Old Flame



“She isn’t quite what I’d expected.” She lifted

a sleeve, a cigarette: and staring out,

low window-light cascaded in the smoke.

“Old flame,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.”


Languorous, she raised the glass, her arm

amphora handle; sipped the shiver, in,

and smoking-smiled: “I know, my dear. I jest.”

All the while, her lip was quivering.


He kissed her porcelain, her china brow,

walking out. She drew a final breath,

held it in a moment like regret;

and let old smoke suffuse like sleeping death.




This was partially inspired by an art deco portrait I recently saw, of a solemn lady holding a cigarette. The smoke which partially occluded her seemed, oddly, not to be her own, despite being the only sitter: and I was inspired by the notion that an “Old Flame” can suffocate a room, even in their absence. I cannot recall the artist, regrettably. 








I’d packed a box, that once housed a microwave,

with the attic-stuff of love. Bubble-wrapped

the bric-a-brac, the tacky ornaments,

the fairy lights we hung above our bed:

dragged down the collapsible ladder

up to the loft; gingerly trod my way

up, and clumsily dragged the thing

somewhere near the plastic Christmas tree.

I’d hauled it up, for that’s where it belonged.

There were the kids’ schoolbooks, and a vase

from my aunt’s I hadn’t the balls to chuck, entirely.

Kept in a place in the house that doesn’t even

gather dust.


Recently, I went up for – what was it,

a birth certificate? Some paperwork

of a former me – rummaged through the fluff,

found a box of shoes, black as beetles, worn

their husks out from my schoolyard days.

Looking through, I was met by postcards

wishing me well from a thousand years away,

all the sleeping sentimental stuff;

books of yours I hadn’t the charity

to give away; a tip of lost-and-found.


I’d thought I’d left it all, up there. And yet,

outside at last with cigarette in hand,

here I am: a child under fairy blue lights,

stars hung up in trails, just like we used to;

moon, smiling. Kept up there, for you.




I have a handful of you, a grasp of space,

fistful of movement and sound


a loving absence, watching without face,

patient and here, in the hold


I tend, and care for you, and we will wait,

wait through their worries of cold


accusing air of lacking weight or shade,

lost in the distance of clouds



Another poem dedicated to one of my followers: someone I have never met, and yet, whom I could call a friend. Distant but present, absent yet present. A handful of sky. 



Burning Underground



When the boys got going, nothing stopped

Guitar razor wire, lacerating sound

While searing beats and bass lines dropped,

Burning underground.


The boys kissed the boys. Overhead, the lights

Shattered colours, left fragments in their wake:

Swelters ‘til necessity invites

A cooling fag break.


Up to sunrise, this whole land was ours,

Marked by damage, swung around the signs

With knife-like wakefulness in hours

When we drew battle lines:


A rude republic, dancing the sublime,

Singing the wild. It shakes me like a sound,

The memory of us, in our time,

The burning underground.



Written for a patron of mine who wanted something retro, 80’s themed, reminiscent of heady days. 



Ephemeral Empire


Headstone to a great man, employer, father.

The last tight fist of earth, held forever, that only

Recently had beat upon his desk.

How grand, to be an Aztec Empire,

Gilded once in sun, worshipped in his time

By flying snakes, feathered dragon-gods;

For red cups to be slashed and drank for he

Who bronzed the sky and seeded the wide forests,

A man who is the rising and the very

Setting sun of his own dynasty:

Lasting just one sunset long enough

To find his clutching heart had stopped;

Those jagged temples now echoing

An archeology to sacrifice.



The Aztec Empire lasted less than one hundred years, between 1427-1521: founded after the Battle of Agincourt, and finished before Henry VIII went and got his divorce. No man’s empire ever lasts. 



Winter Holds A Grudge



Winter holds a grudge: buried deep in the earth
It will never be over

We thought March would be the line in the snow:
But the air grew colder

He scratched notes on the window panes, white cracks,
A cold signature

Returns like a curse, comes back a like a cough
I couldn’t get over

Looking out, footprints marked their rue
In the silent powder

And shivering trees turn their branches back,
Look over their shoulders