mortar
Heavy doors slam shut to hold them
In our rusting zoo cage a little longer
Heavy locks bolt fast
Across the broken camel’s back

We don’t invite them, but they still come
To stand between us
Lie between us
Sit between us
Look between us

From behind stolen eyes
They translate with an acid tongue
They drive sweat slick fingers into freshly deaf ears
As they wear our cold shoulders for trophies

Maybe they’re summoned by wronged party
Or the accused man
They sing along with the choruses of
The sick of it, the no more, the never again
Never again
No more, no more
They harmonise
With a lack of harmony

There is another
Who comes to call
Every time we fall apart

I wonder why
We’re not used to hearing them
By now.


Slick, slack tissues
To floss texture
In the box
Beneath our feet
Important lines
Are beginning
To blur
His bones were discarded,
If not broken,
By sticks and
Wrapped up
In a favourite suit
This dirt isn’t bottomless
But he grew
Six feet
In the end
All his shoes shined up special
For the occasion
The man in the suit
In the box, in the ground
Lies military still
No time to bide
Waiting for his credits to roll
We’d paid to have his lid nailed shut
And the hole dug
Before we said
The proper words
Quietly sang
The songs
That the man in the suit
In the box
Rarely sang
When he still stood to attention
Amongst us,
The rank and file,
Wearing his then
Not-so-shiny shoes
Decay waits in the wings
In the stalls
Patiently flicking through a hymn book
Treating every page
Like a takeaway menu
Its favourite numbers
In red pen
Our very own
Little carrion choir
After the service had been serviced
The clocks on the spire
Meanwhile, beneath our feet,
Colder hands waited
To conduct
Their silent symphony
The notes caged
In dark splinter salutes
Spelt out with
All of the grace those
Slithering, spineless
Fingers could muster